A Great Sleep Remedy

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Does this happen to you: You go through your simple routine as you prepare for sleep, but as soon as your head hits the pillow, instead of sleep, your mind starts racing—reviewing the days events? Your body twitches with each “Shoulda,’” “Coulda,” “Woulda” that slipstreams through your mind? I used to have this. And lately it has been slipping back.

Then I came across this great sleep remedy found in Psalm 4, and it has a lot to do what the worries and distressing events the day’s activites may have fomented.

As my mind begins racing, I review vv. 1-3 and remember the LORD will hear me when I plead to Him to stop my mind from racing. But He then shows me it is racing because of what I am focused on. I am focused on what I am not. He has set me apart. I am focused on myself and what I cannot do instead of on Him and what He can do.

Then He leads me to vv. 4 & 5 because now my frustration of a racing mind is morphing into anger…. “Be careful to not be care-filled,” I hear the LORD whisper to me. Instead, I am to simply, quietly, trust in Him to take care of these cares that are preoccupying my mind.

Vv. 6-8 then begin to quiet my soul as my trust falls upon the One Who can replace this slipstream of racing thoughts with Joy & Peace—that lead to sleep: “for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (v. 8).

And soon I   drift    asleep ….

Honestly, I wish I could say this has happened over night, but the truth is I need to practice this nightly as the worries, cares and concerns that preoccupy my pre-sleep mind slowly—but surely—evaporate and slip away….

Perhaps you have found yourself in the transition of this process, too? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Psalm 4:7–8 (NIV84) 7 You have filled my heart with greater joy than when their grain and new wine abound. 8 I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

1 Answer me when I call to you, O my righteous God. Give me relief from my distress;  be merciful to me and hear my prayer. 2 How long, O men, will you turn my glory into shame? How long will you love delusions and seek false gods? Selah 3 Know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the LORD will hear when I call to Him. 4 In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah 5 Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD. 6 Many are asking, “Who can show us any good?” Let the light of your face shine upon us, O LORD. Psalm 4:1–6 (NIV84)

You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,  because he trusts in You. Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.Isaiah 26:3–4 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be my Peace as You. Flood my mind with the fullness of Your presence, as You, the Prince of Peace, driving out my worrisome, stress-filled thoughts. In Your Name, Amen

Pastor Mike

“Push The Pause Button”

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Anger Pause Button

The cleansing of the Temple is often used as support by many who get angry, and they say, “See, Jesus got angry.” Then they slide over to Ephesians 4:26, and once again, say, “See, see, it’s okay to be angry!” True, it is okay, but we are still not to sin. James puts it rather bluntly, “You must understand this, my dear brothers. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. For human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20 ISV emphasis added).

Allow me to add a subtle nuance to this thinking, especially, the “slow” part of James 1:19. I find that in the two cleansings our Master did, there is something peculiar in each. John 2:12-15 describes the first cleansing. At this cleansing, Jesus pauses to braid a “flagellum,” i.e. a whip, out of cords of rope instead of leather straps. In Marks account of the second cleansing, he clearly notes that Jesus, coming off of His Triumphal Entry, walks into the Temple, looks around, and then leaves for Bethany (see Mark 11:11), apparently to come back the next day for the cleansing. Is it possible, in both these instances, that He was using the “pause button” to His anger—being tempted in every ways as we all are? And is it also possible, He did this to demonstrate true, holy indignation—true anger? And is it also possible that He did this to stand in stark contrast to the ‘justified’ anger we often baptize as ‘holy indignation’?

Do you think we too quickly justify our anger, and fail to push the pause button, quoting some out-of-context verse or passage simply to salve our guilty conscience because we know our anger is being fueled by selfish hurt or unmet expectations, or whatever is not holy?

Of all the times I have gotten angry, and sadly there are too, too many to recall in detail, but in principle, I can clearly observe that 99.9% of those I attempted to justify as “holy indignation” (and it was 99.9% of all the times I was angry), were anything but “holy”. Now, as Jesus has more control of me, I am more often than not, able to push the pause button, and in this pause reflect on what is really fueling my anger. And, let me say in honor of the late Gary Smalley, who taught this: “Anger is the idiot light on the dashboard of our lives and says that I cannot say, ‘you make me angry,’ but rather ‘You show me how plugged into you I am and not into Jesus!’” Double “ouch!” Your thoughts?

Main Text— John 2:13–16 (NIV)— 13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.Proverbs 19:11 (NIV84)

  A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.—Proverbs 29:11 (NIV84)

  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.— Colossians 3:8 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I yield my ‘temper’ to the Lord Jesus Christ. I ask You, Lord Jesus Christ, to be in so much control of my emotions, that I am able to push the pause button before ‘flying off the handle.’  Be my Peace, Lord Jesus Christ, that I may not be so easily offended. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Righteous Judgment?”

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Probably one of the most difficult things about a God, Who is Love, is to reconcile His Wrath and Judgment. It goes something like this: “How can a loving God send people to hell,” or the  like. And before we quickly dismiss this, we truly must engage the challenge. How can a loving God do this?

Obviously, treatises and tomes have been written attempting to resolve this conflict. I cannot pretend to say I have read them all or even a near majority. But what I can offer in this brief blog, is a Both/And response to an Either/Or Dilemma.

God is either severely wrath-filled and vicious or He is completely Loving and forgiving: This is the general framing of the conundrum. But I want to submit that a Holy-Love God can express both wrath against evil and Love toward Good at the same time. The problem comes when we reduce the LORD to a human parent, whose fickle punishment and discipline have scarred many for life.

Our God’s wrath is neither capricious nor reckless. The main verse notes that an essential element of His character is patience: He “is slow to anger.” But He is also “great in power”. His anger/wrath when executed is not out of control, thrashing about like a drowning swimmer. No, rather with pinpoint accuracy the LORD punishes the wicked, who refuse to repent, thus protecting His own, who have been cruelly treated by the wicked. This is true justice; Holy Love….

How slow was He to anger? Well, with the people of Noah’s day, it appears He waited 120 years (not counting the many years before Noah) before He executed judgment. And when He did, His Holy-Love spared Noah’s family. (I hear the book is better than the movie.) Another example of our LORD’s slow to anger is with Assyria. After they repented from their wickedness under Jonah’s reluctant preaching, the LORD spared them, on the low end, 120 years as well, before His Holy-Love destroyed the wicked nation for its sorcery, idolatry and violence, but yet protected His people, Judah….

Beyond the theological conundrum and the personal struggle with a God Who is Holy-Love, at least two questions need to be addressed: (1) How does this change my view of disciplining my children? and (2) Where does the cross fit in here?

When discipling our children, let us never do it in anger or reckless temper tantrums. Have a plan. Have reasons. Clearly explain the expectations and the consequences. The older the child the more involved they are in the discipline process. But remember, they do need discipline…

When considering the cross, I see the welding of God’s Holy-Love with Grace. I’m reminded of a sandwich quarter: Holy and Love are the two precious metals on the outside, but welded in the middle is another precious metal: Grace. Beyond the mystery of God, the trinity, etc., I find this fascinating. It was on the cross where the Love of God was demonstrated (Romans 5:8) and, at the same time, I see God’s Holiness express in the sacrifice, the required payment for sin—all sin. And I see the Grace proffered all people, so they do not have to receive the pinpoint wrath of an unrepentant heart.

What are your thoughts on this rather heavy subject?

Main Text— Nahum 1:3 (NIV84)— 3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of His feet.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.— 1 Peter 3:18–21 (NIV84)

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God—John 3:17–18 (NASB95)

Whoever does not discipline his son hates him, but whoever loves him is diligent to correct him.— 1Proverbs 13:244 (ISV)

Lord Jesus Christ, fill my heart with Your Holy-Love so I may graciously discipline those under my care. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“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

“Rethinking Our Culture”

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Very few of us seem to inventory how much we are like the world’s culture. Somehow we have baptized the current culture we are in as ‘sacrosanct’—as if in some way we have captured the Kingdom of Heaven’s culture. …

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As we enter Day 6 in this month of corporate fasting coupled with our Solemn Assembly and Heartwork, we are encouraged in the Heartwork Devotion for today to “Unlearn Our Culture.” The way I see it before I am able to learn something new, I need to unlearn something “old.” And before I can unlearn something “old,” I need to identify the old as being out of sync with the Word and Jesus’ Heavenly Culture—no matter how much I have baptized it or relabeled it or PC’ed it, eh?

This rethinking actually requires that I stop and think. Ouch! Then I ask the Lord Jesus Christ to reveal to me by His Spirit those ‘things’ (such as, habits, thoughts, attitudes, passions, etc.) that are displeasing to Him. We may be surprised to learn that some of these “things” may be rather “good” things. But because I have been infected by the culture around me, I have made them an ‘idol’ or have engaged ‘them’ in my own strength. In this way I have tarnished a ‘good’ thing….

But, we may also find that we have been deceived or even deceived ourselves into thinking that this habit, thought, attitude, passion, etc. is, in fact, justified, warranted, and simply Okay. “I have a right to….” You can finish this sentence. But as the Light of His Word and Holiness concussion us, we are first blinded to the Truth of our deception, maybe even to the point of being defensive. But once our spiritual eyes become adjusted to the Holy Light, we see clearly the distinction between Truth and Deceit.

This can definitely lead us to a ruining, a wrecking, an emptying, an undone state of life. Some times I fall into verbal self-flagellation where I bemoan the fact that I have been so naive, so stupid, to have been deceived so. Once I snap out of this, I am able to thank the Lord Jesus for being merciful to me to end this deception. Here then begins the transforming process of unlearning the culture! And it all started by rethinking…. Are you courageous enough to join me. I wasn’t—not at first, and without the Lord Jesus being my courage, I would not have gotten this far. How about you?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Romans 12:2 (NIV84)— Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you— Romans 12:2 (The Message)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.— James 1:22 (NIV84)

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. — 1 Peter 4:3–4 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, strengthen my feeble arms and weak knees. Empower me by the Lord Jesus Christ’s Presence thorough His Holy Spirit to reject those cultural ‘bad’ habits, attitudes, thoughts, & _____. Lord Jesus Christ, be my courage as I turn from these ‘things’ that so displease You and pursue You along with those who call upon You out of a pure heart.  In Your Love and Great Mercy,  Amen.

Pastor Mike

“It Takes Heart”

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Date: 02-19–15

The Big Idea: It takes heart to be a true servant leader, and, yes, sometimes, this heart seethes with righteous anger.

My Thoughts: I have said many times in the past, “If I didn’t care, I would be so upset.” Now, to be sure, there are various degrees of upset from flustered to full-throttled anger, and I’m not sure where Nehemiah’s gauges were when he responded to the unrighteous treatment of his people (see passage below), but I am sure he truly did care for his people. As a servant-leader, Nehemiah demonstrated a passion and compassion for the lot of those he led.

Lifestyle worshiper, it takes heart to be a true servant leader, and, yes, sometimes, this heart seethes with righteous anger. Let us not, however, use this phrase, “Righteous anger” to cloak selfish, self-centered explosions that are lit by any slight or inconvenience, but just as true let us not shrink back from a deep impulse of stirring anger that flares in times when those we led are being taken advantage of. Servant-leadership is neither wimpy nor passive. Rather, it is bold and active, taking care of those in are care—especially our loved ones.

Lifestyle worshiper, join me in living a life that worships our Heavenly Father in Spirit and Truth by having our hearts filled with a genuine concern and a deep affection for those we lead, serving their best interests in Love, vigorously defending the weak, the disenfranchised, the disconnected, and the downtrodden. Through this heart of servant-leadership we can more effectively defend the repairing of the walls of broken & fatigued relationships.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 5:6-7a — When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

— 1 Peter 1:22 (NIV84)

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

— Psalm  82:3-4 (NIV84)

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly;defend the rights of the poor and needy.”— Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  I put You on as my Coat of Compassion. Stir in my soul a passion for defending those in my charge. May I do so with a Righteous Love. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“The False Dilemma of Mary & Martha”

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Date: 11-27-14

Text: — Luke 10:38-42 — 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 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!” 41Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” [NIV84]

The Big Idea: I discovered yet another factor in my remedy for self-deception.

My Thoughts: 

The joys of Thanksgiving linger as I wash the dishes in the kitchen. And then I’m reminded of Martha in Luke 10:38ff (see above). Fortunately, this is in my mind. This passage served as a check in my spirit, but alas, initially I was alone washing the dishes. Everyone else was engaged with the grandkids, and I was tempted, thinking, “Hey, I’d like to relax and watch the game and play with the kids….” I almost started laughing.

I have constantly vacillated between a Martha—workaholic type— and Mary—a monkish type. The dishes need to get washed. I really like seeing an uncluttered kitchen. But I also want to spend time with the family. These moments will quickly fly. In my heart I really want to understand the balance here. Perhaps you, too, struggle with the balance of desiring to get ‘things’ done for the Lord, and deeply desiring to sit at His feet.

From Martha’s perspective, nothing is getting done if we are merely sitting at Jesus’ feet. From Mary’s perspective, all is being at the feet of Jesus’…. I understand both.

Jesus tells us clearly what Martha’s issue is. It is not that she is stuck in the kitchen and should have chosen to sit at the Master’s feet. It is not that she is even asking Him to ‘help’ enlist others (though it is asked with a rather persnickety attitude). No, it is rather that she is being distracted by the duties of the kitchen. It was her distractions that were the issue.

Obviously, Martha’s heart was in turmoil. She truly wanted to listen to the Master at His feet, for He has the Words of eternal Life. She knows this. But she also wanted to please Him with the most wonderful meal her skilled hands could prepare. She knew these skills were from above. She also knew that the task was too great for her to do alone. Torn between the two poles, she requests the Master’s intervention.

And intervene He did, but not in the way she desired or expected. At first glance, it appears that Jesus is completely siding with Mary, while excluding Martha’s choice and from and Either/Or worldview this would be so. But I do not think our Master is framing it quite this way.  Mary has removed distractions from her heart. Martha had not. Mary had chosen to sit undistracted at the feet of Jesus. Martha chose to remain in the kitchen completely distracted, resenting Mary all the while. Remember, distraction is the issue (v. 40). Mary could have sat at the Master’s feet and be completely distracted. Oh, she may “look” good, but the Lord sees the heart.

The unifying factor from a Both/And perspective is to deal with the heart’s distractions. Martha can still be in the kitchen, but she also could have chosen listening to the Master as well. (Or if the kitchen was not in earshot, she still could do the cooking with a heart full of joy and thanksgiving—knowing she is serving the Lord in this manner.) And by this choice the meal would be completed in due time and her soul would have enjoyed its feast as well.

She needed to deal with her resentment of Mary—and of the Lord. Truly, doing this would have set her free and resolved the apparent Either/Or conflict.

The dilemma is really: for if no one is in the kitchen, then no one would eat. (Now from one perspective this may be good, but Lord puts the two together in Dt. 8:3, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (NIV84).) People need both to live. In truth, we need both Martha’s and Mary’s for us to live.

But why make this a true dilemma?

Lifestyle worshipers, have you read Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God? He offers us a wonderful Both/And solution that taps into the omnipresence of our Lord. Leaving his private prayers, he arrives in the kitchen to do his daily duties. Though he is now in the kitchen, Brother Lawrence has not left the presence of the Lord, for at the beginning of his duties he offers up this prayer:

“O my GOD, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy Presence; and to this end do Thou prosper me with Thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections” (Excerpt From: Brother Lawrence. “Practice of the Presence of God.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/Jvchw.l  p. 27)

Have you wrestled with this dilemma: wanting to get things done, but also wanting to sit at the feet of Jesus? Care to share your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. — 1 Corinthians 12:4–7 (NIV84)

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. — Galatians 5:13 (NIV84)

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

— Romans 12:10-12 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I confess any resentments and distractions to You. Focus my mind. Deliver me from any resentments I may harbor in my heart. I put You on, Lord Jesus Christ, as my Gloves of Kindness. May I serve You and Your Body with joy & thanksgiving.  Be that part of my life that has been in bondage to any resentment. I release myself into Your hands. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike