“Your Burning Question”

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Date: 06-13-15

My Thoughts:

We all have that one (or maybe several) question we want an answer to, especially questions we want to ask God to His face. And some aren’t as pretty or nice as “Why was I an only child,” or “Why didn’t I get that job,” or the one the apostles asked right before Jesus ascended: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (v. 6 noted below).

Lifestyle worshiper, did you notice our Lord’s answer to this question? It appears to be another “wait answer,” doesn’t it? Not only does He command them to wait for the Holy Spirit’s power (in v. 4), He is now ‘making’ them wait for the answer to this burning question. (The way the Greek presents this question suggests that many apostles were asking this question, and they kept asking this question until He finally ‘answers’ them.) Again, to you, this may not be as burning a question as yours, but to them this was a burning question:  When will their enslavement & tyrannical occupation by the Romans end, and they become free….

To repeat, we all have very earnest, personal and profound questions that sometimes demand an answer, and after screaming them, all we hear is the echo of our own voice. But once the echo fades, and we listen a little more intently, we hear the gentle voice of the Lord say to us, “It’s not for you to know right…. Trust Me that I will work all this out for the Good.”

Brothers and sisters, this “Wait Answer” rarely satisfies, but I know that my faith is being strengthened on a much deeper level then it had been when the event that spawned the question transpired—When my ‘whiny’ “Why” was burped…. Perhaps would you join me in praying for one another to receive the Goodness of the Lord so that we can at least begin to accept the ‘Wait Answer’ to our burning question? I will pray for you….

Main Text: — Acts 1:6-7 — 6 So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  I still have a lot to say to you, but you cannot bear it now. — John 16:12 (ISV)

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. —1 Corinthians 3:1-2 (NIV84)

  Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. — 1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, I confess that there are many, many things I do not understand, and I am often paralyzed trying to figure them out or crippled in my screaming and demanding an answer. Forgive me for doubting Your Goodness. Create in me a clean heart so that I may walk in the Light as You are in the Light. Be my Peace as I receive Your “Wait Answers.” In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“The Waiting Whine”

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It may be easy enough to whine to our parents while waiting to go to the Mall, or to our spouse as we’re waiting to leave, but can you image whining to the Lord when He tells us we have to wait for the manifestation of His Kingdom?

Lifestyle worshiper, perhaps you, like I, have not so much whined to Him about Kingdom matters, but whined about other issues—well, honestly, minor things like the stop light or the line I’m standing in. But I have also whined about why is it taking Him so long to resolve some struggle in my life or someone else’s…. Maybe you’ve done this kind of whining, too?

But as I become more aware of my subtle whines, I become acutely aware of the fact this is really more of a trust issue. He tells the apostles, “Don’t leave but wait. Trust Me. You’ll need wait I have you waiting on.” Yes, “Trust Me,” the Lord gently reminds me. “Trust Me, you will definitely need what I have you waiting on.” Maybe the circumstances just aren’t quite ready or maybe my emotional make up hasn’t caught up with what’s about to take place. Or maybe there are other ‘players’ in my life that are not quite lined up yet, so I need to reach out in confident faith and ‘Trust Him’ while I patiently wait….

As a side bar, it is interesting to note that this particular word for “wait” has an expectancy component. We are waiting patiently for an expected out come. And if the Lord is good all the time no matter what (and He is), then the expected out come it, ah, Good! Wouldn’t you agree? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 1:4-7 — On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. — 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV84)

For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. —Habakkuk 2:3 (NIV84)

  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. — Romans 5:3-4 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Slippers of Patience. May I quietly and peacefully wait on You, trusting in Your Goodness and Your timing. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

The Right Place

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Devotion Title: “The Right Place”

Date: 03-31-15

The Big Idea: Now this may seem paradoxical—counterintuitive even, but I go back to the very person I betrayed: I flee to Jesus.

My Thoughts: Lifestyle worshiper, is it possible that you’ve done something horribly wrong? I’m not talking white lies or burps of profanity, but something much like Peter, who denied his Lord, not once, not twice but three time? Often what happens is we begin to isolate ourselves from others, especially if they call themselves “Christian”. Our shame and embarrassment is just too much to bear, eh? (Been there; done that; got the scars and T-shirt to prove it.)

But when I finally come to my senses (and this may take anywhere from a few moments to, ah, several years), I go to the right place. Now this may seem paradoxical—counterintuitive even, but I go back to the very person I betrayed: I flee to Jesus. Now why I do this, I’m not quite sure, especially when I see others who do not. But somehow Peter’s journey with Jesus has given me hope that I, too, can be forgiven.

Have you found this to be so, too? Have you discover that our Lord Jesus is “a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Neh. 9:17b)?

Maybe you haven’t done something as terrible as I or Peter, but even if you haven’t, maybe you can receive comfort and hope from the words recorded in Mark 16:6-7 the angel spoke to the women at the tomb of Jesus:

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as he told you.’ ”

Did you read that? “… and Peter”?  This is where I get my hope. If the Lord Jesus can forgive the most horrible, terrible wrong done by Peter, He can forgive me, too. I can hear my name in Peter’s place: “and….” Can you?

This is our God! This is the Hope of the Resurrection He offers. This is the reason we praise Him: Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Hosanna in the Highest!

Main Text: — Mark 16:6-7— “Don’t be alarmed,” [the angel] said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as he told you.’ ” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep — 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 (NIV84)

  I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.   —Revelation 1:18 (NIV84)

 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”  — John 11:25-26 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I ask You to forgive me for _____. I thank You, Lord Jesus Christ, for bearing the consequences of my actions. Remove the pain and shame I have cause Your name. Be that part of my life that has been disobedient to You. I release myself into Your hands. Empower me with Your Resurrected Life through the Holy Spirit to live a life that is pleasing to You. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Overcoming Fear to Step Toward the Father”

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Date: 03-21-15

The Big Idea: As I come to realize that our Heavenly Father is a most forgiving God, these fears I had had melt away with each step toward HIM in this freedom of forgiveness. .

My Thoughts: I vividly recall Sister Mary Eloise teaching us that when we sin, God the Father is just waiting there to hurl a lightening bolt at us, but Jesus, God the Son is at His side saying, “But Father, I died to forgive this sin, too.” As she spoke that last sentence, she would do the sign language for Jesus. (I didn’t learn this until much, much later!) What she was teaching was very true, but my little mind was fearing a rather simple action: “What if Jesus didn’t get there it time to stop the lightening bolt?” Pretty silly, huh?

But sadly this fear kept me from approaching our Heavenly Father for years. I lived in a constant low-grade fear that at any moment a lightening bolt would slip past Jesus as a puck would slide past Tony Esposito—rare, but possible….

Perhaps you have come to learn this a lot sooner than I had in your journey with Jesus, Lifestyle worshiper, but on my pathway to freedom and wholeness it has taken me a while to understand this morning’s main text from Nehemiah: “But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (v. 17b). I began to discover this through the birth of my daughters. As each daughter’s birth approached, I feared a very malformed child. This fear was fueled by the very evil things I had done as a young person and by the doubts that Jesus could indeed stop those lightening bolts.

But the LORD is indeed gracious and merciful. By my third daughter’s birth, I was finally starting to get it: The Lord Jesus does stop those lightening bolts—ever time! (His shut out record is perfect!) I expressed this realization by giving my third daughter a very meaningful middle name: Joy. Not only was she named after one of her aunts, this name also captures my journey with Jesus overcoming my fears. I was finally beginning to approach the Father and experience His joy…. (and, BTW I have three beautiful daughters, two wonderful sons-in-law, and 5½ sparkling grandchildren–one’s due in August.)

In all this, as I come to realize that our Heavenly Father is a most forgiving God, these fears I had had melt away with each step toward HIM in this freedom of forgiveness.  And best yet, not only does our Lord Jesus stop ever lightening bolt, He will never leave the net! This is the rest of v. 17: He will not desert me.

As I enjoy this freedom in forgiven, I have come to rely on the LORD’s compassion and abounding Love more and more.  Do you have a story of joy on your pathway to freedom in forgiveness?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 9:16-18— 16 But they, our forefathers, became arrogant and stiff-necked, and did not obey your commands. 17 They refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles you performed among them. They became stiff-necked and in their rebellion appointed a leader in order to return to their slavery. But you are a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love. Therefore you did not desert them, 18 even when they cast for themselves an image of a calf and said, ‘This is your god, who brought you up out of Egypt,’ or when they committed awful blasphemies. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. — Psalm 103:8-12 (NIV84)

Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins….” He said to the paralyzed man, “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.”   —Luke 5:22-25 (NIV84)

My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. — 1 John 2:1-2 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, I  embrace Your grace that forgives my sins. I approach the Heavenly Father full of confident assurance because of the price You paid for me. Enlighten me by Your Holy Spirit to  understand these wonderful and precious promises You have for me in forgiveness. In Your Name, Amen. 

Coach Mike

“Messages in Winter”

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Date: 01-04-15

Text: — Nehemiah 1:1-2 — 1 The words of Nehemiah son of Hacaliah: In the month of Kislev in the twentieth year, while I was in the citadel of Susa, 2 Hanani, one of my brothers, came from Judah with some other men, and I questioned them about the Jewish remnant that survived the exile, and also about Jerusalem. 3 They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down and its gates have been burned with fire. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Very sad (or even ‘bad’) news in your life—right now—can be but the prompting for a great work the LORD has prepared in advance for you to walk in.

My Thoughts: 

Winters for some are fun. They love the snow and the cold and the bundling up. But for others winters can be cold and dark. Howling wind and biting cold. And yet it is even when things seem the darkest and the coldest, we can receive messages from the Lord. These messages are not necessarily obvious invitations, but they are nonetheless ‘messages’ from the LORD couched in human circumstances.

We discover in v. 1 of the above passage that it takes place in the month of  Kislev, which is Nov-Dec in our calendar. We also find Nehemiah at the citadel of Susa, which is the winter palace for the King. While there, Nehemiah receives very sad news: His people are in great trouble and disgrace. Now we who know the rest of the story know that this is merely the prompting for a great work the LORD has prepared in advance for Nehemiah to walk in….

And, Lifestyle worshipers, some very sad (or even ‘bad’) news in your life—right now—can be but the prompting for a great work the Lord has prepared in advance for you to walk in. So how do you receive this news? I know I am often concussioned by any sad or ‘bad’ news. Although I no longer burp out, “Why me,” I still get a gut retching feeling coupled with a weak-kneed wobble….

I often wish my response was like Qui-Gon Jinn’s when he heard about the trouble with the engine of their transport ship: “A solution will shortly present itself.” His confidence in the ‘Good’ of the universe and the Force clearly infused this statement.

But I have to ask myself this same question: How do I respond to sad or even ‘bad’ news? I know we have to read ahead in the Book to see how Nehemiah receives the news, but I truly want to be like him here. He was available to hear the news from his brother, and his heart was open to receiving it, even though it was devastating news. His confidence in the Lord gave him perspective and courage that, “A solution will shortly present itself.” Join me in seeking YHWH’s face as we look with hope to the future through this very sad news. I cannot imagine what the Lord has in store for us? Can you?

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?

— Matthew 6:26 (NIV84)

    For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

— Ephesians 2:10 (NIV84)

   Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

— 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father,  I wait on You to lead me into the good work You have prepared in advance for me to walk in. Lord Jesus Christ, be courage in me as I take the first steps towards it.  In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“All the Time No Matter What”

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Date: 11-30-14

Text: — Isaiah 9:6 — For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: I know you know that God is Good all the time no matter what.

My Thoughts: 

Out of these majestic titles comes a rather profound and oft quoted truth: “God is Good all the time”: He is a Wonderful Counselor He plans our lives well and in all things works “for the Good of all who Love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28 emphasis added).

Because I have found that some add a “footnote” to this “God is Good” (the noxious “except for me” footnote), I needed to add “no matter what” (i.e. “God is Good all the time no matter what). I did this because I am learning that during the ‘working out’ period, He is our Prince of Peace & our Father of Eternity….

And how I was one of these “footnoters”. I would constantly hear the promises of God and almost certainly know that they were clearly for someone else—someone God Loved more than me. Not to place blame but to discover origin, I think this started as a teenager. I had a deep confounding question plaguing me. I brought it to my local perish priest. His answer was so compelling, only adding to my “noxious footnoting.”  He said, “God is too busy running the universe to be concerned for your situation. You need to work it out on your own.” Well, I knew I couldn’t work it out on my own; I had already tried. So clearly, God must Love others more than me….

In coming to a more intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus, I am learning that often in the short run, it doesn’t seem too “good.” (Remember: “Trained by the Pain!?”) Oh, it is good, I just don’t see it ‘now’. So I need to be constantly reminded that the Lord Jesus is in control of the long run. (This is what is meant by the title “Everlasting Father” lit. in Hebrew: “Father of Eternity”—that is, Controller of the long run.) And during the ‘short run’ He is my Prince of Peace, giving me a peace so unlike the world’s ‘peace.’ The Lord Jesus’ Peace guards my heart and my mind preventing me from acting out selfishly or impulsively or destructively.

Lifestyle worshipers, perhaps you have had a struggle like mine. And perhaps like I am doing, you need to go back through your Bible and ‘erase’ all those noxious footnotes from all the promises of God, especially the one that says, “God is Good to all except me”. …

Deep down in your soul I know you know that God is Good all the time no matter what. So no matter what trial you may be in now; no matter what winter is engulfing your moments; no matter what doubts and fears are assaulting your faith: Remember, our Lord Jesus, whose birth we will soon celebrate, is also your Prince of Peace. So confess with confidence that God is Good all the time no matter what.  Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

— Romans 15:13 (NIV84)

  For [Christ Jesus] Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

— Ephesians  2:14 (NIV84)

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

— John 14:27 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, be my Prince of Peace in the midst of my winter. With You as my confident Hope I press on in the darkness clinging to the Truth that You are Good all the time no matter what. I praise Your Name for Your Faithfulness, Amen.

Pastor Mike