“Rise Above the Noise of the Shouters”

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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), you can see from the passage above, Christians have been “shouted down” since our founding, if you will. Even at Jesus’ trial the mob was shouting, 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,

Coach Mike

“Rise Above the Noise of the Naysayers”

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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.

Coach Mike

“Mission Directive”

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Our church is going through our Vision Statement: “Building Families; Pursuing the Lord Jesus Christ; Living His Word, and presenting our Mission Statement: “Reaching, Reconnecting, Revitalizing and Reinforcing Families.”My prayer is that you, too, may discover your part in the fulfillment of this Mission Directive.

If you haven’t already discovered your Spiritual Gifts, there are many websites that offer this service. I have developed a Gift-Mapping Matrix handout imbedded below. You place your three highest ranking gifts in the center circle; then the next three-five in the next circle; and then the remaining gifts that scored fairly high in the out circle. The idea is that these gives jump from one circle to the other depending on the need and the movement of the Holy Spirit. As you avail yourself of these tools, you may reignite a passion for serving the Lord, and 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,

Coach Mike

This is the Gift-Set Matrix in which you will distribute your highest ranking gifts in the inner circle, and move out from there.

“The Empty Tomb Response”

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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,

Coach Mike

“Seeing Eye Faith?”

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As you may have noticed, 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 with 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,
Coach Mike

“Hope For the Future”

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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? 

Coach Mike

“For the Good & the Bad?”

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As we approach the Thanksgiving Season, we are often challenged to find something to be thankful for. And, sadly, many of us during this pandemic year have felt like we belonged to the Patriarch Job Fan Club. A lot of heavy “stuff” has happened…

But as a member of the Patriarch Job Fan Club, we’d do well to remember one thing that Job discovered: It is out of the deepest pain comes the greatest Praise!

For Job himself said, “The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD,” and “Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?” (Job 1:21, 2:10 respectively NASB95)

He also learned that thanksgiving includes the difficult, the hard, the challenging, and the “bad,” as well as all the “good”. And we are not crazy in thanking the LORD for the “bad,” because “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV).

Join me this Thanksgiving season on learning this lesson: Out of the deepest pain comes the greatest praise, as we thank the Lord for all the hard times we have experienced as well as all the good.

Peace,

Coach Mike

“Pray without Seeing?”

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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,

Coach Mike

“Let Us Love One Another”

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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,

Coach Mike

“Silence is what?”

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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,

Coach Mike