Pastor’s Blogs

“So You Want to be Religious”

Date: 10-14-14

Text: — James 1:26-27 — 26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 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. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: ‘Religious’ words are mere ‘mutterings’ if not followed up with actions.

My Thoughts: 

It is interesting that, in fact, James uses a very rare word for ‘religion’ in these verses. It appears to mean “mutter forms of prayer.” I believe he chose this word (through the Holy Spirit) to reflect on those who talk about how faithful and religious they are. Their ‘religious’ words are mere ‘mutterings’ if not followed up with actions. … And the actions? That’s what verse 27 addresses…

And it is this very subject that our devotion in Heartwork address: serving the orphans and widows among us.  Lifestyle worshipers, there are widows and orphans all around us. Many, though living in traditional ‘families,’ have been disconnected or disenfranchised, as well, but by no direct fault of the parents—except that they have been swept up in the hurriedness and busyness of this polluted world. Do you think he was referring to this when he says, “Keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (v. 27)? Or could James also include other forms of soul pollution for the religious? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families, He leads forth the prisoners with singing;  — Psalm 68:5-6a (NIV84)

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

Give proper recognition to those widows who are really in need. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God. — 1 Timothy 5:3-4 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, Your heart’s desire is to reconnect Your orphaned and widowed creation with Yourself. I ask the Great Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, to empower me to tend to the needs of those You have brought into my sphere of influence, even in my own household. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“A Faith Based on Who We Are”

Date: 10-11-14

Text: — 1 John  4:16 — And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him [NIV84]

The Big Idea: And the answer may surprise you, but out of this answer springs a ‘Shema’ faith.

My Thoughts: 

Do you ever notice how you act when you are dressed a certain way. Maybe it’s when you wear your Sunday’s best or your running outfit, or your paintball gear, or that special homecoming dress, or just trying on wedding dresses…. You just act and feel differently. The same is true with your personal identity. I know I have more confidence when I consciously remember who I am in Christ—beyond what clothes I am wearing. ….

This morning’s Heartwork devotion, lifestyle worshipers, is very critical to how we act out our faith. After watching this video on “Who Am I: How do You Identify Yourself (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hsDQEb-qlyM)  then really pursue the answer. And the answer may surprise you, but out of this answer springs a ‘Shema’ faith, … or not. Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

How priceless is your unfailing love! Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.

—  Psalm 36:7 (NIV84)

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him who receives it.

— Revelation 2:17 (NIV84)

for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

— 1 John 5:4-5 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I know I need to be reminder over and over again that I am a one-of-a-kind specially crafted child of Yours. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am completely forgiven and wholly accepted by You. And all this is because of the high price You paid in Love. Your Son, my Lord, Jesus spent Himself completely for me. Dare I do any less for Him? Empower me, Lord Jesus Christ, to live a ‘Shema’ Faith,’  that is pleasing to You in all I think and do. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“What is a ‘Shema’ Faith?”

 

Date: 10-10-14

Text: — James 2:18 — 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. [NIV84]

The Big Idea:  A necessary element to ‘Shema,’ ‘to hear’ is to hear as to pay attention so to promptly and properly obey (or act on) what is heard.

My Thoughts: 

First of all, the word, ‘Shema’ is Hebrew. Its primary meaning is to hear. It is not always translated so, however. This is because there is a necessary element to ‘Shema’: ‘to hear’ as to pay attention so to promptly and properly obey (or act on) what is heard….

Lifestyle worshipers, this morning’s Heartwork devotion reminds of us the healing grace found in our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus and our Heavenly Father, especially through adoption (read Eph.1:3-10 for a fuller view of this). How does a ‘Shema’ Faith interweave with such overwhelming grace? Does not the beggar who found a feast share it with his friends? Is this the fruit of a ‘Shema’ faith? Or does it mean something else? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. —  Galatians 5:6 (NIV84)
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. — Matthew 7:24 (NIV84)

 

Heavenly Father, as I seek Your face open my heart to what pleases You in heaven so I may do the same on earth. Forgive me for having dull ears and weak hands. In Your Grace and Mercy empower me by Your Spirit to walk in the power of a ‘Shema’ Faith,’  pleasing You in all I think and do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The Elephant in the Room”

Date: 10-08-14

Text: — James 2:14-17 —  What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?  Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food.  If one of you says to him, “Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Let us not discount what He may be prompting us during this month of prayer and fasting to do.

My Thoughts: 

Many issues are obvious, but we are cautious about addressing them.  Because we’re afraid we may lose a friend or offend a loved one. Yet, there the proverbial elephant stands smack dab in the middle of the room. … But this doesn’t prevent James, the Just, old Camel Knees, himself; he does not pull any punches in the above verses: “Hey, guys, the elephant’s in the room—your faith needs to be address….

Lifestyle worshipers, does this make you nervous? I know it does me. It might require a life change or at the very least a loss of some convenience or ‘luxury’. Much, like Dr. Lockey (see this video: http://vimeo.com/43463138 ) in this morning’s Heartwork devotion. She made a radical change in her life. Do not dismiss her ‘radical’  action as if it is something you cannot do. It was personal; it was designed by our Heavenly Father for her. But let us also not discount what He may be prompting us during this month of prayer and fasting to do. Yep, the Elephant is in the room: “Can such faith save?”

Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. — Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV84)

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in Me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. — John 14:12 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, as I seek Your face open my heart to what pleases You in heaven so I may do the same on earth. Forgive me for dismissing or discounting the apparent radical promptings I’m getting. In Your Grace and Mercy empower me by Your Spirit to walk in the freedom of knowing I am pleasing You in all I think and do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Letting Go of Our Fear”

Date: 10-07-14

Text: — Numbers 11:11 — So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You afflicted Your servant?…” [NKJV]

The Big Idea: True faith holds by the Lord’s faithfulness.

My Thoughts: 

This morning’s Heartwork Devotion is on “Letting go of Guilt,” and I believe a cousin to this guilt is fear. Interestingly enough,  I was also reading Charles Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening Devotion this morning and found it very fitting for me personally, and perhaps you will, too. The message this Sunday is from James 2:14-26 on having an active, ‘Shema’ Faith. I find that Spurgeon’s words, noted below, address both this Sunday’s message and this morning’s Heartwork devotion. Perhaps you will be encouraged as I am by this….

Spurgeon’s Thoughts: 

“Our heavenly Father sends us frequent troubles to try our faith. If our faith be worth anything, it will stand the test. Gilt is afraid of fire, but gold is not: the paste gem dreads to be touched by the diamond, but the true jewel fears no test. It is a poor faith which can only trust God when friends are true, the body full of health, and the business profitable; but that is true faith which holds by the Lord’s faithfulness when friends are gone, when the body is sick, when spirits are depressed, and the light of our Father’s countenance is hidden. A faith which can say, in the direst trouble, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him,’ is heaven-born faith. The Lord afflicts His servants to glorify Himself, for He is greatly glorified in the graces of His people, which are His own handiwork. When ‘tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope,’ the Lord is honoured by these growing virtues.

“We should never know the music of the harp if the strings were left untouched; nor enjoy the juice of the grape if it were not trodden in the winepress; nor discover the sweet perfume of cinnamon if it were not pressed and beaten; nor feel the warmth of fire if the coals were not utterly consumed. The wisdom and power of the great Workman are discovered by the trials through which His vessels of mercy are permitted to pass.

“Present afflictions tend also to heighten future joy. There must be shades in the picture to bring out the beauty of the lights. Could we be so supremely blessed in heaven, if we had not known the curse of sin and the sorrow of earth? Will not peace be sweeter after conflict, and rest more welcome after toil? Will not the recollection of past sufferings enhance the bliss of the glorified? There are many other comfortable answers to the question with which we opened our brief meditation, let us muse upon it all day long.”

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

— Psalms 116:7 (NIV84)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls

— Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ,  and through His power I ask You to remove the pain, shame and guilt from my Life, whether I deserve any or not. In Your Grace and Mercy blot out the stain of my transgressions and empower me by Your Spirit to walk in the ‘now’ in freedom and Love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Letting Go of Our Definition”

Date: 10-05-14

Text: Luke 9:23-25 —  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.  For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.  What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Do we need to let go of our definition of ‘generosity’?

My Thoughts: 

Lifestyle worshipers, after viewing this Francis Chan video (http://vimeo.com/32093170), do you think we need to let go of our definition of generosity? In light of this morning’s Heartwork devotion focus verses (noted above), do you think our definition of ‘generosity’ is too narrow or too broad? Too extreme or too complacent? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

— 1 John 3:1 (NIV84)

But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. 

— Luke 6:35-36 (NIV84)

 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

— Titus 3:4-6 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, transform my giving to be as generous as Yours. You gave Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, because You so Loved me. Let my Life be an extension of this Love. In Your Son’s Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Letting Go of Our Ego”

Date: 10-04-14

Text: Mark 10:43-45— 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Know you are truly a member of a Backwards Kingdom

My Thoughts: 

I’m sure we’ve never heard anyone say, “Hey, Let go of my ēgo,” but I’m sure we’ve all heard a little whine or burp, even from our own lips. Humility comes before honor and success, and when we do not humble ourselves, humiliation often follows. I’d rather do the humbling….

Lifestyle worshipers, Heartwork’s devotion focus verses this morning are the Beatitudes, you know, the “Blessed are the…” (see Matthew 5:3-11) And it is these verses that suggest  we promote (and live) what is called a “Backwards Kingdom”. Have you discovered this, too? When you want to follow Jesus on a particular path, your friends (and even sometimes your family) just don’t get it. It’s like the time when Jesus’ own family encouraged Him to go to the Feast to ‘get famous’ (my words, but their idea, see John 7:1ff), but He knew His Kingdom doesn’t work that way…. You know the way up is down?

So today, when you practice serving someone just for the Love of Jesus—getting no recognition, no credit, and even no remuneration, receive the Joy this brings and know you are truly a member of a Backwards Kingdom.

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

— 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV84)

Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven

— Matthew 18:4 (NIV84)

 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

— Romans 12:10 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Hat of Humility and my Gloves of Kindness as I serve You, Your People, and those to whom You lead me for Your Glory and Your Kingdom’s advancement. I pray Your will be done on earth and in me as it is done in heaven. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Letting Go of Our Stuff”

Date: 10-03-14

Text: 1 John 2:15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Have we minimized this word ‘love’ each time we read the above verse?

My Thoughts: 

Have you ever said, “Boy, I’d give an arm and a leg for that!”? Or something very similar? What hardcore sacrifices are you willing to make to purchase something? Is this ‘agapé’ Love?

Lifestyle worshipers, in this morning’s Heartwork devotion focus verse (above), the word for Love is agapé. Have we minimized this each time we read it? I wonder if I have? I know that there are things I’d ‘love’ to have, but these feelings have diminished over the years. But are there things I’d love to not depart with? I’m sure I could list many—and the list may be uncomfortably long. How long would your list be?

Let’s take some time today—the rest of the week even—to not just ask ourselves what do we love to hold onto, but really ask ourselves what can we  really do without? Again, this is why it is called ‘heartwork’.

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

— 2 Corinthians 4:18 (NIV84)

Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?

— Luke 16:10-11 (NIV84)

Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

— 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me for holding on too tightly to the things of this world. May I see them as tools You’ve blessed me with to bless others and advance Your Kingdom. May Your will be done on earth and in me as it is done in heaven. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Letting Go of Our Agenda”

Sermon Title: “Can I Hear You Now?”

Series: Families Grow Up In Wisdom: The Book of James

Date: 10-02-14

Text: James 1:19  My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, [NIV84]

The Big Idea: To be an active listener I have to stay on their agenda.

My Thoughts: 

Those who are quick to listen have learned to let go of their agendas. I actually first heard this in a college class I taught on Active Listening. “To be an active listener I have to stay on their agenda,” one student offered. Excellent!

Lifestyle worshipers, this morning’s Heartwork focus verse in the devotion is, in part,  1 John 3:16 — “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” This is the letting go aspect of our own agendas, and trusting the Lord that His is the better agenda. Of course, laying down our lives is the extreme response to this, but at the very least, don’t you think, we can be active listeners who are eager to hear what others have to say, laying down our own agendas—as it were?

Let’s take some time today to practice this aspect of active listening, and stay on the other person’s agenda. Are you will to join me in this aspect of spending ourselves? I pray so….

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen

— Ephesians 4:29 (NIV84)

“Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

— Matthew 20:26-28 (NIV84)

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.

— Romans 12:10 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be my Slippers of Patience and overflow in me with Joy as I eagerly listen to my brothers and sisters. In Your Name, Amen.

“Spending Starts with Listening”

Date: 10-01-14

Text: James 1:19  My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, [NIV84]

The Big Idea: The Heartwork devotions is focusing on the word, “spend.” which means “to pour our, draw from within on behalf of another.”

My Thoughts: 

As we begin our 30 Days of Heartwork Journey, of fasting and prayer for the month of October, I believe that this journey starts with listening. Now, I know the Chinese proverb that says, “A journey of at thousand miles starts with the first step,” and physically this is true, but discovering the journey’s end requires listening to the Dispatcher, right?

Lifestyle worshipers, this morning’s focus verse in the devotion is Isaiah 58:10— “and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” The Heartwork devotions are focusing on the word, “spend.” In the Hebrew, this word means “to pour our, draw from within on behalf of another.” And it is in a certain stem which connotes voluntarily spending oneself on behalf of the less fortunate—and they are many. So which ones do we spend ourselves on behalf of? Ah, this is where listening comes in. When we quiet our souls and listen for the Lord’s promptings, then we will be given more clear direction on our journey.

So, let us practice today being eager, quick to listen, first to the Lord and then to those around us. Up for the challenge? I know I am going to have to focus. How about you?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

But the king [David] replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.” — 2 Samuel 24:24 (NIV84)

“Give to him who asks of you, and do not turn away from him who wants to borrow from you.” — Matthew 5:42 (NASB95)

All [James, Peter and John,] asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I [Paul] was eager to do. — Galatians 2:10 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, give me Your eyes so I can see what needs You want me to spend myself on. As I quiet my soul in Your presence, may I clearly hear the direction You desire me to take this first step. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike