Even My Weaknesses

Standard

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

Sharing a Wonderful Grace-Blessing

Standard

I really want to honor my wife of 39 years. She has put up with a lot of me–the old me and now the new me. The Lord Jesus has transformed me so much, I do not recognize myself from 39 years ago.  Much like staring at our wedding photos from of old, and wondering, “Is that really me!?”

Kathy has been faithful through the hard times, and joyous in the happy ones. For a long time the former way out numbered the latter, but in the Grace of Jesus, He is turning those “numbers” around.

Thank you, Kathy, and thank You, Lord Jesus.

What Good Can Come from her?

Standard

What good can come from her? She was a prostitute; a lady of the night. She is still remembered as a prostitute…. So what can her life possibly teach me?

As I have ponder the life of Rahab, I have marveled at her tenacity and courage to choose right even in the midst of a cruel, corrupt culture. She grew up in a very corrupt culture in which good was evil and evil was good; where kings ruled with autocratic control, and true wickedness abounded. (To see how wicked check out Leviticus 18:2-30 and Deuteronomy 12:29-31.)

Rahab still chose right. (Now when I say, “right,” I am not referring to anything political, but rather of principle. You know,” right,” “wrong,”… To me, these still objectively exist.)

We would suppose that the “right” Rahab chose was to hide the spies, and, to some extent this is so, but notice the first phrase in the main verse: “By faith.” Her right choice came before she hid the spies. She first chose the Holy One (YHWH, bless the Name) , and out of this right choice she hid the spies….

I am very encouraged by my sister, Rahab: Though still “labeled” as a prostitute in the New Covenant, she chose to change her way of life by placing her faith in the only One who could truly change her way of Life. Brothers and Sisters, let us be infused with the courage of hope that our sister, a true woman of character, demonstrated even while living in the midst of a dark, cruel culture. While there is still breath, “There’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

Are you encouraged? Care to share your thoughts?

Main Text— Hebrews 11:31 (NIV84) 31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.—Psalm 25:12 (NIV)

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,  who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.—Isaiah 5:20 (NIV)

 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.Psalm 34:14 (NIV)

Lord Jesus Christ, Empower me to be like You—choosing what is right no matter what the consequences may be. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Stretched in All Directions

Standard

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

“I Missed His Fullness”

Standard

When I first came into a personal relationship with Jesus, I was more than impressed with His deity. In fact, I felt the Lord had called me to correct all the wrongs in various denominations. So I pounced on the New Testament, especially the Gospels and St. Paul’s letters. I loaded my theological Gatling Gun, removed the safety and was ready to unload its magazine at the first hint of any ignorance or denial.

One of the verses I constantly loaded into the magazine was Colossians 2:9: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (NIV84). Fire fight after fire fight, I would empty this verse at those I encountered. And sadly, I was more interested in winning an argument than establishing a relationship….

Then one day, the Father was pleased to reveal to me more about Him through Jesus in the very next verse, 10: “and you have this fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (NIV74). I literally hit a wall.

All those years I was trying to please the Father by defending His Son’s reputation and identity—and in some large way trying to earn His approval so I could get more of Him—when all along I already had His Fullness in me through Jesus…. 

Since then it has been a journey of decreasing while the Lord Jesus keeps increasing within me. I look at this as kind of releasing of compressed air. His fullness is compressed in me in various aspects of my life. When I yield to His presence, His compressed Presence fills the void left by my selfish self. In effect, His transforming power now controls a part of my life that had once been in bondage to sin and self.

Once again, the Lord’s timing is impeccable, for I was reading, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence earlier this morning and came upon this in the Fourth Letter:

He [Brother Lawrence] complains much of our blindness; and cries often that we are to be pitied who content ourselves with so little. GOD, saith he, has infinite treasure to bestow, and we take up with a little sensible devotion which passes in a moment. Blind as we are, we hinder GOD, and stop the current of His graces. But when He finds a soul penetrated with a lively faith, He pours into it His graces and favours plentifully; there they flow like a torrent, which, after being forcibly stopped against its ordinary course, when it has found a passage, spreads itself with impetuosity and abundance. (p. 42, The Spire Book)

I, too, was blind to this treasure, this gift of His grace: His Fullness— until the Father was pleased to reveal Him to me. How this all worked? What mechanism sprung? I do not know, but I do know that once I was blind, but now I see a little bit better….

Have you experience a revealing like this?

Main Text— Matthew 16:15–17 (NIV84) 15 But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.John 1:16 (NIV84)

  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.—2 Peter 3:18) (NIV84)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 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, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.—Ephesians 3:14–19 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I praise You for the Grace of Your Fullness. Strengthen my resolve as I continue on this journey of decreasing while You increase within me. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

Seeing Him in Everything

Standard

Okay, I get it, Lord. First this morning I read this in one devotion: “What we need, then, is to see God in everything, and to receive everything directly from His hands, with no intervention or second causes” (Hannah W. Smith, The Christian’s Secrets of a Happy Life, p.102). Then I read in another devotion: “See God in everything, and God will calm and color all thou dost see” (H.W. Smith, Sept. 17, in Streams in the Desert)! I am to see You in everything. In the highs and the lows; the plenty and the want; the “good” and the “bad;” the known and the unknown—everything.

 Too many times, I must confess, I am more like Martha (in our main text below). I am distracted by too many things. These distractions prevent me from seeing You in the situation—in my Life. So I join her in crying out to You, “Lord, don’t you care that [they have] left me to do the work by myself? Tell [them] to help me!”

Lord, as the distractions begin to blur and move out of focus, let me clearly see You in my focus. Turn this dourness into Joy. Let me see the colors of Your presence in all the situations and people I encounter. May I not only see Your hand at work, but may I see Your face. Forgive me for the many times I have whined and completed—doubting that You care. 

Oh, but You are so patient, so kind. You do not chide me nor do You abandon me. Instead, with a gentle touch from Your words, You draw my focus back to You. Through the blur of tears, I am seeing You as I make preparations for Your people.

Indeed, You are good all the time no matter what!

Main Text— Luke 10:40 (NIV84) 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:6–7(NIV84)

  O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.Luke 12:28b-29 (NIV84)

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.Psalm 18:2–3 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, lead me not into distractions, but keep my eyes fixed on You. Empower me to keep focused on You no matter what I am doing. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Continue On

Standard

Too often we may foreclose on the “Parable of the Sower.” “Oh, I know this already.” Or “I’ve heard this before.” But perhaps a “second” look with child-like wonderment will yield fresh insights for us. Sadly, though, still another foreclosure is our determination as to which soil our soul is. We often assume we are one or the other…you know, that Ol’ “Either/Or” mindset. But, if we look more closely with a Both/And understanding, we will discover that we can be the rocky soil in one instant and at that same instant good soil. (Yes, and this soil is being amended by the Spirit daily.)

 Sadly, once I foreclose on the soil test, I seem to stop. I stop growing. Stop weeding. Stop searching. Stop maturing. Stop. And the numbness of stopping creeps into my soul. But if I stop and rethink the soil test; if I stop and re-listen to the Lord’s words; if I stop merely as a rest stop prior to continuing on, then maybe, just maybe I will see more clearly the produce—the victory—the good soil has for me.

Let the spurs of Charles Spurgeon dig deep into your flanks—and continue on:

“Whatever foes may be before the Christian, they are all overcome. There are lions, but their teeth are broken; there are serpents, but their fangs are extracted; there are rivers, but they are bridged or fordable; there are flames, but we wear that matchless garment which renders us invulnerable to fire. The sword that has been forged against us is already blunted; the instruments of war which the enemy is preparing have already lost their point. God has taken away in the person of Christ all the power that anything can have to hurt us. Well then, the army may safely march on, and you may go joyously along your journey, for all your enemies are conquered beforehand. What shall you do but march on to take the prey? They are beaten, they are vanquished; all you have to do is to divide the spoil. You shall, it is true, often engage in combat; but your fight shall be with a vanquished foe. His head is broken; he may attempt to injure you, but his strength shall not be sufficient for his malicious design. Your victory shall be easy, and your treasure shall be beyond all count.” [Source:  Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.]

Main Text— Matthew 13:19–23 (NIV84) 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.Matthew 7:7–11 (NLT)

  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 4:17–18 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I fix my eyes on You. Continue to remove the rocks, thorns and thistles from the soil of my soul as I continue to seek Your Face. 

Pastor Mike