“Humble is Too Nice a Word”

It seems that “humble” is just too nice a word for what happened to Jesus. As I read the Gospels and review His passion—the whipping, beatings, and crucifixion, this was not “humbling,” but it is “humiliation.” Yes, the better word seems, at least to me, to be: “humiliation.”

This word keeps coming up in my life, especially in the last year and a half or so. Be it public or private, the “humbling” is often beyond unpleasant and nearly unbearable. I’m becoming more confident that the Lord is giving me a glimpse of what He went through in His coming down from heaven to earth: It is indeed a most profound humiliation. As our main text notes below, He was equal with Deity—He is God! And yet He didn’t grasp or cling to this privilege. Rather He chose to make Himself nothing. (One translation says, “made Himself of no reputation.” He did  not brag about His being God; didn’t flaunt it in our faces.)

Continuing in this humiliation from heaven to earth, He took on the form of servant in human form. He did not come to be served, but to serve…. And the humiliation continued: He allowed Himself to be humiliated in death, and not just any death but the humiliating, shameful death of a crucifixion…. (In the Jewish mind, “Cursed is he who hangs on a tree” Dt. 21:22-23 & Gal. 3:13).

This is humiliation and not a mere humbling; publicly shamed and scorned; naked and beaten. The great God of the universe nailed to a tree by puny humans…. True humiliation, wouldn’t you agree?

And, oh, have I failed to note that He also carried the sins of all the world for all time? He—the Holy, sinless One—was so humiliated to carry our disgusting garbage of evil?

What ever small humiliations I have been going through these last 20 years or so cannot compare to His humiliation, for sure. But it does give me a taste of what He went through for me. A taste, mind you….

Do you, too, feel your humiliations are but a taste of what Jesus went through for you? Do they give you a greater appreciation for His coming down from heaven to earth? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV84)— 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.   Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?2 Corinthians 11:23-29 (NIV84)

    I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.Philippians 3:10-11 (NIV)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.—Romans 12:3-4 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I accept this grace of humiliation. I accept it knowing that You are conforming me to be more like Your Son, Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Are you missing Divine Appointments?”

 

My Thoughts:

Recently, I have been having a lot of dental work. And to remind me of the appointments I get a text message the day before and an hour before. Oh, and I get an email a day before and an hour before. This, of course, is in addition to my own personal reminders. (And many of you know how these work….) The point? It would be really hard to miss this given appointment. I would have little excuse, to be sure….

Do you feel that the Lord gives us ‘messages’ and reminders before a Divine Appointment He has set up? I’m sure if you really stop and think (and listen), there have always been those little nudges or promptings, “Hey, remember: I have a divine appointment for you.”

Just recently I had an overwhelming sense to go visit someone at a particular time. I truly felt it was from the Lord. I made every effort not to be late. As I arrived, it was not what I expected. Over the years, I have learned not to assume or presuppose what He has planned, but literally in sheer obedience, I went and arrived at the appointed time. There were no buzzes or fireworks, but I am trusting that He set something in motion that I perhaps may learn abouObObed—or maybe not until  way later, eh?

What did I have to do to avoid missing this divine appointment? Well, one thing was I had to rearrange my routine—very comfortable and familiar routine. Another thing was to be mindful not to get caught up in some task, “Oh, this will only take a few minutes” kind of task. I needed to eliminate distractions. A third thing I did was prioritize the aspects of my routine so that I could make this divine appointment on time. In short, I made the divine appointment a priority above all the comfortable and convenient routine “things” I normally do.

What are some ‘things’ you do to make sure you don’t miss a divine appointment. especially the ones you are not informed of ahead of time?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 8:26-29 (NIV84)— 26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.— Matthew 6:33 (NIV84)

From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.— Matthew 16:21 (NIV84)

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. — Hebrews 12:1 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, empower me by the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, as You strengthen each step in following Your promptings and leadings.  In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

Pastor Mike

“In or For the Lord?”

Brother & Sisters:

As the Life of the Lord Jesus flows in and through us, He empowers us in our ‘labors’. And these ‘labors’ are in the Lord and not for the Lord. 

Do you see a difference? 

I do. My labor for Him can be—and inevitably  is—in my own strength, building my own kingdom. But when I yield to His power which so wonderfully works in me, then I produce abundant fruit—fruit that will endure. Be encouraged: as you fully give yourselves to the work of the Lord, know this: your labor in Him is not in vain! (see 1 Corinthians 15:58)

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. (Colossians 3:23-24 NIV 84)

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”(John 15:5 NIV).

“Be A Change Agent for Jesus”

Date: 07-18-15

My Thoughts:

I know a common prayer of mine has been: “Lord, use me.” Well, what if He doesn’t? What if He chooses to pour me out as King David did the water secured from his hometown well (see 2 Chronicles 11:17-19), will my life and my service be any less valuable to Him? Or More? I know I have been stuck in this utilitarian / performance base value system for some time, but in truth, the Lord does use us—and He uses us as a change agent for others.

I have found that at least two prerequisites for this are faithfulness and availability. When we are faithful and available, we can enjoy the blessings of being co-laborers with Him as Peter and John were in this morning’s main text (see below).

Peter and John were not walking around wondering how the Lord was going to use them. No, instead they were faithful in prayer, going to the temple for the daily prayers. They were available to the Spirit’s promptings. In short, their hearts were open and their eyes were open. This led to their hands being open to be used of the Lord in His ways and in His timing. (In this situation, an open hand to grasp a lame beggar’s, eh?)

Years ago, Brother Andrew and I were talking privately at a conference he spoke at, and he said, “Michael, too often we come to the Lord with our hands full of our projects and our ideas and say, ‘Lord, bless these.’ Instead, we should lift up empty hands and say, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do? Fill these empty hands with Your projects and Your ideas….”

Have you discovered that only empty hands can be filled with heavenly projects? I have, and I have also learned that an open heart that is in passionate pursuit of Jesus joined with open eyes for His Person leads to open hands for His business. Have you?  How does being faithful in prayer lead to these and to becoming a change agent of Jesus? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 3:6-7 — 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And [Jesus] said to them, Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?  — Luke 2:49 (NKJV)

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

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol  or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD  and vindication from God his Savior.  Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. — Psalm 24:3-6 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, give us clean hands and purify our hearts. Let us not give our souls to another. (adapted from Charlie Hall’s “Give Us Clean Hands”) May I always honor the Holy Name of Jesus, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Even the Lone Ranger Had a Friend”

Date: 07-11-15

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  — 1 Corinthians 12:21 (NIV84)

If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  — 1 Corinthians 12:15-16 (NIV84)

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

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

Pastor Mike

“The Second is Like It”

Date: 06-19-15

My Thoughts:

Perhaps you would agree with me, that if we were asked which is the greatest commandment for a father, it would be that famous saying,  “the best thing a father can do for his children is Love their mother.” But there appears to be a “second like it”. (Just like our Lord Jesus has “two great commandments.”) This second commandment for fathers is to manage themselves: This is what Bill Hybels calls, “Self-leadership.” He alludes to Daniel Goleman’s observations: “He [Goleman] calls it ‘emotional self-control. … this form of self-control is exhibited by leaders when they persevere in leadership despite overwhelming opposition or discouragement; when they refuse to give up during times of crisis; when they manage to hold ego at bay; and when they stay focused on their mission rather than being distracted by other people’s agendas” (Courageous Leadership, p. 184).

I know I need a lot of work on this “self-leadership.” And I know I definitely need the Lord Jesus Christ: He is my grace when I do not persevere in leading my family—whether they follow or not; He is my courage in times of discouragement; He is my strength in my moments of weakness; He is my focus when my vision blurs….

Oh, I’d like to share that I came upon this quote just last week. I was preparing myself to have a personal quiet time instead of sermon preparation when I felt a strong nudge in the Spirit to read this book, Courageous Leadership. “Aaa, Lord, I really would rather read Your word…,” but the nudge became a poke and then a—well, you get the picture. And I happen to read where a book marker was so conveniently placed…. “Yes, Lord, I’m listening.”

Lifestyle worshiper, maybe you have the same personal struggle I have: leading when it appears that no one is following? I am often mystified at how Moses didn’t want to lead, but he was leading. And He was leading people who didn’t want to follow, but they followed (you remember, out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, into the wilderness). As I lead my family, I often desired to see the responses I would get as a coach. We run a drill, no questions asked. If there’s any whining or slacking, “Take a lap,” and you know what? They did. But in the home, I just can’t say, “Drop and give me 20! Nope.

So, dads, perhaps you’ve already learned what I’m in the process of learning: Lead anyway! Love anyway! Persevere and hang in there. This second ‘greatest commandment’ for dads is truly a challenge, and that challenge is remembering to rely on the Lord Jesus Christ to be the dad in my Life He designed me to be and ‘lead’ myself toward Him. Just maybe the rest of the family will follow—especially if I’m also loving the mother of my kids, eh?

Main Text: — Matthew 22:36-40 — 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  — Colossians 3:13 (NIV84)

 In a similar way, you husbands must live with your wives in an understanding manner, as with a most delicate partner. Honor them as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing may interfere with your prayers. —1 Peter 3:7 (ISV)

  In the same way, husbands must love their wives as they love their own bodies. A man who loves his wife loves himself. For no one has ever hated his own body, but he nourishes and tenderly cares for it, as the Messiah does the church. — Ephesians 5:28-29 (ISV)

 Heavenly Father, empower me to lead with integrity and courage. Strengthen my feeble arms and weak knees. Embolden me to lead my family in Love. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Beyond the One Day”

Date: 05-10-15

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mike

“Compassion for Single Moms”

Date: 05-07-15

The Big Idea:

My Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mike

“Betwixt the Two?”

Date: 04-12-15

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

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

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

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mike

“Call It As It Is”

Date: 02-20–15

The Big Idea: Calling it as it is in Love builds trust and aids in repairing those broken walls fractured relationships.

My Thoughts: There is a saying I have lived by most of my life: “Tell me the truth: Hurt me once; lie to me: Hurt me twice.” I’m going to find out the truth, so just let me hear it from you straight up in Love. But have you discovered that if you are lie to, not only will the truth hurt when you discover it, but the breach of confidence will only double the hurt? I have….

Lifestyle worshiper, because a servant leader is more concerned for those s/he leads, they call it as it is. With as much candor and little bias as possible, a servant-leader learns to speak in Love, but in doing so s/he does not soft soap or PC it to meaninglessness. I have found on my own journey with Jesus that I have often been too brutally blunt when ‘telling the truth,’ so I have had to learn to be more diplomatic. (Others I have known need to be less PC.) I had my first shot at practicing this lesson of diplomacy when I had to fire one of my maintenance assistants. At first I said, “I’m freeing you up so you don’t have to come in to work any more.” Oh, that missed the target, for he was stoned out of his mind and said, “Cool, man, you mean I can do whatever I want and still get paid?” Ah, no…. Finally, after a few tries of diplomatic phrasing, I simply said, “You’re fired!” “Aw, man, that’s a bummer.” Off he went….

Lifestyle worshiper, when we have our hearts filled with a genuine concern and a deep affection for those we lead, we will see the wisdom in calling it as it is. Speaking the truth in Love builds trust and aids in repairing those walls of broken & fatigued relationships.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 5:9 —  So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

— Ephesians 4:25 (NIV84)

Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.

— Proverbs 8:6-7 (NIV84)

 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ

— Ephesians 4:15 (NIV84)

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

Pastor Mike