“Common Union”

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Kneeling at the Cross

In my research and in my personal experience I have noted that one of the most common accusations against the church her divisions. Sadly, some divisions are rather vicious and cruel. The maturity to agree to disagree agreeably is wanting in many settings. And why? Because “we have God’s approval and I am here to let you know….”

Truly, there will be honest disagreements of how we baptize or celebrate the Lord’s Table, or what songs to sing or not sing. How long to preach, if at all, but I’m sure many of you would agree, especially those who know the Lord Jesus, that we do have a common union in the Lord Jesus. We all agree that He died for our sins in fulfillment of the Scriptures, was buried and rose again on the third day, in fulfillment of the Scriptures (see 1 Cor. 15:3, 4).

And in this common belief we have a common union. From there it seems if we follow Philippians 3:15-16, all will be well: “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things [i.e. have the same mind as our Lord Jesus as explained earlier in chapter 2:5-8]. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained” [NIV]. I understand “already attained” to mean “already agreed upon, what we already have in common.”

To me, this common union is seen very clearly in the Lord’s Table, the Last Supper, the fulfillment of Passover. All have sinned and need this Table. All who Love Lord Jesus know this all too well. And we come to the Table humble and yet grateful, knowing the Grace that has been offered to us in the act this Table: “In remembrance of Me”  (Luke 22:19b)

Maybe that’s why we call this Table, “Communion?” To express the Common Union we have in Jesus? Your thoughts?

Main Text— 1 Corinthians 11:19, 23-26 (NIV) No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. … For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one.— John 17:11b (NIV)

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

 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”— 1 Peter 4:7–8 (NKJV)

Heavenly Father, I put the Lord Jesus Christ on as my Belt of Love. May I see all who confess the Name of the Lord Jesus with the same eyes of Grace, Mercy, and Love You see me. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

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Religious vs. Relationship: A Fuller View?

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If I may, I would like to suggest that most, if not all, believers in Jesus acknowledge we have a relationship and not a religion. We would define religion as a feeble, human attempt through rituals and sacrifices to obtain a relationship with the Almighty; whereas, in a relationship with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, we have this relationship with the Almighty (YHWH, blessed be His Name) by grace through faith in Jesus, and not by any merit of our own.

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But what also seems to follow with many who boast of this relationship is a license not to “do” something religiously because it might smack of religion. Have you found this to be so, too? If we do something religiously, like read the Bible every morning or prayer daily, it might become ritualistic, “so I’d best do it intermittently to avoid such.” Have you heard of this?

As I ponder what the Apostle Paul meant in our main text RE the Athenians in v. 22, “You are very religious,” it became evident to me that this was something of value, something commendable—and a good place to start a conversation. 

But if I have nothing religious in my life, if I have no godly habits that lead to a deeper relationship with Jesus, how can I even relate to those who truly are religious in their religion

True, any godly discipline can become ritualist and an end it itself: vain religion. Indeed, I have found I need to refresh myself in my daily prayer times or my daily Bible readings or weekly fellowships by asking myself, “Why am I doing this? Is this an end it itself or am I drawing closer to Jesus through these endeavors?”

What place do you see religious practices have for sincere followers of the Risen Lord? Do they deepen our relationship with Him? Your thoughts….

Main Text: — Acts 17:22-23 (NIV84)— 22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.— Philippians 4:8–9 (NIV84)

[Jesus] went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. …— Luke 4:16 (NIV84)

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

Heavenly Father, refresh my soul with a gush of Grace and the Wind of Your Holy Spirit. Enliven my regular religious activities with Your Holy Spirit as the Lord Jesus Christ’s Life is manifested in both the seen and the unseen activities of my daily walk with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“One Essential Virtue of Nobility”

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As I have pondered nobility and pursued what it looks like in my life, I came upon many virtues that seem to flow from true noble character: humility, fair-mindedness, chivalry, and courtesy quickly came to mind. But of all these virtues, I yet found another virtue essential to nobility: active listening. As we deal with those who attempt to shout us down, I find that being an effective active listener an essential virtue of nobility.

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Active listening is more than merely giving comfortable eye contact  or being able to repeat back what someone has just said. It is—as one of my former college students defined: “Staying on the other person’s agenda.” I am going to pursue what my friend finds interesting, ask questions to clarify words and their meanings as s/he intended them.I must remind myself: Stay on their agenda. All this has a noble goal: Coming to a deeper understanding of my dear friend—beyond their words. And in order to do such active listening, I must also demonstrate humility, fair-mindedness, and the like, don’t you agree?

Then I applied this to the Bereans (of our main text), and, yes, to my own life, and discovered something rather intriguing: I cannot say I actively listen to the Lord, if I do not actively listen to my fellow sister or brother. Ouch! Would you agree that I demonstrate my Love for Jesus by being an effective active listener with fellow believers?

If I take nobility to this level, do you think it naturally follows that I not only demonstrate noble virtues with my brothers and sisters (as well as those outside the fold—since God still so loves them), but also to the very One Who manifests the noblest of virtues towards me: Gracious Love? (Perhaps, then, I could stay on His agenda, eh?)

As I begin this New Year off on the “right” foot, will you join me in being a better listener to the Lord’s Words—like the Bereans—as well as to those around me—whether they have an active relationship with Jesus or not? Your thoughts….

Main Text: — Acts 17:11-12 (NIV84)— 11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger— James 1:19 (NASB95)

Then Jesus said, He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”— Mark 4:9 (NIV84)

let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance— Proverbs 1:5 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, as You fill me with Your Holy Spirit, open my ears to hear the wonders of Your Praise. Lord Jesus Christ, continue to transform me into an effective active listener, so that my Life may manifest Your Noble Character. In Your Name, Amen!

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

“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

“Beyond the One Day”

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Date: 05-10-15

The Big Idea: Start a habit that goes beyond this one day.

My Thoughts:

As a child growing up, I remember getting the typical response to my question, “Why do we have a special day called ‘Mother’s Day’? Why not have a ‘Kids’ Day’, too?” My mother so wisely responded, “Every day is kids day…!”

And in many homes, even Mother’s Day is “Kids’ Day.” So today, I was wondering if we could start a habit that goes beyond this one day. This habit I’m suggesting is to help out single mothers as often as we can. Now many may not accept our charitable kindness, thinking we are saying by offering our help that they are weak and inadequate, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Instead, our help is offering them a reprieve from their daily literal grind, giving them some breathing space, kind of like a time out in a game so they can ‘catch their breath.’

What do you think? Would our help be considered imposing; or received with warm gratitude? Perhaps we could find out starting today? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Luke 7:11-13 — 11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” 14 Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?…”— Isaiah 49:15a (NIV84)

Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity. —1 Timothy 5:1b-2 (NIV84)

Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. — Romans 16:13 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus, Christ, enlarge my heart with Your Compassion as I honor my mother and those who have been like a mother to me. Grant me an opportunity to bless a single mom today. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Restoring the Sacred in Our Culture”

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Date: 04-21-15

The Big Idea: Keeping anything sacred in our culture requires personal determination and dedication.

My Thoughts: 

Have you notice that our culture is becoming more and more common and, well, quite frankly, vulgar?  F-bombs  have broken the decency barrier. What was once rated X and R is now PG-13, tv14 or tvma  —and it is on prime time TV for anyone to see, let alone young impressionable minds!

What does it mean to hold something sacred? Good question. If I may, I believe keeping anything sacred in our culture requires personal determination and dedication. And this determination and dedication follows at least five guidelines.

Allow me to present at least five guidelines for regarding something sacred: First off, to hold something sacred it to separate it from common use. Secondly,  to hold something sacred is to treat “it” with respect and dignity. Thirdly, that which is sacred is used only for special occasions. Fourthly, to hold something sacred is to limit its use to the “few”. And the last guideline for regarding something sacred I like to consider is to actively guard or protect “it” from being violated or soiled…. (Of course, there are many more guidelines that can be noted, but let us focus on these few.)

As an example, let us apply these five guidelines to a wedding dress. How can we hold this wedding dress sacred? (1) The dress is separated from common use; she did not wear it to her bridal shower or bachelorette party. (2) The dress is treated with respect and dignity; it is hung up in a special place in her room and prior to the wedding. (3) It is used only for the “day”, that special occasion; (see number 1’s comments). (4) This dress is limited to just the bride, and afterwards, if she chooses, she may pass it on to a daughter or granddaughter; and lastly (5) The dress is placed in a protective garment bag and/or a sealed box. This dress is considered sacred by the bride. She most definitely would not let her 4 year old play with it in the sandbox….

Okay, if a wedding dress doesn’t work for you, how about that special fishing rod or that lever action Winchester 32? Are these not used only on special occasions, and then kept in a case protected for that moment when you pass them along to your son or grandson? (or daughter, etc.?) Yes, these items are sacred, too, for the same guidelines that deem something sacred are followed and these are most definitely treated with respect and dignity….

So, lifestyle worshipers, what can we do to restore the sacred in our culture at large, especially when it comes to marriage, sex, and human life? How would you apply these five guidelines to such institutions, events, and people like these? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 13:6b-9 — 6 … Some time later I [Nehemiah] asked his [the king’s] permission 7 and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God. 8 I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. 9 I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. — 2 Corinthians 7:1 (NIV84)

  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. —1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV84)

   Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.  — Hebrews 13:4a (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, forgive me for treating common those things which You have deemed holy and sacred. Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to restore the sacred in my life. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike