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All posts for the month January, 2013

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Pastor Scott, our south campus pastor, told a story this morning of he and his son running early one morning and only one of them had a running head lamp. Scott tried his best to shine a light both on his path and his son’s path as they ran, but it was difficult.

In the book of John, John the Baptist says, “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord ,” ’ as the prophet Isaiah said.” The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:23, 29 NKJV)

John is acting as a light (‘a voice crying in the wilderness’). The difference is that he is not shining the light for himself. He has the light inside himself and therefore he is able to shine a light for others.

A couple thoughts: 1) if you have light, you can give light (conversely, if you don’t yet have light you can’t give it), 2) once you come to the light, what do you do with it? If you try to keep it to yourself, it’s like hiding a light under a container.

Jesus said, “Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good deeds and glorify God in heaven.”

I grew up in church and therefore I have a particular song forever ingrained in my head: This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.

Shine bright today. The world needs your light.

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Last night @Westside Pastor Mike Alexander said: “You can’t make fruit.”

Fruit is grown. Everybody knows that. So when it comes to our lives why do we try so hard to be good, to do right, to cross our t’s and dot our i’s?

The thing about growing good fruit is that it happens in the seed planting, the watering, the nutrients, the soil. That’s where we should do our work.

Sorry, the word nutrients got me thinking about Nacho Libre. This guy worked hard in the preparation stages before he fought the Ramses. He worked out, he climbed rocks, he ate an eagle’s egg (you just have to see the movie). He did the hard work of preparing his body and heart for the big fight.

How do you prepare for the day? Does it just happen and you are along for the ride? Or do you get your heart and head right before it even starts. Maybe that happens for you through prayer or meditation. For me it starts with a conversation with Jesus. I know, it sounds strange. But I have a personal relationship with Him. I’m not special, I just asked Him into my life. He helps me get my head on straight, walk the talk, share the Lord’s chips:)

So stop trying to be good, and just get the soil of your heart and mind ready. That will certainly produce a good crop today.

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I woke up thinking about a situation in our church where relationships have been strained and bitterness has crept in. “Coincidentally” (which I don’t believe in by the way), my devotions this morning led me to Hebrews 12:14-15.

Work at living in peace with everyone, and work at living a holy life, for those who are not holy will not see the Lord. Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many. (Hebrews 12:14, 15 NLT)

Bitterness in one person has a way of corrupting multiple people. In a community of faith, how do you keep bitterness out?

Work at living in peace…work at living a holy life…look after each other…watch out…

Being at peace with people is hard work. We are all human and make mistakes. That’s why it’s work. Extending grace to one another is essential.

Not only do we work at peace by extending grace, but each person makes a commitment to live a holy life. That simply means looking at your life and honestly assessing your weaknesses and moving towards health in those areas.

In a community committed to extending grace and to honestly assess our personal growth, we can then watch out for each other because of the relationship we have established based on grace and honesty.

Lastly, be careful that in your watching out for one another, you don’t forget to watch out for your own soul. Only you can stop the seed of bitterness at the door.

Fear is having faith, but it’s placing your faith in the wrong things. Fear is placing your faith in the “what ifs”. So much of our fears are focused on things that may or may not happen. There is no reason to fear things that might not even happen. (From: You-version Devotional “Soul Detox”)

(Every Tuesday a group of Westside’s pastors gather to do devotions together. The scripture is usually centered around an upcoming message. This morning the group discussed John 4:43-54. Here is some of the thoughts that came from this morning).

On what basis does this man believe Jesus? Did he hear about the water turned to wine that happened in this very same city? Did he know Jesus? Jesus made his home with Peter in this man’s hometown of Capernaum. What caused him to believe Jesus? Was it the way Jesus spoke?

Often we treat Jesus like a “911 Jesus”. Allow Him to be part of our everyday lives.

Kingdom order of things. Focuses on the belief and on the heart. Jesus is more after our heart and belief system. Healing is actually an easier task than helping someone believe. Spiritual before physical.

Desperation often leads us to Jesus. People show up at church often out of desperation.

Little Faith vs Living Faith. Son is close to death, so are we. Draw close to Jesus. Situations may resist you. God may even put an obstacle you have to climb over. Authentic faith comes from being around Him.

Persistent and Progressive Faith. Beckoning to us to ask for more. Believe progressively, ask persistently.

You people…why does Jesus sometimes talk so abruptly to people? Pride often ends the possibility for healing. Jesus wants to break pride in our lives.

Not everyone has the same level of faith. It is a progression.

How do we demonstrate our faith? This guy did it by walking away. He completely put his trust on Jesus’ word.

The parallel of the centurion who didn’t ask Jesus to come, but to just say a word. Jesus marveled at faith and the lack of faith. Regardless, Jesus healed both.

Would this guy believed in Jesus if his son had not been healed?

If God is who he says he is, why do bad things happen? There is always a bigger picture. It’s about getting closer and closer to Jesus.

The Westside staff get a few days off every year between Christmas and New Years. This year I found it very difficult to re-engage. I was in some kind of funk. This morning I read the following:

For the despondent, every day brings trouble; for the happy heart, life is a continual feast. (Proverbs 15:15 NLT)

Our attitude has so much influence over our life. It can bring trouble or bring life. A bad attitude is a self-inflicting wound. We bring trouble on ourselves.

I don’t know about you, but experiencing a life that is a continual feast sounds pretty good. I have the power through my attitude today to feast on life or to continue to be in a funk. It’s my choice.

Colossians is a very interesting book in the Bible. It is written by Paul while in prison for his faith to a church that he had not personally started or visited. What is interesting about this book is that it was written to help guide a church that was in danger of 1) allowing the Greek culture to shape Christian values and beliefs and 2) allowing hyper spiritualism to control the actions of Christ followers.

What stands out in the book of Colossians is the focus on Jesus. A short book made up of four chapters. You will be amazed at how many times Paul mentions Jesus or Christ (40 times by my count).

You know where Christianity gets into trouble? When we put other things above Jesus. What types of things do we put above Jesus? Two things immediately come to mind: 1) What the world thinks. 2) Manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

1) When we filter our Christ centered values and beliefs through culture we put ourselves on a dangerous path of giving authority to this world to tell us who Jesus really is. Stick to Jesus and what He taught and how He lived. You can’t go wrong with Him.

2) When we focus too much on the manifestations of the Holy Spirit (the gifts of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit), we can so easily begin putting ourselves above Christ or thinking that our behavior and the behavior of those around us is more important than the love of Jesus. I see a growing pride rising up in people and churches who have a more experiential faith that involve signs and wonders. Again, stick with Jesus. Walk out the miraculous as He did.

The church was always meant to be a force of change in our world and society. That doesn’t come through power or position or political activism. It comes through living like Jesus, being like Jesus, thinking like Jesus. And when we do this, one word should describe his church: LOVE.

EXCERPTS FROM COLOSSIANS:
For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. (Colossians 1:27 NLT)

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. For these rules are only shadows of the reality yet to come. And Christ himself is that reality. You have died with Christ, and he has set you free from the spiritual powers of this world. So why do you keep on following the rules of the world, such as, (Colossians 2:8, 17, 20 NLT)

Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. So put to death the sinful, earthly things lurking within you. Have nothing to do with sexual immorality, impurity, lust, and evil desires. Don’t be greedy, for a greedy person is an idolater, worshiping the things of this world. You used to do these things when your life was still part of this world. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:2, 5, 7, 14 NLT)

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. (Colossians 4:5, 6 NLT)

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My brother-in-law, Mark Chauncey, builds houses for a living. He’s been doing it most of his life and he’s good at it. We’ve been living in our house for over 5 years now and anytime something breaks (pipes or cabinets, etc) I think two things: 1) Mark must not have built this house and 2) Did the builder really care about the details?

Today I am reminded that each of us owe our existence, not just to our parents, but to God Himself who built us. He is the Creator. And I hope that today you might recognize your existence in this life is somehow connected to Jesus Christ. He’s a good builder who takes His time mending our brokenness.

But Jesus deserves far more glory than Moses, just as a person who builds a house deserves more praise than the house itself. For every house has a builder, but the one who built everything is God. (Hebrews 3:3, 4 NLT)

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Last night we had an amazing First Wednesday service. God spoke through so many different avenues to us all.

Towards the end of the service I walked off the stage back to my seat. I found out very quickly that a woman had come forward to sit right behind me in the second row. She was very loud and demonstrative in her worship. Come to find out later she was intoxicated (not with the Holy Spirit by the way).

So, here’s a really cool thing that happened. I’m standing there wondering what’s wrong with this woman and if she is going to attack me or something and right then my father, Glen Mickel, shows up in the front row and stands next to me. That’s not normal. I turned and smiled and said, “hi dad. what’s up?” He simply said, “Just wanted to be down here next to you.” How cool. We talked later and he told me he just wanted to be there in case something happened.

You can be a 42 year old father of teenagers and still be moved by a father’s protective instincts. I loved it!

Do you know that God has your back? Seriously. He’s right there for you. He knows when a storm is coming and He simply comes and stands right next to you and provides a divine protection. You know how often I’ve wondered how bad life would be without Him? No matter what you are facing will you allow yourself to sense the divine protection of God Himself? He’s there for you. He’s got your back.