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

Continue On

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Too often we may foreclose on the “Parable of the Sower.” “Oh, I know this already.” Or “I’ve heard this before.” But perhaps a “second” look with child-like wonderment will yield fresh insights for us. Sadly, though, still another foreclosure is our determination as to which soil our soul is. We often assume we are one or the other…you know, that Ol’ “Either/Or” mindset. But, if we look more closely with a Both/And understanding, we will discover that we can be the rocky soil in one instant and at that same instant good soil. (Yes, and this soil is being amended by the Spirit daily.)

 Sadly, once I foreclose on the soil test, I seem to stop. I stop growing. Stop weeding. Stop searching. Stop maturing. Stop. And the numbness of stopping creeps into my soul. But if I stop and rethink the soil test; if I stop and re-listen to the Lord’s words; if I stop merely as a rest stop prior to continuing on, then maybe, just maybe I will see more clearly the produce—the victory—the good soil has for me.

Let the spurs of Charles Spurgeon dig deep into your flanks—and continue on:

“Whatever foes may be before the Christian, they are all overcome. There are lions, but their teeth are broken; there are serpents, but their fangs are extracted; there are rivers, but they are bridged or fordable; there are flames, but we wear that matchless garment which renders us invulnerable to fire. The sword that has been forged against us is already blunted; the instruments of war which the enemy is preparing have already lost their point. God has taken away in the person of Christ all the power that anything can have to hurt us. Well then, the army may safely march on, and you may go joyously along your journey, for all your enemies are conquered beforehand. What shall you do but march on to take the prey? They are beaten, they are vanquished; all you have to do is to divide the spoil. You shall, it is true, often engage in combat; but your fight shall be with a vanquished foe. His head is broken; he may attempt to injure you, but his strength shall not be sufficient for his malicious design. Your victory shall be easy, and your treasure shall be beyond all count.” [Source:  Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.]

Main Text— Matthew 13:19–23 (NIV84) 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.Matthew 7:7–11 (NLT)

  For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.—2 Corinthians 4:17–18 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I fix my eyes on You. Continue to remove the rocks, thorns and thistles from the soil of my soul as I continue to seek Your Face. 

Pastor Mike

Soul Rest vs. Physical Rest

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For the sake of discussion and to develop a healthy Both/And understanding, I’d like to discuss which is more needful: Soul rest or Physical rest. It appears that Jesus offers both to us in the main text (below). Both words for “rest” in vv. 28 & 29 are the same Greek word, but the second adds: “for your souls.” One would understand that the first is physical rest. Jesus offers us physical rest. We no longer need to strive to earn His favor. By Grace through faith we already have it. So physical rest is promised.

But how important is it to have “soul rest” as well? Wouldn’t you agree that if there is turmoil in our soul, there are also physical consequences? Maybe grinding teeth, or a stiff neck or tightness in the shoulders. So no matter how much physical rest we may try to get, soul rest seems to be connected.

But do you suppose that if I am not getting physical rest, it also follows that I am not taking the time to get soul rest either? What a conundrum.

And on top of this, I know how to get physical rest rather easily: Stop. Stop doing what I do physical. Take a break. Sit down. Smell the roses….

How do you suppose I get soul rest to anchor my physical rest? How do I stop and focus my soul on Jesus, the Rest Giver? What suggestions do you have?

Main Text— Matthew 11:28–30 (NIV84) 31 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Peace I leave with you; My peace I give youI do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.John 14:27 (NIV84)

  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.—Hebrews 4:11 (NIV84)

  This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.”— (Jeremiah 6:16 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be both my soul rest as I seek Your Face. 

Pastor Mike

A Badge too Heavy To Bear

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Yes, for years I put in a lot of hours working. And I got a lot done. A lot! I marked my progress by what was accomplished and by my productivity. “For every one hour I put in it’s worth 3 – 4 hours of the average person,”  I would boast. Oh, then I’d tag it by noting how many hours I had put it….

This self-issued “Badge of Honor” became a badge too heavy to bear. I was rarely—if ever—home, I was constantly pumping adrenaline (since I don’t do caffeine), and I would have a constant string of maladies. Oh, I would even note that the Lord was trying to slow me down, but “I have a lot to accomplish for the kingdom.”

When I did slow down (some), I felt guilty and lazy. I’m not doing enough for the Lord—as if my production and productivity were His measures of my value.

It wasn’t until this most recent hip surgery I truly and seriously began to look at what the Lord was really showing me: I need to take care of myself with an honest-to-goodness Sabbath’s rest. Huh? Really? “But it’s an issue of stewardship,” I would retort, “isn’t it, Lord?” 

Yes, I did preach Sabbath for years; even “practiced” it to some degree. But to actually take some time for my self to physically rest, emotionally discharge and spiritually recharge, well, I still had to move passed this idea of being lazy and stewardship. But in the Lord’s gentle way, He has be ‘nudging’ me to simply do nothing, but focus on His goodness and allow the Holy Spirit to emotionally discharge and spiritually recharge my “system”—along with this literal physical rest. I guess this is what it means when our Master says, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”

So I’ve been practicing leaving tasks undone. And allowing myself the freedom to have an uncompleted check list. Tomorrow has enough to worry about anyway. How about you? How is your Sabbath’s rest coming?

Main Text— Mark 2:24–28 (NIV84) 24 The Pharisees said to [Jesus], “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?” 25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” 27 Then He said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.—Hebrews 4:11 (NIV84)

 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.Matthew 11:28–29 (NIV84)

  Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, [Jesus] said to them, “Come with Me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest. Mark 6:31 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, lead me to that quiet place in and with Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Recharge my soul as I gaze upon the beauty of Your Holiness and Goodness. In Son’ s Holy Name, Amen. 

Coach 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

“Greater Things; Quiet Things”

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Jesus Heals the Man with Leprosy

Is bigger always better? Or is greater always louder? Even noticed? Would you agree, if I were to suggest, that greater may be quiet, even subtle? The great oak starts out as a small sapling. It quietly grows in the forest. Yet it becomes a “mighty oak tree.” So, too, is it with the greater things of Jesus.

In our main text below, we see Nathanael amazed at Jesus’ simple ability to know Him from a distance, and our Master responds with a hint of playfulness—paraphrasing, “You ain’t seen nothing yet!” …

… Then follows our Lord’s first miracle. It came in the normal flow of life. It came in respectful response to a concerned mother’s wishes. And it came quietly. Oh, the servants knew of the miracle. The disciples knew of the miracle. And, yes, His mother knew, but He did not flash an LED sign nor did He trumpet what He just did. He merely and quietly moved on to another city (see John 2:12).

Our Master did this a lot. The “greater things” He promised Nathanael often came quietly and unheralded. Or at least He tried to. But why?

May I offer one explanation? The “greater things” were never intended to draw attention to themselves, and definitely not intended to draw attention to our Master as a “Miracle Worker.” Yes, He did miracles, healing all sorts of maladies, and though those He raised to life died—again, and those who were sick got some other illness, the “greater thing” He did was in the most unassuming and quiet way: To quote from “El Shaddai” by Michael Card, “Your most awesome work was done by the frailty of Your Son.” And this “greater thing” lasts. Those who are raised from the death of sin and darkness, never die again. Those whose souls are healed from the sickness of sin’s cancer never get sick again.

And this quiet work often goes unnoticed like a quiet gentle breeze….

What do you think about the quietness of the “greater things” Jesus does? Your thoughts.

Main Text— John 1:48–51 (NIV84) 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.John 3:8 (NIV84)

Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man [with leprosy], “I am willing,” He said. Be clean!” Immediately he was cured of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”—Matthew 8:3–4 (NIV84)

After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, “Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself.— John 6:14–15 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, as You continue to reveal Your glory to me, may I cherish the quiet miracles of the soul. 

Pastor Mike

“Slipping Away”

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The other day I was introduced to a friend’s girlfriend. He said her name. I repeated her name as I shook her had. And repeated it again. A good habit I’ve used to remember many a person’s name, but this time it slipped out of my mind almost immediately as I turned to talk to someone else. At first I attempted to blame it on getting older, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that I was preoccupied with other thoughts—even though I used my faithful, good habit for remember names….

Have you found this to be the case when reading the Word of God? Sadly, I must admit that sometimes this is so for me. As v. 24 of our main text observes, I look at the Book, but my mind is preoccupied with other concerns, issues, and, dare I say, worries. Oh, I’m reading the words—even saying them out loud sometimes, but alas, they soon slip away….

One thing I have done for years, but have gotten away from as a habit, was journaling the text I was reading. Over time it became another opportunity for ‘sermon seeds’. (Now, on one hand, this is not ‘bad,’ but this would often lead to “how I could present it to others” and not “how can I apply this to my own life.”

I have returned to journaling and pondering and engaging the text, praying to Lord Jesus to apply in my life through His Holy Spirit this particular aspect of Truth which leads to freedom (v. 25). Some times the bites are manageable; while other times they are sizable, requiring more time to process. …

What are some ‘habits’ you use so that the Word doesn’t just slip away after reading it? Your thoughts?

Main Text— James 1:22–25 (NIV84)— 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

To the Jews who had believed Him, Jesus said, “If you hold to My teaching, you are really My disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.John 8:31–32 (NIV84)

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”—John 14:6 (NIV84)

 Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.— John 17:17 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Belt of Truth. May I be a Truth-bearer and not a tale-teller. Sanctify me by Your Word. Your Word is Truth. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike