“Faith for Someone Else”

 

I have often asked myself, “Do I have the faith for someone else’s healing? Or forgiveness?” I see this faith in the friends that carried their paralyzed buddy. I see their faith in their determination to bring him to Jesus. I see their faith in digging a hole in the roof. I see their faith risking getting the Master a little dirty with the debris. I see their faith in lowering him down—together. …

And Jesus saw their faith, too (v. 5).

But do I see my faith in my determination to continue in prayer when the crowds seem to be ignoring my friend?  Do I see my faith in digging in, sacrificing, even willing to get my Master a little dirty with my efforts—for my friend’s sake? Do I team up with others who can be a fellow rope-holder with me, as we—together—carefully lower our friend before the Master?

There are some I can honestly say, “Yes, I have had enough faith.” But lately it seems I’m getting rather jaded, especially with the crowds who ignore my friend, selfishly pressing upon the Master for their needs. I do not have the energy to “make a way through the crowds.” Ah, but perhaps I can find the roof. Will you join me in finding a way to Jesus for our friend? What are your thoughts? Let us not give up in doing good, eh?

Main Text— Mark 2:1–5 (NIV84) 1A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.Galatians 6:9–10 (NIV84)

 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.—John 6:37 (NIV84)

  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.— Ephesians 6:18 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, make me an instrument of Your Presence to bring healing and not harm. Where there is injury, be pardon in me; where there is offense be forgiveness in me. Where there is doubt be faith in me. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Shepherd Like This”

What does it mean to “shepherd” a flock? Perhaps many think of the ultimate sacrifice: Laying down ones life for the sheep. And this is noble and good and best. However, what does it mean to shepherd the flock in the “in-between time”?

Before we answer this, I’d like to note: I do believe our main text directly applies to those who have been entrusted with the flock of the Church; to pastors (elders, leaders, bishops, overseers) who are to shepherd the Lord’s people with such devotion. However, I think you would agree that this can also apply to heads of families who have been entrusted with precious sheep to shepherd as well. With this in mind, let us look at what it means to shepherd such a flock….
We guard them from predators; feed and clothe them; provide a safe nurturing environment in which to grow and mature; dress their little bodies, their bumps and bruises and their hurt feelings. We are a hand when they need help up, an ear when they are confused or learning, and a heart when they are hurting. We are there for them….
Basically, we do all the “things” the Lord Jesus does for us as He shepherds us. But why does He do this? Why do you do this? Because He is madly in Love with us! Francis Chan calls this “Crazy Love,” and it is! It doesn’t make sense. Why would He Love us? Yet He does!

And when we emulate— model —this “crazy” Love, we pass it on to our flock. Why? Because we are “madly in Love with them.”

Your spouse, your children, your grandchildren will feel safe, nurtured, comforted when they are hugged with a “Crazy Love”!

What are some ways we can demonstrate that we are madly in Love with our flock?  Your thoughts….

Main Text— Acts 20:28 (NIV84)— Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.
Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts
  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; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.— 1 Peter 5:2–3 (NIV84)
I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. … I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.— John 10:11, 14 (NIV84)
This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who only take care of themselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally.— Ezekiel 34:2b–4 (NIV84)
Lord Jesus Christ, be the shepherd in my Life so that I might demonstrate Your Love and Kindness to the flock You have entrusted to me. In Your Name, Amen!
Pastor Mike

“Can We Be Noble?”

In days of yore nobility was both a demonstration of virtuous character as much as it was a birthright. In our culture, the birthright of nobility has become of thing of the past, but has noble character gone by the wayside as well?

One definition of noble/nobility is: “having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals.”  Whose “high moral principles and ideals,” especially in an age of hyper-relativism, where there appears to be no accepted common sense—let alone common “high moral principles”? For instance, vulgar language is no longer gender specific, and flows freely in public conversation—even in front of children, who, in many cases, have lost their innocence as well. 

So what does a follower of Jesus do in cases light this? One option appears to be: Give up and isolate from the avalanche of vulgarity of all sorts from behavior to language. Another response: Stand on a soapbox on a street corner and harangue the vulgar with an intense barrage of condemnation. …

Or perhaps a third response: Actually live lives of noble character? As some have suggested, we can become like the Bereans (noted in our main text). In our dealings with each other, we can demonstrate noble character by peacefully and calmly examining the Scriptures to see what the Lord has for us to learn from each other. When dealing with different perspectives, we can be gracious and humble, attentively listening to the other as s/he finishes her/his train of thought before responding.

What are some other ways we can demonstrate noble character? In a culture that promotes vulgar language and behavior and shouts down those who disagree, truly there must be godly alternatives, don’t you think?

Let us start the New Year off on the “right” foot, eh?

Main Text: — Acts 17:11-12 (NIV84)— 11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.— Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV84)

Jesus called them together and said, You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 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 20:25-28 (NIV84)

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)

Heavenly Father, fill me with Your Holy Spirit as I demonstrate a life of Noble Character. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“Prepared to face Challenges?”

Date: 07-23-15

My Thoughts:

I have been wondering for some time if I am prepared to face the challenges of pursuing the Lord Jesus, and perhaps this is why I’ve been holding back. Oh, as a Jesus Freak— young, single and ‘care-free’—I was ready for the fast track to heaven: martyrdom. But as I got older, got married, had kids, and now grandkids, I have often wonder if this is still my passion….

Have I gone to the other extreme? Have I become too soft? Am I prepared to face the challenges that naturally come with pursuing the Lord Jesus? And I’m not talking about my own personal challenges, per se, but the challenges a life pursuing Jesus brings to others—you know, accusations of being “holier than thou,”  the teasing from friends and family that we’re taking this ‘religious thing’ a little too seriously?

Back to that discussion I had had with Brother Andrew of Open Doors those many years ago. He also said to me during our talk, “Michael, Americans are not persecuted. They are intimidated….” He was referring to people thinking that they are suffering for Jesus because they cannot pray in schools, wear a cross at work, or are scoffed at by a neighbor….

Now, years later, as I reflect on his comments, I am forced to ask myself this question: “Have I joined in our culture’s intimidating assault, and helped them place a muzzle on me? On the church?” Have we muzzled ourselves by wincing at their shouting and barrage of insults? Am I really prepared to face the challenges that are presented when I passionately pursue the Lord Jesus? Is this why some do not as well?

I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this conversation….

Main Text: — Acts 4:3-4— 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  — 2 Timothy 3:12-13 (NIV84)

 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  — 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV84)

Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.. — Galatians 6:17 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, embolden me to share You with all I meet. Overcome my silly fears of intimidation and insults. Lord Jesus Christ, honor Yourself in my Life that others may know You, the One True and Only Hope. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Even the Lone Ranger Had a Friend”

Date: 07-11-15

My Thoughts:

Being so deeply wound by fellow Christians, I went through a phase commonly called, “Anti-Church.” Oh, I would still go to services and studies, but I seriously refused to join any of them. I basically felt they didn’t need me and I didn’t need them.

Because this went on for some time, I became known as a loner, and yet I had “friends,” but I wouldn’t commit or open up to any of them. Slowly the Lord healed my wounded soul, and I realized that even the Lone Ranger had a friend: His dear friend Tonto. (Beyond the overplayed issues of the more recent ‘remake,’ it was clear that they had each other’s back….)

It took me quite a while to overcome these feelings of rejection and isolation, finally coming to a place where I could trust people again. As I did, the Lord showed me that the best way to show my Love for Him was to “Love one another” (John 13:34).

What was harder was realizing that in order to “Love one another,” I need to be committed to a group of people I could really get to know, (let alone the extreme degree of this Love, “as I have Loved you ….”)

A major wrecking came in my middler year of seminary, but, to a large degree, the wrecking has continued to this day. I often fight isolating myself from the Body with feelings of “I don’t need you,” and “you don’t need me.” As a pastor this is rather curious, no? But in the Lord’s grace and mercy, He is healing my wounded heart in such a way that I am getting a of glimpse of what He said to Peter, “Do you truly Love me more than these…” (John 21:15)? It is a process, to be sure.

As a team player, I have often found this anomaly in my soul rather paradoxic, like maybe I didn’t feel like a part of the team? Because of this, it has been one of my passions to make others feel a part of Jesus’ team, and to be the Tonto in some loner’s life so that they, too, may come to realize, the Community of Christ is far larger than themselves…. I know I’m learning this.

How about you? Have you been on such a journey with Jesus? Care to share?

Main Text: — Acts 2:42-44 — 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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!”  — 1 Corinthians 12:21 (NIV84)

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.  — 1 Corinthians 12:15-16 (NIV84)

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

 Heavenly Father, forgive me isolating myself from Your People. Remove the pain and shame I have caused Your Name and others by these attitudes. Be that part of my Life, Lord Jesus Christ, that has been in bondage. Free me to Love as You Love.  By Your Mercy & Grace and in Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Beyond the One Day”

Date: 05-10-15

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mike

“Compassion for Single Moms”

Date: 05-07-15

The Big Idea:

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Sing to God, sing praise to His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds—His name is the LORD—and rejoice before Him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling— Psalm 68:4-5 (NIV84)

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

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

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

Pastor Mike

“Betwixt the Two?”

Date: 04-12-15

The Big IdeaBurn in my soul a passion to please You in and through what I say and do.

My Thoughts: Lifestyle worshiper, are you betwixt the two? Are you torn between being with Jesus or remaining here (v. 23)? Or is there no struggle at all? In the main text noted below, the Apostle Paul expresses a deep passion to be with the Lord Jesus; but he has an equally deep passion for continuing his ministry of sharing the Good News. For him this is a great struggle. But have you noticed that for some there is no struggle at all, yet for different reasons.

What do you feel are some reasons that some do not have this struggle? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one struggle.

Main Text: — Philippians 1:21-23 — 21  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. — 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (NIV84)

  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.   —Romans 12:2 (NIV84)

May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.   — 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, as You burn in my soul a passion to please You in and through what I say and do, may my yearning to be with You make me more faithful until I am. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“It Takes Heart”

Date: 02-19–15

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

— 1 Peter 1:22 (NIV84)

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

— Psalm  82:3-4 (NIV84)

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

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

Pastor Mike

“Servant-Leaders: Be Available”

Date: 02-17–15

The Big Idea: A true leader, a godly leader, is one who models a servant-leader lifestyle.

My Thoughts: 

A servant-leader is one who cares more for the people s/he leads than for his/her personal gain. A servant-leader is one who can successfully relate to the people s/he is leading because s/he has made him/herself available to not just hear, but listen to their concerns and needs.

Lifestyle worshiper, have you noticed in our culture today that public servants are neither? In general, they do not appear to have the public’s interest in mind, nor are they serving the public. Rather, it appears that it has turned into a self-service opportunity. But a true leader, a godly leader, is one who models a servant-leader lifestyle, much like Nehemiah demonstrates in the main text noted below. He could have “walled” himself off from the people, creating a barrier between them and him. He could have pretended to listen to them, and then do what he thought was best for the people anyway. But, instead, he walked among the people and sincerely listened to their very severe concerns, some of which he may not have genuinely been aware of, but now he is….

Lifestyle worshiper, join me in living a life that worships our Heavenly Father in Spirit and Truth by being sincerely available to hear the concerns of those around us, especially those of our immediate family. Then we can more effectively rebuilt the walls of broken & fatigued relationships.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 5:1-5 — 1 Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. 2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.” 3 Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.” 4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.— Matthew 9:35-36 (NIV84)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.— Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV84)

It’s important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God’s house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry.— Titus 1:7 (The Message)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  be the Servant Leader in my life, one who will model Your Life in a way that is pleasing to You and genuinely effective with others. May my ears be attentive to Your promptings as well as to the concerns of my loved ones. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike