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

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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

What Good Can Come from her?

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

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

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

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

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

Are you encouraged? Care to share your thoughts?

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mike

Even When I’m Wrong

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Lord, You have been deeply impressing me on one of my deepest fears: Being wrong. Being a recovering perfectionist, this should not surprise me, but it did what You reveal how deep in my soul this is. Though You have transformed me significantly, I still am hesitant to step too far out of my comfort zone for fear of being wrong….

Then, this week You showed me You can resurrect and transform even when I am wrong. As the Resurrection and the Life, You cannot only take the big things—the evil things—and transform them into something beautiful and good, You can take my little, insignificant wrong decisions, wrong choices, wrong whatever, and transform them into something beautiful. Yes, I understand that sometimes the path to this good and beautiful may be hard and difficult, even leaving a scar or two; You will still make the scars look beautiful. (And You should know, right?)

So I am learning to rest in this truth: Because Your resurrection power can transform any “wrong” decision, etc., I can trust You even if these have led me into the valley of the shadow of death. Your rod and staff will comfort me and I will walk in Your presence—forever!

I do believe this!

Main Text— John 11:25–26 (NIV84) 25 Jesus said to her,I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body.—Philippians 3:20–21 (NIV84)

  I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of His mighty strength, which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms.Ephesians 1:18–20 (NIV84)

I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.Revelation 1:18 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I praise You that You are the Resurrection and the Life in my life. I yield to Your transforming power as You overcome this fear in my life of being wrong. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

Walking Right Through Rejection

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Jesus Rejected

It appears that our Lord Jesus handle rejection calmly and clearly. At least, this is what I see in our main text. But before this rejection, He graciously read the key text found in the scroll of Isaiah (61:1-2) regarding His life. He confidently presented its fulfillment. Then in response to the whispers of  “Isn’t this Joseph’s son,” He clearly says, (to paraphrase), “Just because I grew up here, doesn’t make this a special place nor you a special people.” Not sure why He felt the need to say this, but from observing the texts He used to present this thought, it is clear what He is saying….

…and it is clear from His neighbors’ response that this is exactly what they were thinking. Ouch! So instead of humbling themselves and pleading for mercy and grace, they decide to take matters into their own hands, and, well, execute the “Self-proclaimed Messiah,” you know, the One Who just did all those wonderful miraculous signs—go figure.

As they “drove” Him a couple of miles—according to some scholars, they obviously jostled and shoved Him along the way; and He let them—right up until the precipice. Then, and only then, did He calmly reject their rejection and “walked right through the crowd and went on His way” (v. 30). Why did He wait so long? Good question.

As you and I ponder this question, let me offer one possible answer: Is it to demonstrate that He was tempted in all ways like we are? Even if the precipice were merely 200 yards away, to be jostled and shoved for that distance would be rather painful and trying, wouldn’t you agree? And would you, like me, be tempted to hurl insults and shove back all along the way: “Hey, I was just telling you the truth and you’re doing this to me!? What gives!?”

It appears that our Lord was modeling for us how to handle rejection, even from neighbors and friends, and even the vicious kind that goes well beyond venomous words of ridicule.

You’ve been there. I’ve been there. From elementary school through High School—and even into college. I was in the middle of the ring of older boys as they shoved me around mocking and ridiculing me. I was the kid that the others conspired to ditch. I was the one they ignored once I became a Jesus Freak in college—abandoned and rejected. And I wish I could tell you I handled all these as calmly as our Shepherd did. But I didn’t.

As I have ponder this text, I am realizing as well that He actually has  been transforming me so that I no longer “see” rejection, in general, and in particular, I do not get as riled as I used to. I wish I could testify that I calmly “walked right through the crowd and went on [my] way,” but alas I do not, but I’m much, much closer to His likeness in this. The wounds are healing and the fear is evaporating. Love—His Love, which is beyond the rejection, is seeping into the crevices of my wounded heart and mending my wounded soul.

Have you experienced the sort of vicious rejections as our Master has?  Has He been transforming you to be more like Him as well? Care to share?

Main Text— Luke 4:27–30 (NIV84)— 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove [Jesus] out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But He walked right through the crowd and went on His way.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.Psalm 27:10 (NIV84)

Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.—Matthew 10:17–23 (NIV84)

 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.— 2 Timothy 4:16–18 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, calm my heart as I focus on You in the face of rejection and ridicule. Be my confident assurance that I need not defend myself. In You I have nothing to lose and nothing to prove. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“A Substantial Love”

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Have you ever had a preacher ask you to substitute your name for the word, ‘love’ in the Love Chapter of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8? He asked this as a self-evaluation of substantial Love? It looks something like this (using my name, of course, wherever the word “love” appears).

Mike is patient, Mike is kind. Mike does not envy, Mike does not boast, Mike is not proud. Mike is not rude, Mike is not self-seeking, Mike is not easily angered, Mike keeps no record of wrongs. Mike does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Mike always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Mike never fails.

And if we are honest with ourselves, we do not score very high. Oh, I may be more patient than most, and I am chivalrous—ahem. I don’t turn too dark a shade of green; my stating facts are considered boasting, especially, when I don’t get my way…. Oh, and records of wrongs? With age I don’t remember many of my sports’ stats like I used to, but I can still remember how many times I had to tell…. You get the point. My score still isn’t that high. How’s yours?

It was a few years back as I was teaching on Jesus is our Life, that I realized He is also our Love. (I knew the Bible taught, “God is Love,” but somehow I kept thinking I had to manufacture this Love in my life, or at the very least—ahem—fake it (Ouch!).) So I did a little exercise in my quiet moments: I substituted Lord Jesus’ Name for “Love” and it looked a lot better….

Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind. Jesus does not envy, Jesus does not boast, Jesus is not proud. Jesus is not rude, Jesus is not self-seeking, Jesus is not easily angered, Jesus keeps no record of wrongs. Jesus does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Jesus always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Jesus never fails.

So, since Jesus is my Life, He is also my Love. As I daily put Him on as my Belt of Love (from Colossians 3:14), He continues His transforming work in my life making me more like Him. Then it is not “Mike” who is becoming more patient, but the Lord Jesus in me…. The pressure of manufacturing this Love or even having to “fake it” is gone—or at least substantially lessened. Because the same Love He is in and through me is also to me: Jesus is patient with me. He is kind with me. He keeps no records of wrongs! …

… This is substantial Love!

Have you found this to be as mind-blowing an experience as I have? Your thoughts?

Main Text— Psalm 86:15 (NIV84) But you, O LORD, are a compassionate and gracious God.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?— Romans 8:32 (NIV84)

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. Everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.—1 John 3:1–3 (NIV84)

  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.— Col 3:3–4 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I put the Lord Jesus Christ on as my Belt of Love. Continue Your transforming work in my Life by the power of the Holy Spirit as He makes me more like Your Son, Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Hard Letting Them Change?”

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“How many times is so’n so going to say they’ve changed, but in reality, they never do?” Have you said this before about someone? Or even thought it? I have. And it is sad if I believe that the Lord Jesus, the Great Transformer, has changed me, but He can’t change someone else? Ouch! Do I really believe He can change lives? Is it really that hard to “let” them change?

In our main text this morning, we have a very real and similar situation about “letting” someone change. This someone is Saul! You know the one who was “still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1 NIV 84). And now he wants us to believe that he’s all good with Jesus and not an infiltrator!? Yeah, right?

If it wasn’t for Barnabas—and the dramatic change in Saul’s life and belief system, most of us today would not have been so readily available to accept him into our small group, especially if many of our brothers and sisters in other small groups have been turned in to the Powers that Be….

So you and I have to sincerely and honestly ask ourselves: Are we letting others change? Have we become so jaded and stopped believing that the Lord Jesus can still change lives? Oh, we know the right answer, but seriously, think about it. We still call Rahab “the Harlot” and Thomas “the Doubter,” don’t we? Do we still call Peter the Denier?

First of all, I am thankful for the Barnabases in my life who have stepped forward to testify that the changes in my life are genuine, even if questioned by many. Secondly, I, in turn, have become a Barnabas for many who have clearly demonstrated a transformed life. Yes, I still struggle with becoming jaded. Yes, often my first thought is skepticism bordering on cynicism, but one by-product of my current wrecking has been this very thought: “If I am changing so dramatically, surely the Lord is doing so with _____, as well.”

Yes, I understand that for some, you’ve heard it before, but when Jesus truly steps in and transforms a life, we dare not be one to ‘not let them change,’ don’t you think?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 9:26-29 (NIV84)— 26 When [Saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”— Luke 19:8–10 (NIV84)

I [Paul] thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.— 1 Timothy 1:12–14 (NIV84)

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. — Philemon 8–11 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the power of the Resurrected Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, make me into a Barnabas who wisely celebrates the transformed lives around me.  In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

Pastor Mike