“Syrupy Love vs. Substantial Love”

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Year’s ago when I used to get hurt a lot—usually in sports, but not always, I would look for that sympathy, you know, “You, poor baby,” kind of sympathy. I soon learned, however, that it vanished rather quickly. So I guess I kept getting hurt. A silly plan, right?

After a while, I started using the phrase, “Syrupy love,” to describe this kind of temporary concern that vanished in a few moments. Along the way, I added words like, “gushy” and “gooey,” too. Obviously, I was looking for something more lastly, more substantial. Maybe that’s why I really don’t like cotton candy? Hmmmm….

Sadly, I learned that this syrupy, gooey love says all the right things, but more often than not for the most selfish of reasons: to puff up the one giving the “love.” I found that the one being “loved” is more or less consumed to meet the needs, pleasures and desires of the one dispensing this ooey, gooey, syrupy love. Again, I would hear the “right” words, but like clouds that promise rain and move on, these promise, “I’ll always be there for you,” … yeah, right….

Like I said, I was looking for something far more meaningful, more lasting. I was look for Substantial Love. I was looking for the Love that is patient and kind. It is other-serving and not self-seeking, it does not demand its own way through intimidation, shout downs or skillful manipulation. It makes the other person the center of attention. It listens carefully, hearing the whole person. And this substantial Love is often inconvenienced, put out, put off, taken advantage of, and wounded. In and through all this, this Love never fails. It does not shift with moods, the wind or the seasons. It never gives up.

Sound familiar?

If you are familiar with the Bible or know Jesus, this Substantial Love will sound very familiar to you. This is the Love I found: This Substantial Love.  If you are not familiar with this Love, perhaps you would like to get to know it a little better? Check out the verses below….

Main Text— 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 (NIV)— 4  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.John 13:34–35 (ESV)

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?Matthew 5:43–46 (ESV)

 Your love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.—Romans 12:9 (ISV)

  But God demonstrates His love for us by the fact that the Messiah died for us while we were still sinners.—Romans 5:8 (ISV)

Lord Jesus Christ, continue to reduce me to Your Love, Substantial Love. Empower me to Love exceedingly above and beyond what I am capable of. Let others know I know You by the Love I have for them.

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Be Different When Judging Others

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When we manifest the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, we will find our lives to be markedly different. In this wonderful sermon the Lord Jesus is calling His followers to live His Words, not just hear them (see Matthew 7:24). Indeed, living them would make us different enough, but if we are honest with ourselves, we cannot live them. Thus, as we have noted in previous blogs, the Lord Jesus Christ must be our Righteousness in order for our righteousness to exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees (see Matthew 5:20). 

But what does it look like to be different”? Our Master focuses on four areas in Chapter 7 in which we are to be markedly different. The first one is we are to be different when we judge others….

Sadly, some believe that Jesus is teaching never to judge. But this is not so. He is actually presenting us a “procedure” to follow when “judging” others. V. 1 cautions us to stop judging, especially in light of the areas He has just presented in His sermon. Indeed, having a critical spirit when judging does not produce the greater righteousness required….

In v. 2 our Lord says to avoid crooked measuring sticks or faulty measuring weights. Having these creates a double-standard, which does not produce the greater righteousness required.

He then offers a proper approach to “judging” in vv. 3-5: First do a self-evaluation using the higher standard Jesus offers in this sermon, and then assist your sister or brother in removing the little splinter. In this self-evaluation, don’t you find it humorous when Jesus says you and I will discover we have a huge plank blinding us from seeing the little splinter? I call this mirror theology: When we criticize  other’s behaviors & attitudes, it is only a reflection of our own behavior or attitude.

 Would you agree that the Lord is saying, we are to humble ourselves first by accepting (and confessing) our huge faults and shortcomings so that if and when we do approach a brother or sister, we will do so in humility rather than in superiority?

To me, this is what it means to be different: Humbly dealing with our own issues first; then humbly offer to help others deal with theirs. Recently I was painfully reminded that unsolicited advice is unheeded. Many do not want to remove the splinter from their eye; and they definitely do not want someone to help them. But when they see a humble Jesus follower removing his/her huge plank, perhaps then they may ask for a mirror? What do you think?

Main Text— Matthew 7:1–6 (NIV84)— 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.John 7:24 (NIV84)

  Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.—Galatians 6:1 (NIV84)

  Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?— Roman 2:4 (ESV)

Lord Jesus Christ, I humbly yield to Your Holy Presence within me. Continue to make me more like You. In Your Holy Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Common Union”

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Kneeling at the Cross

In my research and in my personal experience I have noted that one of the most common accusations against the church her divisions. Sadly, some divisions are rather vicious and cruel. The maturity to agree to disagree agreeably is wanting in many settings. And why? Because “we have God’s approval and I am here to let you know….”

Truly, there will be honest disagreements of how we baptize or celebrate the Lord’s Table, or what songs to sing or not sing. How long to preach, if at all, but I’m sure many of you would agree, especially those who know the Lord Jesus, that we do have a common union in the Lord Jesus. We all agree that He died for our sins in fulfillment of the Scriptures, was buried and rose again on the third day, in fulfillment of the Scriptures (see 1 Cor. 15:3, 4).

And in this common belief we have a common union. From there it seems if we follow Philippians 3:15-16, all will be well: “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things [i.e. have the same mind as our Lord Jesus as explained earlier in chapter 2:5-8]. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained” [NIV]. I understand “already attained” to mean “already agreed upon, what we already have in common.”

To me, this common union is seen very clearly in the Lord’s Table, the Last Supper, the fulfillment of Passover. All have sinned and need this Table. All who Love Lord Jesus know this all too well. And we come to the Table humble and yet grateful, knowing the Grace that has been offered to us in the act this Table: “In remembrance of Me”  (Luke 22:19b)

Maybe that’s why we call this Table, “Communion?” To express the Common Union we have in Jesus? Your thoughts?

Main Text— 1 Corinthians 11:19, 23-26 (NIV) No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. … For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one.— John 17:11b (NIV)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all … will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.—John 13:34–35 (NIV84)

 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”— 1 Peter 4:7–8 (NKJV)

Heavenly Father, I put the Lord Jesus Christ on as my Belt of Love. May I see all who confess the Name of the Lord Jesus with the same eyes of Grace, Mercy, and Love You see me. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Substantial Love vs. Syrupy love”

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If you’ve ever had a dessert, or a cookie or a drink that is just too sweet, you know what I mean when I talk about syrupy “love”. It is gooey and shallow and often pretentious…, or at least one of these three.

The problem is not the word “love” in and of itself. The problem is the lack of deeper words for Love in the English language. (Many of you know that Greek has four words for love, and in one sense, this helps distinguish the various levels of commitment and emotion…but sadly not English.)

We use “love” for everything from the food we consume to cars we drive; to ideas and, yes, even relationships. And I have observed that to say, “I love you,” is still something rather profound and endearing in any stage of any relationship….

However, often what is meant is, “I’d really like to consume you for my own personal pleasure,” and not “I’m willing to sacrifice my hopes and dreams and, if necessary, even my life for you.” Obviously, syrupy love is the former. It’s the “I really ‘love’ how you make me feel and what you can do for me,” love. Substantial Love, however, is the Love that says, “I want the best for you” Love. “I am willing…”: This goes beyond feelings to a commitment of the will. Yes, as the old vows say, “in sickness and in health; for better, for worse; to death do us part” kind of commitment. Syrupy love evaporates when the hard times come, when it is inconvenient or no longer interesting.

But Substantial Love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes,” and “[It] never fails.” (See 1 Corinthians 13:7-8.)

So when someone says, “All we need is love,” ask them to define what they mean by the word “love”. Is it syrupy or substantial.

Oh, and while your at it, join me in asking ourselves, “Do I really Love with a substantial Love…as Jesus did?”

I know that the only way I can do this is to yield to the Lord Jesus in my Life as my Love  so I can truly Love as He did.

How about you? What is your source of strength to Love like this? Your thoughts?

Main Text— John 15:13 (NIV84)Love Substantial Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

No one takes [my life] from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from My Father.— John 10:18 (NIV84)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all … will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.—John 13:34–35 (NIV84)

   We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing. Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.— 2 Thessalonians 1:3–4 (NIV)

Husbands, love your wives as the Messiah loved the church and gave Himself for [her], so that He might make [her] holy by cleansing [her], washing [her] with water and the word.— Ephesians 5:25–26 (ISV)

Heavenly Father, I put the Lord Jesus Christ on as my Belt of Love. Continue Your transforming work in my Life by the power of the Holy Spirit as He makes me more like Your Son, Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Different is Wrong?”

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As I grew in my relationship with my future wife, Kathy, and into the early years of our marriage, I struggled with “different”. If she did something different than I did, one of us must be wrong, or at least this is what I deeply believed. Then I started going to a pastor for some counseling. Early in the sessions, we discussed how different isn’t wrong. But I kept arguing: “But it is!… Etc., etc., etc.!” Finally after many intense exchanges (all from me, BTW), we came up with a compromise: “Difference isn’t necessarily wrong. It could be, but maybe not.”

Love One Another

I bring this up to say, that I have learned (or still am learning?) in the Body of Christ we are all different: uniquely and intentionally designed so. And this “different” is what the Lord Jesus uses to refine our divine design into looking more uniquely like Him. So, whereas, “Different” might be “wrong” in the Body of Christ, it is still used for the Good.

When I see someone who Loves Jesus in a vastly different way than I would, this is okay. Or if I see someone whose walk is a little different than mine, this, too, is okay. Some have said that difference is the spice of life, but I have found it is the test of Love. Can I Love (i.e. both agapé & philos) my brother, my sister in Christ even when they are different from me—even beyond looks, eh?

So when our Master told the tax collector, Levi, to “Love one another,” He was including Simon the Zealot—who in turn must Love the different Levi. This included the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James & John having to Love Thomas & Nathaniel…and the differences could be multiplied between us as well.

When the Lord brings someone different into my Life, it is not simply to spice it up, but more so it is to extend and expand my Love for Him and His Body. And I am learning I still hold to a little of that, “Different is wrong” plank in the platform of my belief system. Or is it in my eye? How about you? What are your thoughts?

Main Text: — John 15:12 (NIV84)—  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.— Romans 15:7 (NIV84)

No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.— 1 Corinthians 11:19 (NIV84)

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. — Philippians 3:15–16 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, forgive me for not recognizing the differences in the Body of Christ and for not embracing them as Your kaleidoscope of Love. Lord Jesus Christ, renew a fresh sense of the Holy Spirit in my Life so that I may Love Your Body, the Church, as much as I Love You, the Head! In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Surrounded by Deceit”

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My Thoughts:

The young church was glowing with joy and harmony and fellowship and a lifestyle of worship, when suddenly a fracture in the perfect church was revealed. Yes, Ananias, and his lovely wife, Sapphira, conspired to deceive those stately saints, especially the Apostle Peter. What was their deception? Well, apparently they promised to give to the church the full amount from a sale of some of their property. As it was, they apparently received a lot more for the property than they had originally expected. So instead of giving the full amount, they held back some from their “faith promise”. The fracture rips….

broken down church

How dare they bring lying and deception into the church?

Well, they definitely were not the last. Sad to say, I, too, have been crushed with this reality. As the Lord has been wrecking me on my pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ and the perfect church, He has gently pointed out to me that even as far back as this, the church was never really perfect. And throughout the letters to the churches, both the apostles Paul and Peter had to rebuke those in the church to “Stop lying” (see Eph. 4:25; Col. 3:9; 1 Pet. 2:1, 22). This may seem terribly obvious to some of you, but to me this was earth shattering: The early church was not perfect and, in fact, they had liars in their midst!

Then the Lord led me to Isaiah 6:1-6. I discovered there that I would often skip the first part of Isaiah’s wrecking and immediately focus on the second part: “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! … I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). He’s surrounded by deceit! Unclean lips, indeed.

Oh, the part I skipped, “For I am a man of unclean lips.” Isaiah had the temerity—and the humility—to first include himself in this “among.”

Perhaps you can join me in coming to grips—as Paul, Peter, & Isaiah did— with the deceit that surrounds us, starting with ourselves, eh? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 5:1-5— 1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  — 2 Timothy  3:12-15 (NIV84)

Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool—how much worse lying lips to a ruler!  — Proverbs 17:7 (NIV)

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” — 2 Timothy 2:19 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, purify my heart and my lips by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep me humble in Your presence, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Even the Lone Ranger Had a Friend”

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My Thoughts:

Being so deeply wound by fellow Christians, I went through a phase commonly called, “Anti-Church.” Oh, I would still go to services and studies, but I seriously refused to join any of them. I basically felt they didn’t need me and I didn’t need them.

Because this went on for some time, I became known as a loner, and yet I had “friends,” but I wouldn’t commit or open up to any of them. Slowly the Lord healed my wounded soul, and I realized that even the Lone Ranger had a friend: His dear friend Tonto. (Beyond the overplayed issues of the more recent ‘remake,’ it was clear that they had each other’s back….)

It took me quite a while to overcome these feelings of rejection and isolation, finally coming to a place where I could trust people again. As I did, the Lord showed me that the best way to show my Love for Him was to “Love one another” (John 13:34).

What was harder was realizing that in order to ““Love one another,” I need to be committed to a group of people I could really get to know, (let alone the extreme degree of this Love, “as I have Loved you ….”)

A major wrecking came in my middler year of seminary, but, to a large degree, the wrecking has continued to this day. I often fight isolating myself from the Body with feelings of “I don’t need you,” and “you don’t need me.” As a pastor this is rather curious, no? But in the Lord’s grace and mercy, He is healing my wounded heart in such a way that I am getting a of glimpse of what He said to Peter, “Do you truly Love me more than these…” (John 21:15)? It is a process, to be sure.

As a team player, I have often found this anomaly in my soul rather paradoxic, like maybe I didn’t feel like a part of the team? Because of this, it has been one of my passions to make others feel a part of Jesus’ team, and to be the Tonto in some loner’s life so that they, too, may come to realize, the Community of Christ is far larger than themselves…. I know I’m learning this.

How about you? Have you been on such a journey with Jesus? Care to share?

Main Text: — Acts 2:42-44 — 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  — 1 Corinthians 12:21 (NIV84)

If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  — 1 Corinthians 12:15-16 (NIV84)

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  — 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, forgive me isolating myself from Your People. Remove the pain and shame I have caused Your Name and others by these attitudes. Be that part of my Life, Lord Jesus Christ, that has been in bondage. Free me to Love as You Love.  By Your Mercy & Grace and in Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike