“Passion and Progress”

Date: 06-04-15

My Thoughts:

How do you measure your passion and progress in your walk with Jesus? What metrics are convenient for you to use? How much time you read the Bible or spend in a quiet time? How frequently you attend Bible studies and celebration services?

Or do you use the Fruit of the Spirit growing in you? You know: “Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). Or how about thinking about the now proverbial (and near trivialized) WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) prior to ever decision you make?

I have seen quiet passion and subtle progress in myself and others, and I have seen massive grow and explosive passion, as well. I think there is room in the Kingdom for both. Do you?  Oh, and how do you measure being ‘more patient’ with someone?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Romans 12:11-13 — 11 Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, 12 cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. 13 Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality. [The Message]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. — 1 John 3:16-18 (NIV84)

Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. —Ephesians 5:1-2 (NIV84)

  Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. — Philippians 2:14-16a (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, ignite in me a passion for Your Son that will make Your Light in me first blind and then reveal the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep my mind and thoughts stayed on Him. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Lover vs. Fearer: What’s the Difference?”

Date: 06-02-15

My Thoughts:

The Gospel writer, Luke, addresses this second treatise to the same person, Theophilus (see Luke 1:3). Indeed, this could be a real Roman official whose name means, “Friend of God” or “God’s Friend” or “God lover.” But I am suspicious that this is really a euphemism for anyone who desires to move from a “God-fearer” to a “God-lover”. I have notice that throughout much of the Book of Acts the phrase, “God-fearer,” is employed of those who are drawing closer to the true and living God. So is it possible that Luke is encouraging these “God-fearers” on the journey to the Messiah to become God-lovers? What do you think, lifestyle worshiper?  What do you see are the differences between one who is a “God-fearer” and one who is a “God-lover”?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 1:1-2 — 1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

We love because He first loved us. — 1 John 4:19 (NIV84)

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. —Ephesians 3:17-19 (NASB95)

  May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. — 2 Corinthians 13:14 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, may I realized how much You Love me; ignite my love for You melting my fear of You and transforming it into Love for You.  Empower me, Lord Jesus Christ, to be patient and kind to myself as well as to others. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“The Right Place”

Date: 03-31-15

The Big Idea: Now this may seem paradoxical—counterintuitive even, but I go back to the very person I betrayed: I flee to Jesus.

My Thoughts: Lifestyle worshiper, is it possible that you’ve done something horribly wrong? I’m not talking white lies or burps of profanity, but something much like Peter, who denied his Lord, not once, not twice but three time? Often what happens is we begin to isolate ourselves from others, especially if they call themselves “Christian”. Our shame and embarrassment is just too much to bear, eh? (Been there; done that; got the scars and T-shirt to prove it.)

But when I finally come to my senses (and this may take anywhere from a few moments to, ah, several years), I go to the right place. Now this may seem paradoxical—counterintuitive even, but I go back to the very person I betrayed: I flee to Jesus. Now why I do this, I’m not quite sure, especially when I see others who do not. But somehow Peter’s journey with Jesus has given me hope that I, too, can be forgiven.

Have you found this to be so, too? Have you discover that our Lord Jesus is “a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Neh. 9:17b)?

Maybe you haven’t done something as terrible as I or Peter, but even if you haven’t, maybe you can receive comfort and hope from the words recorded in Mark 16:6-7 the angel spoke to the women at the tomb of Jesus:

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as he told you.’ ”

Did you read that? “… and Peter”?  This is where I get my hope. If the Lord Jesus can forgive the most horrible, terrible wrong done by Peter, He can forgive me, too. I can hear my name in Peter’s place: “and….” Can you?

This is our God! This is the Hope of the Resurrection He offers. This is the reason we praise Him: Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Hosanna in the Highest!

Main Text: — Mark 16:6-7— “Don’t be alarmed,” [the angel] said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as he told you.’ ” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep — 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 (NIV84)

  I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.   —Revelation 1:18 (NIV84)

 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”.  — John 11:25-26 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I ask You to forgive me for _____. I thank You, Lord Jesus Christ, for bearing the consequences of my actions. Remove the pain and shame I have cause Your name. Be that part of my life that has been disobedient to You. I release myself into Your hands. Empower me with Your Resurrected Life through the Holy Spirit to live a life that is pleasing to You. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“The First Step Toward Freedom”

Date: 03-18-15

The Big Idea: Address our pray to the Holy One—and Only One, Who can actually give us freedom in forgiveness.

My Thoughts: As with any recovery program, the first step to freedom is to admit there is a problem/issue/concern. This confession/admission must get personal. Yeah, your family has had a problem for years, but it is only when you own your role in & contribution to this problem/issue/concern, that you begin your journey toward freedom.

Unlike many sterilized recovery programs, this first step of admission is actually addressed to the more-than-personal higher power: It is addressed to the Holy One—and Only One, Who can actually give us freedom in forgiveness. He not only offers forgiveness, He alone can actually actuate such. As seen in our main text below, the Israelites began their journey to freedom by praising the Holy One. They full-well realized that only He can forgive their sins and bring them the true freedom they seek.

So, Lifestyle worshiper, as we journey on the pathway to Freedom and wholeness, let us take our first steps of confession and ownership of our problem/issue/concern by praising the Holy One Who is the Only One that can free us.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 9:5-6— 5 Blessed be Your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise. 6 You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.”  —Matthew 11:25 (NIV84)

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. — 1 John 1:8-9 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, I  acknowledge that the enemy has come to steal, kill, and destroy, but I confess that You have come to bring Life abundantly. I cry to You, Who is greater in me than he that is in the world, to free me from the bondage of those things that hinder my walk with You and the sins that have so easily entangled me. Empower me to run this race marked out for me on the path of Freedom. In Your 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

“What Would Your Last Breath Be?”

NOTE: As I wrote this devotion, I could not help think of the tragic death of Eric Garner. This was not my first thought, however.  I was writing on praising the LORD and my first think was of Psalm 30:5 quoted below. As I wrote, Eric’s tragic death came to mind. Sorrow over this terrible situation engulf my heart as I thought about his family, especially his daughter. I in no way mean any disrespect to Eric or his family by this devotion. Although I have faced moments where I could not breath, these in no way compare to his loss. I cannot imagine the sorrow and grief his family is experiencing. Please join me in praying for his family, and please read this devotion in the light it is intended: to praise the LORD. Peace.

Devotion Title: “What Would Your Last Breath Be?”

Date: 12-09-14

Text: — Psalm 30:5 — For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.  [NKJV]

The Big Idea: What would my last words be, especially if I couldn’t breath.

My Thoughts: 

Growing up in a brand new suburb, the neighborhood kids would go down to the creek to play. One day we discovered some huge drainage pipes. I got up on top of them as we trying to separated two of them, let them roll back and, “Clang” together. Right before one “clang” I fell in between them and was being crushed. The guys said I was turning pretty blue; obviously I couldn’t breathe. Tom, an older boy we hung with, strained to push the pipes apart, as he called the others to help. Not sure what happened, except that he saved my life—obviously….

I have often thought about that incident and wonder know as a Christian, what would my last words be, especially if I couldn’t breath. Now this may seem oxymoronic because we need to breathe to speak, but do we need to breathe to praise? I suppose not.

Lifestyle worshipers, do you remember our Lord Jesus’ last breaths on the cross, as His chest crushed under the load of our sins? I believe His last words were praise to His Heavenly Father: The two last words I am most grateful for are: “Father, forgive them they know not what they do,” and “It is finished.”

What would your last words be? Have you thought about it before? Perhaps with a gush of Grace they will be praise. Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

— Acts 7:59-60 (NIV84)

  Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.

— Psalm 150:6 (NASB95)

 Lord Jesus Christ, may words of my mouth and the mediations of my heart be pleasing to You. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Forgiveness Brings Hope”

Date: 12-04-14

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

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

My Thoughts: 

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

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

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

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

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

— Matthew 26:27-28 (ISV)

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

— Colossians 3:13 (NIV84)

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

— Ephesians 4:32 (NIV84)

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

Pastor Mike

“A Dark Season”

Date: 11-25-14

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: When the dark seasons of the soul wash upon us, let us remember that Christmas will arrive.

My Thoughts: 

Yes, there are those who like the winter season, and the promise of snow and skiing, snowboarding, snowmen, (and women) and the like, but what if winter were more of a darkness. What if it were always winter and never Christmas? This was what Lucy discovered when she pushed through the coats of the Wardrobe and found herself in Mr. Tumnus’ presence: A land in the cold, wintry, unkind grip of the white witch, where Mr. Tumnus observed, “It is winter in Narnia and has been for ever so long.”

Lifestyle worshipers, whether or not you like the winter & the snow, sometimes the dark seasons of the soul wash upon us and we feel like it is always winter and will always be winter and never ever Christmas.

As we shiver in the apparent never ending cold, let us remember that no matter how long & dark the wintry season, Christmas will arrive. He came the first time in fulfillment of a promise. He came in the quiet darkness of Roman occupation. And He will come again. He promised. In the meantime, let the Hope of His Promised Coming warm your soul. Then you can bear the cold a bit longer.

Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Then he 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)

  Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.

— Luke 21:28 (NKJV)

 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.

—1 John 3:2-3 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, Be the Light and Warmth in my darkness. Drive away the clouds. Let Your Promised Rainbow appear. I long from the depths of my inner most being to see You. Be the Lamp unto my feet and the Light unto my Path. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“A Living Eulogy”

Date: 11-22-14

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: I want them to hear my “eulogy,”

My Thoughts: 

Unlike a “Living Will,” a “Living Eulogy” is well before end-of-life issues. As a pastor, I have officiated many memorial services and funerals. After each one, I was determined to tell people how much I appreciate them well before their memorial service. I want them to hear my “eulogy,” if you will.

Lifestyle worshipers, do you agree with this? Don’t you find it ironic that all these wonderful things people are saying at a memorial service were rarely, if ever, said to the one being eulogized?  As believers, I think “living eulogies” should be more common than “living wills;” don’t you? Your thoughts?

(As a sidebar, the word for “praise” in v. 9 above is the Greek word from which we get our English word, “eulogy”—literally.)

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 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)

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.

—Luke 6:27-28 (NIV84)

We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world.

—1 Corinthians 4:12-13 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, forgive me for not blessing my brothers and sisters more. Grant me the wherewithal and the courage to be more forth coming with my ‘living eulogies’. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The Very Essence of His Nature”

Date: 11-15-14

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

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

My Thoughts: 

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

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

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

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

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

— Matthew 6:32-34 (NIV84)

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

—2 Peter 3:9 (ISV)

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

—Romans 11:25 (NIV84)

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

Pastor Mike