The Summer of Our Lives

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Could the Summer weather mirror our spiritual health? Many throughout the nation are experiencing a drought. This sparked a connection in my mind between our spiritual condition and our weather. In a song my son-in-law, Josh, wrote, one line appears, “All sunshine makes a desert, you know.” Every time I hear this, I am profoundly impacted by the truth of this line. When we have an activity, we pray it doesn’t rain. When we have a trip, we pray it won’t rain. Get the pattern?

Do you often pray that all “goes well,” that we have no “hardships”? If so, is it as if we are praying for desert to appear? Really? Maybe. Trials, challenges, difficulties are the rain storms in our lives. Thunder storms and hurricanes are greater in scope and degree. But if we do not have such times, then there will be no water for the seeds sown in our lives. (Can they grow without water?)

So in this summer of drought, let us not have a spiritual hiatus—a spiritual drought.

Another song that has often blessed me is by Laura Story, “Blessings”: “‘Cause, what if blessings come through raindrops? What if your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights is what it takes to know Your near? What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise?” What if all these are the rain that ends our spiritual drought, encourages growth and brings a rainbow?

Let not this summer of your life continue in a drought. Welcome the rain.

Main Text— —Habakkuk  3:17-18 (ESV)17Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, 18 yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the LORD, is my strength.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.James 1:2–4 (NIV84)

As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?(Psalm 42:1–2 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, Fill me with the Living Water, the Lord Jesus Christ. Forgive me for drinking from the water that can never quench my thirst for You. I welcome the rains that bring nourishment to my thirsty soul.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

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Prayer Warning!

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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)— 15For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16I 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

Love Beyond Memory

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I would like to honor two friends. They will remain nameless, but they know who they are. They are loving a family member beyond memory. One has a parent and the other a spouse. Both are Loving these dear family members with tenderness, devotion and deep sacrifice.

As many have come to know, Loving someone who does not remember you is deeply heart wrenching. The pain of being forgotten is hardly matched by any other experience, save betrayal. And yet they continue to care for their parent and spouse with such tenderness I am, too, am deeply touched.

As I continue to ponder this, the Lord brought to my attention how much this is like me sometimes with Him. He Loves me no matter what—tenderly caring for me, deeply devoted to me. And yet sometimes I forget Him. My memories fade, almost erasing those times we had intimate encounters. And yet He persists in Loving me….

How my two friends remain devoted, clearly demonstrating the Love of Jesus in these forgotten moments, can only be explained by their complete and total dependency on the Lord Jesus for His Strength and Love to fill and flow through them to their Loved one. How I admire them. And I pray that if this day ever comes for me, that I will be able to, in some small measure, demonstrate this Love they have shown so keenly and clearly.

Main Text— Ephesians 1:4d–8 (NIV84 & NKJV)In love 5He predestined us to be adopted as His sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with His pleasure and will— 6to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.  7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.Romans 5:6–8 (NIV84)

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.Ephesians 2:4–5 (NIV84)

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!1 John 3:1a (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, my heart is overwhelmed with a profound sense of awe, as I ponder the Love You have for me in the Lord Jesus Christ. Words cannot capture or express this feeling of humble gratitude. May the Holy Spirit intercede for me with groaning that cannot be utter. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Begging For Forgiveness

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Begging for forgiveness. Have you ever caught your self doing this? Maybe it was from a loved one you had deeply wounded? Or a friend you sliced with a slip of the tongue?

I have. And what is even more fascinating to me is begging forgiveness from Jesus. Maybe, like me, you have been paralyzed by the overwhelming sense of grief and shame from a particular sin. And out of this you, like me, are constantly begging the Lord to forgive you?

But just the other day, as I was doing my message on the Cross of Jesus, the Lord open my eyes to see something very profound: When He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34 NIV84), no one was asking for forgiveness, let alone begging. No one. And yet He forgave them—and us. This reality shuttered to my soul.

As I continued to ponder this, the truth became more and more evident: I don’t need to beg for forgiveness, I need only receive it! Once I have confessed my sin, owned its impact and consequences, and repented, then all that is left for me is to receive this gracious gift of forgiveness, which washes away my guilt, my shame and any regrets. No more begging! Merely receiving.

Perhaps you are farther down the road in your journey with Jesus than I am, but this is so freeing to me, so much so, it is even hard to capture right now in words.

How about you? What are your thoughts on the differences between earnestly begging for and merely receiving His forgiveness?

Main Text— Ephesians 1:7–8 (NKJV)— 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her,  “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more. John 8:11 (NKJV)

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV84)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I have repented of my sins. I forsake my past and give You my present and my future. I humbly receive the grace of Your forgiveness. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Too Rushed”

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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

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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

Time for Questions?

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Have you ever noticed how often Jesus would ask questions? I did. And it is fascinating that He engages friend and foe alike with a question. He offers them a chance to answer. His questions at times seem innocent and innocuous enough, but other times like He has the “witness” on the stand and He is cross examining them.

Have you also noticed that when sharing Jesus with others, asking questions actually opens up the conversation? Have you found that in doing so, this establishes rapport as well as respect? I have.

I have also found that I need not be in a hurry to win the argument, if one should ensue, but rather take my time and build a relationship. To be sure, Jesus was an itinerant preacher of sorts. He would move from town to town and village to village. But who’s to say He wasn’t speaking to some of the same people? Even some of His adversaries may have been following Him, and in some strange sort of way, a relationship, though adversarial, was being developed. And out of respect for them, our Master would genuinely ask a question.

Oh, He may have asked a rhetorical question here or there, but more often than not His questions engaged His hearers, expecting sincere and honest answers….

Do you think its about time we become more skilled at asking sincere and deep questions that engage our relationships (friends and foes), rather than making harsh and dogmatic statements—even if true? What do you think?

Main Text— Mark 8:27–30 (NIV) 27 Jesus and His disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way He asked them, “Who do people say I am?” 28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” 30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about Him.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Mark 10:51 (NIV)

 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “What is written in the Law?” He replied. How do you read it?”Luke 10:25–26 (NIV)

  “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’  ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.   Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted? “The first,” they answered.—Matthew 21:28–31 (NIV)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to discover the needs of others through the questions You prompt me to ask. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike