Time for Questions?

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Have you ever noticed how often Jesus would ask questions? I did. And it is fascinating that He engages friend and foe alike with a question. He offers them a chance to answer. His questions at times seem innocent and innocuous enough, but other times like He has the “witness” on the stand and He is cross examining them.

Have you also noticed that when sharing Jesus with others, asking questions actually opens up the conversation? Have you found that in doing so, this establishes rapport as well as respect? I have.

I have also found that I need not be in a hurry to win the argument, if one should ensue, but rather take my time and build a relationship. To be sure, Jesus was an itinerant preacher of sorts. He would move from town to town and village to village. But who’s to say He wasn’t speaking to some of the same people? Even some of His adversaries may have been following Him, and in some strange sort of way, a relationship, though adversarial, was being developed. And out of respect for them, our Master would genuinely ask a question.

Oh, He may have asked a rhetorical question here or there, but more often than not His questions engaged His hearers, expecting sincere and honest answers….

Do you think its about time we become more skilled at asking sincere and deep questions that engage our relationships (friends and foes), rather than making harsh and dogmatic statements—even if true? What do you think?

Main Text— Mark 8:27–30 (NIV) 27 Jesus and His disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way He asked them, “Who do people say I am?” 28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” 30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about Him.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Mark 10:51 (NIV)

 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “What is written in the Law?” He replied. How do you read it?”Luke 10:25–26 (NIV)

  “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’  ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.   Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted? “The first,” they answered.—Matthew 21:28–31 (NIV)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to discover the needs of others through the questions You prompt me to ask. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

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Soul Rest vs. Physical Rest

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For the sake of discussion and to develop a healthy Both/And understanding, I’d like to discuss which is more needful: Soul rest or Physical rest. It appears that Jesus offers both to us in the main text (below). Both words for “rest” in vv. 28 & 29 are the same Greek word, but the second adds: “for your souls.” One would understand that the first is physical rest. Jesus offers us physical rest. We no longer need to strive to earn His favor. By Grace through faith we already have it. So physical rest is promised.

But how important is it to have “soul rest” as well? Wouldn’t you agree that if there is turmoil in our soul, there are also physical consequences? Maybe grinding teeth, or a stiff neck or tightness in the shoulders. So no matter how much physical rest we may try to get, soul rest seems to be connected.

But do you suppose that if I am not getting physical rest, it also follows that I am not taking the time to get soul rest either? What a conundrum.

And on top of this, I know how to get physical rest rather easily: Stop. Stop doing what I do physical. Take a break. Sit down. Smell the roses….

How do you suppose I get soul rest to anchor my physical rest? How do I stop and focus my soul on Jesus, the Rest Giver? What suggestions do you have?

Main Text— Matthew 11:28–30 (NIV84) 31 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give youI do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.John 14:27 (NIV84)

  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.—Hebrews 4:11 (NIV84)

  This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.”— (Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be both my soul rest as I seek Your Face. 

Pastor Mike

“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

“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

“Get It Mixed Up A Bit?”

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Have you noticed that some of Jesus’ followers get the Pharisees mixed up with the Woman at the well (see John 4)? They call the Woman at the well an adultery, a snake and yell at her that she must be born again; and the Pharisee? Well, they try to reason with him, giving a little latitude for his blindness in his religion.

Yelling in Ear

But, I am so glad our Master did not mixed us up. He gently offered Living Water (obviously His very Person) to the Woman who knew no better, even though she engaged Him in a mild theological discussion. Her questions were sincere & genuine and not a barbed  trap. Oh, He still addressed her sin (as He did with the woman caught in adultery; see John 8:10f), but He did so with the gentle kindness of the Loving Messiah.

Contrariwise, He sharply rebuked the Pharisees, crescendoing on the last week of His earthly ministry with the Matthew 23 “The Seven Woes”  confrontation. Here, the Loving Messiah, filled with deep sorrow for ones so close but so far, used the double-edged scalpel of a skilled surgeon, Who truly cares for His cancer-ridden patient. …

In our main text, we find that the Apostle Paul used the “Woman at the Well” approach: He gentle moved through his gospel presentation, starting out with a kind observation of their “religious” behavior. Oh, he could have used the “Pharisee Approach,” screaming, “You brood of idolatrous vipers. How can you bow down to wood and stone? Can they save you?” But they had no idea of this true, Living God, Who does not live in a temple man by human hands. They, like the Woman at the well, though able to discourse in some form a theological (albeit philosophical) dialogue, truly had no idea what Life was all about. …

Do you get mixed up, too? Do you judge with critical screams those who are ignorant of the LORD’s Word and Ways and yet gently dialogue with those who actually know better? (Now, I’m not advocating screaming at those who do know better, for our Master did not scream at them either. I hear a different voice of Jesus in Matthew 23 than most movies have portrayed. I hear a voice full of compassion and deep sorrow—expressed in the woes and noted in Luke 19:41.) I find it best to fight in my own spirit a critical and a judgmental attitude. Note: I said, “I fight it.” 

Just a few days ago, I had the opportunity to chat with someone who was the type of person I would normal go after in private conversation with others of “my” persuasion. But, the LORD afforded me a Gush of Grace, and I was able to peacefully sit and converse with them. At one point in our conversation, I had doubted the veracity of some of their statements; so I asked a few questions that only someone schooled in this particular area would know the answers to (since I myself have been trained in this particular area), and voila! I just caught them in a lie. And better yet, I did not call them out. Why? Because they truly didn’t know any better. So, I prayed the Lord to use my listening to them and following their agenda as a more powerful witness than winning any argument.

I, too, rely heavily on His Gushes of Grace not to get mixed up. How about you? Your thoughts….

Main Text— Acts 17:22-23 (NIV84) 22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.Colossians 4:5–6 (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 emphasis added)

So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of His kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?Romans 2:3–4 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be the Sword of the Spirit wielder in my Life so that I might demonstrate Your Love and Kindness to both those who do not know any better and to those who do. 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