Provision in the Wilderness

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Ironically, as I was preparing for this week’s message, I caught myself complaining about how long I’ve been in the wilderness. This was in light of the main text below. “Lord, if I’m to make my days count, how can I do so in the wilderness? Besides, how long can this wilderness be…?” And just as I said this, a light, “40 years!?” floated through my mind…. Ah, I’ll be grateful for the brief time I’m having in this wilderness…

But what hammered home the point was v. 7, the Psalmist, David says, “My hope is in You.” As David counted the fleeting moments whisking by, as he  noted the brevity of life, his hope in this desert—this wilderness—is the LORD. As I paused on this thought, the heaviness of the reality settled on me: The LORD provided for the Israelites in their wilderness for 40 years, and for Moses in his wilderness for 40 years, and even HIS Son, the Lord Jesus, for 40 days; will He not also provide for me in my brief wilderness—for however long it is?

Then I was reminded of those dear little ones praying before they go to bed: “Thank You, Lord Jesus, for my Mommy & Daddy. For Grandma & Grandpa. For Nana & Papa; for my dolls & my toys; for my bed; & my clothes, and ….” The innocent childlike wonderment of their awareness of the Lord’s provision was truly humbling. So I began to pray as they reminded me: “Thank You, LORD, for all these provisions. Thank You for my house and my car; for the hot water and the refrigerated air; Thank You for my wife and daughters and sons-in-law and grandchildren….”

The Lord is truly my Hope in the wilderness and He is clearly blessing me with many provisions in whatever I may consider is my wilderness. How about you? Do you see His provisions in your wilderness?

Main Text— Psalm 39:4–7 (NIV84)  Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.  5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Selah 6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. 7 But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in You.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:26–27 (NIV84)

nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.2 Chron. 20:12b (NASB95)

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. 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. 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, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  [Ephesians 3:16–21 NIV84]

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

“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

“Enjoy the Ups; Endure the Downs”

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Romans 8-28

My Thoughts:

Years ago I was told, “When things are going well, watch out: the enemy is about to attack.” I appreciated the advice to remain vigilant, but I took it to an extreme so as not to enjoy the good times. So when times were good, I was preparing for them to fall apart. My focus was on the “what ifs” of life and not on the “what is’s”.

Truly, our walk with Jesus has its ups and downs. We are to enjoy the ups and endure the downs. But during the “ups” I am learning to live in the moment for Jesus and not live for the moment in myself. This has been a rather challenging journey. There are times, especially when the grandkids are over, that I have to consciously say to myself—sometimes out loud, “‘That can wait for later; I’m with my grandkids now.” Then the joy of the moment begins to seep into my soul.

As I search the Words of the Book for encouragement on this new perspective, I was brought back to a well-worn passage and a pointed verse I had memorized years ago, but never really applied in this manner. (It’s always that next verse, eh?) In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Yet, indeed, in the next verse He says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itselfEach day has enough trouble of its own.” In a very subtle way, it appears Jesus is saying, live only in the moment, for it has enough to deal with. When I am worrying about tomorrow, or the “what ifs” or “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” of life, then I miss the joy in the moment—the “ups”….

Now that I am beginning to enjoy the “up” moments the Master has blest me with, what about those “down” times, those incidents I deem “terrible, horrible, no good or very bad”? As I sledge through the wrecking of my current life (lower case “l”), I find that I have to rework such phrases as, “That’s not good,” or “that’s bad!”. Why? Because if I really believe the Lord works out all for the Good, then even those times—those incidents—that I deem “terrible, horrible, no good or very bad” He is using for the Good—even if my small perspective cannot see it at the moment and I burp out, “this isn’t good!”

Instead, I have been trying to say—again, I’m a rookie at this, “This, too, the Lord will use for the Good!” It has been a fascinating mind-bend. Indeed, the transformation has been slow, but the Holy Spirit is steadily renewing my mind. I have found I am less reactive in situations I have traditionally deemed “bad,” etc., especially when I ‘see’ by faith that, “this, too, the Lord will use.” Now I not only endure the “downs,” I do more than endure them: for I am more than a conquerer through Jesus Who Loves me. Through the “Ups” and the “Downs” His Love holds me….

Have you had a similar journey with Jesus on this? Or are you farther up the path? Care to share?

Main Text: — Acts 5:17-20— 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? 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  8:31-32 (NIV84)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  — Romans 8:28 (NIV84)

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)

Heavenly Father, continue Your transforming work in my Life as I realize in each passing moment that, “You are Good all the time, no matter what,” I may think about a given moment or incident, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Not Quite What You Expected”

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My Thoughts:

You’ve waited in line for days to be one of the first to see this promised sequel. As the electricity arcs in the air and the opening day final arrives, You shuffle along with the other faithful into the theater, the lights dim, the expectant hush falls upon the auditorium as the movie begins…. Was it better than you expected or a big disappointment?

Many of us have waited for many promises to be fulfilled from a simple “this dinner will be great” to “honest, I really will change this time.” Sometimes we have been pleasantly surprised, but many times we have been sadly disappointed.

And what is sad is sometimes we carry the perspective of this latter disappointment into those times we are waiting on the promises of God. We have Tommy Smothers’ attitude, “God loves you more than me” approach to the Lord’s promises.  We see others getting “blessed” and, well, we’re still struggling. I have even taught, “It is through the passage of time and the presence of struggle the character of Christ is forged” in us, but somehow when my struggle is prolonged and the wait extended longer than say a friend’s, I start to wonder, “Does the Lord Love them more than me?”

Silly me! Fortunately, I observed in our main text (below) that the Holy Spirit didn’t just light-up the Apostles. Nor did He merely light-up the Eleven skipping Matthias—since he really hadn’t put any real hard time in with Jesus. The Holy Spirit lit up all who were in the room, including our Master’s recently convinced, but formerly skeptical, brothers (see Acts1:14). New-comers and old-timers, former doubters and skeptics and even those of innocent faith: All received the filling of the Holy Spirit. Clearly, I say to myself, the Lord does not love some more than others—more than me! For if He did, this would have been a good place to start demonstrating this!

But Praise His Holy Name He did not. His Love for us is well beyond what we could think or imagine—or figure out. It’s unsearchable. When the wait is over, and  the Lord finally fulfills His promises, it’s just not quite what we expect, is it?

Main Text: — Acts 2:4 — 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. And even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. — 1 Peter 1:8-9 (ISV)

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. 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 8:35-39 (NIV84)

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, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  — Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, forgive me resisting Your Love. Remove the scabs and callouses that are preventing me from experiencing Your unconditional Love. Heal the pain and remove the shame that have long deceived me, blurring my vision of Your Goodness.  In Jesus’ Mercy & Grace, Amen.

Coach Mike

“You May Not Have One—Yet…”

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As I look at our Church Family, I see many who do not have a father.  Some were literally orphaned, being raised by the state, foster care or an inconvenienced grandparent. As on Mother’s Day, so too, on Father’s Day, this often adds to the heartache and emptiness many may feel. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Many of these I am thinking of have a blessing: They have a ‘father figure’…, a caring man who has stepped into the role of father….

Some of these men sacrifice much time and energy weaving this ‘orphaned’ child into their already full-family and full-schedule lives, but they are doing a marvelous job at a quiet miracle. Many of these ‘adopted fathers’ did not apply for the position, nor did they volunteer. Instead, they were chosen by the disconnected ones who yearned to have this father influence in their lives…. I am also witnessing some wonderful grandfathers who have stepped in to fill the void left by a heart-breaking wayward child…. “Wonderful” just doesn’t capture it, does it?

Not long after becoming a Christian I discovered a promise Jesus made to His disciples found in  Luke 18:29-30 “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.”  (This promise is echoed in Mark 10:29-30.) As I began to observe my relationships, I discovered that, in fact, several men had stepped into that role as father while I was away from my father. I found this fascinating. As with all relationships, these were messy and often awkward, but over time, we have build enduring bonds that have filled that void….

Lifestyle worshiper, you may not have one—yet. But I am suspicious that when you take inventory of your relationships, you may just be surprised that this promise has been fulfilled in your life as well.

Perhaps you might want to pass along a Father’s Day, “Thank you.” to one of these men, too? What do you think?

Main Text: — Mark 10:29-30 — “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Sing to God, sing praise to His name, extol Him who rides on the clouds— His name is the YHWH [Blessed Be His Name]— and rejoice before Him. A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.  — Psalm 68:4-5 (NIV84)

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  —John 14:18 (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)

 Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the men around me whose relationships have become more like a father to me. Let my life pour into others as they have poured into me the Love of the Lord Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike