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

Confessing Christ In The Hard Times

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Perhaps you will be encouraged as I was after reading the following from Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life:

Again today I have tried to witness a good confession to the work the Lord hath wrought in my soul. But it is hard to testify where there is so little feeling, and Satan tries to hinder me by every possible suggestion he can bring forward. He tells me it is all a lie, and that I had better have had my tongue cut out before I ever presumed to say such a thing of myself, and tries to induce me to stay away from the meetings and from every place where confession could be made. But my indwelling Saviour keeps me from yielding to these suggestions or from entertaining them for a moment, and enables me to set my face like a flint that I will hold fast the confession of my faith without wavering, because faithful is He that hath promised.

Yes, I will believe, I will trust; even though the Lord should never again show me the light of His countenance, nor manifest Himself to my soul! My Jesus is dwelling in me, and has established His Kingdom there, and I am altogether and only His! Oh praise His holy Name!

One blessed result I do find, and that is that I love His will now with a genuine love that makes a cross borne for His dear sake filled with an untold sweetness.—Journal, June 15, 1869 ( from Smith, Hannah Whitall, and Melvin Easterday Dieter. The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life: The Unpublished Personal Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997. Print.)

Main Text— 2 Timothy 1:8–9 (NIV84) 8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9 Who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time..

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD,  I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights. Habakkuk 3:17–19 (NIV84)

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.—Romans 5:3–5 (NIV84)

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:9–10 (NIV)

Lord Jesus Christ, be my strength as I endure hardships and insults. Let my weakness manifest Your strength. In Your Name, Amen

Pastor Mike

The Paradox of Holy Contentment

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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

I Remember When I Was Young

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As I am reading through the New Testament this year, it gave me pause when I arrived (catching up as it were) to the main text below. Yes, I remember when I was young. I remember reading this passage over and over again, spurring me on to “set an example.” …

Now that I am not so young and have fewer years ahead of me than behind me, I humorously thought: “Now that I’m not young, I don’t need to set an example any more…! I can be a crotchety old man, constantly complaining of the youth of today, etc., etc., etc….”

I pursued that fantasy for just a bit and thought of all the men in my life who had been this very person…. 

Then I thought of the dear men in my life who were truly an example of Jesus “in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (v. 12). I thought of these men who continued well into their 80’s and 90’s who committed themselves “to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (v. 13). 

It is these men who were pleasant to be around. These men who had the fragrant aroma of a Loving Deliverer. It is these men who (paraphrasing v. 16) “watched their lives and doctrine closely; who persevered in them, … who saves both themselves and their hearers”—and me.

It is these men I desire to be like when I am gray and old and I am well on my way with the latter. Besides, I still feel pretty young from the waste up, hehe.

Main Text— 1 Timothy 4:12–16 (NIV) 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.—2 Corinthians 6:4–10 (NIV84)

  Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.—Hebrews 12:3 (NIV84)

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.—2 Timothy 2:10 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to finish strong. Overwhelm me with a sense of Your Love as I sometimes limp to the “finish” line. Strengthen me to run and not grow weary; to walk and not faint; to mount up with renewed strength as the eagle. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“I Missed His Fullness”

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When I first came into a personal relationship with Jesus, I was more than impressed with His deity. In fact, I felt the Lord had called me to correct all the wrongs in various denominations. So I pounced on the New Testament, especially the Gospels and St. Paul’s letters. I loaded my theological Gatling Gun, removed the safety and was ready to unload its magazine at the first hint of any ignorance or denial.

One of the verses I constantly loaded into the magazine was Colossians 2:9: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (NIV84). Fire fight after fire fight, I would empty this verse at those I encountered. And sadly, I was more interested in winning an argument than establishing a relationship….

Then one day, the Father was pleased to reveal to me more about Him through Jesus in the very next verse, 10: “and you have this fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority” (NIV74). I literally hit a wall.

All those years I was trying to please the Father by defending His Son’s reputation and identity—and in some large way trying to earn His approval so I could get more of Him—when all along I already had His Fullness in me through Jesus…. 

Since then it has been a journey of decreasing while the Lord Jesus keeps increasing within me. I look at this as kind of releasing of compressed air. His fullness is compressed in me in various aspects of my life. When I yield to His presence, His compressed Presence fills the void left by my selfish self. In effect, His transforming power now controls a part of my life that had once been in bondage to sin and self.

Once again, the Lord’s timing is impeccable, for I was reading, The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence earlier this morning and came upon this in the Fourth Letter:

He [Brother Lawrence] complains much of our blindness; and cries often that we are to be pitied who content ourselves with so little. GOD, saith he, has infinite treasure to bestow, and we take up with a little sensible devotion which passes in a moment. Blind as we are, we hinder GOD, and stop the current of His graces. But when He finds a soul penetrated with a lively faith, He pours into it His graces and favours plentifully; there they flow like a torrent, which, after being forcibly stopped against its ordinary course, when it has found a passage, spreads itself with impetuosity and abundance. (p. 42, The Spire Book)

I, too, was blind to this treasure, this gift of His grace: His Fullness— until the Father was pleased to reveal Him to me. How this all worked? What mechanism sprung? I do not know, but I do know that once I was blind, but now I see a little bit better….

Have you experience a revealing like this?

Main Text— Matthew 16:15–17 (NIV84) 15 But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.John 1:16 (NIV84)

  But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.—2 Peter 3:18) (NIV84)

For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.—Ephesians 3:14–19 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I praise You for the Grace of Your Fullness. Strengthen my resolve as I continue on this journey of decreasing while You increase within me. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Hope for Today–And Beyond”

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Jesus Christ is my Hope copy

As I prepare this message on hope, I’ve had to constantly ask myself: Do I have hope for today? To some it may seem like a strange question, and indeed it is. Oh, I have hope for the future. I know Jesus is coming back to rescue me. I know I’m going to get a newly transformed body—free of age, aches and pains. I know I will be filled to the bursting of my new body’s seams with Joy and Peace and Adulation, for I will be seeing my risen Lord face to face….

But do I have hope for today? In today’s turmoil and strife and mild aches and severe pains and disappointments? Of late, I have caught myself saying, “Lord, this is bad,” with a very new thought that follows: “And I can’t wait to see how You work this out for good!” Whoa! Where did this thought come from!!!!???? Yes, I believe He works all things out for the good, but do I believe, in this moment, that He is working even this current “bad” pain, or trial or disappointment for the Good—for my good?

As I have continued this small exercise in a very mustard seed-like faith, I have been experiencing a rather strange buoyancy—a rather confident assurance mixed with a swirl of joy. And it is not fleeting as such feelings have been in the past….

Yesterday, at a community meeting, the person I was sitting next to had commented on something I was saying to a third person: “Don’t we need to live in the moment?” I know I have often missed the current “moment” because I was obsessed with past hurts or future worries, but she struck a chord in me. I know I have been on a long journey to learn to not live for the moment but in the moment. And when I live in the moment for Jesus, He connects all the moments, giving them a larger purpose beyond the moment of “today.”

And it is in this connection a Hope springs for today and beyond.

Have you had a similar journey with Hope, trusting the Lord to turn the current “bad” into good—in the moment? Or perhaps you are farther down the path than I? Your thoughts about hope for today—and beyond?

Main Text— John 3:16–18 (NIV84) 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us,2 Corinthians 1:10 (NIV84)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel.—Colossians 1:3–5 (NIV84)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.— 1 Timothy 1:1 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be Hope in me this day so that I may see how You are connecting my moments for a larger purpose in You. 

Coach 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