Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Prayer – The Heartbeat of the Church

Prayer – The Heartbeat of the Church

I have really enjoyed going through Paul’s letter to the church of Galatia on Sundaymornings. His letter is so rich and helps us where we are today as a church. This SundayI want to share a prayer that I pray for our people found in Ephesians 1. It will show the progression that we all need to be in as a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

As I look around at churches that are making a global impact, I can’t help but see the church found in Brooklyn, New York, called the Brooklyn Tabernacle Church. The Pastor’s name is Jim Cymbala. He has written several books talking about the prayer ministry that has opened their church up for the Spirit of God to transform lives in their neighborhood. One of the books he has written is, “Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire.” The title alone is enough to get the book and read it. It shows the emphasis they place on prayer in their church. He says, “From this day on, the prayer meeting will be the barometer of our church. What happens on Tuesday night will be the gauge by which we will judge success or failure because that will be the measure by which God blesses us. If we call upon the Lord, He has promised in His Word to answer, to bring unsaved to Himself, to pour out His Spirit among us. If we don’t call upon the Lord, He has promised us nothing. No matter what I preach or what we claim to believe in our heads, the future will depend upon our times of prayer.”

Jim goes on to say, “Teaching is good only where there’s life to be channeled. If the listeners are in a spiritual coma, what we’re telling them may be fine and orthodox, but unfortunately, spiritual life cannot be taught. Pastors and churches have to get uncomfortable enough to say, ‘We are not New Testament Christians if we don’t have a prayer life.’”

I have noticed a climate change in our church ever since we started our Front Row Ministry on Wednesday mornings at 6:30 a.m. It does make a difference in the Spirit Realm when the church places it as a priority to call upon the name of the Lord. But I believe that we are only scratching the surface. We have often said that as we grow, we want to grow because the Spirit of God is drawing people and lives are being changed. Brooklyn Tabernacle Church has had a prayer ministry on Tuesday night for years. If you don’t show up early then you may not get in the building. That’s what you call, “Power in Prayer.” I am not recommending that we start a Tuesday night prayer meeting and try to duplicate what someone else is doing. I do, however, want to have a church that is passionate for prayer. When we fervently pray, we unleash the power of God. Whether you come on Wednesday morning from 6:30 – 7:30 a.m. or pray during that time in your home or workplace, let’s humbly bow together and seek the heart of God for those who are lost, hurting, or discouraged. Pray for our families to thrive and be filled with the Spirit of God.

This Sunday night at 6:00 p.m. our Haiti team will be sharing about their experience in Haiti. We will also look at the possibility of returning next year to build another church.

I am looking forward to a powerful time of worship on Sunday. Ask God to help you to find a need and fill it, or a hurt and heal it today in Jesus’ Name.

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sword Practice!

Sword Practice!

Have you ever been in a situation when you felt you needed a word from the Lord, but you didn’t know which word you needed? Have you ever ran to your Bible, open it up, then let your finger fall down on a verse hoping that it was exactly what you needed for that season? I’ve been there before and will probably try it again in desperation some day. Let me tell you though, it hasn’t worked for me – ever. Today I want to look at the Sword of the Spirit and help us to understand how God can help us effectively use this offensive weapon mentioned in Ephesians 6.

Paul encourages believers to be strong in the Lord and to put on the Armor of God. This armor will help us when Satan attacks us from all sides. Ephesians 6 reminds us that this armor is very much needed because our real battle is being fought with an enemy that we cannot see. We see the results in the form of addictions, discouragement, pain, and heartache. The very last article of the armor of God mentioned is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). The word translated “word” is not the Greek word logos, which would refer to the written word. Instead, Paul uses the Greek wordrhema. This is really powerful so get ready for the reason because it is going to open up new truth to you today.

Had Paul used the word logos in this verse, he would have implied a “sweeping stroke” against the enemy, and this would never do. You see, the word logos – although broad, heavy, wonderful, and full of general direction for our lives – is not sufficient to deal the enemy a fatal blow. Sometimes we need to stab the enemy, not just do a blanket sweeping stroke. By using the word rhema, Paul was referring to a specific, quickened word from the Scriptures, placed into our hearts and hands by the Holy Spirit. When this takes place we have real sword power to use against the enemy.

The Roman army was continually practicing the arts of warfare. They had a daily sword practice. They would practice with swords that were two times heavier than the ones they actually used in battle. This prepared them for when they would have a real encounter. Needless to say, they were ready because they were in shape and overly prepared.

When you go to passages like Luke 4:3-13 where Jesus encountered the enemy of our soul, you can see where these two Greek words for “word” come alive. The word that Jesus used to counteract the attack of the enemy was not three pages long. All that is needed to kill the enemy is sometimes a mere two-inch penetration. In this case, one very small rhema from the Lord had the power to do the adversary in. When Satan was on the attack, Jesus doesn’t just say, “Get out of here.” Instead, He stabs the devil repeatedly with direct blows! Jesus had a specific, quickened rhema from the Holy Spirit.

After the devil tempted Jesus with food, Jesus drew the sword that the Holy Spirit put in His hand (a rhema) and said, “…It is written, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God” (v. 4). To this stabbing sword of the Spirit, the enemy had no response. Each temptation that was thrown at Jesus, His response was a word (rhema) from God. After the third temptation, the devil ran. He was no match for the Word of God. He had nothing to counter with. How powerful is that?

Just like Jesus, you are equipped with all the armor of God, and this includes the sword of the Spirit. As long as you do your sword drills in the morning, and get equipped, there is no battle that will be a real threat to you. As you are faithful in saturating in the Word of God, you are giving fuel to the Spirit of God who lives inside of you. The Holy Spirit is faithful and will place in your heart and hands the exact rhema you need to put the devil on the run.

What a great day we had this past Sunday. I always enjoy hearing the testimony of people as they are baptized. This Sunday we will be receiving people into membership of the church and honoring our Chinese graduates. I will be preaching from Galatians 6 and finishing our series on this great letter from Paul.

Join with me as we prepare to come and be inspired to new heights this Sunday.

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Finding Contentment (Haiti Update #5)

Finding Contentment (Haiti Update #5)

It is good to be home from Haiti. There are some parts of the trip that flew by and then there were parts that were slow moving. Not being with my family was the slow part. Our last day on Monday was spent finishing up the dormitory with a fresh coat of paint on the exterior trim, staining wardrobe cabinets, minor plumbing issues, and installing small desks in the rooms. All in all, it was a productive morning. We then ventured out to see some of the countryside in the afternoon and finished up with a big Haitian meal cooked by Elise. We will be announcing a service soon where our team shares the whole experience.

As we got up at 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning to return home, Barb Campbell wasn’t feeling real well. Barb and Lyle ended up having to stay in Haiti because the airlines would not let her fly back in that condition. A prayer request was sent out and our prayers have been answered. They have boarded the plane and will be home this evening. Praise the Lord!

When you return from a mission trip like this, you always evaluate what you hold dear to your heart, how you approach life, and what God says about it. Let me share with you a passage from Philippians where Paul talks about these kinds of things.

“10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.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.”      Philippians 4:10-13

The church of Philippi just gave Paul a monetary gift and he is expressing his appreciation to them. Noticed that Paul says that he has learned to be content with whatever situation he finds himself in. Whether he had plenty or in need, he states that his contentment is found in Christ. He has found the secret to living a life totally submitted to Christ. It is not a matter of what you make or what you have or don’t have, it is a matter of how much Christ has of you. For when Christ is not the center of your life, then the things you possess, no matter how much or how little, can possess you.

As I travel around and meet many people in all walks of life, I cannot say that I have seen a common thread of people who have found the contentment of Christ. I have met Haitian people who don’t have much but the Spirit of God has consumed them. They totally rely on the Lord. I have also met people who would be considered rich in monetary possessions resemble that same kind of contentment.

Look at what Paul says earlier in his letter,
“4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”     Philippians 4:4-9

Having God guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus is a matter of totally depending on Him for your everything, whether you are rich or poor. Don’t allow things to begin to own you and dictate your source of contentment. Allow God who transcends all understanding, give you a peace that is out of this world.

May God bless you as you make Him your source.

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Update From Haiti #4

Today is Sunday Morning in Haiti and the Sun is shining bright. Last night we traveled through Port Au Prince and ate at a very nice restaurant. The streets were packed with people, cars, motorcycles, and small shops along the side. They were selling anything from food to clothing to drinks and medication. It is always a site to see. We travel in a truck with a cage around the bed to keep us in and others out. You almost feel like a caged animal on display as you travel through the streets. The food was delicious and it was good just to sit back and relax for a while.

We began the work day around 6 a.m. On Saturday morning so we could finish. We have about 2-3 hours of work to do on Monday morning. The dormitory looks great! We can't wait to bring the pictures back and share them. There are so many people at home who invested in so many ways. There are families who gave up their husband, wife, son, daughter, father, or mother. There is one father here who announced that their wife is having a baby. I won't tell you who it is, you can try to figure it out. I will give you one hint - it's not Vickie and I.

There are many who gave financially to help out with the project more or scholarships for others to go. Many have prayed for God to move among our team and those we come in contact with. We are so blessed to have a praying, loving, and generous church.

Today we are going to a church where the District Superintendent is the pastor. I was informed last night about 8:30 p.m. that I would be preaching. I don't know why it shocks me because that seems to happen every time we come to Haiti. Be ready in season and out of season is the Haitian way.

Today we will be attending service, going to an orphanage this afternoon, then a Haitian concert tonight. We will be praying for the services in Findlay as we enter the day.

Joy in Jesus!

Pastor Mike

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Update From Haiti #3

Go and Do Likewise

I understand it is snowing in Findlay. I can't say the same thing here in Haiti. Today was a  hot one. I think it reached into the 90's. The team was hard at work here in the dormitory while I was traveling to a potential sight for our church to bring another team next year to build a church. The Church of the Nazarene is growing in numbers here in Haiti. Twenty five percent of everyone who comes to know Jesus Christ as their personal a Savior is done in the Church of the Nazarene. One out of every 100 Haitians is a Nazarene. There are about 1600 established congregations that are waiting for churches to be built. So needless to say, God is blessing our church in Haiti. It is exciting to see the enthusiasm in the church. As I traveled to this potential sight, I was able to talk with several who are excited about what God is doing. This church has a new pastor who is newly married. Pray with us as we ask the Lord what He would have us to do.

We continue to finish up the dorm and plan to finish the inside tomorrow. There are Haitians working on the bathroom tile and they will be finishing up in the weeks ahead.

In Luke 10:25-37 and expert in the law begins a conversation with Jesus by asking what he must do to inherit eternal life. Let's join the conversation at verse 26.

26 “What is written in the Law?” Jesus replied. “How do you read it?”27 The man answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’[c]; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii[e] and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

Go and do likewise. We are called to Love God with all our heart and love our neighbor as ourselves. It is demonstrated in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. What a great example Jesus used when He said that it pertains to all. It isn't the title that you have, how long you have been serving the Lord, or even how much you know, it all boils down to loving no matter what. 

As we were driving today I couldn't help but notice that they don't drive like we do. They are more aggressive but rage is not accompanied with their aggression. You can be driving along and someone can lay on the horn but they don't mean it like we do in the states. They are just being courteous and letting you know that they want to pass by. The amazing thing is that no one takes offense by the honk. Life goes on. Now if they were in my neighborhood, those honks would be enough to stop and have a little discussion. 

And Jesus would say, "Yes, include that neighbor on the list to love to the ends of the earth." That my friend, will be just enough to live. 

Tomorrow we plan to start at 6:00 a.m. So we can stop in the afternoon in order to have an excursion. We need to finish painting a few rooms and the hallway, finish the desks, benches, and cabinets, and finish the sinks and toilets in the bathroom. After putting the beds together, we will put the sheets and pillows in place and be done with our part of the project. We are a little further than what they expected us to be.

Thanks for your prayers!

Pastor Mike

Friday, April 8, 2016

Update From Haiti #2

Update From Haiti #2

Today was a great day of working after a long night. It was long because everyone froze to death from the air conditioner being too cold. Yes, we had the air conditioner on because it is very hot outside. I just talked to Vickie and she said that it was going to snow back home. Not meaning to rub it in or anything, but it was over 90 degrees today.

We started our day by going to the dormitory and putting together a game plan. The list of projects kept us busy all day. The first item on the agenda was to take down the beds and move everything to the center so we could clean and prepare to paint the walls and the ceiling. After taking the mattresses outside to lay in the sun, we wiped down the walls, swept the debris up, and began to paint. While painting, a group began to work on replacing all the doors for each bedroom. Another group worked on the electrical part of the building. They said it was pretty messed up. They installed light fixtures, fans, and cleaned up some wiring.

Dan Sertell and Roger Thomas spent the day working on homemade desks for the rooms. They will be making 10 desks, 4 cupboards, shower benches, and whatever else they can get to.

Have I mentioned that we have a hard working team? Everyone is working long hours and we came to the end of this day worn out. We started at 8:30am and worked until about 5:30pm.  After eating supper, everyone cleaned up and is now relaxing.

I am reminded of a passage the Apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:23-24. He said, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving."

No matter what you do, whether you are enjoying it or are enduring it due to the circumstances around you, if you do your best with all your heart as unto the Lord, then your motivation changes. When this takes place then it puts a certain satisfaction at the very core of your labor. I truly witnessed this from every team member today. I heard no one complaining about the heat or the work. What a blessing to be with such an awesome team of people who are all about Jesus.

May God help each of you to experience the joy of the Lord in whatever you put your hands to as you do it unto the Lord.

Joy in Jesus!
Pastor Mike

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Update From Haiti #1

Update From Haiti #1

The Haiti team from our church has made it safely to Haiti. The travel was uneventful. Everything worked out as planned. It actually went better than we thought it would. 

After leaving the church about 7:30am Wednesday morning, we set off for Detroit, flew to Atlanta, then arrived in Port Au Prince, Haiti at 6:45pm. It was snowing when we left Ohio, and the weather is pretty hot here in Haiti. We went from a furnace to air conditioning. Don't feel sorry for us. I think we will be able to make it.

As we were sitting and listening to our missionaries prepare us for a good week, they reminded us that it will not be like any other year. So true. This is our fifth trip to Haiti and each one has been different. We began in 2010 right after the earthquake. We were scheduled to come before the earthquake hit Haiti. Needless to say, things have changed for the better over the years. We then brought a team in 2011, 2012, and 2014. We built two churches, a school, and a medical clinic/fellowship hall. This year we are focusing our efforts on the Bible College/Seminary in Petionville. We will be fixing up dorms that house students. Pillows, sheets, paint, new plumbing, doors, and an exterior facelift will be on the agenda. It will be a lot of work in a short period of time. Please pray that we will be able to finish what we start.

My thoughts have turned to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:9-13. It says,

And the word of the Lord came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?”10 He replied, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

As I mentioned earlier, this trip will not be the same as years previous, nor do we want it to be. I don't think anyone is trying to repeat an experience we shared in the past. Each time we come, the Lord does a new thing. Each time it is exactly what we needed for that time. I wouldn't describe it as better, just right. 

Elijah was looking for the Lord in the obvious plac The wind, the earthquake, and the fire. In each place He was not there. You can't blame him for looking at these places because the Lord is the creator of all things and that would be pretty impressive to show up at these places. But after the fire came a gentle whisper. That is where the Lord was found. 

Let this remind you that God chooses to speak in different ways at different times. Don't look for Him to move in a better way. Look for him to move! He is always up to something and is always wanting to speak to His children. Our role is to respond. Be aware, sensitive to His Spirit, and listen. Then respond with all your heart as He wants to lead and guide us into ways that will make an eternal impact on all who are within range.

Be sure and check out our website for updates on our Haiti team. Each day there will be a new update on our progress along with a passage to stretch you right where you are in life.

Joy in Jesus!
Pastor Mike