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

How Powerless is a Prayerless Life?

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This morning’s focus in a devotion I regularly use sparked this thought in me: How powerless is a prayerless life? Then I started asking myself some other questions, like: “How long can I hold my breath?” (It’s been said that breathing to the physical life is like prayer to the spiritual life.) Or “How powerful is an unplugged power tool?” (Ah, but what if I have a cordless one? Then, “How long will the battery last without being recharged???”)

The short answer? “Not long,” to all three questions. And, “Not powerful at all.”

So then why do I think I can go for a while—any while—without praying? What in me thinks—ah, but perhaps this is the issue: I am not thinking. I am on automatic. I am coasting. Now, to be sure, there are some relationships that can coast for a bit, but at some point in the relationship a conversation has to start up; some interaction must take place. Otherwise the relationship (both human and divine) will ultimately shrivel up and ….

In this morning’s main text (below), Shepherd David (probably written before he became king), notes that, “The upright will see [the Holy One] face-to-face.” This may be in the ultimate physical sense, but can it also be in a moment by moment daily sense as well? And can this happen through prayer?

….and through this interaction of prayer—through this conversation with the Holy One, my strength is replenished; my battery recharged? I think so. And in this intimate exchange, I begin to see His face more clearly than I have before. The power of the Holy One’s presence in prayer definitely replenishes any draining or discharging I may have experienced prior to this prayerful exchange…don’t you think?

Care to share your thoughts on how powerless a prayerless life can be?

Main Text— Psalm 11:7 (ISV) 7 Indeed, the LORD is righteous; He loves righteousness; the upright will see Him face-to-face.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Now we see only a blurred reflection in a mirror, but then we will see face to face. Now what I know is incomplete, but then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.1 Corinthians 13:12 (ISV)

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.Luke 6:12 (NIV2011)

Why are you sleeping?” [Jesus] asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”(Luke 22:46 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Breath of Prayer. Forgive me for those times I have held my breath way too long. In Your Grace & Mercy recharge my soul. In Your 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

“Did You Respond?”

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Your mom (or spouse) comes into the room and says, “Do you want to go to the Mall with me?” You grunt a response and continue focused on your activity. An hour or two later, they come home with the results of their journey displayed on the kitchen table, and you say, “Hey, why didn’t you ask me to go with you?” “I did, but you didn’t respond.” Ouch….

You can imagine the discussion from there, but my question to myself, and perhaps to you, is, “Do I respond to the Lord when He asks me to go with Him, or do I just grunt and remained distracted on my activity?

This can be taken in two ways: (1) initially when we first met and (2) along my journey with Jesus. Initially, I’m most certain I responded, but whether or not it was His first request, I cannot say, but long ago I decided to follow Him as Lord. However, when it comes to my journey with Jesus, I’m sure I’ve grunted a time or two—or three….

So can you imagine how the disciples responded when Jesus said, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages….” They appeared to go without hesitation, as least this time. But there were other times they would hesitant on their journey with the Master, especially when He was headed to the cross.

Do you and I need to be less distracted in order to respond more promptly? To respond at all? I know I do. Although doing less may be one solution, I believe the best solution is to make it a habit to check in with the Lord before I start any task or project, let alone being quiet to hear Him for new directions. Would you agree? Your thoughts….

Main Text— Mark 1:35–39 (NIV84)— Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for Him, and when they found Him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So He traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Then a teacher of the law came to Him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.” Another disciple said to Him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” But Jesus told him, “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”(Matthew 8:19–22 NIV84)

 Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.” Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”—Isaiah 6:6–8 (NIV84)

 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.— Psalm 27:14 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, all that You do pleases the Father; please the Father in me that I may hear Your promptings and respond promptly to them.  Empower me by Your Holy Spirit to faithfully follow You wherever You lead. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Urgent Need to Pray for Our Nation”

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Do you sense the urgency to pray? I do. No matter what your position is in the political arena, there is a Kingdom above this one and He is ruling. It is He Whose Face we need to seek; and His will we’d best please. Even as our constitution—and this nation—was being establish, Ben Franklin enjoined the assembly: 

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest. I therefore beg leave to move-that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service. (Source: http://candst.tripod.com/franklin.htm)

He sensed the urgency then; do you today?

If you do, then join me on this National Day of Prayer to pray for our nation, her leaders, her people and her purpose. Pray the Lord of Heaven and earth for mercy and grace. Humbly seek His Face, and in seeking His face let us turn from our ways that are displeasing to Him. 

Do you sense the urgency? Then…

…Let us be those of whom it is said, “Here are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother, and pray.

Main Text— Matthew 12:47–50 (NIV84)— 47 Someone told Him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48 He replied to him,Who is My mother, and who are my brothers?49 Pointing to His disciples, He said, Here are My mother and My brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.(Ephesians 6:18 (NIV84)

  I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.—1 Timothy 2:1–2 (NIV84)

 And we are confident that [the Lord] hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for.— 1 John 5:14–158 (NLT)

Heavenly Father, You are high in Heaven; we are on earth. You are Holy. We are not. You are Righteous. We have strayed from Your Paths. Forgive me for not faithful seeking Your Face in my daily tasks. Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil. I fix my eyes on Jesus, the King of kings and the Lord of lord. Oh, Lord, hear. Oh, Lord act. In Your Mercies and Grace and  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Houses of Prayer”

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After reading in My Utmost for His Highest devotion this morning, Chambers sparked some questions in my soul:

When Jesus cleaned out the Temple and declared it to be a “House of Prayer,” was He not also declaring that we, as the Temple of the Holy Spirit, are to be a House of Prayer? And in cleaning out this Temple, did not our Master also suggest, by inference, that we, too, need cleaning? And, do we not understand that the we are to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and petitions (see Eph. 6:18)? Indeed, don’t we know that we can rely on the Spirit to intercede for us with grunts and groanings that cannot be utter, but dare we limit our prayer to the unutterable? And dare I suggest that all believers are to be “Houses of Prayer” since we are the temple of the Holy Spirit? And if I suggest this, does this not also mean that many are in desperate need of being cleaned up and out—including, yours truly?!? The answers seem to be a resounding, “Yes!” don’t they?

House of Prayer

So how do we go about cleaning up the Temple of the Holy Spirit? Do we scurry about as Martha did complaining to the Lord that Mary isn’t do her part of the housework? Or do we not become distracted by others and merely clean out the portion of the House for which we are responsible?

I find it fascinating that some of the cleaning in my House of Prayer actually is this very issue of being distracted by others who are not doing their cleaning. But at the same time I’d best not let my house cleaning be spoken ill of either, don’t you agree? What are your thoughts?

Main Text: — 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NKJV)— 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And [Jesus] said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”— Mt 21:13 (NKJV)

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

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.— Psalm 66:18 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and through His power, I confess I have been negligent in prayer. My “House of Prayer” has been so cluttered with too many “distractions.” I ask You, Lord Jesus Christ, to bear the consequences of my actions. Remove the pain and shame I have caused Your name and be that part of my Life that has been disobedient to You. Create a clean hear within me so that I may walk in the Light as You are in the Light, becoming a clean House of Prayer for Your glory. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The Need to Not Stop Praying”

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How long has it been? You’ve been praying for that special loved one: five, ten, 15 years? Or maybe you’ve been praying for  your finances—it’s been months and still no turn around? Whatever you’ve been praying for—be it intensely personal or deeply spiritual, to me, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 coaches me: “Don’t give up on Prayer”

Don't Stop Praying

I hear Coach Paul, the Apostle, encouraging the church at Thessalonica: Do not stop praying, but instead “Pray without ceasing!”

I know even I myself have taken this verse to mean, “constantly live in a state of prayer.” As a matter of fact, I was just talking to someone a few days ago about this, but the more I thought about this verse (and this is not to say, being in a constant state of prayer is bad) the more I wondered: is it possible that this verse truly means: Don’t give up on prayer?

I’ve been there and maybe you’ve been there, too, that place where we feel our prayers are hitting a bronze sky and all we hear is the echo of our heart’s cry…

Coach Paul knows this. Remember, when he deeply desired to get rid of this nasty thorn in the flesh (see 2 Cor. 12:7-10), and he prayed three times for it to be so. Now, I’m sure these three times were not back to back, like minutes apart. No, but it could have been weeks or months: “Ah, Lord, I know You hear me. You usually answer my prayers pretty quickly, but, ah, what’s going on…?” Then after the third deeply intense prayer time, the release and the Word came: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9 NIV84)

Brothers and sisters, I know I need to hear this Word today: “Pray without ceasing:” Do you? Do you and I need to hear: Don’t give up on the Lord and praying to Him? Pray unceasingly–with unflagging resolve! Don’t stop praying. Pray when the need is great and pray when the praise is great! Pray! Pray! Pray!

Or as the acronym suggests: P.U.S.H.—Pray Until Something Happens. If we stop praying, will it happen anyway? I find this a very good question indeed. What do you think? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (NKJV)—pray without ceasing.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.— Luke 6:12 (NIV84)

Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith.— 1 Thessalonians 3:10 (NIV84)

 But [Hannah’s] rival wife taunted her cruelly, rubbing it in and never letting her forget that God had not given her children. This went on year after year. Every time she went to the sanctuary of God she could expect to be taunted. Hannah was reduced to tears and had no appetite.— 1 Samuel 1:6–7 (The Message)

Heavenly Father, in Your Mercy and Grace forgive me for giving up on prayer. Deep down I know You hear me, but I have grown weary of praying. Rekindle a passion for You as I quietly sit here in Your presence. I wait for Your Word of Grace and the Release of Hope…. In Jesus Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike