Three Times

“Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said,“ My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:8-9

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How do you know when you have prayed and received confirmation from God?

There are scriptures that state we should continue to pray and ask and never quit (Matthew 7:7). This is true. Persistence and patience is rewarded by our Lord. Yet when you receive the same specific reply three different times, maybe it’s time to accept the answer.

For example, we don’t know the specifics of Paul’s request (2 Corinthians 12:8) except that it was a pain to his flesh. Some think it may have something to do with his eyes. Others feel it may have been a demon assigned to agitate him. It could have been some chronic ailment that he received as a byproduct of all the shipwrecks and beatings he received during his ministry. What it was doesn’t really matter.

He asked and received the same reply three times. Rather than continue to make requests unto the Lord, he contentedly accepted God’s answer in obedience and faithfully moved forward.

Another example is Jesus Christ himself. On the night he was betrayed (Matthew 26), he spent three hours making three requests with His Father to find another way to fulfill the mission. Yet after the third prayer, He accepted His Father’s answer and the rest is history.

After his resurrection, Jesus met with Peter (John 21) and asked him three times whether or not “He loved Him.” Though this was for Peter’s sake, who previously denied Jesus, now Peter confirms that he loves him.

Peter witnessed the same vision three times (Acts 10) which confirmed the Lord’s decree that all men are included in His work of salvation.

Three identical replies seems to be the number for confirmation. So if you are looking for confirmation from the Lord, you now know when to stop praying and start obeying.

 

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Consultant, Coach, Encourager
Marketplace Bible Institute
& Resource Center, Inc
Author of e-Books:
* Great Business Emulates a Good God
* Be Radical…Follow Christ!
* Simply The Messenger
* Unequally Married

Entitlement

 ” …all things were created through him and for him.” Colossians 1:15-17 ESV

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Where are we taught that the world owes us something?  That government, church, or business exists to satisfy our desires? What does life owe us besides our existence? Are we entitled  to fulfill all our dreams? These are some questions people may ask from the position of “what’s in it for me?”

Like a spoiled child, we believe all our desires and dreams should be instantly gratified.  When they are not, we become emotionally belligerent.  We turn our resentment against whomever has denied us our “rights.”  Whether it is our boss, mate, parent, government, and yes even God.  However, like a repented spoiled child, we learn over time to appreciate and be grateful for what we have. But for most of us, it takes time for the heart to morph into a channel of thankfulness.

One of life’s lessons we eventually come to realize is this world doesn’t exist solely for you and I. The Bible states that the world was created for Jesus Christ.  We are simply his invited stewards.

It is Jesus Christ who surrendered his eternal home on a mission for his Father. Faithfully and courageously he fought the battles of life to overcome Satan, Sin, and Death. He substituted His vicarious life for ours. He redeemed humanity from their initial rebellion against grace. His victory is humanity’s win. He earned the right for supreme leadership as King of all kings and Lord of all lords. He is earth’s and heaven’s ultimate Ruler and Judge.

So what are we entitled too?

How about the opportunity to live?  Even though the quality and quantity is limited by many outside factors beyond one’s control, born in a favorable family or government increases ones odds. However, there is no guarantees under the sun. The results of what we pursue and chase after may or may not occur. Only physical death (and some say taxes, but if you have no qualified income, taxes are legally avoidable) is absolute.  Therefore, the only thing we are truly entitled too is the opportunity to live and die.

Everything else is only because of God’s unmerited favor. In fact, because of God’s grace, those who have gladly chosen to accept his authority have the guarantee of the 1st resurrection.  Otherwise, all other perceived entitlements are simply desires that blind and rob us from a more intimate relationship with our Creator: whose blessings are more than enough to handle in this life.

 

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Consultant, Coach, Encourager
Marketplace Bible Institute
& Resource Center, Inc
Author of e-Books:
 *  Great Business Emulates a Good God
 *  Be Radical…Follow Christ!
 *  Simply The Messenger
 *  Unequally Married

 

 

 

Salvation: Relationship or Commodity?

“For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 11:2 ESV
“…so that he(Jesus) might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:27-32 ESV

engaged

 

Growing up in the 21st century within a capitalist culture is challenging for one to fully grasp the teachings of the Bible. Take for example the concept of salvation. Is salvation a commodity to be exchanged or a relationship to be experienced?

There are those who believe that upon repentance one receives salvation. We exchange our repentance for a one-way ticket to heaven. Then there are those who believe that salvation occurred approximately 2,000 years ago upon Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. That upon accepting the reality of who Jesus is, we begin to experience the fruit of salvation.

I lean towards the second view. When we view salvation as a byproduct of our effort, we are treating salvation as a commodity. However, when we view salvation as an engagement, than we are treating salvation as a relationship.

The apostle Paul used the analogy of being engaged to Jesus Christ. In Paul’s time it was the man who selected his wife-to-be. He would work out the arrangement with the woman’s father. If the father approved, he gave his daughter to him. In a sense, the woman would wake up and discover who her husband is to be. She didn’t choose her husband. It wasn’t a decision she made. She simply acknowledged the reality that she was engaged to be married. Thereafter, she focuses herself in accepting the relationship of her husband-to-be and accordingly changed her thinking and behavior to that reality.

Salvation is likewise an engagement in a marriage relationship from a 1st century woman’s perspective. What saves us is not our decision. What saves us is Jesus Christ who became engaged to us before we even accepted that reality. When we wake up from our spiritual sleep, accept that reality, then we begin to experience the fruit of salvation. Otherwise, if salvation is a business transaction, a commodity that we acquire, then it has the weak link of a human decision. We will always doubt our level of repentance, faith, trust, or works. Or in other words, how good is good enough.

When I beheld salvation as a relationship and no longer a commodity is when the fruit of God became more active and the heart of God became more intense within my very soul. I for one am very thankful that Jesus Christ re-opened the door for us to have a relationship with Him, His Father, and His Spirit: The Triune God. How about you?

 

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Executive Chair, Consultant, Encourager
Marketplace Bible Institute
& Resource Center, Inc
Author of e-Books:
 *  Great Business Emulates a Good God
 *  Be Radical…Follow Christ!
 *  Simply The Messenger
 *  Unequally Married

Relate or Influence

” For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.” 1 John3:11 ESV

love lead

What do you seek from your relationships? Friendship? Love? Intimacy? Or do you simply use people for your personal agenda?

The older I become the more thankful I am for the friends and family in my world. What I realize now more than ever is that I didn’t go about asking them to change for me nor I for them. Instead, we accept each other as who we are and learn to appreciate each other as God created and gifted us. Whereas in the workplace in those early years, I made the immature mistake of wanting to change others. The focus was on influencing them by whatever means at my disposal. My goal wasn’t to build a mutual, beneficial, unconditional relationship, but to accomplish my agenda for the day.

Isn’t that how many of us relate with others? We either accept them for who they are or we try to influence them to change. That includes our children, parents, siblings, and yes our mates.

The other day I overheard a young woman who was recently married state that she loves her husband but there are a few things she is going to have to change about him if they are going to have a successful marriage. It brought back memories of my early married days when there were certain habits that my wife had (and still has) that I was going to change. Likewise, she would admit that there were many habits that I had (and still have) that she was going to change. Thankfully, we learned early enough that one can’t successfully change the other person from the outside-in. Instead we focused on building up the relationship rather than persuade the other person to our point of view.

Think about your relationships. Is the goal to mutually enjoy the love, friendship and maybe even the intimacy of marriage? Or is the goal to influence the other person to change for your sake?

I am always amazed at how Jesus related with other people. Have you ever noticed that His tenancy was to first relate with people by actually taking the time to love them and respect them for who they were? When verbally attacked, he would defend himself with the appropriate answer. The only time he emotionally exploded was in the temple with the money changers and again with the self-righteous religious leaders who constantly tried to trap him (even then it could be debated that he was practicing tough love techniques). Otherwise, he spent his time solving people’s problems. He healed them. He ate with them. He partied with them. And as a rabbi, he taught them.

His primary focus was to first love the people wherever he went. His influence came later through the people who he invested time with during his 3 1/2 year ministry. His influence was a byproduct of his relationship. He loved first; and then let his love be the influence that transformed lives in and through others. Isn’t that a good plan for all of us to follow?

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Executive Chair, Consultant, Encourager
Marketplace Bible Institute
& Resource Center, Inc
Author of e-Books:
 *  Great Business Emulates a Good God
 *  Be Radical…Follow Christ!
 *  Simply The Messenger
 *  Unequally Married

Separation

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-8 ESV

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Sometimes people remark that I may confuse the issue because of little details that don’t tie up all the loose ends. For example, the concept of sin and separation from God.

I grew up believing when I sinned God was angry at me. That sin was repulsive to God. That He would turn His back to me. That sin prevented God from blessing me. In some ways, it seemed that Sin was bigger than God. That God didn’t want to have anything to do with me because of that sin I committed last night without even being aware of it. Somewhere, someplace I was led to believe that I was the problem of sin. That when I sinned, God separated Himself from me.

It now amazes me more than ever what happens when the truth becomes known. For example, Father/Son/Spirit God is truly greater than any sin ever committed or known on planet earth. Jesus, who represents God on earth for humanity to witness, walked among sinners. He worked, played, and ate with sinners. He deliberately spent time with them. He didn’t separate himself from sinners. Instead he conquered sin for us.

When we sin, God doesn’t walk away from us. He doesn’t turn his back to us. Instead, he pursues us even more so. He knows the ramifications of sin. He witnessed it with Satan. Yet He still allowed Satan to hang around heaven (Job 1:6). When Adam and Eve sinned, He didn’t walk away from them. Instead he came looking for them. It was they who hid from God. It was they who became afraid and sought to hide from God.

When we sin, we hurt ourselves. We hurt those around us. Our mates, children, parents, friends, and associates all are recipients of sin’s poison. God doesn’t turn away from us. Those around us may, but God doesn’t. He wants us to realize his forgiveness. And because of his forgiveness, he wants us to repent. He wants us to be truly thankful for what He does for us. Showering us with constant grace and care.

Whenever the nation Israel fell into the practice of idolatry, God would patiently wait for the proper moment before he would intercede and bring the nation back into the fold. Whenever we sin, God likewise waits patiently for us before he intercedes and brings us back to him. When King David committed adultery and murder, God used the prophet Nathan to bring the sin to his attention. When realizing his sin, David quickly repented. God didn’t disown David. Instead, He helped David to grow in maturity and responsibility. He does the same for you and me today.

Sin doesn’t separate us from God. It blinds us from seeing God. It may block God’s Spirit from freely flowing through us. But God is always there. He loves us. Wants what is best for us. In some ways, He uses sin to help us appreciate and grow in his grace. Like King David, when we are convicted of sin, we quickly repent. In repentance, we are thankful for the life He shares with us, His grace, His mercy, and everything else he has reserved for us.

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Executive Chair, Consultant, Encourager
Marketplace Bible Institute
& Resource Center, Inc
Author of e-Books:
 *  Great Business Emulates a Good God
 *  Be Radical…Follow Christ!
 *  Simply The Messenger
 *  Unequally Married

Learn. Integrate. Grow.

Fiat Character

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” Romans 3:3-5

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Wouldn’t it be great if our character could be molded and built overnight? Rather than having to discipline our thoughts, attitudes, and habits over years of practice, why couldn’t we take a pill and have instant Godly character?  We know that is not reality.  So if someone offers you such a “pill” or shortcut, beware. Only God’s love and grace is there for us to experience the downside of character building.

When God created man and women, He did so after his image and likeness (Gn. 1:26).  Of all of God’s creation, only humanity has the ability to reason, imagine, and create.  These characteristics are patterned after God’s likeness. Yet man also, because of the sin virus, is blacken with spiritual cancer. He needs healing. That healing comes to us via Jesus Christ. He sends the Holy Spirit into our lives to heal and restore our hearts and minds. Our participation involves building our Will through the choices we make. It requires obedience. Most often it requires obedience through the tough difficult times of life. Even Jesus learned through what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8).

Paul writes that the purpose of life is for us to grow into the image of Jesus Christ (Eph. 4:24). When the Bible speaks about image it doesn’t mean that everyone looks like Him. What it means is that we resemble His character and spirit. That character and spirit comes through the trials and tests that life presents. It doesn’t come via a pill. It doesn’t come by taking a class. It doesn’t come by joining a church. It only comes when we allow His Spirit to lead us, transform us, and walk with us through the challenges of life.

So forget about fiat character. Instead, learn to walk with the Triune God as He restores creation back to His original intent. That includes you, me, and all of creation.

Perseverance.  Endurance. Faithfulness. They may not be glorious words in a self-esteemed society, yet they are the marathon characteristics of a “little Christ” in today’s world.

 

Rooting For You in Christ!

Dr. Mike

Executive Chair, Consultant, Encourager
Marketplace Bible Institute
& Resource Center, Inc
Author of e-Books:
 *  Great Business Emulates a Good God
 *  Be Radical…Follow Christ!
 *  Simply The Messenger
 *  Unequally Married

Learn. Integrate. Grow.

 

Rules, Principles, or Character

 

 

“…by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness…” 2 Peter 1:4-6 ESV

 

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After you acknowledge Jesus is Lord, what comes next?

The Bible outlines our journey into three phases: justification, sanctification, and glorification. Justification is about Christ’s gift to humanity restoring our relationship with God. Glorification is packaged in the resurrection when our physical body is merged into a glorious state like our Lord’s. Sanctification is the time in between where we grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ in preparation for eternity while tasting Kingdom reality now.

Sanctification is the now time. Most disciples of his start this journey first focusing on “the rules found in the Bible.” The problem though soon hits them that life is not black and white. External, fixed rules are like the ABCs of grammar. You need to know them before you can really start communicating with others. But they don’t take you very far.

Then after becoming frustrated with rules, you realize you need greater flexibility. Therefore, you begin to exert more emphasis on living with principles. However, over time you learn that principles are like words. Words better express what you want communicated than just knowing the ABCs. Yet words unless formed into meaningful sentences, only expressed a tiny portion of what you want known. There has to be something better.

Enter character development. When you take sentences and make paragraphs, paragraphs into chapters, and chapters into books, you have developed from the basic ABCs into creating work of art. You add you personality and experiences into the equation and share something you consider of value with others. The same goes with godly character.

When you allow God’s Spirit to enter you and lead you, you begin to set aside the rules and principles for a transformed life of virtue. Virtue is holiness in action. It doesn’t come overnight. It requires walking with our heavenly Triune God in all matters of life. It is the Spirit writing his love into our hearts. He leads us to express mercy and justice from God’s point of reference. It is more than head knowledge. It is eternal wisdom and understanding with godly attributes placed into action. The result is a life that flourishes for all.

So the next time to think life is black and white with rules and principles, think again. Instead, ask the Triune God what would He have you do at a moment like this? You may be pleasantly surprised.

 

We are rooting for you!

Yours in Christ,

Dr. Mike

Executive Chair, Consultant, Encourager
Marketplace Bible Institute
& Resource Center, Inc
Author of e-Books:
* Great Business Emulates a Good God
* Be Radical…Follow Christ!
* Simply The Messenger
* Unequally Married

Learn. Integrate. Grow.