“I Think I Can.”

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Many of us grew up with TheLittle Engine that Could” story, and then we’ve passed it on to our children and to their children. It is a great moral: Don’t give up; Give it your all and you can do it. And for much of life I would agree with this….

…but when it comes to living the Moral Kingdom Code presented by our Master in the Sermon on the Mount, I have a different feeling RE  “the little engine that could.”

Perhaps you are morally stronger than I, but I have not been able to keep my heart from burping out, “You fool”—either to the one who just cut me off or to my self for doing something utterly stupid…. Oops, I’m in “liable to the hell of fire” (v. 22 below).

Or how about the rest of the “You have heard that it was said to those of old…, But I say to you’s? I know our Master is giving us the ideal Kingdom Living Code, but I also think He is noting something far more profound right along with it: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20 ESV). I think He is telling us that we cannot achieve this Code on our own, by our own efforts. Wouldn’t you agree?

 Wouldn’t you also agree that St. Paul echoes this very sentiment in his letter to the Galatians, “I do not misapply God’s grace, for if righteousness comes about by doing what the Law requires, then the Messiah died for nothing” (Gal. 2:21 ISV)?

I know I need Jesus in the beginning of my salvation and at the end, but I also know I need Him in the middle as well. With each step I take in His steps, I need His strength, His Power, to “perform” His Kingdom Code. How else would I make it? I know of no other way. Do you?

Main Text— Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV) 21 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.”Jn 14:6–7 (NIV84 emphasis added)

 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.—James 2:10–11 (NIV84)

  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.— Philippians 3:8–11 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, when it comes to Your Kingdom Code, I am shaking like a leaf. I pray You are my Prince of Peace. Fulfill Your Holy Kingdom Code in my Life that I might be a pleasing child of Yours. In Your Holy Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Did You Respond?”

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Your mom (or spouse) comes into the room and says, “Do you want to go to the Mall with me?” You grunt a response and continue focused on your activity. An hour or two later, they come home with the results of their journey displayed on the kitchen table, and you say, “Hey, why didn’t you ask me to go with you?” “I did, but you didn’t respond.” Ouch….

You can imagine the discussion from there, but my question to myself, and perhaps to you, is, “Do I respond to the Lord when He asks me to go with Him, or do I just grunt and remained distracted on my activity?

This can be taken in two ways: (1) initially when we first met and (2) along my journey with Jesus. Initially, I’m most certain I responded, but whether or not it was His first request, I cannot say, but long ago I decided to follow Him as Lord. However, when it comes to my journey with Jesus, I’m sure I’ve grunted a time or two—or three….

So can you imagine how the disciples responded when Jesus said, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages….” They appeared to go without hesitation, as least this time. But there were other times they would hesitant on their journey with the Master, especially when He was headed to the cross.

Do you and I need to be less distracted in order to respond more promptly? To respond at all? I know I do. Although doing less may be one solution, I believe the best solution is to make it a habit to check in with the Lord before I start any task or project, let alone being quiet to hear Him for new directions. Would you agree? Your thoughts….

Main Text— Mark 1:35–39 (NIV84)— Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Then a teacher of the law came to Him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” Another disciple said to Him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”(Matthew 8:19–22 NIV84)

 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”—Isaiah 6:6–8 (NIV84)

 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.— Psalm 27:14 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, all that You do pleases the Father; please the Father in me that I may hear Your promptings and respond promptly to them.  Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to faithfully follow You wherever You lead. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“But, Lord, I Already Tried That!”

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I was trying for what seemed like hours to loosen the lug nuts on the rear tires of my 1971 Maverick. They would not budge. I squirted them with some liquid wrench. Waited. Tried again. Nothing! My dad finally came home and I asked him what to do; he suggested creating a “cheater bar”—adding a pipe to the wrench to give it more leverage. “Oh, and did you block the back axle?” he asked. Uh, no, I hadn’t. But I had been working so hard at it, would a “cheater bar” really work? So I blocked the rear axle and tried the “cheater bar.” Wow, the nuts moved so easily….

This isn’t quite what our Master did in the main text below, but it’s close. These fishermen had worked hard all night and caught nothing. Besides they had already started cleaning their nets. Oh, it was nice to have a little teaching while they did that, but go out again? In the heat of the day? He’s a carpenter. They are professional fishermen….

Have you ever worked hard at something and gotten little to no results? Then finally you decide it’s really bad, so you’d better pray and check in with your Heavenly Dad to see what He can do…. Then He tells you to do something that really doesn’t make much sense. You know that counterintuitive kind of advice that Jesus often gives: “Want to save your life you have to lose it.”

So maybe you’ve quit praying about a particular situation because, well, the answer doesn’t seem forthcoming. Or maybe you’ve stopped inviting that friend to the Bible study or church fellowship because they don’t seem quite interested. Or maybe all that “neighbor’s kid” needs is someone to listen to him and really care, instead of being yelled at every time he rides his bike over your lawn… or maybe…

Has the Master prompted you to do something so counterintuitive you’ve balked at it? Perhaps you and I need to join Peter in saying, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t [achieved] anything. But because You say so, I will [do as You say]”? Your thoughts.

Main Text— Luke 5:4–5 (NIV84) 4 When [Jesus] had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because You say so, I will let down the nets.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.Galatians 6:9–10 (NIV84)

 Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.—Matthew 7:7–8 (NLT)

  Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?— Isaiah 43:19a (ESV)

Heavenly Father, forgive me for not checking first with You, and then when I do, may I immediately obey Your promptings. Empower me, Lord Jesus Christ, to walk in obedient faith even when things just don’t make sense. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

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

“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

“Missing Divine Appointments?

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My Thoughts:

Recently, I have been having a lot of dental work. And to remind me of the appointments I get a text message the day before and an hour before. Oh, and I get an email a day before and an hour before. This, of course, is in addition to my own personal reminders. (And many of you know how these work….) The point? It would be really hard to miss this given appointment. I would have little excuse, to be sure….

Divine Appointments

Do you feel that the Lord gives us ‘messages’ and reminders before a Divine Appointment He has set up? I’m sure if you really stop and think (and listen), there have always been those little nudges or promptings, “Hey, remember: I have a divine appointment for you.”

Just recently I had an overwhelming sense to go visit someone at a particular time. I truly felt it was from the Lord. I made every effort not to be late. As I arrived, it was not what I expected. Over the years, I have learned not to assume or presuppose what He has planned, but literally in sheer obedience, I went and arrived at the appointed time. There were no buzzes or fireworks, but I am trusting that He set something in motion that I perhaps may learn abouObObed—or maybe not until  way later, eh?

What did I have to do to avoid missing this divine appointment? Well, one thing was I had to rearrange my routine—very comfortable and familiar routine. Another thing was to be mindful not to get caught up in some task, “Oh, this will only take a few minutes” kind of task. I needed to eliminate distractions. A third thing I did was prioritize the aspects of my routine so that I could make this divine appointment on time. In short, I made the divine appointment a priority above all the comfortable and convenient routine “things” I normally do.

What are some ‘things’ you do to make sure you don’t miss a divine appointment. especially the ones you are not informed of ahead of time?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 8:26-29 (NIV84)— 26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.— Matthew 6:33 (NIV84)

From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.— Matthew 16:21 (NIV84)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. — Hebrews 12:1 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, empower me by the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, as You strengthen each step in following Your promptings and leadings.  In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

Pastor Mike