Pastor Mike's thoughts

Thoughts on today's Christian world and how it fits into secular society.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


I am a regular subscriber to the Voice of the Martyrs, and have to admit that it breaks my heart to see what is going on in this world. Read the following stories from an article that was sent to me recently, then pray for each one.

ETHIOPIA Attacks on Christians in Western Ethiopia - VOM Canada
VOM is providing aid for Semu Hailu and his family after he was imprisoned on November 5. Hailu, an elder of a Mennonite Church in Jimma was imprisoned after a group of Muslims accused him of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. Hailu had refused to move out of his house and sell his property to a nearby mosque. The Muslims responded by telling him that "kafirs" (infidels) should not live around mosques and threatened him repeatedly, demanding that he leave his property. When he refused, they eventually accused him of insulting Muhammad. During Hailu's November 9 court hearing, Muslims brought in false witnesses to testify against him. The court ordered him to be imprisoned for an unspecified period of time. In another incident, November 17, the house of Jemal Tasisa was burned by Muslims in the village of Tongo. Tasisa, an elder in a local Lutheran church, has fled to Assosa, Benishangul state with his five children. Pray these believers will remain faithful to Jesus. Romans 12:19

INDIA Faithful Christian Worker Killed - Compass Direct
Two unidentified militants recently killed a Christian convert from Islam on a busy road in Mamoosa village in the terror-stricken state of Jammu and Kashmir. Bashir Ahmed Tantray, a 50-year-old engineer, was shot dead apparently by Islamist militants as he stood at a busy bus stand near his parents' house. Tantray, who had accepted Christianity about a decade ago and had been an active Christian worker ever since, is survived by his wife, two daughters and two sons. A local Christian source said. "There is no doubt among the people, both Christian and Muslim, here that he was killed because of his identity as a Christian worker." John 16:1-3

VIETNAM Government Plan to Subdue Spread of Protestantism - Christian Solidarity Worldwide
Christian Solidarity Worldwide learned about an internal Vietnamese government training manual, which outlines a plan "to resolutely subdue the abnormally rapid and spontaneous development of the Protestant religion." This plan seeks to dampen the spread of Protestantism among ethnic minorities in the country's northwest highlands. Pray God will continue the "abnormal" growth of His kingdom in Vietnam. 1 Peter 2:9, 10

PAKISTAN Drunken Mob Vandalizes Church - Compass Direct
On November 12, armed and drunken Muslims struck two greeters at a Sunday evening service of a church outside Lahore. They returned later to pelt the building with stones and bricks. Ten men broke fluorescent lights and a cross on the outer gate of the Talab Sarai village Nazarene church. Pastor Rafiq Masih told the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS) that the Muslim men began to hit greeters who had stopped them earlier from harassing Christian women. The congregation of about 40 families quickly came out of the church, halting the attackers. The Muslim men "had every intention to use the firearms," a CLAAS coordinator reported. Because the Christians didn't respond angrily, the situation did not get worse. Pray the witness of these believers will lead others to their loving Savior. Matthew 5:43-46

SRI LANKA Mobs Attack Churches - Compass Direct
Buddhist militants attacked two church services in Sri Lanka on November 12 and hit Christian workers returning from a funeral. In the first attack, a mob of some 100 people, including four Buddhist monks, pasted anti-Christian posters in the neighborhood of an Assembly of God church in Yakkala, Gampaha district, and blocked the road leading to the church. Four days later, as a young Christian woman arrived at the pastor's house asking for prayer, a man doused her with a container of burnt oil. In another attack, a mob of about 35 people - including 12 Buddhist monks and a local government official - walked into the Sunday service of a prayer ministry in Kandy district, demanding that the service cease immediately. "We were threatened that if we gathered together for worship again, the building would be flattened," the local pastor said. Pray God will protect the Christians as they continue to follow Jesus. Ephesians 6:10-13

Praying for our missionaries,
Pastor Mike

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What are your plans?

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."Jeremiah 29:11

Hope is about the future. It may be oriented to the next hour, or the next day, or the next month or year or decade. But hope is always about anticipation.

Those of us who like to control things often find hope difficult because we do not control the future. Many of us are compulsive makers-of-plans. We are willing to work ourselves to death trying to make our plans become reality. But when our hopes and vision for the future are based only on what we can control, our vision is inevitably narrowed and impoverished.

We need to remind ourselves regularly, therefore, that God's vision for the future is better than our own. God sees possibilities and opportunities that we cannot see. The horizons of God's imagination are not bounded. When we root our hope in God, a totally different future is possible. It is not a future we can control. God's plans may not be the same as our plans. But we can return again and again to God as our source of hope.

God has been clear about our future. It is God's intention to give us a hope and a future. This is not a promise of a trouble-free life. It is not a promise of immunity from struggle. But it is a promise of hope. God has been with us in the past. God is with us in the present. And God will be with us in the future.

Thank you for paying attention to my future, Lord.
Thank you for making plans.
Help me today to rest in the thought that
your plans for me include blessing.
Open my heart today to the hope and the future
you have prepared for me.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Sing unto the Lord

2 Samuel 1:17-27 NIV

From the earliest time, music has played an important role in worship. The earliest recorded song is found in Exodus 15, when Moses and Miriam sang God’s praises for delivering Israel from Egypt . The longest list of songs in scripture is the entire book of Psalms, all one hundred and fifty of them. Music was so important to David in his worship of the Lord, that he ordered his men to learn the words to the song recorded in 2 Samuel 1:17-27. But why is music so important? What’s so different about music? Emotion. Depth. Feeling. _Expression.

God is the great Communicator – just look at how far He went to give us the Bible. And He is filled with emotion – a fact recorded over and over in His Word. His deep desire is to have a close, deep, intimate relationship with each and every one of us. The problem is, you and I are very shallow communicators. It is extremely difficult for us to show or to express emotion. In our personal communications with friends, we are shallow, only touching on the top edges of emotion, fearful of allowing the depth of our feelings to be seen. In our personal communications with God, we are no different. Our prayers are so often “vain repetitions” – easy, light words that aren’t difficult to say, words that don’t reveal the true emotions behind them. Even our praise is shallow, never quite touching on the depth of our praise for our Savior and Lord.

So God created music. Through music, we can say the words that are so difficult to speak on their own. Through music, we can feel and express emotion – emotion too deep and too frightening to express in any other way. Music can give us energy we didn’t know we had. It can cause us to weep with sadness or shout with joy. It allows us to express the depth of our praise to the One by Whose grace we live and breath.

If you find it difficult to express your innermost thoughts and emotions to God, sing them. Pick out a Psalm and put it to music, changing the words so they fit your particular situation. And sing it to God. At your worship service, sing out the words to the songs and feel them in your heart. Allow yourself to feel and express the deepest emotions in your soul, and to have that warm, personal, intimate – and emotional – relationship with God.

“Praise the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary; praise Him in His mighty heavens. Praise Him for His acts of power; praise Him for His surpassing greatness. Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet, praise Him with the harp and lyre, praise Him with tambourine and dancing, praise Him with the strings and flute, praise Him with the clash of cymbals, praise Him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.” Psalm 150

Singing my Love for Jesus,
Pastor Mike
Here is something to think about. More people have to start speaking
and stop worrying about being politically correct to placate the
small minorities.

What do ! you think?

Think carefully about what you will be reading.
This is a new one for me...

Mary had a little Lamb,
His fleece was white as snow.
And everywhere that Mary went,
The Lamb was sure to go.

He followed her to school each day,
T'wasn't even in the rule.
It made the children laugh and play,
To have a Lamb at school.

And then the rules all changed one day,
Illegal it became;
To bring the Lamb of God to school,
Or even speak His Name!

Every day got worse and worse,
And days turned into years.
Instead of hearing children laugh,
We heard gun shots and tears.

What must we do to stop the crime,
That's in our schools today?
Let's let the Lamb come back to school,
And teach our kids to pray.

Praying for our kids to return to the Lamb,
Pastor Mike

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Speaking the truth

Then the disciples came to him and asked, "Do you realize you offended the Pharisees by what you just said?" (Matthew 15:12, NLT).

You may have read or heard the now-famous prayer from a couple of years ago, spoken by a Wichita pastor before legislators in the Kansas House of Representatives. The prayer was spread all around the internet, but it would be good to remember it.

Pastor Joe Wright of the Central Christian Church, prayed: "We confess we have ridiculed the absolute truth of Your Word and called it moral pluralism. We have worshiped other gods and called it multiculturalism. We have endorsed perversion and called it an alternative lifestyle. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery. We have neglected the needy and called it self-preservation. We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have killed our unborn and called it choice. We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable. We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem."

One legislator walked out. But Pastor Wright kept right on praying. "We have abused power and called it political savvy. We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition. We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of _expression. We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment."

Pastor Wright closed with asking for God's forgiveness, blessing and wisdom.

Knowing how a secular society would respond, one legislator called the prayer "divisive, sanctimonious, self-serving, and overbearing."

Even though what Pastor Wright prayed was not politically correct, he told the truth. The truth is not popular. It offends the guilty. Our Lord Jesus Christ was the Master of telling the truth, which cut to the quick of the religious hypocrites of the day and offended the guilty, just like it still does today. That's one of the reasons they hated Him them, and still hate Him to this day.

For example, there was a time when the Lord rebuked the Pharisees: "Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it" (Luke 11:42-44, NIV).

But we also have to remember that the Lord was also the Master of speaking love and grace. When we speak in public, our words must also be "full of grace" (Colossians 4:6, NIV). But sometimes, as the Spirit leads, we must simply and courageously speak the plain-old, unadulterated truth, even if it does offend someone. It's all in the way you do it. Do it out of love for the person, not to be right. Do it for the Kingdom of God.

Praying that we all start speaking out for Jesus,
Pastor Mike

Friday, November 24, 2006

How commited are you?

But as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:15–16

God’s highway is a holy way. In Isaiah 35:8 we read that “it will be called the Highway of Holiness.” The Bible also tells us that without holiness, no one will see the Lord.

When we think of holiness or a holy person, we may think that a holy life means a dull life. Words like obedience, holiness, sacrifice, and commitment are so unappealing to us. We envision a life spent with boring people doing boring things—no fun at all. Yet how untrue that is. The holy life is the happy life. The Bible says that if you want to be happy, then be holy. If you seek to be a holy person, then you will be a happy person.

By “holy person” I mean a person who is living to please God. So instead of spelling holy “h-o-l-y,” try spelling it “w-h-o-l-l-y” and thinking of it as being wholly committed to God, giving everything over to Him, letting Him be the Lord of your life, and letting Him guide your steps. This is the fullest life there is. You will get up in the morning with joy in your heart and with God’s Word and His Spirit to lead you. It is the best life there is.

Yet none of us can be holy on our own. We try to live by certain regulations. We try to be honest and caring and considerate. But we fall short. So how do we gain access to God’s highway of holiness? We must come to God and ask Him for His forgiveness, and He will make us holy people.

Praying for more commitment,
Pastor Mike

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Finding our way

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Psalm 119:105

Until I became a Christian, I had never read the Bible. The closest I had come was looking through my grandmother’s Bible, but I had never actually read it. Certainly I never thought of it as a book that would have something to say to me. So after I received Christ, someone gave me a Bible in easy-to-understand English and said, “Just start reading.”

I started in one of the Gospels, and as I read the words of Jesus, they jumped off the page and spoke to my life. I thought, This applies to me. Up to that point, I had been following everyone else around, figuratively speaking, even though I didn’t know where they were going. So it was amazing that suddenly I had a map to follow and that I was following God.

So many people today want direction for their lives. Yet God has given us a map, and this map, of course, is the Bible. It tells us how to live. The psalmist said, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). Everything we need to know about living is in the Bible. That’s where we can find our road. Not only that, we can share our map for the road to heaven.

Only God knows the future, and His road is well-lit. So if you are looking for direction, you don’t have to go any further than the Bible, God’s roadmap to life. He will show you how to live. You don’t have to pay anything for it. You don’t have to call any phone numbers. In God’s Word, you can find His counsel and direction for you.

Praying that we all find our map,
Pastor Mike

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Peace; is it possible?

The peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So don't be troubled or afraid (John 14:21, NIV).

God's peace is different from the world's peace.

A former president of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and historians from England, Egypt, Germany, and India have come up with some startling information.

They say that in the more than 5,600 years since 3600 B.C., the world has known only 292 years of peace!

During this period there have been 14,351 wars, large and small, in which 3.64 billion people have been killed. The value of the property destroyed would pay for a golden belt around the world 97.2 miles wide and 33 feet thick.

Since 650 B.C. there have also been 1656 arms races, only 16 of which have not ended in war. The remainder ended in the economic collapse of the countries involved.

The Personnel Journal reported only slightly better statistics, saying that since the beginning of recorded history, the entire world has been at peace less than eight percent of the time! In its study, the periodical discovered that in excess of 8,000 peace treaties have been made -- and broken. Peace treaties signed by people who really do not want peace are worth about the cost of the paper they are written on.

In addition to national wars, in every nation's cities and villages, men, women and even children war with each other, often killing and maiming each other, often within the same families.

We live in a world without peace. Yet, paradoxically, God's Word repeatedly tells us to be at peace and to have peace. What is the answer?

Someone has said, "Safety consists not in the absence of danger but in the presence of God." You could also say, "Peace consists not in the absence of conflict but in the presence of God."

For believers, God's presence is always with us, and in us. Peace is a fruit of the indwelling Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

How does one appropriate God's peace? "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee" (Isaiah 26:3, KJV).

Praying for peace,
Pastor Mike

Monday, November 20, 2006

Thinking about the days to come

Thanksgiving is a lot more than a huge meal to kick off the craziness of YChristmas Season. It can be one of the most meaningful holidays of the year...if given the right focus. Keeping our hearts in an attitude of surrender helps us recall God's acts of mercy and grace. "By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name." Hebrews 13:15

The first recorded Thanksgiving took place in the winter of 1610 at Jamestown, Virginia, but it wasn't a feast! Supply ships had encountered storms and shipwrecks causing starvation and disease to reduce the group of settlers from 500 to 60. In desperation, the colonists ate whatever they could get their hands on, including snakes, snails, rats, sod with water and their own horses, cats, dogs and boots. The survivors prayed for help, without knowing when or how it might come. It arrived in the form of a ship filled with food and supplies from England, and a prayer meeting was held, giving thanks to God!

The most well known Thanksgiving is of the Mayflower's Pilgrims who set ground at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620. Their first winter was devastating and by fall they had lost 46 of the original 102. The harvest of 1621 was a bountiful one and the remaining colonists decided to celebrate with a feast. After counting all their blessings and giving thanks to God, the Pilgrims, Chief Massasoit and 90 Indians joined in a three-day Thanksgiving feast of Indian corn, barley, waterfowl, wild turkey, cod and bass fish and five deer.

As you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, remember to keep hold of the original gratefulness to God that has always been the spirit of this oldest of all American holidays.

"So we Thy people and sheep of Thy pasture will give Thee thanks for ever: we will show forth Thy praise to all generations." Psalm 79:13

There are days when it doesn't feel like you are blessed. But take heart because God's Word teaches that we are indeed blessed in more ways than we could ever think or imagine. Yet put in the proper perspective, our problems-no matter how big they may seem-can even be seen as blessings! Michael Youssef of LEADING THE WAY encourages us to have "An Attitude of Gratitude" rather than counting our troubles.

Thankful for all of you,
Pastor Mike

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Nice article

This is a great article I read, please read it and let me know what you think.

The Power of Presence: Just Showing Up Makes a Difference
Matt Friedeman

Sometimes, just showing up makes a difference.

Dr. Carolyn Knight from Wesley College in Florence, Mississippi, started showing up several years ago outside of strip clubs in our community to talk to patrons about the Lord. Subsequently, she and her husband spent several years serving as missionaries in Africa. Since their return to Mississippi, she has resumed her outreach ministry at the three strip clubs in the capital city, Jackson.

Except now she comes with college students in tow to evangelize anyone whom they can engage in conversation. During the couple of months they have been taking a stand, one kid has been punched. Carolyn has been kicked. A few of students had a dog unleashed on them.

But they keep showing up.

Intrigued by their persistence, I joined them one evening outside these "adult" establishments to hold up a sign promising prayer, and to observe. This isn't a ministry for the faint of heart.

In my short time there, one of the managers came out to threaten harm, yell, call police, and laughingly promise a lawsuit. Wearing a shirt and tie and holding a sign that read "We are praying for you," I was interested to see expensive vehicles drive up and, their occupants apparently recognizing that respectable citizens were standing outside, decide to drive on and do something else for the evening.

Not long after my visit, Dr. Knight sent an encouraging e-mail report:

"I just wanted to tell you some good news. Today in chapel one of the security guards from [one of the clubs] showed up. He cried during the service and wants to come again. He shared that he had quit his job and desired a new life. He also said that another security guard had quit and that an assistant manager had quit. He said it was all due to the fact that we had started coming down there. Praise the Lord!"

This morning Carolyn told me about a stripper at one of the clubs showing up at her church recently, and another who had quit because of their presence.

The secret? No secret, really. So much about effective ministry is simple. Prayerfully show up. Play it by ear. Be willing to stay kind, gentle, reasonable. Be courteous but also be able to challenge. Don't back down. Meet bullying with a heart of love.

Last weekend I saw the movie Amistad for the second or third time. I was impressed again at how director Steven Spielberg portrayed the "religious right" of that day who were engaged in supporting the Africans from the slave ship: persistent, kind, gentle, reasonable, courteous, challenging, and unwilling to back down. Dressed in black, carrying Bibles, and with a song on their lips, they faithfully provided the contra mundum (against the world) perspective in a nearly impossible situation.

And against enormous odds, the Amistad Africans were eventually returned to their homeland.

That heritage of Christian activism should inspire us. Show up at the dark and lonely places of your culture -- the abortion clinics, the prisons, the nursing homes, the strip clubs, the hospices. We should have a heart for these places; but even if our persuasive tongues fail us and we wonder what good we might do, it is still amazing what happens when one just persistently and redemptively shows up.

Holiness and taking a stand on the premises of sin and hopelessness still make a difference.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The oldest lie

Deuteronomy 32:17, 18 They sacrificed to demons who were not God, to gods whom they have not known, new gods who came lately, whom your fathers did not dread. You neglected the Rock who begot you, and forgot the God who gave you birth

The New Age Movement covers the occult in the description of New Age enlightenment: "You don't need God; you are God. You don't need to repent of your sins and depend on God to save you. Sin isn't a problem; you just need to turn off your mind and tune in to the great cosmic oneness through harmonic convergence." The New Age pitch is the oldest lie of Satan: "You will be like God" (Genesis 3:5).

This quest for knowledge and power has enticed guidance from mediums and spiritists, and from such occultic practices as fortune-telling, tarot cards, palm-reading, Ouija boards, astrology, magic charming and automatic writing. People all around us are ignoring the God who loves them and wants to guide their lives and are instead of looking for light and peace in the kingdom of darkness. Peace can only be found in the Prince of Peace, not in the prince of darkness.

Don't be carried away by the prospect of knowledge and power which is luring so many people in our culture today away from God. People such as the devotees of Simon in Acts 8:9, 10, will continue to be astonished by those who practice New Age sorcery. Others, such as the customers of the demon-possessed slave girl in Acts 16:16-18, will contribute to the profit of those who exercise a spirit of divination. As in these examples from the early church, those who seek knowledge and power from the dark side will greatly interfere with the work of God, deceiving many by the counterfeit forces they employ. Other people will thirst after power to such an extent that they will sacrifice to the "goat demons" (Leviticus 17:7) and even sacrifice their own children to demons (Psalm 106:36-38).

Let the words of Deuteronomy 32:17, 18, sober us to the reality that even believers are vulnerable to being lured away from the knowledge and power of God by our enemy.

Praying that we all see the real truth,
Pastor Mike

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

We are weak, but He is strong

For he knows how weak we are; he remembers we are only dust. Psalm 103: 14

When we look back on the first-century believers and the apostles in particular, we tend to see them on pedestals, as though they walked around carrying pedestals under their arms, and when they were preparing to say something, they would climb up on them. They would speak in King James English. We see them as perfect people in stained glass.

Yet when we read the biblical accounts of their lives, this is certainly not the case. If we were to have had the opportunity to check these guys out back then, the last thing we would have thought was, I think these men will change their world. These were common, salt-of-the-earth-type people. They had calloused hands and few social graces. They were uneducated. They had a limited knowledge of the world. They had undefined leadership and no money. We wouldn’t have bet too much on their future.

But something happens to a person when he witnesses someone rising from the dead. That has a way of changing your perspective. It dramatically impacted these men.

One of the things I love about the Bible is that it’s a thoroughly honest book, presenting us with those whom God used, warts and all, shortcomings and all. That is one of the reasons I am so appreciative of the Bible. It gives hope to people like me . . . people like me who fail . . . people like me who fall short. We think, If God can use someone like that, maybe there is hope for me. That is precisely the point. God recorded all this for us so we can see that He can work in spite of our weakness.

Praying that our strength
Pastor Mike

Sunday, November 12, 2006

We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing. Therefore, among God's churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.2 Thessalonians 1:4

There is no magical formula for change. But there are also some helpful principles.

First of all, change happens little by little. As this text puts it, our capacity for trust 'grows more and more' and our ability to love and to receive love 'increases'. These changes, like all of the most important changes in life, do not happen as a one-time event. An important change
may require us to make a decision at a certain moment, it also requires a process that takes place over months and years.

Second, change is not a race. The change process can not be rushed. We often want to 'hurry it up', but we can't. Change that is real and long-lasting, requires patience and perseverance. When we have been practicing our dysfunctions for decades, we can expect that unlearning them will also take time.

Third, change requires that we practice the disciplines of honesty and fellowship. There is no recovery unless we find ways to move out of denial and isolation. What a wonderful gift it is to be able to share our struggles and victories with people who will 'always thank God for us' and who will encourage us, affirm us and hold us accountable.

Praying that we al make the change,
Pastor Mike

Friday, November 10, 2006

Worthless Idols

Jonah 2:8 Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

Have you ever exercised your will over the will of God? Have you ever been so willful that you were going to go your own way no matter what God said? If so, you have been at the same place as the prophet Jonah. God called Jonah to deliver a message to God's people as a warning. Jonah flatly refused. It was Jonah's will over God's. Guess who won?

Talk about willpower; Jonah had it! In fact, he was so rebellious toward God's will that he got on a ship to go the opposite direction. But he couldn't go far enough. The omnipotence of God caught up with Jonah, and he was hurled overboard when the seas became rough and the ship's crew figured Jonah was the source of their problems. Overboard he went and into the belly of that big fish.

God has a way of getting us to rethink our decisions, to reconsider our position. In fact, we see the extent of Jonah's willfulness by the amount of time he was willing to hang out in the belly of that fish-three full days. Then, Jonah decides enough is enough! Obedience is better than this fish belly and seaweed.

From inside the fish, Jonah prayed to the Lord his God.

He said: "In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me. From the depths of the grave I called for help, and You listened to my cry. You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all Your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, 'I have been banished from Your sight; yet I will look again toward Your holy temple.' The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But You brought my life up from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was ebbing away, I remembered You, Lord, and my prayer rose to You, to Your holy temple. Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs. But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to You. What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the Lord." And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: "Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you." Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh (Jonah 2:2-3:3a).

In the midst of realizing his own calamity, Jonah made a seemingly out-of-context statement: "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs." Jonah was thinking of the sailors who threw him overboard and how they prayed to worthless idols. In the business world, we rub shoulders with those who cling to worthless idols every day. How tragic.

But this story's primary message is for every believer. And I can identify with Jonah. There's been many a man placed in the "belly of the fish" to encourage him to fulfill the purposes of God for which He called him. Jonah's situation changed immediately upon his obedience. Obedience is a mysterious thing. Jesus had to learn it through the things He suffered (see Heb. 5:8). If Jesus had to learn obedience through suffering, what does that mean for you and me? Sometimes willing obedience requires encouragement.

Praying for your strength,
Pastor Mike

Thursday, November 09, 2006

The elections are over-but

Well, the elections are over, and there are a lot of emotions running hot and cold right now. No matter how you voted, or what the outcome, we can still be proud that we live in a country where freedom is still a verb rather than a word without any face-value.

Wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, he gives freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17, NLT).

Thank God for the great liberties which He has given us in America!

Most people take our liberties - religious, political, personal and economic -- for granted. They are so ingrained and expected in our blessed nation, that citizens today have no concept or appreciation of their origin.

Liberty itself is a biblical value. The Bible says, "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Corinthians 3:17, KJV). Christ brings liberty, dignity and value to the human spirit. That is why despots and despotic systems, such as fascism, atheistic communism and tyrannical religious systems, hate the Bible and Christianity -- it contains liberating truth.

For example, in some primitive nations today under the power of pagan religion, women are under severe bondage, often treated as animals. But Christ brought dignity to women, and where His Spirit is in control, they are free to be what God made them to be. "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed" (John 8:36, NIV).

People take our liberties of private property and free enterprise for granted, but they are also biblically based. For example, the American system of free enterprise quickly evolved from an initial and failed experiment with collectivism, or communism, at both Plymouth and Jamestown.

At Plymouth, by arrangement with investors back in England who had underwritten the Pilgrim enterprise, at first the settlers ran a "collective" or communist-like farming operation. But they soon discovered that it was greatly inefficient, not promoting individual incentive, and producing disastrous results. Later, experiments in other nations have proven equally disastrous.

The people debated and decided that each person should have his own parcel of land, trust his own potential and assume his own risks. This decision helped establish the American system of free enterprise.

Governor Bradford wrote (old spelling), "They had very good success. For it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corne was planted than other waise wold have bene by any means ye govr or any other could use..."

Bradford added, "The experience...may well evince, the vantie of that conceite of Platos and other ancients, applauded by some in later times -- that ye taking away of propertie, and bringing in comunitie into a comon wealth, would make them happy and flourishing, as if they were wiser than God."

Praying for our leaders,
Pastor Mike

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Is God jealous?

You must worship no other gods, but only the LORD (Exodus 34:14, NLT).

Does God really care whether or not we call Him Jehovah, Buddha, Allah, or by many other names? If you know the Bible, you know the answer. He does care -- very much.

In these trying times, we are seeing more and more interfaith efforts calling for the unity of religions, jointly calling upon different gods for help. Or some probably believe they are all calling upon the same god, just by different routes.

It all sounds very religious, tolerant and broadminded. But Christians who believe the Bible should remember that the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6, NIV). He died for the sins of all people, cultures and religions.

God says, "You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 20:3, NIV), and, "I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God" (Exodus 20:5, NIV). He also said, ". . . I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols" (Isaiah 42:8, NIV).

We must remember that Jesus Christ is the Father's exact representation of Himself (Hebrews 1:3), and was God incarnate. Also, "No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also" (1 John 2:23, NIV).

God is jealous for Himself, His Son and His glory. He even warns nations of the consequences of not honoring the Son: "Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; Take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence, And rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled" (Psalm 2:10-12, NASB).

Personally, I believe in building bridges of love with people of all religions, without compromising my love for and witness for our Lord Jesus Christ. I do so with the prayer that my love for our Lord will be communicated in a powerful way, both verbally and non-verbally. I try to evaluate everything I do with this criterion: Will it give me an opportunity to glorify our Lord and tell others about Him?

America is currently in a great spiritual dilemma. The unprecedented, unconstitutional and infamous Supreme Court decision in 1947 declaring the "separation of church and state" changed America into a pluralistic society, with Christianity considered marginal, at best.

Let us pray and work to bring this nation back to the God of the Bible and the God of our Fathers.

Pastor Mike

Monday, November 06, 2006

Gardening 101

Mark 4:18-19 "And the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."

The final thorn or weed which hinders fruitfulness in our lives is the desire for other things. Some of these weeds are easily spotted, like sexual lust, an addiction to pornography, or perversions. But other cravings aren't so easily identifiable: food, clothing, jewelry, car, job, salary, a hobby or sport, or even the location or kind of house we live in. Any desire that drives us, controls our thinking or preoccupies our minds can be a weed that hinders growth in our lives.

One good way to spot this weed is to check your conversations: What are you most excited about? What subjects do you discuss with others? What preoccupies your thoughts daily? Is it something honorable?

I guess what scares me about all these weeds is their potential for multiplication. When I was a kid, I used to take great delight in breaking off the stem of a dandelion that proudly held a cluster of seeds. A stiff breeze or the slightest whiff of breath would instantly launch a jillion of those tiny, angel-hair parachutes. Now, as I fight the spread of these wind-borne warriors, I can't help but wonder how many dandelions there are in just one of those seed puffs?

Letting just one "weed" grow freely in your life could result in a crop failure of good fruit. Thorns and thistles reduce the yield of the harvest. A friend of mine who grows popcorn once told me that weeds left unattended can cut the harvest by as much as 40 to 60 percent. I couldn't help but think about how I need to get serious about pulling, poisoning and plowing under the weeds in my own life.

I wish I had some high-powered nuclear herbicide to help you instantly eradicate weeds from your life. The reality is that all soil has weed seeds. Lives do too. What you and I need is a personal visit from the Master Gardener and His hoe.

Praying that we all know what's in our garden,
Pastor Mike

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Patience; I want it now

Exodus 5:23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and You have not rescued Your people at all.

Have you ever felt like you have been obedient to the Lord for something He called you to do and all you get are more roadblocks? This is the way Moses felt. When Moses went to tell Pharaoh to release the people because God said so, Pharaoh simply got angry and made the people make bricks without straw. Moses caught the blame for this from the people. Moses was just learning what obedience really means in God's Kingdom. You see, Moses had not even begun to release plagues upon Egypt. He hadn't even gotten started yet in his calling, and he was complaining about his circumstances. There were many more encounters with Pharaoh to come, and many more plagues with no deliverances in sight. Why would God tell Moses that He is going to deliver them and not do it?

It was all in timing. God never said when He was going to deliver. He just said He would. In the next chapter, we find Moses arguing with God about not being capable of the job God had called him to:

But Moses said to the Lord, "If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?" Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron about the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, and He commanded them to bring the Israelites out of Egypt (Exodus 6:12-13).

Do you get the feeling God was losing His patience?

God had a good reason for His delays. He said, "And the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord when I stretch out My hand against Egypt and bring the Israelites out of it" (Ex. 7:5). God not only wanted the people of Israel but also the Egyptians to know Him. It would be the greatest show of God's power on earth.

God often causes delays in our lives that we cannot understand. Sometimes it seems our obedience is not getting rewarded. Jesus said He learned obedience through the things He suffered (see Heb. 5:8). Imagine that-Jesus having to learn obedience. What does that say for you and me? Sometimes God's delays are simply because He wants more glory in the situation, more recognition, more Christ-likeness in you and me through greater patience and obedience. Faint not, for the promise may yet come.

Praying that we all remember to look for God in everything,
Pastor Mike

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Go works in the strangest of places

Proverbs 14:4 Where there are no oxen, the manger is empty, but from the strength of an ox comes an abundant harvest.

When Jesus came into this world, He chose to be born in a most unusual place-a manger. It was no more than a livery stable with goats, oxen, and other livestock animals. There is a distinctive characteristic about a place like this. It is filled with odors and dung from the animals. God seems to work best among the unpleasantness of circumstances. In fact, "where there are no oxen, the manger is empty." What is this really saying? I believe it is saying that in order for Jesus to be present, we must invite those things that bring with them "messes to clean up." God works among the messy things in our lives. And from these messes come an abundant harvest. This is what He did with all His highly used servants in the Bible. God is filled with paradoxes. Why can't life be seamless and smooth? Because God likes to show Himself in the midst of the messes of life. This is what brings us into the harvests. So often the bigger the mess, the bigger the harvest.

When a major road-construction project takes place in a crowded city street, it appears to be absolute chaos. It is inconvenient, slow-moving and tends to get us irritated because it appears we are moving much slower than we would like. It is ugly, and so much of what we see is torn up. But when we look at that same area a few months or years later, we see why the construction was necessary. There was meaning to the mess. It actually made life so much better for those who would use the road.

It has been through the messiest of times in my business and personal life that God has revealed His power and strength in my life. It was when these "oxen" of hardship have walked into my manger that the greatest harvest was manifest. However, when I have sought to remove the "oxen" and rid myself of the odor and the mess, I have fought the ultimate work of God.

God works in mangers.

Praying that we allow God to work in our lives
Pastor Mike