A Desire for Righteousness

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The statement made by Jesus captured in our main text this morning is indeed a shock and awe moment for us. If we are honest with ourselves, the first shock and awe is even if we have a desire to be righteousness. You know, do we desire to live the Life that is pleasing to our Master? Well, we may desire to want to get into heaven, but our culture has been the proverbial frog in the boiling pot to us, and we have dumbed down our passions and desires. We don’t want to stick out too much. Just be medium. Mediocre.

Is this so of you? I can feel the warmth of the water as the other frog legs entangle mine….

But what if I were to tell you “righteousness” is not a thing but a person? The Lord Jesus Himself. He is our Righteousness. Does this change anything? Do passions rise in you to please Him? Love Him more and more each day?

This is my prayer and desire for all of us: that we continue to press hard with a profound passion after our Lord Jesus. Let us spur one another on this Journey. It is only when the Lord Jesus is our Righteousness that indeed we have a superior Righteousness.

Main Text— Matthew 5:20 (NIV84) For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD,  “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch,  a King who will reign wisely  and do what is just and right in the land.   In his days Judah will be saved  and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called:  The Lord Our Righteousness.”Jeremiah 23:5–6 (NIV84)

 This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.—Roman 3:22–24 (NIV84)

  It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, Who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”— 1 Corinthians 1:30–31 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, swell in me a passion and desire to follow you with a heart that is true. In Your Holy Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Push The Pause Button”

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Anger Pause Button

The cleansing of the Temple is often used as support by many who get angry, and they say, “See, Jesus got angry.” Then they slide over to Ephesians 4:26, and once again, say, “See, see, it’s okay to be angry!” True, it is okay, but we are still not to sin. James puts it rather bluntly, “You must understand this, my dear brothers. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. For human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20 ISV emphasis added).

Allow me to add a subtle nuance to this thinking, especially, the “slow” part of James 1:19. I find that in the two cleansings our Master did, there is something peculiar in each. John 2:12-15 describes the first cleansing. At this cleansing, Jesus pauses to braid a “flagellum,” i.e. a whip, out of cords of rope instead of leather straps. In Marks account of the second cleansing, he clearly notes that Jesus, coming off of His Triumphal Entry, walks into the Temple, looks around, and then leaves for Bethany (see Mark 11:11), apparently to come back the next day for the cleansing. Is it possible, in both these instances, that He was using the “pause button” to His anger—being tempted in every ways as we all are? And is it also possible, He did this to demonstrate true, holy indignation—true anger? And is it also possible that He did this to stand in stark contrast to the ‘justified’ anger we often baptize as ‘holy indignation’?

Do you think we too quickly justify our anger, and fail to push the pause button, quoting some out-of-context verse or passage simply to salve our guilty conscience because we know our anger is being fueled by selfish hurt or unmet expectations, or whatever is not holy?

Of all the times I have gotten angry, and sadly there are too, too many to recall in detail, but in principle, I can clearly observe that 99.9% of those I attempted to justify as “holy indignation” (and it was 99.9% of all the times I was angry), were anything but “holy”. Now, as Jesus has more control of me, I am more often than not, able to push the pause button, and in this pause reflect on what is really fueling my anger. And, let me say in honor of the late Gary Smalley, who taught this: “Anger is the idiot light on the dashboard of our lives and says that I cannot say, ‘you make me angry,’ but rather ‘You show me how plugged into you I am and not into Jesus!’” Double “ouch!” Your thoughts?

Main Text— John 2:13–16 (NIV)— 13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.Proverbs 19:11 (NIV84)

  A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.—Proverbs 29:11 (NIV84)

  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.— Colossians 3:8 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I yield my ‘temper’ to the Lord Jesus Christ. I ask You, Lord Jesus Christ, to be in so much control of my emotions, that I am able to push the pause button before ‘flying off the handle.’  Be my Peace, Lord Jesus Christ, that I may not be so easily offended. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Pursuing Jesus for a Reward?”

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Crowns at Jesus Feet

Is it okay to pursue Jesus for a reward? Some would dismiss this question out of hand. “No,” they would say, “it would be selfish and narcissistic.” I suppose some may have this very self-absorbed intent. The same could be said for someone who is courting or pursuing a mate: “You fulfill me; you complete me…” etc. Me, me, me….

But, is it possible to pursue someone with the innocent desire of deepening the relationship and thereby win the “Prize”? Perhaps a Both/And experience?

In our main text, the Apostle Paul is writing his final words to his dear son-in-the-faith, Timothy. His purpose is to encourage and spur his young padawan on to persevere in Jesus. In his encouragement, Paul observes that a crown is waiting for him. But did he fight the good fight, run the race and keep the faith for this crown? Or for knowing the Lord Jesus more intimately (see Phil. 3:10ff)? Could this be a Both/And and not an Either/Or situation?

What spurs the soldier on to win the fight? Love for his general or self-preservation? What propels the runner to the finish line? Does he run to please his coach or win the laurel wreath? What reinforced Paul’s loyalty to his Master? Love for his Master or merely for the garner of praise?

Even our Lord Jesus endured the cross and scorned it shame for the joy set before Him (see Heb. 12:2f), and He was clearly not selfish….

Not sure how to resolve this, except to say, it must be a Both/And, but the pursuit of the crown is not the primary focus. Rather, we focus on Jesus and in Him we have this crown.

Intriguingly, Spurgeon’s devotion for today speaks to this:

In our Christian pilgrimage it is well, for the most part, to be looking forward. Forward lies the crown, and onward is the goal. Whether it be for hope, for joy, for consolation, or for the inspiring of our love, the future must, after all, be the grand object of the eye of faith. Looking into the future we see sin cast out, the body of sin and death destroyed, the soul made perfect, and fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. Looking further yet, the believer’s enlightened eye can see death’s river passed, the gloomy stream forded, and the hills of light attained on which standeth the celestial city; he seeth himself enter within the pearly gates, hailed as more than conqueror, crowned by the hand of Christ, embraced in the arms of Jesus, glorified with Him, and made to sit together with Him on His throne, even as He has overcome and has sat down with the Father on His throne.  (Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.)

So, what are your thoughts on receiving a crown from the very hand of Jesus? Is it a Both/And or merely an Either/Or exercise—vacillating between the extremes of selfishness and selfishness?

Main Text— 2 Timothy 4:6–8 (NIV84) 6 For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time has come for my departure. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.— 1 Corinthians 9:24–25 (NIV84)

Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”Mt 5:11–12 (NIV84)

And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.— 1 Peter 5:4 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, as I run toward You, keep my eyes fixed on You . Be my strength as I persevere to the finish line. You are my Crown and my Reward. In Your Name, Amen! 

Pastor Mike

“An Intense Pursuit or A Disinterested Accomplishment”

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As I observe cats playing with a toy or a cricket, they act almost disinterested in playing with it. A little catch and release, and then they soon get bored. Ah, but if you give a dog a bone, he’ll gnaw on it until it is gone. Every morning, my dog pursues me until he gets this special minty doggy treat. I have taught him to politely take it from me. (Prior to this he would nearly take my fingers with his treat!) But once he finds his special place, he devours this treat—gnawing on it until it is completely consumed.

Pursue Righteousness

In my observations of these two different approaches to pursing, I have discovered that in some areas of my life, my pursuit of Jesus is like a cat: I have arrived! I’ve accomplished something, and then quite frankly, I appear disinterested and forget about “it”—whatever lesson or character aspect He has revealed…. But in other areas of my walk with Jesus, I am like my dog: I intensely pursue Him and then gnaw on the truth of His Character He is revealing to me until I have consumed it. (Grant it, this gnawing & consuming is not as instantaneous as my dog’s.)

Now, to be sure, for some, some truths about Jesus are an accomplishment, while others are a continual pursuit. But I am referring to the intensity and completeness of the pursuit versus the disinterest that appears to accompany accomplishing something. Have I settle for merely scratching the surface, or have I dug down deep (to change the metaphor)? Is it okay for me to sometimes be like a cat and take in only a little?  Intriguingly, the Greek word for “pursue” in our main text means, “to do something with intense effort and with definite purpose or goal.” This is the sort of pursuit of Jesus I want to have….

This Sunday’s Advent focus is “The Pursuit of the Messiah.” And as I focus on my pursing the Lord Jesus Christ with intensity and a definite purpose of getting to know Him as my Righteousness, I wonder what marvelous truths about myself and His being my Righteousness I will discover this Christmas, … Oh, and what does it look like to have this intense pursuit of a dog?

Join me on our journey with Jesus at this Christmas time to really inventory our intensity and purpose in our pursuit of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus!

… and make this Christmas especially merry.

Main Text: — 1 Timothy 6:11–12 (NIV84)— 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.— Hebrews 12:1–2 (NIV84)

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.— Matthew 6:33 (NIV84)

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which He will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.—Jeremiah 23:5–6 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, satisfy the desires of my soul as I passionately pursue the Lord Jesus Christ as my Righteousness. I put You on, Lord Jesus Christ, as my Breastplate of Righteousness that I might walk in paths of righteousness for Your Name’s sake. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

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Date: 07-23-15

My Thoughts:

I have been wondering for some time if I am prepared to face the challenges of pursuing the Lord Jesus, and perhaps this is why I’ve been holding back. Oh, as a Jesus Freak— young, single and ‘care-free’—I was ready for the fast track to heaven: martyrdom. But as I got older, got married, had kids, and now grandkids, I have often wonder if this is still my passion….

Suffer for Jesus

Have I gone to the other extreme? Have I become too soft? Am I prepared to face the challenges that naturally come with pursuing the Lord Jesus? And I’m not talking about my own personal challenges, per se, but the challenges a life pursuing Jesus brings to others—you know, accusations of being “holier than thou,”  the teasing from friends and family that we’re taking this ‘religious thing’ a little too seriously?

Back to that discussion I had had with Brother Andrew of Open Doors those many years ago. He also said to me during our talk, “Michael, Americans are not persecuted. They are intimidated….” He was referring to people thinking that they are suffering for Jesus because they cannot pray in schools, wear a cross at work, or are scoffed at by a neighbor….

Now, years later, as I reflect on his comments, I am forced to ask myself this question: “Have I joined in our culture’s intimidating assault, and helped them place a muzzle on me? On the church?” Have we muzzled ourselves by wincing at their shouting and barrage of insults? Am I really prepared to face the challenges that are presented when I passionately pursue the Lord Jesus? Is this why some do not as well?

I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this conversation….

Main Text: — Acts 4:3-4— 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.  [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.  — 2 Timothy 3:12-13 (NIV84)

 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  — 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV84)

Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.. — Galatians 6:17 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, embolden me to share You with all I meet. Overcome my silly fears of intimidation and insults. Lord Jesus Christ, honor Yourself in my Life that others may know You, the One True and Only Hope. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“A Training Manual, of Sorts”

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Some people can put things together without looking at the instructions. Others of us need a picture. Still some need step by step instructions. Which are you? I’m kind of the last two depending on the project. Though there have been those few times I’ve been able to assembly something without an instruction manual, I prefer the pictures….

Lifestyle worshiper, when it comes to your walk with Jesus, do you like the pictures in the Training Manual, or do you try to assemble your life ‘intuitively’? Ironically, maybe you’ve discovered that the Life of Jesus is often counterintuitive. You know, “He who saves his life shall lose it and he who loses his life shall find it,” type of ‘huh’. This is why sometimes we need to give the Training Manual a closer look….

It has been suggested by some commentators that the Book of Acts was part of a training manual for new believers called, catechumens. These were they who came out of some rather dark traditions into the Light and required some more directed training. Ironically, the Book is not written as a typical training manual with charts and graphs and ABC’s and 1 2 3’s. Rather it is a collections of episodes in the early church’s life to give us a rather ‘theology in life’ training. And in our pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ, I’m fascinated and intrigue at this perspective of the Book of Acts.

Perhaps spending more time in the Life “Training Manual” will make clearer some of the more counterintuitive aspects of my journey with Jesus. Would you agree? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 1:1-2 — 1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. — 1 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV84)

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings. —2 Timothy 3:10-11 (NIV84)

  Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. — 1 Peter 2:11-12 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, ignite in me a passion for Your Son that will make Your Light in me reveal the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep my mind and thoughts laser focused on Him. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Betwixt the Two?

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Date: 04-12-15

The Big Idea: Burn in my soul a passion to please You in and through what I say and do.

My Thoughts: Lifestyle worshiper, are you betwixt the two? Are you torn between being with Jesus or remaining here (v. 23)? Or is there no struggle at all? In the main text noted below, the Apostle Paul expresses a deep passion to be with the Lord Jesus; but he has an equally deep passion for continuing his life’s mission of sharing the Good News with those who have yet to hear. For him this is a great struggle. It is tearing him to pieces.

But have you noticed that for some there is no struggle at all, yet for different reasons. Perhaps one reason is what Romans 12:2 (also below) warns us about: We are too conformed–too squeezed–into the world’s moldy thinking. Our passion for being with the Lord Jesus has waned. Herein lies one of my personal struggles as I become just another one of those proverbial frogs splashing about in the hot water….

What do you feel are some other reasons that some do not have this struggle? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one struggle.

Main Text: — Philippians 1:21-23 — 21  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. — 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (NIV84)

  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.   —Romans 12:2 (NIV84)

May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.   — 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, as You burn in my soul a passion to please You in and through what I say and do, may my yearning to be with You make me more faithful until I am. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike