Being A Good Sheep

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Lord, I truly desire to be a good sheep. I strive to do the things that please You. But You have convicted me this morning. Through Your voice in this morning’s text, You have made me acutely aware You desire me to be a good sheep well before I do good sheep things. I see in verse 3, that You desire me to be a good listener; to listen to Your voice.  In verse 4, I see You desire me to be a good follower; to follow You where You lead. And in v. 5, You desire me to be intimately attentive to Your voice; to know “it” so well I will not even recognize a stranger’s voice. …

But I struggle with putting the doing in front of the being. Pondering these three simple desires of Yours, I am sure You want me to focus on being in Your presence. I am to rest in the safety of the sheep pen as I enter the gate: You are the Gate. (I see this in v. 7.)

It is in You I find green pastures. It is in You I find still waters. It is in You my cup overflows.

Out of this overflowing of being in Your Presence—in You— the doing comes, but this doing is not out of duty or obligation. Not out of fear of disappointing You or fear of “doing it wrong.” Rather it is out of Love for You. When I Love You, I will do the “things” that please You, right? And the more I realize that I Love You because You first Loved me, this Love will drive out any fears of “doing it wrong.” All this because You are transforming me to be a good sheep.

Main Text— John 10:1–5 (NIV84) 1 I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.1 John 4:18 (NIV84)

  If you love Me, you will obey what I command. …  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.—John 14:15 & 15:12–13 (NIV84)

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.—Hebrews 4:16 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I praise You that You are the Good Shepherd. Empower me to be a good sheep. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

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Soul Rest vs. Physical Rest

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For the sake of discussion and to develop a healthy Both/And understanding, I’d like to discuss which is more needful: Soul rest or Physical rest. It appears that Jesus offers both to us in the main text (below). Both words for “rest” in vv. 28 & 29 are the same Greek word, but the second adds: “for your souls.” One would understand that the first is physical rest. Jesus offers us physical rest. We no longer need to strive to earn His favor. By Grace through faith we already have it. So physical rest is promised.

But how important is it to have “soul rest” as well? Wouldn’t you agree that if there is turmoil in our soul, there are also physical consequences? Maybe grinding teeth, or a stiff neck or tightness in the shoulders. So no matter how much physical rest we may try to get, soul rest seems to be connected.

But do you suppose that if I am not getting physical rest, it also follows that I am not taking the time to get soul rest either? What a conundrum.

And on top of this, I know how to get physical rest rather easily: Stop. Stop doing what I do physical. Take a break. Sit down. Smell the roses….

How do you suppose I get soul rest to anchor my physical rest? How do I stop and focus my soul on Jesus, the Rest Giver? What suggestions do you have?

Main Text— Matthew 11:28–30 (NIV84) 31 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give youI do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.John 14:27 (NIV84)

  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.—Hebrews 4:11 (NIV84)

  This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.”— (Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be both my soul rest as I seek Your Face. 

Pastor Mike

Avoiding People Pleasing

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This Sunday’s message is indirectly addressing people pleasers. Ironically, I know I have constantly been tempted to be one. I want everyone to like me. Why? Oh, my expressed “reason” (read, “excuse”) is so that I will not dishonor the name of Jesus, but I think the deeper reason is so that I will have other’s approval and not be embarrassed and shamed. Pretty self-centered, huh? But here’s what I discovered in our main text: Jesus doesn’t seem to care about this, or the crowd’s view of Him—even when they call Him some severe, shameful names: “glutton and drunkard”! He trusted His Heavenly Father to take care of His reputation and deal with any potential shame factor…. How? Our Lord was more concerned about pleasing His Father than pleasing the people. Something I really need to capture. How about you?

 Below is a devotion for today found in Christians Secrets of a Holy Life by Hannah Whitall Smith. My heart has been profoundly touched by it, and I pray it touches yours, too.

July 20

“Don’t be discouraged at any form of temptation which threatens you, but always look to Jesus, and ask Him to meet and overcome it by His own wisdom and power. I think I am learning more and more of what utter trust means. Having naturally some feeling of personal ability and good sense, it has always been a temptation for me to rely on these and to feel that I wouldn’t be likely to lose my balance whatever happened. But I have seen recently that even my natural abilities must be laid aside in this life of death to self, and that I must really and practically have all my resources in the Lord only.

“I do not know whether I am making myself clear, but in my experience this has been very real. It has cost me something to lay aside my old dependence upon my own judgment and good sense, and to let myself be a helpless in the Lord’s hands. But it is unspeakably sweet when it is done. And I believe it is to me the opening up of a life of conscious union with my Lord such as I have never know before. I seem to have sunk into unfathomed depths of littleness and nothingness, and to have found the Lord there in a more real and actual consciousness than ever before.

“Only, dear friend, ask the Lord to fulfil [sic] John 14:16, 21, 23 in you, and open up your whole being to receive His manifestations.”—To Friend, December 17, 1874.

 [Source:  Smith, H. W., & Dieter, M. E. (1997). The Christian’s secret of a holy life: the unpublished personal writings of Hannah Whitall Smith. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc.]

Main Text— Luke 7:31–35 (NIV84)— 31 “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:  “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.’ 33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ’ 35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”  

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 The one who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.John 8:29 (NIV84)

  So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it.—2 Corinthians 5:9 (NIV84)

  We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.— Colossians 1:28–29 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, all that You do pleases Your Father; please the Father in me. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

A Badge too Heavy To Bear

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Yes, for years I put in a lot of hours working. And I got a lot done. A lot! I marked my progress by what was accomplished and by my productivity. “For every one hour I put in it’s worth 3 – 4 hours of the average person,”  I would boast. Oh, then I’d tag it by noting how many hours I had put it….

This self-issued “Badge of Honor” became a badge too heavy to bear. I was rarely—if ever—home, I was constantly pumping adrenaline (since I don’t do caffeine), and I would have a constant string of maladies. Oh, I would even note that the Lord was trying to slow me down, but “I have a lot to accomplish for the kingdom.”

When I did slow down (some), I felt guilty and lazy. I’m not doing enough for the Lord—as if my production and productivity were His measures of my value.

It wasn’t until this most recent hip surgery I truly and seriously began to look at what the Lord was really showing me: I need to take care of myself with an honest-to-goodness Sabbath’s rest. Huh? Really? “But it’s an issue of stewardship,” I would retort, “isn’t it, Lord?” 

Yes, I did preach Sabbath for years; even “practiced” it to some degree. But to actually take some time for my self to physically rest, emotionally discharge and spiritually recharge, well, I still had to move passed this idea of being lazy and stewardship. But in the Lord’s gentle way, He has be ‘nudging’ me to simply do nothing, but focus on His goodness and allow the Holy Spirit to emotionally discharge and spiritually recharge my “system”—along with this literal physical rest. I guess this is what it means when our Master says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

So I’ve been practicing leaving tasks undone. And allowing myself the freedom to have an uncompleted check list. Tomorrow has enough to worry about anyway. How about you? How is your Sabbath’s rest coming?

Main Text— Mark 2:24–28 (NIV84) 24 The Pharisees said to [Jesus], “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.—Hebrews 4:11 (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.Matthew 11:28–29 (NIV84)

  Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. Mark 6:31 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, lead me to that quiet place in and with Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Recharge my soul as I gaze upon the beauty of Your Holiness and Goodness. In Son’ s Holy Name, Amen. 

Coach Mike