“Get Much Opportunity”

Date: 11-23-14

Text: — James 3:9-12 — 9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 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: Take advantage of this holiday season to publicly bless your brothers and sisters (both blood family & Blood Family).

My Thoughts: 

How often do you get a chance to bless someone with words of gratitude and encouragement?  Many times formal Sunday celebration services do not offer opportunities to do this, particularly in larger congregations. Aside from our annual Praise in the Park, we have a few Sunday throughout the year to offer an opportunity for public praise and blessing. This morning, this Sunday before Thanksgiving, is one such opportunity.

Lifestyle worshipers, whether or not your church offers such an opportunity, take advantage of this holiday season to publicly bless your brothers and sisters (both blood family & Blood Family). A card, email, text, and the old fashion verbal blessing are all more than okay. Oh, and take this opportunity to demonstrate how healed your tongue is by continuing to publicly praise the Lord.  This just might open some doors of opportunity for other conversations, too. What do you think? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

I will declare Your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise You. You who fear the Lord, praise Him!  —Psalm 22:22-23a (NIV84)

  And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. — Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV84)

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

—1 Thessalonians 5:11 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, overcome any hesitations in me that may prevent me from praising You and blessing my brothers and sisters in the gathered assembly. With a healed tongue, I praise You. With a healed tongue I bless my brothers and sisters. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Know it? Then do it!”

Date: 10-24-14
Text: — James 4:17 — Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins. [NIV84]
The Big Idea: Are we living our Christian Confession?

My Thoughts:
This morning’s Heartwork devotion once again parallels the sermon series. James makes it clear in the passage they used (James 2:15-17) and then hammers the nail one last time in 4:17 above!
Lifestyle Worshipers, you and I both know that whatever we do, in word or in deed, we do it all for the glory of God. So whether are skill sets are to be primarily used on Sundays or Monday through Saturday, they are to be used to bring glory to God.

That being said, let us weave the Heartwork homework into this reality, and ask some hard questions: Are we living our Christian Confession? Are we living what we know is right and true? Given the basic truth that awareness is not obligation, what issues or concerns have you been made aware of by our Heavenly Father that He does desire you to address? I spoke with one young man this week and his concern was for the homeless and disenfranchised during the winter season. He wants to purchase and open up a warehouse, or some similar building, as a crash pad to get warm. It won’t be a homeless shelter, per se, but simply a place to remove the chill from their bones. He is taking baby steps to act on this concern.
Has the Lord prompted you to do something? What steps, baby though they may be, are you taking to act on it? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts
I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah’s time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian. — Luke 4:25-27 (NIV84)

Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”
— John 5:19 (NIV84)

For I did not speak of My own accord, but the Father who sent Me commanded Me what to say and how to say it. I know that His command leads to eternal life. So whatever I say is just what the Father has told Me to say. — John 12:49-50 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus, as You always obey Your Father, obey the Father in and through me. Empowered me to meet those needs You have designed for me to meet. Let my footsteps faithfully follow You. In Your Name, Amen.

“Gets the Facts First”

Date: 10-21-14

Text: — James 4:11-12 — 11Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?  [NIV]

The Big Idea: Leave the judging to the Lord.

My Thoughts: 

In this morning’s Heartwork Devotion, we are told the story of the Jr. & Sr. high school students from Third Church in Pella, Iowa who got together with Heartwork to raise money for an orphanage in Uganda. They not only met their financial goal, they apparently doubled it. We cheer them on for this wonderful effort in Kingdom living!

Lifestyle Worshipers, have you prejudged the youth of today? Or have you seen all the facts before making a judgment? This morning we are hearing about this sacrifice of a dedicated youth group, but if you look around, particularly in our church, the youth are very involved in living the Life Jesus designs for them. No, it may not be as far a reach as Third Church’s youth, but then, you just may be surprised at what you do see, especially when you get the facts first. …

So whether it is prejudging youth or prejudging any brother or sister in Christ (or out), don’t you think it is best to leave the judging to the Lord? I do? How about you? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame.

—  Proverbs 18:13 (NIV84)

Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.

— John 7:24 (NIV84)

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait till the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men’s hearts. At that time each will receive his praise from God.

— 1 Corinthians 4:5 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, may I bless and not curse what I do not know or understand. Grant me the wisdom and patience to wait for You to reveal what is needed to understand others better. In the meantime, Lord Jesus, Love them through me. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Mid Terms”

Date: 10-19-14

Text: — James 3:5-6 — 9  With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 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: The test is designed to see not only how well we have understood the material, but if we can apply the knowledge we have obtained.

My Thoughts: 

If we go too long before we are tested, the knowledge we have obtained may slip away: The old, “Use it, or lose” Proposition. Thus, there are midterms in some of our classes. Yes, there are still daily pop quizzes, but the midterm tests how well the accumulated knowledge has be understood….

Lifestyle Worshipers, our midterms—as with the daily pop quizzes—are designed more as a practicum, much like being in a science lab or a gym glass. The test is designed to see not only how well we have understood the material, but if we can apply the knowledge we have obtained. We are now a little over half way through our annual Prayer & Fast Month. Because this year we have coupled this with the Heartwork devotions, I am curious as to how it is going. Several of you have shared with me about your fasting, and a few have talked about the Heartwork devotions. I know a couple of you who are using less technology and even walking places—and not just for health reasons!

So then, let us spur one another on by sharing how this has been going. I know for me, I am amazed at how the Heartwork Devotions are dovetailing with the passages in James I am presenting. Further, my fasting is offering me opportunities to really stop and ponder what I am doing and why I am doing it. I have made some changes, but I’m sure many more are in the wings. How about you? How would you respond to such a midterm?  Your thoughts?

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)

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get?

— Matthew 5:43-46 (NIV84)

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

— 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I ask You to fill me with the Holy Spirit , the Spirit of Power, Love and a Sound Mind. May He honor the Lord Jesus Christ in everything I think, say and do. As He continues to transform my mind to be more like Jesus, may I act on His promptings and so bring glory to Your Name. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“What is a ‘Shema’ Faith?”


Date: 10-10-14

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

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

My Thoughts: 

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

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

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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


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

Pastor Mike

“The Elephant in the Room”

Date: 10-08-14

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

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

My Thoughts: 

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

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

Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

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

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

Pastor Mike

“Letting Go of Our Ego”

Date: 10-04-14

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

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

My Thoughts: 

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

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

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

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

— 1 Peter 5:6 (NIV84)

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

— Matthew 18:4 (NIV84)

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

— Romans 12:10 (NIV84)

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

Pastor Mike

“The Wealthy’s Social Responsibility”

Date: 9-20-14

Text: James 5:1-6– Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming upon you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. 3 Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. 4 Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. 5 You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. 6 You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: James, like his Brother, Jesus, is very, very concerned how the scattered believers use their wealth.

My Thoughts: 

Have you read the above passage yet? If you have, give it a read again. How does it make you feel? (a) “Right on! Give it to them!” or (b) “Hey, wait! That’s not fair! I worked hard for my money”? Whichever side you come down on, we have to admit that James does come at the rich pretty hard. James is tell the wealthy that they have a social responsibility to use their wealthy righteously: (1) because it is temporary (vv. 1-3); (2) because it is right to pay those a fair wage who do a fair day’s labor (v. 4); (3) because righteousness is not self-indulgent nor does it selfishly corrupt justice in the courts (vv. 5-6)….

Lifestyle worshipers, lest you think James is just flying off the handle, he is actually remembering a sermon his older Brother once gave. Jesus preached stuff like this? Yep. It was in a sermon called, “The Sermon on the Plain,” (the cousin to “The Sermon on the Mount”) In it our Master says this: “But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets” (Luke 6:24-26 NIV84).

The word, “woe,” is an intense word denoting a deep sense of compassionate concern for the dire outcome of one’s actions. James, like his Brother, Jesus, is very, very concerned how the scattered believers use their wealth. How do you feel about this? Do the wealthy have a social responsibility? To what degree? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.

— Matthew 6:24 (NIV84)

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

— Matthew 6:21 (NIV84)

 But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

— 1 Timothy 5:6-10 22 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be Wisdom in me as I use what You have blessed me with to bless others. Continue to make me an instrument of Your presence to bring healing and not harm,  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