The Paradox of Holy Contentment

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I have heard it taught before that we are to be content with our relationship with Jesus and discontent at the same time. Is this truly a Both/And? Or a misapplied text? Or a  Paradox of Holy Contentment?

As I read and re-read our main text this morning, I am more and more convinced that this is not a classic Both/And, but more so a misapplied text or a Holy Paradox. Let’s explore this very, very briefly.

In Phil. 3:10ff, the apostle Paul seems to express an honest, humble assessment of his Holy passion—a passion that is not content with what is, but yearning for what will be. Then he expresses his  contentment in this passage (Phil. 4:11-13). But is he not referring to his physical needs here and not so much his spiritual, Holy passion? And then, if this is referring to the physical, does v. 13 only apply to our physical needs (i.e., the Lord empowers me when I have a lot or and He empowers me when I have very little); or does this verse teach that the empowerment spills over into the spiritual?

Do we resolve this paradox by suggesting that we are to have a Holy passionate discontent for our current spiritual condition (including our relationship with Jesus), but a humble contentment with our physical accoutrements—since they come and go?

Your thoughts? How important is contentment to you? Can we ever be content? Ought we to be content? Ah, perhaps a paradox of Holy contentment?

Main Text— Philippians 4:11–13 (NIV) 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Then some soldiers asked [John the Baptizer], “And what should we do?” He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.” —Luke 3:14 (NIV84)

 Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said,That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing.Lk 12:22–23 (NLT)

But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.1 Timothy 6:6–8 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, as You teach me the lessons of contentment, may I realize all the more that Jesus is more than enough. In His Name. Amen

Pastor Mike

Stretched in All Directions

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It has been a little over a year since my hip surgery. The hip pain is gone, and for this I am most grateful. Oh, I’ve had many bouts with “common” and “not-so-common” colds throughout this past year; some say, perhaps due to the weakening of my immune system from the surgery, but for the most part I have been recovering quite well….

Ah, yes, the lingering “but”: But I have learned something that I need to do quite regularly, daily if possible: I need to stretch—especially the hip region. I walk better, sit better, and feel all-around better when I do. Fitting this into my schedule has been quite difficult for sure.

One would think that stretching would be a snap: just a few minutes and back at “it”, but it is not. (For some reason, getting down and back up off the floor is still rather difficult for  me. I’m sure this is a rather large de-motivator, huh?)

As I was pondering this dilemma this morning, the Lord seemed to quietly and very softly open up a spiritual truth to me: I need to stretch my faith regularly, daily whenever “possible”. (I guess for starters merely getting on the floor in faith that I can get back up again with little to no difficulty, huh?) But I truly began to expand where my faith had truncated and in this place I needed a good incremental stretching.

Perhaps many of you have been struggling— as I have—with faith in the Lord providing financially. Bills seem to be pilling up as car problems, house “honey dos,” and sometimes those little extras seem to be forming a distant tsunami.

Streeetttcchhh! And, yes, I have sometimes pulled a faith-muscle during these stretches. The Lord is good all the time no matter what!!! I know this. I know He is more than faithful, so I press through the pulled muscles of faith and continue my stretching. And while I am at it, I not only need to get down on the floor to stretch my hip, etc., but also my knees—you know, in prayer. What do you think?

Main Text— Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)— 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.—1 Corinthians 1:9 (NIV84)

  The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NIV84)

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Shield of Faith. Quench the fiery darts being hurled at my the enemy. You are the True and Faithful Witness. Empower me to be like You In Your Name, Amen.

Coach 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

“The Grace of Healing Wholeness”

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Have you ever received the grace of Healing Wholeness from Jesus? You may not know it if you did, but chances are you are more than aware of this sense of wholeness in healing you have received.

It starts out with a quiet, gentle whisper in your soul: “Do you want to get well?” (The phrase “get well” literally means “made whole.”) At first you think it a strange question because who wouldn’t want to be made well? Then you think of someone you know who is always whining and complaining about their particular sickness or situation, and then you realize that there may be some who would indeed answer, “No”. Surprised as you may be at this though, you know deep in your soul you want to be made whole—put back together. All your fragmented pieces reassembled, as it were.

So you cautiously, but hopefully answer, “Yes!”

In this brief answer, you soon discover that the Healer of your soul is a gentlemen. He will not foist on you His plan, His desires for you. No, He wants you to be willing and available to accept this gift of grace. And grace it is….

So in the power of this healing grace of wholeness you attempt something you have been unable to do. A joy, an exhilaration surges through your whole being. Tears flood your eyes as hope fills your soul: You’ve been made whole.

What words of praise capture this moment for you? I have often found that none do…, but I praise Him anyway. How? By faithfully walking in the Grace of this healing wholeness.

Main Text— John 5:1–5 (ISV) Later on, there was another festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem is a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew. It has five colonnades, and under these a large number of sick people were lying—blind, lame, or paralyzed—waiting for the movement of the water.  At certain times an angel of the Lord would go down into the pool and stir up the water, and whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had.  One particular man was there who had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.1 Corinthians 6:11 (NIV84)

 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.—Romans 5:1–2 (NIV84)

  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.— 1 Peter 1:8 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, no words can capture the praise swelling up in my soul for this grace of healing wholeness. But I pray through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Holy Spirit that my life may be a fragrant offering to You—an acceptable act of praise and adoration. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Whining Through the Detours of Life”

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Detours of Life

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

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

One big detour, indeed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straightProverbs 3:5–6 (NIV84)

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

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

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

Pastor Mike

“Hope for Today–And Beyond”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Coach Mike

“Dangerous Grace”

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Grace is dangerous and risky. It could lead to misuse and license: “Let us sin that grace may abound!” The Apostle Paul new of this danger and wrote extensively on it in several of his letters (e.g. see Romans 6:1-7:25 and Galatians 5:1-15), and we do not have space here to present a major treatise on this amazing subject of Grace (and there are many scholarly works available to peruse). But what I do want to present is the Hope of this dangerous Grace….

The hope? When we do fall, this dangerous Grace is all-sufficient for us to get back up and keep on walking in the Spirit in the steps of my Savior. We do not take this dangerous Grace lightly. We are fully aware of the price paid of the lavished Love flowing from such all-sufficient Grace. Yes, I could take it for granted, and continue wallowing in the muck and mire of my flesh—my sin, but the Love Lord Jesus has lavished on me somehow propels me to step out of the miry clay and have my feet firmly placed on the Rock that is higher than I. His dangerous Grace is faithful to forgive me when I confess my sin and cleanse me from all that muck & mire…. It is all-sufficient.

Charles Spurgeon, the 19th Century Prince of Preachers, shares a very personal moment regarding v. 9 of our main text:

The other evening I was riding home after a heavy day’s work. I felt very wearied and sore depressed, when swiftly and suddenly as a lightning flash, the text came to me, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” I reached home and looked it up in the original, and at last it came to me in this way. “MY grace is sufficient for thee”; and I said, “I should think it is, Lord,” and burst out laughing. … It was as though some little fish, being very thirsty, was troubled about drinking  the river dry…. Or, it seemed after the seven years of plenty, a mouse feared it might die of famine, and Joseph might say, “Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee.” Again, I imagined a man away up yonder, in the lofty mountain, saying to himself, “I breathe so many cubic feet of air every year, I fear I shall exhaust the oxygen in the atmosphere,” but the earth might say, “Breathe away, O man, and fill the lungs ever, my atmosphere is sufficient for  thee.” Oh brethren, be great believers! Little faith will bring your souls to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your souls. [Source: Streams in the Desert, February 26]

So I rest in the hope of this dangerous, all-sufficient Grace. The hope that gets me back up when I fall; the hope that a confessed sin is not only forgiven, but replaced with heaven’s righteousness; the  hope that my feeble steps behind my gracious Master are strengthened by His dangerous Grace. Does this hope spur you to get back up and drink in His never-ending all-sufficient Grace? Your thoughts?

Main Text— 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (NIV) 7 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 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

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;2 Corinthians 9:8 (NASB95)

  Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.—1 Timothy 1:13–14 (NIV84)

  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say, “No,” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.— Titus 2:11–14 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I am humbled by this amazing, dangerous Grace. I know I am not worthy to receive this, but Your Love for me has made me valuable. You Loved me even when I was Your enemy. Lord Jesus, I praise You for Your sacrifice of Love and Grace. No words can truly capture my heart’s gratitude. Baruch Ha Shem Y’shua! Amen.

Pastor Mike