Stretched in All Directions

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It has been a little over a year since my hip surgery. The hip pain is gone, and for this I am most grateful. Oh, I’ve had many bouts with “common” and “not-so-common” colds throughout this past year; some say, perhaps due to the weakening of my immune system from the surgery, but for the most part I have been recovering quite well….

Ah, yes, the lingering “but”: But I have learned something that I need to do quite regularly, daily if possible: I need to stretch—especially the hip region. I walk better, sit better, and feel all-around better when I do. Fitting this into my schedule has been quite difficult for sure.

One would think that stretching would be a snap: just a few minutes and back at “it”, but it is not. (For some reason, getting down and back up off the floor is still rather difficult for  me. I’m sure this is a rather large de-motivator, huh?)

As I was pondering this dilemma this morning, the Lord seemed to quietly and very softly open up a spiritual truth to me: I need to stretch my faith regularly, daily whenever “possible”. (I guess for starters merely getting on the floor in faith that I can get back up again with little to no difficulty, huh?) But I truly began to expand where my faith had truncated and in this place I needed a good incremental stretching.

Perhaps many of you have been struggling— as I have—with faith in the Lord providing financially. Bills seem to be pilling up as car problems, house “honey dos,” and sometimes those little extras seem to be forming a distant tsunami.

Streeetttcchhh! And, yes, I have sometimes pulled a faith-muscle during these stretches. The Lord is good all the time no matter what!!! I know this. I know He is more than faithful, so I press through the pulled muscles of faith and continue my stretching. And while I am at it, I not only need to get down on the floor to stretch my hip, etc., but also my knees—you know, in prayer. What do you think?

Main Text— Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)— 13 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, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.—1 Corinthians 1:9 (NIV84)

  The One who calls you is faithful and He will do it.1 Thessalonians 5:24 (NIV84)

But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one.2 Thessalonians 3:3 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Shield of Faith. Quench the fiery darts being hurled at my the enemy. You are the True and Faithful Witness. Empower me to be like You In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

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What is Wrong with Double Standards

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When something happens where a double standard is applied, many cry, “Hey, that’s a double standard.” And then pontificate on the  observation that the other person has a double standard. The sad irony is: the one with the double standard doesn’t care that they have a double standard. In fact, it is perfectly all right to have one.

 So instead of merely identifying those with a double standard, don’t you think it is also necessary to present what is wrong with a double standard? 

Let’s explore for a few moments what is wrong with a double standard. First of all, perhaps you would agree with me that a double standard will soon show itself to be an inadequate way of life. Trust evaporates and integrity goes the way of the dinosaurs. With a double standard, don’t you think even society itself will burn out? In my opinion, it will at some point be impossible to live as a society because once one double standard is replaced with another double standard, how do they know they will not turn on themselves? A house divided cannot stand, right? And isn’t a double standard really a house divided?

 What about those who say, “No justice, No peace?” Can we agree that if there is a double standard, there is no justice, and thus no peace? But can we also agree that if a double standard is the very charge of the cry, and the response is to replace the alleged double standard with another, how is this justice?  And how will it lead to peace?

It behooves us then to turn to Jesus, Who is the standard, and make sure we ourselves do not have a double standard. Have you observed that Jesus constantly called out the Pharisees for their duplicity—their hypocrisy? And when He did, He often noted it with severe warnings of the consequences of such a lifestyle or standard? Perhaps we should be doing the same thing, but first applying His standard—which is no double standard—to ourselves and then perhaps to others, wouldn’t you agree?

Main Text— Proverbs 11:3 (NIV84) The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.Matthew 7:5 (NIV84)

 Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as you are.—Matthew 23:15 (NIV84)

  The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.—Proverbs 10:9 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, remove any duplicity and hypocrisy far from me. Clean my heart and make me whole. Be my integrity as Your transforming of my soul on the inside becomes evident to all on the outside. In this You will be pleased and I will honor You with my Life. In Your Name, may it be so!

Pastor Mike

“Defensive or A Strong Defender?”

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When you are misunderstood, how do you respond: Defensive or Calm? Being open, my response was a knee-jerk barrage of defensive self-inflating and other-demolishing “evidence”. But as I grew more confident in the Lord’s Love for me and His constant protection, a calmness would come upon me. “What did you hear me say? … I must have misspoken. Let me try again.” I had a near out-of-body experience the first time I was able to say this….
Over the years, I have grown more and more confident that the Lord is my Defense and my Shield. I do not need to be defensive because He is my Strong Defense.
This came poignantly home to me during my first viewing of the movie, “The Judge”. The judge had been a revered institution on the bench in a small mid-west community; his black sheep son went off to become a high-powered, highly sought after, big city defense attorney. As the plot unveils, the Judge is accused of murder and the black-sheep son offers his skills as a defense attorney. Needless to say, their rocky relationship adds to the plot thickening, but at one point the son says something to the effect, “Keep your mouth shut and let me defend you.”
The father’s refusal to heed his son’s counsel gets him in even more hot water. And then the Spirit’s lance lands. I need to keep my mouth shut and let the Lord defend me: He is my Defense Attorney.
Perhaps some of you are father down the path on your journey with Jesus than I am, but for those of us, like myself, who have acted as our own defense attorney, this is a welcomed transformation in my life. Besides, I’m sure you know the old saying about defending yourself, “… every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.”
Join me in letting Lord Jesus be our Defense Attorney.  Your thoughts….
Main Text— Acts 22:1-5 (NIV84)—  “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”  When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said:  “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.  I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison,  as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.— 1 John 2:1 (NLT)
“When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”— Luke 12:11–12 (NASB95)
Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord.Vindicate me in Your righteousness, O LORD my God; do not let them gloat over me.— Psalm 35:23–24 (NIV84)
Lord Jesus Christ, be my Shield of Faith. Quench the fiery darts that are being hurled at me. Be my Shoes of  Peace that I may be calm when misunderstood. In Your Name, Amen!Pastor Mike

“Tracing the Rainbow Through the Rain”

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In his poem (which later became a hymn) “O Love That Wilt Not Let Me Go,” George Matheson writes, “O Joy that seekest me through pain, I cannot close my heart to Thee, I trace the rainbow through the rain and feel the promise is not vain.” What specific pain George was experience we do not know, but in his own words, out of “the most severe mental suffering,” the words poured forth as if “dictated to me by some inward voice.” We know this pain superseded any of his physical limitations of blindness or other maladies he endured. But in all of these he could trace the rainbow of promise through the rain.

Rainbow in the Rain

Ironically, I haven’t been this sick in years, and I am coming up a total hip replacement in a few weeks. I have not had many dark days, though not a few cloudy ones have accompanied me. But what made them cloudy were not my own issues or concerns, per se, but the concerns for others, and the complete inability of helping relieve these concerns. In short, I am being made fully aware that I am not their rescuer. Worse yet, I have to stand by and watch matters become more complicated and entangle well before the Lord steps in and ‘fixes’ them. “Oh, if only I….” Ha, not even if….

In today’s main text, I see Paul and Silas in a rather dark place—literally. They knew nothing of earthquakes and loosed chains, but they did know a God who could deliver from the fire, through the fire or in the fire. So to this God, the Holy One, they sang and prayed and praised as they traced the rainbow through the rain.

They were imprisoned, limited to what they could do; feet in stocks but voices unfettered. So, too, you and I need to do what we can do in our cramped, limited situations where we can no longer “do” what we once did to help, relieve, or ‘fix’ or ….

Singing and praying and praising seems to be a great place to start tracing the rainbow in the rain knowing with full assurance that the Promise of His Presence is indeed not vain! Brothers and sisters, many of whom are in darker storms with heavier rains, lift high your finger of faith and trace with me His Rainbow in the rain! …

Main Text: — Acts 16:22-26 (NIV)— 22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks. 25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  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)

Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.— Ps 42:11 (NIV84)

 I remembered my songs in the night. My heart mused and my spirit inquired: “Will the Lord reject forever? Will He never show His favor again? Has His unfailing love vanished forever? Has His promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has He in anger withheld his compassion?”— Psalm 77:6–9 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I wait on You. You are my Hope. Expose the rainbow of promise, the Hope of my salvation. So I shall see Your Face. Lord Jesus, be my comfort and my Peace. In Your 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

“The Waiting Whine”

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It may be easy enough to whine to our parents while waiting to go to the Mall, or to our spouse as we’re waiting to leave, but can you image whining to the Lord when He tells us we have to wait for the manifestation of His Kingdom?

Lifestyle worshiper, perhaps you, like I, have not so much whined to Him about Kingdom matters, but whined about other issues—well, honestly, minor things like the stop light or the line I’m standing in. But I have also whined about why is it taking Him so long to resolve some struggle in my life or someone else’s…. Maybe you’ve done this kind of whining, too?

But as I become more aware of my subtle whines, I become acutely aware of the fact this is really more of a trust issue. He tells the apostles, “Don’t leave but wait. Trust Me. You’ll need wait I have you waiting on.” Yes, “Trust Me,” the Lord gently reminds me. “Trust Me, you will definitely need what I have you waiting on.” Maybe the circumstances just aren’t quite ready or maybe my emotional make up hasn’t caught up with what’s about to take place. Or maybe there are other ‘players’ in my life that are not quite lined up yet, so I need to reach out in confident faith and ‘Trust Him’ while I patiently wait….

As a side bar, it is interesting to note that this particular word for “wait” has an expectancy component. We are waiting patiently for an expected out come. And if the Lord is good all the time no matter what (and He is), then the expected out come it, ah, Good! Wouldn’t you agree? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 1:4-7 — On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. — 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV84)

For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. —Habakkuk 2:3 (NIV84)

  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. — Romans 5:3-4 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Slippers of Patience. May I quietly and peacefully wait on You, trusting in Your Goodness and Your timing. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Call It As It Is”

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Date: 02-20–15

The Big Idea: Calling it as it is in Love builds trust and aids in repairing those broken walls of fractured relationships.

My Thoughts: There is a saying I oft quoted much of my life: “Tell me the truth: Hurt me once; lie to me: Hurt me twice.” I’m going to find out the truth, so just let me hear it from you straight up in Love. But have you discovered that if you are lie to, not only will the truth hurt when you discover it, but the breach of confidence will only double the hurt? I have….

Lifestyle worshiper, because a servant leader is more concerned for those s/he leads, they call it as it is. With as much candor and as little bias as possible, a servant-leader learns to speak the truth in Love, but in doing so s/he does not soft soap or PC it to meaninglessness. I have found on my own journey with Jesus that I have often been too brutally blunt when ‘telling the truth,’ so I have had to learn to be more diplomatic. (Others I have known need to be less PC.) I had my first shot at practicing this lesson of diplomacy when I had to fire one of my maintenance assistants. At first I said, “I’m freeing you up so you don’t have to come in to work any more.” Oh, that missed the target, for he was stoned out of his mind and said, “Cool, man, you mean I can do whatever I want and still get paid?” Ah, no…. Finally, after a few tries of diplomatic phrasing, I simply said, “You’re fired!” “Aw, man, that’s a bummer.” Off he went….

When dealing with the broken walls of fractured relationships, sometimes we have to quit lying to ourselves first and finally admit the truth. Now that truth may be we are the major source of the fracturing. Or maybe it is finally admitting the problem is far more serious than we’re willing to admit—and we need some help. But whatever the truth is, it will hurt a lot less that continuing in the lie. And I have discovered as a servant-leader, I do not have the luxury of hurting others twice!

Lifestyle worshiper, when we have our hearts filled with a genuine concern and a deep affection for those we lead, we will see the wisdom in calling it as it is. Speaking the truth in Lovecalling it as it isbuilds trust and aids in repairing those broken walls of fractured relationships.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 5:9 —   So I continued, “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.

— Ephesians 4:25 (NIV84)

Listen, for I have worthy things to say; I open my lips to speak what is right. My mouth speaks what is true, for my lips detest wickedness.

— Proverbs 8:6-7 (NIV84)

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ

— Ephesians 4:15 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  I put You on as my Belt of Truth and my Belt of Love. Stir in my soul a deep compassion for correcting those in my charge. May I do so with a Righteous Love. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike