“Are You Full of ‘It’?”

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Let the Word of Christ Dwell.jpg

As I was growing up, one of the common insults I would get is, “You’re full of it.” Not sure what “it” was, but when I would say something rather outlandish, back shot the retort: “You’re full of it, Rossmann.” (Even to this day I’m not quite sure what they meant, except that they didn’t believe what I was saying was true or accurate—humph!)

But as I read this morning’s main text, I would gladly receive the tart retort, “You’re full of it” as a badge of honor and not shame. Here, “it” is the Word of Christ. I would like to be so full of “It” that my teaching, coaching and correcting were indeed full of “all wisdom”! …

And since the Lord Jesus Christ has become my Wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30, as I yield to His presence, this wisdom can be overflowing….

How do I get “full of it”? I know one way is not laying my head on the Bible—though some may think this is possible. I have learned that when it comes to the Word, there are two major ways to get “it”: I see it or I hear it. I see it in printed form or modeled in another’s behavior; and I hear it read to me. Personally, I set aside some time in the morning to read the Word beyond my sermon prep. This has been a challenge over the years, but during my convalescence, I have made this a high priority. Sometimes, my reading often overlaps with my sermon prep, but this I expect, since I am preparing a messenger as much as a message. Another way, I “get full of it” is listening to other sermons in podcasts, and, yes, the old fashion way, on CD’s. (I even still have a CD/Cassette player in my car!)

What do you do “to get full of it”? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Colossians 3:16–17 (NIV84) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.1 John 2:14 (NASB95)

If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.—John 15:7–8 (NIV84)

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.— Deuteronomy  6:6–9 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, fill me with the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. May my ‘cup’ overflow. Stir in me a hunger for Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

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“Keep the Word Central”

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As I lay here recovering from a total hip replacement surgery, I have had a lot of time to think. Now, to be completely open, much of the time my thinking hasn’t been too clear or coherent. I’m sure many of you know the effects of pain, pain pills and surgery: Really hard to put a couple of coherent sentences together. I’ve been told that even some of my texts were rather humorous, with one even ending in the middle of a sentence….

Preach the Word

 

But as my mind began to clear up and my thought coalesce a bit more, I  took some time to really ponder some books and passages in the Word. I read and re-read Philippians several times, and it provided me much comfort. Then I felt the Lord’s prompting to read and re-read 2 Timothy. So I moved to that book…

I had been evaluating my role as a preacher, pastor, and teacher—bringing these before the Lord. (More for a revitalization and refreshment than in a mid-life crisis.) The main text noted below, 2 Tim. 4:1-5, continually kept jumping out at me: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season…:” V. 2 especially impacted me. This was the passage read and preached from at my first ordination, and ever since the phrase, “in season and out of season,” has perplexed me.

Over the years I have heard many interpret this as “when it’s convenient and when it is not.” “Preachers, pastors and teachers should be ready to  preach, shepherd and teach at a moments notice.” And this is all well and good, but the phrases in the Greek seem to take on a deeper, more profound meaning, especially in the context of v. 3.

Without getting lost or bogged down in the Greek, suffice it to say, the Greek word for “time” in v. 3 (NIV84), is the root of the two words translated “in season” and “out of season” of v. 2. And a possible translation of these words in v. 2 could easily be “in the good times and in the not so good times.” When I saw this, the context and the meaning cut me deeply: “Preach the Word in the good times when people are eager to hear and in the ‘not-so’ good times when people are chasing after teachers to tickle their ears.” (This adds the forewarning of v. 3.)

Are you getting what I’m getting? I’m getting: Keep the Word central in my teaching and preaching and pastoring. And the Greek word for “Word”? It’s Logos: the very same word used of Jesus in John 1:1-14! So I not only preach the Bible—the Living Word of God, I preach Jesus: the Incarnate Word of God!

My thoughts become very, very clear: Whether we are in a good season where people are desiring to hear the sincere milk of the Word or in a “not-so-good” season where people are looking only to have their ears tickled, I must keep the Word center: Both the Written and Incarnate Word!

For all who Love the Lord Jesus Christ, do you think that this charge is for you as well, beyond ordinations and positions and gifts? Do you, too, have a burning desire to feast on the Written Word and to fellowship with the Incarnate Word? What better time of year do we have to be able to focus on the Incarnate Word: Keeping Jesus central—In Christmas and in our lives? Share your thoughts?

Main Text: — 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NIV84)— 1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.— 1 Peter 2:1–3 (NIV84)

From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.  Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.” — Jn 6:66–69 (NIV84)

Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.—Matthew 11:28–30 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, burn in me a Holy Spirit fire desiring fellowship with You and Your Word and Your People. As you fill me with the Holy Spirit of power, Love and a sound mind, may I pour out this Grace and Love and power onto all I meet this Holy Season. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The Need to Not Stop Praying”

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How long has it been? You’ve been praying for that special loved one: five, ten, 15 years? Or maybe you’ve been praying for  your finances—it’s been months and still no turn around? Whatever you’ve been praying for—be it intensely personal or deeply spiritual, to me, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 coaches me: “Don’t give up on Prayer”

Don't Stop Praying

I hear Coach Paul, the Apostle, encouraging the church at Thessalonica: Do not stop praying, but instead “Pray without ceasing!”

I know even I myself have taken this verse to mean, “constantly live in a state of prayer.” As a matter of fact, I was just talking to someone a few days ago about this, but the more I thought about this verse (and this is not to say, being in a constant state of prayer is bad) the more I wondered: is it possible that this verse truly means: Don’t give up on prayer?

I’ve been there and maybe you’ve been there, too, that place where we feel our prayers are hitting a bronze sky and all we hear is the echo of our heart’s cry…

Coach Paul knows this. Remember, when he deeply desired to get rid of this nasty thorn in the flesh (see 2 Cor. 12:7-10), and he prayed three times for it to be so. Now, I’m sure these three times were not back to back, like minutes apart. No, but it could have been weeks or months: “Ah, Lord, I know You hear me. You usually answer my prayers pretty quickly, but, ah, what’s going on…?” Then after the third deeply intense prayer time, the release and the Word came: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9 NIV84)

Brothers and sisters, I know I need to hear this Word today: “Pray without ceasing:” Do you? Do you and I need to hear: Don’t give up on the Lord and praying to Him? Pray unceasingly–with unflagging resolve! Don’t stop praying. Pray when the need is great and pray when the praise is great! Pray! Pray! Pray!

Or as the acronym suggests: P.U.S.H.—Pray Until Something Happens. If we stop praying, will it happen anyway? I find this a very good question indeed. What do you think? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NKJV)—pray without ceasing.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.— Luke 6:12 (NIV84)

Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.— 1 Thessalonians 3:10 (NIV84)

 But [Hannah’s] rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. This went on year after year. Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite.— 1 Samuel 1:6–7 (The Message)

Heavenly Father, in Your Mercy and Grace forgive me for giving up on prayer. Deep down I know You hear me, but I have grown weary of praying. Rekindle a passion for You as I quietly sit here in Your presence. I wait for Your Word of Grace and the Release of Hope…. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Be A Change Agent for Jesus”

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Peter & John in the Temple

My Thoughts:

I know a common prayer of mine has been: “Lord, use me.” Well, what if He doesn’t? What if He chooses to pour me out as King David did the water secured from his hometown well (see 2 Chronicles 11:17-19), will my life and my service be any less valuable to Him? Or More? I know I have been stuck in this utilitarian / performance base value system for some time, but in truth, the Lord does use us—and He uses us as a change agent for others.

I have found that at least two prerequisites for this are faithfulness and availability. When we are faithful and available, we can enjoy the blessings of being co-laborers with Him as Peter and John were in this morning’s main text (see below).

Peter and John were not walking around wondering how the Lord was going to use them. No, instead they were faithful in prayer, going to the temple for the daily prayers. They were available to the Spirit’s promptings. In short, their hearts were open and their eyes were open. This led to their hands being open to be used of the Lord in His ways and in His timing. (In this situation, an open hand to grasp a lame beggar’s, eh?)

Years ago, Brother Andrew and I were talking privately at a conference he spoke at, and he said, “Michael, too often we come to the Lord with our hands full of our projects and our ideas and say, ‘Lord, bless these.’ Instead, we should lift up empty hands and say, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do? Fill these empty hands with Your projects and Your ideas….”

Have you discovered that only empty hands can be filled with heavenly projects? I have, and I have also learned that an open heart that is in passionate pursuit of Jesus joined with open eyes for His Person leads to open hands for His business. Have you?  How does being faithful in prayer lead to these and to becoming a change agent of Jesus? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 3:6-7 — 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And [Jesus] said to them, Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?  — Luke 2:49 (NKJV)

 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.  — 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV84)

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol  or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD  and vindication from God his Savior.  Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. — Psalm 24:3-6 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, give us clean hands and purify our hearts. Let us not give our souls to another. (adapted from Charlie Hall’s “Give Us Clean Hands”) May I always honor the Holy Name of Jesus, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“A Training Manual, of Sorts”

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Some people can put things together without looking at the instructions. Others of us need a picture. Still some need step by step instructions. Which are you? I’m kind of the last two depending on the project. Though there have been those few times I’ve been able to assembly something without an instruction manual, I prefer the pictures….

Lifestyle worshiper, when it comes to your walk with Jesus, do you like the pictures in the Training Manual, or do you try to assemble your life ‘intuitively’? Ironically, maybe you’ve discovered that the Life of Jesus is often counterintuitive. You know, “He who saves his life shall lose it and he who loses his life shall find it,” type of ‘huh’. This is why sometimes we need to give the Training Manual a closer look….

It has been suggested by some commentators that the Book of Acts was part of a training manual for new believers called, catechumens. These were they who came out of some rather dark traditions into the Light and required some more directed training. Ironically, the Book is not written as a typical training manual with charts and graphs and ABC’s and 1 2 3’s. Rather it is a collections of episodes in the early church’s life to give us a rather ‘theology in life’ training. And in our pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ, I’m fascinated and intrigue at this perspective of the Book of Acts.

Perhaps spending more time in the Life “Training Manual” will make clearer some of the more counterintuitive aspects of my journey with Jesus. Would you agree? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 1:1-2 — 1 In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach 2 until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that, if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. — 1 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV84)

You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings. —2 Timothy 3:10-11 (NIV84)

  Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. — 1 Peter 2:11-12 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, ignite in me a passion for Your Son that will make Your Light in me reveal the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep my mind and thoughts laser focused on Him. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Betwixt the Two?

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Date: 04-12-15

The Big Idea: Burn in my soul a passion to please You in and through what I say and do.

My Thoughts: Lifestyle worshiper, are you betwixt the two? Are you torn between being with Jesus or remaining here (v. 23)? Or is there no struggle at all? In the main text noted below, the Apostle Paul expresses a deep passion to be with the Lord Jesus; but he has an equally deep passion for continuing his life’s mission of sharing the Good News with those who have yet to hear. For him this is a great struggle. It is tearing him to pieces.

But have you noticed that for some there is no struggle at all, yet for different reasons. Perhaps one reason is what Romans 12:2 (also below) warns us about: We are too conformed–too squeezed–into the world’s moldy thinking. Our passion for being with the Lord Jesus has waned. Herein lies one of my personal struggles as I become just another one of those proverbial frogs splashing about in the hot water….

What do you feel are some other reasons that some do not have this struggle? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one struggle.

Main Text: — Philippians 1:21-23 — 21  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. — 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (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.   —Romans 12:2 (NIV84)

May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.   — 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, as You burn in my soul a passion to please You in and through what I say and do, may my yearning to be with You make me more faithful until I am. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“People of the Book’s First Response: Blindness, then Sight”

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Date: 03-15-15

The Big Idea: I need to be reminded once again of Neh. 8:10: “Do not grieve, for the Joy of the LORD is my strength!”

My Thoughts: Like coming out of a dark theater, when we frist encounter the Word, we are blinded, squinting and covering our eyes. It is almost too painful to even attempt to open them. And yet as we persevere, our eyes adjust and we see more. This is how the people in Nehemiah’s day initially responded to the Word (v. 9 below). They were overwhelmed with a sense of grief; they were undone and wrecked. Becoming a People of the Book, I often come away from the Word undone and wrecked. My point of view is often one of helplessness. I know I cannot fulfill the precepts of this Book; they are well beyond my capabilities. Oh, some I may be able to gut out with extreme effort and constant exertion, but in truth, I know my strength is far too inadequate to be like Jesus….

I need to be reminded once again of Neh. 8:10: “Do not grieve, for the Joy of the LORD is my strength!” The Lord Jesus Christ overcomes my weaknesses, and as my eyes become accustomed to the Light, I see Him more clearly.

Hannah Whital Smith writes to me a word of encouragement on this:

“I feel more and more utterly cast on Christ and more and more bereft of anything of my own. My wants are many and they are continual, but I know that His supply is far more mighty, and it is promised to me moment by moment, and therefore I can trust all to Him. All! I leave the whole battle to Him, because I must. Wisdom, courage, armor, strength, patience and victory all to be found only in the Lord. I have nothing, literally and truly nothing. But Christ has all, just as literally and truly all and He is mine. Oh, can I doubt that every need will be fully supplied? No a thousand times no! let me wait then patiently His own time, and commit everything to Him continually. “For they shall not be ashamed that wait for thee.” Isa. 49:23. I want to know that I am one with Jesus and to know that He is dwelling in me and working in me to will and to do His good pleasure.”—Journal, April 26, 1867 [Smith, Hannah Whitall, and Melvin Easterday Dieter. The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life: The Unpublished Personal Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997. Print. March 15]

I pray that on your personal journey becoming a People of the Book, the Lord Jesus Christ becomes your strength more and more in the inner being as He empowers you to faithfully respond to His Word of Truth.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 8:9— Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, “This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep.” For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 I love you, O LORD, my strength. — Psalm 18:1 (NIV84)

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”  —John 15:5 (NIV84)

But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was rescued out of the lion’s mouth. — 2 Timothy 4:17 (NASB95)

 Lord Jesus Christ, I confess You are my strength when I am weak. I humbly seek Your Face as I actively yield to Your presence in my Life to walk this journey with You. Transform me by Your Holy Spirit into a People of the Book. Amen.

Coach Mike