“Hard Letting Them Change?”

 

“How many times is so’n so going to say they’ve changed, but in reality, they never do?” Have you said this before about someone? Or even thought it? I have. And it is sad if I believe that the Lord Jesus, the Great Transformer, has changed me, but He can’t change someone else? Ouch! Do I really believe He can change lives? Is it really that hard to “let” them change?

In our main text this morning, we have a very real and similar situation about “letting” someone change. This someone is Saul! You know the one who was “still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1 NIV 84). And now he wants us to believe that he’s all good with Jesus and not an infiltrator!? Yeah, right?

If it wasn’t for Barnabas—and the dramatic change in Saul’s life and belief system, most of us today would not have been so readily available to accept him into our small group, especially if many of our brothers and sisters in other small groups have been turned in by the Powers that Be….

So you and I have to sincerely and honestly ask ourselves: Are we letting others change? Have we become so jaded and stopped believing that the Lord Jesus can still change lives? Oh, we know the right answer, but seriously, think about it. We still call Rahab “the Harlot” and Thomas “the Doubter,” don’t we? Do we still call Peter the Denier?

First of all, I am thankful for the Barnabases in my life who have stepped forward to testify that the changes in my life are genuine, even if questioned by many. Secondly, I, in turn, have become a Barnabas for many who have clearly demonstrated a transformed life. Yes, I still struggle with becoming jaded. Yes, often my first thought is skepticism bordering on cynicism, but one by-product of my current wrecking has been this very thought: “If I am changing so dramatically, surely the Lord is doing so with _____, as well.”

Yes, I understand that for some, you’ve heard it before, but when Jesus truly steps in and transforms a life, we dare not be one to ‘not let them change,’ don’t you think?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 9:26-29 (NIV84)— 26 When [Saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”— Luke 19:8–10 (NIV84)

I [Paul] thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.— 1 Timothy 1:12–14 (NIV84)

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. — Philemon 8–11 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the power of the Resurrected Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, make me into a Barnabas who wisely celebrates the transformed lives around me.  In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Shift the Focus”

 

Have you noticed that people who are filled with the Holy Spirit shift the focus from themselves to Jesus? I have. I have noticed that those who are filled with the Spirit are keenly aware that it is not about them but about Jesus.

I see this in our main text: Acts 2:22 (see below). The crowd is fascinated, bewildered, utterly amazed (vv. 6, 7) by the filling of the Holy Spirit in those who had been patiently waiting (v. 4). Some of the crowd sincerely asked how can this be that they are all hearing the praises of God in their native languages (v. 12), and yet some mocked saying those filled  were drunk (v. 13)!

Peter is prompted by the Spirit to get up and briefly explain what is happening (vv. 14-21). By quoting the prophet Joel, he apparently satisfies their question…, but he quickly shifts the focus from the apostles and the other vessels being filled by the Spirit to the Lord Jesus.

Lifestyle worshiper, do you find it sad that many who address this chapter focus on the Holy Spirit, when the Holy Spirit, Himself, is shifting the focus off of Himself and those being filled by Him to the One He came to bring glory to (John 16:13-14)? I do. I wonder if He is sad, too.

In all openness, I actually just saw this truth this morning as I was meditating on this passage. I had been caught up in answering all the various interpretations and positions that have been stirred up over this chapter when the Spirit opened my eyes to see that Peter really doesn’t linger on answering the crowd’s question. Rather, v. 15 records that he dismisses the drunk accusation, and then vv. 16-21 presents prophetic, Scriptural support for this power filling of the Spirit. If I had been the one who had stood up, I would have launched into my “Dump-Truck” effect and given the crowd far more than they wanted—or needed, and totally kept the focus on us and the Spirit.

But instead, Peter followed the promptings of the Spirit and promptly shifted the focus to Jesus. I truly need this reminder this morning. How about you?

Main Text: — Acts 2:22 — 22 Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him — Acts 8:35 (NKJV)

 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.  —John 16:13-14 (NIV84)

   I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.  — Philippians 3:10 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, forgive me for being slow in shifting the focus to Jesus. I ask that You make my life a humble example of the filling of Your Holy Spirit as I constantly shift the focus to Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“A Temper’s Fuel”

Date: 11-04-14

Text: — James 4:1-3 — What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Lifestyle worshipers, demanding our own way, using our temper to explode and intimidate is neither wise nor godly.

My Thoughts: 

I am fascinated that James connects ‘fights and quarrels’ (to me a flaring temper) with our “desires that battle within” us (v. 1). It appears that these desires fuel our tempers, our anger. The Greek word for ‘desire’ is where we get our word “hedonism.”  And, yes, it means the same thing: a profound sensual lust, which goes well beyond the sexual and apparently explodes into fights and quarrels.

Lifestyle worshipers, demanding our own way, using our temper to explode and intimidate is neither wise nor godly. It is, as James says of ‘earthly wisdom,’ “unspiritual, of the devil” (3:15). So one way to bridle our temper is to starve its fuel: harness, diminish or eliminate our sensual desires. What are some ways you have starved your temper’s fuel? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.

— 2 Timothy 2:23-24 (NIV84)

Love never gives up. Love cares more for others than for self. Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have. Love doesn’t strut, Doesn’t have a swelled head, Doesn’t force itself on others, Isn’t always “me first,” Doesn’t fly off the handle, Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,

—1 Corinthians 13:3-5 (The Message)

Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out

—Proverbs 17:14 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I confess that I have fueled my temper by lusting after _____________ (e.g.  control and power). I have sinned grievously against You. I ask You, Lord Jesus Christ, to bear the consequences of my actions. Remove the pain and shame I have caused Your Name. Be that part of my life that has been disobedient and in bondage to this lust. I release myself into Your hands. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Know it? Then do it!”

Date: 10-24-14
Text: — James 4:17 — Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. [NIV84]
The Big Idea: Are we living our Christian Confession?

My Thoughts:
This morning’s Heartwork devotion once again parallels the sermon series. James makes it clear in the passage they used (James 2:15-17) and then hammers the nail one last time in 4:17 above!
Lifestyle Worshipers, you and I both know that whatever we do, in word or in deed, we do it all for the glory of God. So whether are skill sets are to be primarily used on Sundays or Monday through Saturday, they are to be used to bring glory to God.

That being said, let us weave the Heartwork homework into this reality, and ask some hard questions: Are we living our Christian Confession? Are we living what we know is right and true? Given the basic truth that awareness is not obligation, what issues or concerns have you been made aware of by our Heavenly Father that He does desire you to address? I spoke with one young man this week and his concern was for the homeless and disenfranchised during the winter season. He wants to purchase and open up a warehouse, or some similar building, as a crash pad to get warm. It won’t be a homeless shelter, per se, but simply a place to remove the chill from their bones. He is taking baby steps to act on this concern.
Has the Lord prompted you to do something? What steps, baby though they may be, are you taking to act on it? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts
I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian. — Luke 4:25-27 (NIV84)

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
— John 5:19 (NIV84)

For I did not speak of My own accord, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it. I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told Me to say. — John 12:49-50 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus, as You always obey Your Father, obey the Father in and through me. Empowered me to meet those needs You have designed for me to meet. Let my footsteps faithfully follow You. In Your Name, Amen.

“Mid Terms”

Date: 10-19-14

Text: — James 3:5-6 — 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: The test is designed to see not only how well we have understood the material, but if we can apply the knowledge we have obtained.

My Thoughts: 

If we go too long before we are tested, the knowledge we have obtained may slip away: The old, “Use it, or lose” Proposition. Thus, there are midterms in some of our classes. Yes, there are still daily pop quizzes, but the midterm tests how well the accumulated knowledge has be understood….

Lifestyle Worshipers, our midterms—as with the daily pop quizzes—are designed more as a practicum, much like being in a science lab or a gym glass. The test is designed to see not only how well we have understood the material, but if we can apply the knowledge we have obtained. We are now a little over half way through our annual Prayer & Fast Month. Because this year we have coupled this with the Heartwork devotions, I am curious as to how it is going. Several of you have shared with me about your fasting, and a few have talked about the Heartwork devotions. I know a couple of you who are using less technology and even walking places—and not just for health reasons!

So then, let us spur one another on by sharing how this has been going. I know for me, I am amazed at how the Heartwork Devotions are dovetailing with the passages in James I am presenting. Further, my fasting is offering me opportunities to really stop and ponder what I am doing and why I am doing it. I have made some changes, but I’m sure many more are in the wings. How about you? How would you respond to such a midterm?  Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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)

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?

— Matthew 5:43-46 (NIV84)

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

— 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I ask You to fill me with the Holy Spirit , the Spirit of Power, Love and a Sound Mind. May He honor the Lord Jesus Christ in everything I think, say and do. As He continues to transform my mind to be more like Jesus, may I act on His promptings and so bring glory to Your Name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Small But Big”

Date: 10-16-14

Text: — James 3:5-6 —  Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: If I whine when I get a ‘sliver,’ how will I respond when it is truly a cross?

My Thoughts: 

The tongue, James tells us, is small but big. Though it is a small part of our bodies, it sure can make big boasts–boasts so big, in fact, that it can start a huge forest on fire…

Lifestyle Worshipers, do we make big boasts of our walk with Jesus? Do we spotlight the words of our faith neglecting the needs? Are you feeling the prick of the point as I am? Weaving its threads with this devotion is today’s Heartwork Devotion on “Co-Suffering with Christ.” Yep, I was one of those who boasted that I wanted to suffer for Jesus, but then He showed me the difference between slivers and crosses.  If I whine when I get a ‘sliver,’ how will I respond when it is truly a cross? “Ouch” doesn’t quite capture it, does it? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.  — Proverbs 15:2 (NIV84)

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. — Matthew 7:21 (NIV84)

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.  — Titus 1:16 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, forgive me for promising much but delivering little; for making big boasts with little results. I ask the Great Shepherd of my soul, the Lord Jesus Christ, by His shed blood to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Create in me a pure heart so that I may walk in the Light as He is in the Light.  Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to match my talk to my walk. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Easy or Hard”

Date: 9-28-14

Text: James 3:17-18 —  But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: The harvest is a little ways away….

My Thoughts: 

When ordering eggs we are asked if we want them over easy or hard  boiled or something in between; sometimes this is how we “order” wisdom…. But many people have to learn the hard way.

Lifestyle worshipers, have you been enrolled into the University of Hard Knocks? At the risk of sounding clichéd, is it making you bitter or better? For me, I would rather learn from someone else’s mistakes and avoid the proverbial potholes of life; however, I have found, in the Lord’s mercy, that learning the hard way drives the lesson home, penetrating my hardened jaded heart—softening it for the Master’s use. Have you found this to be the case, too? My grades, though improving, are pretty average at UHK. How about yours? I just have to remember the harvest is a little ways away….

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

— Hebrews 12:11 (NIV84)

Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

— Luke 9:23 (NIV84)

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered.

— Hebrews 5:8 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me for shunning the cross where Wisdom is fully comprehended. You embraced the cross for me and I should do no less as I follow in Your steps. Lead me in the paths of Righteousness for Your Name’s sake. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Heavenly Wisdom’s Harvest”

Date: 9-27-14

Text: James 3:17-18 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Heavenly Wisdom promises a harvest of righteousness.

My Thoughts: 

Heavenly Wisdom promises a harvest of righteousness. While the “wisdom from below” produces chaos and discord (and a lot of noise), this heavenly Wisdom produces righteousness & peace. I pray this a lot. As I pray to put on the Lord Jesus Christ as my Shoes of the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace, I pray that we are peacemakers who sow in peace raising a harvest of righteousness and thus become known as His children….

Lifestyle worshipers, do think that the planting process is tightly connected to the harvest? In other words, can seeds be sown in anger and malice still produce righteousness? If not, then why do are we surprised when we reap the consequences of our angry actions?

I see a connection between this passage above and James’ comments in 1:19-20: “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Do you? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.
 — Proverbs 29:11 (NIV84)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
 — Matthew 5:9 (NIV84)
Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.
— James 1:21 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Shoes of the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace. Make me an instrument of Your Presence to bring healing and not harm. Transform me into a peacemaker so that I may sow in peace and raise a harvest of righteousness. Then I will be known as one of Your Father’s children. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Heavenly Wisdom’s Peace”

Date: 9-25-14

Text: James 3:17-18 — 17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: This heavenly wisdom is so other worldly it is truly hard for us to get a handle on it.

My Thoughts: 

While the “wisdom from below” brings chaos and discord (accompanied by a lot of brash noise), the “wisdom from above” brings a pure, undefiled peace that yields righteousness. This heavenly wisdom is so other worldly it is truly hard for us to get a handle on it. Oh, we may taste it, even sip it, but do we fully appreciate this heavenly wisdom’s peace?

Lifestyle worshipers, you remember that our Lord Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives…” (John 14:27a) This is the peace that surpasses all understand (Phil. 4:7). Do you think that the heavenly wisdom that brings this transcendent peace is also beyond us? If so, how do we appropriate the heavenly traits of this heavenly wisdom noted in James 3:17 above? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end. — Proverbs 29:11 (NIV84)

But I tell you who hear Me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

— Luke 6:27-28 (NIV84)

Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.

— John 7:38 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, as You become my heavenly Wisdom, transform my mind to mirror these heavenly traits and fill my soul with Your surpassing Peace. You are my Prince of Peace! Bless Your Holy Name. Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Messy Relationships: Opportunities for Peacemakers”

Date: 9-21-14

Text: James 2:8-11 8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Your BFF became your BFF because you worked through the mess.

My Thoughts: 

As you look around and ‘analyze’ your relationships, you may noticed that it was a rare relationship in which you didn’t have to work through a mess. Even with your BFF, there were messy times—times you didn’t think you’d stick it out….

Lifestyle worshipers, every relationship is an opportunity (a trial) to produce perseverance within us. And many, if not all, are very,  very messy, aren’t they? This is why James exhorts us: “Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:4). And one major way perseverance (aka patience) will be able to ‘finish its work” in us, is if we stick it out…. This is how your BFF became your BFF: you worked through the mess; you hung in there; you stuck it out. And as the farmer works hard throughout the growing season, he sticks it out to receive a bountiful harvest at the right time….

Have you found this to be true in many of your relationships, especially those in which you worked through the mess? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

— Hebrews 12:11 (NIV84)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. 

— Matthew 5:9 (NIV)

 Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.

— 1 James 3:18 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Slippers of Patience: The Right Slipper of Forgiveness and the Left Slipper of Forbearance. Continue to make me an instrument of Your presence to bring healing and not harm,  In Your Name Amen.

Pastor Mike