“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 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

“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

“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

Do Not be Distracted

Another lesson that the Lord exposed to me on my sabbatical was: “Do not be distracted”.  It was consolidated at a friend’s church as he was speaking from Nehemiah.

Sanballat and Geshem sent me this message: “Come, let us meet together in one of the villages on the plain of Ono.” But they were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: “I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer. (Nehemiah 6:2–4 NIV84)

 Many people will distract us. Some will do this intentionally, but the majority will innocently “interrupt” us. But I have found the greater battle is internal. I get so distracted between a good “task,” “project, or “activity” and the best. I must pause and seek the Lord’s face prior to engaging in any activity. A simple, “Lord, what do You want me to do now?” prayer should be sufficient for most times, but the larger projects, do you think these would require a more deliberate special seeking of the Lord’s face?

Join me on this journey to stay focused and “not be distracted”?

“Prayer Warning”

 

Prayer Warning. Prayer Needed. But not just any kind of prayer; Prayer filled with Thanksgiving and Hope is needed!”

Have you ever had this warning scrolling across the prayer screen of your life? I have. Yep, although I was diligently praying, my Whine-O-Meter was pegging the Red Zone! Then the above warning scrolled across my prayer screen. Ouch!

I stopped and discovered: “Thanklessness sours prayer!”

If I am not praying with thank-fullness, then my prayers are sour and probably stink a wee bit…. So the Lord, in His Mercy & Grace, redirected my attitude (after some confession) and thus redirected my prayers. Now they are filling with Hope as well as Thanksgiving.

Oh, I’m still waiting on some “urgent” answers, but at least the  waiting room is far more peaceful and calm—and hopeful, too!

Main Text— Ephesians 1:15–16 (NIV84)15 For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ ….2 Corinthians 2:14–15a (NIV84)

May my prayer be set before You like incense; may the lifting up of my hands be like the evening sacrifice.Psalm 141:2 (NIV84)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6–7 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, forgive me for my anxious, whiny thoughts which sour my prayers. Fill me with the Holy Spirit of thankfulness and hope. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Too Rushed”

I am fascinated at how the Lord never appears to hurry or rush, but when He acts, it is timely: never too late, but also never too early. And definitely never rushed! 

As I ponder the prophecies of the cross, I am learning that many were hundreds of years in the waiting. But in the “fullness of time” they were all fulfilled: one by one by one. Though to some these could have appeared in a rush or an avalanche (because tens were literally fulfilled on, around, and at the cross), but, in fact, they were precisely “completed” with pinpoint accuracy.

Why do I note all this? Because when I rush, I inevitably forget something, misplace something else or just overlook an instruction or two, and sadly, in the rush I often cause more work and even sometimes more pain…. 

For instance, I was baking a cheese cake the other day (my grandmother’s recipe and my favorite—with which nothing can compare, I must say). In my rush and hurry to get to the finished product, I overlooked a simple note on our stove to check the oven before turning it on. About two-thirds of the way through the preheat cycle, I noted a rather strange smell. “Aggh!” I remember the note and the pans in the oven. Carefully donning oven mittens, I slowly removed the—by now—super-heated pans. I placed them in a safe location and took off my mittens. But something strange happened next. I noted one was too close to the other, so I reached out and…you guessed it: I burnt my hand…. Yikes!

Being too rushed not only extending my cooking time, but caused a wee bit of pain. 

Have you found this to be the case, too? Have you noticed that when we rush, we only make more work for us and sometimes even cause ourselves and others pain? Oh, how I wish I’d be more like the Lord in these moments when I’m tempted to hurry and rush and bustle and there is no reason for it. “It” will get done in a timely fashion. No hurry or rush necessary, eh?

Your thoughts?

Main Text— Isaiah 61:1-2a (NIV) 1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,  because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim 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, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor….

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end  and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.Habakkuk 2:3 (NIV84)

But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons—Galatians 4:4–5 (NIV84)

The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

Lord Jesus Christ, may I rest in Your promises and in Your perfect timing to fulfill them. In Your Name, Amen.

 “No Plan B; Just Plan A with Scars”

 

I have been thinking about this for a while now. It seems that with the Lord there is no Plan B. When He tells us to do something, we’d best do it or we will encounters some scars. So it seems to me that there is no Plan B; just Plan A with scars.

Samson tried  his Plan B, but ended up having Plan A with Scars: He lost his eyes. Moses had the scarring of 40 years in the wilderness. David had the soul scarring of losing a baby because of his sin with Bathsheba.

Wouldn’t you agree that obedience is the best first choice? But have you discovered that sometimes Plan A actually includes the scars? I know I have. And the more I study the Life of my Lord Jesus, I discover that the scars were always in the plan. There was never a Plan B. Even as He wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane, Plan A was never at issue ….

Now I am discovering a bit more of what He meant when He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 NIV). The cross is a part of Plan A, and, apparently, so are the scars….

Poor Jonah had to learn this the hard way. Too often, I do, too. I’m learning that it is best to respond to the Lord the first time He directs, even if the directions involves scars. Have you found that the scars of  trying to implement a “Plan B” seem to hurt more than the intended scars of Plan A? I have….

Your thoughts.

Main Text— Jonah 1:3a, 17 (ESV)— 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. … 17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

You became imitators of us and of the Lord. In spite of a great deal of suffering, you welcomed the word with the joy that the Holy Spirit produces.—1 Thessalonians 1:6 (ISV)

 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.—2 Timothy 3:12 (NKJV)

  Let no one make any more trouble for me, because I carry the scars of Jesus on my own body.—Galatians 6:17 (ISV)

Lord Jesus Christ, as I walk by faith and not by sight, empower me through Your Holy Spirit respond to Your Plan A—straightaway. “Make my hands like Your hands / If they must be wounded / Let all the pain that I will feel / Make me merciful and kind.”* In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

* from “Saviour of the World” by Bob Bennett & Michael Aguilar

“Syrupy Love Vs. Substantial Love”

Year’s ago when I used to get hurt a lot—usually in sports, but not always, I would look for that sympathy, you know, “You, poor baby,” kind of sympathy. I soon learned, however, that it vanished rather quickly. So I guess I kept getting hurt. A silly plan, right?

After a while, I started using the phrase, “Syrupy love,” to describe this kind of temporary concern that vanished in few moments. Along the way, I added words like, “gushy” and “gooey,” too. Obviously, I was looking for something more lastly, more substantial. Maybe that’s why I really don’t like cotton candy? Hmmmm….

Sadly, I learned that this syrupy, gooey love says all the right things, but more often than not for the most selfish of reasons: to puff up the one giving the “love.” I found that the one being “loved” is more or less consumed to meet the needs, pleasures and desires of the one dispensing this ooey, gooey, syrupy love. Again, I would hear the “right” words, but like clouds that promise rain and move on, these promise, “I’ll always be there for you,” … yeah, right….

Like I said, I was looking for something far more meaningful, more lasting. I was look for Substantial Love. I was looking for the Love that is patient and kind. It is other-serving and not self-seeking, it does not demand its own way through intimidation, shout downs or skillful manipulation. It makes the other person the center of attention. It listens carefully, hearing the whole person. And this substantial Love is often inconvenienced, put out, put off, taken advantage of, and wounded. In and through all this, this Love never fails. It does not shift with moods, the wind or the seasons. It never gives up.

Sound familiar?

If you are familiar with the Bible or know Jesus, this Substantial Love will sound very familiar to you. This is the Love I found: This Substantial Love.  If you are not familiar with this Love, perhaps you would like to get to know it a little better? Check out the verses below….

Main Text— 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 (NIV) 4  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.John 13:34–35 (ESV)

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?Matthew 5:43–46 (ESV)

 Your love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.Romans 12:9 (ISV)

  But God demonstrates His love for us by the fact that the Messiah died for us while we were still sinners.—Romans 5:8 (ISV)

Lord Jesus Christ, continue to reduce me to Your Love, Substantial Love. Empower me to Love exceedingly above and beyond what I am capable of. Let others know I know You by the Love I have for them.

Pastor Mike

“Provision in the Wilderness”

 

Ironically, as I was preparing for this week’s message, I caught myself complaining about how long I’ve been in the wilderness. This was in light of the main text below. “Lord, if I’m to make my days count, how can I do so in the wilderness? Besides, how long can this wilderness be…?” And just as I said this, a light, “40 years!?” floated through my mind…. Ah, I’ll be grateful for the brief time I’m having in this wilderness…

But what hammered home the point was v. 7, the Psalmist, David says, “My hope is in You.” As he counted the fleeting moments whisking by, as he  noted the brevity of life, his hope in this desert—this wilderness—is the LORD. As I paused on this thought, the heaviness of the reality that the LORD provided for the Israelites in their wilderness for 40 years, and for Moses in his wilderness for 40 years, and even HIS Son, the Lord Jesus, for 40 days—will He not also provide for me in my brief wilderness for however long it is?

Then I returned to those little ones praying before they go to bed: “Thank You, Lord, for my mommy & daddy. For Grandma & Grandpa. For Nana & Papa; for my dolls & my toys; for my bed; & my clothes, and ….” The innocent childlike wonderment of their awareness of the Lord’s provision was truly humbling. So I began to pray as they reminded me: “Thank You, LORD, for all these provisions. Thank You for my house and my car; for the hot water and the refrigerated air; Thank You for my wife and daughters and sons-in-law and grandchildren….”

The Lord is truly my Hope in the wilderness and He is clearly blessing me with many provisions in whatever I may consider is my wilderness. How about you? Do you see His provisions in your wilderness?

Main Text— Psalm 39:4–7 (NIV84)—  Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.  5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Selah 6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. 7 But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in You.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:26–27 (NIV84)

nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.2 Chron. 20:12b (NASB95

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 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.  [Ephesians 3:16–21 NIV84]

Pastor Mike