“Houses of Prayer”

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After reading in My Utmost for His Highest devotion this morning, Chambers sparked some questions in my soul:

When Jesus cleaned out the Temple and declared it to be a “House of Prayer,” was He not also declaring that we, as the Temple of the Holy Spirit, are to be a House of Prayer? And in cleaning out this Temple, did not our Master also suggest, by inference, that we, too, need cleaning? And, do we not understand that the we are to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and petitions (see Eph. 6:18)? Indeed, don’t we know that we can rely on the Spirit to intercede for us with grunts and groanings that cannot be utter, but dare we limit our prayer to the unutterable? And dare I suggest that all believers are to be “Houses of Prayer” since we are the temple of the Holy Spirit? And if I suggest this, does this not also mean that many are in desperate need of being cleaned up and out—including, yours truly?!? The answers seem to be a resounding, “Yes!” don’t they?

House of Prayer

So how do we go about cleaning up the Temple of the Holy Spirit? Do we scurry about as Martha did complaining to the Lord that Mary isn’t do her part of the housework? Or do we not become distracted by others and merely clean out the portion of the House for which we are responsible?

I find it fascinating that some of the cleaning in my House of Prayer actually is this very issue of being distracted by others who are not doing their cleaning. But at the same time I’d best not let my house cleaning be spoken ill of either, don’t you agree? What are your thoughts?

Main Text: — 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NKJV)— 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And [Jesus] said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”— Mt 21:13 (NKJV)

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.— Colossians 4:2 (NIV84)

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.— Psalm 66:18 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and through His power, I confess I have been negligent in prayer. My “House of Prayer” has been so cluttered with too many “distractions.” I ask You, Lord Jesus Christ, to bear the consequences of my actions. Remove the pain and shame I have caused Your name and be that part of my Life that has been disobedient to You. Create a clean hear within me so that I may walk in the Light as You are in the Light, becoming a clean House of Prayer for Your glory. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

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“Filling is Essential”

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Okay, you and I have given some thought to our entanglements with our culture in and around us. We have poured it through the sieve of the Word and the Lord’s Holiness. Some of the gunk and garbage has been filtered out. Great! Good Job! (No sarcasm here.) And as we continue into our 9th day of our Heartwork prayer and fasting month, we discover that once we have been emptied of this gunk and garbage of our lives, filling is essential.

Filling of the Spirit

When I think of filling, two passages quickly come to my mind. The first is Ephesians 5:17-21 and the second is Matthew 12:43-45. I’d like to pause and look first at the Matthew passage.

This passage speaks to the need and urgency of filling. Yes, the house has been swept out, and cleaned. Junk, gunk and garbage have been removed. But notice our Master also says it was “unoccupied”: it was empty…, and if nothing fills or occupies this house, then the junk, gunk and garbage will only return, and in far greater garbage-ness! (If I may coin a word.)

Because of this emptiness (now that some of the world’s culture has been removed from my belief system and life), I find the crucial coupling of the second passage  with the first.

Ephesians 5:17-21 exhorts us to be continually filled with the Spirit, and I would suggest, especially after an emptying. Wouldn’t you agree? I have see this happen to some with whom I have helped in a deliverance setting. They have just been delivered from some very enslaving spirits, but sadly they did not follow this up with a heavy dosage of prayer, immersion in the Word and filling of the Spirit. It doesn’t take long for those “seven other spirits more wicked than itself” to return and create a worse mess….

As I have gone through a personal ruining, wrecking, emptying of my self-confidence, self-reliance, and self-dependence, I am learning the essential nature of this filling of the Spirit. I am learning that I negatively confess my weaknesses, needs, bad habits and sins first, and then I positively confess the Lord Jesus is my Strength, my Deliverer, and my Filler—as He fills me with His Holy Spirit. Have you discovered that we just don’t do this to start our day, but we need to be filling throughout the day? I guess I leak a little more than I’d like to. How about you? What are your thoughts?

Main Text: — Matthew 12:43–45 (NIV84)—“When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.— Acts 4:31 (NIV84)

So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.”— Zechariah 4:6 (NIV84)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. — Ephesians 6:10–11 (NIV84)

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)

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. …

Conform Transformed Butterfly

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

“Repentance is the Key”

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Allow me to be candid:

Many believe that the LORD is going to judge our nation for its immorality and debauchery. If HE is going to judge our nation, judgment starts with His house (see 1 Peter 4:17 NASB95). But if we judge ourselves, then perhaps the LORD will spare this nation as He did Nineveh those many years ago (1 Corinthians 1:31 & Jonah 3:1-10). To merely judge ourselves is not enough, i.e., “Yeah, we’re doing something wrong. So what?” Once we judge ourselves, we then repent of whatever is displeasing to the LORD. Thus, repentance is the key.

A Solemn Assembly One pattern of repentance is found in 2 Chronicles 7:14: (1) humble ourselves; (2) pray & seek the LORD’s face; (3) turn from our wicked ways. The time for finger pointing and blame shifting is over. (If we do point fingers, it is best to stand in the bathroom and point at the mirror, eh?)

One way to act on this pattern of repentance is to join our church with fasting in the month of October. We begin our fast with an observance of the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). This year it is September 23. We use a ceremony I have had published in the Book, A Solemn Assembly: Gather to Seek the Lord’s Face (A Call to Repentance and Restoration). This book is a collection of scriptural prayers that will assist any follower of Jesus on his/her journey to repentance and restoration, let alone our daily walk. Thus, this book can be used for personal devotion as well as small group or large gatherings.

Though you can repent without any formal plan or ceremony, many have found it helpful to use a more formal tool in their own observance. Further, I note in the 2 Chronicles text that is plural: “If my people.” Truly repentance is a personal and private matter, but also we, as the Body of Christ, can join with our brothers and sisters in corporate repentance as the Israelites did in days of old. I am presenting this book as a tool to all the People of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Yes, as a tool, this book will aid you in answering this call to repentance and restoration. But please note: I am not just trying to sell “my” book. Rather I am presenting it as a means to assist you in your walk with Jesus. This book is available from Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, iTunes/iBooks or from me. I am able to get group discounts for printed versions if you order soon.

For group orders I can be reached at michaelr05@msn.com or 970-245-0913.

Whatever means or tools you use, at the very least, join us in prayer and fasting for our nation and the church in the month of October.

Peace to you through our Lord Jesus, the Prince of Peace.

Coach Mike

“Surrounded by Deceit”

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My Thoughts:

The young church was glowing with joy and harmony and fellowship and a lifestyle of worship, when suddenly a fracture in the perfect church was revealed. Yes, Ananias, and his lovely wife, Sapphira, conspired to deceive those stately saints, especially the Apostle Peter. What was their deception? Well, apparently they promised to give to the church the full amount from a sale of some of their property. As it was, they apparently received a lot more for the property than they had originally expected. So instead of giving the full amount, they held back some from their “faith promise”. The fracture rips….

broken down church

How dare they bring lying and deception into the church?

Well, they definitely were not the last. Sad to say, I, too, have been crushed with this reality. As the Lord has been wrecking me on my pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ and the perfect church, He has gently pointed out to me that even as far back as this, the church was never really perfect. And throughout the letters to the churches, both the apostles Paul and Peter had to rebuke those in the church to “Stop lying” (see Eph. 4:25; Col. 3:9; 1 Pet. 2:1, 22). This may seem terribly obvious to some of you, but to me this was earth shattering: The early church was not perfect and, in fact, they had liars in their midst!

Then the Lord led me to Isaiah 6:1-6. I discovered there that I would often skip the first part of Isaiah’s wrecking and immediately focus on the second part: “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! … I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). He’s surrounded by deceit! Unclean lips, indeed.

Oh, the part I skipped, “For I am a man of unclean lips.” Isaiah had the temerity—and the humility—to first include himself in this “among.”

Perhaps you can join me in coming to grips—as Paul, Peter, & Isaiah did— with the deceit that surrounds us, starting with ourselves, eh? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 5:1-5— 1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  — 2 Timothy  3:12-15 (NIV84)

Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool—how much worse lying lips to a ruler!  — Proverbs 17:7 (NIV)

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” — 2 Timothy 2:19 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, purify my heart and my lips by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep me humble in Your presence, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Grieving is not for Wimps”

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Date: 01-10-15

Text: — Nehemiah 1:4 — 4 When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: We dare not minimize the loss—ours or someone else’s, but likewise, we dare not minimize the time it takes to grieve over it.

My Thoughts: 

In other cultures, when someone dies or is killed in a bombing, we wailing and funeral processions; but not in ours. Instead, “Weeping’s for Wimps” sports a bumper sticker philosopher. “We’re strong; we can make it.” And because of this cultural philosophy when tragedy strikes on any level, we do not allow others time to grieve—let alone ourselves. “I need to get right back to work.” Keeping busy somehow helps me cope. So we stuff our feelings of loss and move on, but the weight of the loss doesn’t dissipate. In fact, it seems to get heavier with the passage of time.

And if we are really honest with ourselves, getting an emotional kick in the stomach—no matter how washboarded the stomach—takes us down.

First of all, let me briefly define grief: Grieve is any change or sense of loss. The greater the sense of loss or change the greater the grief. Likewise, the lesser the sense of loss or change the lesser the sense of grief. So losing a paperclip does not generate as much grief as losing your wallet, etc….

If we define life as change or growth, and any sense of change as loss, life (lower case “ l”) is grief. Handling life in a healthy way leads us to the fact that we need to learn to deal with change & loss on many levels. I have found that allowing time for grief is one way to deal with it.

As I was reading the verse noted above, I observed what Nehemiah did: He gave himself time to grieve. In doing so, it appears to lessen the weight of the grief, and even give space for perspective. I know when the sense of loss or change overwhelms me, my vision is blurred through  the tears and the vertigo of change knocks me off balance. I have a deep and profound empathy for those who have lost a loved one, especially a child. I have seen that this grief seems to never pass, but in time perspective widens as the tears are less frequent. Perhaps, then we can see—but a glimpse—of how the Lord might use this tragedy for His glory….

Lifestyle worshipers, we dare not minimize the loss—ours or someone else’s, but likewise, we dare not minimize the time it takes to grieve over it. To me, it takes a very strong person to face the sense of loss and change. It is the wimp who runs; the strong stand firm—even when our knees buckle under the emotional weight of the grief.

What has gotten me through many a loss and change is clinging to the Lord Jesus Christ. I have found that because He never changes, there is no grief in Him. And because He is Life (with a capital “L”), His Life is not grief, but a joy overcoming the sorrow of this life.

Yet I have discovered a rather fascinating irony in all this: Although in the Lord Jesus I have Joy & Peace, He Himself was described by the prophet Isaiah as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3 ESV). The Lord Jesus was no stranger to sorrow, grief and change. He experienced first hand many of the very losses and changes we encounter in our lives.

But Isaiah doesn’t stop there. Instead he continues in that passage to offer us Hope that our grief will be taken away someday: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” (Isaiah 53:4 ESV). The very one who offers us Life has Himself experienced life.

This is almost too much for words….

Below I have noted two places in the Gospels that record our Master grieving. There are many more. And to me, He is the strongest of us all. He endured the cross and scorned it shame making no threats or even whines. I’d rather have His Life coursing through my veins in my moments of loss and change than attempting to stuff the sorrow—only to explode later (been there and done that, too!)

When it comes to grieving and dealing with the sense of loss and changes in our lives, then, I am learning to be gracious to others allowing them “some days” to mourn (see verse 4 above). Oh, and I am learning to  be gracious to myself, as well, allowing myself some space and time to grieve. How about you? Are you a wimp and run when it comes to grieving? Or do you stand firm in the One Who has grieved and conquered it? Your thoughts.

