Miracle of Miracles

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July 25 was the one year anniversary of my wife’s severe stroke. We have not made this too public for various reasons, but I thought I would do a blog on this in honor of my wife’s miracle. Actually, miracle of miracles. As you can see in the before and after photos, there is literally no difference. The Lord completely removed any disfiguration, deficits or deficiencies.

Allow me to enumerate the other miracles that took place on that day. Please forgive me for numbering these or even labeling them as miracles as if some how I can quantify them or even grasp all of them let alone understand them. Again, I merely “stand in awe,” but here goes….

Reporting on this one year anniversary, allow me to say that in the Lord’s mercy, I was the recipient of a series of miracles. Even a year later, I am still in awe of them. The “largest” one is that I still have my wife (of 40 years). This in in light of how severe the stroke was. It measured 20 on a 24 scale. This means either death or permanent damage with noticeable markers.

But today (as you can see from the “After” picture), she has been given a clean bill of health. To repeat, there are no markers or deficiencies at all. In fact, one doctor reluctantly said, “This is a miracle.”

Now to enumerate these miracles:

  1. The first miracle is that I was sent home to get some clothes for her stay in the hospital. As I was home gather her things, I get a call: “Your wife has just had a neurological episode. You need to come quickly,” the nurse clinically, but compassionately reported. “I will be there in 10.” (I actually got there in 8!) But when I got there, she was already “recovering” from the stroke. I bless the Lord that I did not see her in the stroke state. I’m told her entire right side went slough—deformed and shriveled…. I bless the Lord I do not have to have this image floating in my head. Miracle #1.
  2. Miracle #2: By the Time they had brought her back from the CT scan (about 20-30 mins. later), she was alert, and though she couldn’t talk, she was able to follow us with her eyes. I’m told she went to a 4 on this 24 scale around this time.
  3. Miracle #3: They couldn’t get in touch with any neuro-doctors—even the ones on call. This is a miracle because they would have attempted a high-risk invasive procedure. And I believe the Lord spared us this risk, since the blood clot was high in her left carotid arteries. (Include in this miracle is that they couldn’t get Skype to work with an off-site neurosurgeon.)
  4. Miracle #4: They still wanted to send us to Denver for more specialized care. The plane was there, fueled and ready to go. Because of the weather, they disregarded any helicopter transportation.
  5. Miracle #5: All the family and friend that were in her room praying for her were each using their own individual giftedness. It was beautiful to see the unity of the Body of Christ and the individual uniqueness of her members.
  6. Miracle #6Someone happened to have a rather large cash gift they slipped in my hands as we were leaving to go to the airplane. Bless Jesus. It helped cover much.
  7. Miracle #7: Kathy is approaching 2 on the 24 scale as she is loaded onto the plane.
  8. Miracle #8: The flight was supposed to go around a thunderstorm, and take about 1 hour to 1 hour & 15 minutes depending on the storm. But as we approached Denver, I witnessed the clouds part, and we were able to make a straight line to Denver. Oh, and in 45 minutes! (Included in this miracle is we even beat the local ambulance to the airport.)
  9. Miracle #9: I am told that the neuro-Team at Swedish Medical Center is one of the best, if not thebest, in the nation. They were ready for us as we arrived. Kathy was able to talk a little bit, but still could not say complete sentences…, and some funny time telling, too….
  10. Miracle #10: The next morning when the Doctors were making their rounds, Kathy was up with the O.T. Nurse walking over objects on the floor and then actively engaging in the discussion regarding her episode and recovery.
  11. Miracle #11: Our Oldest daughter and her husband started a prayer chain throughout their contacts. Our Middle Daughter and her husband saw us off from Grand Junciton, CO with prayer, hugs and Love—and the local prayer chain. And our Youngest Daughter was able to get off work, find a flight and fly in to Denver straightaway. (Included in this miracle is our youngest’s boss, let her go in the midst of a major project; she was able to stay with us for quite some time to assist in the recovery when we returned home.)
  12. Miracle #12: We were able to stay with our middle daughter’s in-laws while in Denver. We left with the close on our backs, and the Lord even provided a brand new toothbrush, besides the clothes I was able to borrow.
  13. Miracle #13: The insurance covered everything!
  14. Miracle #14: The prayers and support of all in Denver and those at home, family, and friends welcoming us with joyful hugs of praise.

I am sure there are many more miracles, many of which I am still not aware, but there are those private, quiet miracles that we cherish deep in our hearts.

Thank you, for allowing me to share this brief episode in my journey with Jesus, and joining us in prayers and praise.

Peace,
Coach Mike
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“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

“Spoiling an Attitude of Gratitude: Crying over Sour Milk”

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Have you ever had those late night munches? You don’t want something huge; just a small bowl of some sweet breakfast cereal will do. You pour a bowlful as you mechanically grab the milk from the refrigerator, and pour just enough to get the right consistency of this precious snack. Raising the first spoonful to your mouth, you gag in utter horror! The milk is super sour!!! Ruining an entire bowl of your midnight delight….

As I was praying this morning and reviewing all the things and people and blessings I am thankful for, the Lord showed me my “sour milk”,  which was spoiling my attitude of gratitude: Resentments; regrets…. Apparently I had a lot more that I realized.

Yes, I want to be thankful. I want to devote myself to prayer in a humble spirit of thankfulness, but my sweet delight of prayer was being spoiled by some super sour “milk”. The confession flowed as the tears poured.

Many resentments were unmet personal expectations. Many regrets were unfulfilled dreams and desires and poor choices. Wow. ….

Lately, I have changed my prayers for mercy to a recognition that the Lord’s mercy is already granted. The same for His grace. Instead of praying, “Lord, be gracious to me,” or “Lord, be merciful to me,” I am praying, “Lord, thank You for Your Grace and Your Mercy. They are fresh and new every morning, indeed, every moment.”

This awareness—coupled with the release of those resentments and regrets—has truly moved my attitude to a more sincere place of gratitude. Perhaps you’ve had a similar journey? Let us spur each other on, and perhaps we can check our “milk” before pouring it first, eh?

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.—Philippians 2:14–16a (NIV)

  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.1 Peter 4:9 (NIV84)

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.1 Timothy 1:5 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me for resenting ______, and forgive me for regretting ______. By Your shed blood cleanse me from this sin. Create in me a pure heart that I may be filled with sincere thankfulness. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Being A Good Sheep

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Lord, I truly desire to be a good sheep. I strive to do the things that please You. But You have convicted me this morning. Through Your voice in this morning’s text, You have made me acutely aware You desire me to be a good sheep well before I do good sheep things. I see in verse 3, that You desire me to be a good listener; to listen to Your voice.  In verse 4, I see You desire me to be a good follower; to follow You where You lead. And in v. 5, You desire me to be intimately attentive to Your voice; to know “it” so well I will not even recognize a stranger’s voice. …

But I struggle with putting the doing in front of the being. Pondering these three simple desires of Yours, I am sure You want me to focus on being in Your presence. I am to rest in the safety of the sheep pen as I enter the gate: You are the Gate. (I see this in v. 7.)

It is in You I find green pastures. It is in You I find still waters. It is in You my cup overflows.

Out of this overflowing of being in Your Presence—in You— the doing comes, but this doing is not out of duty or obligation. Not out of fear of disappointing You or fear of “doing it wrong.” Rather it is out of Love for You. When I Love You, I will do the “things” that please You, right? And the more I realize that I Love You because You first Loved me, this Love will drive out any fears of “doing it wrong.” All this because You are transforming me to be a good sheep.

Main Text— John 10:1–5 (NIV84) 1 I tell you the truth, the man who does not enter the sheep pen by the gate, but climbs in by some other way, is a thief and a robber. 2 The man who enters by the gate is the shepherd of his sheep. 3 The watchman opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.1 John 4:18 (NIV84)

  If you love Me, you will obey what I command. …  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.—John 14:15 & 15:12–13 (NIV84)

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.—Hebrews 4:16 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I praise You that You are the Good Shepherd. Empower me to be a good sheep. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Common Union”

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Kneeling at the Cross

In my research and in my personal experience I have noted that one of the most common accusations against the church her divisions. Sadly, some divisions are rather vicious and cruel. The maturity to agree to disagree agreeably is wanting in many settings. And why? Because “we have God’s approval and I am here to let you know….”

Truly, there will be honest disagreements of how we baptize or celebrate the Lord’s Table, or what songs to sing or not sing. How long to preach, if at all, but I’m sure many of you would agree, especially those who know the Lord Jesus, that we do have a common union in the Lord Jesus. We all agree that He died for our sins in fulfillment of the Scriptures, was buried and rose again on the third day, in fulfillment of the Scriptures (see 1 Cor. 15:3, 4).

And in this common belief we have a common union. From there it seems if we follow Philippians 3:15-16, all will be well: “All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things [i.e. have the same mind as our Lord Jesus as explained earlier in chapter 2:5-8]. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained” [NIV]. I understand “already attained” to mean “already agreed upon, what we already have in common.”

To me, this common union is seen very clearly in the Lord’s Table, the Last Supper, the fulfillment of Passover. All have sinned and need this Table. All who Love Lord Jesus know this all too well. And we come to the Table humble and yet grateful, knowing the Grace that has been offered to us in the act this Table: “In remembrance of Me”  (Luke 22:19b)

Maybe that’s why we call this Table, “Communion?” To express the Common Union we have in Jesus? Your thoughts?

Main Text— 1 Corinthians 11:19, 23-26 (NIV) No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval. … For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night He was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Holy Father, protect them by the power of Your name, the name You gave Me, so that they may be one as We are one.— John 17:11b (NIV)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all … will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.—John 13:34–35 (NIV84)

 But the end of all things is at hand; therefore be serious and watchful in your prayers. And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”— 1 Peter 4:7–8 (NKJV)

Heavenly Father, I put the Lord Jesus Christ on as my Belt of Love. May I see all who confess the Name of the Lord Jesus with the same eyes of Grace, Mercy, and Love You see me. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The Next Meeting”

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Date: 04-02-15

The Big Idea: I have found that when forgiveness and reconciliation are genuine, the next time I see that person, “they” are warm and receptive.

My Thoughts: Lifestyle worshiper, have you found that it is the next meeting the seals the deal? You know you’ve had this very emotional moment of reconciliation and forgiveness. It appears that you’ve finally restored a deeply wounded and fractured relationship, but once the emotion passes, do you wonder, “Was this for real?”

I have found that it is in that next meeting the reality is confirmed and the “deal is sealed.” Perhaps this is how Peter felt when he went for another walk with Jesus—this time on the beach and not on the water. …

After I have had an emotional moment of forgiveness and reconciliation, I have found that when it is genuine, the next time I see that person, “they” are warm and receptive. Sadly, there have been those times where apparently it was purely an emotional experience, and they still need some time to work it through. Yes, “they” looked away when I saw them….

But with Peter, Jesus not only did not look away, He initiated the next meeting. And in this next meeting, His Love and forgiveness were abundantly manifested…. Jesus knew Peter wasn’t quite ready to walk in His forgive. When Peter answered Jesus’ questions, he was more than blunt about his love for Jesus. Peter knew that at this time in his life his love  was a deeply devoted and highly committed loyalty, but he was understating what he had overstated at the Last Supper where he said: “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death” (Luke 22:33). This wasn’t quite true—then….

Peter grew into that depth of Love—agape Love. And Jesus gave him the space—and time—to do so—starting with that next meeting.

Have you found freedom of forgiveness in that next meeting? I know I have. Your thoughts?

Main Text: — John 21:15— 15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love (agapas) me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love (philō) you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. — 1 Thessalonians 1:3 (NIV84)

  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.   —Ephesians 3:17b-19 (NIV84)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.   — Romans 8:37-39 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, I receive the forgiveness You offer me in Your Son, my Lord Jesus Christ. As I grow in my understanding of Your Love for me, make me a channel of this forgiveness to others. In Your Son’s Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike