“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

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“Repentance is the Key”

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Allow me to be candid:

Many believe that the LORD is going to judge our nation for its immorality and debauchery. If HE is going to judge our nation, judgment starts with His house (see 1 Peter 4:17 NASB95). But if we judge ourselves, then perhaps the LORD will spare this nation as He did Nineveh those many years ago (1 Corinthians 1:31 & Jonah 3:1-10). To merely judge ourselves is not enough, i.e., “Yeah, we’re doing something wrong. So what?” Once we judge ourselves, we then repent of whatever is displeasing to the LORD. Thus, repentance is the key.

A Solemn Assembly One pattern of repentance is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14: (1) humble ourselves; (2) pray & seek the LORD’s face; (3) turn from our wicked ways. The time for finger pointing and blame shifting is over. (If we do point fingers, it is best to stand in the bathroom and point at the mirror, eh?)

One way to act on this pattern of repentance is to join our church with fasting in the month of October. We begin our fast with an observance of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This year it is September 23. We use a ceremony I have had published in the Book, A Solemn Assembly: Gather to Seek the Lord’s Face (A Call to Repentance and Restoration). This book is a collection of scriptural prayers that will assist any follower of Jesus on his/her journey to repentance and restoration, let alone our daily walk. Thus, this book can be used for personal devotion as well as small group or large gatherings.

Though you can repent without any formal plan or ceremony, many have found it helpful to use a more formal tool in their own observance. Further, I note in the 2 Chronicles text that is plural: “If my people.” Truly repentance is a personal and private matter, but also we, as the Body of Christ, can join with our brothers and sisters in corporate repentance as the Israelites did in days of old. I am presenting this book as a tool to all the People of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, as a tool, this book will aid you in answering this call to repentance and restoration. But please note: I am not just trying to sell “my” book. Rather I am presenting it as a means to assist you in your walk with Jesus. This book is available from Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, iTunes/iBooks or from me. I am able to get group discounts for printed versions if you order soon.

For group orders I can be reached at michaelr05@msn.com or 970-245-0913.

Whatever means or tools you use, at the very least, join us in prayer and fasting for our nation and the church in the month of October.

Peace to you through our Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Coach 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

“Becoming a People of the Book & Getting the Right Explanation of the Word”

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Date: 03-14-15

The Big Idea: If the Word is indeed the Word of God (and I most assuredly believe it is), then I must do everything I can to accurately interpret the Word so that I will not be putting words in His mouth, right?.

My Thoughts: Even the Apostle Peter had some difficulties with some of the Apostle Paul’s writings (2 Peter 3:16). Even when he literally walked with Jesus, Peter had to ask the Lord, “Explain the parable to us” (see Matthew 15:15). The Ethiopian Eunuch was reading Isaiah 53 and asked Philip to explain it to him (Acts 8:31ff). Dare I supposed I need not to ask for explanation of the Word?

I have found that to become a People of the Book, I need to rightly interpret the Word of God. In order to do this, I need to interpret its meaning in the proper context: Literary, historical and cultural context. Sometimes I need to read a good commentary or ask one who has study the Word longer than I have or who has a particular expertise in a language or given area of history…. I try to surround myself with people like this.

If the Word is indeed the Word of God (and I most assuredly believe it is), then I must do everything I can to accurately interpret the Word so that I will not be putting words in His mouth, right?

If our God is sovereign over time, and if He has breathed Life into the Words of this Book, then it follows that His Words can span time and culture. His Words go beyond any ‘first century worldview’ or 21st century deconstruction attempts. His Word is eternal and valid for all cultures and times….

On my journey becoming a People of the Book, I have learned some simple guidelines of interpretation: First, I make observations of the text prior to reading any commentaries. I focus on the verbs and participles in their original language, moving to key nouns and adjectives. Then I move to interpretation, asking such questions as what was the context of the original audience, what is the context of the passage in the Bible, and how does the author use these particular words. Once I come up with some contextual interpretation of the Word, I move to application. Following both of the first two steps avoids any misapplication and putting words in the Holy One’s mouth. What I have also learned is, much of the time this is hard and sacred work. Sometimes I have discovered that what I thought the passage said actually was my bias taking it out of context. …. Have you found this to be so, too? Has the Word presently come alive to you in ways that it has not in the past?   Share your story about your journey becoming a People of the Book as you get explanations of the Word.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 8:8—They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. — 2 Timothy 2:15 (NLT)

The disciples came to [Jesus] and asked, “Why do You speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him.”  —Matthew 13:10-12 (NIV84)

Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him. Do not add to His words, or He will rebuke you and prove you a liar. — Proverbs 30:5-6 (NIV84)

Coach Mike

“Exposure to the Word is More than Just Owning a Bible”

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Date: 03-13-15

The Big Idea: I went from being exposed to the Word to fill the hunger in my soul, to being a collector of Bibles to fill my intrigue.

My Thoughts: As I continued on my journey with Jesus to become a People of the Book, I found that daily exposure to His Word fed a deep longing and an intense hunger for Him. Intriguingly, shortly after committing my life to the Lord Jesus, I was handed a little green New Testament with the Psalms and Proverbs (which I devoured, camping in John & the Proverbs). Another gave me a Living Bible paraphrase of the New Testament, which I found easier to read. Then I set out to purchase my first Bible, a Thompson Chain reference for $35! (I vividly recall my mother saying why buy such an expensive Bible….) Still another friend gave me a Scofield  Study Bible. The NIV New Testament came out, so I devoured one of those, too…. Suddenly, I went from having no Bibles to an entire library of Bibles….

Shortly after this, I had the honor of joining a small group call Underground Evangelism. It was there I learned that many Christians throughout the world had no Bibles at all. I went home and counted how many Bibles I had. Between a close friend and myself we had 45 Bibles. Now, in truth, I had read all of them at some point, but I could not use all of them, so I began giving them away, keeping only the few I had had in the very beginning….

All this is to say, I went from being exposed to the Word to fill the hunger in my soul, to being a collector of Bibles to fill my intrigue. Oh, I could rationalize why I had so many Bibles, but really how many could I read at once and then how many did I really need?

Have you found on your journey as a People of the Book, that the real challenge is reading the one Bible you may possess? Even now as a pastor, I still read the Word, but often strictly for sermon preparation. I have even caught myself a couple of times never opening my printed Bible—since now I have many of the 45 Bibles back in digital form. Perhaps you can join me in committing to exposing ourselves to the Word as they did in Nehemiah’s day: “Day after day”?  Do you have a story you’d like to share about reading the Word as a People of the Book?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 8:18— Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

[Jesus] went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. And He stood up to read.— Luke 4:16 (NIV84)

Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” —Mark 12:24-27 (NIV84)

I arise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words. My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word.— Psalm 119:147148 (NASB95)

Coach Mike