“Defensive or A Strong Defender?”

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When you are misunderstood, how do you respond: Defensive or Calm? Being open, my response was a knee-jerk barrage of defensive self-inflating and other-demolishing “evidence”. But as I grew more confident in the Lord’s Love for me and His constant protection, a calmness would come upon me. “What did you hear me say? … I must have misspoken. Let me try again.” I had a near out-of-body experience the first time I was able to say this….
Over the years, I have grown more and more confident that the Lord is my Defense and my Shield. I do not need to be defensive because He is my Strong Defense.
This came poignantly home to me during my first viewing of the movie, “The Judge”. The judge had been a revered institution on the bench in a small mid-west community; his black sheep son went off to become a high-powered, highly sought after, big city defense attorney. As the plot unveils, the Judge is accused of murder and the black-sheep son offers his skills as a defense attorney. Needless to say, their rocky relationship adds to the plot thickening, but at one point the son says something to the effect, “Keep your mouth shut and let me defend you.”
The father’s refusal to heed his son’s counsel gets him in even more hot water. And then the Spirit’s lance lands. I need to keep my mouth shut and let the Lord defend me: He is my Defense Attorney.
Perhaps some of you are father down the path on your journey with Jesus than I am, but for those of us, like myself, who have acted as our own defense attorney, this is a welcomed transformation in my life. Besides, I’m sure you know the old saying about defending yourself, “… every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.”
Join me in letting Lord Jesus be our Defense Attorney.  Your thoughts….
Main Text— Acts 22:1-5 (NIV84)—  “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”  When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said:  “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.  I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison,  as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.— 1 John 2:1 (NLT)
“When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”— Luke 12:11–12 (NASB95)
Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord.Vindicate me in Your righteousness, O LORD my God; do not let them gloat over me.— Psalm 35:23–24 (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 misunderstood. 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

“Hard Letting Them Change?”

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“How many times is so’n so going to say they’ve changed, but in reality, they never do?” Have you said this before about someone? Or even thought it? I have. And it is sad if I believe that the Lord Jesus, the Great Transformer, has changed me, but He can’t change someone else? Ouch! Do I really believe He can change lives? Is it really that hard to “let” them change?

In our main text this morning, we have a very real and similar situation about “letting” someone change. This someone is Saul! You know the one who was “still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1 NIV 84). And now he wants us to believe that he’s all good with Jesus and not an infiltrator!? Yeah, right?

If it wasn’t for Barnabas—and the dramatic change in Saul’s life and belief system, most of us today would not have been so readily available to accept him into our small group, especially if many of our brothers and sisters in other small groups have been turned in to the Powers that Be….

So you and I have to sincerely and honestly ask ourselves: Are we letting others change? Have we become so jaded and stopped believing that the Lord Jesus can still change lives? Oh, we know the right answer, but seriously, think about it. We still call Rahab “the Harlot” and Thomas “the Doubter,” don’t we? Do we still call Peter the Denier?

First of all, I am thankful for the Barnabases in my life who have stepped forward to testify that the changes in my life are genuine, even if questioned by many. Secondly, I, in turn, have become a Barnabas for many who have clearly demonstrated a transformed life. Yes, I still struggle with becoming jaded. Yes, often my first thought is skepticism bordering on cynicism, but one by-product of my current wrecking has been this very thought: “If I am changing so dramatically, surely the Lord is doing so with _____, as well.”

Yes, I understand that for some, you’ve heard it before, but when Jesus truly steps in and transforms a life, we dare not be one to ‘not let them change,’ don’t you think?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 9:26-29 (NIV84)— 26 When [Saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”— Luke 19:8–10 (NIV84)

I [Paul] thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 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 1:12–14 (NIV84)

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. — Philemon 8–11 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the power of the Resurrected Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, make me into a Barnabas who wisely celebrates the transformed lives around me.  In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Feel Unlearned & Unschooled?”

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My Thoughts:

I am most frustrated when I don’t know something and can’t figure it out. Beyond my schooling, personal study, etc., there is still a lot I don’t know, and this frustrates me. There are some things, circumstances or issues I just can’t figure out….

Educated Elites

If you feel like I feel or if you even feel you are unlearned and unschooled, then maybe we can both learn the lesson that: This is exactly where the Lord wants us to be.

Huh?

Let me explain what I am learning from Peter and John’s experience….

There they stood before the educated elite of their day. These were they who were deeply studied in Torah. The could not just quote extended passages, more than likely they could quote the entire Torah, and much, if not all, of the Nevi’im (the Prophets) and the Kethuvim (the Writings). These priests and Sadducees were the crème de la crème of their society, of society, in general; the envy of anyone who desired to live a religious life that pleased their God—at least this is how they viewed it….

But before these educated elite stood two “uneducated and untrained men” (from Acts 4:13 NASD95), who had just performed an incontrovertible miracle: They were amazed! Well, amazed as any educated elitist could get, since there is little they do not know or cannot explain, eh?

These educated elitists were so astute that they noted (my paraphrase), “Oh, this explains it, ‘they were with Jesus’!” Though they cannot dismiss the miracle, they can easily dismiss and discredit the ones who ‘did it’. Sound familiar?

Yet this is exactly right where the Lord wants us. This is the lesson I am learning: He wants others to see that we’ve been with Jesus and not that we are super educated or formally trained. (Now, I do not dismiss formal education or studying to show ourselves approved, but I’ve learned these both—and more—need to be “with Jesus.”) The focus needs to be on Jesus. Now you and I both know this, but somehow we have disqualified ourselves because we don’t know enough or get tongue tied. But this is when the Lord shines brightest. Through His Spirit He will give us words and thoughts and ideas and phrases that even the educated elites can refute (though they can dispute, deny or ignore them, eh).

Now if you are still like me, you feel a little strange being so vulnerable, but this is where I’m learning to trust the Lord all the more. I still must study to show myself approved, a workman who need not be ashamed (see 2 Tim. 2:15), but I do not “lean on my own understanding, [but] in all [my] ways acknowledge Him and He will make [my] paths straight” (Pro. 3:5-6 NIV84, emphasis added), even when I’m talking with educated elites.

So whenever I get a chance to share Jesus with others, especially these educated elite types, I can relax & rest in Him and let the Spirit do the talking. Pretty exciting, eh?

Main Text: — Acts 4:13— When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. — 1 Corinthians 2:2-5 (NIV84)

But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of My name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.  — Luke 21:12-15 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, let me rest in Your Son’s promise to provide words and reasoning to present Him to others. Dispel any reluctance or fears. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Power, Love and a Sound Mind. In Jesus’ 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

“Call It As It Is”

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Date: 02-20–15

The Big Idea: Calling it as it is in Love builds trust and aids in repairing those broken walls of fractured relationships.

My Thoughts: There is a saying I oft quoted much of my life: “Tell me the truth: Hurt me once; lie to me: Hurt me twice.” I’m going to find out the truth, so just let me hear it from you straight up in Love. But have you discovered that if you are lie to, not only will the truth hurt when you discover it, but the breach of confidence will only double the hurt? I have….

Lifestyle worshiper, because a servant leader is more concerned for those s/he leads, they call it as it is. With as much candor and as little bias as possible, a servant-leader learns to speak the truth in Love, but in doing so s/he does not soft soap or PC it to meaninglessness. I have found on my own journey with Jesus that I have often been too brutally blunt when ‘telling the truth,’ so I have had to learn to be more diplomatic. (Others I have known need to be less PC.) I had my first shot at practicing this lesson of diplomacy when I had to fire one of my maintenance assistants. At first I said, “I’m freeing you up so you don’t have to come in to work any more.” Oh, that missed the target, for he was stoned out of his mind and said, “Cool, man, you mean I can do whatever I want and still get paid?” Ah, no…. Finally, after a few tries of diplomatic phrasing, I simply said, “You’re fired!” “Aw, man, that’s a bummer.” Off he went….

When dealing with the broken walls of fractured relationships, sometimes we have to quit lying to ourselves first and finally admit the truth. Now that truth may be we are the major source of the fracturing. Or maybe it is finally admitting the problem is far more serious than we’re willing to admit—and we need some help. But whatever the truth is, it will hurt a lot less that continuing in the lie. And I have discovered as a servant-leader, I do not have the luxury of hurting others twice!

Lifestyle worshiper, when we have our hearts filled with a genuine concern and a deep affection for those we lead, we will see the wisdom in calling it as it is. Speaking the truth in Lovecalling it as it isbuilds trust and aids in repairing those broken walls of fractured relationships.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 5:9 —   So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

— Ephesians 4:25 (NIV84)

Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.

— Proverbs 8:6-7 (NIV84)

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ

— Ephesians 4:15 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  I put You on as my Belt of Truth and my Belt of Love. Stir in my soul a deep compassion for correcting those in my charge. May I do so with a Righteous Love. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Which Star, Which Light?”

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Date: 12-17-14

Text: — Matthew 2:1-2 — 1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Take an honest inward look to answer these questions.

My Thoughts: 

There are many lights in the sky. There are many voices in the crowd. But which do we follow? To which do we listen? From local gurus to fellow bloggers, indeed, there are many to choose from. I get overwhelmed trying to follow all the voices out there. But which ones do I follow? How do I filter them? What metric do I use as a filter? These questions follow the former ones….

Lifestyle worshiper: we need to take an honest inward look to answer these questions. Why? Because an honest inventory (it’s that time of year) may reveal our stock is short in one area and long in another.

In my inward look, I have found that sometimes the voices I listen to are from the past—past failures, past guilt, all of which have been confessed and forgiven. Again, as I inventory my stock, I have found that some of the lights I have followed are bright enough to offer some guidance, dimly lighting my way, but when I  joined the magi in following His star (v. 2). I discovered a much brighter light. A light so bright it first blinded me and then revealed the Truth to me. I have discovered that the Light of this Star is faithful, leading me on paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake. It leads me to the Voice the calms the sea and forgives the adulteress. “This Voice that is calling you and me.”

And I find this Light and hear this Voice first and foremost in the Written Word: the Holy Bible. I have read other books—some considered Holy and some not, and these seem to offer some light, but I have found not the Light. Their brightness appears to pale in comparison to the True Light. Have you found this to be so, too?

So as I have asked myself, I now ask you: Is your light bright enough? Is it His Star? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.

— John 8:63 (NIV)

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

— John 8:12 (NIV84)

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.

— Colossians 2:8 (NIV)

Heavenly Father,  I commit to follow the true Light that has come into the world, Your Son,  the Lord Jesus Christ. I pray I faithfully walk in the Light as He is in the Light. May I hear His voice alone and obey His promptings. Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to live a life that is pleasing to You.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Forgiveness Offers Hope”

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Date: 12-04-14

Text: — Jeremiah 31:34 — 34 No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord.“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Lifestyle worshipers, I understand that forgiveness is truly and solely a divine act, that is, only God can forgive sins.

My Thoughts: 

Have you heard statements like this: “God may forgive you, but I never will,” “Even God won’t forgive me,” and “God’s punishing me for my sin?” It is statements like these that shout to me there is no hope in a given situation, and often in a given relationship. I hear the oft said, “You’ll never change,” echo in my soul, and wonder: Is there any hope?

When it comes to forgiveness, I know many struggle with the many nuances and inflections of it and how each individual defines it or demonstrates it—or not. But for me, this is a very dear and profound reality. I have pursued it and studied it for some time, and I have discovered that the best place to go is the Word of God. I believe He can give us a more consistent and accurate definition of forgiveness.

Of the many nuances and components of forgiveness, I would like to focus on two in this blog. The first is expressed in the text from Jeremiah noted above: “To forgive is to forget.” To me, if we honestly look at the above passage with fresh eyes, we will see the clear connection between forgiveness and forgetfulness, at least from a divine perspective. For if the Lord forgets our sins when He forgives us, then forgivingness is necessarily connected to forgetfulness. (There are other passages that express this very component of divine forgiveness: Psalm 10311-12; Jeremiah 50:20; Isaiah 43:25, for instance.) Some may say, “I cannot forget what they did to me. It would be wise, let alone dangerous.” I understand, and this naturally leads to the second component that I want to focus on in this blog.

The second component of forgiveness is perhaps a debatable one, though I think the evidence is rather overwhelming: Forgiveness is a divine act. Lifestyle worshipers, as I understand it, forgiveness is truly— dare I say—and solely an act only God can perform. Only He can forgive sins. I believe this because of the standard He set for forgiveness: He will forget our sins. This is clearly beyond our feeble human ability; at least, I know it is well beyond mine.

Bare with me a wee bit longer, please. I am saying that we cannot forgive anyone per se, but we can enter into the forgiveness that the Lord Jesus offers, especially that on the cross….

So, when someone says, “I cannot forgive them,” they speak rightly,  for indeed they cannot forgive ‘them’. They do not have enough will power or chutzpah to do so. But when they say, “I will not forgive them,” we have an entirely different issue. This is a hard, bitter heart, (and I have had one of these all too frequently. A dear friend once put it to me years ago, “Michael, you have a broken wanter.”) In order to forgive someone, anyone, including myself, I must ‘want’ to forgive them. Once I come to the place where Jesus’s Life in me overcomes the hurt and sparks a desire to forgive them, I enter into the power of forgiveness the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrated and offered on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV 84).  (Thus, I frame a pray for forgiveness as expressed in the prayer below.)

Again, forgiveness is a very, very big subject, and I am barely scratching the surface here. And in answer to the question I posed in the introduction, “Yes, there is hope!” Forgiveness, to me, offers hope, a hope on all levels: hope of a new life, a fresh start, a new day, a new beginning, a second chance. Does this offer of forgiveness in the New Covenant that Jesus sealed in His Blood do the same for you?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, because this is My blood of the new covenant that is being poured out for many people for the forgiveness of sins.”

— Matthew 26:27-28 (ISV)

  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

— Colossians 3:13 (NIV84)

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

— Ephesians 4:32 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I forgive ________ for ________. I ask You Lord Jesus Christ, to bear the consequences of their actions. Remove the pain and shame they have caused me. Be that part of my Life that has been damaged by _______. I release ________ into your hands. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor 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

“Following Jesus is a Trust Issue”

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Text: John 13:36-38 —  Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”  Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”  Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times![NIV84]

The Big Idea: Following Jesus has a lot to do with how much I trust Him.

My Thoughts: 

I have learned that following Jesus has a lot to do with how much I trust Him. And because I have had trust issues in my life, I have found it rather difficult  the longer I have walked with Him. Yes, this is hard for me to admit, but it is nonetheless true.

As a young Christian, my faith was fresh and innocent,and I followed Jesus closely. When I read in the Word about a particular action or task (e.g. from the Sermon on the Mount, see Matthew 5-7), I’d do it virtually without hesitation—from giving the coat on my back to some transient in need to a place to stay or walking that “second” mile. (Or driving as the case may be!)

Yes, at one time my faith was like Peter’s who courageously got out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water. He so desperately wanted to follow Him, that Peter impulsively, but nonetheless, faith-filled, ‘followed’ his Master. If we freeze frame this moment, Peter had the innocent faith of a child who falls into his father’s loving arms. But the frame cannot be frozen, and Peter moved on and began to doubt. His childlike faith had become an adult faith, “What am I doing? Where am I going? The waves!? The water!? … Lord, save me! I’m sinking!”

(As an aside, any time I have tried to walk on water, I didn’t start sinking. Nope, I plummeted! I down right sunk. Immediately, with no hesitation. But from the account (see Mt. 14:30) it appears that as Peter’s faith evaporated, his feet followed suit and ‘began to sink’!. Fascinating, no?)

So is it possible that my trust issues are not with Jesus, but with me? In some small way, it appears I doubt my own ability to trust Him. Perhaps, this is what Jesus meant when He gently chided Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt” (Mt. 14:31, NASB95)? But as I pursue this thought, I wonder if it is a Both/And, a combination of my doubting His goodness & faithfulness coupled with my own brokenness, weakness and shortsightedness.

This brings me to the next trust issue: Do I trust Jesus when I cannot see where He is leading me? As I pondered this, a powerful thought came to me as I was searching for following passages. During the Last Supper, Peter pleads with the Lord to follow Him, but Jesus says, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later” (John 13:36 NIV84). Apparently, Jesus is saying that when we are following Him, there are some places we are not quite ready to go. Oh, one day we will get there, but not now! Hence, this comment.

And though Peter reiterates his desire to follow Jesus, the Lord gives him a cold shower: “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times” (John 13:38 NIV84). The Lord is basically telling Peter, “You will follow me ‘there’, but not now. You are just not ready.” This is made even clearer when Jesus reinstates Peter on the beach (see John 21:15-23). As Jesus presents Peter with three chances for reaffirmation (vis a vis ‘denial’), He accepts where Peter is at, even though he is ‘still not ready’ to go ‘there’ (i.e., to the cross), but his philëō Love for Jesus is more than enough to follow Jesus for now.

I have seen this in my own life. I think I am ready to follow Jesus to a particular destination or level in my walk with Him, and He gently notes, “you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” And sometimes with Peter, I say, “Lord, why can’t I follow now’!” (Can you hear the almost whiney voice? I can.) But I have to trust Him even when I do not see or understand where He is leading me.

The Lord has comforted me with a rather fascinating image. I picture Him weaving in and out of a crowd of people, like at a crowded outdoor festival. He has a tight grip on my hand and says, “Follow me.” I burp, “But where, Lord?” Not answering my question, He continues on, glancing back with a huge, endearing smile that shines His Love. Squeezing my hand to reaffirm that He is there, we continue weaving through the crowd. After some time, He scoops me up in His arms, and places me on His shoulders. Now, I can clearly see where He was leading me all along….

Yes, following Jesus is a trust issue. I am learning not to trust what I can see or cannot see. I am still learning to trust Him with that fresh, innocent childlike faith that follows no matter what. And as long as I can see His back through this crowd of doubts and fears, I’m okay. Ah, but then there are those times He glances back, and I see His warm smiling face; I am okay. I can trust His tight grip of my hand (and my Life), and I can trust He is leading me to a very wonderful place that will most definitely honor Him and bless me.

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

— Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV84)

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”  — John 14:1-4 (NIV84)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 22:3 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to keep my eyes focused on You whether I know where I am going or not. As You enlarge my trust in You, let the Joy of the Spirit light my way on my journey with You.. In Your Holy Name. Amen.

Pastor Mike