“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

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“A Substantial Love”

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Have you ever had a preacher ask you to substitute your name for the word, ‘love’ in the Love Chapter of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8? He asked this as a self-evaluation of substantial Love? It looks something like this (using my name, of course, wherever the word “love” appears).

Mike is patient, Mike is kind. Mike does not envy, Mike does not boast, Mike is not proud. Mike is not rude, Mike is not self-seeking, Mike is not easily angered, Mike keeps no record of wrongs. Mike does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Mike always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Mike never fails.

And if we are honest with ourselves, we do not score very high. Oh, I may be more patient than most, and I am chivalrous—ahem. I don’t turn too dark a shade of green; my stating facts are considered boasting, especially, when I don’t get my way…. Oh, and records of wrongs? With age I don’t remember many of my sports’ stats like I used to, but I can still remember how many times I had to tell…. You get the point. My score still isn’t that high. How’s yours?

It was a few years back as I was teaching on Jesus is our Life, that I realized He is also our Love. (I knew the Bible taught, “God is Love,” but somehow I kept thinking I had to manufacture this Love in my life, or at the very least—ahem—fake it (Ouch!).) So I did a little exercise in my quiet moments: I substituted Lord Jesus’ Name for “Love” and it looked a lot better….

Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy, Jesus does not boast, Jesus is not proud. Jesus is not rude, Jesus is not self-seeking, Jesus is not easily angered, Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.

So, since Jesus is my Life, He is also my Love. As I daily put Him on as my Belt of Love (from Colossians 3:14), He continues His transforming work in my life making me more like Him. Then it is not “Mike” who is becoming more patient, but the Lord Jesus in me…. The pressure of manufacturing this Love or even having to “fake it” is gone—or at least substantially lessened. Because the same Love He is in and through me is also to me: Jesus is patient with me. He is kind with me. He keeps no records of wrongs! …

… This is substantial Love!

Have you found this to be as mind-blowing an experience as I have? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Psalm 86:15 (NIV84) But you, O LORD, are a compassionate and gracious God.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?— Romans 8:32 (NIV84)

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.—1 John 3:1–3 (NIV84)

  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.— Col 3:3–4 (NIV84)

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

“Righteous Judgment?”

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Probably one of the most difficult things about a God, Who is Love, is to reconcile His Wrath and Judgment. It goes something like this: “How can a loving God send people to hell,” or the  like. And before we quickly dismiss this, we truly must engage the challenge. How can a loving God do this?

Obviously, treatises and tomes have been written attempting to resolve this conflict. I cannot pretend to say I have read them all or even a near majority. But what I can offer in this brief blog, is a Both/And response to an Either/Or Dilemma.

God is either severely wrath-filled and vicious or He is completely Loving and forgiving: This is the general framing of the conundrum. But I want to submit that a Holy-Love God can express both wrath against evil and Love toward Good at the same time. The problem comes when we reduce the LORD to a human parent, whose fickle punishment and discipline have scarred many for life.

Our God’s wrath is neither capricious nor reckless. The main verse notes that an essential element of His character is patience: He “is slow to anger.” But He is also “great in power”. His anger/wrath when executed is not out of control, thrashing about like a drowning swimmer. No, rather with pinpoint accuracy the LORD punishes the wicked, who refuse to repent, thus protecting His own, who have been cruelly treated by the wicked. This is true justice; Holy Love….

How slow was He to anger? Well, with the people of Noah’s day, it appears He waited 120 years (not counting the many years before Noah) before He executed judgment. And when He did, His Holy-Love spared Noah’s family. (I hear the book is better than the movie.) Another example of our LORD’s slow to anger is with Assyria. After they repented from their wickedness under Jonah’s reluctant preaching, the LORD spared them, on the low end, 120 years as well, before His Holy-Love destroyed the wicked nation for its sorcery, idolatry and violence, but yet protected His people, Judah….

Beyond the theological conundrum and the personal struggle with a God Who is Holy-Love, at least two questions need to be addressed: (1) How does this change my view of disciplining my children? and (2) Where does the cross fit in here?

When discipling our children, let us never do it in anger or reckless temper tantrums. Have a plan. Have reasons. Clearly explain the expectations and the consequences. The older the child the more involved they are in the discipline process. But remember, they do need discipline…

When considering the cross, I see the welding of God’s Holy-Love with Grace. I’m reminded of a sandwich quarter: Holy and Love are the two precious metals on the outside, but welded in the middle is another precious metal: Grace. Beyond the mystery of God, the trinity, etc., I find this fascinating. It was on the cross where the Love of God was demonstrated (Romans 5:8) and, at the same time, I see God’s Holiness express in the sacrifice, the required payment for sin—all sin. And I see the Grace proffered all people, so they do not have to receive the pinpoint wrath of an unrepentant heart.

What are your thoughts on this rather heavy subject?

Main Text— Nahum 1:3 (NIV84)— 3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of His feet.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.— 1 Peter 3:18–21 (NIV84)

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God—John 3:17–18 (NASB95)

Whoever does not discipline his son hates him, but whoever loves him is diligent to correct him.— 1Proverbs 13:244 (ISV)

Lord Jesus Christ, fill my heart with Your Holy-Love so I may graciously discipline those under my care. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“Can We Be Noble?”

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In days of yore nobility was both a demonstration of virtuous character as much as it was a birthright. In our culture, the birthright of nobility has become of thing of the past, but has noble character gone by the wayside as well?

One definition of noble/nobility is: “having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.”  Whose “high moral principles and ideals,” especially in an age of hyper-relativism, where there appears to be no accepted common sense—let alone common “high moral principles”? For instance, vulgar language is no longer gender specific, and flows freely in public conversation—even in front of children, who, in many cases, have lost their innocence as well. 

So what does a follower of Jesus do in cases light this? One option appears to be: Give up and isolate from the avalanche of vulgarity of all sorts from behavior to language. Another response: Stand on a soapbox on a street corner and harangue the vulgar with an intense barrage of condemnation. …

Or perhaps a third response: Actually live lives of noble character? As some have suggested, we can become like the Bereans (noted in our main text). In our dealings with each other, we can demonstrate noble character by peacefully and calmly examining the Scriptures to see what the Lord has for us to learn from each other. When dealing with different perspectives, we can be gracious and humble, attentively listening to the other as s/he finishes her/his train of thought before responding.

What are some other ways we can demonstrate noble character? In a culture that promotes vulgar language and behavior and shouts down those who disagree, truly there must be godly alternatives, don’t you think?

Let us start the New Year off on the “right” foot, eh?

Main Text: — Acts 17:11-12 (NIV84)— 11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.— Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV84)

Jesus called them together and said, You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”— Matthew 20:25-28 (NIV84)

And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.— 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, fill me with Your Holy Spirit as I demonstrate a life of Noble Character. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“This is No Time”

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Terrorist attacks at the door. Inflation rearing its ugly head. Taxes at every turn—increasing the burden. Civil unrest; social and moral decay. This is no time to bring a child into the world, and yet our Heavenly Father deemed it “appropriate” to bring His Son into that climate of the world…. Oh, you thought I was describing our current situation? Nah, but it sure sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

More than a Conqueror

Yes, the world in which the baby Jesus was born was a very violent time. Israel was under the occupation of the Romans, and might truly made right. Yet, this is the time our Heavenly Father deemed “The fulness of time.” What better time than to show the vulnerability of the humility of His Son?

I’m reminded of a line in the Rock Opera “Jesus Christ Superstar.” If memory serves, it was Judas who delivered the line: “If you’d come today, You could have reached a whole nation; Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication—don’t you get me wrong.…” That hit me hard then when it came out. And for some time I agreed with it. But as I study the Word more & more and found the main text for today (Gal. 4:4), I changed my focus of study. With this change of focus, my doubts began to melt away. It was all part of His plan to show many, many characteristics of the Godhead, and one I’ve already mentioned: vulnerability of humility.

Unlike other kings of royalty, our King was born in an obscure village among poor peasants, in a borrowed manger—but all in the “fulness of time”! And He survived the heinous  slaughter of innocent children; He survived being a refugee in Egypt; He survived many bandits during family pilgrimages to and from the Holy City; He survived the teenage years; He survived the ridicule and unbelief of His family; He survived the popularity and misunderstandings of the mobs and the crowds; and He survived the tortuous death of crucifixion….

Yes, He survived. But in truth He did more than survive, didn’t He? He is more than a conqueror! He indeed grew up in those very unstable times to nonetheless fulfill the destiny the Father had designed for Him. He is more than a survivor; He is a conqueror!

So, as we look around at the difficult, unstable, even dangerous times we live in, do you receive any encouragement from our Lord Jesus’ journey? I do….

At this Christmas time when bills seem bigger than usual and suspicion reigns, remember that our Heavenly Father took care of His Son during His most vulnerable times, providing all He and His family needed…

… and the same will be so for us.

Main Text: — Galatians 4:4–5 (ISV)— 4 But when the appropriate time had come, God sent his Son, born by a woman, born under the Law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the Law, and thus to adopt them as his children.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.— Romans 8:35–37 (NIV84)

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.— Matthew 8:26 (NIV84)

Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?—Romans 8:32 (NLT)

And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  (Philippians 4:19-20)

Coach Mike

“Benched!”

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During my many years of coaching various sports, I have had to bench a player or two. Usually, it was because of an attitude problem or some violation of a team rule or expectation…. But there were those times I would tell a player that I was sitting her on the bench for awhile so that she could get a feel for the game and the offense and/or defense we were running. “Now, I want you to observe number 10. Watch how she keeps her knees bent and her balance. She engages her opponent increasing the pressure and closing the distance the closer she gets to the goal.” …

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This same thing appears to have happened to me in the ministry. As I was wrapping up my college campus ministry  phrase, I approached my early mentor, Elmer Hiebert, with a friend and expressed how I felt that the Lord was pulling me out of the “game”. My friend felt the same way. I will never forget what Elmer told both of us: “Maybe it’s like a coach who pulls his players out of the first quarter so that they can be fresh when he puts them back in in the fourth quarter.” Does the Lord do such a thing?

It appears that He does, especially in light of our main text this morning. The young Saul (aka Paul, later to become an apostle) started out with a bang, witnessing to all that Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the long awaited Messiah, and though he had a measure of success, things also got a little hairy. So the church sent him back to his home town. He appears to be “benched” for almost 10 years. (Oh, he was most assuredly busy with the tasks at hand growing in the faith while making tents, but he clearly wasn’t on the radar of recorded church history.) Then his early mentor, Barnabas, seeks Saul out to join him with some small tasks (see Acts 11:28-36). Slowly, Saul, aka Paul (his Roman name), begins to fulfill the destiny the Lord presented to him on the Road to Damascus (see Acts 26:16ff)….

Brothers and sisters, you may be feeling like the Lord has pulled you out of the “game” and benched you for some silly mistake (aka sin), but is it possible that He is “benching” you for quite another reason? Maybe He wants you to watch that number 10, learning from them how they engage the opponent or how they are learning the offense and defense the He wants you to run? Quite possibly so? What do you think? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 13:1-3 (NIV84)  In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul.  While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.— Galatians 4:4–5 (NIV84)

Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.” Exodus 3:1–3 (NIV84)

 Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there. Genesis 39:1 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Slippers of Patience especially during this season of my life as I faithful receive Your training…. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Getting Ready for the Journey”

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The plumber makes sure he has all the parts and tools for the job; the chef makes sure she has all the ingredients and cookware for the meal; the surgeon makes sure all the right appliances are available for the procedure. And the preparation is well worth it.

Before we start any project or procedure, it is best to assess the situation, making sure we have the necessary materials for it. Our LORD  did this in the very beginning (see the main text below). He assessed the situation and made sure He had all the ‘right stuff’ before beginning. (Whereas many may need a tool box or truck load of tools and parts, all He needed was His Word….)

As we continue this series in Acts on Pursuing the Lord Jesus Christ, I find it most fascinating that during the waiting period, the leadership felt the need to assess the situation, taking an inventory of the needed personnel to get organized. They were not sitting around “just” praying, were they?

Lifestyle worshiper, whether it is the LORD or the early church leadership, don’t you think this is a good example to follow in our pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ? Assess our spiritual condition and look about to see if we have all the essential ‘tools’ for this project. What do you think are some tools we need for this? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Genesis 1:1-2 — 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters  [KJV]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. … “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, “ ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “ ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, — Acts 1:14, 20-21 (NIV84)

 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.  —Revelation 2:4-5 (NIV84)

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? — Luke 14:28 (ESV)

 Heavenly Father, empower me by Your Holy Spirit to see the condition of my situation. Lord Jesus Christ, be my wisdom as I assess the “tools” needed for my journey with You. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike