“An Intense Pursuit or A Disinterested Accomplishment”

As I observe cats playing with a toy or a cricket, they act almost disinterested in playing with it. A little catch and release, and then they soon get bored. Ah, but if you give a dog a bone, he’ll gnaw on it until it is gone. Every morning, my dog pursues me until he gets this special minty doggy treat. I have taught him to politely take it from me. (Prior to this he would nearly take my fingers with his treat!) But once he finds his special place, he devours this treat—gnawing on it until it is completely consumed.

In my observations of these two different approaches to pursing, I have discovered that in some areas of my life, my pursuit of Jesus is like a cat: I have arrived! I’ve accomplished something, and then quite frankly, I appear disinterested and forget about “it”—whatever lesson or character aspect He has revealed…. But in other areas of my walk with Jesus, I am like my dog: I intensely pursue Him and then gnaw on the truth of His Character He is revealing to me until I have consumed it. (Grant it, this gnawing & consuming is not as instantaneous as my dog’s.)

Now, to be sure, some truths about Jesus for some are an accomplishment, while others are a continual pursuit. But I am referring to the intensity and completeness of the pursuit versus the disinterest that appears to accompany accomplishing something. Have I settle for merely scratching the surface, or have I dug down deep (to change the metaphor)? Is it okay for me to sometimes be like a cat and take in only a little?  Intriguingly, the Greek word for “pursue” in our main text means, “to do something with intense effort and with definite purpose or goal.” This is the sort of pursuit of Jesus I want to have….

This Sunday’s Advent focus is “The Pursuit of the Messiah.” And as I focus on my pursing the Lord Jesus Christ with intensity and a definite purpose of getting to know Him as my Righteousness, I wonder what marvelous truths about myself and His being my Righteousness I will discover this Christmas, … Oh, and what does it look like to have this intense pursuit of a dog?

Join me on our journey with Jesus at this Christmas time to really inventory our intensity and purpose in our pursuit of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus!

… and make this Christmas especially merry.

Main Text: — 1 Timothy 6:11–12 (NIV84)— 11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.— Hebrews 12:1–2 (NIV84)

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.— Matthew 6:33 (NIV84)

“The days are coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In His days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which He will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.—Jeremiah 23:5–6 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, satisfy the desires of my soul as I passionately pursue the Lord Jesus Christ as my Righteousness. I put You on, Lord Jesus Christ, as my Breastplate of Righteousness that I might walk in paths of righteousness for Your Name’s sake. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“Be A Change Agent for Jesus”

Date: 07-18-15

My Thoughts:

I know a common prayer of mine has been: “Lord, use me.” Well, what if He doesn’t? What if He chooses to pour me out as King David did the water secured from his hometown well (see 2 Chronicles 11:17-19), will my life and my service be any less valuable to Him? Or More? I know I have been stuck in this utilitarian / performance base value system for some time, but in truth, the Lord does use us—and He uses us as a change agent for others.

I have found that at least two prerequisites for this are faithfulness and availability. When we are faithful and available, we can enjoy the blessings of being co-laborers with Him as Peter and John were in this morning’s main text (see below).

Peter and John were not walking around wondering how the Lord was going to use them. No, instead they were faithful in prayer, going to the temple for the daily prayers. They were available to the Spirit’s promptings. In short, their hearts were open and their eyes were open. This led to their hands being open to be used of the Lord in His ways and in His timing. (In this situation, an open hand to grasp a lame beggar’s, eh?)

Years ago, Brother Andrew and I were talking privately at a conference he spoke at, and he said, “Michael, too often we come to the Lord with our hands full of our projects and our ideas and say, ‘Lord, bless these.’ Instead, we should lift up empty hands and say, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do? Fill these empty hands with Your projects and Your ideas….”

Have you discovered that only empty hands can be filled with heavenly projects? I have, and I have also learned that an open heart that is in passionate pursuit of Jesus joined with open eyes for His Person leads to open hands for His business. Have you?  How does being faithful in prayer lead to these and to becoming a change agent of Jesus? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 3:6-7 — 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And [Jesus] said to them, Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?  — Luke 2:49 (NKJV)

 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  — 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV84)

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol  or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD  and vindication from God his Savior.  Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. — Psalm 24:3-6 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, give us clean hands and purify our hearts. Let us not give our souls to another. (adapted from Charlie Hall’s “Give Us Clean Hands”) May I always honor the Holy Name of Jesus, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Prayer: A Common Habit”

Date: 12-28-14

Text: — Acts 10:9 — About noon the following day as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Beyond New Year’s resolutions and revolutions, let us make it a common habit to pray.

My Thoughts: 

As you read the above verse, prayer seems like a natural part of Peter’s life. No fanfare or special attention was made. It is stated as if it is a natural, common habit of Peter’s life: “Peter went up on the roof to prayer.”

Lifestyle worshiper: Peter was ‘caught’ several times in the Book of Acts personally praying or a part of group prayer: Acts 1:14; 3:1; 4:24-31; 8:15 just to list a few…

As we close out one year and begin a new one, perhaps you have sense the urgency to pray more. I know I have. Beyond New Year’s resolutions and revolutions, let us make it a common habit to pray: both privately and in groups. The way I understand it: Praying is to the spiritual Life as breathing is to the physical. So I guess praying is a good thing, eh?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed

— Luke 5:16 (NIV84)

   One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

— Luke 11:1 (NIV84)

 “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

— Luke 22:31-32 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father,  burn in my soul a passion to pray.  Direct me by  Your Holy Spirit to the topics of prayer from praise to intersession. May I humbly seek Your Face through Your Son’s empowerment. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Not Only An Academic Pursuit”

Date: 12-21-14

Text: — Matthew 2:10-12 — 10 When [the Magi] saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: It is critical what we do with divine revelation.

My Thoughts: 

Too many make religion one of two extremes: (1) It is merely an academic pursuit. It is all about the facts and figures and logic; (2) the other is it is a totally mystical approach, with the spiritual realm disconnected from the physical realm. Truly, the Magi’s search was a Both/And search. The stars and their “message” were truly discovered through facts, figures and logic. And to some extent, the gifts they brought were of the same logic. But when all these facts and figures and logic assembled to see this child, no words could capture what they experienced except: “they bowed down and worshiped Him” (v. 11). No record of what was said was preserved. No account of their feelings or emotions was presented. Simply: “…and worshiped Him.”

Lifestyle worshiper: Have you found your pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ as one of the two extremes? Perhaps you can join me this season in a balanced, Both/And journey. We need the facts of His virgin birth, conceived by the Holy Spirit, born in Bethlehem and the like; but we also need that inexpressible experience of being in the presence of the Holy One, the Messiah.

Have you found that the former is only enhanced and magnified by the latter, and that the latter often leaves you speechless, words failing to capture the Holy moment? Your thoughts.

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Father, the time has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may glorify You. … And now, Father, glorify Me in Your presence with the glory I had with You before the world began. 

— John 17:1, 5 (NIV84)

   Therefore God exalted [Jesus] to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

— Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV84)

Though you have not seen [Jesus], you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

— 1 Peter 1:8-9 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father,  forgive me for making my pursuit of Your Son merely an academic exercise. May I realize that His Life is not separate from facts and figures but enhanced and magnified by the spiritual. Lord Jesus Christ, as I draw closer to You in my pursuit, may I relish those moments where words cannot capture my adoration of You empowered by Your Holy Spirit. Glory to YHWH in the Highest! Praise Your Holy Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike