In or For the Lord: Is there a Difference?

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Brother & Sisters: 

As the Life of the Lord Jesus flows in and through us, He empowers us in our ‘labors’. And these ‘labors’ are in the Lord and not for the Lord. 

Stand Firm in Your Labor in the Lord

Do you see a difference? 

I do. My labor for Him can be—and inevitably  is—in my own strength, building my own kingdom. But when I yield to His Life which so powerfully works in me, then I produce abundant fruit—fruit that will endure.

Be encouraged: as you fully give yourselves to the work of the Lord, know this: your labor in Him is not in vain! (see 1 Corinthians 15:58)

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.(Colossians 3:23-24 NIV 84)

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”(John 15:5 NIV).

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“Be A Witness”

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Date: 06-14-15

My Thoughts:

I remember when classes were offered in churches on “how” to witness. We were taught to write down our testimony and how we came to Jesus; then condense it into a 2-3 minute presentation. In other classes we were taught how to you a little ‘gold’ book, or another book of colors with no words….

But, Lifestyle worshiper, I do not see the verb, “do” in our Lord’s command, do you? I see the verb, “be”: “you will be my witnesses…” (v. 8 below; emphasis added). I see this as a whole different training method.

In this training method, I see character the focus and the inner life of the believer the core. The Fruit of the Spirit is the ‘witness,’ and when ripened, attracts others to the Tree of Life.

I was at a semi-pro baseball game with a dear friend in Denver a number of years ago. As we were ‘warming up’ in the stands before the game, along came a vender selling his wares: “Peanuts! Get Your Peanuts!” His delivery was rather entertaining from behind the back to an overhead hook…. My friend commented, “Now that guy enjoys life.” I wasn’t quite clear where that comment came from, but apparently my sober mood prior to the game was part of the ignition. Obviously, I have not forgotten that “passing” comment and have often wondered what kind of fruit my branches were bearing: the Fruit of the Spirit; or some other kind…? In order for me to be a witness for Jesus, I have to yield to some self-inspector of Fruit. How about you? How it your fruit hanging?

Main Text: — Acts 1:8 — 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.  — Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV84)

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. —Matthew 7:20 (NIV84)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. — Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, as the Fruit of the Spirit ripens in my Life, may my life attract others to You, the Tree of Life. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Lover vs Fearer: What’s the Difference?”

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Date: 06-02-15

My Thoughts:

The Gospel writer, Luke, addresses his second treatise, The Book of Acts, to the same person, Theophilus (see Luke 1:3). Indeed, this could be a real Roman official whose name means, “Friend of God” or “God’s Friend” or “God lover.” But I am suspicious that this is really a euphemism for anyone who desires to move from a “God-fearer” to a “God-lover”.

I have notice that throughout much of the Book of Acts the phrase, “God-fearer,” is employed to describe those who are drawing closer to the true and living God. It is used of God-fearing Jews in Acts 2:4; of a God-fearing Gentile named Cornelius in Acts 10:2; and of some God-fearing Greeks in Thessalonica (Acts 17:4). This phrase appears to mean that although they have a deep, reverential worship of the one True, Living God, they need to come into a more personal intimate relationship with Him.

So is it possible that Luke is encouraging these “God-fearers” on their journey to the Messiah to become God-lovers? What do you think, lifestyle worshiper?  What do you see are the differences between one who is a “God-fearer” and one who is a “God-lover”?

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

We love because He first loved us. — 1 John 4:19 (NIV84)

…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. —Ephesians 3:17-19 (NASB95)

  May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. — 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, may I realized how much You Love me; ignite my love for You melting my fear of You and transforming it into Love for You.  Empower me, Lord Jesus Christ, to be patient and kind to myself as well as to others. In Your Name, Amen. 

Caoch Mike

“People of the Book’s First Response: Blindness, then Sight”

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Date: 03-15-15

The Big Idea: I need to be reminded once again of Neh. 8:10: “Do not grieve, for the Joy of the LORD is my strength!”

My Thoughts: Like coming out of a dark theater, when we frist encounter the Word, we are blinded, squinting and covering our eyes. It is almost too painful to even attempt to open them. And yet as we persevere, our eyes adjust and we see more. This is how the people in Nehemiah’s day initially responded to the Word (v. 9 below). They were overwhelmed with a sense of grief; they were undone and wrecked. Becoming a People of the Book, I often come away from the Word undone and wrecked. My point of view is often one of helplessness. I know I cannot fulfill the precepts of this Book; they are well beyond my capabilities. Oh, some I may be able to gut out with extreme effort and constant exertion, but in truth, I know my strength is far too inadequate to be like Jesus….

I need to be reminded once again of Neh. 8:10: “Do not grieve, for the Joy of the LORD is my strength!” The Lord Jesus Christ overcomes my weaknesses, and as my eyes become accustomed to the Light, I see Him more clearly.

Hannah Whital Smith writes to me a word of encouragement on this:

“I feel more and more utterly cast on Christ and more and more bereft of anything of my own. My wants are many and they are continual, but I know that His supply is far more mighty, and it is promised to me moment by moment, and therefore I can trust all to Him. All! I leave the whole battle to Him, because I must. Wisdom, courage, armor, strength, patience and victory all to be found only in the Lord. I have nothing, literally and truly nothing. But Christ has all, just as literally and truly all and He is mine. Oh, can I doubt that every need will be fully supplied? No a thousand times no! let me wait then patiently His own time, and commit everything to Him continually. “For they shall not be ashamed that wait for thee.” Isa. 49:23. I want to know that I am one with Jesus and to know that He is dwelling in me and working in me to will and to do His good pleasure.”—Journal, April 26, 1867 [Smith, Hannah Whitall, and Melvin Easterday Dieter. The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life: The Unpublished Personal Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997. Print. March 15]

I pray that on your personal journey becoming a People of the Book, the Lord Jesus Christ becomes your strength more and more in the inner being as He empowers you to faithfully respond to His Word of Truth.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 8:9— Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 I love you, O LORD, my strength. — Psalm 18:1 (NIV84)

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  —John 15:5 (NIV84)

But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. — 2 Timothy 4:17 (NASB95)

 Lord Jesus Christ, I confess You are my strength when I am weak. I humbly seek Your Face as I actively yield to Your presence in my Life to walk this journey with You. Transform me by Your Holy Spirit into a People of the Book. Amen.

Coach Mike

A Walk with Jesus Starts Where We Are

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Many people who start their journey with Jesus do so with joy and excitement, but then the ‘hard’ starts. For some it is so hard (i.e., both life and His teaching) that they no longer walk with Him, (see John 6:66). Others begin to feel unworthy so they respond by trying to gut it out, resorting to legalism (i.e., doing the Christian life in their own strength, aka Behavioral Christianity), or fake it, resorting to the classic hypocrisy. (Their audience becomes the church; this is why there are a lot of ‘them’ there.)

But there is a third group. This third group knows they cannot gut it out, and they definitely will not fake it. I call these the danglers. They are caught between the “is” and the “ought”— suspended between the reality of what  “is” what  they “ought” to be.  They hang  suspended because they have a healthy and honest sense of their inability to live the Christian Life in their own strength, but haven’t, as yet, come to the Life Jesus offers. Though they still continue their walk with Jesus, they have a hidden hope that somehow, somewhere, and at sometime Truth will break through and they will truly live “the yoke is easy and burden is light” Life Jesus’ promised.

To me, at the first, the apostle Peter appears to be a dangler. He has an honest and healthy sense of who is, especially in light of his later hat trick of denials. This honest assessment is first observed at his first encountered with Jesus just after the “big catch”. In Luke 5:8, Simon keenly observes, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” But in His Grace, Jesus sees someone Simon has yet to see: “Peter, the rock”.  So Simon Peter begins his walk with Jesus.

Much later, after the resurrection, Peter takes yet another walk with Jesus, and again, we can sense the humility as Peter gets up from the fire and walks side by side with the Master along the beach. Here we come to a very familiar exchanged between Jesus and this Simon, now called Peter: “Do you Love Me?”

Much ado is made over the two different Greek words for love in this passage, and rightfully so. The first two Loves’ Jesus says are agapao, the high, sacrificial, selfless, other-serving Love. In response to these two questions of Jesus, Simon Peter uses phileo, the friendship, warm, loyal, deeply invested love. It is at this point many begin to take a rather sad view of phileo love. As C.S. Lewis notes in his book, The Four Loves, “… very few modern people think Friendship a love of comparable value or even a love at all…. To the Ancients, Friendship seemed the happiest and most fully human of all loves; the crown of life and the school of virtue. The modern world, in comparison, ignores it.” Some have so discounted Peter’s phileo love comment to Jesus, it is as if they make Jesus say, “Peter, since you only phileo Me, you cannot service Me; Come back when you agapao Love Me, and I will then reconsider your loyal service.”

Aren’t you glad our Lord didn’t say this to Peter? Instead, Jesus says, (my paraphrase) “Good for you, Peter. You phileo Me. This is a good place to start your service. And until you grow to agapao me, feed my lambs and take care of my sheep” (cf. John 21:17).

But we know that Peter doesn’t quite see this (even as perhaps some of us do not). Because in the third exchange, Jesus does use the word, phileo, as if to say, “Do you even phileo Me, Peter?” Do you agree with me that our Good Shepherd wasn’t chastising Peter for a having a ‘small love,’ but rather was getting a baseline from which to measure Peter’s growth in Love? I think this because of the prophecy of Peter’s Life seems to indicate that one day Peter will agapao Jesus (see John 21:17-19).

Yes, in the beginning, we may “only” phileo the Lord. We have a strong loyalty and deep affection for Him. We yearn to be with Him, His People, and together we hear His voice and feast on His Words. Ah, but to lay down our Life for Him, well, maybe….

Yet, as with Peter, we will (and do) grow into that agapao Love, where one day we, too, may lay down our Life for the Good Shepherd. Did you notice? Growing in our Love on our walk with Jesus starts where we are. Jesus took a walk with Peter to confirm his  ‘baseline-love,’ and he wants to continue His walk with each of us and monitor our Love-growth, as well.