“Whining Through the Detours of Life”

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Detours of Life

As we walk out the door, out goes our daily checklist. Our day-timer is off a few minutes—hours? Our plans suddenly are no longer our plans. Maybe you didn’t need to leave the house, just getting out of bed. Maybe you were planning on getting up an hour earlier, but the “snooze” spasm got the best of you? …

Then there are the bigger “detours of life”. You know the kind when the car breaks down, or a sick child was up all night. These are situations and circumstance that were not only not in your plans, they have disrupted whatever plans you had had….

One big detour, indeed.

We could whine our way through the detours of life or we can rejoice that, “This, too, the Lord will use for the Good.” Not sure how, but by faith I know He will….

And this is way easier said than lived. So how do you prevent that whiny burp from erupting through your tightly pursed lips? Do you mumble a 911 prayer? Do you call a friend and complain? Do you journal? Or do you start yelling? What do you do?

As noted in our main text, our Lord took a major detour. Any respectable Rabbi would have avoided the half-breeds, those dirty Samaritans, but v. 4 tells us, “Now He had to go through Samaria” (emphasis added). This may not have been the “normal” plan; nor was it the disciples’ plan; but it was the Lord’s plan. Just like the detours in our lives. The Lord desires us to take the “detour,” and whining about it only questions His plan and His wisdom. Ouch!

So what do you do? What do I do on a detour? Lately, I have been using the phrase I noted above: “This, too, You can use for the Good.” Mind you, “lately”. Before this I was the archetype of whiners, and I hid it well, but as I learn to trust the Lord’s Goodness and wisdom, and knowing “Father knows best,” I am relaxing more in the detours—even when they are expensive. Oh, a “whine” burps out every now and again, but far less frequent than before. So, yes, I mumble a 911 prayer, and, yes, I journal a lot, but now I also relax and enjoy the journey a little more, too.

Perhaps you have other coping mechanisms for the detours the Lord sends you on? Care to share?

Main Text— John 4:4-6 (NIV84) 4 Now He had to go through Samaria. 5 So He came to a town in Samaria called Sychar, near the plot of ground Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired as He was from the journey, sat down by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

Additional 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 straightProverbs 3:5–6 (NIV84)

In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.—Proverbs 16:9 (NIV84)

 But [Job] said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.— Job 2:10 (NKJV)

Lord Jesus Christ, allow me to see sooner than later that the detours of my life are not detours to You, but only to me. And may I receive them with joy and thanksgiving. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Hope for Today–And Beyond”

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Jesus Christ is my Hope copy

As I prepare this message on hope, I’ve had to constantly ask myself: Do I have hope for today? To some it may seem like a strange question, and indeed it is. Oh, I have hope for the future. I know Jesus is coming back to rescue me. I know I’m going to get a newly transformed body—free of age, aches and pains. I know I will be filled to the bursting of my new body’s seams with Joy and Peace and Adulation, for I will be seeing my risen Lord face to face….

But do I have hope for today? In today’s turmoil and strife and mild aches and severe pains and disappointments? Of late, I have caught myself saying, “Lord, this is bad,” with a very new thought that follows: “And I can’t wait to see how You work this out for good!” Whoa! Where did this thought come from!!!!???? Yes, I believe He works all things out for the good, but do I believe, in this moment, that He is working even this current “bad” pain, or trial or disappointment for the Good—for my good?

As I have continued this small exercise in a very mustard seed-like faith, I have been experiencing a rather strange buoyancy—a rather confident assurance mixed with a swirl of joy. And it is not fleeting as such feelings have been in the past….

Yesterday, at a community meeting, the person I was sitting next to had commented on something I was saying to a third person: “Don’t we need to live in the moment?” I know I have often missed the current “moment” because I was obsessed with past hurts or future worries, but she struck a chord in me. I know I have been on a long journey to learn to not live for the moment but in the moment. And when I live in the moment for Jesus, He connects all the moments, giving them a larger purpose beyond the moment of “today.”

And it is in this connection a Hope springs for today and beyond.

Have you had a similar journey with Hope, trusting the Lord to turn the current “bad” into good—in the moment? Or perhaps you are farther down the path than I? Your thoughts about hope for today—and beyond?

Main Text— John 3:16–18 (NIV84) 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us,2 Corinthians 1:10 (NIV84)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel.—Colossians 1:3–5 (NIV84)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.— 1 Timothy 1:1 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be Hope in me this day so that I may see how You are connecting my moments for a larger purpose in You. 

Coach 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

“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

“The Need to Not Stop Praying”

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How long has it been? You’ve been praying for that special loved one: five, ten, 15 years? Or maybe you’ve been praying for  your finances—it’s been months and still no turn around? Whatever you’ve been praying for—be it intensely personal or deeply spiritual, to me, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 coaches me: “Don’t give up on Prayer”

Don't Stop Praying

I hear Coach Paul, the Apostle, encouraging the church at Thessalonica: Do not stop praying, but instead “Pray without ceasing!”

I know even I myself have taken this verse to mean, “constantly live in a state of prayer.” As a matter of fact, I was just talking to someone a few days ago about this, but the more I thought about this verse (and this is not to say, being in a constant state of prayer is bad) the more I wondered: is it possible that this verse truly means: Don’t give up on prayer?

I’ve been there and maybe you’ve been there, too, that place where we feel our prayers are hitting a bronze sky and all we hear is the echo of our heart’s cry…

Coach Paul knows this. Remember, when he deeply desired to get rid of this nasty thorn in the flesh (see 2 Cor. 12:7-10), and he prayed three times for it to be so. Now, I’m sure these three times were not back to back, like minutes apart. No, but it could have been weeks or months: “Ah, Lord, I know You hear me. You usually answer my prayers pretty quickly, but, ah, what’s going on…?” Then after the third deeply intense prayer time, the release and the Word came: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9 NIV84)

Brothers and sisters, I know I need to hear this Word today: “Pray without ceasing:” Do you? Do you and I need to hear: Don’t give up on the Lord and praying to Him? Pray unceasingly–with unflagging resolve! Don’t stop praying. Pray when the need is great and pray when the praise is great! Pray! Pray! Pray!

Or as the acronym suggests: P.U.S.H.—Pray Until Something Happens. If we stop praying, will it happen anyway? I find this a very good question indeed. What do you think? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NKJV)—pray without ceasing.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.— Luke 6:12 (NIV84)

Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.— 1 Thessalonians 3:10 (NIV84)

 But [Hannah’s] rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. This went on year after year. Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite.— 1 Samuel 1:6–7 (The Message)

Heavenly Father, in Your Mercy and Grace forgive me for giving up on prayer. Deep down I know You hear me, but I have grown weary of praying. Rekindle a passion for You as I quietly sit here in Your presence. I wait for Your Word of Grace and the Release of Hope…. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Missing Divine Appointments?

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My Thoughts:

Recently, I have been having a lot of dental work. And to remind me of the appointments I get a text message the day before and an hour before. Oh, and I get an email a day before and an hour before. This, of course, is in addition to my own personal reminders. (And many of you know how these work….) The point? It would be really hard to miss this given appointment. I would have little excuse, to be sure….

Divine Appointments

Do you feel that the Lord gives us ‘messages’ and reminders before a Divine Appointment He has set up? I’m sure if you really stop and think (and listen), there have always been those little nudges or promptings, “Hey, remember: I have a divine appointment for you.”

Just recently I had an overwhelming sense to go visit someone at a particular time. I truly felt it was from the Lord. I made every effort not to be late. As I arrived, it was not what I expected. Over the years, I have learned not to assume or presuppose what He has planned, but literally in sheer obedience, I went and arrived at the appointed time. There were no buzzes or fireworks, but I am trusting that He set something in motion that I perhaps may learn abouObObed—or maybe not until  way later, eh?

What did I have to do to avoid missing this divine appointment? Well, one thing was I had to rearrange my routine—very comfortable and familiar routine. Another thing was to be mindful not to get caught up in some task, “Oh, this will only take a few minutes” kind of task. I needed to eliminate distractions. A third thing I did was prioritize the aspects of my routine so that I could make this divine appointment on time. In short, I made the divine appointment a priority above all the comfortable and convenient routine “things” I normally do.

What are some ‘things’ you do to make sure you don’t miss a divine appointment. especially the ones you are not informed of ahead of time?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 8:26-29 (NIV84)— 26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.— Matthew 6:33 (NIV84)

From that time on Jesus began to explain to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.— Matthew 16:21 (NIV84)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. — Hebrews 12:1 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, empower me by the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, as You strengthen each step in following Your promptings and leadings.  In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Are Comfort Zones So Bad?”

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Maybe you’ve heard many a success-trainer or life coach tell you to “Get out of your comfort zone.” “Stretch your legs and move out.” “Without risk there can be no growth” (Bear Grylls). “Face your fears and do what you fear most” (Priya Deelchand).  “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone”(Neale Donald Walsch). And the like….

Comfort Zone

But are comfort zones really so bad? Let’s face it: there are some good things about comforts zones. And the first one I can think of is, well, they are comfortable. I know what to expect. No surprises. Another is they are safe. I am protected in my comfort zone from the wiles of the world. Really, a comfort zone can also be a “no danger zone,” eh?

What else is good about a comfort zone? I’m sure you can think of many, many more ‘good things’ about a comfort zone. So, then why leave the comfort and security and safety of a comfort zone? Is the risk worth the growth?

In our main text this morning (see below), we find Philip moving out of his comfort zone. Or shall we say, “shoved?” His comfort zone composed of a cushy job delivering food to widows and attending to the needs of the poor. But suddenly life caved it. His friend and fellow helper, Stephen, gets stoned (Acts 7:57-60), and a persecution of those who believe in Jesus  “broke out”. His comfort zone collapsed! Oh, he probably had a choice to stay and attempt to protect it—rebuild it, but instead Philip did something counterintuitive: Instead of looking for another cushy job and rebuilding another comfort zone, he went to Samaria and proclaimed there the good news that Jesus is the Messiah. …

Now, for the average first century Jewish inhabitant of Judea, Samaria was anything but a “comfort zone” (see John 4:9 for a brief explanation). Nevertheless, Philip continued outside his comfort zone. And it doing so he encountered great success. Why? Because his answer to the question, “Is the risk worth the growth” was “Yes!” And it wasn’t so much his personal growth that Philip was focused on, but rather—and more importantly—the growth of His Master’s Kingdom through the church.

Maybe now you may have some different answers to the other question: “Are comfort zones bad?” Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 8:1–5 (NIV84)—  On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria.  Godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him.  But Saul began to destroy the church. Going from house to house, he dragged off men and women and put them in prison. Philip in Samaria  Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.  Philip went down to a city in Samaria and proclaimed the Christ there.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.— Luke 14:26–27 (NIV84)

I tell you the truth,” Jesus said to them, “no one who has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life.”— Luke 18:29–30 (NIV84)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 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 4:16–18 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, sometimes I need a gentle shove to get me out of my comfort zone. In Your Grace and Mercy, open my eyes to the greater glory that is in You. As You empower me by the Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, strengthen each step out of my comfort zone and into for Your pleasing and perfect will.  In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

Coach Mike