Stretched in All Directions

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It has been a little over a year since my hip surgery. The hip pain is gone, and for this I am most grateful. Oh, I’ve had many bouts with “common” and “not-so-common” colds throughout this past year; some say, perhaps due to the weakening of my immune system from the surgery, but for the most part I have been recovering quite well….

Ah, yes, the lingering “but”: But I have learned something that I need to do quite regularly, daily if possible: I need to stretch—especially the hip region. I walk better, sit better, and feel all-around better when I do. Fitting this into my schedule has been quite difficult for sure.

One would think that stretching would be a snap: just a few minutes and back at “it”, but it is not. (For some reason, getting down and back up off the floor is still rather difficult for  me. I’m sure this is a rather large de-motivator, huh?)

As I was pondering this dilemma this morning, the Lord seemed to quietly and very softly open up a spiritual truth to me: I need to stretch my faith regularly, daily whenever “possible”. (I guess for starters merely getting on the floor in faith that I can get back up again with little to no difficulty, huh?) But I truly began to expand where my faith had truncated and in this place I needed a good incremental stretching.

Perhaps many of you have been struggling— as I have—with faith in the Lord providing financially. Bills seem to be pilling up as car problems, house “honey dos,” and sometimes those little extras seem to be forming a distant tsunami.

Streeetttcchhh! And, yes, I have sometimes pulled a faith-muscle during these stretches. The Lord is good all the time no matter what!!! I know this. I know He is more than faithful, so I press through the pulled muscles of faith and continue my stretching. And while I am at it, I not only need to get down on the floor to stretch my hip, etc., but also my knees—you know, in prayer. What do you think?

Main Text— Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)— 13 Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.—1 Corinthians 1:9 (NIV84)

  The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NIV84)

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Shield of Faith. Quench the fiery darts being hurled at my the enemy. You are the True and Faithful Witness. Empower me to be like You In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Faith For Someone Else”

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I have often asked myself, “Do I have the faith for someone else’s healing? Or forgiveness?” I see this faith in the friends that carried their paralyzed buddy. I see their faith in their determination to bring him to Jesus. I see their faith in digging a hole in the roof. I see their faith risking getting the Master a little dirty with the debris. I see their faith in lowering him down—together. …

And Jesus saw their faith, too (v. 5).

But do I see my faith in my determination to continue in prayer when the crowds seem to be ignoring my friend?  Do I see my faith in digging in, sacrificing, even willing to get my Master a little dirty with my efforts—for my friend’s sake? Do I team up with others who can be a fellow rope-holder with me, as we—together—carefully lower our friend before the Master?

There are some I can honestly say, “Yes, I have had enough faith.” But lately it seems I’m getting rather jaded, especially with the crowds who ignore my friend, selfishly pressing upon the Master for their needs. I do not have the energy to “make a way through the crowds.” Ah, but perhaps I can find the roof. Will you join me in finding a way to Jesus for our friend? What are your thoughts? Let us not give up in doing good, eh?

Main Text— Mark 2:1–5 (NIV84) 1A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

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. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.Galatians 6:9–10 (NIV84)

 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.—John 6:37 (NIV84)

  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.— Ephesians 6:18 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, make me an instrument of Your Presence to bring healing and not harm. Where there is injury, be pardon in me; where there is offense be forgiveness in me. Where there is doubt be faith in me. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Whining Through the Detours of Life”

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Detours of Life

As we walk out the door, out goes our daily checklist. Our day-timer is off a few minutes—hours? Our plans suddenly are no longer our plans. Maybe you didn’t need to leave the house, just getting out of bed. Maybe you were planning on getting up an hour earlier, but the “snooze” spasm got the best of you? …

Then there are the bigger “detours of life”. You know the kind when the car breaks down, or a sick child was up all night. These are situations and circumstance that were not only not in your plans, they have disrupted whatever plans you had had….

One big detour, indeed.

We could whine our way through the detours of life or we can rejoice that, “This, too, the Lord will use for the Good.” Not sure how, but by faith I know He will….

And this is way easier said than lived. So how do you prevent that whiny burp from erupting through your tightly pursed lips? Do you mumble a 911 prayer? Do you call a friend and complain? Do you journal? Or do you start yelling? What do you do?

As noted in our main text, our Lord took a major detour. Any respectable Rabbi would have avoided the half-breeds, those dirty Samaritans, but v. 4 tells us, “Now He had to go through Samaria” (emphasis added). This may not have been the “normal” plan; nor was it the disciples’ plan; but it was the Lord’s plan. Just like the detours in our lives. The Lord desires us to take the “detour,” and whining about it only questions His plan and His wisdom. Ouch!

So what do you do? What do I do on a detour? Lately, I have been using the phrase I noted above: “This, too, You can use for the Good.” Mind you, “lately”. Before this I was the archetype of whiners, and I hid it well, but as I learn to trust the Lord’s Goodness and wisdom, and knowing “Father knows best,” I am relaxing more in the detours—even when they are expensive. Oh, a “whine” burps out every now and again, but far less frequent than before. So, yes, I mumble a 911 prayer, and, yes, I journal a lot, but now I also relax and enjoy the journey a little more, too.

Perhaps you have other coping mechanisms for the detours the Lord sends you on? Care to share?

Main Text— John 4:4-6 (NIV84) 4 Now He had to go through Samaria. 5 So He came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straightProverbs 3:5–6 (NIV84)

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.—Proverbs 16:9 (NIV84)

 But [Job] said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.— Job 2:10 (NKJV)

Lord Jesus Christ, allow me to see sooner than later that the detours of my life are not detours to You, but only to me. And may I receive them with joy and thanksgiving. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“‘Believer’ or ‘Follower’: Which is It”

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Following Jesus More than Twitter

Have you notice that there appears to be a dichotomy between a “Believer in Jesus” and a “Follower of Jesus?” It seems to some that merely believing in Jesus isn’t enough, so they want to communicate their commitment to Jesus by saying, “I’m a follower of Jesus” (Or Christ, which is the Messiah).

Does it seem like this to you: Some who say they believe in Jesus don’t appear to live like Him? And from this do “the Followers” get the idea that if they call themselves followers of Jesus, it necessarily implies that they are living like He would desire them to live? Is this kind of like the ‘born again’ Christians of the 70’s?

Perhaps you have discovered what I have: To believe in Jesus has an action component. To truly trust in, rely on, and have faith in Jesus necessarily produces a follower. And yet some say they believe but have no action. (I think James refers to this as “deeds” or “works” in his letter, 2:14-26, don’t you?)

Okay, since not all who say,“I believe in Jesus,” appear to have the action component of a follower, does it also follow that those who say, “I’m a follower of Jesus” not necessarily make them a believer? Apparently not. Our Lord clearly addresses this in our main text below, with the key verses being vv. 64-66.…

What I am suggesting here, then, is we have a false dichotomy. This is not an Either/Or, but a Both/And: Our Lord Jesus wants Both Believers who Follow And Followers who Believe. If someone says, “I believe in Jesus,” their life should demonstrate this confession. Likewise, those who say, “I follow Jesus,” their lives and confession should integrate. Agree?

Perhaps then, our being Salt and Light will have a wee bit more impact on the world around us, more so than merely saying we believe or saying we follow.

What do you think? Your thoughts.

Main Text— John 6:60–69 (NIV84) 60 On hearing it, many of His disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that His disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray Him. 65 He went on to say, This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless the Father has enabled him.” 66 From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?Luke 6:46 (NIV84)

 Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.—Matthew 7:24 (NIV84)

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation.— Hebrews 6:9 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to live the Life that is pleasing to You. May the confession of my mouth be seen in my feet as I follow in Your steps.

Pastor Mike

“How tough are the “Tough”?

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Have you ever heard the phrase, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going?” I heard it a lot at half-time or a time out. But I never understood how tough the ‘tough’ had to be to “get going”. Have you?

As a pastor I have never said this to anyone, but as I thought about this morning’s main text, I had to ask myself this very question: “How tough do the tough have to be to get going?” I have seen people concussioned by life: lost of child; a torturous losing battle with cancer; a pink slip suddenly arrives on the desk; and the list goes on. I have marveled how some rape victim become victors while others remain victims. Were the former “tough” enough and the latter “weaklings?”

In my own life’s concussions, I have not always been the victor, but rather wallowed in victim stew far too long. But one thing I have learned, the Lord is tougher still. As the Apostle Paul alludes to later in this harrowing episode late in his life, “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island” (Acts 27:23-26). It was his faith in the Goodness of God through the tough times that kept him going.

Now to some, this may seem naive and pietistic, but to those who have walked through the tough times of life’s severe concussions—first without the Lord, and then finally yielding to His presence, we understand the truth: It is not my toughness, but the Lord’s faithfulness that gets me through those tough times.

Have you found this to be so, too? Whatever storms, or trials, or difficulties or tough times we may find ourselves in the midst of, join me in remembering, “When the going gets tough, remember the Lord is tougher.” And, if you are like me, we also need to remember what the father whose young son was severely out of sorts said to Jesus after He said, “Everything is possible for him who believes”… “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24 NIV84)!

Main Text— Acts 27:9-12 (NIV84) 9 Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 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 4:16–18 (NIV84)

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)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in hHis 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)

Lord Jesus Christ, be my Shield of Faith. Quench the fiery darts that are being hurled at me. Be my Shoes of  Peace that I may be calm when enduring tough times. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“This is No Time”

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Terrorist attacks at the door. Inflation rearing its ugly head. Taxes at every turn—increasing the burden. Civil unrest; social and moral decay. This is no time to bring a child into the world, and yet our Heavenly Father deemed it “appropriate” to bring His Son into that climate of the world…. Oh, you thought I was describing our current situation? Nah, but it sure sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

More than a Conqueror

Yes, the world in which the baby Jesus was born was a very violent time. Israel was under the occupation of the Romans, and might truly made right. Yet, this is the time our Heavenly Father deemed “The fulness of time.” What better time than to show the vulnerability of the humility of His Son?

I’m reminded of a line in the Rock Opera “Jesus Christ Superstar.” If memory serves, it was Judas who delivered the line: “If you’d come today, You could have reached a whole nation; Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication—don’t you get me wrong.…” That hit me hard then when it came out. And for some time I agreed with it. But as I study the Word more & more and found the main text for today (Gal. 4:4), I changed my focus of study. With this change of focus, my doubts began to melt away. It was all part of His plan to show many, many characteristics of the Godhead, and one I’ve already mentioned: vulnerability of humility.

Unlike other kings of royalty, our King was born in an obscure village among poor peasants, in a borrowed manger—but all in the “fulness of time”! And He survived the heinous  slaughter of innocent children; He survived being a refugee in Egypt; He survived many bandits during family pilgrimages to and from the Holy City; He survived the teenage years; He survived the ridicule and unbelief of His family; He survived the popularity and misunderstandings of the mobs and the crowds; and He survived the tortuous death of crucifixion….

Yes, He survived. But in truth He did more than survive, didn’t He? He is more than a conqueror! He indeed grew up in those very unstable times to nonetheless fulfill the destiny the Father had designed for Him. He is more than a survivor; He is a conqueror!

So, as we look around at the difficult, unstable, even dangerous times we live in, do you receive any encouragement from our Lord Jesus’ journey? I do….

At this Christmas time when bills seem bigger than usual and suspicion reigns, remember that our Heavenly Father took care of His Son during His most vulnerable times, providing all He and His family needed…

… and the same will be so for us.

Main Text: — Galatians 4:4–5 (ISV)— 4 But when the appropriate time had come, God sent his Son, born by a woman, born under the Law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the Law, and thus to adopt them as his children.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.— Romans 8:35–37 (NIV84)

He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.— Matthew 8:26 (NIV84)

Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?—Romans 8:32 (NLT)

And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  (Philippians 4:19-20)

Coach 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