Content with Relationships

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We all have relationships that are indeed like ships. They come; and they go. Some pass in the night; others after but a few short years. But there are those relationships that endure and are dear. All these can impact our lives

I yearn for the latter: For those relationships that last a life time. But in this morning’s main text, the Apostle Paul is showing me two simple protectors that can prevent my joy from being sapped. One is, I rejoice in the Lord for relationships that come and go because they show a timely concern. They may not have opportunity to develop the relationship to the degree I’d desire, but we had a very dear relationship all the same—even if for a short time. And this is okay.

The second protector of my joy is to learn contentment in those circumstances where a relationship is cut short, for whatever reason. There is a phrase I have employed with volunteers over the years when it comes to their commitment to a particular task or position: “Expect no less; demand no more.” Expect them to do no less than what they agreed to volunteer for; but demand no more of them, least I chase them away or burn them out.

Perhaps this can be applied to relationships, too? What do you think? What are the implications of not being content with the level/degree of a particular relationship? What results from discontent? Or even malcontent?

Main Text— Philippians 4:11–13 (NIV)— 10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3–9 (NIV84)

 [Jesus said,] In a little while you will see Me no more, and then after a little while you will see Me.”John 16:16 (NIV84

Lord Jesus Christ, guard my heart as the Prince of Peace as You teach me these lessons of contentment in relationships. May I realize all the more that rejoicing in You is more than enough. In Your Name. Amen

Pastor Mike

How Important is the Resurrection?

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As Believers in the Lord Jesus perhaps we have never really asked ourselves: “How important is His Resurrection?” Oh, we believe in it, and we understand that it is an essential component of our salvation, but, really, how important is it?

From the Apostle Paul’s perspective, it is sine qua non: Absolutely essential. In our main text, noted below, St. Paul’s bottom line is, If Christ is not raised from the dead, then “we are of all people most to be pitied.” 

Beyond our misplaced zeal and faith, if we believe in something that has not or cannot happen, don’t you think this goes beyond any virtual reality we can create?

But from another perspective, I’d like to suggest to you the resurrection must be very important. That perspective: the lack of attention nonbelievers give it. Let me explain. At Christmas, at least there is a general mention of the baby Jesus, and as one “famous” character is noted for saying as he was praying to “Baby Jesus” for grace, “I like the Christmas Jesus best….” Why? Could it be as long as we picture Jesus as a tiny baby, we can more easily discount the rest of His Life?

Or what about the plethora of Easter Bunny coverage? Books line the shelves, videos dot the internet, and dare we fail to mention the shelves and shelves of chocolate bunnies? Why? Could it be that if we focus on the soft furry bunnies, we can more easily discount any reason to engage in the importance of the resurrection?  Talk about media black out, huh?

Your thoughts? How important is the resurrection to you? What are some implications of discounting it? Or dismissing it altogether?

Main Text— 1 Corinthians 15:14–19 (NIV)— 14 And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. 15 More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But He did not raise Him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. 19 If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. 1 Corinthians 15:20) (NIV)

   Jesus said to [Martha], “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)

You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.  Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that You are the Holy One of God.”—John 6:67–69 (NIV)

Heavenly Father, I thank You for the Resurrection. I confess the Lord Jesus Christ as the Resurrection and the Life. I praise You for His transforming work in my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen

Coach Mike

“Humble is Too Nice A Word”

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It seems that “humble” is just too nice a word for what happened to Jesus. As I read the Gospels and review His passion—the whipping, beatings, and crucifixion, this was not “humbling,” but it is “humiliating.” Yes, the better word seems, at least to me, to be: “humiliation.”

This word keeps coming up in my life, especially in the last year and a half or so. Be it public or private, the “humbling” is often beyond unpleasant and nearly unbearable. I’m becoming more confident that the Lord is giving me a glimpse of what He went through in His coming down from heaven to earth: It is indeed a most profound humiliation. As our main text notes below, He was equal with Deity—He is God! And yet He didn’t grasp or cling to this privilege. Rather He chose to make Himself nothing. (One translation says, “made Himself of no reputation.” He did  not brag about His being God; didn’t flaunt it in our faces.)

Continuing in this humiliation from heaven to earth, He took on the form of servant in human form. He did not come to be served, but to serve…. And the humiliation continued: He allowed Himself to be humiliated in death, and not just any death but the humiliating, shameful death of a crucifixion…. (In the Jewish mind, “Cursed is he who hangs on a tree” Dt. 21:22-23 & Gal. 3:13).

This is humiliation and not a mere humbling; publicly shamed and scorned; naked and beaten. The great God of the universe nailed to a tree by puny humans…. True humiliation, wouldn’t you agree?

And, oh, have I failed to note that on the cross He also carried the sins of all the world covering all of time? He—the Holy, sinless One—was so humiliated to carry our disgusting garbage of evil?

What ever small humiliations I have been going through these last 20 years or so cannot compare to His humiliation, for sure. But it does give me a taste of what He went through for me. A taste, mind you….

Do you, too, feel your humiliations are but a taste of what Jesus went through for you? Do they give you a greater appreciation for His coming down from heaven to earth? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV84)— 5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one.   Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?
2 Corinthians 11:23-29 (NIV84)

    I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.Philippians 3:10-11 (NIV84)

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.—Romans 12:3-4 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I accept this grace of humiliation. I accept it knowing that You are conforming me to be more like Your Son, Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Even My Weaknesses

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Samson has always fascinated me. This is especially true since I’ve learned that he was not some bulked up weight-lifting model, but rather a Regular Joe like me or you or Bruce Banner. (If he had a chiseled body, then the question of the source of his strength would be somewhat moot, eh?)

As we are reading through the Old  Testament this year, I paused for a long while on Samson, took a step back and noticed that the LORD still used him to lead Israel in spite of his foolishness with women and his caviler acceptance of his vow. (To be a Nazarite was a highly esteemed vowed, but he appeared to have violated every restriction from touching dead animals to possibly drinking wine at the feasts he attended.)

Then at the end of his life, scarred, blinded and humiliated, he takes down the Temple of Dagon and with it himself and many more than when he lived (Judges 16:23ff).

 Then the Book says, “He had led Israel twenty-years” (Judges 16:31b).

What? In spite of all of his weaknesses, he was allowed to led? Pretty crazy. But as I pondered this, I have come to understand that the LORD uses me, even my weaknesses, for His purposes and, yes, His glory.

It seems like in saying this I am giving license to sin that grace may abound (Roman 6:1) “because the LORD is using my weaknesses, I can go ahead and sin like Samson.” (I guess if I did this I could end up like Samson: blinded, scarred and humiliated, huh? Besides I remember Romans 6:2: “God forbid. How shall we live any longer therein” NKJV).

But I am giving myself freedom to make mistakes, to fumble the ball, to screw up, and then by faith trusting that beyond this the LORD will still work out His good pleasure and purposes. This freedom of understanding that He is using even my weaknesses then gets me off the couch and out into the “real world” to live for Him, instead of “hiding in my room; safe within my womb;” where I “touch no one and no one touches me.” 

Do you find freedom in Jesus knowing that He is even going to use your weaknesses for His purposes and glory? What do you think?

Main Text— 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (NIV)— 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that His life may be revealed in our mortal body.—2 Corinthians 4:8–11 (NIV84)

    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 3:13–14 (NIV)

 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I accept this grace You offer me. You accept me as I am, including my weaknesses and shortcomings. I praise You for transforming me to become more like Your Son, Jesus, Who empowers me to live the Life that is pleasing to You. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

A Damaged Impulse to Protect Life

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Yesterday on a media outlet, I read about the tragic murder/suicide of a 9-year old daughter at her mothers’s hand. Given the speed of today’s digital “news,” the crime is still under investigation, but sadly, we are hearing more and more of this. According to one study done in 2007, mothers make up only 31% of parents killing their children under five (with fathers, step-fathers, and step-mothers completing the statistic).

What is heart retching is that this is a statistic at all, wouldn’t you agree? Generally, we’ve all seen it: the gentleness of a mother with her new born, tenderly caring for this precious life. This is the norm. But somehow some have had their impulse to protect life damaged.

Beyond all the deep wounds of the whys and wherefores, I’d like to look in our main text today at the woman whose life impulse was not damaged.

Some would not expect a prostitute (aka “harlot” or “whore”) to have an undamaged impulse. We would expect her to be like the other prostitute who said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two” (v. 26b)! But her impulse to protect life was undamaged.

Perhaps you have found, as I have, that women of character have an undamaged impulse to protect life. This is not to say they do not have struggles, often to the point of breaking. But somehow the impulse to protect life overwhelms any other impulses—even to literally murder their own child. 

For years as a young boy, I would hurl at my mother, “You hate me! You hate me! You hate me!” And with a deep mournful, broken heart she would weep back, “Michael, how can I hate you? You are my own flesh and blood.” Sadly, it took me years to really understand the depth of the truth of this statement. But I have learned that my dear mother had an undamaged impulse to protect life, too—even mine….

Do you have any suggestions for those who may have a damaged impulse? What are your thoughts?

Main Text— 1 Kings 3:16–27 (NIV84) 16 Now two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. 17 One of them said, “My lord, this woman and I live in the same house. I had a baby while she was there with me. 18 The third day after my child was born, this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there was no one in the house but the two of us.  19 “During the night this woman’s son died because she lay on him. 20 So she got up in the middle of the night and took my son from my side while I your servant was asleep. She put him by her breast and put her dead son by my breast. 21 The next morning, I got up to nurse my son—and he was dead! But when I looked at him closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t the son I had borne.”  22 The other woman said, “No! The living one is my son; the dead one is yours.”  But the first one insisted, “No! The dead one is yours; the living one is mine.“And so they argued before the king. 23 The king said, “This one says, ‘My son is alive and your son is dead,’ while that one says, ‘No! Your son is dead and mine is alive.’ ” 24 Then the king said, “Bring me a sword.” So they brought a sword for the king. 25 He then gave an order: “Cut the living child in two and give half to one and half to the other.” 26 The woman whose son was alive was filled with compassion for her son and said to the king, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!”  But the other said, “Neither I nor you shall have him. Cut him in two!”  27 Then the king gave his ruling: “Give the living baby to the first woman. Do not kill him; she is his mother.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the LORD has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne. Though she may forget, I will not forget you! [says the LORD].Isaiah 49:14–15 (NIV84)

  As apostles of Christ we could have been a burden to you, but we were gentle among you, like a mother caring for her little children.—1 Thessalonians 2:6b–7 (NIV84)

Create in me a pure heart, O God,  and renew a steadfast spirit within me.—Psalm 51:10 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, heal my wounded heart. Restore my passion and impulse to protect Life. Empower me to be like You—the Great Life Protector. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Seeing Him in Everything

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Okay, I get it, Lord. First this morning I read this in one devotion: “What we need, then, is to see God in everything, and to receive everything directly from His hands, with no intervention or second causes” (Hannah W. Smith, The Christian’s Secrets of a Happy Life, p.102). Then I read in another devotion: “See God in everything, and God will calm and color all thou dost see” (H.W. Smith, Sept. 17, in Streams in the Desert)! I am to see You in everything. In the highs and the lows; the plenty and the want; the “good” and the “bad;” the known and the unknown—everything.

 Too many times, I must confess, I am more like Martha (in our main text below). I am distracted by too many things. These distractions prevent me from seeing You in the situation—in my Life. So I join her in crying out to You, “Lord, don’t you care that [they have] left me to do the work by myself? Tell [them] to help me!”

Lord, as the distractions begin to blur and move out of focus, let me clearly see You in my focus. Turn this dourness into Joy. Let me see the colors of Your presence in all the situations and people I encounter. May I not only see Your hand at work, but may I see Your face. Forgive me for the many times I have whined and completed—doubting that You care. 

Oh, but You are so patient, so kind. You do not chide me nor do You abandon me. Instead, with a gentle touch from Your words, You draw my focus back to You. Through the blur of tears, I am seeing You as I make preparations for Your people.

Indeed, You are good all the time no matter what!

Main Text— Luke 10:40 (NIV84) 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!” 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:6–7(NIV84)

  O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.Luke 12:28b-29 (NIV84)

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.Psalm 18:2–3 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, lead me not into distractions, but keep my eyes fixed on You. Empower me to keep focused on You no matter what I am doing. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Be Different When Judging Others

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When we manifest the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, we will find our lives to be markedly different. In this wonderful sermon the Lord Jesus is calling His followers to live His Words, not just hear them (see Matthew 7:24). Indeed, living them would make us different enough, but if we are honest with ourselves, we cannot live them. Thus, as we have noted in previous blogs, the Lord Jesus Christ must be our Righteousness in order for our righteousness to exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees (see Matthew 5:20). 

But what does it look like to be different”? Our Master focuses on four areas in Chapter 7 in which we are to be markedly different. The first one is we are to be different when we judge others….

Sadly, some believe that Jesus is teaching never to judge. But this is not so. He is actually presenting us a “procedure” to follow when “judging” others. V. 1 cautions us to stop judging, especially in light of the areas He has just presented in His sermon. Indeed, having a critical spirit when judging does not produce the greater righteousness required….

In v. 2 our Lord says to avoid crooked measuring sticks or faulty measuring weights. Having these creates a double-standard, which does not produce the greater righteousness required.

He then offers a proper approach to “judging” in vv. 3-5: First do a self-evaluation using the higher standard Jesus offers in this sermon, and then assist your sister or brother in removing the little splinter. In this self-evaluation, don’t you find it humorous when Jesus says you and I will discover we have a huge plank blinding us from seeing the little splinter? I call this mirror theology: When we criticize  other’s behaviors & attitudes, it is only a reflection of our own behavior or attitude.

 Would you agree that the Lord is saying, we are to humble ourselves first by accepting (and confessing) our huge faults and shortcomings so that if and when we do approach a brother or sister, we will do so in humility rather than in superiority?

To me, this is what it means to be different: Humbly dealing with our own issues first; then humbly offer to help others deal with theirs. Recently I was painfully reminded that unsolicited advice is unheeded. Many do not want to remove the splinter from their eye; and they definitely do not want someone to help them. But when they see a humble Jesus follower removing his/her huge plank, perhaps then they may ask for a mirror? What do you think?

Main Text— Matthew 7:1–6 (NIV84)— 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.John 7:24 (NIV84)

  Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.—Galatians 6:1 (NIV84)

  Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?— Roman 2:4 (ESV)

Lord Jesus Christ, I humbly yield to Your Holy Presence within me. Continue to make me more like You. In Your Holy Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike