“Same Information; Two Responses”

Date: 12-20-14

Text: — Matthew 2:7-13 — 7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. 8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”  9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. 12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route. 13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill Him.”  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: It is critical what we do with divine revelation.

My Thoughts: 

As a pastor and a minister of the gospel for almost 40 years it has fascinated me at the responses I would get from the same information: Some positive and joy filled; some contemptuous and hateful. I know it is not a surprise; Jesus warns us about this, but it still fascinates me nonetheless.

Lifestyle worshiper: Have you found this to be so, too? Perhaps you have discovered as I have that it is critical what we do with divine revelation: Our destinies depend on our decision.

The Magi took the information the scribes offered, made a diligent search, and worshiped the Child. King Herod heard the same information and order the execution of all children in Bethlehem two and under. This latter decision is extreme, to be sure, but what about the decisions short of worshiping the Child-King? Are their destinies any different than Herod’s (who, by the way, died a painful death)? Your thoughts.

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 “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. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

— Matthew 7:24-27 (NIV84)

  Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did. — 1 John 2:6 (NIV84)

 

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. — James 1:22 (NIV84)

 

Heavenly Father,  as I commit myself to follow the true Light , the Lord Jesus Christ, I pray I am singleminded. Keep my feet firmly walk ing in the Light as He is in the Light. May I hear His voice alone and obey His promptings. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to live a life that is pleasing to You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Which Star; Which Light?”

Date: 12-17-14

Text: — Matthew 2:1-2 — After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Take an honest inward look to answer these questions.

My Thoughts: 

There are many lights in the sky. There are many voices in the crowd. But which do we follow? To which do we listen?

Lifestyle worshiper: we need to take an honest inward look to answer these questions. Sometimes the voices we listen to are from the past—past failures, past guilt, all of which have been confessed and forgiven. Some of the lights we follow are bright enough to offer some guidance, dimly lighting our way, but do we join the magi in follow His star (v. 2)? The Light of this Star is faithful, leading on paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. It leads us to the Voice that calms the sea and forgives the adulteress. “This Voice that is calling you and me.”

Is your light bright enough? Is it His Star? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.

— John 8:63 (NIV)

   When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

— John 8:12 (NIV84)

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

— Colossians 2:8 (NIV)

Heavenly Father,  I commit to follow the true Light that has come into the world, Your Son,  the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray I faithfully walk in the Light as He is in the Light. May I hear His voice alone and obey His promptings. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to live a life that is pleasing to You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

No Joke, Really”

Date: 12-16-14

Text: — Matthew 2:1-2 — After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.”  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Open your eyes and pursue the Light in your winter.

My Thoughts: 

It has been joked about and maligned a lot, but it is really no joke, at least not to the wisemen. In their long pursuit over hundreds of miles, they moved toward the light: They traveled by faith in the dark searching for the Light of the World as they followed the lights of the heavens.

(Now we know that the stars do not tell the fate of people but the Story of God, the creator, and this is what the wisemen unveiled as they interpreted the glory the heavens reveal. (See Psalm 19:1ff.))

Lifestyle worshiper: Are you pursuing the preverbal Light in your winter? Are you getting closer to the Light?

In one of Larry Norman’s songs he said, “You can’t see nothing when you close your eyes.” Indeed, it is heard to see the Light with our hands over our tightly closed eyes in fear of the dark.  But when we open our eyes, they slowly become accustomed to the dark, and, in fact, the slightest light becomes ever so bright. And sometimes that slight, small light is merely a very bright light in the distance. We just need to walk through the darkness by faith towards it. It is then we will see what the Light reveals: The reward of our pursuit of the Light through our winter. Join me by opening our tightly closed eyes, and taking that first step of faith in the darkness toward the Light.  Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 In Him was life, and that life was the light of men.

— John 1:4 (NIV84)

   When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

— John 8:12 (NIV84)

 When [the Magi] saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped Him. Then they opened their treasures and presented Him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh.

— Matthew 2:10-11 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father,  strengthen my feeble knees as I take firmer steps toward Your Son, the Light of the World. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Praising in the Winters of Life”

Date: 12-12-14

Text: — Luke 1:46-50 — 46 “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. 48 For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave; For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. 49 For the Mighty One has done great things for me; And holy is His name. 50 And His mercy is upon generation after generation Toward those who fear Him.” [NASB95]

The Big Idea: Mary is rejoicing in spite of  the winter that she is about to experience.

My Thoughts: 

Though many of us love to sing in the shower or the car, we would be terribly embarrassed if others could hear us. You can take comfort from Mary praise captured in the above verses. She bursts out in praise weaving a tapestry of Psalms. But instead of singing them, she speaks them from a heart overflowing and overwhelmed by the Lord’s mercy.

Lifestyle worshipers, do you see the irony in all this? She is rejoicing in spite of  the winter that she is about to experience. How can she do this?  She understood what Hannah Smith wrote to a dear friend in 1883: “Don’t you feel glad that you gave it all up to the Lord before hearing those assuring words from the Doctor? I hope it will teach you a lesson you will never forget, and that you will never again permit yourself to be anxious and worried over any possible evils. I would feel I had committed a positive sin if I would do it; and I want you to feel the same.” These women understood the goodness of our Lord. No matter what winter they may be facing, He is merciful, kind and good.

How’s your singing going in your winter? Or at least speaking His praise? I’ve had to check my Whine-O-Meter a few times. Have you? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise Him. …  For the word of the LORD is right and true; He is faithful in all He does.

— Psalm 33:1, 4 (NIV84)

  Let them give thanks to the LORD for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men, for He satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things.

— Psalm 107:8, 9 (NIV84)

My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of Your praises all day long.

— Psalm 35:28 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, Lord Jesus Christ, Holy Spirit: I praise You for Your Faithful Goodness during my winter. Evaporate my anxieties. Overwhelm my fears. You are Good all the time no matter how long, cold and dark this winter may be. Christmas is coming! In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“All the Time No Matter What”

Text: — Isaiah 9:6 — For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: I know you know that God is Good all the time no matter what.

My Thoughts: 

Out of these majestic titles comes a rather profound and oft quoted truth: God is Good all the time: He is a Wonderful Counselor He plans our lives well and in all things works “for the Good of all who Love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28 emphasis added). But I have found for some who add a “footnote” to this (the noxious “except to for me” footnote) we need to add “no matter what” because during the ‘working out’ period, He is our Prince of Peace & our Father of Eternity. Often in the short run, it doesn’t seem too good. Oh, it is, we just don’t see it ‘now’. So we need to know that He is in control of the long run (our Father of Eternity—the long run Controller) and during the ‘short run’ He is our Prince of Peace, giving us a peace not like the world gives that guards our hearts and minds from acting out selfishly or impulsively.

Lifestyle worshipers, I know you know that God is Good all the time no matter what: No matter what trial you may be in now; no matter what winter is engulfing your moments; no matter what doubts and fears are assaulting your faith. Remember, our Lord Jesus, whose birth we will soon celebrate, is also your Prince of Peace. So confess with confidence that God is Good all the time no matter what.  Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

— Romans 15:13 (NIV84)

  For [Christ Jesus] Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

— Ephesians  2:14 (NIV84)

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

— John 14:27 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, be my Prince of Peace in the midst of my winter. With You as my confident Hope I press on in the darkness clinging to the Truth that You are Good all the time no matter what. I praise Your Name for Your Faithfulness, Amen.

Pastor Mike

PS—Follow my: “A Life Blog” @ http://vbcgjblog.wordpress.com

“So You Want a Sign”

Date: 11-28-14

Text: — Isaiah 7:10-14 — 10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Just because it is unwise and immature to demand a ‘sign’ from the Lord, let us not go to the other extreme and fail to seek His face at all.

My Thoughts: 

“Lord, what do you want me to do? Show me a sign.” Perhaps you have never said this, but I have, and, yes, if we are honest with ourselves, it does sound a tad demanding. (Demanding the Holy One to respond? Danger close, eh?)

In the above passage, Ahaz didn’t do this. In fact, he knows very well that to ask for a sign—especially with the wrong motive or attitude—is putting “the Lord to the test” (v. 12). But this is not Ahaz’ issue. He is just being politically correct in his response to Isaiah, who is presenting the challenge. Ahaz’ real issue is that he hasn’t sought out the Lord in any matters. Instead, he has sought “wisdom” from the ways of the world—dark and nasty ways…. So, Isaiah confronts him in a very direct way….

Lifestyle worshipers, just because it is unwise and immature to demand a ‘sign’ from the Lord, let us not go to the other extreme and fail to seek His face at all. As we approach this Holy Days season, Let us be more mindful to seek the Lord Jesus in our daily tasks. Perhaps in this small way we can continue to keep Him in Christmas. Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

My heart says of You, “Seek His face!” Your face, Lord, I will seek. — Psalms 27:8 (NIV84)

  Look to the Lord and His strength; seek His face always. — 1 Psalms 105:4 (NIV84)

So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.  — Luke 11:9-10 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, like the little child rushing to greet his returning father, let my feet be swift to greet You. Forgive me when I become too busy and ignore You. Burn in me a quiet passion to daily seek Your face. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

PS—Follow my: “A Life Blog” @ http://vbcgjblog.wordpress.com

“Second Coming Blues”

Date: 11-13-14

Text: — James 5:7-9 — 7 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:  Like for the farmer, the “Valuable Crop” will appear.

My Thoughts: 

Back in the 70’s I composed a song entitled: “Second Coming Blues.” As you can imagine, it had a hard, classic blues beat. The gist of the song was, “I’m blue cause You haven’t come back yet.” (The lyrics were far more melodious, to be sure.)

Anyway, do you get blue sometimes because the Lord hasn’t returned yet, lifestyle worshipers? Sounds like James is helping us in dealing with these blues. Yes, the wait has been long, and like the farmer, the “Valuable Crop” will appear—in all His Glory, but until then we need not be singing the blues or grumbling or, yes, even whining. But instead, let us patiently endure the personal conflicts until then.

Oh, make no mistake about it, though: He is coming again; quickly in fact. In the meantime let us encourage each other all the more, especially as we see that day approaching.  Your thoughts on how we can encourage one another while we patiently wait on the Lord?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Then [Jesus] said to His disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it.”— Luke 17:22 (NIV84)

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 10:25 (NIV84)

And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. —Romans 13:11-12 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I lift my eyes up and wait expectantly for Your glorious appearing. In the meantime, empower me to live a Life that is pleasing to You, In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“What does it look like to Resist the Devil?”

Date: 11-09-14

Text: — James 4:7-10 — Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea:  “But with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

My Thoughts: 

The battle belongs to the Lord, and the human spirit is very willing to let Him have this battle, but the flesh is miserably weak to put up a fight.(Remember the sleepy apostles?) We softly drift into a deep slumbering sleep as the evil one whispers worldly lullabies that numb our souls to the war he is waging against us…. Sounds pretty grim, especially when I put it in such terms, but is this how we resist the devil?

Lifestyle worshipers, whether we resolve never to fall to a particular temptation or determine never to do “that” again, our flesh cannot stand against the wiles of the wicked one. Sounds hopeless? Not really, because “… greater is He that is in [us] than he that is in the world (1 John 4:4b KJV). For we “are from God and have overcome them” (1 John 4:4a NIV84). We do not stand in our strength, but in His. We do not stand in our armor, but His. We do not stand by our cunning but by His Grace. “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13 ESV).  Did you catch that? “The Way of Escape”!

Brothers & Sisters, no matter how we describe what it looks like to resist the devil, one thing is very certain: We must flee to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Way of Escape from any temptation that has “overtaken” us.  So, what does it look like to resist the devil? What does it look like to flee to the Lord Jesus Christ? Care to share?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

— Matthew 26:41 (NIV)

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. “In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

—Ephesians 4:25-27 (NIV84)

 Now whom you forgive anything, I also forgive. For if indeed I have forgiven anything, I have forgiven that one for your sakes in the presence of Christ, lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.

—2 Corinthians 2:10-11 (NKJV)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Heavenly Armor: my Helmet of Salvation, my Breastplate of Righteousness, my Belt of Truth, my Shoes of the preparation of the Gospel of Peace, my Shield of Faith, my Sword Wielder and my Breath of Prayer. As You empower me to flee the evil desires of my youth, continue transforming me into Your likeness with ever increasing glory. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Letting Go of Our Fear”

Date: 10-07-14

Text: — Numbers 11:11 — So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have You afflicted Your servant?…” [NKJV]

The Big Idea: True faith holds by the Lord’s faithfulness.

My Thoughts: 

This morning’s Heartwork Devotion is on “Letting go of Guilt,” and I believe a cousin to this guilt is fear. Interestingly enough,  I was also reading Charles Spurgeon’s Morning & Evening Devotion this morning and found it very fitting for me personally, and perhaps you will, too. The message this Sunday is from James 2:14-26 on having an active, ‘Shema’ Faith. I find that Spurgeon’s words, noted below, address both this Sunday’s message and this morning’s Heartwork devotion. Perhaps you will be encouraged as I am by this….

Spurgeon’s Thoughts: 

“Our heavenly Father sends us frequent troubles to try our faith. If our faith be worth anything, it will stand the test. Gilt is afraid of fire, but gold is not: the paste gem dreads to be touched by the diamond, but the true jewel fears no test. It is a poor faith which can only trust God when friends are true, the body full of health, and the business profitable; but that is true faith which holds by the Lord’s faithfulness when friends are gone, when the body is sick, when spirits are depressed, and the light of our Father’s countenance is hidden. A faith which can say, in the direst trouble, ‘Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him,’ is heaven-born faith. The Lord afflicts His servants to glorify Himself, for He is greatly glorified in the graces of His people, which are His own handiwork. When ‘tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope,’ the Lord is honoured by these growing virtues.

“We should never know the music of the harp if the strings were left untouched; nor enjoy the juice of the grape if it were not trodden in the winepress; nor discover the sweet perfume of cinnamon if it were not pressed and beaten; nor feel the warmth of fire if the coals were not utterly consumed. The wisdom and power of the great Workman are discovered by the trials through which His vessels of mercy are permitted to pass.

“Present afflictions tend also to heighten future joy. There must be shades in the picture to bring out the beauty of the lights. Could we be so supremely blessed in heaven, if we had not known the curse of sin and the sorrow of earth? Will not peace be sweeter after conflict, and rest more welcome after toil? Will not the recollection of past sufferings enhance the bliss of the glorified? There are many other comfortable answers to the question with which we opened our brief meditation, let us muse upon it all day long.”

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.

— Psalms 116:7 (NIV84)

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls

— Matthew 11:28-29 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ,  and through His power I ask You to remove the pain, shame and guilt from my Life, whether I deserve any or not. In Your Grace and Mercy blot out the stain of my transgressions and empower me by Your Spirit to walk in the ‘now’ in freedom and Love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Easy or Hard”

Date: 9-28-14

Text: James 3:17-18 —  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.  Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: The harvest is a little ways away….

My Thoughts: 

When ordering eggs we are asked if we want them over easy or hard  boiled or something in between; sometimes this is how we “order” wisdom…. But many people have to learn the hard way.

Lifestyle worshipers, have you been enrolled into the University of Hard Knocks? At the risk of sounding clichéd, is it making you bitter or better? For me, I would rather learn from someone else’s mistakes and avoid the proverbial potholes of life; however, I have found, in the Lord’s mercy, that learning the hard way drives the lesson home, penetrating my hardened jaded heart—softening it for the Master’s use. Have you found this to be the case, too? My grades, though improving, are pretty average at UHK. How about yours? I just have to remember the harvest is a little ways away….

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

— Hebrews 12:11 (NIV84)

Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”

— Luke 9:23 (NIV84)

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from what He suffered.

— Hebrews 5:8 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me for shunning the cross where Wisdom is fully comprehended. You embraced the cross for me and I should do no less as I follow in Your steps. Lead me in the paths of Righteousness for Your Name’s sake. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike