Provision in the Wilderness

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Ironically, as I was preparing for this week’s message, I caught myself complaining about how long I’ve been in the wilderness. This was in light of the main text below. “Lord, if I’m to make my days count, how can I do so in the wilderness? Besides, how long can this wilderness be…?” And just as I said this, a light, “40 years!?” floated through my mind…. Ah, I’ll be grateful for the brief time I’m having in this wilderness…

But what hammered home the point was v. 7, the Psalmist, David says, “My hope is in You.” As David counted the fleeting moments whisking by, as he  noted the brevity of life, his hope in this desert—this wilderness—is the LORD. As I paused on this thought, the heaviness of the reality settled on me: The LORD provided for the Israelites in their wilderness for 40 years, and for Moses in his wilderness for 40 years, and even HIS Son, the Lord Jesus, for 40 days; will He not also provide for me in my brief wilderness—for however long it is?

Then I was reminded of those dear little ones praying before they go to bed: “Thank You, Lord Jesus, for my Mommy & Daddy. For Grandma & Grandpa. For Nana & Papa; for my dolls & my toys; for my bed; & my clothes, and ….” The innocent childlike wonderment of their awareness of the Lord’s provision was truly humbling. So I began to pray as they reminded me: “Thank You, LORD, for all these provisions. Thank You for my house and my car; for the hot water and the refrigerated air; Thank You for my wife and daughters and sons-in-law and grandchildren….”

The Lord is truly my Hope in the wilderness and He is clearly blessing me with many provisions in whatever I may consider is my wilderness. How about you? Do you see His provisions in your wilderness?

Main Text— Psalm 39:4–7 (NIV84)  Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.  5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Selah 6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. 7 But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in You.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:26–27 (NIV84)

nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.2 Chron. 20:12b (NASB95)

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  [Ephesians 3:16–21 NIV84]

Pastor Mike

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How Heavy is Your Burden?

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Whether it is a heavy purse, briefcase, backpack or grocery bag, we’ve all carried around something a wee bit too heavy for us. Oh, we seem to manage, but afterwards are shoulders and just below our neck are killing us. But we made it. We gently drop the purse, briefcase, backpack, or grocery bag where it belongs. Whew! Glad that’s done!

Ah, but a lot of times in life, we never put down, let alone drop, that heavy “purse,” “briefcase,” “backpack,” or “grocery bag.” Instead, we carry it for days, months—dare I say it, years? The burden? The heaviness that stoops our shoulder or aches our neck? Unforgiveness….

Yes, unforgiveness. Now, I am looking at this from two perspectives: (1) me not forgiving someone; AND (2) me not receiving forgiveness….

The first is often more readily identifiable. There is no floating anger; it is laser focused. I know the one I haven’t forgiven. Sadly, the thought may shoot through my mind, “I’ll never forgive…,” only to be stopped by the grace of the cross. But still, unlike Jesus, I am still carrying this cross—instead of laying down on it, and joining Him in saying, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV84).

Ah, the second perspective is rather more challenging, often floating in our being: I have refused to receive the forgiveness that is mine from Jesus. So what do I do? I continue to carry that heavy briefcase (or purse or backpack, etc.) And my whole body—physically, spiritually and emotionally is “groaning all day long” (Ps.32:3 see main text below).

What do I need to do? Fortunately, I kept reading: “Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’” (v. 5). And what did the LORD do? The rest of verse 5: “You forgave the guilt of my sin!” My burden was removed from my briefcase. The freedom of release was overwhelming. Joy flooded my soul….

How Heavy is your burden? Probably no heavier than mine. And, guess, what? The LORD can forgive you, too. Yep, just acknowledge your burden and receive His forgiveness. Sounds too simple; too easy, huh? Which is easier? Carrying that heavy purse, briefcase, backpack or grocery bag or letting it drop?

Main Text— Psalm 32:3–5 (NIV84) 3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”— and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

So I’m telling you that her sins, as many as they are, have been forgiven, and that’s why she has shown such great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven loves little.Luke 7:47 (ISV)

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)

Lord Jesus Christ, I confess my burden to You. Lift this burden of unforgiveness. I receive the release of my burden and the Joy of Your Salvation in my life. Empower me to let others know how much You Love them, too. Amen.

Pastor Mike

A Great Sleep Remedy

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

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

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

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

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

And soon I   drift    asleep ….

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

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

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

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

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

Pastor Mike

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

Is The Cross For All Believers?

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Is the cross for all believers or just a select few? Just for the “Seal Team Six” Christians?

I have pondered this question for some time, now, especially at this time of year. As the Resurrection Celebration approaches, I think of St. Paul’s comments in our main text below. I have heard it preached parsed out. …

For example, some have focused on the “I want to know Christ” part. This is good. We need to know Jesus, growing in our relationship with Him in intimacy and knowledge. But this is where the “preaching” stops.

Others have focused on “the Power of His Resurrection,” part. This, too, is good—very good. In Christ, we have this resurrection, overcoming, victorious power that conquers sin and death…. But this is where the “preaching” stops.

Now, if you will indulge me and allow me to share a few of my “ponderings”.

One thought I’ve had is this: V. 11 seems to explain this latter part of v. 10: “sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death” (v. 11). As I pondered this, I realized that inherent in the “resurrection” is the presupposition of death. (Death must precede resurrection, right?) This death appears to be a death to “self”. This death also may be painful at times, but it will most definitely be a struggle most of the time—because it will involve suffering of all sorts resulting in “becoming like Him in His death.”

But I ask again, is this “cross of death,” which precedes the resurrection, for all  believers or a select few?

Well, if “I want to know Christ,” is for all believers, and if “the Power of His Resurrection,” is for all believers, don’t you think it naturally follows that what precedes the resurrection—the suffering & death—is for all believers? What are your thoughts?

As we celebration the Joys, the Victories, the Overcoming Power that is found in Resurrection Sunday (aka Easter), join me in pondering “the Good” of Good Friday that precedes the explosion on Sunday: The Resurrection! And, again, please feel free to share your thoughts on this.

Main Text— Philippians 3:10-11 (NIV84)— 10 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, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Then [Jesus] said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will save itLuke 9:23–24) (NIV84)

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)

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.—2 Timothy 3:12–13 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the Cross and its transforming work in my life. “May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Galatians 6:14).

Pastor Mike

What Good Can Come from her?

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What good can come from her? She was a prostitute; a lady of the night. She is still remembered as a prostitute…. So what can her life possibly teach me?

As I have ponder the life of Rahab, I have marveled at her tenacity and courage to choose right even in the midst of a cruel, corrupt culture. She grew up in a very corrupt culture in which good was evil and evil was good; where kings ruled with autocratic control, and true wickedness abounded. (To see how wicked check out Leviticus 18:2-30 and Deuteronomy 12:29-31.)

Rahab still chose right. (Now when I say, “right,” I am not referring to anything political, but rather of principle. You know,” right,” “wrong,”… To me, these still objectively exist.)

We would suppose that the “right” Rahab chose was to hide the spies, and, to some extent this is so, but notice the first phrase in the main verse: “By faith.” Her right choice came before she hid the spies. She first chose the Holy One (YHWH, bless the Name) , and out of this right choice she hid the spies….

I am very encouraged by my sister, Rahab: Though still “labeled” as a prostitute in the New Covenant, she chose to change her way of life by placing her faith in the only One who could truly change her way of Life. Brothers and Sisters, let us be infused with the courage of hope that our sister, a true woman of character, demonstrated even while living in the midst of a dark, cruel culture. While there is still breath, “There’s still time to change the road you’re on.”

Are you encouraged? Care to share your thoughts?

Main Text— Hebrews 11:31 (NIV84) 31 By faith the prostitute Rahab, because she welcomed the spies, was not killed with those who were disobedient.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Who, then, are those who fear the LORD? He will instruct them in the ways they should choose.—Psalm 25:12 (NIV)

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,  who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.—Isaiah 5:20 (NIV)

 Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.Psalm 34:14 (NIV)

Lord Jesus Christ, Empower me to be like You—choosing what is right no matter what the consequences may be. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike