“Shift the Focus”

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Have you noticed that people who are filled with the Holy Spirit shift the focus from themselves to Jesus? I have. I have noticed that those who are filled with the Spirit are keenly aware that it is not about them but about Jesus.

I see this in our main text: Acts 2:22 (see below). The crowd is fascinated, bewildered, utterly amazed (vv. 6, 7) by the filling of the Holy Spirit in those who had been patiently waiting (v. 4). Some of the crowd sincerely asked how can this be that they are all hearing the praises of God in their native languages (v. 12), and yet some mocked saying those filled  were drunk (v. 13)!

Peter is prompted by the Spirit to get up and briefly explain what is happening (vv. 14-21). By quoting the prophet Joel, he apparently satisfies their question…, but he quickly shifts the focus from the apostles and the other vessels being filled by the Spirit to the Lord Jesus.

Lifestyle worshiper, do you find it sad that many who address this chapter focus on the Holy Spirit, when the Holy Spirit, Himself, is shifting the focus off of Himself and those being filled by Him to the One He came to bring glory to (John 16:13-14)? I do. I wonder if He is sad, too.

In all openness, I actually just saw this truth this morning as I was meditating on this passage. I had been caught up in answering all the various interpretations and positions that have been stirred up over this chapter when the Spirit opened my eyes to see that Peter really doesn’t linger on answering the crowd’s question. Rather, v. 15 records that he dismisses the drunk accusation, and then vv. 16-21 presents prophetic, Scriptural support for this power filling of the Spirit. If I had been the one who had stood up, I would have launched into my “Dump-Truck” effect and given the crowd far more than they wanted—or needed, and totally kept the focus on us and the Spirit.

But instead, Peter followed the promptings of the Spirit and promptly shifted the focus to Jesus. I truly need this reminder this morning. How about you?

Main Text: — Acts 2:22 — 22 Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him — Acts 8:35 (NKJV)

 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you..  —John 16:13-14 (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 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, forgive me for being slow in shifting the focus to Jesus. I ask that You make my life a humble example of the filling of Your Holy Spirit as I constantly shift the focus to Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

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“Getting Ready for the Journey”

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The plumber makes sure he has all the parts and tools for the job; the chef makes sure she has all the ingredients and cookware for the meal; the surgeon makes sure all the right appliances are available for the procedure. And the preparation is well worth it.

Before we start any project or procedure, it is best to assess the situation, making sure we have the necessary materials for it. Our LORD  did this in the very beginning (see the main text below). He assessed the situation and made sure He had all the ‘right stuff’ before beginning. (Whereas many may need a tool box or truck load of tools and parts, all He needed was His Word….)

As we continue this series in Acts on Pursuing the Lord Jesus Christ, I find it most fascinating that during the waiting period, the leadership felt the need to assess the situation, taking an inventory of the needed personnel to get organized. They were not sitting around “just” praying, were they?

Lifestyle worshiper, whether it is the LORD or the early church leadership, don’t you think this is a good example to follow in our pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ? Assess our spiritual condition and look about to see if we have all the essential ‘tools’ for this project. What do you think are some tools we need for this? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Genesis 1:1-2 — 1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters  [KJV]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers. … “For,” said Peter, “it is written in the book of Psalms, “ ‘May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it,’ and, “ ‘May another take his place of leadership.’ Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, — Acts 1:14, 20-21 (NIV84)

 Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.  —Revelation 2:4-5 (NIV84)

For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? — Luke 14:28 (ESV)

 Heavenly Father, empower me by Your Holy Spirit to see the condition of my situation. Lord Jesus Christ, be my wisdom as I assess the “tools” needed for my journey with You. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“You May Not Have One—Yet…”

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As I look at our Church Family, I see many who do not have a father.  Some were literally orphaned, being raised by the state, foster care or an inconvenienced grandparent. As on Mother’s Day, so too, on Father’s Day, this often adds to the heartache and emptiness many may feel. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Many of these I am thinking of have a blessing: They have a ‘father figure’…, a caring man who has stepped into the role of father….

Some of these men sacrifice much time and energy weaving this ‘orphaned’ child into their already full-family and full-schedule lives, but they are doing a marvelous job at a quiet miracle. Many of these ‘adopted fathers’ did not apply for the position, nor did they volunteer. Instead, they were chosen by the disconnected ones who yearned to have this father influence in their lives…. I am also witnessing some wonderful grandfathers who have stepped in to fill the void left by a heart-breaking wayward child…. “Wonderful” just doesn’t capture it, does it?

Not long after becoming a Christian I discovered a promise Jesus made to His disciples found in  Luke 18:29-30 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”  (This promise is echoed in Mark 10:29-30.) As I began to observe my relationships, I discovered that, in fact, several men had stepped into that role as father while I was away from my father. I found this fascinating. As with all relationships, these were messy and often awkward, but over time, we have build enduring bonds that have filled that void….

Lifestyle worshiper, you may not have one—yet. But I am suspicious that when you take inventory of your relationships, you may just be surprised that this promise has been fulfilled in your life as well.

Perhaps you might want to pass along a Father’s Day, “Thank you.” to one of these men, too? What do you think?

Main Text: — Mark 10:29-30 — “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.  [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 YHWH [Blessed Be His Name]— and rejoice before Him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.  — Psalm 68:4-5 (NIV84)

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  —John 14:18 (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)

 Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the men around me whose relationships have become more like a father to me. Let my life pour into others as they have poured into me the Love of the Lord Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The Second is Like It”

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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

“A Father’s Fear Begins to Evaporate”

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Date: 06-17-15

My Thoughts:

Many parents have the fear that they will irreparably emotionally damage their children. More often than not this fear feels more at home with the father, though not too far from some mothers, eh? But since Father’s Day is neigh upon us, I thought we’d encourage the dads among us. Yes, encourage….

I have counseled, known and heard of many a ‘dead-beat’ dad, but underneath this ‘dead-beat’ dad syndrome (to capture a phrase) is a deeply seated fear that paralyzes the dad. He is so fearful that he’s so screwed up there’s no hope of repair. Well, he has ‘screwed up’; clearly a self-fulling prophecy of sorts, but not beyond repair….

Yesterday, I was leading games for our VBS, and we were talking about how much Jesus cares for us from Matthew 6:33. While I was speaking to the small tikes of the K-1st grade group, as if on cue, a sparrow started singing in a nearby tree. I told the little ones to get really quiet and “tell me what you hear?” “I hear a bird,” chirped one of the older ones. Yes, and the Lord takes care of the sparrows. They don’t work or make food… But our Heavenly Father takes care of them. “Oh, come here,” and we found a blooming dandelion. (Bare with me, now.) The Lord even takes care of dandelions—which are weeds. “Are you more valuable than a weed.” One little girl sighed deeply, “No…,” as her voice trailed off. “Oh, honey, you are more valuable than a sparrow and much, much more valuable than a weed. And the Lord will take care of you even more and provide everything you need….”

Lifestyle worshiper, as I was talking, I was actually listening to myself. Strange, I know, but I was realizing that even when I do mess up, the Lord will take care of my “weeds,” and still make them something beautiful and useful…. (Not sure how useful a dandelion is, but in the eyes of a child they are very beautiful.)

So, dads, let the Love the Lord Jesus Christ has for you dispel any fears you may have of screwing up as a dad. Confess those times you have and forgive yourself as He has forgiven you, and then yield to His presence to be the best dad He has designed you to be. I know my fears are beginning to evaporate. I pray yours are, too.

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

 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. —Ecclesiastics 3:11 (NIV84)

 And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because He first loved us. — 1 John 4:16-19 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, as I realize more and more how much You really do Love me, extinguish this fear of failing as a father. Replace it with the same Love You have more me as demonstrated by Your Son, my Lord, Jesus Christ. In His Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Be A Witness”

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Date: 06-14-15

My Thoughts:

I remember when classes were offered in churches on “how” to witness. We were taught to write down our testimony and how we came to Jesus; then condense it into a 2-3 minute presentation. In other classes we were taught how to you a little ‘gold’ book, or another book of colors with no words….

But, Lifestyle worshiper, I do not see the verb, “do” in our Lord’s command, do you? I see the verb, “be”: “you will be my witnesses…” (v. 8 below; emphasis added). I see this as a whole different training method.

In this training method, I see character the focus and the inner life of the believer the core. The Fruit of the Spirit is the ‘witness,’ and when ripened, attracts others to the Tree of Life.

I was at a semi-pro baseball game with a dear friend in Denver a number of years ago. As we were ‘warming up’ in the stands before the game, along came a vender selling his wares: “Peanuts! Get Your Peanuts!” His delivery was rather entertaining from behind the back to an overhead hook…. My friend commented, “Now that guy enjoys life.” I wasn’t quite clear where that comment came from, but apparently my sober mood prior to the game was part of the ignition. Obviously, I have not forgotten that “passing” comment and have often wondered what kind of fruit my branches were bearing: the Fruit of the Spirit; or some other kind…? In order for me to be a witness for Jesus, I have to yield to some self-inspector of Fruit. How about you? How it your fruit hanging?

Main Text: — Acts 1:8 — 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.  — Matthew 5:14-16 (NIV84)

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. —Matthew 7:20 (NIV84)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. — Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, as the Fruit of the Spirit ripens in my Life, may my life attract others to You, the Tree of Life. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Your Burning Question”

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Date: 06-13-15

My Thoughts:

We all have that one (or maybe several) question we want an answer to, especially questions we want to ask God to His face. And some aren’t as pretty or nice as “Why was I an only child,” or “Why didn’t I get that job,” or the one the apostles asked right before Jesus ascended: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (v. 6 noted below).

Lifestyle worshiper, did you notice our Lord’s answer to this question? It appears to be another “wait answer,” doesn’t it? Not only does He command them to wait for the Holy Spirit’s power (in v. 4), He is now ‘making’ them wait for the answer to this burning question. (The way the Greek presents this question suggests that many apostles were asking this question, and they kept asking this question until He finally ‘answers’ them.) Again, to you, this may not be as burning a question as yours, but to them this was a burning question:  When will their enslavement & tyrannical occupation by the Romans end, and they become free….

To repeat, we all have very earnest, personal and profound questions that sometimes demand an answer, and after screaming them, all we hear is the echo of our own voice. But once the echo fades, and we listen a little more intently, we hear the gentle voice of the Lord say to us, “It’s not for you to know right…. Trust Me that I will work all this out for the Good.”

Brothers and sisters, this “Wait Answer” rarely satisfies, but I know that my faith is being strengthened on a much deeper level then it had been when the event that spawned the question transpired—When my ‘whiny’ “Why” was burped…. Perhaps would you join me in praying for one another to receive the Goodness of the Lord so that we can at least begin to accept the ‘Wait Answer’ to our burning question? I will pray for you….

Main Text: — Acts 1:6-7 — 6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  I still have a lot to say to you, but you cannot bear it now. — John 16:12 (ISV)

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. —1 Corinthians 3:1-2 (NIV84)

  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. — 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, I confess that there are many, many things I do not understand, and I am often paralyzed trying to figure them out or crippled in my screaming and demanding an answer. Forgive me for doubting Your Goodness. Create in me a clean heart so that I may walk in the Light as You are in the Light. Be my Peace as I receive Your “Wait Answers.” In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike