“Forgiveness Brings Hope”

Date: 12-04-14

Text: — Jeremiah 31:34 — No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ because they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the LORD.“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Lifestyle worshipers, we understand that forgiveness is truly and solely a divine act, that is, only God can forgive sins.

My Thoughts: 

Have you heard statements like this: “God may forgive you, but I never will,” “Even God won’t forgive me,” and “God’s punishing me for my sin?” I know many struggle with the nuances of forgiveness, to be sure, especially the one that says, “To forgive is to forget,” but I’m sure if we honestly look at the above passage, we will see the clear connection between forgiveness and forgetfulness, at least from a divine perspective.

Lifestyle worshipers, if we understand that forgiveness is truly— dare I say—and solely a divine act, that is, only God can forgive sins, then it follows that He sets the standard for forgiveness—which is clearly beyond our feeble human ability. Bare with me a wee bit longer, please. I am saying that we cannot forgive anyone per se, but we can enter into the forgiveness that the Lord offers, especially that on the cross….

So when someone says, “I cannot forgive them,” they speak rightly, but when they say, “I will not forgive them,” we have an entirely different issue. (As one dear friend put it to me years ago, “Michael, you have a broken wanter.”) In order to forgive someone, anyone, including myself, I must enter into the Power of forgiveness the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated and offered on the cross. (Thus, I frame forgiveness as expressed in the prayer below.)

Again, forgiveness is a very, very big subject, and I am barely scratching the surface here. Suffice it to say, however, for me, the offer of  forgiveness brings hope: hope of a new life, fresh start, new day, new beginning, second chance. Does this offer of forgiveness in the New Covenant do the same for you?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, because this is My blood of the new covenant that is being poured out for many people for the forgiveness of sins.

— Matthew 26:27-28 (ISV)

  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

— Colossians 3:13 (NIV84)

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

— Ephesians 4:32 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I forgive ________ for ________. I ask You Lord Jesus Christ, to bear the consequences of their actions. Remove the pain and shame they have caused me. Be that part of my Life that has been damaged by _______. I release ________ into your hands. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“A Healed Tongue Is Refreshing”

Date: 11-20-14
Text: — James 3:9-12 — With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 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: A healed tongue is a refreshing tongue.

My Thoughts:
Many love biting into some juicy, ripe fruit. Some like them crispy cold; others right off the vine, but whatever degree, the refreshment is amazing.
The same is true with a healed tongue. No matter the degree or frequency, whatever is spoken is juicy and refreshing.

So, Lifestyle worshipers, you may not like grapes or figs or even olives, but I’m sure you’d like a refreshing glass of crystal clear, truly spring originated water. Ahhh, can you taste your words now? I know those who hear your healed tongue can. Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
— Psalm 19:14 (NIV84)

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” —John 7:37-38 (NIV84)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
—Ephesians 5:25-27 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, demonstrate Your healing in my life through the words of my mouth. As they spring from a heart that has been made whole by the precious blood of the Lamb, let the refreshing flow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The Very Essence of His Nature”

Date: 11-15-14

Text: — James 5:11 — 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful. [ESV]

The Big Idea: St. Paul tells us that, “Love is Patient, Love is kind.”

My Thoughts: 

Do you ever wonder why the Lord is slow? The Scripture is clear that He, Himself, is slow to anger. He appears to be slow in His return. And we have witnessed that He doesn’t always answers our prayers as quickly as we would like. So why is He “slow”?

Perhaps you can come up with a few more answers, lifestyle worshipers, but I have found a few reasons: (1) He is slow in order to teach us patience. His very nature is Patience, that is, if He is Love, and St. Paul tells us that, “Love is Patient, Love is kind…” (1 Cor. 13:4 NASB). The first characteristic is “patient”; (2) He is slow, but not as we count slowness on two levels: (a) The skill craftsman doesn’t always looked hurried, and to some he is down right slow, but in the end he will get the job done faster and more perfectly because he skillfully took his time. So, too, it is with our Lord; (b) He is slow because He desires to give as many as possible the chance to be in a saving relationship with Him, and many take a lot of time. I know I did….

This, Lifestyle worshipers, is what James is referring to in the above verse: Our Lord is ‘slow’ (aka patient) to demonstrate how compassionate and merciful He is in the core of His being for out of this patience comes the fulfillment of His compassion and mercy.

Do you see but a glimpse of why He desires us to be patient, too? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

— Matthew 6:32-34 (NIV84)

The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some people understand slowness, but is being patient with you. He does not want anyone to perish, but wants everyone to repent.

—2 Peter 3:9 (ISV)

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.

—Romans 11:25 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, as I wait on You to fulfill Your good purposes in my Life, I freshly yield to the Lord Jesus Christ as my Slippers of Patience. May my walk with Him be charactered by the very essence of Your Love Nature, In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Keeping It Simple”

Date: 11-14-14

Text: — James 5:12 — Above all, my brothers, do not swear—not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned.   [NIV84]

The Big Idea:  The extended resume or any reinforcing words are only needless.

My Thoughts: 

Sadly, I have a vivid memory of starting out as my oldest daughter’s softball coach. As I introduced myself to the team, I offered my extended sports resume. I did this thinking I would impress the parents. But it didn’t take long to sense it was having a reverse effect. I had to do a lot of back peddling.

This is what happens, lifestyle worshipers, when we do not keep it simple. A simple “Yes,” or “No” is all that is needed. The extended resume or any reinforcing words (be they four letters or more, like “I swear this is true”) are not only needless, they could be far worse. James is only echoing our Lord Jesus, Who also said, “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one” (Mt. 5:37 NIV84).

One way to keep it simple is to simply keep our word, be it a “Yes” or a “No.” Then we will be known as people of integrity and have no need to reinforce anything we say with any oath or resume.

What ways have you found best to keep it simple? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 
— Matthew 5:36 (NIV84)
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)
But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.

—Colossians 3:8 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, keep me from becoming indignant as I put You on as my Shoes of the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace. May I be a peacemaker who sows in peace waiting on a harvest of Righteousness. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“A Definition of Mature”

Date: 11-12-14

Text: — James 5:7-9 — Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop and how patient he is for the autumn and spring rains. 8 You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. 9 Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door!  [NIV84]

The Big Idea:  Delaying gratification is a very large component of growing up and maturing.

My Thoughts: 

In this series through the Book of James, we have been focusing on “Families growing up in Wisdom.” But, what does it mean to grow up?  What does it mean to mature? Well, adding years to our age is definitely not one definition of maturing or growing up.

But, lifestyle worshipers,  have you discovered that delaying gratification is a very large component of growing up and maturing? I have, and another way to put this in a word is: Patience. The more patient we are with people, circumstances and ‘things’ the more mature we are. So, to me, the more patient I get the more mature I become….

But what is “patience”? What does this look like? Does drumming our fingers, tapping our toes and clicking our tongues need to be eliminated? I think there is a necessary element of calm in patience, don’t you. Let’s talk about what patience really is, and then maybe we can capture a little more what growing up is, don’t you think? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But not a hair of your head shall be lost. By your patience possess your souls..

— Luke 21:17-19 (NKJV)

For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

—Colossians 1:9-14 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as Slippers of Patience, In Your Name, Amen.

“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

“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

“A Wasted Effort”

Comments on Proverbs 19:19  A hot-tempered man must pay the penalty; if you rescue him, you will have to do it again. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: The ‘hotter’ their temper becomes and so, too, the consequences intensify.

My Thoughts:  Perhaps you’ve even attempted to rescue a hot-tempered person from the consequences of their actions; maybe you’ve even excused their behavior—as I had for years, “I’m just a hot-headed ______!” Fill in the blank. But Lifestyle worshipers, we know that this Scripture does not speak in vain: when we rescue the hot-tempered, it is a wasted effort because we will have to do it again. Why? Because we ‘spared’ them from the consequences of their actions! And the more frequently we do so, the ‘hotter’ their temper becomes and so, too, the consequences intensify. … A painful but essential truth…. Do you see this starting in childhood? I have. What can parents do to train their ‘hot-tempered’ child? Any thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared. — Proverbs 22:24-25 (NIV84)  

Discipline your son, and he will give you peace; he will bring delight to your soul. — Proverbs 29:17 (NIV84)

Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives. — Proverbs 19:18 (NLT)  

Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me for rescuing those who ought not be rescued. Grant me the wisdom and compassion to discern the difference. Be my Courage to discipline my child. In Your Name, Amen.