Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Your Identity in Christ

There are times in life when you get a strong sense of who you are not. A housewife can easily say, “Compared to an architect, my life is nothing.” A Boy Scout can easily say, “Compared to a Marine, my life counts for nothing.” A machine operator can say, “Compared to a doctor, what I do is nothing.” Have you ever started your morning out and had those kinds of thoughts? We can all compare ourselves with someone else and feel that we are not contributing to this life or feel like we are a nobody. We all want to be known or feel we have contributed something to make a difference. I believe the enemy thrives when people begin to sway toward this line of thinking or begin to believe these kinds of lies.

What about thinking of ourselves as God sees us? In John 10:14-15, Jesus says “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father – and I lay down my life for the sheep.” Jesus not only knows us but He lays down His life for us. The closer we get to Jesus, the more we realize that being known by Him is worth much more than being known by the world. He is the difference maker in our lives.

Some of you who understand that Jesus is talking to the Jewish people need to read the next two verses. John 10:16-17 says, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

Did you see it? Jesus is talking about you and I. We are mentioned in the Scripture. It is as though our very name is written in the passage. So when we have the urge to obsess over those who are more important than we seem to be, or when we desire to be known ourselves, we can be assured that Jesus knows us. He knows and loves us so much that He died for us. If that doesn’t put an end to thoughts of inadequacy, then continue to read and pray until the Lord changes your mind. You are blessed to be who you are in Christ. Don’t let anyone talk you out of it. Instead, spend more time getting to know Jesus and listen to His voice.

Looking forward to an awesome Sunday as we continue our series on the “I AM.” This week we are looking at John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Let’s grow together and celebrate the fact that God has chosen each one of us and that make us more important than any American Idol.

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Breaking Down Walls of Unforgiveness

Have you ever stopped to think how life can be unfair at times? I have a friend who has gone through so many disasters I know for sure he is probably thinking that at this time. Life is not fair. If you are reading this devotional then you probably have been hurt by someone whether it was intentional or not. Our perception of reality is what we go with. Unfortunately, you hear phrases like this, “Hurt me once shame on you, hurt me twice shame on me.” “I’ll never trust you again.” I have seen people hurt others because they have been hurt and thus the phrase, “hurt people, hurt people.” Now teenagers are not able to hide this attitude as well as adults. They have only been around the block once or twice. As an adult, we have learned to play the game of life a little better than immature teenagers. Can I tell you what the Bible calls the attitude of the heart when you move on without healing? It’s called unforgiveness, or should I say, “sin.” It is serious enough that it mentions it can get in the way of your entrance to heaven. The Bible has much to say about this subject.

I have seen many build walls in life that only hinder growth and relationship with others. Jesus talks about true forgiveness in a Parable of the Unmerciful Servant found in Matthew 18:21-35. It is brought on by Peter asking Jesus how many times you are to forgive someone who sins against you. Peter was thinking in the realm of about seven times. That is a lot when you stop and think about it. When is the last time you forgave someone up to seven times? That would have to be in the sphere of a family member to be that many times. But Jesus' response was, “not seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Jesus knew that when we have an unforgiving spirit, we are, in a sense, building our own prison cell. Just ask anyone who has not forgiven someone how that is working for them. It has a way of wedging itself in other areas of our lives and making you miserable all the time. I can attest to that myself on many occasions in the past. But forgiveness sets us free from our own self-made prison cells.

In the parable, we learn the king wanted to settle accounts with his servants. There was one particular servant who owed him a lot of money. The king decided to sell all the servant had including his wife and children. The servant begged the king to be patient with him and he would pay back everything in time. The king had mercy on him and canceled all their debt and let them go. This is a picture of God in the story. He has canceled our debt we could not pay and exercised unlimited forgiveness. What a God we serve! God has given us His mercy so we can go out and extend it to others.

The story goes on to show how that same servant who was forgiven all his debts went out and grabbed someone who owed him money, and began to choke him and demand the money now. His fellow servant did the same thing he did previously by falling to his knees and asking for patience and in due time he would pay it back. But the servant refused to listen and threw the man into prison until he could pay him back.

This way of living backfired on the servant who had been forgiven everything. The king caught wind of what had taken place and tortured the servant he had forgiven everything to until he could repay what was owed. This just shows that God will turn us over to our own “prison” of bitterness if we are unwilling to forgive others. God calls each of us to be responsible in every conflict to put things right by receiving or giving forgiveness.

Read the parable for yourself found in Matthew 18:21-35. Let God speak to you and help you evaluate any unforgiveness that may have lodged itself up in your heart. This week, memorize the following verses,
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ, God forgave you.”  Ephesians 4:31-32

So instead of building walls around you to protect you from others, begin to take those walls down one brick at a time. Be generous with forgiveness, it’s worth the freedom in living as Christ calls us to.

This Sunday I will be preaching from John 8:12 where Jesus says, “I AM the light of the world…” Until then, let forgiveness be a buffet before us and may we find joy in forgiving others even before we need to.

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday and Eternal Life

What’s the big deal about Ash Wednesday? 

Come tonight and find out. We will be gathering in the sanctuary for our Ash Wednesday service. You will want to be sure and attend with the whole family. Childcare will be provided for infants and toddlers age 3 and under.

For the past few years we have gone through a study called “Ashes to Fire.” This year we are reading through the story of Jesus' journey to the cross and beyond. Each Sunday you will receive a different symbol that will coincide with the reading each week. It is designed to have one intentional time each week to re-focus around the final days of Jesus according to Matthew. I believe this will be an enriching study as we experience the freedom that has come to us through God coming as flesh and dwelling among us for the sole purpose of giving His life to redeem us from our sin.

For God so loved you that He gave His one and only Son. If you believe in His Son then you shall never perish but have eternal life. This eternal life begins at the moment you believe. This eternal life has with it the freedom to live today and experience the presence of God in every situation. No matter if you are having a good or bad day, God’s presence can be felt through the Spirit He has filled you with. It brings a deep sense of joy and peace knowing that things will work out in God’s timing. So hold on, read and be engaged in the Word of God, have an unflinching allegiance to the One who gave His life for you, and tell as many people as you possibly can so they too can be changed into a new creation.

It was good to see three wonderful children of God be baptized on Sunday. This Sunday we will be looking at how the Lord wants to be our Bread so we will never go hungry.

God is on the move in our church and our role is to come seeking and hungering after more of Him. Won’t you join me as we anticipate a fresh filling of the Holy Spirit?

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

God's Timing #5 - Hearing God and Obeying

Understanding God’s timing is all about growing up in the Lord. There are times when some things should never be done, while other things must always be done. At certain times a particular action is the only proper course to take while at other times even good things are inappropriate to take because God clearly says, “not now!” Understanding God in uncertain times can help us to avoid painful pitfalls and guide us into His perfect will.

Very seldom do we hear God telling someone to stop praying, but that is exactly what is happening before the Israelites cross the Red Sea.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.’”    Exodus 14:15-16

Grant it, praying to God while seeing your enemy coming toward you is not a bad thing. There was just something better to do – “Stop praying and move on!” He wanted Moses to do something better at that particular time – to act on faith so that God could deliver His people from Pharaoh’s army. Sometimes even good things must cease at the command of God so a critical deed can be accomplished.

Moses then stretched out his hand over the sea and the sea was drawn back with a strong east wind. The Israelites were then delivered safely on the other side. What would have happened if Moses didn’t act on what the Lord had called him to do? I think the answer is simple: They would have died by the sword of the Egyptians. But praise the Lord for faithful leaders who hear the Word of the Lord and obey.

Have you ever been paralyzed with fear and not able to move forward because of unknown circumstances? Have you ever been in a situation where you desperately wanted to do something or go somewhere but deep down inside you heard the Holy Spirit saying, “Not Now”? What a joy it is to be in such a relationship with the Lord that when you sense Him calling, you can know beyond any shadow of a doubt that it is God’s voice. That’s where I want to be for the rest of my earthly existence.

So work on knowing the timing of God by getting closer to Him through His Word, prayer, and other believers. The journey is awesome, the destination is out of this world.

There is also another place I want to be on Sunday morning – right here in our church. We are beginning a new series entitled, “I AM: Discovering the Promise of Jesus.” It will be based on the I Am statements Jesus made about Himself in the Gospel of John.

I am looking forward to what God wants to do this Sunday.

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike