Pastor’s Blogs

“Rise Above the Noise of Joy-Stealers”

So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (John 16:22 NIV84)

Has the hurry, bustle and rush of this season risen to such a loud roar that it has squeezed the joy out of life?

Our Lord Jesus promised that when we see Him (again), “no one will take away [our] joy.” But it has been said, we can give it away. Or perhaps, let the world squeeze Joy out of us…. What do you think?

If Joy is a part and parcel to the Fruit of the Spirit (ranking second in order); and if “the Joy of the LORD is our strength” (Neh. 8:10); and if we are to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers & sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance” (James 1:2), it seems somehow we have a role to play in preparing our hearts for the fruit of Joy to be “born” in our lives; wouldn’t you agree?

So as the noise of the Joy-stealers rises to a “feeding frenzy” hoping to devour all remnant of Joy in our lives, let us quiet our souls, turning a deaf ear to the shouts and screams of worry, doubt, insult and harm, and let us confess that “the Joy of the LORD is our strength,” and firmly believe that no matter what we are going through right now, “God is Good all the time no matter what,” because I am considering “it pure joy” as I face all these noisy trials of various kinds. Will you join me in quieting our hearts, preparing the “soil” to bear forth much fruit—especially the Fruit of Joy?

Let the silence in our souls drowned out the noise of the Joy-Stealers.

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Rise Above the Noise of the Shouters”

Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater.  The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there. The Jews pushed Alexander to the front, and some of the crowd shouted instructions to him. He motioned for silence in order to make a defense before the people. But when they realized he was a Jew, they all shouted in unison for about two hours: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” (Acts 19:30–34 NIV84)

Lest we think that shouting is a new phenomenon (though it may be escalating more of late), as you can see from the passage above, Christians have been “shouted down” since our founding, if you will. The mob were shouting at Jesus’ trial, too. (See Luke 23:20.) So, what is our response? How do you and I rise above the noise of the shouters?

Paul’s response was, “When the uproar had ended, Paul sent for the disciples and, after encouraging them, said good-by and set out for Macedonia” (Acts 20:1 NIV84). He basically ignored it and moved on, encouraging those who would remain behind. So, what about those who remain behind; what is their response? Well, our Lord Jesus remained quiet during the shouting. This could be one response: Silence. Another? “A soft answer turns away wrath; but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Pro. 15:1 ESV); for “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone” (Pro. 25:15 NIV84). I have found that soft and gentle answers, including silence, deescalate the shouting, and at some point, earn the privilege to be heard.

Are you encouraged to join me to rise above the noise of the shouters by deploying soft, gentle answers, and sometimes, even silence?

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Rise Above the Noise of the Naysayers”

While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher any more.”  Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” When He arrived at the house of Jairus, He did not let anyone go in with Him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.” They laughed at Him, knowing that she was dead. But He took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!” Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but He ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened. (Luke 8:49–56 NIV84)

It seems like the noise around us is only getting louder. But one thing I have noticed: In order to rise above the noise of the naysayers, we need to keep our eyes firmly fixed on Jesus and following Him into the night.

Even when the crush of the crowd, the jarring jolt of reality, and the mocking laughter of the naysayers gets ever louder, we still follow Jesus deeper into the night. It is only when we fix our eyes on Him, His voice penetrates the night and rises above the noise: “Don’t be afraid; just believe…!” Do you hear His voice? Do His words of reassurance and affirmation comfort you? Still your heart and let His voice rise above the noise of the naysayers.

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Mission Directive”

As we go through our Vision Statement: “Building Families; Pursuing the Lord Jesus Christ; Living His Word, and as we develop our Mission Statement: “Reaching, Reconnecting, Revitalizing and Reinforcing Families,” my prayer is that you see your part in the fulfillment of this Mission Directive.

On the back table of the auditorium are several Spiritual Gifts inventories along with the Gift-Mapping Matrix handout. Please avail yourself of these tools. Even if you already know your spiritual gifts, it would be good to refresh your memory.

As we discover our gifts, we begin the 3-D gift journey: Discover, Develop and Deploy our gifts. Now, of course, it is not the gift we deploy, but we are deployed. Some need OJT (on the job) training. Others will need formal training. Still others may need to step out and serve and discover which gifts are really their primary, secondary and tertiary gifts.

I want us to picture a sporting event where the bench is cleared for a very good reason: Everyone is on the field participating. And with the exceptions of time outs and halftime breaks (call them sabbaticals, if you will), we should keep the bench cleared.

Are you ready to get in the game of Building Families Pursuing the Lord Jesus Christ and Living His Word in the spheres of influence He has given each one of us? I am. Join me in praying for each other that we would join this journey of the 3-D gifts: Discovering, Developing, and Deploying this grace that He has so lavishly poured out on us.

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Spring into Life”

Of course, April showers bring May flowers. They bring life.  Of course, when there is a drought, the showers are less plenteous. There results a desert. And, of course, this is a parable for our spiritual lives. …

As you are fully aware, the Lord Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life, but sadly many stop with Him as the Way and the Truth; then they try to live the Christian Life in their own strength: They gut it out becoming legalists.

Or they try to pretend they are living the life Jesus wants: They fake it out, becoming hypocrites. But if you have integrity, you will neither gut it out because deep down you know you cannot do it; and you will not fake it out because you know you need to be true to yourself as well as the Lord Jesus, Who is the Truth. So, there you dangle being caught between the “is” and the “ought”: Between what is and what ought to be, thus you become a Dangler!

But my prayer for you and for me is that instead of being a Hypocrite, Legalist or Dangler, we spring into Life, the Life the Lord Jesus Christ is in us. Again, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. As we spring into Life, we become Lifers, those who yield to the Lord Jesus Christ, Who is the Power to live the Life.

Join me in living this Resurrected Life: “Lord Jesus Christ, be in me what You need me to be today. May I hear Your voice and obey Your promptings. In Your Name, Amen.”

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“The Empty Tomb Response”

When emotions run high and logic is empty, let the empty tomb respond. When a relationship slips & falls and leaves you empty, let the empty tomb respond. When the bills mount up and the bank account runs empty, let the empty tomb respond.

The empty tomb is after death. The empty tomb shouts of After-Life. The empty tomb is full of hope and reassurance: Jesus has conquered death—and sin, and has given us Full Life, Abundant Life.

The empty tomb response to empty logic may be silence, or a well-crafted answer prompted by the After-Life in this life. The empty tomb response to an empty relationship may be to terminate the relationship or to let the Resurrected Life revitalize and fill the emptiness. The empty tomb response to financial short falls may be to cut back on extras, and even if there is nothing left to cut, the After-Life response is full of hope and Abundant Life: “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Psalm 23:1 NIV2011), and “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread” (Psalm 37:25 NIV84). The empty tomb response says, “He will provide; You will make it!”

As we celebrate the Resurrection this year, let us proclaim the emptiness of the tomb and the Fullness of the Resurrection. Let us rest in the confident Hope that the Resurrected One has secured for us Fullness in our emptiness. He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!!!

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Which Love Changed Your Life?”

Many view February as the Love Month. Valentine’s Day seems to set this tone. I want us to look more closely at the word, “love.” It seems that in English it is used for so many different “loves.” From love of things to love of puppies, kittens, events, and a wide variety of foods….

Did any of these loves change your life? If it changed, how deep and profound was that changed?

I want to submit to you that the Love of Lord Jesus has changed your life far more profoundly than any of the loves I mentioned above.

How can I say this? Good question.

If you have experienced the unconditional Love of Jesus, perhaps you understand this a little better than most. You understand that He Loves you with no strings attack, no easing up in poor weather, and no expectations to earn this Love.

If you have experienced the sacrificial Love of Jesus, perhaps you realized how much He has given up for you. He gave up all His riches, all His Glory, and all His Life to Love you, and provide a place with Him in heaven.

If you have experienced the other-centered Love of Lord Jesus, perhaps you have experienced how focused He is on you. To think that the God of the universe is never too busy running the universe to hear you, hear your prayers and even collect your tears. This is mind boggling.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. — Eph. 2:8–9 NIV84

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich. —2 Cor. 8:9 NIV84

[Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. —1 Cor. 13:5

As we personally experience this Love of Jesus, may your heart be so overwhelmed that you cannot help but share it with others. Let’s make February truly a Love month!

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“Seeing-eye Faith”

As you know, I have been talking a lot about walking by faith in the darkness. Sadly, many of us have a very “sight-seeing” faith. We look for our guide “dog,” or signs & wonders or some confirmation we are following the Lord; and this, in a deep, profound sense, is not walking by faith. Alas, we are still walking by some sort of “sight”.

So, ignoring those who do not desire to pursue the Lord (who have no passion to walk in His Steps), and disregarding the others who want no part of faith walking, but would rather make all their own decisions—ignoring the Lord Jesus in any part of their life, let me simply say this to the faithful Faith-walkers:

The Lord Jesus will never leave you; nor will He forsake you! No matter what you decide, He will be right there—even if it is a mistake. He Loves you so much, He is working all your mistakes, all your flub ups, and all your dark moments into a beautiful Laser show that will not blink out with the moment, but, instead, will leave an enduring, positive impact on all who watched the show.

So, get rid of your “seeing-eye” faith; kennel up the “faith-guide dog” and look to the Lord Jesus. A simple childlike faith in Him; trusting Him to say what He means and mean what He says. He is for you! He is for you! He is with you! He with you! Amen and Amen!

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
—Eph 3:20–21

Peace,

Pastor Mike

“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