“What If the Miracle…?”

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Date: 02-28-15

The Big Idea: Lifestyle worshiper, let us not miss the miracle that the LORD will surely bless you with.

My Thoughts: “What if the miracle never comes?” This is what the enemy wants you to ask. With his slithering, slippery tongue, he hisses doubts in your ear. He wants you to buy the lie that the LORD is withholding something good from you. Oh, sadly, I have often listened to this hiss….

But, Lifestyle worshiper, perhaps our definition of “miracle” needs a bit refining. When we think of  “miracle,” we often picture the Charlton Heston’s  Moses posed on the edge of the Red Sea with all the special effects of a Cecil B. DeMille movie. We picture miracles loud and flashy. But don’t you think they can be as quiet as a sunrise or sunset? Or a baby’s sigh as she slips asleep?

Oh, a miracle is still something beyond what we could achieve. It is still something beyond what we could think or imagine, but perhaps it is also something beyond what we can perceive—at least for the moment, and maybe even in this life. Now I know that this may sound like a copout of sorts, but if we have a predetermined “miracle” that we are looking for, won’t this make it harder to see the actual miracle the LORD has provided? We will miss seeing it because we are looking for something quite different.

The other day I was looking for the vacuum cleaner at the church. It is helpful to know that there are actually three vacuum cleaners, but I was looking for the vacuum cleaner. So I asked the person I was working with: “Where’s the vacuum cleaner?” With a wry smile and a soft giggle, she gently said, “Ah, right in front of you.” I was amazed: I couldn’t see the ‘other’ vacuum cleaner literally in front of me, and yet as I had panned the room, I missed it. Why? Because I had a predetermined picture in my mind as to what the vacuum cleaner ‘ought’ to look like….

Lifestyle worshiper, let us not miss the miracle that the Lord will surely bless you and me with. Oh, and join me in ignoring the hiss of that sly snake….

Main Text: — Nehemiah 6:15-16, 19 — 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth day of Elul in 52 days.16 When all of our enemies—including the surrounding nations—heard this, they became very discouraged, since they saw that the work had been done by our God…. 19 Furthermore, they kept reporting Tobiah’s good deeds to me, and kept repeating what I told him. Tobiah kept sending letters to intimidate me. [ISV]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Fear the LORD, you his saints,for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.

— Psalm 34:9-10 (NIV84)

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;the Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.

—Psalm 84:11 (NIV84)

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? — Romans 8:32 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  as I patiently wait for the blessing of Your Goodness towards me, open my eyes to see the ‘miracles’  already before me. Deaden my ears to the hissing lies of the sly snake. By Your Blood and in Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

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“Relationships Can Be Rebuilt”

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Date: 02-24-15

The Big Idea: Relationships can be rebuilt but it will take a miracle.

We pray and pray and pray, praying to God for a miracle. Praying He will heal and restore this broken relationship, this estranged family member. And as we pray, we grow weary in the delay. Oh, we want it to be fixed—yesterday. We want things to be as they were: comfortable; innocent. And what I have found is: It is at this point many give up and quit praying because the miracle hasn’t come as quickly or as obviously as they would have liked….

Relationships can be rebuilt, but it will take a miracle. And what I have found is many are too impatience to wait for the miracle. Sadly, I have observed over the years of counseling and pastoring that many relationships stall in the second stage of a relationship: Innocence lost.  Perhaps you have noticed it, too, but I have discovered that every relationship goes through two stages, and, as I have noted, few make it to the third stage.

The first two stages are (1) innocence found and (2) innocence lost. We start out a romantic relationship or a friendship in the “innocence found” stage. It is new, refreshing, invigorating. There is a spring in our step and a lightness in our heart. But then something happens in the relationship to violate, ruin, disturb the innocence, and whoosh, innocence is lost–the second stage. It is here that everyone has a choice to make: (1) Leave the relationship and find a new, fresh one filled with that invigorating innocence; or (2) Work through the relationship until innocence is restore. Sadly, many choose the easier and, in truth, less fulfilling first option, leaving the landscape strewn with a profusion of “innocence lost” festering relationships. These continue cascading down the pinball machine of life bouncing from one frantic relationship to the next….

In choosing the second option, however, we give ourselves a chance to advance to the third stage of Innocent Restore. In this stage the relationship is rebuilt and restored and, in fact, is stronger than it was at the first. Now, at this point you might possibly be thinking, “Not in my broken relationships. It would take a miracle to repair this and restore the innocence that was deeply wounded and violated.”

And I would say you are right. It would take a miracle!

In the main text, noted below, we see Nehemiah’s servant leadership result in a miraculous rebuilding. And all those who witnessed this noted “that the work had been done by our God” (v.16). In all this, let us not miss the miracle. Period! Yes, this miracle was speed; building this wall in this short period of time is indeed miraculous. And when I note this miracle, I am not saying that your broken, fatigued or strained relationship will be fixed, repaired, or restored in 52 days—or two years, but what I am saying is: This passage gives us the hope of a miracle of rebuilding and restoring. And besides, it doesn’t depend on us. Remember the Miracle we pray for will ultimately be “done by our God.” Yes, we are co-laborers with Him in this outstanding miracle. But He does the ‘Work’!

So I have to ask myself as well as you: How’s my co-laboring going? Or have I given up? Let us pray for one another and spur one another on to complete the wall…,  and witness a Miracle!

Main Text: — Nehemiah 6:15-16 — 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth day of Elul in 52 days.16 When all of our enemies—including the surrounding nations—heard this, they became very discouraged, since they saw that the work had been done by our God.  [ISV]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

— Galatians 6:9 (NIV84)

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

— 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV84)

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. — Romans 12:19-21 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  I put You on as my Slippers of Patience: The Right Slipper of Forgiveness and the Left Slipper of Forbearance. Let me be a peacemaker who sows in peace in the confident hope that there will be a harvest of Righteousness. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Meaninglessness is Not Meaningless”

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Date: 02-21-15

The Big Idea: The word, ‘meaningless,’ is not really meaningless.

My Thoughts: 

Recently in a men’s Bible study, I had a life wrecking epiphany. It arrived somewhat as a climax to a longer journey. This journey has taken me from meaninglessness to meaningfulness. I discovered that the word, ‘meaningless’ is not really meaningless. Let me explain.

In our men’s weekly Bible study, we have been going through the book of Ecclesiastes and throughout its pages I have been learning that I need to live in the moment but not for the moment. As we continued this excursion through Ecclesiastes, I kept struggling with this. To me, it appears that the former leads to Life when I’m living in the moment for Jesus, but somehow the latter leads to a disconnected life, at best—one I am all too familiar with. …

At some point in my earlier years, I slipped into a very nihilistic, fatalistic philosophical morass, and sadly, even when I became a believer in Jesus, I would often slip back into this black vortex. I would seek out the perverted comfort of darkness by reading the Book of Ecclesiastes and wallow in the meaninglessness of its pages….

Or so I thought.

This wrecking epiphany began when we saw that one translation in particular (noted below), used the word “fleeting,” while other translations used words like, “meaningless,” or “vanity,” or “futility,” or even “pointless”. What did the Hebrew word mean, and why was it translated so?

Through various study sources, we came to understand that the word translated ‘fleeting’ means “breath” or “wind”. It carries with it the idea of useless and transitory things. From here we understood that the ‘things’ of this world offer a fleeting, transitory measure of satisfaction, but in the long run they “whoosh” like the wind. This ‘whoosh’ leaves us with wanting more and more and ultimately never satisfies.

From here I reasoned that life (lower case) really wasn’t so much meaningless as it was fleeting and unsubstantial. In this way seeking this life and the ‘things’ it offers most definitely can lead to meaninglessness, though not immediately. If I place my hope in the temporal, fleeting things of this seen world, then, yes, it leads to meaninglessness. But if I live in the moment for Jesus, the Life in Him is true substance and significance. Then the ‘things’ of this world do indeed fade away, but prior to their ‘fleeing,’ they are used for that which is truly greater & more substantial: His Good & His Glory.

The things of this world then become a means to an end and not an end in and of themselves. Living for them moment makes them an end in themselves, and thus a disconnected ‘meaninglessness’ arrives, but when I live in the moment for the eternal Jesus, His Life infuses the moment’s meaning for a greater, more substantial Moment.

Now some may find this rather heady and disconnected, but for me it gives the moments I have dreaded meaning. This understanding moves me away from a nihilistic/fatalistic view of the moment, to a larger view of Life and Hope and Meaning. Instead of wishing away the day hoping to be with Jesus in the by-and-by, I can truly live in the moment with Jesus and for Jesus. His Life—His eternal Life—is here and now as well as to come! It is both a quality of Life and a quantity of life.

The wrecking? I am moving from a disconnected isolation of moments and relationships to more substantial feelings and Life. Ironically, I have to experience the pain & discomfort of the moment in order to experience the Life and Hope and Joy. Living the old way with its inevitable detached numbing was safer insofar as pain was concerned, but no joy, no hope…, and no meaning. But as I am being reformed out of the ashes of this recking, I am trusting the Lord Jesus to ‘rebuild’ the neuronetwork of my numbed feelings so that I may be more what He has designed me to be.

Clearly, this is but the beginning of the “moment” of the wrecking/rebuilding process, but for the first time in as long as I can remember, I am looking forward to the next “moment” with Hope and not dread.

Main Text: —Ecclesiastes 11:10  — So, remove grief and anger from your heart and put away pain from your body, because childhood and the prime of life are fleeting. [NASB95]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. — Philippians 1:6 (NIV84)

  May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. — Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV84)

   The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O LORD, endures forever—do not abandon the works of your hands.— Psalm 138:8 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father,  I humbly submit to the transforming work of Your Holy Spirit. I rest in the Peace that passes all understanding as I greet each moment and live in it for the glory of Your Son, Jesus.  In His Name, Amen.

“Call It As It Is”

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Date: 02-20–15

The Big Idea: Calling it as it is in Love builds trust and aids in repairing those broken walls of fractured relationships.

My Thoughts: There is a saying I oft quoted much of my life: “Tell me the truth: Hurt me once; lie to me: Hurt me twice.” I’m going to find out the truth, so just let me hear it from you straight up in Love. But have you discovered that if you are lie to, not only will the truth hurt when you discover it, but the breach of confidence will only double the hurt? I have….

Lifestyle worshiper, because a servant leader is more concerned for those s/he leads, they call it as it is. With as much candor and as little bias as possible, a servant-leader learns to speak the truth in Love, but in doing so s/he does not soft soap or PC it to meaninglessness. I have found on my own journey with Jesus that I have often been too brutally blunt when ‘telling the truth,’ so I have had to learn to be more diplomatic. (Others I have known need to be less PC.) I had my first shot at practicing this lesson of diplomacy when I had to fire one of my maintenance assistants. At first I said, “I’m freeing you up so you don’t have to come in to work any more.” Oh, that missed the target, for he was stoned out of his mind and said, “Cool, man, you mean I can do whatever I want and still get paid?” Ah, no…. Finally, after a few tries of diplomatic phrasing, I simply said, “You’re fired!” “Aw, man, that’s a bummer.” Off he went….

When dealing with the broken walls of fractured relationships, sometimes we have to quit lying to ourselves first and finally admit the truth. Now that truth may be we are the major source of the fracturing. Or maybe it is finally admitting the problem is far more serious than we’re willing to admit—and we need some help. But whatever the truth is, it will hurt a lot less that continuing in the lie. And I have discovered as a servant-leader, I do not have the luxury of hurting others twice!

Lifestyle worshiper, when we have our hearts filled with a genuine concern and a deep affection for those we lead, we will see the wisdom in calling it as it is. Speaking the truth in Lovecalling it as it isbuilds trust and aids in repairing those broken walls of fractured relationships.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 5:9 —   So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

— Ephesians 4:25 (NIV84)

Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.

— Proverbs 8:6-7 (NIV84)

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ

— Ephesians 4:15 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  I put You on as my Belt of Truth and my Belt of Love. Stir in my soul a deep compassion for correcting those in my charge. May I do so with a Righteous Love. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“It Takes Heart”

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Date: 02-19–15

The Big Idea: It takes heart to be a true servant leader, and, yes, sometimes, this heart seethes with righteous anger.

My Thoughts: I have said many times in the past, “If I didn’t care, I would be so upset.” Now, to be sure, there are various degrees of upset from flustered to full-throttled anger, and I’m not sure where Nehemiah’s gauges were when he responded to the unrighteous treatment of his people (see passage below), but I am sure he truly did care for his people. As a servant-leader, Nehemiah demonstrated a passion and compassion for the lot of those he led.

Lifestyle worshiper, it takes heart to be a true servant leader, and, yes, sometimes, this heart seethes with righteous anger. Let us not, however, use this phrase, “Righteous anger” to cloak selfish, self-centered explosions that are lit by any slight or inconvenience, but just as true let us not shrink back from a deep impulse of stirring anger that flares in times when those we led are being taken advantage of. Servant-leadership is neither wimpy nor passive. Rather, it is bold and active, taking care of those in are care—especially our loved ones.

Lifestyle worshiper, join me in living a life that worships our Heavenly Father in Spirit and Truth by having our hearts filled with a genuine concern and a deep affection for those we lead, serving their best interests in Love, vigorously defending the weak, the disenfranchised, the disconnected, and the downtrodden. Through this heart of servant-leadership we can more effectively defend the repairing of the walls of broken & fatigued relationships.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 5:6-7a — When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

— 1 Peter 1:22 (NIV84)

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

— Psalm  82:3-4 (NIV84)

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly;defend the rights of the poor and needy.”— Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  I put You on as my Coat of Compassion. Stir in my soul a passion for defending those in my charge. May I do so with a Righteous Love. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Servant-Leaders: Be Available”

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Date: 02-17–15

The Big Idea: A true leader, a godly leader, is one who models a servant-leader lifestyle.

My Thoughts: A servant-leader is one who cares more for the people s/he leads than for his/her personal gain. A servant-leader is one who can successfully relate to the people s/he is leading because s/he has made him/herself available to not just hear, but listen to their concerns and needs.

Lifestyle worshiper, have you noticed in our culture today that public servants are neither? In general, they do not appear to have the public’s interest in mind, nor are they serving the public. Rather, it appears that it has turned into a self-service opportunity. But a true leader, a godly leader, is one who models a servant-leader lifestyle, much like Nehemiah demonstrates in the main text noted below. He could have “walled” himself off from the people, creating a barrier between them and him. He could have pretended to listen to them, and then do what he thought was best for the people anyway. But, instead, he walked among the people and sincerely listened to their very severe concerns, some of which he may not have genuinely been aware of, but now he is….

Lifestyle worshiper, join me in living a life that worships our Heavenly Father in Spirit and Truth by being sincerely available to hear the concerns of those around us, especially those of our immediate family. Then we can more effectively rebuild the walls of broken & fatigued relationships.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 5:1-5 — 1 Now the men and their wives raised a great outcry against their Jewish brothers. 2 Some were saying, “We and our sons and daughters are numerous; in order for us to eat and stay alive, we must get grain.” 3 Others were saying, “We are mortgaging our fields, our vineyards and our homes to get grain during the famine.” 4 Still others were saying, “We have had to borrow money to pay the king’s tax on our fields and vineyards. 5 Although we are of the same flesh and blood as our countrymen and though our sons are as good as theirs, yet we have to subject our sons and daughters to slavery. Some of our daughters have already been enslaved, but we are powerless, because our fields and our vineyards belong to others.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.— Matthew 9:35-36 (NIV84)

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.— Colossians 3:12-14 (NIV84)

It’s important that a church leader, responsible for the affairs in God’s house, be looked up to—not pushy, not short-tempered, not a drunk, not a bully, not money-hungry.— Titus 1:7 (The Message)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  be the Servant Leader in my life, one who will model Your Life in a way that is pleasing to You and genuinely effective with others. May my ears be attentive to Your promptings as well as to the concerns of my loved ones. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Remain at Your Post”

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Date: 02-14–15

Text: — Nehemiah 6:10-13 — 10 One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.” 11 But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should one like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” 12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: When faced with opposition, stand strong and remain at your post.

My Thoughts: 

Truly, there are those times we need to withdraw and regroup, but there are also those times when we remain strong and stay at our post. We do this for several reasons. In the above passage, Nehemiah shows us that one reason is being a strong leader. As a strong leader, one must demonstrate integrity by remaining strong at our post. I see this in v. 11 above: “should a man like me.” Nehemiah was a man of integrity, and as a wise and strong leader, he did what he expected those he led to do: Do not be intimidated by the enemy’s lies; stand strong at your post!

Lifestyle worshiper, right now you may be enduring lies and misinformation about you or your circumstances. You may be encountering those who are trying to intimidate you into ‘leaving your post’. Stand strong! Remain at your post. And do this not just for your own integrity’s sake, but also for the sake of those you are posted to protect! You are building walls from the debris of broken relationships. Your success may not be as evident to you as it is to others, but many are looking to you. They see your courage, your integrity, and your faithfulness. Stand strong! Remain at your post!

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his 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)

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

— Galatians 6:9 (NASB95)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

— Joshua 1:9 (NASB95)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  be my strength as I stand against the schemes of the wicked one. You desire to rebuild! He has come to tear down. You restore. He scatters. You heal. He wounds. Blessed be Your Name for You are greater in and through me than he that is in the world. Amen.

Pastor Mike