Pastor’s Blogs

“Another Test Lab for Growing Up”

Date: 9-16-14

Text: James 2:1-4  My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? [NIV84]

The Big Idea: The test lab of relationships reveals your heart’s prejudices.

My Thoughts: 

The first test lab for growing up James presents is trials, those general challenges of life that are more than slivers. But he also presents a second test lab: Relationships. He brings up the subject in 1:9-11, and speaks about social status particularly between the rich and the poor. But he hits it head on in 2:1-4: The test lab of relationships reveals your heart’s prejudices. …

Lifestyle worshipers, we know we should not favor the rich over the poor. And perhaps this is easy for some, but what I find more difficult not to favor is the ‘lovelies’ over the ‘unlovelies’. Now, my definition of these two words may be somewhat different from yours, but a shared aspect is going to be something like this: the ‘lovelies’ are those I am comfortable with and click with versus ‘unlovelies’ whom I find very, very difficult embarrassing, and draining to be around.

I know that this test lab has a lot more revealing to do in my life. How about in yours? Any thoughts….

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

— Matthew 9:12-13 (NIV84)

Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

— Romans 12:16 (NIV84)

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

— Philippians 2:1-5 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, forgive me for favoring the ‘lovelies’ and ignoring the ‘unlovelies’. I know Your Son mostly hung around with the ‘unlovelies’ of society, and I want to be more like Him. Cleanse me from this unrighteousness so that I may reflect His Life in me more clearly to those You truly Love far more than I can in my own strength. In Your Jesus’ Name Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Trained By the Pain”

Date: 9-14-14

Text: James 1:12  Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: When we are trained by the pain, we receive the crown of life.

My Thoughts: 

One reason we can persevere under the trials (and these are more than slivers; they are crosses), is because of the Joy we have knowing there is a purpose in them. The purposes of a particular trial may have many facets, but one facet is becoming more like Jesus. Because of the Joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross and scorned its shame and is now seated at the right Hand of the Majesty on High. He is no longer wearing a crown of thorns, but He is now wearing the crown of the King of kings! And when we, too, are trained by the pain, we receive a crown, the crown of life.

Lifestyle worshipers, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23 NIV84).“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18 NASB 95). “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body” (2 Cor. 4:8-10 NIV 84). “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 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 Cor. 4:16-18 NIV 84).

Be encouraged to be trained by the pain. Your thoughts….

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher. 

— Luke 6:40 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, as You teach me to see through the current trial, let the Joy of Your Spirit flood my soul. Guard my heart and my mind with the Peace that passes all understanding: The Lord Jesus Christ, my Prince of Peace. I bless You, in Your Son’s Name Amen.

Pastor Mike

“What is Double-minded”

Date: 9-13-14

Text: James 1:6-8  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;  he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: One lesson I have learned: BE still, wait and listen.

My Thoughts: 

We have to asked ourselves: “What does being double-minded look like?” As a young Christian and a junior in college, I went on a college retreat near Mt. Lemon in Tucson, Az. On a particular hike, I decided to go off the trail and get ahead of everyone. Well, the trail veered one way as I went the other way. Given my ‘excellent’ sense of direction, I was quickly lost. Oh, I could tell which way was north and south etc., but I had no idea where the camp was. The weather starting changing from a balmy fall day to a sharp cold evening.

The clouds rolled in and it smelled like snow. After much mental reflection, I prayed all the more earnestly, “Lord, which way do I go!?” It popped into my head to go in a particular direction. Full of faith, off I went. “But what if I heard the Lord wrong; or maybe it was just my imagination…,” and other questions flooded my mind; a near panic set in. (Later, when the search team was in that very area, they saw my footprints going back and forth several times. Yep, that’s what I did during this moment.)

Shorting this harrowing story, I finally decided, I did hear from the Lord and started off in the original direction. As I went, I noticed orange ‘tape’ tied in the bushes and on the tree branches every so many feet. (Back then I didn’t know what hunter’s tape was or what it was used for.) So I continued to follow this and discovered the road. Having never hitchhiked before, I stuck out my thumb and got the first vehicle, a jeep, to pick me up. “Do you know where there is a retreat camp near by?” “Yes, as a matter of fact I work near there.” And off I went….

Lifestyle worshipers, your double minded episodes may not be as dramatic or as obvious. I know many of my subsequent ones were not. Even now, as I ask the Lord for wisdom as to what to do or yield to Him, I keep hearing, “Trust Me.” One lesson I have learned: BE still, wait and listen.

What lessons have you learned through your episodes of being double minded? Your thoughts….

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

Isaiah 30:21 (NIV84)

That day when evening came, [Jesus] said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”.

— Mark 4:35 (NIV84)

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.,…

 Hebrews 10:23 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, stir in my soul a faith that evaporates my doubts. You are good all the time no matter what. This, alone, should be my confidence. You are faithful; You will do what is Good and Just. I Praise You, in Your Son’s Name Amen.

Pastor Mike

“If You Lack, Ask”

Sermon Title: “The Testing Lab for Wisdom Part One: Trials”

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

Date: 9-11-14

Text: James 1:5-8  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, Who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Instead of asking, “Why,” perhaps asking “What, Lord?…”

My Thoughts: 

If you are like me, it is hard not to doubt when someone gives me advice. But the more I trust the expertise of the one giving the advice, the less I doubt. …

Lifestyle worshipers, the same is true with the Lord. Too many times we project onto the Lord His children’s unfaithfulness or poorly offered  counsel. But when we seek His Face through His Word and prayer and the counsel of those who do the same, their counsel/wisdom is just as trustworthy as if it came from the very mouth of God Himself… Oh, it did, when it comes from His Word….

 So the next time you are in a trial, challenge or difficulty, instead of asking, “Why,” perhaps asking “What, Lord? What would You like me to yield to You this time? What aspect of my life am I not trusting Your Life to empower me in?” So if you lack, ask. … Then trust the expertise of our Heavenly Father’s Wisdom….

Do you think these questions will be answer more readily than the “why”? Your thoughts….

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

“Let all who are simple come in here!” she says to those who lack judgment.

Proverbs 9:4 (NIV84)

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

— Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV84)

Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord,…

Jeremiah 29:12-14a (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, as I encounter these various trials, I ask the Lord Jesus Christ to make clear to me what aspects of my life He would desire me to surrender to Him. I realize that this journey with Jesus often goes deeper the second and third time around. May His Peace guard my heart and mind by the power of Your Holy Spirit. In Your Jesus’ Amen.

Pastor Mike

 

 

“Various Trials; One Joy”

Date: 9-9-14

Text: James 1:2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Though there may be various trials of all sorts, there is only one perspective: Joy.

My Thoughts: 

Hebrews 12:7a exhorts us to: “Endure hardship as discipline.” Or as I have said in the past, “Be trained by the pain.” And James supports this exhortation by telling us that though there may be various trials of all sorts, there is only one perspective: Joy. Now to some this may seem perverted. We need not enjoy the pain, but we definitely enjoy the product: becoming more like Jesus.

Lifestyle worshipers, is an attitude or perspective check is in order? Ironically, just this past Sunday, I was chatting with someone about this perspective/attitude check. We have a banner over the entrance to our facility. “As you leave, you can ask yourself where you fit,” I exhorted my fellow follower: “The wounded whine; the broken serve,” the banner states with two passages underneath, one of which is John 13:14: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” Not sure if they did or not, but I am sure I did. How about you? Do you need to “consider it pure joy,” too? 

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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 12:2-3 (NIV84)

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

— Romans 8:18 (NIV84)

Keep on rejoicing in the Lord at all times. I will say it again: Keep on rejoicing!

 Philippians 4:4 (ISV)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I confess I need an attitude adjustment and a perspective shift. I have been near-sighted and whiny, caring only about my personal comfort.  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 to You. I release myself into Your hands. Be the fullness of Joy in my Life through Your Holy Spirit. In Your Name Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Still A Servant Leader”

Date: 9-7-14
Text: James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. [NIV84]
The Big Idea: Join James’ example of keeping a servant’s heart even though he was thrust into the ‘spotlight’ of leadership.

My Thoughts:
James was clearly humiliated to discover that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. This is evident in that he, like Peter, ‘required’ a special audience with the Risen One (see 1 Cor. 15:5-7). In this humiliation, James chose, as his older Brother did, to take on the form of a servant (see Phil. 2:7-8); thus, the ‘title,’ servant, in the opening salutation of his letter.
But at some point in his walk with the Master, he was asked to step up and be a leader in the church in Jerusalem (see Acts 12:17 & 15:13ff). He was even consider a “pillar” in the church; and he’s listed first!
Lifestyle worshipers, have you been offered a position of leadership? At work? In your home? In school or a community club? In the church? If so, join James’ example of keeping a servant’s heart even though he was thrust into the ‘spotlight’ of leadership. … But, remember, at least he stepped up…. How have you responded when leadership was ‘thrust’ on you? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love. — 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 (NIV84)

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen. — 1 Peter 4:10-11 (NIV84)

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.
— 1 Peter 5:2-3 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be the servant leader in my Life You have designed me to be. May I hear Your voice and obey Your promptings as You empower me by Your Holy Spirit to live a Life that is pleasing to You. In Your Name Amen.

Pastor Mike

“He Called Him ‘Messiah’”

Date: 9-6-14

Text: James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: James uses this title with significant importance.

My Thoughts: 

Some say it is too early in the young church’s history for James to use the title of “Christ” connected to Jesus’ name. But I am convinced it is not, especially in light of James’ awkward past with Jesus. The word, “Christ,” is a transliteration of the Greek word for “Anointed One,” which is the word for Messiah, in Hebrew. And for James to use this title is of significant importance.

At first, James thought Jesus was “out of His mind” (Mk. 3:21 NIV84; “beside Himself” KJV). But now he calls Him the Messiah. This is a pretty monumental change, don’t you think?… James finally sees that Jesus is the long awaited Messiah. True, at first, He is the humble  servant of the Holy One, riding on a lowly donkey rather than a white charger, but remember, James was personally visited by the Resurrected One?

Lifestyle worshipers, have you had a truth staring you in the face, but it isn’t until much later that you see it? A passage you have memorized, can quote it without thinking, suddenly comes alive with deeper insight—and at just the right time? Or a relationship of significant importance? Then you know how James must have felt. The light bulb has come on: Flash! A brilliant light blinds our eyes. We shield them with our hand, but the brilliance penetrates right through. Slowly, but nonetheless steadily we see Him more clearly…, and He had been there the entire time…. Do you see Jesus more clearly today than yesterday? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it. — John 1:4-5 (NIV84)

For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. — 2 Cor 4:5-6 (NIV84)

As [Saul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me?” “Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” He replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.  — Acts 9:3-9 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Helmet of Salvation. Continue to transform my earthly thoughts into heavenly ones as You become clearer to me every day. In Your Name Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Passion for His People”

Sermon Title: “James: The Man We Thought We Knew”

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

Date: 9-4-14

Text: James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: James always Loved his brother….

My Thoughts: 

Growing up with the Messiah must have been strange. Well, Jesus was the perfect son, but it probably wasn’t as noticeable until He launched out on His own and started gather crowds and doing miracles and teaching some rather intense and challenging lessons….

But what James did ‘get’ from Jesus was a passion for His people. And this is clearly seen in verse one above—and throughout his letter. I believe one author I read this week identified the truth: James and Jesus must have had a rather loving relationship; and though it was strained by Jesus’ teachings, James always Loved his brother…

Lifestyle worshipers, whether your family relationships are strained because of Jesus’ teachings—or even for some other reason, do not let this dampen or diminish the Love you have for them. Let the Love of Jesus flow through you to them. Your passion for them need not burn them, but it should definitely warm them, don’t you think?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.
 — Matthew 23:37 (NIV84)
I speak the truth in Christ—I am not lying, my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit— I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel. Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.

 Romans 9:1-5 (NIV84)

  When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
 Mark 6:34 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Belt of Love. May I Love my brothers and sisters all the more dearly even as we see that Day approaching.  In Your Name Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Practicing What He Preached”

Date: 9-2-14

Text: James 1:1  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: James uses a word that represents the lowest of the lowest slave: doulos.

My Thoughts: 

As you read through the book of James, can you sense his humility? He could have started off his book with, “James, the Oldest brother of our Lord Jesus and my older brother…,” but he doesn’t. Instead, he uses a word that represents the lowest of the lowest slave: doulos. Now, in the Christian community we have given this word a much ‘greater’ meaning. This is because of what our Lord said about this in Matthew 23:1: “The greatest among you will be your servant.” He chose a word that represents a position lower than the word for servant here….

What does this mean for us, Lifestyle worshipers? I see at least one lesson: James practiced what he preached. He exhorts his fellow believers to  not take pride in our high position (James 1:9) and not to show favoritism (2:1). In his case, do not give him any adulation for being the brother of our Lord Jesus. None. And in this lesson, I take comfort that it doesn’t matter what position or title I  carry in the Christian community, I am still but a doulos of the Lord Jesus Christ, washing the feet of the saints and shining the spot light on the Master, who alone is worthy.

What lessons from James do you see in this ‘title’ of doulos?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.— Matthew 24:45-46 (NIV84)

And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
 2 Timothy 2:24 (NIV84)
 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. — Romans 12:10 (NIV84)

 

Lord Jesus Christ, be my gloves of Kindness and my Socks of Gentleness as I serve my brothers and sisters in humility and Love.  In Your Name Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Seeing Jesus More Clearly”

Date: 9-1-14

Text: James 1:1  James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: The resurrection has a habit of doing this: That flash of white light first blinds, but then reveals, when they can see Jesus more clearly.

My Thoughts: 

Yes, James is the older of Jesus’ siblings. No, he—with them—did not believe what Jesus  was teaching about Himself; at least, not at first. They scorned Him, mocked Him and ridiculed Him—and James probably led the way….

Lifestyle worshipers, has this happened to you in your family when you first came to faith in Jesus? Each step you took in following Him was so scrutinized and challenged and doubted…? But then something changed. They began to see Jesus more clearly, just as James had—but only after the resurrection, for James, and only  as your life began to change. The resurrection has a habit of doing this: That flash of white light first blinds, but then reveals; then they can see Jesus more clearly. …

…and then they, too, like James, can become one of His dearest followers. Remember, the flash first blinds, but then reveals. Wait for their eyes to adjust….

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   In His right hand He held seven stars, and out of His mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. Then He placed His right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.”

— Revelation 1:16-17 (NIV84)

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

 1 Corinthians 6:11 (NIV84)

  For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I [Paul] persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it.

 Galatians 1:13 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, be the Slippers of Patience in my Life as I wait on my family to see You more clearly in my Life. In the meantime, continue Your transforming work by Your Holy Spirit so they can see You all the more clearly.  In Your Name Amen.

Pastor Mike