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Jesus wept.  — John 11:35 (NIV)

   Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.

— 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 (NIV)

   and [Herod] had John beheaded in the prison. …  John’s disciples came and took his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus. When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place….

— Matthew 14:10, 12-13a (NIV)

Heavenly Father,  as I give myself time to grieve, open my eyes to the larger perspective. Though I may never fully understand what glory You are getting out of this, I trust that You are Good all the time no matter what.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

“Can We Know How Much We Are Deceived?”

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Text: — James 4:1-3 — 1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. [NIV84]

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

My Thoughts: 

In our walk with Jesus, can we really know how much we are deceived by this world’s system? In the passage above, James jabs some rather pointed indictments, while pulling no punches later in the verses that follow. But as we read this, is your initial response, “I don’t do any of this?” Mine was. I do not kill anyone. I really don’t covet…. Ah, but do? Is it possible that I have not because when I ask, I ask merely to spend it on my selfish pleasures (v. 3)? Good question, oh my soul; good question, indeed.

Twice in his letter, James warns us not to deceive ourselves (1:22, 26). Self-deception is very cunning. The sad truth is, we really do not know when we are deceived. (If we did, we wouldn’t be, right?) I think this is why James closes his letter with “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth…” (5:19 emphasis added). (The Greek word for wander has the implication of being deceived from any source.)

Lifestyle worshipers, is it important to discover how much we are or have been deceived? I think so. If the truth shall set us free, then knowing the Lord Jesus (The Truth!) more intimately will set us free from deception, be it self-delusion or other-concocted.

Several years back, for several Sundays—which seemed like months, “We don’t know how much we are deceived” kept sneaking into my sermons. I am not sure if the Holy Spirit was talking to someone else, but He sure was directly talking to me. It was shortly after this that I had an epiphany. I received a DVD in the mail asking the question: “Is America A Christian Nation.” For years I had argued it wasn’t. I had all my history books from College and high school which clearly demonstrated we were more deistic is foundation than Christian, but as the DVD unfolded with original documents to establish that America, indeed, had deep Christian roots it her founding, my worldview of this began to crumble and a melancholy grieving overtook my life for some months to follow. (In subsequent research, I had discovered that this specific aspect of history had been systematically sterilized from our text books for decades.)

Now I know to some, this would seem like a frivolous bunny trail of sorts, but for me it was a soul stirring moment. Because after this unveiling, I had to ask, “How much more was I being deceived on other subjects—civil or sacred?” Back to the Word I went!

If the Word is the Truth, and if the Holy Spirit has imbued it with the very essence of the Holy Trinity, then it naturally follows that this Word shines a bright spotlight on any deception I may be in…. So I studied the Word all the more intensely. And in doing so, I discovered yet another factor in my remedy for self-deception, and I think James is subtly telling us this: We need each other to expose our blindspots.

In Love, I need to confess my sins to my accountability team (see 5:16) in order to find healing, and part of this healing is lifting the self-deception from my life. I must practice true wisdom from above (see 4:17) by often checking in with a close confidant in order to get a ‘spiritual checkup’ as one would a physical checkup. And in Love, I must make myself available for those who have ‘wandered from the truth,’ and gentle restore such a one, who may not realized that they, too, have been deceived.

Have you discovered these same elements if addressing deception? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive.”

— Matthew 24:4-5 (NIV84)

I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness

—Colossians 2:4-7 (NIV84)

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise.

—1 Corinthians 3: 18 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I submit myself to You. Renew my mind. Deliver me from any deception I may be exposed to, whether it is self-imposed or not. I put You on, Lord Jesus Christ, as my Belt of Truth. Sanctify me and set me apart by Your Truth: Your Word is Truth.  Be that part of my life that has been in bondage to any deception. I release myself into Your hands. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike