Pastor’s Blogs

“Hope For the Future”

There is a promise in Jeremiah that a lot of us quote without realizing the context. It is a great promise no matter what, but the context gives us a deeper understanding of the promise. Here’s the promise:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV84).

Ah, but the context? The prophet Jeremiah is “promising” in a letter that the people of Jerusalem are about to go into exile into Babylon for 70 years! Sadly, dark days are ahead, and yet the spotlight of hope in v. 11 shines in this darkness: The LORD has great plans for us, too, to “give you a hope and a future.” Yes, even in this exile, even in this very darkest of times. …

So whether COVID or lockdowns or elections or weather or life appear to not be going “your way,” or whether it is but an encroaching darkness, know this: the LORD has plans for you, for us, to give us a hope and a future…, but do not stop at verse 11; we need to keep reading as we secure this hope and future:

Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the LORD, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile” (Jeremiah 29:12–14 NIV84).

Is it as clear to you as it is to me? In this encroaching darkness, we are to “call upon” the Lord, pray to Him, seek Him—with all our heart, and then He will be found by us! This is my hope in any darkness: I need to keep seeking the Lord Jesus with all my heart as He uses this “Dark night of the soul” to cleanse my heart from what is not seeking Him. Is He your hope for the future?

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Pray without Seeing?”

Okay, so maybe I’m slurring a pun here, but let’s pause and think about it. How often is the exhortation from Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “pray without ceasing” (NKJV), glibly said? Oh, we may pray without ceasing, but alas, often it is more praying without seeing, isn’t it?

I’m reminded of Elijah, especially because we have been praying for rain now for some time. And as of this writing there has been no rain in the valley…yet. Elijah prayed without seeing, didn’t?

Let’s look again at 1 Kings 18:41-46. In this passage we are reminded that it had not rained for over 3 years and apparently the time for drought was ending. So, Elijah “bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees,” and prayed (1 Kings 18:42 NIV84). Then he told his servant, not once, not twice, but seven times to check for rain. Surely some time passed between each investigation, wouldn’t you agree? And all the while Elijah continued praying without seeing. (His face was against his knees, right?)

The obvious question arises concerning our praying for rain. In anticipation of the answer I put the gutters down, even washed my windows, but I haven’t washed my car yet. And still no rain. I have had to ask myself, “how’s my praying without seeing coming?” Have I grown weary in praying… and not just for rain? The inventory was telling ….

Would you join me in continuing to “pray without seeing”? Maybe we can be an encouragement to each other? Beginning Wednesday, September 16, I am starting a once a month prayer-walk. We will meet at the church and begin there in our praying without seeing. See you there 7:00 pm?

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Let Us Love One Another”

Our Lord’s most intimate teaching and, in essence, His last “Command,” is found in what is commonly called the Upper Room Discourse. He is about to be savagely treated, but He made time to wash His disciples’ feet, eat with them, and encourage them:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-45 NIV84)

The Son of Thunder, who has become the Beloved Disciple, echoes this in 1 John 4:7-8:

Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (1 John 4:7–8 NIV84).

And this Love is not syrupy, but substantial: Unconditional, Sacrificial and Other Centered:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (1 Cor. 13:4-7 NIV84).

So why is Loving one another so important? One simple answer is because the world is going to hate us. It hated Jesus, so why are we so surprised (see John 15:18)? Our Lord is telling us, “You are all you have so try to get along.” How are we doing?

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Pray without Seeing?”

Okay, so maybe I’m slurring a pun here, but let’s pause and think about it. How often is the exhortation from Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 glibly said? Oh, we may pray without ceasing, but alas, often it is more praying without seeing, isn’t it?

I’m reminded of Elijah, especially because we have been praying for rain now for some time. And as of this writing there has been no rain in the valley…yet. Elijah prayed without seeing, didn’t?

Let’s look again at 1 Kings 18:41-46. In this passage we are reminded that it had not rained for over 3 years and apparently the time for drought was ending. So, Elijah “bent down to the ground and put his face between his knees,” and prayed (1 Kings 18:42 NIV84). Then he told his servant, not once, not twice, but seven times to check for rain. Surely some time passed between each investigation, wouldn’t you agree? And all the while Elijah continued praying without seeing. (His face was against his knees, right?)

The obvious question arises concerning our praying for rain. In anticipation of the answer I put the gutters down, even washed my windows, but I haven’t washed my car yet. And still no rain. I have had to ask myself, “how’s my praying without seeing coming?” Have I grown weary in praying… and not just for rain? The inventory was telling ….

Would you join me in continuing to “pray without seeing”? Maybe we can be an encouragement to each other? Beginning Wednesday, September 16, I am starting a once a month prayer-walk. We will meet at the church and begin there in our praying without seeing. See you there 7:00 pm?

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Silence is what?”

Growing up I was often told “silence is golden.” I was told this often because, well, I couldn’t stop talking. Now I’m told that silence is something else….

First, let me say that, a fool is thought wise until he speaks. Secondly, Pro. 18:13 says, “He who answers before listening—that is his folly and his shame;” so it seems to me that silence is good, especially if I am listening. Thirdly, James 1:19–20 proclaims: “My dear brothers & sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.” By saying this, he reinforces that we should best listen first before engaging in any shouting match. Lastly, Edmond Burke warns: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” And perhaps we can restate this, “…that good people say nothing.”

So, do we remain silent or do we speak? If we speak, what do we say? Jesus remained silent before His accusers and yet said at His Last Passover: “If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not be guilty of sin. Now, however, they have no excuse for their sin.” This leads me to say what Ecclesiastes 3:7b says: There is “a time to be silent and a time to speak.”

If we are to speak, perhaps we can take a cue from what our Lord Jesus spoke as He inaugurated His earthly ministry quoting the Prophet Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor” (Isaiah 61:1–2 NIV84).

Will you join me in seeking the Lord Jesus’ face, listening to His voice, and remaining silent if He so leads, ah, but speaking if He so leads; and most definitely speaking in Love?

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Tempted to Gush & Rush?”

The time is approaching when the gates that have held us in will be opened, and like the mighty steed in a Kentucky Derby pen, we will burst out! Gushing and rushing forward to catch up on all that we missed in our locked down, stay-at-home, quarantine restrictions. …

…and perhaps like the out-of-shape weekend-warrior-athlete, we will pull something, probably a hamstring…

So how do we handle this sudden “return” of freedom? My suggestion—and caution—is with self-controlled moderation. The Gush & Rush is like getting off a diet. It will only make you sick. But as we reenter the “new normal”, make it as “old normal” as possible, with a dash of wisdom and common sense added. But in all wisdom, do not try to catch up all at once. It will only result in more heartache and frustration, and maybe a little social “impact”…. Think about it.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. … . [Galatians 5:22–23]

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. [2 Peter 1:5–7]

Will you join me in practicing a self-controlled reentry?

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Smell the Roses?”

When my roses begin to blossom, I take an early morning walk stopping at each bush to capture their fragrance. And, yes, I do think to “stop and smell the roses.”

Now you may not have roses or flowers to stop and smell, and you may not even be a morning person, but let this not deter you from stopping and smelling the moment. In the midst of all that we have been through these past few weeks, it is all the more imperative to do this.

Step out of the slipstream of panic and hysteria and worry and ultra-concern and take time to rest in the presence of Jesus. Let the Prince of Peace be your Peace:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For He is our peace … . [Ephesians 2:13-14a]

Will you join me, then, in stopping to smell the Flower, the Rose of Sharon?

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Spring–Renewal”

Spring cleaning is a challenge, especially when we do not take the time, right? Too often we are too busy and spring cleaning becomes summer catch up or worse, nothing is done at all….

Perhaps this is indicative of our spiritual lives, too. We do not slow down—even a little— to enter into a spiritual renewal. The rush of the holiday season seems to ripple well passed January into February. And as we get to March, stopping to take a deep breath is near impossible when we can’t even catch our breath.

The solution? I’m trying to deliberately take time to pause, grab a text from the Word, and simple ruminate over it. Then let the text grab me. Maybe even seeing Psalm 49:3 come to fruition in my life:

My mouth will speak wisdom, And the meditation of my heart will be understanding. [Psalm 49:3 NASB95]

Will you join me, then, in pausing for a spiritual spring renewal?

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“The ‘New’ on My Terms”

If you’re like me, you like new things. In fact, we may go out and “comfort buy” to get something new in our lives to feel “good.” But of late I’ve been noticing that I seem to only like “new” when it is on my terms; when I can control the purchase, situation or event. When “the new” shows up unannounced or spontaneous, well, I appear to be less receptive, and sadly, sometimes even critical. …

As the Lord is transforming me to understand that He works all for the Good—even the unplanned, unannounced “new”—I need to receive these “new” as well. I do not need to feel out of control because He is in control, nor do I need to feel put out, left out or taken advantage of because He is allowing this new into my life for “the Good” which He may not have revealed to me yet.

How about you? Are you more comfortable with “the new”—even from the Lord—it is only on your terms?

“Behold, I will do something new, Now it will spring forth; Will you not be aware of it? — (Isaiah 43:19a NASB95)

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Too Busy to Be Thankful”

An episode in our Lord’s life:

11 On the way to Jerusalem he was passing along between Samaria and Galilee. 12 And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance 13 and lifted up their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.” 14 When he saw them he said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went they were cleansed. 15 Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, praising God with a loud voice; 16 and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving him thanks. Now he was a Samaritan. 17 Then Jesus answered, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine? 18 Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 And he said to him, “Rise and go your way; your faith has made you well.” (Luke 17:11–19 ESV)

I’m not sure if they were too busy, per se, but they were clearly too something to not return and thank the Lord.  I don’t mind being a foreigner, especially to this planet, if I were one of those who “returned and give praise to God!” How about you? 

Join me in pausing and thanking our Heavenly Father for all the wonderful healings/gifts/blessings He has so graciously showered on us.

Peace,

Pastor Mike