“Shift the Focus”

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mike

“Life Vs. Fake”

Date: 05-17-15

Today’s fake flowers are pretty real looking aren’t they? Some are made with silk; others with a variety a materials. But they are truly life-like, yet upon closer inspection, it is clear they are fake: No fragrance; no life.

When our Awana Club started back up after Christmas, I had noticed something rather disturbing on our “A Place for Your Things” Table. I saw a little baby just lying there amid all the coats and bags and books!!! Aghast, I moved quickly to ‘rescue’ the baby. Getting closer, I noticed the baby still look real, but its skin was rather odd—rubbery like. Duh, it was a very life-like baby. (The operative word is “likenot truly alive.) Later, I spoke with the father of the daughter, whose baby it was, and he noted how he, too, would forget it was merely a doll….

Lifestyle worshiper, is there Life in your worship? In your walk with Jesus? Or is it merely “life-like”? Upon closer examination what will we find?

Main Text: — Galatians 2:20-21 — 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.— John 14:6 (NIV84)

 When the Messiah, who is your life, is revealed, then you, too, will be revealed with him in glory. —Colossians 3:4 (ISV)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly— John 10:10 (NASB95)

 “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” (Col. 1:9-14). Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“No Earthly Good?”

Date: 04-07-15

The Big Idea: A discussion on “you’re so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good.”

My Thoughts: Lifestyle worshiper, have you ever been accused of being so heavenly minded you’re no earthly good? I have, but I never really understood the charge. What does it mean to others for someone to be “so heavenly minded”? And how does this result in being “no earthly good”?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on these two parts of this one idea.

Main Text: — Colossians 3:1-2 — Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body. — Philippians 3:20-21 (NIV84)

  And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.   —Ephesians 3:17b-19 (NIV84)

 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)

 Heavenly Father, grant me a proper perspective of balancing this life with the one to come. In Your Son’s Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“People of the Book Respond to the Word”

Date: 03-15-15

The Big Idea: I need to be reminded once again of Neh. 8:10: “Do not grieve, for the Joy of the LORD is my strength!”

My Thoughts: Like coming out of a dark theater, when we frist encounter the Word, we are blinded, squinting and covering our eyes. It is almost too painful to even attempt to open them. And yet as we persevere, our eyes adjust and we see more. This is how the people in Nehemiah’s day initially responded to the Word (v. 9 below). They were overwhelmed with a sense of grief; they were undone and wrecked. Becoming a People of the Book, I often come away from the Word undone and wrecked. My point of view is often one of helplessness. I know I cannot fulfill the precepts of this Book; they are well beyond my capabilities. Oh, some I may be able to gut out with extreme effort and constant exertion, but in truth, I know my strength is far too inadequate to be like Jesus….

I need to be reminded once again of Neh. 8:10: “Do not grieve, for the Joy of the LORD is my strength!” The Lord Jesus Christ overcomes my weaknesses, and as my eyes become accustomed to the Light, I see Him more clearly.

Hannah Whital Smith writes to me a word of encouragement on this:

“I feel more and more utterly cast on Christ and more and more bereft of anything of my own. My wants are many and they are continual, but I know that His supply is far more mighty, and it is promised to me moment by moment, and therefore I can trust all to Him. All! I leave the whole battle to Him, because I must. Wisdom, courage, armor, strength, patience and victory all to be found only in the Lord. I have nothing, literally and truly nothing. But Christ has all, just as literally and truly all and He is mine. Oh, can I doubt that every need will be fully supplied? No a thousand times no! let me wait then patiently His own time, and commit everything to Him continually. “For they shall not be ashamed that wait for thee.” Isa. 49:23. I want to know that I am one with Jesus and to know that He is dwelling in me and working in me to will and to do His good pleasure.”—Journal, April 26, 1867 [Smith, Hannah Whitall, and Melvin Easterday Dieter. The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life: The Unpublished Personal Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997. Print. March 15]

I pray that on your personal journey becoming a People of the Book, the Lord Jesus Christ becomes your strength more and more in the inner being as He empowers you to faithfully respond to His Word of Truth.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 8:9— Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 I love you, O LORD, my strength. — Psalm 18:1 (NIV84)

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  —John 15:5 (NIV84)

But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. — 2 Timothy 4:17 (NASB95)

 Lord Jesus Christ, I confess You are my strength when I am weak. I humbly seek Your Face as I actively yield to Your presence in my Life to walk this journey with You. Transform me by Your Holy Spirit into a People of the Book. Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Exposure to the Word”

Date: 03-13-15

The Big IdeaI went from being exposed to the Word to fill the hunger in my soul, to being a collector of Bibles to fill my intrigue.

My Thoughts: As I continued on my journey with Jesus to become a People of the Book, I found that daily exposure to His Word fed a deep longing and an intense hunger for Him. Intriguingly, shortly after committing my life to the Lord Jesus, I was handed a little green New Testament with the Psalms and Proverbs (which I devoured, camping in John & the Proverbs). Another gave me a Living Bible paraphrase of the New Testament, which I found easier to read. Then I set out to purchase my first Bible, a Thompson Chain reference for $35! (I vividly recall my mother saying why buy such an expensive Bible….) Still another friend gave me a Scofield  Study Bible. The NIV New Testament came out, so I devoured one of those, too…. Suddenly, I went from having no Bibles to an entire library of Bibles….

Shortly after this, I had the honor of joining a small group call Underground Evangelism. It was there I learned that many Christians throughout the world had no Bibles at all. I went home and counted how many Bibles I had. Between a close friend and myself we had 45 Bibles. Now, in truth, I had read all of them at some point, but I could not use all of them, so I began giving them away, keeping only the few I had had in the very beginning….

All this is to say, I went from being exposed to the Word to fill the hunger in my soul, to being a collector of Bibles to fill my intrigue. Oh, I could rationalize why I had so many Bibles, but really how many could I read at once and then how many did I really need?

Have you found on your journey as a People of the Book, that the real challenge is reading the one Bible you may possess? Even now as a pastor, I still read the Word, but often strictly for sermon preparation. I have even caught myself a couple of times never opening my printed Bible—since now I have many of the 45 Bibles back in digital form. Perhaps you can join me in committing to exposing ourselves to the Word as they did in Nehemiah’s day: “Day after day”?  Do you have a story you’d like to share about reading the Word as a People of the Book?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 8:18— Day after day, from the first day to the last, Ezra read from the Book of the Law of God. They celebrated the feast for seven days, and on the eighth day, in accordance with the regulation, there was an assembly. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

[Jesus] went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. And He stood up to read.— Luke 4:16 (NIV84)

Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. Now about the dead rising—have you not read in the book of Moses, in the account of the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!” —Mark 12:24-27 (NIV84)

I arise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words. My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word.— Psalm 119:147148 (NASB95)

Pastor Mike

“The Start of My Journey as a ‘People of the Book'”

Date: 03-11-15

The Big Idea: Early on my journey with Jesus, I had a deep hunger for the His Word, His People and His Person.

My Thoughts: As I went off to college, I expected to be tempted with drugs, sex and partying. But instead, the Lord began to rock my world at its core. I was rather religious according to the Roman Tradition—indeed, very devoted, but I met someone who had a peace that was promised at then end of each mass that I did not have. He challenged my religion with a relationship with God.

In pursing an answer to this challenge, I began to study and read. I read  many, if not most, of the world’s great Holy Books, some to the point of memorizing them. I pursued eastern mysticism and western materialism and much in between. I was even so audacious as to attempt to create my own religion. But as I began to lay the foundational principles, I kept being drawn back to one particular Holy Book: the Bible.

Somehow its words spoke to a part of me none of the other books could reach.

I might say my pursuit ended on a Fall Friday night, but really it just began—just on a more focused path. That Friday night I ask and answer a simply question: “Lord, I don’t know if I am a Christian or not, but tonight  I want to make sure; I would like to become one now.” And then and there I committed myself to the Lord Jesus Christ….

Almost immediately I had a hunger for the His Word, His People and His Person. One instance in my early walk with Him seems to typify this hunger. I had been studying intensely for a couple of hours reading a Political Science text book with very, very fine print. My eyes were sore and aching. “I think I’d better take a break,” I decided. So I set down my highlighters, bookmarked my place, and laid down on my dorm room bed. “Maybe I’ll read my Bible for a little bit.” What? Continue reading? It wasn’t until weeks later I realized the irony. And, in fact, I read for almost another hour. And the interesting thing is: My eyes appeared to be just fine and I was most definitely refreshed.

I am reminded of the time when Jesus was hungry and asked the woman at the well for some water. When His disciples came back offering Him some found that they had gather, He said,  “I have food to eat that you know nothing about…. My food … is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to finish His work.” To me, His Word was that food for my soul and rest for my weary eyes… Ironic, no?

This was the beginning of my journey as a People of the Book. Do you have a story you’d like to share about becoming a People of the Book?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 8:2-3— 2 So on the first day of the seventh month Ezra the priest brought the Law before the assembly, which was made up of men and women and all who were able to understand. 3 He read it aloud from daybreak till noon as he faced the square before the Water Gate in the presence of the men, women and others who could understand. And all the people listened attentively to the Book of the Law. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh accomplishes nothing. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.— John 6:63 (ISV)

Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” —Matthew 4:4 (NIV84)

I arise before dawn and cry for help; I wait for Your words. My eyes anticipate the night watches, That I may meditate on Your word.— Psalm 119:147148 (NASB95)

Pastor Mike

“A Connectedness”

Date: 03-03-15

The Big Idea: Lifestyle worshiper, let us not miss the miracle that the Lord will surely bless you with.

My Thoughts: One of my uncles has done a lot of work on our family genealogy. He has collected a lot of information along with some rather rare & old photos. I am so grateful for all this hard work because each time I scan the pages and view the pictures I get a sense of connectedness.

This connectedness presents a sense of privilege and grace as I peruse the annals of my family history.

The same can be said for the people in Nehemiah’s day found in the main text below. From the nobility to the ‘common’ folk, each presented their family’s genealogy and established their family’s special place in the land of their forefathers.

Lifestyle worshiper, do you have this same sense of connectedness that I have in the Kingdom of our Heavenly Father? Perhaps our names are not literally written in the genealogies of the Bible, but most definitely they are literally written in the Book of Life! And our Lord Jesus is not ashamed to call us, “Brother.” Pretty outstanding, eh?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 7:4-5 — 4 Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt. 5 So my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the common people for registration by families. I found the genealogical record of those who had been the first to return. This is what I found written there:  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers.

— Hebrews 2:11 (NIV84)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name.

—Ephesians 3:14-15 (NIV84)

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father I have made known to you.

— John 15:15 (NIV84)

   I pray that out of his glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. —Ephesians 3:16-21 [NIV84]

Pastor Mike

“More Gets Done”

Date: 02-08-15

Text: — Nehemiah 6:15-16 — 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth of Elul, in fifty-two days. 16 When all our enemies heard about this, all the surrounding nations were afraid and lost their self-confidence, because they realized that this work had been done with the help of our God. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: When we yield to the Lord Jesus Christ and work together in rebuilding relationships, we get to witness a miracle.

My Thoughts: 

Many of you are probably very familiar with the acronym, T.E.A.M. Together Everyone Accomplishes More. I believe this is very, very true. We see this in Nehemiah’s rebuilding the wall. But what we also see is nothing short of a miracle (see the above passage). Yes, the “M” could stand for this as well, but we do not accomplish it per se, though we are co-laborers. When we yield to the Lord Jesus Christ and work together in rebuilding relationships, we get to witness a miracle.

Lifestyle worshiper, do you believe this? Is this why you are reluctant to work with the team? You are not quite sure of the end result because you have been struggling so, so hard to repair the walls to no avail?

Good! Now you have learned that struggling in your own strength cannot do it. You must hoist your sails and catch the Wind of the Spirit. He will carry you along. He will empower you to do great things well beyond what you can think or imagine. Receive a fresh wind of hope this morning. The Lord is faithful: He will do “it”—in His time. Amen? Amen!

So, find your team. Pray for your team. And watch the Lord accomplish a miracle!

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

I will praise You with the harp for Your faithfulness, O my God; I will sing praise to You with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.

— Psalm 77:22 (NIV84)

 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one,

— 2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NIV84)

Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

— 1 Peter 4:10 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  forgive me for giving up hope while I have struggle to repair this relationship with _________. I ask You to infuse me with a fresh Hope and an inner strength that can only come from Your Holy Spirit.  In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“You Have A Role”

Date: 02-04-15

Text: — 1 Corinthians 12:27 — 27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Join me in eliminating the “Shout Down” method.

My Thoughts: 

Being a former loner, I understand what some are feeling. The irony was, I myself am a team player, and yet I often felt that no wanted to play with me. Many of these feelings were self imposed downers, but the truth was I was the kid that was ditched quite frequently. But I continued to play—anyway….

In truth, deep down I always believed that each of us has a role to play, especially in the Body of Christ. This is the greatest team to ever be on. The Coach doesn’t play favorites, and doesn’t pull you out after making a mistake. You can play your best, and He is pleased with it. When you do flub up, depending on the severity of the ‘foul’, He takes you aside and explains the ‘Game’ a little better. And when He ‘benches’ you, it is for a good reason. One dear mentor told me and another friend that maybe the Coach has ‘benched’ us in order to keep us fresh for the fourth quarter….

Lifestyle worshipers, when you feel like you are not part of a team or are playing in a game that requires no teammates, remember that the Body of Christ has many positions, and He definitely has one with your name on it. So: play your best! Your thoughts.

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

— Corinthians 12:14-26 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  forgive me for feeling like I am not part of Your Team. Open my eyes to the position You have placed me in and empower me to faithful play my best!  In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The Shout Down”

Date: 01-31-15

Text: — Nehemiah 2:19-20 — 19 But when Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite official and Geshem the Arab heard about it, they mocked and ridiculed us. “What is this you are doing?” they asked. “Are you rebelling against the king?” 20 I answered them by saying, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it.” [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Join me in eliminating the “Shout Down” method.

My Thoughts: 

In today’s culture, it seems to be very vogue among sophisticated pundits to ‘win’ an argument with someone they disagree by the “Shout Down” method. If I can’t get my point across to you or if you don’t buy my line of reasoning (if present), then I will just shout louder. This will win you over, right!?

Beyond the accusation of being sophisticated, I have found that shouting down an opponent is neither wise nor godly. And Nehemiah shows us how to respond to an ‘opponent’ in the above verses. He calmly, but most confidently, answers this slanderous accusation by merely stating the facts. Oh, he appeals to a higher authority than even the king (and remember he does have the king’s authority).  To Nehemiah, this project is by divine appointment. The Lord made a way for His people to be protected through the king’s hand. Nehemiah is confident of this, and feels not need to shout down his opponent.

Lifestyle worshipers, join me in eliminating the “Shout Down” method. Let us be wise as serpents, harmless as doves, and godly as our Lord Jesus, Who never felt the compulsion to  shout anyone down. Rather, let us speak the Truth in Love so we can be heard; and live it so it can be believed. Your thoughts.

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.

— 2 Timothy 2:24-26 (NIV84)

  Here is my servant, whom I support,my chosen one, in whom I delight. I’ve placed my Spirit upon him;and he’ll deliver his justice throughout the world. He won’t shout, or raise his voice,or make it heard in the street.

— Isaiah 42:1-2 (ISV)

  If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

— 1 Corinthians 13:1 (ESV)

Lord Jesus Christ,  I put You on as my Belt of Truth and my Socks of Gentleness. May Your Love overwhelm me to speak the Truth in a gentle and kind manner so it will be clearly heard by all who will listen.  In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike