“Perfection vs. Perfectionist”

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After my sabbatical few months back, I have given myself permission to take more thought time than I had before. And permission to understand that this time is not a waste of time. This was a big hurdle. I have so much I can be doing, but fortunately the Lord clearly grants permission for such times, right? Pondering His Word. Meditating in His Presence.

So the other day during one of these Pondering His Word Moments, the phrase hit me: “Jesus was Perfection, but He wasn’t a perfectionist.” Intriguingly, this staggered me. Being a recovering perfectionist and being one who wants to be like Jesus, the gulf between the two was so glaring. Why hadn’t I seen this before? And worse, I pondered all that Jesus did pleased the Father (cf John 8:29)! And He was never uptight, anxious, frantic that “it” needed to be just so,…. Then I started to laugh and picture Jesus  being this frantic, etc. perfectionist …. It didn’t fit. 

If He were, people wouldn’t want to be around Him  because He would be so demanding. His quality standards would be well beyond what anyone could achieve.  …

And in the juxtaposition of all these thoughts, I could see the Lord Jesus smiling at me: “Yes, Michael, I am perfection, but I need not fret about it, demand it of myself or of others. I just do what comes natural to Me.” The thought was so calming and reassuring.

As I let the Lord Jesus’ Life flow through me, He is perfection in me; even in my mistakes. (And this is another topic for another discussion!) He accomplishes through me what I could never accomplish. And so gracious, so peaceful. No demands upon myself or overly burdensome expectations on others. Just Calm.

What are your thoughts? Do you struggle with being OCD or a perfectionist? Share a few moments of your journey with us.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.(Colossians 2:9–10 NIV84)

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority. (Colossians 2:9–10 NIV84)

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“I Missed His Fullness”

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When I first came into a personal relationship with Jesus, I was more than impressed with His deity. In fact, I felt the Lord had called me to correct all the wrongs in various denominations. So I pounced on the New Testament, especially the Gospels and St. Paul’s letters. I loaded my theological Gatling Gun, removed the safety and was ready to unload its magazine at the first hint of any ignorance or denial.

One of the verses I constantly loaded into the magazine was Colossians 2:9: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (NIV84). Fire fight after fire fight, I would empty this verse at those I encountered. And sadly, I was more interested in winning an argument than establishing a relationship….

Then one day, the Father was pleased to reveal to me more about Him through Jesus in the very next verse, 10: “and you have this fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (NIV74). I literally hit a wall.

All those years I was trying to please the Father by defending His Son’s reputation and identity—and in some large way trying to earn His approval so I could get more of Him—when all along I already had His Fullness in me through Jesus…. 

Since then it has been a journey of decreasing while the Lord Jesus keeps increasing within me. I look at this as kind of releasing of compressed air. His fullness is compressed in me in various aspects of my life. When I yield to His presence, His compressed Presence fills the void left by my selfish self. In effect, His transforming power now controls a part of my life that had once been in bondage to sin and self.

Once again, the Lord’s timing is impeccable, for I was reading, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence earlier this morning and came upon this in the Fourth Letter:

He [Brother Lawrence] complains much of our blindness; and cries often that we are to be pitied who content ourselves with so little. GOD, saith he, has infinite treasure to bestow, and we take up with a little sensible devotion which passes in a moment. Blind as we are, we hinder GOD, and stop the current of His graces. But when He finds a soul penetrated with a lively faith, He pours into it His graces and favours plentifully; there they flow like a torrent, which, after being forcibly stopped against its ordinary course, when it has found a passage, spreads itself with impetuosity and abundance. (p. 42, The Spire Book)

I, too, was blind to this treasure, this gift of His grace: His Fullness— until the Father was pleased to reveal Him to me. How this all worked? What mechanism sprung? I do not know, but I do know that once I was blind, but now I see a little bit better….

Have you experience a revealing like this?

Main Text— Matthew 16:15–17 (NIV84) 15 But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.John 1:16 (NIV84)

  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.—2 Peter 3:18) (NIV84)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.—Ephesians 3:14–19 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I praise You for the Grace of Your Fullness. Strengthen my resolve as I continue on this journey of decreasing while You increase within me. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“I Think I Can.”

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Many of us grew up with TheLittle Engine that Could” story, and then we’ve passed it on to our children and to their children. It is a great moral: Don’t give up; Give it your all and you can do it. And for much of life I would agree with this….

…but when it comes to living the Moral Kingdom Code presented by our Master in the Sermon on the Mount, I have a different feeling RE  “the little engine that could.”

Perhaps you are morally stronger than I, but I have not been able to keep my heart from burping out, “You fool”—either to the one who just cut me off or to my self for doing something utterly stupid…. Oops, I’m in “liable to the hell of fire” (v. 22 below).

Or how about the rest of the “You have heard that it was said to those of old…, But I say to you’s? I know our Master is giving us the ideal Kingdom Living Code, but I also think He is noting something far more profound right along with it: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20 ESV). I think He is telling us that we cannot achieve this Code on our own, by our own efforts. Wouldn’t you agree?

 Wouldn’t you also agree that St. Paul echoes this very sentiment in his letter to the Galatians, “I do not misapply God’s grace, for if righteousness comes about by doing what the Law requires, then the Messiah died for nothing” (Gal. 2:21 ISV)?

I know I need Jesus in the beginning of my salvation and at the end, but I also know I need Him in the middle as well. With each step I take in His steps, I need His strength, His Power, to “perform” His Kingdom Code. How else would I make it? I know of no other way. Do you?

Main Text— Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV) 21 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.”Jn 14:6–7 (NIV84 emphasis added)

 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.—James 2:10–11 (NIV84)

  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.— Philippians 3:8–11 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, when it comes to Your Kingdom Code, I am shaking like a leaf. I pray You are my Prince of Peace. Fulfill Your Holy Kingdom Code in my Life that I might be a pleasing child of Yours. In Your Holy Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“The Power to Live the Life”

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Plugging into Jesus

As we embark on this series developing the third component of our Vision Statement: “Living His Word” (the first two are : Building Families & Pursuing the Lord Jesus Christ), it would be very easy to slip into what I have called, “Behavioral Christianity,” that is, attempting to Live the Word in our own strength. This attempt to live the Christian Life in our own strength, on the one hand, produces hypocrites and legalists, who have no integrity, and who foolishly think they can fake living the Life or who foolishly think they can gut out the Word without the Life of Lord Jesus coursing through their spiritual veins, respectively. The Dangler, on the other hand, has integrity, but is caught between the is and the ought: They “ought” to live like the Word, but they “is” not like the Word. So they slip from one teacher to another; one church to another; one Bible study to another until they find the “secret.” But plugging into people, positions, power or possessions just doesn’t cut it….

The “secret,” as Gary Smalley has said, is: “We need to plug into the 220 outlet—the Lord Jesus!” (“220”comes from Galatians 2:20—see below.)

So as we plug into the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, He empowers us by His Holy Spirit to Live the Life the Word presents. For example, the Word teaches, “… Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34b NIV84). Now I can try to Love my brother and sister in Christ in my own strength and to some degree I may have some success. (And some may have even more success because they are more disciplined or stronger or whatever…) But if we are truly honest with ourselves, to Love as Jesus would have me Love is way beyond my ability (see Gal. 2:21). I offer a simple prayer of faith to resolve this conundrum: It goes like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, be Love in me toward _______.” Or “Lord Jesus Christ, be in me what my _____ needs right now.” And then He will not only prompt you, but empower you to “go do it”—whatever it is.

This is the Life of Faith when Living His Word. At times He will prompt us to do or say something, but at other times He may prompt us to remain quiet, or merely offer a healing, holy touch. Whatever He prompts us to do, I have found that listening to Him is crucial….

What are some ‘habits’ you use to practice listening for His promptings? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Galatians 2:20–21 (NIV84)— 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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 4:9 (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)

  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”— John 14:6 (NIV84 emphasis added)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Sword Wielder. Empower me to live Your Word as You continue to transform me by Your Holy Spirit. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“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

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).

“Life vs. Fake”

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Date: 05-17-15

Today’s fake flowers are pretty real looking aren’t they? Some are made with silk; others with a variety a materials. But they are truly life-like, yet upon closer inspection, it is clear they are fake: No fragrance; no life.

When our Awana Club started back up after Christmas, I had noticed something rather disturbing on our “A Place for Your Things” Table. I saw a little baby just lying there amid all the coats and bags and books!!! Aghast, I moved quickly to ‘rescue’ the baby. Getting closer, I noticed the baby still look real, but its skin was rather odd—rubbery like. Duh, it was a very life-like baby. (The operative word is “like” not truly alive.) Later, I spoke with the father of the daughter, whose baby it was, and he noted how he, too, would sometimes forget it was merely a doll….

Lifestyle worshiper, is there Life in your worship? In your walk with Jesus? Or is it merely “life-like”? Upon closer examination what will we find?

Main Text: — Galatians 2:20-21 — 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.— John 14:6 (NIV84)

 When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you, too, will be revealed with him in glory. —Colossians 3:4 (ISV)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly— John 10:10 (NASB95)

 “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please Him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:9-14). Amen. 

Pastor Mike