Dec 082018
 

Have you ever noticed that the Christmas Tree is much different than the Easter “Tree”?  One is an evergreen, symbolizing Life, the other an instrument of torture, symbolizing death. And yet the one leads to the other. Two trees, two symbols, but One Lord and One Life—Life eternal and abundant because of what was done on the one Tree that gives us gifts under the other tree.

As you take time this season to ponder these two trees, perhaps the one will be a pleasant reminder of the other, and the gifts that are exchange from under the one will remind you of the Gift that was exchanged for you on the other?

Join me this December in being truly Merry People who sincerely wish others a Merry Christmas and a blessed and prosperous New Year.

13 Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. 14 And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. 15 Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift! (2 Corinthians 9:13–15 NIV2011)

A Blessed and Merry Christmas & a Peace-filled New Year,

Pastor Mike

Aug 132015
 

 

My Thoughts:

Years ago I was told, “When things are going well, watch out: the enemy is about to attack.” I appreciated the advice to remain vigilant, but I took it to an extreme so as not to enjoy the good times. So when times were good, I was preparing for them to fall apart. My focus was on the “what ifs” of life and not on the “what is’s”.

Truly, our walk with Jesus has its ups and downs. We are to enjoy the ups and endure the downs. But during the “ups” I am learning to live in the moment for Jesus and not live for the moment in myself. This has been a rather challenging journey. There are times, especially when the grandkids are over, that I have to consciously say to myself—sometimes out loud, “‘That can wait for later; I’m with my grandkids now.” Then the joy of the moment begins to seep into my soul.

As I search the Words of the Book for encouragement on this new perspective, I was brought back to a well-worn passage and a pointed verse I had memorized years ago, but never really applied in this manner. (It’s always that next verse, eh?) In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Yet, indeed, in the next verse He says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itselfEach day has enough trouble of its own.” In a very subtle way, it appears Jesus is saying, live only in the moment, for it has enough to deal with. When I am worrying about tomorrow, or the “what ifs” or “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” of life, then I miss the joy in the moment—the “ups”….

Now that I am beginning to enjoy the “up” moments the Master has blest me with, what about those “down” times, those incidents I deem “terrible, horrible, no good or very bad”? As I sledge through the wrecking of my current life (lower case “l”), I find that I have to rework such phrases as, “That’s not good,” or “that’s bad!”. Why? Because if I really believe the Lord works out all for the Good, then even those times—those incidents—that I deem “terrible, horrible, no good or very bad” He is using for the Good—even if my small perspective cannot see it at the moment and I burp out, “this isn’t good!”

Instead, I have been trying to say—again, I’m a rookie at this, “This, too, the Lord will use for the Good!” It has been a fascinating mind-bend. Indeed, the transformation has been slow, but the Holy Spirit is steadily renewing my mind. I have found I am less reactive in situations I have traditionally deemed “bad,” etc., especially when I ‘see’ by faith that, “this, too, the Lord will use.” Now I not only endure the “downs,” I do more than endure them: for I am more than a conquerer through Jesus Who Loves me. Through the “Ups” and the “Downs” His Love holds me….

Have you had a similar journey with Jesus on this? Or are you farther up the path? Care to share?

Main Text: — Acts 5:17-20— 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 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  8:31-32 (NIV84)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  — Romans 8:28 (NIV84)

Fear the LORD, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. — Psalm 34:9-10 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, continue Your transforming work in my Life as I realize in each passing moment that, “You are Good all the time, no matter what,” I may think about a given moment or incident, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Jun 212015
 

 

Date: 06-21-15

My Thoughts:

As I look at our Church Family, I see many who do not have a father.  Some were literally orphaned, being raised by the state, foster care or an inconvenienced grandparent. As on Mother’s Day, so too, on Father’s Day, this often adds to the heartache and emptiness many may feel. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Many of these I am thinking of have a blessing. They have a ‘father figure’…. A caring man who has stepped into the role of father….

Some of these men sacrifice much time and energy weaving this ‘orphaned’ child into their already full-family and full-schedule lives, but they are doing a marvelous job at a quiet miracle. Many of these ‘adopted fathers’ did not apply for the position, nor did they volunteer. Instead, they were chosen by the disconnected ones who yearned to have this father influence in their lives…. I am also witnessing some wonderful grandfathers who have stepped in to fill the void left by a heart-breaking wayward child…. “Wonderful” just doesn’t capture it, does it?

Not long after becoming a Christian I discovered a promise Jesus made to His disciples found in  Luke 18:29-30 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”  (This promise is echoed in Mark 10:29-30.) As I began to observe my relationships, I discovered that, in fact, several men had stepped into that role as father while I was away from my father. I found this fascinating. As with all relationships, these were messy and often awkward, but over time, we have build enduring bonds that have filled that void….

Lifestyle worshiper, you may not have one—yet. But I am suspicious that when you take inventory of your relationships, you may just be surprised that this promise has been fulfilled in your life as well.

Perhaps you might want to pass along a Father’s Day, “Thank you.” to one of these men, too? What do you think?

Main Text: — Mark 10:29-30 — I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life[NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Sing to God, sing praise to His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds— His name is the YHWH [Blessed Be His Name]— and rejoice before Him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.  — Psalm 68:4-5 (NIV84)

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you—John 14:18 (NIV84)

 May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by His grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. — 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the men around me whose relationships have become more like a father to me. Let my life pour into others as they have poured into me the Love of the Lord Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Apr 172015
 

Date: 04-17-15

The Big Idea: But what if, lifestyle worshiper, both of these can be seen and experience together, in one service, in one ceremony, in one setting?

My Thoughts: Can both joy and solemnity both be found in a ceremony that honors the Lord? Many struggle with striking this balance. Some believe you need to be very, very serious—especially when you attended a ‘worship service’. But there are others who believe these gatherings can be filled with effusive joy. Sadly, often each sits in judgment of the other.

But what if, lifestyle worshiper, both of these can be seen and experience together, in one service, in one ceremony, in one setting? Would not this be the “best” of both worlds?

I believe this is more than possible. If joy is part of the Fruit of the Spirit and if the Holy Spirit dwells in us to both convict us of sin and to seal us in salvation, truly He is more than capable of allowing us the awesome privilege of  bowing before the Holy One in reverential fear and perhaps at the very same ‘time’ rising to explode with Joy and thanksgiving. What do you think? Your thoughts….

Main Text: — Nehemiah 12:27 —  At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

     Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. — Hebrews 4:16 (NIV84)

    Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.   —Hebrews 10:19-22 (NKJV)

 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.   — Romans 5:1-2 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, give me a proper perspective of the place ceremonies have in Your Kingdom. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

Apr 122015
 

Date: 04-12-15

The Big IdeaBurn in my soul a passion to please You in and through what I say and do.

My Thoughts: Lifestyle worshiper, are you betwixt the two? Are you torn between being with Jesus or remaining here (v. 23)? Or is there no struggle at all? In the main text noted below, the Apostle Paul expresses a deep passion to be with the Lord Jesus; but he has an equally deep passion for continuing his ministry of sharing the Good News. For him this is a great struggle. But have you noticed that for some there is no struggle at all, yet for different reasons.

What do you feel are some reasons that some do not have this struggle? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one struggle.

Main Text: — Philippians 1:21-23 — 21  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. — 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (NIV84)

  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.   —Romans 12:2 (NIV84)

May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.   — 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, as You burn in my soul a passion to please You in and through what I say and do, may my yearning to be with You make me more faithful until I am. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

Apr 022015
 

Date: 04-02-15

The Big Idea: I have found that when forgiveness and reconciliation are genuine, the next time I see that person, “they” are warm and receptive.

My Thoughts: Lifestyle worshiper, have you found that it is the next meeting the seals the deal? You know you’ve had this very emotional moment of reconciliation and forgiveness. It appears that you’ve finally restored a deeply wounded and fractured relationship, but once the emotion passes, do you wonder, “Was this for real?”

I have found that it is in that next meeting the reality is confirmed and the “deal is sealed.” Perhaps this is how Peter felt when he went for another walk with Jesus—this time on the beach and not on the water. …

After I have had an emotional moment of forgiveness and reconciliation, I have found that when it is genuine, the next time I see that person, “they” are warm and receptive. Sadly, there have been those times where apparently it was purely an emotional experience, and they still need some time to work it through. Yes, “they” looked away when I saw them….

But with Peter, Jesus not only did not look away, He initiated the next meeting. And in this next meeting, His Love and forgiveness were abundantly manifested…. Jesus knew Peter wasn’t quite ready to walk in His forgive. When Peter answered Jesus’ questions, he was more than blunt about his love for Jesus. Peter knew that at this time in his life his love  was a deeply devoted and highly committed loyalty, but he was understating what he had overstated at the Last Supper where he said: “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). This wasn’t quite true—then….

Peter grew into that depth of Love—agape Love. And Jesus gave him the space—and time—to do so—starting with that next meeting.

Have you found freedom of forgiveness in that next meeting? I know I have. Your thoughts?

Main Text: — John 21:15— 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love (agapas) me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love (philō) you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. — 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV84)

  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.   —Ephesians 3:17b-19 (NIV84)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   — Romans 8:37-39 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, I receive the forgiveness You offer me in Your Son, my Lord Jesus Christ. As I grow in my understanding of Your Love for me, make me a channel of this forgiveness to others. In Your Son’s Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

Feb 082015
 

Date: 02-08-15

Text: — Nehemiah 6:15-16 — 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: When we yield to the Lord Jesus Christ and work together in rebuilding relationships, we get to witness a miracle.

My Thoughts: 

Many of you are probably very familiar with the acronym, T.E.A.M. Together Everyone Accomplishes More. I believe this is very, very true. We see this in Nehemiah’s rebuilding the wall. But what we also see is nothing short of a miracle (see the above passage). Yes, the “M” could stand for this as well, but we do not accomplish it per se, though we are co-laborers. When we yield to the Lord Jesus Christ and work together in rebuilding relationships, we get to witness a miracle.

Lifestyle worshiper, do you believe this? Is this why you are reluctant to work with the team? You are not quite sure of the end result because you have been struggling so, so hard to repair the walls to no avail?

Good! Now you have learned that struggling in your own strength cannot do it. You must hoist your sails and catch the Wind of the Spirit. He will carry you along. He will empower you to do great things well beyond what you can think or imagine. Receive a fresh wind of hope this morning. The Lord is faithful: He will do “it”—in His time. Amen? Amen!

So, find your team. Pray for your team. And watch the Lord accomplish a miracle!

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

I will praise You with the harp for Your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praise to You with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.

— Psalm 77:22 (NIV84)

 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one,

— 2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NIV84)

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

— 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  forgive me for giving up hope while I have struggle to repair this relationship with _________. I ask You to infuse me with a fresh Hope and an inner strength that can only come from Your Holy Spirit.  In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Feb 052015
 

Date: 02-05-15

Text: — Nehemiah 3:10 — Adjoining this, Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs next to him.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Maybe it is time to address this and start with the obvious.

My Thoughts: 

As the people of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day began to rebuild the wall, they did something rather obvious and simple: The started with the obvious. This “obvious” was right outside their front door (see v. 10 above). When rebuilding the wall, they all worked together doing their part, and many started in the obvious place….

Lifestyle worshipers, many want to serve the Lord in distant lands, and this is very good. We need many, many more to capture this mission. But most of us do not have this burden. And what I have noticed is we will distract ourselves with all sorts of ‘distant’ busyness, and not really repair the walls of relationships just outside our front doors. For whatever fear we distract ourselves, the irony is the rejection has already happened; the hope of ever repairing the relationship eludes us. So what do we have to lose in attempting to fix those relationships that are right outside our front door?

Yes, maybe it is time to address this and start with the obvious? What do you think? Care to share your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

— Mark 5:18-19 (NIV84)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

— Galatians 6:9-10 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  instill in me a courage that will overcome my fears of rebuilding the relationships that are nearest to me.  In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Dec 092014
 

NOTE: As I wrote this devotion, I could not help think of the tragic death of Eric Garner. This was not my first thought, however.  I was writing on praising the LORD and my first think was of Psalm 30:5 quoted below. As I wrote, Eric’s tragic death came to mind. Sorrow over this terrible situation engulf my heart as I thought about his family, especially his daughter. I in no way mean any disrespect to Eric or his family by this devotion. Although I have faced moments where I could not breath, these in no way compare to his loss. I cannot imagine the sorrow and grief his family is experiencing. Please join me in praying for his family, and please read this devotion in the light it is intended: to praise the LORD. Peace.

Devotion Title: “What Would Your Last Breath Be?”

Date: 12-09-14

Text: — Psalm 30:5 — For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.  [NKJV]

The Big Idea: What would my last words be, especially if I couldn’t breath.

My Thoughts: 

Growing up in a brand new suburb, the neighborhood kids would go down to the creek to play. One day we discovered some huge drainage pipes. I got up on top of them as we trying to separated two of them, let them roll back and, “Clang” together. Right before one “clang” I fell in between them and was being crushed. The guys said I was turning pretty blue; obviously I couldn’t breathe. Tom, an older boy we hung with, strained to push the pipes apart, as he called the others to help. Not sure what happened, except that he saved my life—obviously….

I have often thought about that incident and wonder know as a Christian, what would my last words be, especially if I couldn’t breath. Now this may seem oxymoronic because we need to breathe to speak, but do we need to breathe to praise? I suppose not.

Lifestyle worshipers, do you remember our Lord Jesus’ last breaths on the cross, as His chest crushed under the load of our sins? I believe His last words were praise to His Heavenly Father: The two last words I am most grateful for are: “Father, forgive them they know not what they do,” and “It is finished.”

What would your last words be? Have you thought about it before? Perhaps with a gush of Grace they will be praise. Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

— Acts 7:59-60 (NIV84)

  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.

— Psalm 150:6 (NASB95)

 Lord Jesus Christ, may words of my mouth and the mediations of my heart be pleasing to You. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Nov 232014
 

Date: 11-23-14

Text: — James 3:9-12 — 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Take advantage of this holiday season to publicly bless your brothers and sisters (both blood family & Blood Family).

My Thoughts: 

How often do you get a chance to bless someone with words of gratitude and encouragement?  Many times formal Sunday celebration services do not offer opportunities to do this, particularly in larger congregations. Aside from our annual Praise in the Park, we have a few Sunday throughout the year to offer an opportunity for public praise and blessing. This morning, this Sunday before Thanksgiving, is one such opportunity.

Lifestyle worshipers, whether or not your church offers such an opportunity, take advantage of this holiday season to publicly bless your brothers and sisters (both blood family & Blood Family). A card, email, text, and the old fashion verbal blessing are all more than okay. Oh, and take this opportunity to demonstrate how healed your tongue is by continuing to publicly praise the Lord.  This just might open some doors of opportunity for other conversations, too. What do you think? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

I will declare Your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise You. You who fear the Lord, praise Him!  —Psalm 22:22-23a (NIV84)

  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. — Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV84)

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

—1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, overcome any hesitations in me that may prevent me from praising You and blessing my brothers and sisters in the gathered assembly. With a healed tongue, I praise You. With a healed tongue I bless my brothers and sisters. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike