“Filling is Essential”

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Okay, you and I have given some thought to our entanglements with our culture in and around us. We have poured it through the sieve of the Word and the Lord’s Holiness. Some of the gunk and garbage has been filtered out. Great! Good Job! (No sarcasm here.) And as we continue into our 9th day of our Heartwork prayer and fasting month, we discover that once we have been emptied of this gunk and garbage of our lives, filling is essential.

Filling of the Spirit

When I think of filling, two passages quickly come to my mind. The first is Ephesians 5:17-21 and the second is Matthew 12:43-45. I’d like to pause and look first at the Matthew passage.

This passage speaks to the need and urgency of filling. Yes, the house has been swept out, and cleaned. Junk, gunk and garbage have been removed. But notice our Master also says it was “unoccupied”: it was empty…, and if nothing fills or occupies this house, then the junk, gunk and garbage will only return, and in far greater garbage-ness! (If I may coin a word.)

Because of this emptiness (now that some of the world’s culture has been removed from my belief system and life), I find the crucial coupling of the second passage  with the first.

Ephesians 5:17-21 exhorts us to be continually filled with the Spirit, and I would suggest, especially after an emptying. Wouldn’t you agree? I have see this happen to some with whom I have helped in a deliverance setting. They have just been delivered from some very enslaving spirits, but sadly they did not follow this up with a heavy dosage of prayer, immersion in the Word and filling of the Spirit. It doesn’t take long for those “seven other spirits more wicked than itself” to return and create a worse mess….

As I have gone through a personal ruining, wrecking, emptying of my self-confidence, self-reliance, and self-dependence, I am learning the essential nature of this filling of the Spirit. I am learning that I negatively confess my weaknesses, needs, bad habits and sins first, and then I positively confess the Lord Jesus is my Strength, my Deliverer, and my Filler—as He fills me with His Holy Spirit. Have you discovered that we just don’t do this to start our day, but we need to be filling throughout the day? I guess I leak a little more than I’d like to. How about you? What are your thoughts?

Main Text: — Matthew 12:43–45 (NIV84)—“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 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.— Acts 4:31 (NIV84)

So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”— Zechariah 4:6 (NIV84)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. — Ephesians 6:10–11 (NIV84)

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Pastor Mike

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“Rethinking Our Culture”

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Very few of us seem to inventory how much we are like the world’s culture. Somehow we have baptized the current culture we are in as ‘sacrosanct’—as if in some way we have captured the Kingdom of Heaven’s culture. …

Conform Transformed Butterfly

As we enter Day 6 in this month of corporate fasting coupled with our Solemn Assembly and Heartwork, we are encouraged in the Heartwork Devotion for today to “Unlearn Our Culture.” The way I see it before I am able to learn something new, I need to unlearn something “old.” And before I can unlearn something “old,” I need to identify the old as being out of sync with the Word and Jesus’ Heavenly Culture—no matter how much I have baptized it or relabeled it or PC’ed it, eh?

This rethinking actually requires that I stop and think. Ouch! Then I ask the Lord Jesus Christ to reveal to me by His Spirit those ‘things’ (such as, habits, thoughts, attitudes, passions, etc.) that are displeasing to Him. We may be surprised to learn that some of these “things” may be rather “good” things. But because I have been infected by the culture around me, I have made them an ‘idol’ or have engaged ‘them’ in my own strength. In this way I have tarnished a ‘good’ thing….

But, we may also find that we have been deceived or even deceived ourselves into thinking that this habit, thought, attitude, passion, etc. is, in fact, justified, warranted, and simply Okay. “I have a right to….” You can finish this sentence. But as the Light of His Word and Holiness concussion us, we are first blinded to the Truth of our deception, maybe even to the point of being defensive. But once our spiritual eyes become adjusted to the Holy Light, we see clearly the distinction between Truth and Deceit.

This can definitely lead us to a ruining, a wrecking, an emptying, an undone state of life. Some times I fall into verbal self-flagellation where I bemoan the fact that I have been so naive, so stupid, to have been deceived so. Once I snap out of this, I am able to thank the Lord Jesus for being merciful to me to end this deception. Here then begins the transforming process of unlearning the culture! And it all started by rethinking…. Are you courageous enough to join me. I wasn’t—not at first, and without the Lord Jesus being my courage, I would not have gotten this far. How about you?

Your thoughts?

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you— Romans 12:2 (The Message)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.— James 1:22 (NIV84)

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. — 1 Peter 4:3–4 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, strengthen my feeble arms and weak knees. Empower me by the Lord Jesus Christ’s Presence thorough His Holy Spirit to reject those cultural ‘bad’ habits, attitudes, thoughts, & _____. Lord Jesus Christ, be my courage as I turn from these ‘things’ that so displease You and pursue You along with those who call upon You out of a pure heart.  In Your Love and Great Mercy,  Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Hard Letting Them Change?”

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“How many times is so’n so going to say they’ve changed, but in reality, they never do?” Have you said this before about someone? Or even thought it? I have. And it is sad if I believe that the Lord Jesus, the Great Transformer, has changed me, but He can’t change someone else? Ouch! Do I really believe He can change lives? Is it really that hard to “let” them change?

In our main text this morning, we have a very real and similar situation about “letting” someone change. This someone is Saul! You know the one who was “still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1 NIV 84). And now he wants us to believe that he’s all good with Jesus and not an infiltrator!? Yeah, right?

If it wasn’t for Barnabas—and the dramatic change in Saul’s life and belief system, most of us today would not have been so readily available to accept him into our small group, especially if many of our brothers and sisters in other small groups have been turned in to the Powers that Be….

So you and I have to sincerely and honestly ask ourselves: Are we letting others change? Have we become so jaded and stopped believing that the Lord Jesus can still change lives? Oh, we know the right answer, but seriously, think about it. We still call Rahab “the Harlot” and Thomas “the Doubter,” don’t we? Do we still call Peter the Denier?

First of all, I am thankful for the Barnabases in my life who have stepped forward to testify that the changes in my life are genuine, even if questioned by many. Secondly, I, in turn, have become a Barnabas for many who have clearly demonstrated a transformed life. Yes, I still struggle with becoming jaded. Yes, often my first thought is skepticism bordering on cynicism, but one by-product of my current wrecking has been this very thought: “If I am changing so dramatically, surely the Lord is doing so with _____, as well.”

Yes, I understand that for some, you’ve heard it before, but when Jesus truly steps in and transforms a life, we dare not be one to ‘not let them change,’ don’t you think?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 9:26-29 (NIV84)— 26 When [Saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 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)

I [Paul] thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.— 1 Timothy 1:12–14 (NIV84)

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. — Philemon 8–11 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the power of the Resurrected Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, make me into a Barnabas who wisely celebrates the transformed lives around me.  In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Surrounded by Deceit”

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My Thoughts:

The young church was glowing with joy and harmony and fellowship and a lifestyle of worship, when suddenly a fracture in the perfect church was revealed. Yes, Ananias, and his lovely wife, Sapphira, conspired to deceive those stately saints, especially the Apostle Peter. What was their deception? Well, apparently they promised to give to the church the full amount from a sale of some of their property. As it was, they apparently received a lot more for the property than they had originally expected. So instead of giving the full amount, they held back some from their “faith promise”. The fracture rips….

broken down church

How dare they bring lying and deception into the church?

Well, they definitely were not the last. Sad to say, I, too, have been crushed with this reality. As the Lord has been wrecking me on my pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ and the perfect church, He has gently pointed out to me that even as far back as this, the church was never really perfect. And throughout the letters to the churches, both the apostles Paul and Peter had to rebuke those in the church to “Stop lying” (see Eph. 4:25; Col. 3:9; 1 Pet. 2:1, 22). This may seem terribly obvious to some of you, but to me this was earth shattering: The early church was not perfect and, in fact, they had liars in their midst!

Then the Lord led me to Isaiah 6:1-6. I discovered there that I would often skip the first part of Isaiah’s wrecking and immediately focus on the second part: “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! … I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). He’s surrounded by deceit! Unclean lips, indeed.

Oh, the part I skipped, “For I am a man of unclean lips.” Isaiah had the temerity—and the humility—to first include himself in this “among.”

Perhaps you can join me in coming to grips—as Paul, Peter, & Isaiah did— with the deceit that surrounds us, starting with ourselves, eh? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 5:1-5— 1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  — 2 Timothy  3:12-15 (NIV84)

Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool—how much worse lying lips to a ruler!  — Proverbs 17:7 (NIV)

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” — 2 Timothy 2:19 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, purify my heart and my lips by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep me humble in Your presence, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Was Samson a Prodigal?”

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My Thoughts:

Although brought up in a strong believing home, even dedicated to the LORD at birth, Samson’s name cannot be said without Delilah’s immediately following. So I ask a simple question: Can Samson be considered a prodigal? He lived a rather wild lifestyle, but he didn’t demand of his parents the inheritance. He did demand a dowery for a non-believing wife (see Judges 14:1-7). But the text tells us that this was from the LORD. Further it appears that he did have a problem with women (see Judges 16:1). So when it comes to being under Delilah’s spell, it shouldn’t surprise us that he did trifle with his calling.

But was he a prodigal in the sense of rebelling against his parents’ authority and living a riotous life?

However we want to classify Samson, one thing is clear: He let down his guard with women and ultimately ended up fulfilling his calling severely scarred (i.e., blinded); oh, and dead.

Lifestyle worshiper, what other lessons can we harvest from Samson’s journey? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Judges 16:15-17 — 15 Then [Delilah] said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death. 17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. — Proverbs 13:20 (NIV84)

Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes, for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life. —Proverbs 6:25-26 (NIV84)

 For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. — 1 Peter 4:3-4 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, I choose to humble myself and learn from others’ mistakes and miscues. Set my feet firmly on the rock, the Lord Jesus Christ. Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to live the Life that is pleasing to You. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“What If the Miracle…?”

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Date: 02-28-15

The Big Idea: Lifestyle worshiper, let us not miss the miracle that the LORD will surely bless you with.

My Thoughts: “What if the miracle never comes?” This is what the enemy wants you to ask. With his slithering, slippery tongue, he hisses doubts in your ear. He wants you to buy the lie that the LORD is withholding something good from you. Oh, sadly, I have often listened to this hiss….

But, Lifestyle worshiper, perhaps our definition of “miracle” needs a bit refining. When we think of  “miracle,” we often picture the Charlton Heston’s  Moses posed on the edge of the Red Sea with all the special effects of a Cecil B. DeMille movie. We picture miracles loud and flashy. But don’t you think they can be as quiet as a sunrise or sunset? Or a baby’s sigh as she slips asleep?

Oh, a miracle is still something beyond what we could achieve. It is still something beyond what we could think or imagine, but perhaps it is also something beyond what we can perceive—at least for the moment, and maybe even in this life. Now I know that this may sound like a copout of sorts, but if we have a predetermined “miracle” that we are looking for, won’t this make it harder to see the actual miracle the LORD has provided? We will miss seeing it because we are looking for something quite different.

The other day I was looking for the vacuum cleaner at the church. It is helpful to know that there are actually three vacuum cleaners, but I was looking for the vacuum cleaner. So I asked the person I was working with: “Where’s the vacuum cleaner?” With a wry smile and a soft giggle, she gently said, “Ah, right in front of you.” I was amazed: I couldn’t see the ‘other’ vacuum cleaner literally in front of me, and yet as I had panned the room, I missed it. Why? Because I had a predetermined picture in my mind as to what the vacuum cleaner ‘ought’ to look like….

Lifestyle worshiper, let us not miss the miracle that the Lord will surely bless you and me with. Oh, and join me in ignoring the hiss of that sly snake….

Main Text: — Nehemiah 6:15-16, 19 — 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth day of Elul in 52 days.16 When all of our enemies—including the surrounding nations—heard this, they became very discouraged, since they saw that the work had been done by our God…. 19 Furthermore, they kept reporting Tobiah’s good deeds to me, and kept repeating what I told him. Tobiah kept sending letters to intimidate me. [ISV]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Fear the LORD, you his saints,for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

— Psalm 34:9-10 (NIV84)

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

—Psalm 84:11 (NIV84)

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 8:32 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  as I patiently wait for the blessing of Your Goodness towards me, open my eyes to see the ‘miracles’  already before me. Deaden my ears to the hissing lies of the sly snake. By Your Blood and in Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Can We Know How Much We Are Deceived?”

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Text: — James 4:1-3 — 1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: I discovered yet another factor in my remedy for self-deception.

My Thoughts: 

In our walk with Jesus, can we really know how much we are deceived by this world’s system? In the passage above, James jabs some rather pointed indictments, while pulling no punches later in the verses that follow. But as we read this, is your initial response, “I don’t do any of this?” Mine was. I do not kill anyone. I really don’t covet…. Ah, but do? Is it possible that I have not because when I ask, I ask merely to spend it on my selfish pleasures (v. 3)? Good question, oh my soul; good question, indeed.

Twice in his letter, James warns us not to deceive ourselves (1:22, 26). Self-deception is very cunning. The sad truth is, we really do not know when we are deceived. (If we did, we wouldn’t be, right?) I think this is why James closes his letter with “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth…” (5:19 emphasis added). (The Greek word for wander has the implication of being deceived from any source.)

Lifestyle worshipers, is it important to discover how much we are or have been deceived? I think so. If the truth shall set us free, then knowing the Lord Jesus (The Truth!) more intimately will set us free from deception, be it self-delusion or other-concocted.

Several years back, for several Sundays—which seemed like months, “We don’t know how much we are deceived” kept sneaking into my sermons. I am not sure if the Holy Spirit was talking to someone else, but He sure was directly talking to me. It was shortly after this that I had an epiphany. I received a DVD in the mail asking the question: “Is America A Christian Nation.” For years I had argued it wasn’t. I had all my history books from College and high school which clearly demonstrated we were more deistic is foundation than Christian, but as the DVD unfolded with original documents to establish that America, indeed, had deep Christian roots it her founding, my worldview of this began to crumble and a melancholy grieving overtook my life for some months to follow. (In subsequent research, I had discovered that this specific aspect of history had been systematically sterilized from our text books for decades.)

Now I know to some, this would seem like a frivolous bunny trail of sorts, but for me it was a soul stirring moment. Because after this unveiling, I had to ask, “How much more was I being deceived on other subjects—civil or sacred?” Back to the Word I went!

If the Word is the Truth, and if the Holy Spirit has imbued it with the very essence of the Holy Trinity, then it naturally follows that this Word shines a bright spotlight on any deception I may be in…. So I studied the Word all the more intensely. And in doing so, I discovered yet another factor in my remedy for self-deception, and I think James is subtly telling us this: We need each other to expose our blindspots.

In Love, I need to confess my sins to my accountability team (see 5:16) in order to find healing, and part of this healing is lifting the self-deception from my life. I must practice true wisdom from above (see 4:17) by often checking in with a close confidant in order to get a ‘spiritual checkup’ as one would a physical checkup. And in Love, I must make myself available for those who have ‘wandered from the truth,’ and gentle restore such a one, who may not realized that they, too, have been deceived.

Have you discovered these same elements if addressing deception? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive.”

— Matthew 24:4-5 (NIV84)

I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness

—Colossians 2:4-7 (NIV84)

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise.

—1 Corinthians 3: 18 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I submit myself to You. Renew my mind. Deliver me from any deception I may be exposed to, whether it is self-imposed or not. I put You on, Lord Jesus Christ, as my Belt of Truth. Sanctify me and set me apart by Your Truth: Your Word is Truth.  Be that part of my life that has been in bondage to any deception. I release myself into Your hands. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike