“How tough are the “Tough”?

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Have you ever heard the phrase, “When the going gets tough, the tough get going?” I heard it a lot at half-time or a time out. But I never understood how tough the ‘tough’ had to be to “get going”. Have you?

As a pastor I have never said this to anyone, but as I thought about this morning’s main text, I had to ask myself this very question: “How tough do the tough have to be to get going?” I have seen people concussioned by life: lost of child; a torturous losing battle with cancer; a pink slip suddenly arrives on the desk; and the list goes on. I have marveled how some rape victim become victors while others remain victims. Were the former “tough” enough and the latter “weaklings?”

In my own life’s concussions, I have not always been the victor, but rather wallowed in victim stew far too long. But one thing I have learned, the Lord is tougher still. As the Apostle Paul alludes to later in this harrowing episode late in his life, “Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me. Nevertheless, we must run aground on some island” (Acts 27:23-26). It was his faith in the Goodness of God through the tough times that kept him going.

Now to some, this may seem naive and pietistic, but to those who have walked through the tough times of life’s severe concussions—first without the Lord, and then finally yielding to His presence, we understand the truth: It is not my toughness, but the Lord’s faithfulness that gets me through those tough times.

Have you found this to be so, too? Whatever storms, or trials, or difficulties or tough times we may find ourselves in the midst of, join me in remembering, “When the going gets tough, remember the Lord is tougher.” And, if you are like me, we also need to remember what the father whose young son was severely out of sorts said to Jesus after He said, “Everything is possible for him who believes”… “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:23-24 NIV84)!

Main Text— Acts 27:9-12 (NIV84) 9 Much time had been lost, and sailing had already become dangerous because by now it was after the Fast. So Paul warned them, 10 “Men, I can see that our voyage is going to be disastrous and bring great loss to ship and cargo, and to our own lives also.” 11 But the centurion, instead of listening to what Paul said, followed the advice of the pilot and of the owner of the ship. 12 Since the harbor was unsuitable to winter in, the majority decided that we should sail on, hoping to reach Phoenix and winter there. This was a harbor in Crete, facing both southwest and northwest.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.— 2 Timothy 4:16–18 (NIV84)

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”—John 16:33 (NIV84)

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in hHis 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)

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 enduring tough times. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

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“How Bright is Your Light?”

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Here it is the day before another Christmas, and I’m asking a rather personal question: “How Bright is Your Light.” To some this would seem rather intrusive; to others out of place; but to those who see the seasonal times as a good opportunity to let our light shine, they think it is an honest and necessary question.

Light of the World

As we put lights up on our houses, lights on our trees, and even light a candle at a Christmas Eve Candlelight services, we must ponder the question: How bright is our light, especially in light of our Lord’s words: “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden” (Mt. 5:14).

What does it mean to  be “the light of the world”? Surely, one answer that pops to mind is our character. We are to bear the fruit of the Spirit, perhaps is another answer, and as we continue reading in our main text, it is also our “good deeds.”

In a culture that shouts down the opposition, perhaps all we have left is the Light of good deeds, don’t you think? As “they” are shouting to stop Christmas carols and praying at school functions; as they shout to forbid even the whisper of the name of the very person whose birthday Christmas celebrates, what would be the best thing to do? We don’t want to join them in a shouting match. No, this is unwise and ill-advised (see 2 Tim. 2:24-26). But our Light can out shine them, right? As we bend down and help a homeless man get up on his feet; or tend to a widow who needs her faucet fixed; or become a “big ear” to a lost teen, then our light will shine so bright it could possible drowned out their shouting. What do you think?  I don’t like asking myself this question either, but I know I must. How about you? How bright is your light? Bright enough to quiet the shouting?

Join me on our journey with Jesus at this Christmas in letting our light shine so bright—even as a small candle light, that they will glorify our Father in heaven.

…  making this Christmas especially merry, indeed.

Main Text: — Matthew 5:14–16 (NIV84)— 14 You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will.— 2 Timothy 2:23-26 (NIV84)

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.— John 15:8 (NIV84)

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.—1 Peter 3:15–16 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, let the Light of Your Son, my Lord Jesus Christ, shine so bright that others are blinded to my foolishness and folly, and yet they clearly see You in and through my feeble good deeds. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“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

Is the Wait Over For You?

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Dove and Fire

The Wait is over! It is now Christmas morning. The little ones come running down the hall with glee. Eyes wide with exhilaration,  as they see the unwrapped gifts under the tree. … The Wait is over! He reaches into his pocket, pulls out a small velvet covered box and drops to one knee. The anticipation caught on your face as your eyes begin to leak with pure joy and your hands cover quivering lips. … The Wait is over! You slowly crack open the door as you pour yourself into the driver’s seat—the  new car smell washes over you. You turn the ignition…. The Wait is over!

You’ve waited so long, and now the wait is over, but truly no words can captures what you’re feeling. But this doesn’t stop you from trying.

The same is true for apostles: The Wait is over! The Promised Holy Spirit is now being poured over the 120 or so who have been patiently waiting for this day (see Acts 2:1-4)! Luke attempts to capture the wave of the Holy Spirit as he pens these words, but truly this is a momentous occasion. We cannot deny it: Something happened that day. Something that has changed the world in such a way it can never go back. These 120 insignificant extras, if you will, reached Jerusalem, Judea & Samaria, and all the way to us, the utter most parts of the world.

But the ripples of this momentous occasion dare not stop with us as in a cove or “no wake zone”. No. Our nation is in desperate need for these ripples, these waves, yea, a tsunami, to once again wash upon her shores renewing her heart and soul….

And it is the church who is her heart and soul. It is the church who first needs the tsunami wave of the Holy Spirit. It is the church who needs the  continual filling of the promised Holy Spirit, which leaves in its aftermath the destruction of the old, wicked, sinful life and rebirth of the fruit of the new Life.

This new Life of the Spirit will then be born on tree limbs that are strong and firm. The juice of Love will be sweet, savory and substantial. It will not be the gooey, sirupy sweet love this world offers. No, it will the substantial Love of the crucified and Risen Lord. It will be the substantial Love that is marked by sacrifice, devotion and commitment. A Love that is truly patient and kind not haughty selfish or rude. When our country sees this kind of church, this type of Christian, then maybe they, too, will see that the wait is over; that in our pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ our being continual filled by the Holy Spirit will indeed empower us to live the Life that is pleasing to Him, bearing fruit that will endure.

Is your wait over?

The Right Place

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Devotion Title: “The Right Place”

Date: 03-31-15

The Big Idea: Now this may seem paradoxical—counterintuitive even, but I go back to the very person I betrayed: I flee to Jesus.

My Thoughts: Lifestyle worshiper, is it possible that you’ve done something horribly wrong? I’m not talking white lies or burps of profanity, but something much like Peter, who denied his Lord, not once, not twice but three time? Often what happens is we begin to isolate ourselves from others, especially if they call themselves “Christian”. Our shame and embarrassment is just too much to bear, eh? (Been there; done that; got the scars and T-shirt to prove it.)

But when I finally come to my senses (and this may take anywhere from a few moments to, ah, several years), I go to the right place. Now this may seem paradoxical—counterintuitive even, but I go back to the very person I betrayed: I flee to Jesus. Now why I do this, I’m not quite sure, especially when I see others who do not. But somehow Peter’s journey with Jesus has given me hope that I, too, can be forgiven.

Have you found this to be so, too? Have you discover that our Lord Jesus is “a forgiving God, gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love” (Neh. 9:17b)?

Maybe you haven’t done something as terrible as I or Peter, but even if you haven’t, maybe you can receive comfort and hope from the words recorded in Mark 16:6-7 the angel spoke to the women at the tomb of Jesus:

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as he told you.’ ”

Did you read that? “… and Peter”?  This is where I get my hope. If the Lord Jesus can forgive the most horrible, terrible wrong done by Peter, He can forgive me, too. I can hear my name in Peter’s place: “and….” Can you?

This is our God! This is the Hope of the Resurrection He offers. This is the reason we praise Him: Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Hosanna in the Highest!

Main Text: — Mark 16:6-7— “Don’t be alarmed,” [the angel] said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 But go, tell His disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him, just as he told you.’ ” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep — 1 Corinthians 15:3-6 (NIV84)

  I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.   —Revelation 1:18 (NIV84)

 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?”  — John 11:25-26 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I ask You to forgive me for _____. I thank You, Lord Jesus Christ, for bearing the consequences of my actions. Remove the pain and shame I have cause Your name. Be that part of my life that has been disobedient to You. I release myself into Your hands. Empower me with Your Resurrected Life through the Holy Spirit to live a life that is pleasing to You. In Your Name, 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

“God’s Will & Opposition”

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Date: 02-10–15

Text: — Nehemiah 4:1-3 — 1 When Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, he became angry and was greatly incensed. He ridiculed the Jews, 2 and in the presence of his associates and the army of Samaria, he said, “What are those feeble Jews doing? Will they restore their wall? Will they offer sacrifices? Will they finish in a day? Can they bring the stones back to life from those heaps of rubble—burned as they are?” 3 Tobiah the Ammonite, who was at his side, said, “What they are building—if even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” [NIV84]

The Big Idea: Expecting opposition better prepares us for it; Expecting victory through the opposition fuels our resolve and doubles our joy.

My Thoughts: 

Finally, we act; we step out in bold faith and confident assurance because we are so convinced the Lord wants us to do something. We move in the direction we sense He is prompting us. Suddenly, almost without warning, “Slam!” We’re hit by some resistance; some terrible opposition to our direction. Questions flood our minds as doubt floods our souls. “Did I hear the Lord right? Why all this difficulty and struggle? Why this opposition?”

Lifestyle worshiper, does this describe you? Are you one that feels that any opposition demonstrates that you are out of God’s will? Allow me to suggest to you that, in fact, opposition is almost certain to come when you are doing the will of God. As the old WWII saying goes, “You know you’re close to the target when the flack starts flying!”

I was one who would whine and complain with each wave of opposition, but I am learning that through the passage of time and the presence of struggle the character of Christ is forged in me. So as I walk in obedience to the Lord; as I fulfill the dreams and destiny that He has designed for me, I will encounter strong opposition as Nehemiah did (noted in the above passage). And, as Nehemiah did not: I will not complain or whine to the Lord. Instead, I will follow his example and pray to the Lord Almighty: “Hear us, O our God, for we are despised” (4:4). And keep working….

Expecting opposition better prepares us for it; Expecting victory through the opposition fuels our resolve and doubles our joy.

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.

— 2 Timothy 3:12-14 (NIV84)

Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. — Philippians 1:27-28 (NIV84)

Then [Paul & Barnabas] returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. — Acts 14:21b-22 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  forgive me for giving up when the slightest hint of opposition arises. Fuel my passion with the Power of Your Holy Spirit to overcome the opposition and persevere  in Your strength to accomplish Your bidding.  In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike