“Have You Been Passed Over?”

Have you ever been passed over for a promotion? A team’s choice? By a love-interest? All these hurt deeply, especially when we feel there is no future. Worst: When we feel the LORD has passed over us and chosen someone else…. 

Notice I said ,“feel”? You know the right answers. You know He has not forgotten about you or passed over you, but for some of us these feelings are hard to dismiss….

But the good news—the GREAT NEWS, is the LORD has passed us over! But not in the way the world has. You know this! He has passed over our sins and failures; our missteps and our misgivings; our weak faith and lack of faith. All these—and so much more—He has passed over. He has not only passed over them, but He has removed them from us. How far? 

“as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.”—Psalm 103:12 (NIV84)

Why? “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” (1 Cor. 5:7 NIV84). 

So in our doubt, in our unbelief, in our insecurity look to the Lord Jesus: “…“Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29 NKJV, emphasis added)

He is the greatest blessing for being passed over, right?

With Joy of being Passed Over, 

Pastor Mike

 “No Plan B; Just Plan A with Scars”


I have been thinking about this for a while now. It seems that with the Lord there is no Plan B. When He tells us to do something, we’d best do it or we will encounters some scars. So it seems to me that there is no Plan B; just Plan A with scars.

Samson tried  his Plan B, but ended up having Plan A with Scars: He lost his eyes. Moses had the scarring of 40 years in the wilderness. David had the soul scarring of losing a baby because of his sin with Bathsheba.

Wouldn’t you agree that obedience is the best first choice? But have you discovered that sometimes Plan A actually includes the scars? I know I have. And the more I study the Life of my Lord Jesus, I discover that the scars were always in the plan. There was never a Plan B. Even as He wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane, Plan A was never at issue ….

Now I am discovering a bit more of what He meant when He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 NIV). The cross is a part of Plan A, and, apparently, so are the scars….

Poor Jonah had to learn this the hard way. Too often, I do, too. I’m learning that it is best to respond to the Lord the first time He directs, even if the directions involves scars. Have you found that the scars of  trying to implement a “Plan B” seem to hurt more than the intended scars of Plan A? I have….

Your thoughts.

Main Text— Jonah 1:3a, 17 (ESV)— 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. … 17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

You became imitators of us and of the Lord. In spite of a great deal of suffering, you welcomed the word with the joy that the Holy Spirit produces.—1 Thessalonians 1:6 (ISV)

 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.—2 Timothy 3:12 (NKJV)

  Let no one make any more trouble for me, because I carry the scars of Jesus on my own body.—Galatians 6:17 (ISV)

Lord Jesus Christ, as I walk by faith and not by sight, empower me through Your Holy Spirit respond to Your Plan A—straightaway. “Make my hands like Your hands / If they must be wounded / Let all the pain that I will feel / Make me merciful and kind.”* In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

* from “Saviour of the World” by Bob Bennett & Michael Aguilar

“Comparing the degrees of  agapē Love”

As I have been reading through the New Testament, I was jolted the other day by a series of “Love Statements” that our Teacher made. Throughout His ministry our Lord Jesus would state or be asked, “What is the greatest commandment.” His answer was simply, “Love the LORD your God…, and Love your neighbor as yourself.” In the Sermon on the Mount He addressed this and expanded this Love to our enemies. This is a difficult Love. And then in the Upper Room Discourse, our Master raises the bar from “self” to “as I have Loved you”—an even greater Love….

As I pondered these three different objects (or expressions) of Love, as I said, I was jolted. For some, Loving oneself is the most challenging, let alone Loving ones neighbor. And their self-loathing comes out in rather harsh tones as they interact with their “neighbors”—both near and far.

For others, Loving our neighbors is easier than Loving our enemies. To them, Loving their enemies is the ‘greater,’ more difficult Love.  Still for others the “greater Love” is laying down our lives, preferences, desires for a friend—literally as well as figuratively.

Why this did jolt me? It appears to me that our Lord is deepening our understanding of Love (before I continue let me say that I capitalize Love to = the Greek, agapē that unconditional, sacrificial Love) by raising the bar of the object of Love.

Let me see if I got this: Loving our neighbor as ourselves, even sometimes out of self-interests, is nonetheless a rather elementary form of Love. This bar is rather low. Then Jesus raises the bar by changing the object of this Love from neighbors to enemies. Though a much more challenging Love than the elementary Love of ones neighbor, it is still not the greatest Love. The greatest Love is laying down ones life for a friend—and not an enemy or a neighbor! Right?

And this is what jolted me. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8b), and then a couple of verses later, St. Paul continues: “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life” (Romans 5:10 NIV84)!

Does our Master merge these latter two Loves? Are they distinct in degree or merely in the object of Love?

Forgive the apparent headiness of this, but I am coming to realize that my Love is rather shallow. Oh, yes, I can say I Love my neighbor, even beyond convenience and ease. I can even say I Love my friends with some mild delusion that I will indeed lay down my life for them, but what of my enemies? Oh, I tolerate them, but do I Love them—as Jesus Loved them—and me!?

Perhaps you are like me and rely on His gushes of Grace to do what we cannot do? Care to share?

Main Text— John 15:12–13 (NIV84)— 12 My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.1 Corinthians 13:4–7 (NIV84)

Let all that you do be done in love.1 Corinthians 16:14 (NASB95)

 But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.— Ephesians 2:4–5 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, reduce me to Love. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Help Where We Can”

Date: 02-07-15

Text: — Nehemiah 3:1-2 — Eliashib the high priest and his fellow priests went to work and rebuilt the Sheep Gate. They dedicated it and set its doors in place, building as far as the Tower of the Hundred, which they dedicated, and as far as the Tower of Hananel. 2 The men of Jericho built the adjoining section, and Zaccur son of Imri built next to them.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: When rebuilding the walls of broken relationship, we not only start with the obvious, but we also help out where our gifts sets can best be used, and if not, then pick up a broom and start sweeping or a shovel and start clearing debris.

My Thoughts: 

For many of us we hesitate to read this section of Scripture (or any section of Scripture for that matter) when it has some rather difficult names for us to pronounce. And yet there is much to be harvested from this section of the Word. One truth from the above passage is that we are to help where we can.  When rebuilding the walls of broken relationship, we not only start with the obvious, but we also help out where our gifts sets can best be used, and if not, then pick up a broom and start sweeping or a shovel and start clearing debris….

Lifestyle worshipers, maybe you have become discouraged or frustrated in your attempts to rebuild relationships that have been broken for some time. I truly empathize with this. Beyond continuing in prayer for the situation, perhaps starting with some small act of kindness? A text? An email? A letter? Or maybe cleaning their room or front yard? Our Lord can surely prompt you with some task that can encourage you and bless ‘them’. Why not ask Him today? Then go do it….

Yes, maybe it is time to help where you can? What do you think? Care to share your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

— Colossians 4:5 (NIV84)

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,

— Ecclesiastes 6:10a (NIV84)

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)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  be in me today what ________ needs. May I hear Your voice and obey Your promptings. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to live a life that is pleasing to You.  In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“What does it mean to Submit to God?”

Date: 11-08-14

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:  Our God deeply desires for us to follow what He has commanded because He Loves us.

My Thoughts: 

We sing, “He is Lord;” we often speak of His lordship over us, but what does it mean to submit to our Lord? Our God? James makes it clear using a military term in an urgent form in v. 7 “Submit”: “Fall in line; obey His orders.” But we cringe to think that the Holy One would do this…. But again, the Holy Spirit prompted James to use just the right word and form which necessarily implies: “willfully fall it line; choose to obey His orders.”

Do you find it as interesting as I do, Lifestyle worshipers, that James uses the word “God” and not “Lord”? I do. I think it further reinforces this free chose to submit. Our God does not demand we grovel at His feet, constantly begging for mercy. (Boy, I sure need to hear this!) No, rather our God deeply desires for us to follow Him, doing what He has commanded because He Loves us, knowing that it will go well with us and for us.

But what does it mean to submit to God? To me, it first means being available to hear from Him through prayer and His Word. In order to be available, I must make time to do this. Sometimes this requires carving out a moment here or there to read His Word, and particularly in my case, beyond sermon and Bible lesson preparation, but rather merely for my own personal edification.

How about your thoughts on what it means to “Submit to God?”  Care to share?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

— John 8:31-32 (NIV84 emphasis added)

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.

—1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV84)

O God, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land Where there is no water.

—Psalm 63:1 (NKJV)

Heavenly Father, as I humbly submit to You, I ask the Lord Jesus Christ to empower me through Your Holy Spirit to make time to listen to You both at a special time and throughout the day.  Lord Jesus Christ, through Your power and by Your shed blood, I confess that I have not made a diligent effort to meet with You. I have sinned grievously against You. I ask You, Lord Jesus Christ, to bear the consequences of my actions. Remove the pain and shame I have caused Your Name. Be that part of my life that has been disobedient to You. I release myself into Your hands. In Your 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

“Small But Big”

Date: 10-16-14

Text: — James 3:5-6 —  Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: If I whine when I get a ‘sliver,’ how will I respond when it is truly a cross?

My Thoughts: 

The tongue, James tells us, is small but big. Though it is a small part of our bodies, it sure can make big boasts–boasts so big, in fact, that it can start a huge forest on fire…

Lifestyle Worshipers, do we make big boasts of our walk with Jesus? Do we spotlight the words of our faith neglecting the needs? Are you feeling the prick of the point as I am? Weaving its threads with this devotion is today’s Heartwork Devotion on “Co-Suffering with Christ.” Yep, I was one of those who boasted that I wanted to suffer for Jesus, but then He showed me the difference between slivers and crosses.  If I whine when I get a ‘sliver,’ how will I respond when it is truly a cross? “Ouch” doesn’t quite capture it, does it? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.  — Proverbs 15:2 (NIV84)

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. — Matthew 7:21 (NIV84)

They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.  — Titus 1:16 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, forgive me for promising much but delivering little; for making big boasts with little results. I ask the Great Shepherd of my soul, the Lord Jesus Christ, by His shed blood to cleanse me from all unrighteousness. Create in me a pure heart so that I may walk in the Light as He is in the Light.  Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to match my talk to my walk. 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