“Hard Letting Them Change?”

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“How many times is so’n so going to say they’ve changed, but in reality, they never do?” Have you said this before about someone? Or even thought it? I have. And it is sad if I believe that the Lord Jesus, the Great Transformer, has changed me, but He can’t change someone else? Ouch! Do I really believe He can change lives? Is it really that hard to “let” them change?

In our main text this morning, we have a very real and similar situation about “letting” someone change. This someone is Saul! You know the one who was “still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1 NIV 84). And now he wants us to believe that he’s all good with Jesus and not an infiltrator!? Yeah, right?

If it wasn’t for Barnabas—and the dramatic change in Saul’s life and belief system, most of us today would not have been so readily available to accept him into our small group, especially if many of our brothers and sisters in other small groups have been turned in to the Powers that Be….

So you and I have to sincerely and honestly ask ourselves: Are we letting others change? Have we become so jaded and stopped believing that the Lord Jesus can still change lives? Oh, we know the right answer, but seriously, think about it. We still call Rahab “the Harlot” and Thomas “the Doubter,” don’t we? Do we still call Peter the Denier?

First of all, I am thankful for the Barnabases in my life who have stepped forward to testify that the changes in my life are genuine, even if questioned by many. Secondly, I, in turn, have become a Barnabas for many who have clearly demonstrated a transformed life. Yes, I still struggle with becoming jaded. Yes, often my first thought is skepticism bordering on cynicism, but one by-product of my current wrecking has been this very thought: “If I am changing so dramatically, surely the Lord is doing so with _____, as well.”

Yes, I understand that for some, you’ve heard it before, but when Jesus truly steps in and transforms a life, we dare not be one to ‘not let them change,’ don’t you think?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 9:26-29 (NIV84)— 26 When [Saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”— Luke 19:8–10 (NIV84)

I [Paul] thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.— 1 Timothy 1:12–14 (NIV84)

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. — Philemon 8–11 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the power of the Resurrected Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, make me into a Barnabas who wisely celebrates the transformed lives around me.  In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

Pastor Mike

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“Missing Divine Appointments?

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My Thoughts:

Recently, I have been having a lot of dental work. And to remind me of the appointments I get a text message the day before and an hour before. Oh, and I get an email a day before and an hour before. This, of course, is in addition to my own personal reminders. (And many of you know how these work….) The point? It would be really hard to miss this given appointment. I would have little excuse, to be sure….

Divine Appointments

Do you feel that the Lord gives us ‘messages’ and reminders before a Divine Appointment He has set up? I’m sure if you really stop and think (and listen), there have always been those little nudges or promptings, “Hey, remember: I have a divine appointment for you.”

Just recently I had an overwhelming sense to go visit someone at a particular time. I truly felt it was from the Lord. I made every effort not to be late. As I arrived, it was not what I expected. Over the years, I have learned not to assume or presuppose what He has planned, but literally in sheer obedience, I went and arrived at the appointed time. There were no buzzes or fireworks, but I am trusting that He set something in motion that I perhaps may learn abouObObed—or maybe not until  way later, eh?

What did I have to do to avoid missing this divine appointment? Well, one thing was I had to rearrange my routine—very comfortable and familiar routine. Another thing was to be mindful not to get caught up in some task, “Oh, this will only take a few minutes” kind of task. I needed to eliminate distractions. A third thing I did was prioritize the aspects of my routine so that I could make this divine appointment on time. In short, I made the divine appointment a priority above all the comfortable and convenient routine “things” I normally do.

What are some ‘things’ you do to make sure you don’t miss a divine appointment. especially the ones you are not informed of ahead of time?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 8:26-29 (NIV84)— 26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.— Matthew 6:33 (NIV84)

From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.— Matthew 16:21 (NIV84)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. — Hebrews 12:1 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, empower me by the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, as You strengthen each step in following Your promptings and leadings.  In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Are Comfort Zones So Bad?”

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Maybe you’ve heard many a success-trainer or life coach tell you to “Get out of your comfort zone.” “Stretch your legs and move out.” “Without risk there can be no growth” (Bear Grylls). “Face your fears and do what you fear most” (Priya Deelchand).  “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”(Neale Donald Walsch). And the like….

Comfort Zone

But are comfort zones really so bad? Let’s face it: there are some good things about comforts zones. And the first one I can think of is, well, they are comfortable. I know what to expect. No surprises. Another is they are safe. I am protected in my comfort zone from the wiles of the world. Really, a comfort zone can also be a “no danger zone,” eh?

What else is good about a comfort zone? I’m sure you can think of many, many more ‘good things’ about a comfort zone. So, then why leave the comfort and security and safety of a comfort zone? Is the risk worth the growth?

In our main text this morning (see below), we find Philip moving out of his comfort zone. Or shall we say, “shoved?” His comfort zone composed of a cushy job delivering food to widows and attending to the needs of the poor. But suddenly life caved it. His friend and fellow helper, Stephen, gets stoned (Acts 7:57-60), and a persecution of those who believe in Jesus  “broke out”. His comfort zone collapsed! Oh, he probably had a choice to stay and attempt to protect it—rebuild it, but instead Philip did something counterintuitive: Instead of looking for another cushy job and rebuilding another comfort zone, he went to Samaria and proclaimed there the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. …

Now, for the average first century Jewish inhabitant of Judea, Samaria was anything but a “comfort zone” (see John 4:9 for a brief explanation). Nevertheless, Philip continued outside his comfort zone. And it doing so he encountered great success. Why? Because his answer to the question, “Is the risk worth the growth” was “Yes!” And it wasn’t so much his personal growth that Philip was focused on, but rather—and more importantly—the growth of His Master’s Kingdom through the church.

Maybe now you may have some different answers to the other question: “Are comfort zones bad?” Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 8:1–5 (NIV84)—  On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.  But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Philip in Samaria  Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.  Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.— Luke 14:26–27 (NIV84)

I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”— Luke 18:29–30 (NIV84)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. — 2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, sometimes I need a gentle shove to get me out of my comfort zone. In Your Grace and Mercy, open my eyes to the greater glory that is in You. As You empower me by the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen each step out of my comfort zone and into for Your pleasing and perfect will.  In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

Coach Mike

“Into A Corner”

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Charles Spurgeon writes in a devotion found in Morning and evening: Daily readings selected for today: “The Lord sometimes suffers his people to be driven into a corner that they may experimentally know how necessary he is to them. Ungodly children, when they show us our own powerlessness against the depravity of their hearts, drive us to flee to the strong for strength, and this is a great blessing to us. Whatever our morning’s need may be, let it like a strong current bear us to the ocean of divine love. Jesus can soon remove our sorrow, he delights to comfort us. Let us hasten to him while he waits to meet us.” (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

Shepherd-of-Psalm-23-232x300As we build families, I have discovered that some have been driven into a corner. There is no cause for celebration, but only sorrow. Their ‘prodigal’ has just begun his/her journey away from home. How can they celebrate family?

Indeed, the corner we’ve been driven into has a purpose: It is to show us our dependence on the One Who is All-Present, All-Powerful and All-Knowing. We cannot be present with our ‘prodigal’…

But instead of seeing a sea of the world, let us join Charles and see “the Ocean of Divine Love.” The Lord “Jesus can soon remove our sorrow, he delights to comfort us.” He will part the sea!

A song we sing at our church that has become a recent favorite of mine is, “Make A Way” by Jason Ingram and Jon Egan. My soul bursts with praise as I sing out with all my heart: “Where there is no way You make a way / Where no one else can reach us You find us / Where there is no way You make a way /Where no one else can reach us You find us.” But as I kept thinking about all the families I know who cannot celebrate Family because of a wayward son or a prodigal daughter, I thought of this song with different pronouns: “When cannot reach them, You reach them!” And then my soul settles down with a wisp of faith that soars into the heavenlies. I receive Charles’  spurring: “Let us hasten to [Jesus] while He waits to meet us” to comfort us. Join me as I come out of the corner, in a sprint or a crawl, but nonetheless join me fleeing to Jesus!

Main Text: — Mark 9:20–24 (NIV84)— So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”  “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.— 2 Timothy 4:18 (NIV84)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.— 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV emphasis added)

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all — Psalm 34:17-19 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I patiently wait for Your deliverance of my loved one. Hear the cries of my heart. Give me songs in this night that I may yet praise You. Be still O my soul, and trust in the LORD. He will not fail you. Bless You, Jesus, for Your mercies and Your grace.  In Your Name,  Amen.

Coach Mike

Celebrating Family

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Brother & Sisters: Let us Celebrate two families. The first family we celebrate is our blood family. We may be adopted or disconnected from our blood family, but nonetheless celebrate! You are here. The second Family is the Blood Family, the Church, the Body of Christ. You are most definitely adopted as sons and daughters into this celestial Family, never ever to be disconnected. Celebrate this Family by praising our Heavenly Father Who Commissioned the Only Begotten Son Who bought this Family with His Blood, and sealed it with the Holy Spirit: Blessed Be the three in One!

four-musketeers Swords

We who have a Both/And understanding do not pit one family against the other in order to celebrate these two families. Rather, we weave them together like a master craftsman, creating a beautiful tapestry of Family. Let us not favor one in exclusion to the other, for, in fact, one builds the other. There is a synergistic effect–yes, even through the dysfunctional spasms ever family goes through. But the key is sticking it out; enduring the hard times. In other words: enduring the cross!

It is on the other side of the cross–the Resurrection of the Relationship– that the Family (both blood & Blood) is stronger and ‘bigger’. So celebrate with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. Wouldn’t you agree that these are to institutions, if you will, worth celebrating?

So let us bless the Family with the following prayer from Ephesians 3:14-21:

14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 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, 21 to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

The Holy Bible: New International Version. (1984). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

“Repentance is the Key”

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Allow me to be candid:

Many believe that the LORD is going to judge our nation for its immorality and debauchery. If HE is going to judge our nation, judgment starts with His house (see 1 Peter 4:17 NASB95). But if we judge ourselves, then perhaps the LORD will spare this nation as He did Nineveh those many years ago (1 Corinthians 1:31 & Jonah 3:1-10). To merely judge ourselves is not enough, i.e., “Yeah, we’re doing something wrong. So what?” Once we judge ourselves, we then repent of whatever is displeasing to the LORD. Thus, repentance is the key.

A Solemn Assembly One pattern of repentance is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14: (1) humble ourselves; (2) pray & seek the LORD’s face; (3) turn from our wicked ways. The time for finger pointing and blame shifting is over. (If we do point fingers, it is best to stand in the bathroom and point at the mirror, eh?)

One way to act on this pattern of repentance is to join our church with fasting in the month of October. We begin our fast with an observance of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This year it is September 23. We use a ceremony I have had published in the Book, A Solemn Assembly: Gather to Seek the Lord’s Face (A Call to Repentance and Restoration). This book is a collection of scriptural prayers that will assist any follower of Jesus on his/her journey to repentance and restoration, let alone our daily walk. Thus, this book can be used for personal devotion as well as small group or large gatherings.

Though you can repent without any formal plan or ceremony, many have found it helpful to use a more formal tool in their own observance. Further, I note in the 2 Chronicles text that is plural: “If my people.” Truly repentance is a personal and private matter, but also we, as the Body of Christ, can join with our brothers and sisters in corporate repentance as the Israelites did in days of old. I am presenting this book as a tool to all the People of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, as a tool, this book will aid you in answering this call to repentance and restoration. But please note: I am not just trying to sell “my” book. Rather I am presenting it as a means to assist you in your walk with Jesus. This book is available from Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, iTunes/iBooks or from me. I am able to get group discounts for printed versions if you order soon.

For group orders I can be reached at michaelr05@msn.com or 970-245-0913.

Whatever means or tools you use, at the very least, join us in prayer and fasting for our nation and the church in the month of October.

Peace to you through our Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Coach Mike

In or For the Lord: Is there a Difference?

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Brother & Sisters: 

As the Life of the Lord Jesus flows in and through us, He empowers us in our ‘labors’. And these ‘labors’ are in the Lord and not for the Lord. 

Stand Firm in Your Labor in the Lord

Do you see a difference? 

I do. My labor for Him can be—and inevitably  is—in my own strength, building my own kingdom. But when I yield to His Life which so powerfully works in me, then I produce abundant fruit—fruit that will endure.

Be encouraged: as you fully give yourselves to the work of the Lord, know this: your labor in Him is not in vain! (see 1 Corinthians 15:58)

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.(Colossians 3:23-24 NIV 84)

I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing.”(John 15:5 NIV).