Walking Right Through Rejection

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Jesus Rejected

It appears that our Lord Jesus handle rejection calmly and clearly. At least, this is what I see in our main text. But before this rejection, He graciously read the key text found in the scroll of Isaiah (61:1-2) regarding His life. He confidently presented its fulfillment. Then in response to the whispers of  “Isn’t this Joseph’s son,” He clearly says, (to paraphrase), “Just because I grew up here, doesn’t make this a special place nor you a special people.” Not sure why He felt the need to say this, but from observing the texts He used to present this thought, it is clear what He is saying….

…and it is clear from His neighbors’ response that this is exactly what they were thinking. Ouch! So instead of humbling themselves and pleading for mercy and grace, they decide to take matters into their own hands, and, well, execute the “Self-proclaimed Messiah,” you know, the One Who just did all those wonderful miraculous signs—go figure.

As they “drove” Him a couple of miles—according to some scholars, they obviously jostled and shoved Him along the way; and He let them—right up until the precipice. Then, and only then, did He calmly reject their rejection and “walked right through the crowd and went on His way” (v. 30). Why did He wait so long? Good question.

As you and I ponder this question, let me offer one possible answer: Is it to demonstrate that He was tempted in all ways like we are? Even if the precipice were merely 200 yards away, to be jostled and shoved for that distance would be rather painful and trying, wouldn’t you agree? And would you, like me, be tempted to hurl insults and shove back all along the way: “Hey, I was just telling you the truth and you’re doing this to me!? What gives!?”

It appears that our Lord was modeling for us how to handle rejection, even from neighbors and friends, and even the vicious kind that goes well beyond venomous words of ridicule.

You’ve been there. I’ve been there. From elementary school through High School—and even into college. I was in the middle of the ring of older boys as they shoved me around mocking and ridiculing me. I was the kid that the others conspired to ditch. I was the one they ignored once I became a Jesus Freak in college—abandoned and rejected. And I wish I could tell you I handled all these as calmly as our Shepherd did. But I didn’t.

As I have ponder this text, I am realizing as well that He actually has  been transforming me so that I no longer “see” rejection, in general, and in particular, I do not get as riled as I used to. I wish I could testify that I calmly “walked right through the crowd and went on [my] way,” but alas I do not, but I’m much, much closer to His likeness in this. The wounds are healing and the fear is evaporating. Love—His Love, which is beyond the rejection, is seeping into the crevices of my wounded heart and mending my wounded soul.

Have you experienced the sort of vicious rejections as our Master has?  Has He been transforming you to be more like Him as well? Care to share?

Main Text— Luke 4:27–30 (NIV84)— 27 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.” 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove [Jesus] out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But He walked right through the crowd and went on His way.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.Psalm 27:10 (NIV84)

Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.—Matthew 10:17–23 (NIV84)

 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.— 2 Timothy 4:16–18 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, calm my heart as I focus on You in the face of rejection and ridicule. Be my confident assurance that I need not defend myself. In You I have nothing to lose and nothing to prove. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

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“Greater Things; Quiet Things”

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Jesus Heals the Man with Leprosy

Is bigger always better? Or is greater always louder? Even noticed? Would you agree, if I were to suggest, that greater may be quiet, even subtle? The great oak starts out as a small sapling. It quietly grows in the forest. Yet it becomes a “mighty oak tree.” So, too, is it with the greater things of Jesus.

In our main text below, we see Nathanael amazed at Jesus’ simple ability to know Him from a distance, and our Master responds with a hint of playfulness—paraphrasing, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” …

… Then follows our Lord’s first miracle. It came in the normal flow of life. It came in respectful response to a concerned mother’s wishes. And it came quietly. Oh, the servants knew of the miracle. The disciples knew of the miracle. And, yes, His mother knew, but He did not flash an LED sign nor did He trumpet what He just did. He merely and quietly moved on to another city (see John 2:12).

Our Master did this a lot. The “greater things” He promised Nathanael often came quietly and unheralded. Or at least He tried to. But why?

May I offer one explanation? The “greater things” were never intended to draw attention to themselves, and definitely not intended to draw attention to our Master as a “Miracle Worker.” Yes, He did miracles, healing all sorts of maladies, and though those He raised to life died—again, and those who were sick got some other illness, the “greater thing” He did was in the most unassuming and quiet way: To quote from “El Shaddai” by Michael Card, “Your most awesome work was done by the frailty of Your Son.” And this “greater thing” lasts. Those who are raised from the death of sin and darkness, never die again. Those whose souls are healed from the sickness of sin’s cancer never get sick again.

And this quiet work often goes unnoticed like a quiet gentle breeze….

What do you think about the quietness of the “greater things” Jesus does? Your thoughts.

Main Text— John 1:48–51 (NIV84) 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.John 3:8 (NIV84)

Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man [with leprosy], “I am willing,” He said. Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”—Matthew 8:3–4 (NIV84)

After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.— John 6:14–15 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, as You continue to reveal Your glory to me, may I cherish the quiet miracles of the soul. 

Pastor Mike

“How Bright is Your Light?”

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Here it is the day before another Christmas, and I’m asking a rather personal question: “How Bright is Your Light.” To some this would seem rather intrusive; to others out of place; but to those who see the seasonal times as a good opportunity to let our light shine, they think it is an honest and necessary question.

Light of the World

As we put lights up on our houses, lights on our trees, and even light a candle at a Christmas Eve Candlelight services, we must ponder the question: How bright is our light, especially in light of our Lord’s words: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden” (Mt. 5:14).

What does it mean to  be “the light of the world”? Surely, one answer that pops to mind is our character. We are to bear the fruit of the Spirit, perhaps is another answer, and as we continue reading in our main text, it is also our “good deeds.”

In a culture that shouts down the opposition, perhaps all we have left is the Light of good deeds, don’t you think? As “they” are shouting to stop Christmas carols and praying at school functions; as they shout to forbid even the whisper of the name of the very person whose birthday Christmas celebrates, what would be the best thing to do? We don’t want to join them in a shouting match. No, this is unwise and ill-advised (see 2 Tim. 2:24-26). But our Light can out shine them, right? As we bend down and help a homeless man get up on his feet; or tend to a widow who needs her faucet fixed; or become a “big ear” to a lost teen, then our light will shine so bright it could possible drowned out their shouting. What do you think?  I don’t like asking myself this question either, but I know I must. How about you? How bright is your light? Bright enough to quiet the shouting?

Join me on our journey with Jesus at this Christmas in letting our light shine so bright—even as a small candle light, that they will glorify our Father in heaven.

…  making this Christmas especially merry, indeed.

Main Text: — Matthew 5:14–16 (NIV84)— 14 You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.— 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NIV84)

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.— John 15:8 (NIV84)

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, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.—1 Peter 3:15–16 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, let the Light of Your Son, my Lord Jesus Christ, shine so bright that others are blinded to my foolishness and folly, and yet they clearly see You in and through my feeble good deeds. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“An Upside Down Walk with Jesus”

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If I have learned anything in my journey with Jesus and the Life He has infused in me, I have learned that it is an upside down walk with Him. In order to find, I must lose (Matt. 10:39); in order to get, I must give up (Acts 20:35); in order to live I must die (Gal. 2:20); and the way up is down (Phil 2:5-11).

Stones of Forgiveness

Truly, our walk with Jesus is upside down from the world around us.  So why should ‘a glorious victory’ be any different? It would appear it is no different. Stephen was going about doing good. Helping widows, orphans and strangers. The Lord used this humble vessel to do “great wonders and miraculous signs” (see main text below). And yet, “Opposition arose!” For doing good? Go figure….

In the denomination that I was raised, I took away the belief that martyrdom was the fast track to heaven. So I ask the Lord if I could die for Him before I was 30. Ironically, my first child was born 30 days before I turned 30! I have since learned that I ought not seek this, but if it does come, I am not to run or shrink from it. I do not find it strange that some in our world today seek martyrdom—physically or emotionally or spiritually. I understand why many do. They truly understand how sinful they are and realized that they won’t make it to heaven on their own. They see that martyrdom is the ‘easiest’ way to “make it”. But Stephen went about doing good, and martyrdom found him. It swiftly came upon him. He remained faithful to the point of death, and this is indeed a glorious victory.

I deeply honor my brothers and sisters who have, maybe even today, received this glorious victory—the crown of Life (Rev. 2:10). They have remained faithful even to this extreme point.

While many look at the many deliverances from prison and sickness and disease and bills and whatever we deem ‘bad’ as glorious victories, I see an upside down reality here. True, the Lord can and does deliver us from ills and evils, and these are indeed glorious victories, but we dare not discount, we dare not down play the glorious victory of not being released from prison, of not being healed, of not being delivered from the fire—or the blade or stone. These, too, are glorious victories, are they not?

As I walk with Jesus in this upside down way, I often find it curiously silly when I complain about something ‘bad’ like a silly red light when I’m late, or getting charged twice for item in the store. Or being rejected by my peers; Or being insulted or maligned. What are these? Perhaps these are small training opportunities for yet another quiet, but nonetheless, glorious victory? What do you think? Please feel free to share.

Main Text: — Acts 6:8–10 (NIV84)— 8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.— Ephesians 4:1–3 (NIV84)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.— 2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (NIV84)

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. — Philippians 1:18b-21 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I yield to the Lord Jesus Christ as He empowers me by His Holy Spirit to live a life that is pleasing to You, so that whether by my Lifestyle or in my death, I will bring You the Glory You alone are worthy of. In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

“Prayer that Rocks this Place”

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My Thoughts:

I have been to a few rock concerts where the place was littler shaking. The base concussioned my chest as my body vibrated to the beat. Many times the lead singer would scream, “Let’s rock this place!” And they did…

Can the Holy Spirit do the same thing? Well, apparently we discover in today’s main text (noted below) He did. And He did this without any amplification, so to speak….

But what ‘caused’ this shaking? I’m sure you’d agree that it wasn’t the prayer of the believers—directly anyway, but somehow they had a part in this. V. 31 says pretty clearly, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken….” Now, I’m not saying we conjure up some magical prayer so as to recreate this ‘shaking,’ but I am suggesting we take a closer look at their prayer….

First of all, I see that they appealed to the Sovereign Lord to notice the threats made against them (v. 29). Then they requested enabling ability to “speak [His] Word with great boldness.” Lastly, they requested that the Lord perform even more miracles in Jesus’ Name (v. 30)!!! What surprises me as I review this again and again is: They made no counter threats! They did not request the Lord to send fire from heaven to devour their enemies. They did not request Him to tear down these evil high places…. Instead, they prayed for more good to be done: More healings and miraculous signs! Apparently, this is the kind of prayer that shakes this place, eh?

Are you as surprised as I am that prayer like this was a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to “shake this place?” Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 4:13 29 “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable Your servants to speak Your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the Name of Your holy servant Jesus.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.  — Luke 21:12-15 (NKJV)

For it is a fine thing if, when moved by your conscience to please God, you suffer patiently when wronged. What good does it do if, when you sin, you patiently receive punishment for it? But if you suffer for doing good and receive it patiently, you have God’s approval. This is, in fact, what you were called to do, because: The Messiah also suffered for you and left an example for you to follow in His steps.  “He never sinned, and He never told a lie.” When He was insulted, He did not retaliate. When He suffered, He did not threaten. It was His habit to commit the matter to the One who judges fairly. — 1 Peter 2:19-23 (ISV)

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? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” — Matthew 5:43-46 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I ask you to fill me with Your Holy Spirit, so I may pray for those who mistreat me, threaten me, or even harm me. May my life reflect the very nature of Your Messiah, Jesus, in His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Is the Wait Over For You?

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Dove and Fire

The Wait is over! It is now Christmas morning. The little ones come running down the hall with glee. Eyes wide with exhilaration,  as they see the unwrapped gifts under the tree. … The Wait is over! He reaches into his pocket, pulls out a small velvet covered box and drops to one knee. The anticipation caught on your face as your eyes begin to leak with pure joy and your hands cover quivering lips. … The Wait is over! You slowly crack open the door as you pour yourself into the driver’s seat—the  new car smell washes over you. You turn the ignition…. The Wait is over!

You’ve waited so long, and now the wait is over, but truly no words can captures what you’re feeling. But this doesn’t stop you from trying.

The same is true for apostles: The Wait is over! The Promised Holy Spirit is now being poured over the 120 or so who have been patiently waiting for this day (see Acts 2:1-4)! Luke attempts to capture the wave of the Holy Spirit as he pens these words, but truly this is a momentous occasion. We cannot deny it: Something happened that day. Something that has changed the world in such a way it can never go back. These 120 insignificant extras, if you will, reached Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria, and all the way to us, the utter most parts of the world.

But the ripples of this momentous occasion dare not stop with us as in a cove or “no wake zone”. No. Our nation is in desperate need for these ripples, these waves, yea, a tsunami, to once again wash upon her shores renewing her heart and soul….

And it is the church who is her heart and soul. It is the church who first needs the tsunami wave of the Holy Spirit. It is the church who needs the  continual filling of the promised Holy Spirit, which leaves in its aftermath the destruction of the old, wicked, sinful life and rebirth of the fruit of the new Life.

This new Life of the Spirit will then be born on tree limbs that are strong and firm. The juice of Love will be sweet, savory and substantial. It will not be the gooey, sirupy sweet love this world offers. No, it will the substantial Love of the crucified and Risen Lord. It will be the substantial Love that is marked by sacrifice, devotion and commitment. A Love that is truly patient and kind not haughty selfish or rude. When our country sees this kind of church, this type of Christian, then maybe they, too, will see that the wait is over; that in our pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ our being continual filled by the Holy Spirit will indeed empower us to live the Life that is pleasing to Him, bearing fruit that will endure.

Is your wait over?

“The Healing Confession”

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Text: — James 5:16 — Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: I have found that in the moment of confession followed with “I forgive you,” or “you are forgiven,” there is deep soul healing.

My Thoughts: 

I have found healing in the confessing to others my sin. And as a pastor/counselor I have found that in the moment of confession followed with “I forgive you,” or “you are forgiven,” there is deep soul healing. Have you found this to be so, too?

There are several traditions of confession in the Church. Some offer this opportunity daily, some weekly and some monthly. In some traditions, there is an element of obligation, and though for some, this functions as a motivator, perhaps the promise of healing is better motivator.

For me, it is the promise of healing. The relief and release this healing of forgiveness brings motivates me in confession. I have a vivid memory of hearing those words, “You are forgiven, my son.” I remember the feelings of freedom, the relief and release that came after listening to the intercessor, and then as left the building, my steps were airy—buoyant—as a peace and a joy flooded my soul, a rare experience, indeed. In the tradition of confession I am in now, I endeavor to bring this more formal, conscious element to the forefront. As I mentioned above, I have found that many (dare I say, “all”?)—including myself—need to hear, “You are forgiven….”

Lifestyle worshipers, do you offer this opportunity to your brothers and sisters in Christ? This opportunity for relief and release from the bondage of their sins through forgiveness? Indeed, do you connect the “powerful and effective” prayer of v. 16 above to “confess your sins to each other” in this healing process? I do.

Many, however, are more than cautious to be so vulnerable in this type of confession—“to each other.” (Gossip, for one, is a major cancer here. Being reminded of our past sins in a disagreement or argument is another.) I know that being so vulnerable has its own set of factors and wounds and awkwardness. So I have learned from the Word two guiding principles when it comes to confession: (1) As public the sin so public the confession; and (2)  As private the sin so private the confession. In the former, those who witnessed the sin need to witness the confession; in the later, if the sin never makes it out of our heads, then there the confession is said; the Lord literally knows, anyway.

Perhaps these two guiding principles will dispel some fears and awkwardness, but alas confessing our sins  doesn’t appear to be completely free of such. Or do you think the promise of healing and freedom overcomes such?

Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

— Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV84)

But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

—Luke 19:8-10 (NIV84)

Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds.

—Acts 19: 18 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I confess I have been fearful of confessing those sins that need to be confessed to my brothers and sisters. I have sinned against You and denied myself the healing and freedom that comes from this confession. 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 and in bondage to fear. I release myself into Your hands. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike