“Stretching in All Directions”

It has been a little over a year since my hip surgery. The hip pain is gone, and for this I am most grateful. Oh, I’ve had many bouts with “common” and “not-so-common” colds throughout this past year; some say, perhaps due to the weakening of my immune system from the surgery, but for the most part I have been recovering quite well….

Ah, yes, the lingering “but”: But I have learned something that I need to do quite regularly, daily if possible: I need to stretch—especially the hip region. I walk better, sit better, and feel all-around better when I do. Fitting this into my schedule has been quite difficult for sure.

One would think that stretching would be a snap: just a few minutes and back at “it”, but it is not. (For some reason, getting down and back up off the floor is still rather difficult for  me. I’m sure this is a rather large de-motivator, huh?)

As I was pondering this dilemma this morning, the Lord seemed to quietly and very softly open up a spiritual truth to me: I need to stretch my faith regularly, daily whenever “possible”. (I guess for starters merely getting on the floor in faith that I can get back up again with little to no difficulty, huh?) But I truly began to expand where my faith had truncated and in this place I needed a good incremental stretching.

Perhaps many of you have been struggling— as I have—with faith in the Lord providing financially. Bills seem to be pilling up as car problems, house “honey dos,” and sometimes those little extras seem to be forming a distant tsunami.

Streeetttcchhh! And, yes, I have sometimes pulled a faith-muscle during these stretches. The Lord is good all the time no matter what!!! I know this. I know He is more than faithful, so I press through the pulled muscles of faith and continue my stretching. And while I am at it, I not only need to get down on the floor to stretch my hip, etc., but also my knees—you know, in prayer. What do you think?

Main Text— Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)— 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.—1 Corinthians 1:9 (NIV84)

  The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NIV84)

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Shield of Faith. Quench the fiery darts being hurled at my the enemy. You are the True and Faithful Witness. Empower me to be like You In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“I Remember When I Was Young”

As I am reading through the New Testament this year, it gave me pause when I arrived (catching up as it were) to the main text below. Yes, I remember when I was young. I remember reading this passage over and over again, spurring me on to “set an example.” …

Now that I am not so young and have fewer years ahead of me than behind me, I humorously thought: “Now that I’m not young, I don’t need to set an example any more…! I can be a crotchety old man, constantly complaining of the youth of today, etc., etc., etc….”

I pursued that fantasy for just a bit and thought of all the men in my life who had been this very person…. 

Then I thought of the dear men in my life who were truly an example of Jesus “in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (v. 12). I thought of these men who continued well into their 80’s and 90’s who committed themselves “to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (v. 13). 

It is these men who were pleasant to be around. These men who had the fragrant aroma of a Loving Deliverer. It is these men who (paraphrasing v. 16) “watched their lives and doctrine closely; who persevered in them, … who saves both themselves and their hearers”—and me.

It is these men I desire to be like when I am gray and old and I am well on my way with the latter. Besides, I still feel pretty young from the waste up, hehe.

Main Text— 1 Timothy 4:12–16 (NIV) 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.—2 Corinthians 6:4–10 (NIV84)

  Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.—Hebrews 12:3 (NIV84)

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.—2 Timothy 2:10 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to finish strong. Overwhelm me with a sense of Your Love as I sometimes limp to the “finish” line. Strengthen me to run and not grow weary; to walk and not faint; to mount up with renewed strength as the eagle. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“How tough are the ‘Tough’?”

Have you ever heard the phrase, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going?” I heard it a lot at half-time or a time out. But I never understood how tough the ‘tough’ had to be to “get going”. Have you?

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As a pastor I have never said this to anyone, but as I thought about this morning’s main text, I had to ask myself this very question: “How tough do the tough have to be to get going?” I have seen people concussioned by life: lost of child; a torturous losing battle with cancer; a pink slip suddenly arrives on the desk; and the list goes on. I have marveled how some rape victim become victors while others remain victims. Were the former “tough” enough and the latter “weaklings?”

In my own life’s concussions, I have not always been the victor, but rather wallowed in victim stew far too long. But one thing I have learned, the Lord is tougher still. As the Apostle Paul alludes to later in this harrowing episode late in his life, “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island” (Acts 27:23-26). It was his faith in the Goodness of God through the tough times that kept him going.

Now to some, this may seem naive and pietistic, but to those who have walked through the tough times of life’s severe concussions—first without the Lord, and then finally yielding to His presence, we understand the truth: It is not my toughness, but the Lord’s faithfulness that gets me through those tough times.

Have you found this to be so, too? Whatever storms, or trials, or difficulties or tough times we may find ourselves in the midst of, join me in remembering, “When the going gets tough, remember the Lord is tougher.” And, if you are like me, we also need to remember what the father whose young son was severely out of sorts said to Jesus after He said, “Everything is possible for him who believes”… “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24 NIV84)!

Main Text— Acts 27:9-12 (NIV84) Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.— 2 Timothy 4:16–18 (NIV84)

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”—John 16:33 (NIV84)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in hHis mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.— Ephesians 6:10–11 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be my Shield of Faith. Quench the fiery darts that are being hurled at me. Be my Shoes of  Peace that I may be calm when enduring tough times. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“Prepared to face Challenges?”

Date: 07-23-15

My Thoughts:

I have been wondering for some time if I am prepared to face the challenges of pursuing the Lord Jesus, and perhaps this is why I’ve been holding back. Oh, as a Jesus Freak— young, single and ‘care-free’—I was ready for the fast track to heaven: martyrdom. But as I got older, got married, had kids, and now grandkids, I have often wonder if this is still my passion….

Have I gone to the other extreme? Have I become too soft? Am I prepared to face the challenges that naturally come with pursuing the Lord Jesus? And I’m not talking about my own personal challenges, per se, but the challenges a life pursuing Jesus brings to others—you know, accusations of being “holier than thou,”  the teasing from friends and family that we’re taking this ‘religious thing’ a little too seriously?

Back to that discussion I had had with Brother Andrew of Open Doors those many years ago. He also said to me during our talk, “Michael, Americans are not persecuted. They are intimidated….” He was referring to people thinking that they are suffering for Jesus because they cannot pray in schools, wear a cross at work, or are scoffed at by a neighbor….

Now, years later, as I reflect on his comments, I am forced to ask myself this question: “Have I joined in our culture’s intimidating assault, and helped them place a muzzle on me? On the church?” Have we muzzled ourselves by wincing at their shouting and barrage of insults? Am I really prepared to face the challenges that are presented when I passionately pursue the Lord Jesus? Is this why some do not as well?

I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this conversation….

Main Text: — Acts 4:3-4— 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  — 2 Timothy 3:12-13 (NIV84)

 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  — 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV84)

Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.. — Galatians 6:17 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, embolden me to share You with all I meet. Overcome my silly fears of intimidation and insults. Lord Jesus Christ, honor Yourself in my Life that others may know You, the One True and Only Hope. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Be A Change Agent for Jesus”

Date: 07-18-15

My Thoughts:

I know a common prayer of mine has been: “Lord, use me.” Well, what if He doesn’t? What if He chooses to pour me out as King David did the water secured from his hometown well (see 2 Chronicles 11:17-19), will my life and my service be any less valuable to Him? Or More? I know I have been stuck in this utilitarian / performance base value system for some time, but in truth, the Lord does use us—and He uses us as a change agent for others.

I have found that at least two prerequisites for this are faithfulness and availability. When we are faithful and available, we can enjoy the blessings of being co-laborers with Him as Peter and John were in this morning’s main text (see below).

Peter and John were not walking around wondering how the Lord was going to use them. No, instead they were faithful in prayer, going to the temple for the daily prayers. They were available to the Spirit’s promptings. In short, their hearts were open and their eyes were open. This led to their hands being open to be used of the Lord in His ways and in His timing. (In this situation, an open hand to grasp a lame beggar’s, eh?)

Years ago, Brother Andrew and I were talking privately at a conference he spoke at, and he said, “Michael, too often we come to the Lord with our hands full of our projects and our ideas and say, ‘Lord, bless these.’ Instead, we should lift up empty hands and say, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do? Fill these empty hands with Your projects and Your ideas….”

Have you discovered that only empty hands can be filled with heavenly projects? I have, and I have also learned that an open heart that is in passionate pursuit of Jesus joined with open eyes for His Person leads to open hands for His business. Have you?  How does being faithful in prayer lead to these and to becoming a change agent of Jesus? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 3:6-7 — 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And [Jesus] said to them, Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?  — Luke 2:49 (NKJV)

 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  — 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV84)

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol  or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD  and vindication from God his Savior.  Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. — Psalm 24:3-6 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, give us clean hands and purify our hearts. Let us not give our souls to another. (adapted from Charlie Hall’s “Give Us Clean Hands”) May I always honor the Holy Name of Jesus, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“What’s In a Job Title?”

 

Date: 12-31-14

Text: — Nehemiah 1:1 — O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of this your servant and to the prayer of your servants who delight in revering your name. Give your servant success today by granting him favor in the presence of this man.” I was cupbearer to the king. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Do not let your job title hold you back from fulfilling what the Lord has laid on your heart.

My Thoughts: 

Nehemiah closes off the first chapter with his job title, “I was cupbearer to the king.” Yes, he was highly trusted. He would taste the wine and the food before the king would eat it. He was the poison detector, if you will. A high risk job, eh? This means, on one hand, he was highly trusted, but on the other, highly expendable. I wonder if Nehemiah made friends in high places to prevent any poisonings; what do you think?

Many have pride in their jobs, but some live for the job title, the glamour of high powered titles like CEO, CFO, president, vice president, ‘pastor,’ reverend, etc…. But as Jesus said over his shoulder to the Pharisees, “Surely they have their reward” (Mt. 6:5 ESV).

As Lifestyle worshipers, we need not live for the job title; nor do we need to be held back by “it”. I have personally seen that janitors have a larger ‘pastoral’ role in some church settings than the pastor himself. So to all of us who feel expendable, take note of Nehemiah: Do not let your job title hold you back from fulfilling what the Lord has laid on your heart. He had the humility and the courage to act on the burden for his people. The Lord gave him favor with the king and with the people, and I’m sure that whatever situation we may find ourselves in, when the Lord prompts us to do something, He will not only empower us, He will also grant us favor with both those over us and those we will lead.

I pray this same confident blessing to you as you start this New Year with a renewed hope!

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other.

— John 15:15-17 (NIV)

   And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed.”

— Luke 1::46-48 (NIV)

  For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

— 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 (ESV)

Heavenly Father,  may I be faithful with the ‘job title’ You have placed on me. By the power of the Lord Jesus Christ, may I accomplish what You have designed me to do.  In His Name, Amen.