How Powerless is a Prayerless Life?

Standard

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

Advertisements

The Paradox of Holy Contentment

Standard

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

“A Baby Doesn’t Stay Down”

Standard

 

Baby's First Steps

I was there for each of my daughters’ first steps, but I do not remember much after this. However, I am far more present and observant with my grandkids: As they take that first step; struggle to stay on their feet; it’s simply fascinating. Then I observed other young tikes learning to walk: each struggles to keep his/her balance! And when they fall, they don’t stay down. They get right back up….

Whether we are young in the Lord or a seasoned believer, I have found it equally fascinating that many do not struggle to keep their balance, and many do not get right back up on their feet. Instead, they remain on the ground whining—like a little baby…. I quite easily see the “baby” analogy, but clearly, I’ve observed something quite different with “Babes” in Christ. These, on the other hand, struggle to keep their balance, as they walk behind the Master, closely following Him. Oh, and when they fall, they get right back up. …

I had to look in the mirror and ask myself, “Am I a “babe” or a “baby” in Christ? Ouch!

Part of my struggle in not quickly getting up is a poor view of His Love and Grace. “I have failed Him, greatly disappointing Him, how could He accept me back?” But as I watch parents with their children, none—I repeat, none!—ever chastise or yell or cajole or even tease their little one as s/he begins their walking journey. How much more does the Grace and Love of our Heavenly Father supersede this? So then, why do I whine and complain and beat myself up when I fall? Because I, and I alone, am greatly disappointed in my self. My expectations are far greater than my Lord’s and my self-apportioned love and grace, are far less than His Love and Grace….

So what do I do? One thing I am working on is simply getting back up when I fall. Dust myself of with a little soul confession of the particular sin; keep on putting one foot in front of the other—baby steps, if need be…; and continue to walk in Love and Grace of the Freedom my Shepherd has afforded me. What do you do? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Romans 8:1 (NKJV)— 1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.—1 Peter 2:2–3 (NKJV)

 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.Galatians 5:16–18 (NIV)

  Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 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 3:12–14 (NIV)

Heavenly Father, soften my heart to receive the Love You have for me. Lord Jesus Christ, may I rest in the sufficiency of the Cross, where You confessed, “It is Finished!”In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Are You Full of ‘It’?”

Standard

Let the Word of Christ Dwell.jpg

As I was growing up, one of the common insults I would get is, “You’re full of it.” Not sure what “it” was, but when I would say something rather outlandish, back shot the retort: “You’re full of it, Rossmann.” (Even to this day I’m not quite sure what they meant, except that they didn’t believe what I was saying was true or accurate—humph!)

But as I read this morning’s main text, I would gladly receive the tart retort, “You’re full of it” as a badge of honor and not shame. Here, “it” is the Word of Christ. I would like to be so full of “It” that my teaching, coaching and correcting were indeed full of “all wisdom”! …

And since the Lord Jesus Christ has become my Wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30, as I yield to His presence, this wisdom can be overflowing….

How do I get “full of it”? I know one way is not laying my head on the Bible—though some may think this is possible. I have learned that when it comes to the Word, there are two major ways to get “it”: I see it or I hear it. I see it in printed form or modeled in another’s behavior; and I hear it read to me. Personally, I set aside some time in the morning to read the Word beyond my sermon prep. This has been a challenge over the years, but during my convalescence, I have made this a high priority. Sometimes, my reading often overlaps with my sermon prep, but this I expect, since I am preparing a messenger as much as a message. Another way, I “get full of it” is listening to other sermons in podcasts, and, yes, the old fashion way, on CD’s. (I even still have a CD/Cassette player in my car!)

What do you do “to get full of it”? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Colossians 3:16–17 (NIV84) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.1 John 2:14 (NASB95)

If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.—John 15:7–8 (NIV84)

These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts.  Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.— Deuteronomy  6:6–9 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, fill me with the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ. May my ‘cup’ overflow. Stir in me a hunger for Your Word. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Religious vs. Relationship: A Fuller View?

Standard

If I may, I would like to suggest that most, if not all, believers in Jesus acknowledge we have a relationship and not a religion. We would define religion as a feeble, human attempt through rituals and sacrifices to obtain a relationship with the Almighty; whereas, in a relationship with the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, we have this relationship with the Almighty (YHWH, blessed be His Name) by grace through faith in Jesus, and not by any merit of our own.

Religion-vs-relationship-slide1

But what also seems to follow with many who boast of this relationship is a license not to “do” something religiously because it might smack of religion. Have you found this to be so, too? If we do something religiously, like read the Bible every morning or prayer daily, it might become ritualistic, “so I’d best do it intermittently to avoid such.” Have you heard of this?

As I ponder what the Apostle Paul meant in our main text RE the Athenians in v. 22, “You are very religious,” it became evident to me that this was something of value, something commendable—and a good place to start a conversation. 

But if I have nothing religious in my life, if I have no godly habits that lead to a deeper relationship with Jesus, how can I even relate to those who truly are religious in their religion

True, any godly discipline can become ritualist and an end it itself: vain religion. Indeed, I have found I need to refresh myself in my daily prayer times or my daily Bible readings or weekly fellowships by asking myself, “Why am I doing this? Is this an end it itself or am I drawing closer to Jesus through these endeavors?”

What place do you see religious practices have for sincere followers of the Risen Lord? Do they deepen our relationship with Him? Your thoughts….

Main Text: — Acts 17:22-23 (NIV84)— 22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “Men of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.— Philippians 4:8–9 (NIV84)

[Jesus] went to Nazareth, where He had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day He went into the synagogue, as was His custom. …— Luke 4:16 (NIV84)

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”

Heavenly Father, refresh my soul with a gush of Grace and the Wind of Your Holy Spirit. Enliven my regular religious activities with Your Holy Spirit as the Lord Jesus Christ’s Life is manifested in both the seen and the unseen activities of my daily walk with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“Keep the Word Central”

Standard

As I lay here recovering from a total hip replacement surgery, I have had a lot of time to think. Now, to be completely open, much of the time my thinking hasn’t been too clear or coherent. I’m sure many of you know the effects of pain, pain pills and surgery: Really hard to put a couple of coherent sentences together. I’ve been told that even some of my texts were rather humorous, with one even ending in the middle of a sentence….

Preach the Word

 

But as my mind began to clear up and my thought coalesce a bit more, I  took some time to really ponder some books and passages in the Word. I read and re-read Philippians several times, and it provided me much comfort. Then I felt the Lord’s prompting to read and re-read 2 Timothy. So I moved to that book…

I had been evaluating my role as a preacher, pastor, and teacher—bringing these before the Lord. (More for a revitalization and refreshment than in a mid-life crisis.) The main text noted below, 2 Tim. 4:1-5, continually kept jumping out at me: “Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season…:” V. 2 especially impacted me. This was the passage read and preached from at my first ordination, and ever since the phrase, “in season and out of season,” has perplexed me.

Over the years I have heard many interpret this as “when it’s convenient and when it is not.” “Preachers, pastors and teachers should be ready to  preach, shepherd and teach at a moments notice.” And this is all well and good, but the phrases in the Greek seem to take on a deeper, more profound meaning, especially in the context of v. 3.

Without getting lost or bogged down in the Greek, suffice it to say, the Greek word for “time” in v. 3 (NIV84), is the root of the two words translated “in season” and “out of season” of v. 2. And a possible translation of these words in v. 2 could easily be “in the good times and in the not so good times.” When I saw this, the context and the meaning cut me deeply: “Preach the Word in the good times when people are eager to hear and in the ‘not-so’ good times when people are chasing after teachers to tickle their ears.” (This adds the forewarning of v. 3.)

Are you getting what I’m getting? I’m getting: Keep the Word central in my teaching and preaching and pastoring. And the Greek word for “Word”? It’s Logos: the very same word used of Jesus in John 1:1-14! So I not only preach the Bible—the Living Word of God, I preach Jesus: the Incarnate Word of God!

My thoughts become very, very clear: Whether we are in a good season where people are desiring to hear the sincere milk of the Word or in a “not-so-good” season where people are looking only to have their ears tickled, I must keep the Word center: Both the Written and Incarnate Word!

For all who Love the Lord Jesus Christ, do you think that this charge is for you as well, beyond ordinations and positions and gifts? Do you, too, have a burning desire to feast on the Written Word and to fellowship with the Incarnate Word? What better time of year do we have to be able to focus on the Incarnate Word: Keeping Jesus central—In Christmas and in our lives? Share your thoughts?

Main Text: — 2 Timothy 4:1-5 (NIV84)— 1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.— 1 Peter 2:1–3 (NIV84)

From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. “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 believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.” — Jn 6:66–69 (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. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.—Matthew 11:28–30 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, burn in me a Holy Spirit fire desiring fellowship with You and Your Word and Your People. As you fill me with the Holy Spirit of power, Love and a sound mind, may I pour out this Grace and Love and power onto all I meet this Holy Season. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The Need to Not Stop Praying”

Standard

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