“Are you missing Divine Appointments?”

 

My Thoughts:

Recently, I have been having a lot of dental work. And to remind me of the appointments I get a text message the day before and an hour before. Oh, and I get an email a day before and an hour before. This, of course, is in addition to my own personal reminders. (And many of you know how these work….) The point? It would be really hard to miss this given appointment. I would have little excuse, to be sure….

Do you feel that the Lord gives us ‘messages’ and reminders before a Divine Appointment He has set up? I’m sure if you really stop and think (and listen), there have always been those little nudges or promptings, “Hey, remember: I have a divine appointment for you.”

Just recently I had an overwhelming sense to go visit someone at a particular time. I truly felt it was from the Lord. I made every effort not to be late. As I arrived, it was not what I expected. Over the years, I have learned not to assume or presuppose what He has planned, but literally in sheer obedience, I went and arrived at the appointed time. There were no buzzes or fireworks, but I am trusting that He set something in motion that I perhaps may learn abouObObed—or maybe not until  way later, eh?

What did I have to do to avoid missing this divine appointment? Well, one thing was I had to rearrange my routine—very comfortable and familiar routine. Another thing was to be mindful not to get caught up in some task, “Oh, this will only take a few minutes” kind of task. I needed to eliminate distractions. A third thing I did was prioritize the aspects of my routine so that I could make this divine appointment on time. In short, I made the divine appointment a priority above all the comfortable and convenient routine “things” I normally do.

What are some ‘things’ you do to make sure you don’t miss a divine appointment. especially the ones you are not informed of ahead of time?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 8:26-29 (NIV84)— 26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.— Matthew 16:21 (NIV84)

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. — Hebrews 12:1 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, empower me by the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, as You strengthen each step in following Your promptings and leadings.  In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

Pastor Mike

“In or For the Lord?”

Brother & Sisters:

As the Life of the Lord Jesus flows in and through us, He empowers us in our ‘labors’. And these ‘labors’ are in the Lord and not for the Lord. 

Do you see a difference? 

I do. My labor for Him can be—and inevitably  is—in my own strength, building my own kingdom. But when I yield to His power which so wonderfully works in me, then I produce abundant fruit—fruit that will endure. Be encouraged: as you fully give yourselves to the work of the Lord, know this: your labor in Him is not in vain! (see 1 Corinthians 15:58)

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24 NIV 84)

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”(John 15:5 NIV).

“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

“Beyond the One Day”

Date: 05-10-15

The Big Idea: Start a habit that goes beyond this one day.

My Thoughts: As a child growing up, I remember getting the typical response to my question, “Why do we have a special day called ‘Mother’s Day’? Why not have a ‘Kids’ Day’, too?” My mother so wisely responded, “Every day is kids day…!”

And in many homes, even Mother’s Day is “Kids’ Day.” So today, I was wondering if we could start a habit that goes beyond this one day. This habit I’m suggesting is to help out single mothers as often as we can. Now many may not accept our charitable kindness, thinking we are saying, by offering our help, that they are weak and inadequate, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead, our help is offering them a reprieve from their daily  literal  grind, giving them some breathing space, kind of like a time out in a game so they can ‘catch their breath.’

What do you think? Would our help be considered imposing; or received with warm gratitude? Perhaps we could find out starting today? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Luke 7:11-13 — 11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?…”— Isaiah 49:15a (NIV84)

Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. —1 Timothy 5:1b-2 (NIV84)

Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. — Romans 16:13 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus, Christ, enlarge my heart with Your Compassion as I honor my mother and those who have been like a mother to me. Grant me an opportunity to bless a single mom today. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Compassion for Single Moms”

Date: 05-07-15

The Big Idea:

My Thoughts:

Although the Bible doesn’t use our modern phrase of ‘single mom,’ there is nonetheless some strong evidence that the Lord has great companion for single moms. Several times in the gospels we see the Lord Jesus observing or attending to the needs of these ‘widows’ with children.

One particular incident is noted in our main text below. Jesus was passing by a funeral procession of an only son of a widow. The Scripture tells us that, “His heart went out to her…” (v. 13).  Then He did something rather extraordinary: He gave life back to her son and gave her son back to her! …

Does your heart go out to single moms? Do you have compassion on them? I know mine does. I so much want to relieve their plight, but alas, silver or gold have I none…. But what I do have I give. How about you? What can you do to demonstrate your compassion for single moms? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Luke 7:11-13 — 11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. [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 LORD—and rejoice before Him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling— Psalm 68:4-5 (NIV84)

The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but He frustrates the ways of the wicked. —Psalm 146:9 (NIV84)

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. — James 1:27 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus, Christ, let me see with Your eyes and feel with Your heart. Fill my hands with good things so that may relieve those who have less, especially single moms. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“It Takes Heart”

Date: 02-19–15

The Big Idea: It takes heart to be a true servant leader, and, yes, sometimes, this heart seethes with righteous anger.

My Thoughts: I have said many times in the past, “If I didn’t care, I would be so upset.” Now, to be sure, there are various degrees of upset from flustered to full-throttled anger, and I’m not sure where Nehemiah’s gauges were when he responded to the unrighteous treatment of his people (see passage below), but I am sure he truly did care for his people. As a servant-leader, Nehemiah demonstrated a passion and compassion for the lot of those he led.

Lifestyle worshiper, it takes heart to be a true servant leader, and, yes, sometimes, this heart seethes with righteous anger. Let us not, however, use this phrase, “Righteous anger” to cloak selfish, self-centered explosions that are lit by any slight or inconvenience, but just as true let us not shrink back from a deep impulse of stirring anger that flares in times when those we led are being taken advantage of. Servant-leadership is neither wimpy nor passive. Rather, it is bold and active, taking care of those in are care—especially our loved ones.

Lifestyle worshiper, join me in living a life that worships our Heavenly Father in Spirit and Truth by having our hearts filled with a genuine concern and a deep affection for those we lead, serving their best interests in Love, vigorously defending the weak, the disenfranchised, the disconnected, and the downtrodden. Through this heart of servant-leadership we can more effectively defend the repairing of the walls of broken & fatigued relationships.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 5:6-7a — 6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

— 1 Peter 1:22 (NIV84)

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

— Psalm  82:3-4 (NIV84)

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly;defend the rights of the poor and needy.” — Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  I put You on as my Coat of Compassion. Stir in my soul a passion for defending those in my charge. May I do so with a Righteous Love. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Help Where We Can”

Date: 02-07-15

Text: — Nehemiah 3:1-2 — Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2 The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zaccur son of Imri built next to them.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: When rebuilding the walls of broken relationship, we not only start with the obvious, but we also help out where our gifts sets can best be used, and if not, then pick up a broom and start sweeping or a shovel and start clearing debris.

My Thoughts: 

For many of us we hesitate to read this section of Scripture (or any section of Scripture for that matter) when it has some rather difficult names for us to pronounce. And yet there is much to be harvested from this section of the Word. One truth from the above passage is that we are to help where we can.  When rebuilding the walls of broken relationship, we not only start with the obvious, but we also help out where our gifts sets can best be used, and if not, then pick up a broom and start sweeping or a shovel and start clearing debris….

Lifestyle worshipers, maybe you have become discouraged or frustrated in your attempts to rebuild relationships that have been broken for some time. I truly empathize with this. Beyond continuing in prayer for the situation, perhaps starting with some small act of kindness? A text? An email? A letter? Or maybe cleaning their room or front yard? Our Lord can surely prompt you with some task that can encourage you and bless ‘them’. Why not ask Him today? Then go do it….

Yes, maybe it is time to help where you can? What do you think? Care to share your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

— Colossians 4:5 (NIV84)

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,

— Ecclesiastes 6:10a (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,  be in me today what ________ needs. May I hear Your voice and obey Your promptings. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to live a life that is pleasing to You.  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.

“Really, ‘Follow Me’?”

Date: 10-23-14

Text: — James 4:13-16 — 13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. [*NIV84]

The Big Idea: Many of us have trust issues and will not follow unless we know where we are going.

My Thoughts: 

Much of the book of James is inspired by the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew’s Gospel chapters 5-7. The passage noted above is roughly from Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.*” Further, James borrows heavily from the Book of Proverbs, as well. He comes to the place in his book where Pro. 27:1 directly applies: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.*” …

Lifestyle Worshipers, you may be wondering what this has to do with following the Lord, and with today’s Heartwork devotion. Well, wonder no more. … When we are asked to follow someone, isn’t our first question, “Where? Where are we going?” I think so. And for some, this is an innocent question like Mary’s to the angel Gabriel (see Luke 1:34), but many of us have trust issues and will not follow unless we know where we are going—like Zachariah’s question to the Angle (see Luke 1:18). …

So let us joyfully do the Heartwork homework, and unswerving search the Gospels for just a few tasks the Lord Jesus asks us who follow Him to do.  Then, let us confront our trust issues as we follow Him to places we, as yet, cannot see. Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

—  1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV84)

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

— John 12:26 (NIV84)

 And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit,

— 1 Thessalonians 1:6 (NKJV)

Lord Jesus, hold my hand ever tighter as I follow You, weaving through the crowd of doubt and uncertainty. Firm up my faith in You as I see with the eyes of faith that You will never lead me into temptation, but always in paths of righteousness for Your Name’s sake. Where You are leading me, I will faithfully follow. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Gets the Facts First”

Date: 10-21-14

Text: — James 4:11-12 — 11Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?  [NIV]

The Big Idea: Leave the judging to the Lord.

My Thoughts: 

In this morning’s Heartwork Devotion, we are told the story of the Jr. & Sr. high school students from Third Church in Pella, Iowa who got together with Heartwork to raise money for an orphanage in Uganda. They not only met their financial goal, they apparently doubled it. We cheer them on for this wonderful effort in Kingdom living!

Lifestyle Worshipers, have you prejudged the youth of today? Or have you seen all the facts before making a judgment? This morning we are hearing about this sacrifice of a dedicated youth group, but if you look around, particularly in our church, the youth are very involved in living the Life Jesus designs for them. No, it may not be as far a reach as Third Church’s youth, but then, you just may be surprised at what you do see, especially when you get the facts first. …

So whether it is prejudging youth or prejudging any brother or sister in Christ (or out), don’t you think it is best to leave the judging to the Lord? I do? How about you? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.

—  Proverbs 18:13 (NIV84)

Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.

— John 7:24 (NIV84)

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

— 1 Corinthians 4:5 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, may I bless and not curse what I do not know or understand. Grant me the wisdom and patience to wait for You to reveal what is needed to understand others better. In the meantime, Lord Jesus, Love them through me. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike