She Blended Well

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In a very male dominated society, she broke the glass ceiling. We are not told how she did it, but she did. And she was very wise about how she “wielded such authority.” 

Deborah broke that glass ceiling and led (aka “judged”) Israel for 40 years. She herself was a very wise and noble woman. Some suggest that she was a “burning woman” in the sense of a Light for Truth and Justice; a torch for Righteousness. (This is seen in v. 4: instead of “wife of Lappidoth,” it could also be a “a woman of a torch-like spirit.”)

As a prophetess, the LORD had spoken through her to command Barak to take the leadership in a very decisive battle. He balked, but instead of commandeering the leadershipand still obeying the LORD, Deborah wisely accommodated Barak’s hesitancy (see 4:6-10).

 And then she did something rather outstanding, at least in my mind: She blended well with Barak in a beautiful duet! (This rather extensive song is found in Judges 5:1-31a.)

I am so impressed with this. She could have sung a solo. She could have even relegated Barak to a backup voice. But in her nobility and wisdom, she blended her voice with his. This is true godly leadership: Knowing when to stand up, stand out and blend with those we serve as leaders.

Do you think this is one reason why her story is included in the Bible? What do you think?

Main Text— Judges 4:4-5; 5:31b (ISV) 4 Deborah, a woman, prophet, and wife of Lappidoth, was herself judging Israel during that time. 5 She regularly took her seat under the Palm Tree of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the mountainous region of Ephraim, where the Israelis would approach her for decisions. … 31 Then the land enjoyed quiet for 40 years. 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.(2 Timothy 4:5 (NIV)

   To each person has been given the ability to manifest the Spirit for the common good….  Now you are the Messiah’s body and individual parts of it.1 Corinthians 12:7, 27 (ISV)

 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.—Romans 12:16 (ISV)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to faithfully fulfill the task You have prepared for me in advance to do with the gifts You have given me. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

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I Remember When I Was Young

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As I am reading through the New Testament this year, it gave me pause when I arrived (catching up as it were) to the main text below. Yes, I remember when I was young. I remember reading this passage over and over again, spurring me on to “set an example.” …

Now that I am not so young and have fewer years ahead of me than behind me, I humorously thought: “Now that I’m not young, I don’t need to set an example any more…! I can be a crotchety old man, constantly complaining of the youth of today, etc., etc., etc….”

I pursued that fantasy for just a bit and thought of all the men in my life who had been this very person…. 

Then I thought of the dear men in my life who were truly an example of Jesus “in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (v. 12). I thought of these men who continued well into their 80’s and 90’s who committed themselves “to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (v. 13). 

It is these men who were pleasant to be around. These men who had the fragrant aroma of a Loving Deliverer. It is these men who (paraphrasing v. 16) “watched their lives and doctrine closely; who persevered in them, … who saves both themselves and their hearers”—and me.

It is these men I desire to be like when I am gray and old and I am well on my way with the latter. Besides, I still feel pretty young from the waste up, hehe.

Main Text— 1 Timothy 4:12–16 (NIV) 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.—2 Corinthians 6:4–10 (NIV84)

  Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.—Hebrews 12:3 (NIV84)

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.—2 Timothy 2:10 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to finish strong. Overwhelm me with a sense of Your Love as I sometimes limp to the “finish” line. Strengthen me to run and not grow weary; to walk and not faint; to mount up with renewed strength as the eagle. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

What is Wrong with Double Standards

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When something happens where a double standard is applied, many cry, “Hey, that’s a double standard.” And then pontificate on the  observation that the other person has a double standard. The sad irony is: the one with the double standard doesn’t care that they have a double standard. In fact, it is perfectly all right to have one.

 So instead of merely identifying those with a double standard, don’t you think it is also necessary to present what is wrong with a double standard? 

Let’s explore for a few moments what is wrong with a double standard. First of all, perhaps you would agree with me that a double standard will soon show itself to be an inadequate way of life. Trust evaporates and integrity goes the way of the dinosaurs. With a double standard, don’t you think even society itself will burn out? In my opinion, it will at some point be impossible to live as a society because once one double standard is replaced with another double standard, how do they know they will not turn on themselves? A house divided cannot stand, right? And isn’t a double standard really a house divided?

 What about those who say, “No justice, No peace?” Can we agree that if there is a double standard, there is no justice, and thus no peace? But can we also agree that if a double standard is the very charge of the cry, and the response is to replace the alleged double standard with another, how is this justice?  And how will it lead to peace?

It behooves us then to turn to Jesus, Who is the standard, and make sure we ourselves do not have a double standard. Have you observed that Jesus constantly called out the Pharisees for their duplicity—their hypocrisy? And when He did, He often noted it with severe warnings of the consequences of such a lifestyle or standard? Perhaps we should be doing the same thing, but first applying His standard—which is no double standard—to ourselves and then perhaps to others, wouldn’t you agree?

Main Text— Proverbs 11:3 (NIV84) The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.Matthew 7:5 (NIV84)

 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.—Matthew 23:15 (NIV84)

  The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.—Proverbs 10:9 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, remove any duplicity and hypocrisy far from me. Clean my heart and make me whole. Be my integrity as Your transforming of my soul on the inside becomes evident to all on the outside. In this You will be pleased and I will honor You with my Life. In Your Name, may it be so!

Pastor Mike

“‘Believer’ or ‘Follower’: Which is It”

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Following Jesus More than Twitter

Have you notice that there appears to be a dichotomy between a “Believer in Jesus” and a “Follower of Jesus?” It seems to some that merely believing in Jesus isn’t enough, so they want to communicate their commitment to Jesus by saying, “I’m a follower of Jesus” (Or Christ, which is the Messiah).

Does it seem like this to you: Some who say they believe in Jesus don’t appear to live like Him? And from this do “the Followers” get the idea that if they call themselves followers of Jesus, it necessarily implies that they are living like He would desire them to live? Is this kind of like the ‘born again’ Christians of the 70’s?

Perhaps you have discovered what I have: To believe in Jesus has an action component. To truly trust in, rely on, and have faith in Jesus necessarily produces a follower. And yet some say they believe but have no action. (I think James refers to this as “deeds” or “works” in his letter, 2:14-26, don’t you?)

Okay, since not all who say,“I believe in Jesus,” appear to have the action component of a follower, does it also follow that those who say, “I’m a follower of Jesus” not necessarily make them a believer? Apparently not. Our Lord clearly addresses this in our main text below, with the key verses being vv. 64-66.…

What I am suggesting here, then, is we have a false dichotomy. This is not an Either/Or, but a Both/And: Our Lord Jesus wants Both Believers who Follow And Followers who Believe. If someone says, “I believe in Jesus,” their life should demonstrate this confession. Likewise, those who say, “I follow Jesus,” their lives and confession should integrate. Agree?

Perhaps then, our being Salt and Light will have a wee bit more impact on the world around us, more so than merely saying we believe or saying we follow.

What do you think? Your thoughts.

Main Text— John 6:60–69 (NIV84) 60 On hearing it, many of His disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that His disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray Him. 65 He went on to say, This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless the Father has enabled him.” 66 From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?Luke 6:46 (NIV84)

 Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.—Matthew 7:24 (NIV84)

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation.— Hebrews 6:9 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to live the Life that is pleasing to You. May the confession of my mouth be seen in my feet as I follow in Your steps.

Pastor Mike

“The Power to Live the Life”

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Plugging into Jesus

As we embark on this series developing the third component of our Vision Statement: “Living His Word” (the first two are : Building Families & Pursuing the Lord Jesus Christ), it would be very easy to slip into what I have called, “Behavioral Christianity,” that is, attempting to Live the Word in our own strength. This attempt to live the Christian Life in our own strength, on the one hand, produces hypocrites and legalists, who have no integrity, and who foolishly think they can fake living the Life or who foolishly think they can gut out the Word without the Life of Lord Jesus coursing through their spiritual veins, respectively. The Dangler, on the other hand, has integrity, but is caught between the is and the ought: They “ought” to live like the Word, but they “is” not like the Word. So they slip from one teacher to another; one church to another; one Bible study to another until they find the “secret.” But plugging into people, positions, power or possessions just doesn’t cut it….

The “secret,” as Gary Smalley has said, is: “We need to plug into the 220 outlet—the Lord Jesus!” (“220”comes from Galatians 2:20—see below.)

So as we plug into the Lord Jesus Christ by faith, He empowers us by His Holy Spirit to Live the Life the Word presents. For example, the Word teaches, “… Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34b NIV84). Now I can try to Love my brother and sister in Christ in my own strength and to some degree I may have some success. (And some may have even more success because they are more disciplined or stronger or whatever…) But if we are truly honest with ourselves, to Love as Jesus would have me Love is way beyond my ability (see Gal. 2:21). I offer a simple prayer of faith to resolve this conundrum: It goes like this: “Lord Jesus Christ, be Love in me toward _______.” Or “Lord Jesus Christ, be in me what my _____ needs right now.” And then He will not only prompt you, but empower you to “go do it”—whatever it is.

This is the Life of Faith when Living His Word. At times He will prompt us to do or say something, but at other times He may prompt us to remain quiet, or merely offer a healing, holy touch. Whatever He prompts us to do, I have found that listening to Him is crucial….

What are some ‘habits’ you use to practice listening for His promptings? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Galatians 2:20–21 (NIV84)— 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!

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 4:9 (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)

  Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”— John 14:6 (NIV84 emphasis added)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Sword Wielder. Empower me to live Your Word as You continue to transform me by Your Holy Spirit. In Your 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.

Active Listeningb

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