“It Takes Heart”

Date: 02-19–15

The Big Idea: It takes heart to be a true servant leader, and, yes, sometimes, this heart seethes with righteous anger.

My Thoughts: I have said many times in the past, “If I didn’t care, I would be so upset.” Now, to be sure, there are various degrees of upset from flustered to full-throttled anger, and I’m not sure where Nehemiah’s gauges were when he responded to the unrighteous treatment of his people (see passage below), but I am sure he truly did care for his people. As a servant-leader, Nehemiah demonstrated a passion and compassion for the lot of those he led.

Lifestyle worshiper, it takes heart to be a true servant leader, and, yes, sometimes, this heart seethes with righteous anger. Let us not, however, use this phrase, “Righteous anger” to cloak selfish, self-centered explosions that are lit by any slight or inconvenience, but just as true let us not shrink back from a deep impulse of stirring anger that flares in times when those we led are being taken advantage of. Servant-leadership is neither wimpy nor passive. Rather, it is bold and active, taking care of those in are care—especially our loved ones.

Lifestyle worshiper, join me in living a life that worships our Heavenly Father in Spirit and Truth by having our hearts filled with a genuine concern and a deep affection for those we lead, serving their best interests in Love, vigorously defending the weak, the disenfranchised, the disconnected, and the downtrodden. Through this heart of servant-leadership we can more effectively defend the repairing of the walls of broken & fatigued relationships.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 5:6-7a — 6 When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. 7 I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

— 1 Peter 1:22 (NIV84)

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

— Psalm  82:3-4 (NIV84)

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly;defend the rights of the poor and needy.” — Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV84)

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

Pastor Mike

“Servant-Leaders: Be Available”

Date: 02-17–15

The Big Idea: A true leader, a godly leader, is one who models a servant-leader lifestyle.

My Thoughts: 

A servant-leader is one who cares more for the people s/he leads than for his/her personal gain. A servant-leader is one who can successfully relate to the people s/he is leading because s/he has made him/herself available to not just hear, but listen to their concerns and needs.

Lifestyle worshiper, have you noticed in our culture today that public servants are neither? In general, they do not appear to have the public’s interest in mind, nor are they serving the public. Rather, it appears that it has turned into a self-service opportunity. But a true leader, a godly leader, is one who models a servant-leader lifestyle, much like Nehemiah demonstrates in the main text noted below. He could have “walled” himself off from the people, creating a barrier between them and him. He could have pretended to listen to them, and then do what he thought was best for the people anyway. But, instead, he walked among the people and sincerely listened to their very severe concerns, some of which he may not have genuinely been aware of, but now he is….

Lifestyle worshiper, join me in living a life that worships our Heavenly Father in Spirit and Truth by being sincerely available to hear the concerns of those around us, especially those of our immediate family. Then we can more effectively rebuilt the walls of broken & fatigued relationships.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 5:1-5 — 1 Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. 2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.” 3 Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.” 4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.— Matthew 9:35-36 (NIV84)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.— Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV84)

It’s important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God’s house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry.— Titus 1:7 (The Message)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  be the Servant Leader in my life, one who will model Your Life in a way that is pleasing to You and genuinely effective with others. May my ears be attentive to Your promptings as well as to the concerns of my loved ones. 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

“Start with the Obvious”

Date: 02-05-15

Text: — Nehemiah 3:10 — Adjoining this, Jedaiah son of Harumaph made repairs opposite his house, and Hattush son of Hashabneiah made repairs next to him.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Maybe it is time to address this and start with the obvious.

My Thoughts: 

As the people of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day began to rebuild the wall, they did something rather obvious and simple: The started with the obvious. This “obvious” was right outside their front door (see v. 10 above). When rebuilding the wall, they all worked together doing their part, and many started in the obvious place….

Lifestyle worshipers, many want to serve the Lord in distant lands, and this is very good. We need many, many more to capture this mission. But most of us do not have this burden. And what I have noticed is we will distract ourselves with all sorts of ‘distant’ busyness, and not really repair the walls of relationships just outside our front doors. For whatever fear we distract ourselves, the irony is the rejection has already happened; the hope of ever repairing the relationship eludes us. So what do we have to lose in attempting to fix those relationships that are right outside our front door?

Yes, maybe it is time to address this and start with the obvious? What do you think? Care to share your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”

— Mark 5:18-19 (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,  instill in me a courage that will overcome my fears of rebuilding the relationships that are nearest to me.  In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“A Healed Tongue Is Refreshing”

Date: 11-20-14
Text: — James 3:9-12 — With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 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: A healed tongue is a refreshing tongue.

My Thoughts:
Many love biting into some juicy, ripe fruit. Some like them crispy cold; others right off the vine, but whatever degree, the refreshment is amazing.
The same is true with a healed tongue. No matter the degree or frequency, whatever is spoken is juicy and refreshing.

So, Lifestyle worshipers, you may not like grapes or figs or even olives, but I’m sure you’d like a refreshing glass of crystal clear, truly spring originated water. Ahhh, can you taste your words now? I know those who hear your healed tongue can. Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
— Psalm 19:14 (NIV84)

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” —John 7:37-38 (NIV84)

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to Himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.
—Ephesians 5:25-27 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, demonstrate Your healing in my life through the words of my mouth. As they spring from a heart that has been made whole by the precious blood of the Lamb, let the refreshing flow. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Know it? Then do it!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Really, ‘Follow Me’?”

Date: 10-23-14

Text: — James 4:13-16 — 13 Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil. [*NIV84]

The Big Idea: Many of us have trust issues and will not follow unless we know where we are going.

My Thoughts: 

Much of the book of James is inspired by the Sermon on the Mount found in Matthew’s Gospel chapters 5-7. The passage noted above is roughly from Matthew 6:34: “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.*” Further, James borrows heavily from the Book of Proverbs, as well. He comes to the place in his book where Pro. 27:1 directly applies: “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring forth.*” …

Lifestyle Worshipers, you may be wondering what this has to do with following the Lord, and with today’s Heartwork devotion. Well, wonder no more. … When we are asked to follow someone, isn’t our first question, “Where? Where are we going?” I think so. And for some, this is an innocent question like Mary’s to the angel Gabriel (see Luke 1:34), but many of us have trust issues and will not follow unless we know where we are going—like Zachariah’s question to the Angle (see Luke 1:18). …

So let us joyfully do the Heartwork homework, and unswerving search the Gospels for just a few tasks the Lord Jesus asks us who follow Him to do.  Then, let us confront our trust issues as we follow Him to places we, as yet, cannot see. Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.

—  1 Corinthians 11:1 (NIV84)

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.

— John 12:26 (NIV84)

 And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit,

— 1 Thessalonians 1:6 (NKJV)

Lord Jesus, hold my hand ever tighter as I follow You, weaving through the crowd of doubt and uncertainty. Firm up my faith in You as I see with the eyes of faith that You will never lead me into temptation, but always in paths of righteousness for Your Name’s sake. Where You are leading me, I will faithfully follow. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Gets the Facts First”

Date: 10-21-14

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

The Big Idea: Leave the judging to the Lord.

My Thoughts: 

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

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

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

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

—  Proverbs 18:13 (NIV84)

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

— John 7:24 (NIV84)

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

— 1 Corinthians 4:5 (NIV84)

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

Pastor Mike

“Mid Terms”

Date: 10-19-14

Text: — James 3:5-6 — 9  With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: The test is designed to see not only how well we have understood the material, but if we can apply the knowledge we have obtained.

My Thoughts: 

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

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

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

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

—  Galatians 6:9-10 (NIV84)

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

— Matthew 5:43-46 (NIV84)

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

— 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV84)

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

Pastor Mike

“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