“The Source of Our Strength”

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Date: 04-29-15

The Big Idea A sense of light airiness comes upon me, sometimes even in some rather dire situations, and an inner strength appears, so that somehow, in my spirit, I know He is working all things out for the Good.

My Thoughts: In five places found in most common English translations of the Bible, strength and joy are connected. None is as direct as our main text noted below. In Nehemiah’s declaration, he basically equates the LORD’s joy with our strength. Thus, when we are infused with the LORD’s joy, then we are strengthened to live His Life more fully….

The intriguing aspect of Joy is we cannot conjure it up or manufacture it. Nope! It is clearly the LORD’s joy and the Fruit of the Spirit…. So no matter how hard I try to be joy-filled, I cannot in and of myself….

I have found that when the Spirit fills me with joy and thanksgiving, a delight floods my being. A sense of light airiness comes upon me, sometimes even in some rather dire situations, and an inner strength appears, so that somehow, in my spirit, I know He is working all things out for the Good.

Other times, however, I need to wait on Him for this manifestation of Joy. Sadly, however, I have found as with  myself, many do not wait on the LORD for a renewal of joy—of strength. Instead they attempt to go around gleefully acting as if they are filled with His joy, when in fact they are not. It is, at best, manufactured glee. Ah, but if we wait on the LORD, He will renew our strength AND—remember—the Joy of the LORD is our strength!

Fellow lifestyle worshipers, have you discovered this connection of joy and strength as well? Have you learned that at times we need to wait on Him to renew our Joy (strength)? What are your thoughts on joy and strength being connect like this?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 8:10 — Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our LORD. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But those who keep waiting for the LORD will renew their strength. Then they’ll soar on wings like eagles; they’ll run and not grow weary; they’ll walk and not grow tired. — Isaiah 40:31 (ISV)

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song.  —Psalm 28:7 (NIV84)

Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre. — Psalm 81:1-2 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, I wait on You to refresh my strength as You flood my very being with the Joy of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Can We Give Joy Away?”

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Date: 04-28-15

The Big Idea: This joy is growing in ways I truly cannot capture in words because of its uniqueness to my experience.

My Thoughts: For many, possessing (let alone expressing) joy in a world so familiar with loss, and sorrow and grief is more than a formidable challenge. There are those, however, who can express the joy they possess in a sincere and infectious manner that lightens the load of many fellow travelers….

But in light of what Jesus says (noted below in John 16), can we give our joy away? He says that no one will be able to take it from us, but does this leave open the option of giving our joy away, much like letting go of an untied balloon?

The reason I ask this is because I have known many throughout my life and in my ministry who are somewhat, shall we say, joyless—this often includes me. Most recently on my journey with Jesus I am  coming to experience the joy He promises and this joy is growing in ways I truly cannot capture in words because of its uniqueness to my experience.

But as I look back on my journey, I have seen myself giving joy away, releasing balloon after balloon of joy only to see it fizzle and quite frankly ppffffftt (or however the onomatopoeia is spelled for this).

So my answer to my question is a mumbled, “yes.” I can give my joy away, but if Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, am I truly giving it away, or merely stifling it?

So, lifestyle worshipers, what are your thoughts on ‘giving joy away’?

Main Text: — John 16:22-24 — 22 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. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. [NIV]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. — Galatians 5:22 (NIV)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  —John 10:10 (NIV)

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.  — Philippians 1:25-26 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, I confess I have a deep desire to experience the substantial Joy of the Holy Spirit. Create in me a pure heart so that I may be a vessel of Your Joy, in Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Restoring the Sacred in Our Culture”

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Date: 04-21-15

The Big Idea: Keeping anything sacred in our culture requires personal determination and dedication.

My Thoughts: 

Have you notice that our culture is becoming more and more common and, well, quite frankly, vulgar?  F-bombs  have broken the decency barrier. What was once rated X and R is now PG-13, tv14 or tvma  —and it is on prime time TV for anyone to see, let alone young impressionable minds!

What does it mean to hold something sacred? Good question. If I may, I believe keeping anything sacred in our culture requires personal determination and dedication. And this determination and dedication follows at least five guidelines.

Allow me to present at least five guidelines for regarding something sacred: First off, to hold something sacred it to separate it from common use. Secondly,  to hold something sacred is to treat “it” with respect and dignity. Thirdly, that which is sacred is used only for special occasions. Fourthly, to hold something sacred is to limit its use to the “few”. And the last guideline for regarding something sacred I like to consider is to actively guard or protect “it” from being violated or soiled…. (Of course, there are many more guidelines that can be noted, but let us focus on these few.)

As an example, let us apply these five guidelines to a wedding dress. How can we hold this wedding dress sacred? (1) The dress is separated from common use; she did not wear it to her bridal shower or bachelorette party. (2) The dress is treated with respect and dignity; it is hung up in a special place in her room and prior to the wedding. (3) It is used only for the “day”, that special occasion; (see number 1’s comments). (4) This dress is limited to just the bride, and afterwards, if she chooses, she may pass it on to a daughter or granddaughter; and lastly (5) The dress is placed in a protective garment bag and/or a sealed box. This dress is considered sacred by the bride. She most definitely would not let her 4 year old play with it in the sandbox….

Okay, if a wedding dress doesn’t work for you, how about that special fishing rod or that lever action Winchester 32? Are these not used only on special occasions, and then kept in a case protected for that moment when you pass them along to your son or grandson? (or daughter, etc.?) Yes, these items are sacred, too, for the same guidelines that deem something sacred are followed and these are most definitely treated with respect and dignity….

So, lifestyle worshipers, what can we do to restore the sacred in our culture at large, especially when it comes to marriage, sex, and human life? How would you apply these five guidelines to such institutions, events, and people like these? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 13:6b-9 — 6 … Some time later I [Nehemiah] asked his [the king’s] permission 7 and came back to Jerusalem. Here I learned about the evil thing Eliashib had done in providing Tobiah a room in the courts of the house of God. 8 I was greatly displeased and threw all Tobiah’s household goods out of the room. 9 I gave orders to purify the rooms, and then I put back into them the equipment of the house of God, with the grain offerings and the incense. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. — 2 Corinthians 7:1 (NIV84)

  Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body. —1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV84)

   Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.  — Hebrews 13:4a (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, forgive me for treating common those things which You have deemed holy and sacred. Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to restore the sacred in my life. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Joy & Solemnity Side by Side”

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Date: 04-17-15

The Big Idea: But what if, lifestyle worshiper, both of these can be seen and experience together, in one service, in one ceremony, in one setting?

My Thoughts: Can both joy and solemnity both be found in a ceremony that honors the Lord? Many struggle with striking this balance. Some believe you need to be very, very somber & serious—especially when you attended a ‘worship service’. These are they who require quiet to enter His presence. But there are others who believe these gatherings can be filled with effusive joy. These feel the liberty to jump and rejoice, hug each other and express a variety of emotions. Sadly, often each of these two expressions sits in judgment of the other.

But what if, lifestyle worshiper, both of these can be seen and experience together, in one service, in one ceremony, in one setting? Would not this be the “best” of both worlds?

I believe this is more than possible. Consider this: If joy is an element of the Fruit of the Spirit and if the Holy Spirit dwells in us to both convict us of sin and to seal us in salvation, then is it not possible that He is more than capable of allowing us the awesome privilege of  bowing before the Holy One in reverential fear and perhaps at the very same time rising to explode with Joy and thanksgiving? What do you think? Your thoughts….

Main Text: — Nehemiah 12:27 — At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

     Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. — Hebrews 4:16 (NIV84)

    Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.   —Hebrews 10:19-22 (NKJV)

 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.   — Romans 5:1-2 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, give me a proper perspective of the place ceremonies have in Your Kingdom. In Your Name, Amen. 

Coach Mike

“Best Ceremony Ever”

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Date: 04-15-15

The Big Idea:  Do you feel ceremonies have a place in the Kingdom of God?

My Thoughts: Probably the most breathtaking ceremony I have ever attended (besides my own wedding) was Central High School’s JROTC Rifle Drill Team Ceremony, in which now Capt. Jamie (Daugherty) Johnson performed. The precision and the pageantry were just outstanding; the honor and dignity legendary.

Lifestyle worshiper, have you attended a ceremony that just took your breath away? While we’re talking about ceremonies, do you feel they have a place in the Kingdom of God? Your thoughts….

Main Text: — Nehemiah 12:27 —  At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. — 2 Timothy 1:6-7 (NIV84)

   The reason I left you in Crete was that you might put in order what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.   —Titus 1:5 (NIV)

 And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.   — Acts 14:23 (KJV)

 Lord Jesus Christ, give me a proper perspective of the place ceremonies have in Your Kingdom. In Your Name, Amen. 

Coach Mike

“Betwixt the Two?

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Date: 04-12-15

The Big Idea: Burn in my soul a passion to please You in and through what I say and do.

My Thoughts: Lifestyle worshiper, are you betwixt the two? Are you torn between being with Jesus or remaining here (v. 23)? Or is there no struggle at all? In the main text noted below, the Apostle Paul expresses a deep passion to be with the Lord Jesus; but he has an equally deep passion for continuing his life’s mission of sharing the Good News with those who have yet to hear. For him this is a great struggle. It is tearing him to pieces.

But have you noticed that for some there is no struggle at all, yet for different reasons. Perhaps one reason is what Romans 12:2 (also below) warns us about: We are too conformed–too squeezed–into the world’s moldy thinking. Our passion for being with the Lord Jesus has waned. Herein lies one of my personal struggles as I become just another one of those proverbial frogs splashing about in the hot water….

What do you feel are some other reasons that some do not have this struggle? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one struggle.

Main Text: — Philippians 1:21-23 — 21  For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. — 2 Corinthians 5:6-9 (NIV84)

  Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.   —Romans 12:2 (NIV84)

May our Lord Jesus Christ Himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.   — 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, as You burn in my soul a passion to please You in and through what I say and do, may my yearning to be with You make me more faithful until I am. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“The Next Meeting”

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Date: 04-02-15

The Big Idea: I have found that when forgiveness and reconciliation are genuine, the next time I see that person, “they” are warm and receptive.

My Thoughts: Lifestyle worshiper, have you found that it is the next meeting the seals the deal? You know you’ve had this very emotional moment of reconciliation and forgiveness. It appears that you’ve finally restored a deeply wounded and fractured relationship, but once the emotion passes, do you wonder, “Was this for real?”

I have found that it is in that next meeting the reality is confirmed and the “deal is sealed.” Perhaps this is how Peter felt when he went for another walk with Jesus—this time on the beach and not on the water. …

After I have had an emotional moment of forgiveness and reconciliation, I have found that when it is genuine, the next time I see that person, “they” are warm and receptive. Sadly, there have been those times where apparently it was purely an emotional experience, and they still need some time to work it through. Yes, “they” looked away when I saw them….

But with Peter, Jesus not only did not look away, He initiated the next meeting. And in this next meeting, His Love and forgiveness were abundantly manifested…. Jesus knew Peter wasn’t quite ready to walk in His forgive. When Peter answered Jesus’ questions, he was more than blunt about his love for Jesus. Peter knew that at this time in his life his love  was a deeply devoted and highly committed loyalty, but he was understating what he had overstated at the Last Supper where he said: “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). This wasn’t quite true—then….

Peter grew into that depth of Love—agape Love. And Jesus gave him the space—and time—to do so—starting with that next meeting.

Have you found freedom of forgiveness in that next meeting? I know I have. Your thoughts?

Main Text: — John 21:15— 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love (agapas) me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love (philō) you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. — 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV84)

  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.   —Ephesians 3:17b-19 (NIV84)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   — Romans 8:37-39 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, I receive the forgiveness You offer me in Your Son, my Lord Jesus Christ. As I grow in my understanding of Your Love for me, make me a channel of this forgiveness to others. In Your Son’s Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike