Love Beyond Memory

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I would like to honor two friends. They will remain nameless, but they know who they are. They are loving a family member beyond memory. One has a parent and the other a spouse. Both are Loving these dear family members with tenderness, devotion and deep sacrifice.

As many have come to know, Loving someone who does not remember you is deeply heart wrenching. The pain of being forgotten is hardly matched by any other experience, save betrayal. And yet they continue to care for their parent and spouse with such tenderness I am, too, am deeply touched.

As I continue to ponder this, the Lord brought to my attention how much this is like me sometimes with Him. He Loves me no matter what—tenderly caring for me, deeply devoted to me. And yet sometimes I forget Him. My memories fade, almost erasing those times we had intimate encounters. And yet He persists in Loving me….

How my two friends remain devoted, clearly demonstrating the Love of Jesus in these forgotten moments, can only be explained by their complete and total dependency on the Lord Jesus for His Strength and Love to fill and flow through them to their Loved one. How I admire them. And I pray that if this day ever comes for me, that I will be able to, in some small measure, demonstrate this Love they have shown so keenly and clearly.

Main Text— Ephesians 1:4d–8 (NIV84 & NKJV)In love 5He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— 6to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.  7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:6–8 (NIV84)

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.Ephesians 2:4–5 (NIV84)

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!1 John 3:1a (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, my heart is overwhelmed with a profound sense of awe, as I ponder the Love You have for me in the Lord Jesus Christ. Words cannot capture or express this feeling of humble gratitude. May the Holy Spirit intercede for me with groaning that cannot be utter. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

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“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

“The Second is Like It”

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My Thoughts:

Perhaps you would agree with me, that if we were asked which is the greatest commandment for a father, it would be that famous saying,  “the best thing a father can do for his children is Love their mother.” But there appears to be a “second like it”. (Just like our Lord Jesus has “two great commandments.”) This second commandment for fathers is to manage themselves: This is what Bill Hybels calls, “Self-leadership.” He alludes to Daniel Goleman’s observations: “He [Goleman] calls it ‘emotional self-control. … this form of self-control is exhibited by leaders when they persevere in leadership despite overwhelming opposition or discouragement; when they refuse to give up during times of crisis; when they manage to hold ego at bay; and when they stay focused on their mission rather than being distracted by other people’s agendas” (Courageous Leadership, p. 184).

I know I need a lot of work on this “self-leadership.” And I know I definitely need the Lord Jesus Christ: He is my grace when I do not persevere in leading my family—whether they follow or not; He is my courage in times of discouragement; He is my strength in my moments of weakness; He is my focus when my vision blurs….

Oh, I’d like to share that I came upon this quote just last week. I was preparing myself to have a personal quiet time instead of sermon preparation when I felt a strong nudge in the Spirit to read this book, Courageous Leadership. “Aaa, Lord, I really would rather read Your word…,” but the nudge became a poke and then a—well, you get the picture. And I happen to read where a book marker was so conveniently placed…. “Yes, Lord, I’m listening.”

Lifestyle worshiper, maybe you have the same personal struggle I have: leading when it appears that no one is following? I am often mystified at how Moses didn’t want to lead, but he was leading. And He was leading people who didn’t want to follow, but they followed (you remember, out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, into the wilderness). As I lead my family, I often desired to see the responses I would get as a coach. We run a drill, no questions asked. If there’s any whining or slacking, “Take a lap,” and you know what? They did. But in the home, I just can’t say, “Drop and give me 20! Nope.

So, dads, perhaps you’ve already learned what I’m in the process of learning: Lead anyway! Love anyway! Persevere and hang in there. This second ‘greatest commandment’ for dads is truly a challenge, and that challenge is remembering to rely on the Lord Jesus Christ to be the dad in my Life He designed me to be and ‘lead’ myself toward Him. Just maybe the rest of the family will follow—especially if I’m also loving the mother of my kids, eh?

Main Text: — Matthew 22:36-40 — 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  — Colossians 3:13 (NIV84)

In a similar way, you husbands must live with your wives in an understanding manner, as with a most delicate partner. Honor them as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing may interfere with your prayers. —1 Peter 3:7 (ISV)

 In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies. A man who loves his wife loves himself. For no one has ever hated his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, as the Messiah does the church. — Ephesians 5:28-29 (ISV)

 Heavenly Father, empower me to lead with integrity and courage. Strengthen my feeble arms and weak knees. Embolden me to lead my family in Love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Entitled Prodigals”

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My Thoughts:

Although the word, “prodigal,” has become synonymous with “wayward, rebellious runaway,”  it actually means “wasteful, extravagant reckless wild living.” I think this fits well with our entitlement culture. It seems to me that prodigals feel an extreme sense of “you owe me for my existence.” Perhaps I am reading too much into today’s main text (Luke 15:11-12), but it appears to me that the younger son is saying, “Father, you owe me. So give me what’s mine (even if it’s ahead of time)!”

The father does not fight this defiant, rebellious son, but instead gives him what the son thinks he deserves, and lets… him… go! Any parent knows how hard this is. It is hard enough when your child is leaving for college or the military or merely moving out on  his/her own, but when they are leaving on not-too-good-of terms, our hearts are bleeding….  But he also did not enable the son by negotiating or chasing after him; another heart-wrenching decision….

Ironically, I have also found that if I chase after a “prodigal,” I only entitle them all the more. I have inadvertently empowered and enabled them in their reckless temper tantrum. And the more I do rescue them, the deeper their sense of entitlement is driven…. Truly a lose-lose scenario.

This is why I admire the father in this story. He did not prevent his son from learning a very difficult lesson—the hard way. Nor did he chase after him. But as I observe the collection of stories in Luke 15, there is a common element of searching, though not as commonly taught. The shepherd diligently searches for the lost sheep—and finds it; the woman fervently searches for the lost coin—and finds it; and the father earnestly searches the horizon for his lost son—and ‘finds’ him! Though the father did not actively run after his son in search of him so as to entitle him again, he does eagerly run to his son, once the son has release this sense of entitlement (as evidenced in his returning). Truly, the son came to his senses….

Lifestyle worshiper, have you found that it displeases the Lord when we chase after “prodigals” well before they have come to their senses? I have. And I have done them a grave disservice. Yes, it is painful to remain ‘at home’ and diligently search the horizon, but it is far wiser—for the sake of the “prodigal,” don’t you think? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Luke 15:11-12 — 11 Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons12 The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again. — Proverbs 19:19 (NIV84)

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?  —Luke 9:25 (NIV84)

 Everything [the teachers of the law and Pharisees] do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi. — Matthew 23:5-7 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, I find it fascinating that You sent Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to seek after the lost sheep of the House of Israel; You sent Him to the lost Samaritan woman at a well; and you sent Him to the lost crowds who were like sheep without a Shepard, but in wisdom He did go after the ‘prodigals’…. And yet He was available if they came to Him. Grant me the wisdom, insight, and courage to do the same. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike