“Prayer that Rocks this Place”

Standard

My Thoughts:

I have been to a few rock concerts where the place was littler shaking. The base concussioned my chest as my body vibrated to the beat. Many times the lead singer would scream, “Let’s rock this place!” And they did…

Can the Holy Spirit do the same thing? Well, apparently we discover in today’s main text (noted below) He did. And He did this without any amplification, so to speak….

But what ‘caused’ this shaking? I’m sure you’d agree that it wasn’t the prayer of the believers—directly anyway, but somehow they had a part in this. V. 31 says pretty clearly, “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken….” Now, I’m not saying we conjure up some magical prayer so as to recreate this ‘shaking,’ but I am suggesting we take a closer look at their prayer….

First of all, I see that they appealed to the Sovereign Lord to notice the threats made against them (v. 29). Then they requested enabling ability to “speak [His] Word with great boldness.” Lastly, they requested that the Lord perform even more miracles in Jesus’ Name (v. 30)!!! What surprises me as I review this again and again is: They made no counter threats! They did not request the Lord to send fire from heaven to devour their enemies. They did not request Him to tear down these evil high places…. Instead, they prayed for more good to be done: More healings and miraculous signs! Apparently, this is the kind of prayer that shakes this place, eh?

Are you as surprised as I am that prayer like this was a vehicle for the Holy Spirit to “shake this place?” Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 4:13 29 “Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable Your servants to speak Your word with great boldness. 30 Stretch out Your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the Name of Your holy servant Jesus.” 31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?” But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.  — Luke 21:12-15 (NKJV)

For it is a fine thing if, when moved by your conscience to please God, you suffer patiently when wronged. What good does it do if, when you sin, you patiently receive punishment for it? But if you suffer for doing good and receive it patiently, you have God’s approval. This is, in fact, what you were called to do, because: The Messiah also suffered for you and left an example for you to follow in His steps.  “He never sinned, and He never told a lie.” When He was insulted, He did not retaliate. When He suffered, He did not threaten. It was His habit to commit the matter to the One who judges fairly. — 1 Peter 2:19-23 (ISV)

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?” — Matthew 5:43-46 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I ask you to fill me with Your Holy Spirit, so I may pray for those who mistreat me, threaten me, or even harm me. May my life reflect the very nature of Your Messiah, Jesus, in His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Feel Unlearned & Unschooled?”

Standard

My Thoughts:

I am most frustrated when I don’t know something and can’t figure it out. Beyond my schooling, personal study, etc., there is still a lot I don’t know, and this frustrates me. There are some things, circumstances or issues I just can’t figure out….

Educated Elites

If you feel like I feel or if you even feel you are unlearned and unschooled, then maybe we can both learn the lesson that: This is exactly where the Lord wants us to be.

Huh?

Let me explain what I am learning from Peter and John’s experience….

There they stood before the educated elite of their day. These were they who were deeply studied in Torah. The could not just quote extended passages, more than likely they could quote the entire Torah, and much, if not all, of the Nevi’im (the Prophets) and the Kethuvim (the Writings). These priests and Sadducees were the crème de la crème of their society, of society, in general; the envy of anyone who desired to live a religious life that pleased their God—at least this is how they viewed it….

But before these educated elite stood two “uneducated and untrained men” (from Acts 4:13 NASD95), who had just performed an incontrovertible miracle: They were amazed! Well, amazed as any educated elitist could get, since there is little they do not know or cannot explain, eh?

These educated elitists were so astute that they noted (my paraphrase), “Oh, this explains it, ‘they were with Jesus’!” Though they cannot dismiss the miracle, they can easily dismiss and discredit the ones who ‘did it’. Sound familiar?

Yet this is exactly right where the Lord wants us. This is the lesson I am learning: He wants others to see that we’ve been with Jesus and not that we are super educated or formally trained. (Now, I do not dismiss formal education or studying to show ourselves approved, but I’ve learned these both—and more—need to be “with Jesus.”) The focus needs to be on Jesus. Now you and I both know this, but somehow we have disqualified ourselves because we don’t know enough or get tongue tied. But this is when the Lord shines brightest. Through His Spirit He will give us words and thoughts and ideas and phrases that even the educated elites can refute (though they can dispute, deny or ignore them, eh).

Now if you are still like me, you feel a little strange being so vulnerable, but this is where I’m learning to trust the Lord all the more. I still must study to show myself approved, a workman who need not be ashamed (see 2 Tim. 2:15), but I do not “lean on my own understanding, [but] in all [my] ways acknowledge Him and He will make [my] paths straight” (Pro. 3:5-6 NIV84, emphasis added), even when I’m talking with educated elites.

So whenever I get a chance to share Jesus with others, especially these educated elite types, I can relax & rest in Him and let the Spirit do the talking. Pretty exciting, eh?

Main Text: — Acts 4:13— When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. — 1 Corinthians 2:2-5 (NIV84)

But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of My name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.  — Luke 21:12-15 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, let me rest in Your Son’s promise to provide words and reasoning to present Him to others. Dispel any reluctance or fears. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Power, Love and a Sound Mind. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Standard

Date: 07-23-15

My Thoughts:

I have been wondering for some time if I am prepared to face the challenges of pursuing the Lord Jesus, and perhaps this is why I’ve been holding back. Oh, as a Jesus Freak— young, single and ‘care-free’—I was ready for the fast track to heaven: martyrdom. But as I got older, got married, had kids, and now grandkids, I have often wonder if this is still my passion….

Suffer for Jesus

Have I gone to the other extreme? Have I become too soft? Am I prepared to face the challenges that naturally come with pursuing the Lord Jesus? And I’m not talking about my own personal challenges, per se, but the challenges a life pursuing Jesus brings to others—you know, accusations of being “holier than thou,”  the teasing from friends and family that we’re taking this ‘religious thing’ a little too seriously?

Back to that discussion I had had with Brother Andrew of Open Doors those many years ago. He also said to me during our talk, “Michael, Americans are not persecuted. They are intimidated….” He was referring to people thinking that they are suffering for Jesus because they cannot pray in schools, wear a cross at work, or are scoffed at by a neighbor….

Now, years later, as I reflect on his comments, I am forced to ask myself this question: “Have I joined in our culture’s intimidating assault, and helped them place a muzzle on me? On the church?” Have we muzzled ourselves by wincing at their shouting and barrage of insults? Am I really prepared to face the challenges that are presented when I passionately pursue the Lord Jesus? Is this why some do not as well?

I’d really appreciate your thoughts on this conversation….

Main Text: — Acts 4:3-4— 3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. 4 However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of the men came to be about five thousand.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.  — 2 Timothy 3:12-13 (NIV84)

 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  — 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV84)

Finally, let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.. — Galatians 6:17 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, embolden me to share You with all I meet. Overcome my silly fears of intimidation and insults. Lord Jesus Christ, honor Yourself in my Life that others may know You, the One True and Only Hope. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Be A Change Agent for Jesus”

Standard

Peter & John in the Temple

My Thoughts:

I know a common prayer of mine has been: “Lord, use me.” Well, what if He doesn’t? What if He chooses to pour me out as King David did the water secured from his hometown well (see 2 Chronicles 11:17-19), will my life and my service be any less valuable to Him? Or More? I know I have been stuck in this utilitarian / performance base value system for some time, but in truth, the Lord does use us—and He uses us as a change agent for others.

I have found that at least two prerequisites for this are faithfulness and availability. When we are faithful and available, we can enjoy the blessings of being co-laborers with Him as Peter and John were in this morning’s main text (see below).

Peter and John were not walking around wondering how the Lord was going to use them. No, instead they were faithful in prayer, going to the temple for the daily prayers. They were available to the Spirit’s promptings. In short, their hearts were open and their eyes were open. This led to their hands being open to be used of the Lord in His ways and in His timing. (In this situation, an open hand to grasp a lame beggar’s, eh?)

Years ago, Brother Andrew and I were talking privately at a conference he spoke at, and he said, “Michael, too often we come to the Lord with our hands full of our projects and our ideas and say, ‘Lord, bless these.’ Instead, we should lift up empty hands and say, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do? Fill these empty hands with Your projects and Your ideas….”

Have you discovered that only empty hands can be filled with heavenly projects? I have, and I have also learned that an open heart that is in passionate pursuit of Jesus joined with open eyes for His Person leads to open hands for His business. Have you?  How does being faithful in prayer lead to these and to becoming a change agent of Jesus? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 3:6-7 — 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And [Jesus] said to them, Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?  — Luke 2:49 (NKJV)

 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  — 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV84)

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol  or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD  and vindication from God his Savior.  Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. — Psalm 24:3-6 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, give us clean hands and purify our hearts. Let us not give our souls to another. (adapted from Charlie Hall’s “Give Us Clean Hands”) May I always honor the Holy Name of Jesus, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Honoring His Holy Name”

Standard

In the Name of Jesus

My Thoughts:

As I was growing up, I distinctly remember being taught not to say the name of Jesus because I just might say it in vain. So I never said His Name except when prompted by the liturgy… Years later, after coming into a personal relationship with the Lord, I remember the first time I said His name. I waited for lightning to strike or at least some rumble of thunder to warn me not to do this. Alas, nothing so dramatic like this happened.

However, what did happen was a rather strange, yet awkward, reverential peace flooding my person. It was very quiet, but very noticeable. Then being tagged as a Jesus Freak in the early 70’s added to the preciousness of His Name. …

But then I began to notice others speak His Name as if it were some magic formula. For example, some felt unless they ended their prayers with “In Jesus’ Name,” it would not be heard, or maybe if they did, it would most definitely be answered—quickly. Then there were those who shouted at demons to “come out in the Name of Jesus!” I was deeply taken aback, not sure what to make of this.

Have You noticed this, too? Sometimes I even tag a prayer with “in the Jesus’ Name” as if this has some magical power, but I do know that if I keep the personal nature of my prayers directed toward the Father and the Son in the Spirit, He hears me regardless.

What are your thoughts on how we can honor His Holy Name without reducing it to a magical formula? Is it strictly a matter of the heart?

Please feel free to share your thoughts.

Main Text: — Acts 3:6-7 — 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. I tell you the truth, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.  — John 16:23-24 (NIV84)

 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.  — Acts 4:12 (NIV84)

Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.   — Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, forgive me for treating lightly or even magically Your Son’s precious Name. Guard my heart from dishonoring His Name through my words and actions. May I always honor the Holy Name of Jesus, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“We’re All We Got, Baby!”

Standard

Community of the Cross

My Thoughts:

Why is Christian community so important, and why did our Master really stress it during the Last Supper? In short, we’re all we got—so Love one another. He makes this very, very clear in John 15:18-20 that, “…If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. …”(v. 19). The world is going to hate us at some point on our journey with Jesus, and one method will be by luring us with its pleasures and treasures. Jesus warns us of this in Luke, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature” (8:14). Yes, one of the ways the world will hate us is by offering us our heart’s  desires! This will be a counterfeit, to be sure, but a really good one at that….

In these pleasures and treasures we may find a false sense of self-reliance and self-security—even fellowship.And yet our  fellowship with the saints slowly fades away as we get more and more involved in the pleasures of this world. And, according to Jesus, this, too, is hate….

The gathered body of believers in humble community is the only place where we can be told the truth in Love (Eph. 4:15), air our dirty laundry and be forgiven (James 5:16), and know our backs are covered and not stabbed (Romans 12:9-18). Or is it?

What are your thoughts on this? Are the other places believers can go to have these, and many more, blessings? Or is the church community truly the only place we ought to–or even can–have this?

Care to share?

Main Text: — Acts 2:42-44 — They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  — John 16:33 (NIV84)

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 13:34-35 (NIV84)

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.   — John 15:13 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the profound nature of the community Your Son paid the ultimate price for.  By Your Mercy & Grace and in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Even the Lone Ranger Had a Friend”

Standard

My Thoughts:

Being so deeply wound by fellow Christians, I went through a phase commonly called, “Anti-Church.” Oh, I would still go to services and studies, but I seriously refused to join any of them. I basically felt they didn’t need me and I didn’t need them.

Because this went on for some time, I became known as a loner, and yet I had “friends,” but I wouldn’t commit or open up to any of them. Slowly the Lord healed my wounded soul, and I realized that even the Lone Ranger had a friend: His dear friend Tonto. (Beyond the overplayed issues of the more recent ‘remake,’ it was clear that they had each other’s back….)

It took me quite a while to overcome these feelings of rejection and isolation, finally coming to a place where I could trust people again. As I did, the Lord showed me that the best way to show my Love for Him was to “Love one another” (John 13:34).

What was harder was realizing that in order to ““Love one another,” I need to be committed to a group of people I could really get to know, (let alone the extreme degree of this Love, “as I have Loved you ….”)

A major wrecking came in my middler year of seminary, but, to a large degree, the wrecking has continued to this day. I often fight isolating myself from the Body with feelings of “I don’t need you,” and “you don’t need me.” As a pastor this is rather curious, no? But in the Lord’s grace and mercy, He is healing my wounded heart in such a way that I am getting a of glimpse of what He said to Peter, “Do you truly Love me more than these…” (John 21:15)? It is a process, to be sure.

As a team player, I have often found this anomaly in my soul rather paradoxic, like maybe I didn’t feel like a part of the team? Because of this, it has been one of my passions to make others feel a part of Jesus’ team, and to be the Tonto in some loner’s life so that they, too, may come to realize, the Community of Christ is far larger than themselves…. I know I’m learning this.

How about you? Have you been on such a journey with Jesus? Care to share?

Main Text: — Acts 2:42-44 — 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  — 1 Corinthians 12:21 (NIV84)

If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  — 1 Corinthians 12:15-16 (NIV84)

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  — 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, forgive me isolating myself from Your People. Remove the pain and shame I have caused Your Name and others by these attitudes. Be that part of my Life, Lord Jesus Christ, that has been in bondage. Free me to Love as You Love.  By Your Mercy & Grace and in Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike