Even My Weaknesses

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Samson has always fascinated me. This is especially true since I’ve learned that he was not some bulked up weight-lifting model, but rather a Regular Joe like me or you or Bruce Banner. (If he had a chiseled body, then the question of the source of his strength would be somewhat moot, eh?)

As we are reading through the Old  Testament this year, I paused for a long while on Samson, took a step back and noticed that the LORD still used him to lead Israel in spite of his foolishness with women and his caviler acceptance of his vow. (To be a Nazarite was a highly esteemed vowed, but he appeared to have violated every restriction from touching dead animals to possibly drinking wine at the feasts he attended.)

Then at the end of his life, scarred, blinded and humiliated, he takes down the Temple of Dagon and with it himself and many more than when he lived (Judges 16:23ff).

 Then the Book says, “He had led Israel twenty-years” (Judges 16:31b).

What? In spite of all of his weaknesses, he was allowed to led? Pretty crazy. But as I pondered this, I have come to understand that the LORD uses me, even my weaknesses, for His purposes and, yes, His glory.

It seems like in saying this I am giving license to sin that grace may abound (Roman 6:1) “because the LORD is using my weaknesses, I can go ahead and sin like Samson.” (I guess if I did this I could end up like Samson: blinded, scarred and humiliated, huh? Besides I remember Romans 6:2: “God forbid. How shall we live any longer therein” NKJV).

But I am giving myself freedom to make mistakes, to fumble the ball, to screw up, and then by faith trusting that beyond this the LORD will still work out His good pleasure and purposes. This freedom of understanding that He is using even my weaknesses then gets me off the couch and out into the “real world” to live for Him, instead of “hiding in my room; safe within my womb;” where I “touch no one and no one touches me.” 

Do you find freedom in Jesus knowing that He is even going to use your weaknesses for His purposes and glory? What do you think?

Main Text— 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (NIV)— 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.—2 Corinthians 4:8–11 (NIV84)

    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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 3:13–14 (NIV)

 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)

Heavenly Father, I accept this grace You offer me. You accept me as I am, including my weaknesses and shortcomings. I praise You for transforming me to become more like Your Son, Jesus, Who empowers me to live the Life that is pleasing to You. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

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Even When I’m Wrong

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Lord, You have been deeply impressing me on one of my deepest fears: Being wrong. Being a recovering perfectionist, this should not surprise me, but it did what You reveal how deep in my soul this is. Though You have transformed me significantly, I still am hesitant to step too far out of my comfort zone for fear of being wrong….

Then, this week You showed me You can resurrect and transform even when I am wrong. As the Resurrection and the Life, You cannot only take the big things—the evil things—and transform them into something beautiful and good, You can take my little, insignificant wrong decisions, wrong choices, wrong whatever, and transform them into something beautiful. Yes, I understand that sometimes the path to this good and beautiful may be hard and difficult, even leaving a scar or two; You will still make the scars look beautiful. (And You should know, right?)

So I am learning to rest in this truth: Because Your resurrection power can transform any “wrong” decision, etc., I can trust You even if these have led me into the valley of the shadow of death. Your rod and staff will comfort me and I will walk in Your presence—forever!

I do believe this!

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.—Philippians 3:20–21 (NIV84)

  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.Ephesians 1:18–20 (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)

Lord Jesus Christ, I praise You that You are the Resurrection and the Life in my life. I yield to Your transforming power as You overcome this fear in my life of being wrong. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“I Think I Can.”

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Many of us grew up with TheLittle Engine that Could” story, and then we’ve passed it on to our children and to their children. It is a great moral: Don’t give up; Give it your all and you can do it. And for much of life I would agree with this….

…but when it comes to living the Moral Kingdom Code presented by our Master in the Sermon on the Mount, I have a different feeling RE  “the little engine that could.”

Perhaps you are morally stronger than I, but I have not been able to keep my heart from burping out, “You fool”—either to the one who just cut me off or to my self for doing something utterly stupid…. Oops, I’m in “liable to the hell of fire” (v. 22 below).

Or how about the rest of the “You have heard that it was said to those of old…, But I say to you’s? I know our Master is giving us the ideal Kingdom Living Code, but I also think He is noting something far more profound right along with it: “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 5:20 ESV). I think He is telling us that we cannot achieve this Code on our own, by our own efforts. Wouldn’t you agree?

 Wouldn’t you also agree that St. Paul echoes this very sentiment in his letter to the Galatians, “I do not misapply God’s grace, for if righteousness comes about by doing what the Law requires, then the Messiah died for nothing” (Gal. 2:21 ISV)?

I know I need Jesus in the beginning of my salvation and at the end, but I also know I need Him in the middle as well. With each step I take in His steps, I need His strength, His Power, to “perform” His Kingdom Code. How else would I make it? I know of no other way. Do you?

Main Text— Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV) 21 You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Jesus answered, I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you really knew Me, you would know My Father as well. From now on, you do know Him and have seen Him.”Jn 14:6–7 (NIV84 emphasis added)

 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.—James 2:10–11 (NIV84)

  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.— Philippians 3:8–11 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, when it comes to Your Kingdom Code, I am shaking like a leaf. I pray You are my Prince of Peace. Fulfill Your Holy Kingdom Code in my Life that I might be a pleasing child of Yours. In Your Holy Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“The Grace of Healing Wholeness”

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Have you ever received the grace of Healing Wholeness from Jesus? You may not know it if you did, but chances are you are more than aware of this sense of wholeness in healing you have received.

It starts out with a quiet, gentle whisper in your soul: “Do you want to get well?” (The phrase “get well” literally means “made whole.”) At first you think it a strange question because who wouldn’t want to be made well? Then you think of someone you know who is always whining and complaining about their particular sickness or situation, and then you realize that there may be some who would indeed answer, “No”. Surprised as you may be at this though, you know deep in your soul you want to be made whole—put back together. All your fragmented pieces reassembled, as it were.

So you cautiously, but hopefully answer, “Yes!”

In this brief answer, you soon discover that the Healer of your soul is a gentlemen. He will not foist on you His plan, His desires for you. No, He wants you to be willing and available to accept this gift of grace. And grace it is….

So in the power of this healing grace of wholeness you attempt something you have been unable to do. A joy, an exhilaration surges through your whole being. Tears flood your eyes as hope fills your soul: You’ve been made whole.

What words of praise capture this moment for you? I have often found that none do…, but I praise Him anyway. How? By faithfully walking in the Grace of this healing wholeness.

Main Text— John 5:1–5 (ISV) Later on, there was another festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem is a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew. It has five colonnades, and under these a large number of sick people were lying—blind, lame, or paralyzed—waiting for the movement of the water.  At certain times an angel of the Lord would go down into the pool and stir up the water, and whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had.  One particular man was there who had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.1 Corinthians 6:11 (NIV84)

 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.—Romans 5:1–2 (NIV84)

  Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.— 1 Peter 1:8 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, no words can capture the praise swelling up in my soul for this grace of healing wholeness. But I pray through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Holy Spirit that my life may be a fragrant offering to You—an acceptable act of praise and adoration. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Dangerous Grace”

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Amazing Grace copy

Grace is dangerous and risky. It could lead to misuse and license: “Let us sin that grace may abound!” The Apostle Paul new of this danger and wrote extensively on it in several of his letters (e.g. see Romans 6:1-7:25 and Galatians 5:1-15), and we do not have space here to present a major treatise on this amazing subject of Grace (and there are many scholarly works available to peruse). But what I do want to present is the Hope of this dangerous Grace….

The hope? When we do fall, this dangerous Grace is all-sufficient for us to get back up and keep on walking in the Spirit in the steps of my Savior. We do not take this dangerous Grace lightly. We are fully aware of the price paid of the lavished Love flowing from such all-sufficient Grace. Yes, I could take it for granted, and continue wallowing in the muck and mire of my flesh—my sin, but the Love Lord Jesus has lavished on me somehow propels me to step out of the miry clay and have my feet firmly placed on the Rock that is higher than I. His dangerous Grace is faithful to forgive me when I confess my sin and cleanse me from all that muck & mire…. It is all-sufficient.

Charles Spurgeon, the 19th Century Prince of Preachers, shares a very personal moment regarding v. 9 of our main text:

The other evening I was riding home after a heavy day’s work. I felt very wearied and sore depressed, when swiftly and suddenly as a lightning flash, the text came to me, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” I reached home and looked it up in the original, and at last it came to me in this way. “MY grace is sufficient for thee”; and I said, “I should think it is, Lord,” and burst out laughing. … It was as though some little fish, being very thirsty, was troubled about drinking  the river dry…. Or, it seemed after the seven years of plenty, a mouse feared it might die of famine, and Joseph might say, “Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee.” Again, I imagined a man away up yonder, in the lofty mountain, saying to himself, “I breathe so many cubic feet of air every year, I fear I shall exhaust the oxygen in the atmosphere,” but the earth might say, “Breathe away, O man, and fill the lungs ever, my atmosphere is sufficient for  thee.” Oh brethren, be great believers! Little faith will bring your souls to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your souls. [Source: Streams in the Desert, February 26]

So I rest in the hope of this dangerous, all-sufficient Grace. The hope that gets me back up when I fall; the hope that a confessed sin is not only forgiven, but replaced with heaven’s righteousness; the  hope that my feeble steps behind my gracious Master are strengthened by His dangerous Grace. Does this hope spur you to get back up and drink in His never-ending all-sufficient Grace? Your thoughts?

Main Text— 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (NIV) 7 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;2 Corinthians 9:8 (NASB95)

  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 1:13–14 (NIV84)

  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say, “No,” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.— Titus 2:11–14 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I am humbled by this amazing, dangerous Grace. I know I am not worthy to receive this, but Your Love for me has made me valuable. You Loved me even when I was Your enemy. Lord Jesus, I praise You for Your sacrifice of Love and Grace. No words can truly capture my heart’s gratitude. Baruch Ha Shem Y’shua! Amen.

Pastor Mike

“A Baby Doesn’t Stay Down”

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Baby's First Steps

I was there for each of my daughters’ first steps, but I do not remember much after this. However, I am far more present and observant with my grandkids: As they take that first step; struggle to stay on their feet; it’s simply fascinating. Then I observed other young tikes learning to walk: each struggles to keep his/her balance! And when they fall, they don’t stay down. They get right back up….

Whether we are young in the Lord or a seasoned believer, I have found it equally fascinating that many do not struggle to keep their balance, and many do not get right back up on their feet. Instead, they remain on the ground whining—like a little baby…. I quite easily see the “baby” analogy, but clearly, I’ve observed something quite different with “Babes” in Christ. These, on the other hand, struggle to keep their balance, as they walk behind the Master, closely following Him. Oh, and when they fall, they get right back up. …

I had to look in the mirror and ask myself, “Am I a “babe” or a “baby” in Christ? Ouch!

Part of my struggle in not quickly getting up is a poor view of His Love and Grace. “I have failed Him, greatly disappointing Him, how could He accept me back?” But as I watch parents with their children, none—I repeat, none!—ever chastise or yell or cajole or even tease their little one as s/he begins their walking journey. How much more does the Grace and Love of our Heavenly Father supersede this? So then, why do I whine and complain and beat myself up when I fall? Because I, and I alone, am greatly disappointed in my self. My expectations are far greater than my Lord’s and my self-apportioned love and grace, are far less than His Love and Grace….

So what do I do? One thing I am working on is simply getting back up when I fall. Dust myself of with a little soul confession of the particular sin; keep on putting one foot in front of the other—baby steps, if need be…; and continue to walk in Love and Grace of the Freedom my Shepherd has afforded me. What do you do? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Romans 8:1 (NKJV)— 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.—1 Peter 2:2–3 (NKJV)

 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.Galatians 5:16–18 (NIV)

  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 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, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:12–14 (NIV)

Heavenly Father, soften my heart to receive the Love You have for me. Lord Jesus Christ, may I rest in the sufficiency of the Cross, where You confessed, “It is Finished!”In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Common Union”

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Kneeling at the Cross

In my research and in my personal experience I have noted that one of the most common accusations against the church her divisions. Sadly, some divisions are rather vicious and cruel. The maturity to agree to disagree agreeably is wanting in many settings. And why? Because “we have God’s approval and I am here to let you know….”

Truly, there will be honest disagreements of how we baptize or celebrate the Lord’s Table, or what songs to sing or not sing. How long to preach, if at all, but I’m sure many of you would agree, especially those who know the Lord Jesus, that we do have a common union in the Lord Jesus. We all agree that He died for our sins in fulfillment of the Scriptures, was buried and rose again on the third day, in fulfillment of the Scriptures (see 1 Cor. 15:3, 4).

And in this common belief we have a common union. From there it seems if we follow Philippians 3:15-16, all will be well: “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things [i.e. have the same mind as our Lord Jesus as explained earlier in chapter 2:5-8]. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained” [NIV]. I understand “already attained” to mean “already agreed upon, what we already have in common.”

To me, this common union is seen very clearly in the Lord’s Table, the Last Supper, the fulfillment of Passover. All have sinned and need this Table. All who Love Lord Jesus know this all too well. And we come to the Table humble and yet grateful, knowing the Grace that has been offered to us in the act this Table: “In remembrance of Me”  (Luke 22:19b)

Maybe that’s why we call this Table, “Communion?” To express the Common Union we have in Jesus? Your thoughts?

Main Text— 1 Corinthians 11:19, 23-26 (NIV) No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. … For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one.— John 17:11b (NIV)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all … will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.—John 13:34–35 (NIV84)

 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”— 1 Peter 4:7–8 (NKJV)

Heavenly Father, I put the Lord Jesus Christ on as my Belt of Love. May I see all who confess the Name of the Lord Jesus with the same eyes of Grace, Mercy, and Love You see me. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike