Avoiding People Pleasing

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This Sunday’s message is indirectly addressing people pleasers. Ironically, I know I have constantly been tempted to be one. I want everyone to like me. Why? Oh, my expressed “reason” (read, “excuse”) is so that I will not dishonor the name of Jesus, but I think the deeper reason is so that I will have other’s approval and not be embarrassed and shamed. Pretty self-centered, huh? But here’s what I discovered in our main text: Jesus doesn’t seem to care about this, or the crowd’s view of Him—even when they call Him some severe, shameful names: “glutton and drunkard”! He trusted His Heavenly Father to take care of His reputation and deal with any potential shame factor…. How? Our Lord was more concerned about pleasing His Father than pleasing the people. Something I really need to capture. How about you?

 Below is a devotion for today found in Christians Secrets of a Holy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith. My heart has been profoundly touched by it, and I pray it touches yours, too.

July 20

“Don’t be discouraged at any form of temptation which threatens you, but always look to Jesus, and ask Him to meet and overcome it by His own wisdom and power. I think I am learning more and more of what utter trust means. Having naturally some feeling of personal ability and good sense, it has always been a temptation for me to rely on these and to feel that I wouldn’t be likely to lose my balance whatever happened. But I have seen recently that even my natural abilities must be laid aside in this life of death to self, and that I must really and practically have all my resources in the Lord only.

“I do not know whether I am making myself clear, but in my experience this has been very real. It has cost me something to lay aside my old dependence upon my own judgment and good sense, and to let myself be a helpless in the Lord’s hands. But it is unspeakably sweet when it is done. And I believe it is to me the opening up of a life of conscious union with my Lord such as I have never know before. I seem to have sunk into unfathomed depths of littleness and nothingness, and to have found the Lord there in a more real and actual consciousness than ever before.

“Only, dear friend, ask the Lord to fulfil [sic] John 14:16, 21, 23 in you, and open up your whole being to receive His manifestations.”—To Friend, December 17, 1874.

 [Source:  Smith, H. W., & Dieter, M. E. (1997). The Christian’s secret of a holy life: the unpublished personal writings of Hannah Whitall Smith. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

Main Text— Luke 7:31–35 (NIV84)— 31 “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:  “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ 33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ’ 35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”  

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 The one who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.John 8:29 (NIV84)

  So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.—2 Corinthians 5:9 (NIV84)

  We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.— Colossians 1:28–29 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, all that You do pleases Your Father; please the Father in me. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

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“A Gift Too Precious”

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Have you ever been given a gift so precious, it was too precious? “Oh, I can’t accept this. It’s too expensive….” you barely audibly whisper overcome with a deep sense of unworthiness. “No, really I insist,” comes the giver’s overruling objection. I have and really to share Holy moments often soils them, but to give the general gist of the moment, I was in a store when the owner sense a need in my life, and offered me one of his wares—very expensive I might add. “Choose any one of these…,” he insisted. I was so overcome with a sense of emotion, I could barely move, let alone choose…. But I did.

Grace of God

Perhaps this is how you felt when you first encountered the Lord Jesus’ grace. “I forgive you all your sins and have seated you in the heavenlies.” “What? Me? Really? No?” we stammered. But it’s true. His Grace overwhelms us. We sense the  reality of our unworthiness, the injustice of this forgiveness, and the surface of the depth of this Grace of our salvation.

But as time has distanced us from this moment, have we lost the sense of the Grace too precious to receive—and yet we still receive it? And with a gift this precious, do we not put it in an equally precious place, guarding it with our very lives?  What are your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 15:10–11 (NIV84)— 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.— Ephesians 2:8–9 (NIV84)

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.— Titus 3:5–7 (NIV84)

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.— 1 Corinthians 6:11 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, what words can capture the glory of Your Grace. You have lavishly poured it out upon me. I embrace Your Son, my Lord Jesus. Continue to capture me with Your Love. In His Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“He Chose Me!”

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Please bear with me, but I have often connected the physical deformities of others to my own spiritual deformity from sin. Much of my young religious training taught me that when I sinned, my soul received a black stain. The more I sinned the darker my soul got. Well, from one perspective, my soul must have been pretty black! (and that was my favorite color for some time).

Adoption as Sons

Even as a young Christian, I connected the deformities of other to the darkness and deformity of my soul. How could God Love me! I did so much evil….

At first, His Love began to leak into my life. Then the cracks of the shell of my deformed soul widened and His Love seeped in. The flood comes once in a while, in a quiet moment when I realize that He does truly Love me—in my ugliness and deformity (which I know is being transformed into the likeness of His Son, but even this blows my mind)….

Yes, He chose me. He adopted me to be His child. Truly, this thought blows my mind and the reality bursts my soul. The answer to the unspoken, “Why,” is a quietly whispered, “Simply because I Love you.”

What more can be said? What are your thoughts?

Main Text: — Ephesians 1:3-5 (NASB95)— 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5 He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”— Romans 8:15 (ESV)

So that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.— Galatians 4:5–7 (NASB95)

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? — Romans 8:31–32 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, what a sense of Holy awe I get every time I realize that You do Love me and have chosen me to be Your son!  No words can capture the overwhelming praise and gratitude that swells up in my soul. Baruch Ha Shem Y’shua.

Pastor Mike

“Surround with Integrity”

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My Thoughts:

A friend of mine used to say that many people are an inch deep and a mile wide. They had no depth or integrity. But believers in Jesus can be a mile deep and an inch wide—if we choose to be someone of integrity….

One person defined integrity as you are the same person whether  anyone is watching or not. Another definition is the inside and the outside are the same. How would you define integrity?

Would Joseph, from Cyprus, fit your definition of integrity? Apparently he was so well respected by the early church that they nicknamed him, Barnabas, Son of Encouragement. I find it fascinating that he was identified in our main text, and, at that, in direct opposition to Ananias and Sapphira (from our last blog)—and he is named first….

Luke, the author of Acts, uses Joseph as an example of those who were meeting the needs of the early church as reported in Acts 4:34-35: “There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” He was one of those who owned land and sold a parcel. The big deal is Joseph was a man of integrity. He said he was going to give the church all the money from the sale and he did!  (Whereas Ananias & Sapphira did not, remember?)

Is it possible that Luke is suggesting to us that there are two types of people in the church from which we can choose to surround ourselves? Either the Children of Encouragement or the Children of Lies?

I’d like to be chosen by Team Encouragement & Integrity. How about you? Do you feel we have a choice in this matter, and if so, what ramifications does this choice have? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 4:36-37 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.  — Philippians  3:17-20 (NIV84)

Always set an example for others by doing good actions. Teach with integrity and dignity.  — Titus 2:7 (ISV)

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  — 2 Timothy 2:22-23 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, as I follow in the footsteps of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and as I surround myself with my brothers and sisters who are on this same journey with Jesus, keep me in step with the Spirit in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“We’re All We Got, Baby!”

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Community of the Cross

My Thoughts:

Why is Christian community so important, and why did our Master really stress it during the Last Supper? In short, we’re all we got—so Love one another. He makes this very, very clear in John 15:18-20 that, “…If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. …”(v. 19). The world is going to hate us at some point on our journey with Jesus, and one method will be by luring us with its pleasures and treasures. Jesus warns us of this in Luke, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature” (8:14). Yes, one of the ways the world will hate us is by offering us our heart’s  desires! This will be a counterfeit, to be sure, but a really good one at that….

In these pleasures and treasures we may find a false sense of self-reliance and self-security—even fellowship.And yet our  fellowship with the saints slowly fades away as we get more and more involved in the pleasures of this world. And, according to Jesus, this, too, is hate….

The gathered body of believers in humble community is the only place where we can be told the truth in Love (Eph. 4:15), air our dirty laundry and be forgiven (James 5:16), and know our backs are covered and not stabbed (Romans 12:9-18). Or is it?

What are your thoughts on this? Are the other places believers can go to have these, and many more, blessings? Or is the church community truly the only place we ought to–or even can–have this?

Care to share?

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  — John 16:33 (NIV84)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  — John 13:34-35 (NIV84)

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.   — John 15:13 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the profound nature of the community Your Son paid the ultimate price for.  By Your Mercy & Grace and in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Lists, Lists, Lists”

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Date: 03-07-15

The Big Idea: Lists confirm status and standing.

My Thoughts: Lists, lists, lists. Clipboards, sign-up sheets, membership drives, waiting lists. There are all sorts of lists. Some are good like the No-Call lists and some are sad like blacklists. But when it comes to the Bible, almost all of us skip these lists, like the one in Nehemiah 7, especially because of the difficult to pronounce names. We feel it is like a required course in school, “Why do I need to take this? I’m not going to be using it in the ‘real world’!”

These lists, however, are very important, especially when they appear in the Bible. Not only do they present a sense of belonging and connectedness, they also confirm status and standing. Much like a waiting list or membership list, these lists establish where our standing is with the larger group (e.g. this family signed up before yours), and who has valid status, as demonstrated later in Chapter 7 of Nehemiah with several families who were not on the list, as it were (see vv. 61-65).

Lifestyle worshiper, do you balk at lists and sign-up sheets and clipboards? I understand. But don’t you think this passage is telling us that membership really does have its privileges? What are your thoughts?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 7:5-7— 5 So my God put it into my heart to assemble the nobles, the officials and the common people for registration by families. I found the genealogical record of those who had been the first to return. This is what I found written there: 6 These are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to his own town, 7 in company with Zerubbabel, Jeshua, Nehemiah, Azariah, Raamiah, Nahamani, Mordecai, Bilshan, Mispereth, Bigvai, Nehum and Baanah): The list of the men of Israel: …”  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

These are the names of the sons of Ishmael, listed in the order of their birth: Nebaioth the firstborn of Ishmael, Kedar, Adbeel, Mibsam,— Genesis 25:13 (NIV84)

Record my lament; list my tears on your scroll—are they not in Your record? —Psalm 56:8 (NIV84)

A widow may be put on the widows’ list if she is at least sixty years old and has been the wife of one husband. She must be well known for her good actions as a woman who has raised children, welcomed strangers, washed the saints’ feet, helped the suffering, and devoted herself to doing good in every way. But do not include younger widows on your list. For whenever their natural desires cause them to lose their devotion to the Messiah, they want to remarry.— 1 Timothy 5:9-11 (ISV)

  Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, As we forgive our debtors.” Amen. —Matthew 6:9b-12 [NKJV emphasis added]

Coach Mike