I love to listen to music. It expresses the beat of my heart. There is nothing in life that compares with walking with the Lord and experiencing his presence. I find songs that express that and I just worship in the moment. A rush of the Spirit fills my soul.
I believe that is what Psalm 120-134 is all about. They are called songs of ascent. It is believed that people would sing them on their way to the Jewish Festivals. Jerusalem is on a high hill so all roads were uphill. These songs were used to express worship and love for God. Look at the themes:
Psalm 120: God’s presence during distress; Psalm 121: Joyful praise to the Lord; Psalm 122: Prayer for Jerusalem; Psalm 123: Patience for God’s mercy; Psalm 124: Help comes from the Lord ; Psalm 125: Prayer for God’s blessing upon His people; Psalm 126: The Lord has done great things; Psalm 127: God’s blessing on man’s efforts; Psalm 128: Joy for those who follow God’s ways; Psalm 129: A cry for help to the Lord; Psalm 130: A prayer of repentance; Psalm 131: Surrender as a child to the Lord; Psalm 132: God’s sovereign plan for His people; Psalm 133: Praise of brotherly fellowship and unity; Psalm 134: Praise to God in His temple.
When you place God above all things, it is choosing to see life through the lens of the Holy Spirit. From time to time we need to be reminded of the Truths found only in a life of faith in a mighty God. Worship with me as I give a sampling of the power of these Psalms:
“The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life” (Psalm 127:1).
“As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he shows us his mercy”(Psalm 123:2).
“As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forevermore” (Psalm 125:2).
“When the Lord brought back the captives to Zion, we were like men who dreamed. Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them’” (Psalm 126:1-2). “But I have stilled and quieted my soul; like a weaned child with its mother, like a weaned child is my soul within me” (Psalm 131:2).
I pray your heart has been encouraged this morning. God is faithful to the very end. May you be filled with the presence of the Holy as you seek to glorify the Name of Jesus today in all of your endeavors.
I am looking forward to worshipping together with you as we express to the Lord His place in our lives. I love coming together with many generations singing the same song and walking in the unity of the Spirit.
Joy in Jesus!
Conquerors are not born, they are made. Many men want to be a conqueror but too many are waiting for it to happen on its own. It has to be intentional in order for it to happen. I have never heard anyone come up to me and say, “Pastor Mike, I was just going along and from nowhere, this Spirit came over me and I have been set free to live like I have never lived before.” No, it happens when you have been seeking the Lord with all your heart and you intentionally hungered for more. Many people give up too early. They get tired or distracted.
Consider how intentional Jesus was. He was a man of prayer. He prayed because He was intentional at only doing what the Father said. I know what you are thinking. He was Jesus and I am not. Correct! But you can have Jesus living inside of you – the One who rose from the grave and lives in power. So do you know what that means? We have no excuse. Too many times we blame it on our schedule or our circumstances. News flash – we are the ones in control of our schedule. There is nothing that can get in the way of intentionally living for Christ.
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Ephesians 6:10-13
As a church, we have been intentional in ministering to our men in this sex saturated culture we live in. Next week we will begin our seventh conqueror group. God is helping us to be more intentional, helping us to see the schemes of the enemy, and helping us to know how to use the tools we have at our fingertips. We are forming an army of strong men for God.
This weekend several of our men are intentionally getting away to seek the Lord and commit to purity in this impure world. Pray for our men. “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17. There is going to be a lot of sharpening going on. Pray for the Lord to speak deeply into the lives of our men.
May the Lord help you to see where He is leading you today and may we be willing to trust and follow Him to the ends of the earth.
Joy in Jesus!
Have you ever watched Wheel of Fortune? I know several people spend time trying to figure out the puzzle before the contestants do on the television. There is one more thing that many people do while watching this show. They imagine what it would be like to win the money that many win. In other words, they imagine themselves becoming rich. Ok, I don’t mean millionaires, but having more money to pay off bills or take a trip. How about the show, “Want to be a Millionaire?”
Can I tell you that you don’t have to imagine what it would be like to be rich? You already are. We are rich if we have clothes on our back, a place to live, and the list goes on. If you are a child of God, you are rich beyond description. We have all been given a treasure that will make the winnings on Wheel of Fortune and Want to Be a Millionaire look like Monopoly money. You are a spiritual billionaire! There is one catch though. You have to learn how to tap into these vast resources in order to fully realize it.
In Colossians 3:16, the apostle Paul wrote, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…”Let’s look a little deeper at the word “richly” in this verse. It comes from the Greek word plousios, a very old Greek word that describes: incredible abundance, extreme wealth, enormous affluence, great prosperity, and immense riches. Paul uses this word in Colossians 3:16 to let us know that if we will receive the Word of God in the right way – if we give it a warm reception and make if feel at home in our lives, it will enrich us spiritually. So this simply means that we are spiritual billionaires.
I know what you are thinking, “Pastor Mike, you are really stretching this one. To compare it to being a billionaire?” Read on and see what Paul tells us it produces in us if we allow it to.
“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” Colossians 3:16. (NKJV)
This describes people so full of the Word of God that their entire being is affected. Their hearts are full of joy; their minds are flooded with wisdom and understanding; and their mouths are singing songs to the Lord. This describes people who have struck it rich. It enriches you with wisdom, gifts, and the power you need for today. It fills you so much that it naturally comes spilling out and encouraging people in the faith along the way. When the Word of God dwells in you richly, there’s always a song of rejoicing in your heart. It spills out so much that it can actually bring life to those around you.
Paul is painting a picture of what the Word of God will produce in you if you allow it to take residence in you and become a vital part of your life. So if you are tired of feeling spiritually weak and worn out with nothing to offer, then don’t take another step without making the decision to let God’s Word play a more important role in your life.
Here is another way to say Colossians 3:16:
“Let the Word of God dwell in you richly! Throw open the floodgates, roll out the red carpet, and give it a grand reception! If you’ll let the Word of God dwell in your in this way, it will produce an amazing amount of spiritual wealth in your life to all God to breathe life into the faintest of hearts – even yours!”
Won’t you join me tonight for our final service with Stephen Manley? The service starts at 6:30pm. Come at 5:30pm and enjoy a delicious taco salad for supper. Let’s keep seeking the heart of God and we seek to know Him more.
Joy in Jesus!
Our church is going through an exciting period of growth. Any way you look at it - physically and spiritually - we’re blessed with a thriving congregation of believers, dedicated to upholding our church’s mission, which is also Jesus’ great commission to us in Matthew 28:19-20: to make Christ-like disciples in the nations. The church board has looked at this growth and identified some core areas that we need to continue developing to better serve our mission. In an effort to do what I Corinthians 10:31 says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” In the next few months, we’d like to specifically focus on developing our spiritual formation and discipleship process, our connections process and coordinating volunteers.
As we continue pursuing ways to enhance our growth and take advantage of opportunities to connect to our community, our leadership has granted permission for Pastor Nate to pursue a bi-vocational role in order to both be on staff at the church and pursue opportunities in the community. Over the next nine months, Nate’s responsibilities will adjust in order for this to happen. He will still be leading our small groups, connections, and volunteer ministry, just in a different capacity.
This move will give us an opportunity to raise up local experts in these areas. We’re excited to share more information as we continue to develop these focus areas. We’re also excited to see Nate fill this new role. His title will not change, and for all intents and purposes, most of you won’t see him any less. While he’s transitioning to an advisory role, he’s still going to maintain a very active and hands-on presence in each of these areas.
If you have any questions, I encourage you to talk to any of our church board members or see me. Throughout all of this, we just ask that you continue keeping our church, our vision and our mission in your prayers. Together we can praise God for His guidance and direction as we move forward.
Sunday also begins our Revival. In the morning we will have our regular scheduled service times at 9:15am and 10:45am. Sunday Evening is at 6:00pm. Monday through Wednesday is at 6:30pm with a delicious supper between 5:30pm and 6:30pm. Sunday and Wednesday evening will be a special event for Preschool up through Pre-Teen. Nursery and Toddlers care will be available each service. There is something for the whole family. Consider setting aside this week to grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ. Will you join me for this annual event?
Joy in Jesus!
I was thinking the other day how America is hungry but they promote a menu that lacks substance. You see people trying to find fulfillment in many things other than God. How did that come to be you ask? Let me take a stab at it. “We all like sheep have gone astray, each one has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all”Isaiah 56:3.
It wasn’t until Truth started to be removed from everyday life and then our educational institutions that we started seeing a slippery slope falling away from God’s original design. The fingerprint of God was removed from elementary and secondary education and was also stripped from colleges and universities. Many forget that Higher education was founded as Christian institutions. Take Harvard for example. Harvard University was began because John Harvard willed some money and his library collection of 320 books to be used to educate young Christian men in ministry. The official motto in 1692 was Truth for Christ and the Church. Later it simply turned to Truth.
The original Rules and Precepts in 1646 was this instruction: “Let every student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the main end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore lay Christ in the bottom, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisdom, Let everyone seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seek it of him (Proverbs 2:3) [The Founding of Harvard College by Samuel Morrison].
Many of the Ivy League institutions were founded for the purpose of furthering the Gospel of Christ. Many of the founding presidents were pastors. Society has followed suite and has moved away from Christian roots seeing a downward spiral of moral and biblical decay. We need to get back to our roots and honor God in our learning and living.
Starting on Sunday, September 30, we begin our Fall Revival. This is a high priority at our church. We come and focus on the Truth of God’s Word from our children all the way through the adults. The services are powerful and we provide meals Monday through Wednesday to make it a little easier for families to attend during busy schedules. It is important to always make it a priority to get into the Word of God especially when the world seems to be de-prioritizing it so much. As society becomes more hostile to the Christian faith, make sure you do all you can to counteract this by setting aside just 4 days for spiritual renewal. It may not counteract everything you encounter but it’s a start and a continuation of putting God first.
What would it be like if we said, “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t go to that school event tonight because I have a service to attend.” What a concept. Who knows, something may happen to influence a future decision or an eternal destiny. Let’s pray for our services and children’s events that will happen on Sunday and Wednesday nights. Pick up an insert on Sunday and share it with some friends. Let’s grow together!
I am looking forward to worshipping with you on Sunday.
Joy in Jesus!
In just a few days Hurricane Florence will be coming on the Eastern shores around South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. There are millions of people leaving those areas under a mandatory evacuation. People are nervous and are wondering what they will return to in the aftermath of this category 3 Hurricane.
Meteorologists have so much equipment now that will predict the effects of these massive storms many days before they actually come on land. Unfortunately in life, we do not have any technology that will warn us from the many tragedies that hit our lives. You hear about families giving up and ending in divorce, tragic accidents that happen, unforeseen personal tragedies, and diagnosis that hit us like a ton of bricks. No matter what the tragedy, we are always reminded that the things of this world are not meant to last forever. Even our temporary tents we live in fade away. If you can see it with your eye then it has an expiration date.
Every day the rain and winds come. Flooded rivers and flooded basements. Sometimes the storms in our lives are inescapable. Sometimes the storms we suffer are of the soul. What does the Bible say about God’s protection in the storms of life?
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you” Psalm 56:3.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you” Deuteronomy 31:6.
“1 Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.2 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” 3 Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. 4 He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 5 You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday” Psalm 91:1-16.
There is a song that was written by Ryan Stevenson called “Eye of the Storm.” Everything in his life was turning upside down. His mother died from bone cancer, his wife had a miscarriage, his church was under attack, friends were addicted to drugs, and he was at the end of his rope. As he was by himself, he wrote a song to help him direct his faith back to Jesus and how he does not stop paying attention to the details. Jesus cares about all. He feels what we feel and he is never taken by surprise. So look at the words of this song and be reminded of how God protects us and keeps guard of soul. We can all take courage in Him.
“Eye of the Storm”
In the eye of the storm, You remain in control.
And in the middle of the war, You guard my soul
You alone are the anchor, When my sails are torn
Your love surrounds me, In the eye of the storm
When the solid ground is falling out from underneath my feet
Between the black skies, and my red eyes, I can barely see
When I realize I've been sold out by my friends and my family
I can feel the rain reminding me
When my hopes and dreams are far from me
And I'm runnin' out of faith.
I see the future I picture slowly fade away
And when the tears of pain and heartache
So remember those who are in the path of Hurricane Florence. Pray for their safety. Pray for the ones who are going through different types of storms. Just pray for each of us to keep our eyes on the Lord.
I am still praising God for all of those who have been baptized these past few weeks. My heart is overflowing with Joy and love for the Lord who cleanses us from within. I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday.
Joy in Jesus!
As many of you know, the highway in front of our church is in the process of expanding from 4 to 6 lanes. Since it is expanding, they have decided to put a sound barrier in front of the church. It is supposed to be 18 feet tall. It is twice the height of Goliath.
I have enjoyed watching their progress as they have been preparing to pave this side of the highway. Vaughn, John, and I walked out where the wall will be built and I was able to take a few pictures. I never dreamed I would ever stand out in the middle of the future highway. In the middle of construction you can get away with a few things that you would never be able to do after the completion of the project.
We did not ask for the wall and they certainly didn’t ask our opinion. Their minds were already made up when they invited us to hear what they were planning on doing a few years back. I will have to admit that I was a little upset at first because it was nice to have visibility along the highway. This church purposely chose this piece of property because of the location. God quickly reminded me that there is no wall that will ever get in His way of reaching the lost.
In Joshua 4, there is a story where Joshua was leading the people of Israel to the Promised Land. Shortly before, Moses, one of the greatest leaders of all time, passed away and left the baton to Joshua. Joshua was nervous because he had to fill big shoes. On their journey they followed God and consecrated themselves to Him and was able to cross the Jordan River. Again, Joshua could have been tempted to think, “Oh this is great. I am following in the footsteps of the greatest leader Israel has ever had and we are facing insurmountable obstacles. It was at flood stage and very deep. When the priests stepped their foot in, the waters upstream stopped flowing. The people walked across on dry ground. Nothing was getting in their way because the Lord was with them. He has a way of making obstacles building blocks.
Now we come to Joshua 6 where they are looking at big walls surrounding Jericho.
“Then the Lord said to Joshua, ‘See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men’” Joshua 6:2.
They could have been overwhelmed with the task of defeating Jericho with those big walls. Especially with the God’s plan of attack. To walk around the walls 6 days and then on the 7th day to walk around 7 times and give a concert (MLM translation)? Joshua was not hesitant because the Lord had already delivered Jericho into his hands. He had total trust in the Lord.
From that, I am confident no wall will ever get in the way of this church making Christ-like disciple of all who travel the highways and byways of this community. If God says it, we faithfully follow no matter what obstacles get in the way.
Maybe we can form a committee every Saturday night to put graffiti on the walls that just so happen to resemble our logo. “No officer, I have no idea how that got there!” We will call that man’s attempt to reach out. My confidence lies not in the ways of man but in the ways of my God. His ways are perfect and they always work out in the long run. There is no wall too tall for God. The mission of the church will continue to move forward.
I am excited for another Sunday where several people will be walking in the waters of baptism. God is moving amongst our church and it is an exciting place to be. Come with great anticipation and pray for His Spirit to move our hearts to revival.
May we live our lives in such a way that there will be no barrier in the way of us totally committing to the ways of God and growing deep with Him.
Joy in Jesus!
I am still excited from the service this past Sunday. It is so good to hear the stories of New Life in our midst. We are going to have another baptism on Sunday, September 9. I know the Lord is speaking to some in our church to take the step of baptism in their faith journey. Pray with me as we continue to grow together to be more like Jesus as we humbly walk as He walked.
I want to send out an invitation for you to come to our Front Row Ministry on Wednesday mornings at 6:30a – 7:30a. It is where the church gathers to pray for the needs of our Nation, our Church, our community, and our families. We will also pray through the prayer list and for the families of our church alphabetically. So if your last name begins with “N,” then we prayed for you this morning. Many have said that the strength of a church is based on how serious they are about praying. I realize that many people are traveling to work during the hours that we meet. Let me encourage you to pray with us wherever you are. If you can join us, you will be blessed.
This morning during our prayer time, I read Psalm 27. What stood out to me was the posture that we need to have when walking through life.
We pray often for the enemy to be bound and that he would not get a stronghold in our lives. In 2 Corinthians Paul focuses our attention on having divine power to destroy strongholds. Webster’ dictionary defines stronghold as “a place dominated by a particular group or marked by a particular characteristic.” The enemy will never give up trying to dominate our mind therefore impacting our responses to God.
In Psalm 27: 1 it says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?”
The Lord is the one whom I want to have a stronghold on my life. I believe the result of God being our stronghold is clarified in the 2 verses following.
“When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall” Psalm 27:2. Do you see it? You are not impacted at all. It is if no one is advancing against you.
“Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident” Psalm 27:3. That is the way I want to respond to any attack of the enemy as he tries to get a stronghold in my life. I want to wear a sign that says, “The Lord is my stronghold – nothing can get in or out without the Lord’s permission.” Ok, maybe that sign would be a little too big to wear. I think you get the picture.
Read Psalm 27 today and take your time as you read it. See if you can’t see a contrast between verses 1-6 and 7-14. The first half is filled with praise, confidence, victory, and even singing. The last half is filled with needs – a whole host of requests. But it ends with David saying to, “Wait!” Even in the midst of great confidence, the enemy still tries to strike us with fear. Fear is paralyzing. Don’t become overwhelmed with your circumstances. Give it to God and remember to wait on the Lord. His timing is always perfect.
Joy in Jesus!
“The Priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place.”
2 Chronicles 30:27
If you were to read the preceding verse in context, you would quickly see that there was a lot of preparation happening in order for the final result of their prayer reaching heaven. They were celebrating joyfully. It reminds me of the book of Acts. The earlier followers of Jesus soon discovered that the most fruitful part of their ministry was prayer and the Word. It brought about tremendous results! The book of Acts is literally an account of a series of prayer meetings and what happened as a result of those prayers. When they prayed – things happened!
When the busyness of life began to press in upon the apostles they looked for help because they could not allow their prayer time to be crowded out. They knew the importance of the ministry of prayer and the Word. In Paul’s writings throughout the New Testament, it is evident that he counted time spent in prayer as time well spent. I am amazed at how often he mentions his prayer ministry:
“God, whom I serve with my whole heart in preaching the gospel of his Son, is my witness how constantly I remember you.” - Romans 1:9
“I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. “ - Ephesians 1:16
“In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy “ - Philippians 1:4
“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,” - Colossians 1:3
“With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith. “ - 2 Thessalonians 1:11
“I thank God, whom I serve, as my forefathers did, with a clear conscience, as night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers. “ - 2 Timothy 1:3
Notice how Paul says, “constantly,” “always,” “never ceasing.” In order to pray for all these people he had to spend a good time praying. The leaders of the early church counted prayer as their most important work. Prayer came before the ministry of the Word. This is the correct order.
Starting next Wednesday at 6:30am, we will be starting our Front Row Ministry back up in the Worship Center. There are plenty of things to pray for as we come together. In Acts 2, the Holy Spirit descended in power, a multitude came together, heard the Word and were saved. That is something the Spirit of God wants to repeat today. As a matter of fact, God wants to do that each and every Sunday as we gather together to worship. This Sunday is going to be a great day as we baptize many believers. God wants to do a brand new thing amongst us and He wants to begin with you.
Joy in Jesus!
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. - 1 Peter 2:4-5
These verses start out by saying, “as you come to him…”. This is not referring to someone initially coming into relationship with Jesus, it is speaking about an intimate fellowship between a believer and Jesus. It is an ongoing relationship that continues to be built on a solid foundation. I love how Peter used a unique figure of speech. He moves from our living hope we experience through the new birth, then to being born again through the living Word, and continues by referring to Christ as the living Stone.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. - 1 Peter 1:3
For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. - 1 Peter 1:23
Peter is saying that this Stone is living. It has life in itself and gives life to others. We are in constant relationship with the living Stone and then it goes on to say that believers are identified with Christ by being like Christ (like living stones). Throughout the day we are to be mistaken for Christ. So everything that happens today is in a sense a divine appointment showing others the living hope through the resurrection of Jesus, the living Word that has transformed us, and the living Stone that lives in us.
What divine appointment will come your way today? People to respond to, problems to solve, places to serve: each one is an opportunity to display the servant heart of Jesus through your attitude, behavior, and words. Each one is an opportunity to catch a glimpse of how God is transforming your heart, and each one gives you an opportunity to be transformed by responding to the prompting of God’s Spirit. There are going to be things that happen that are meant to stretch, strengthen, and move you in ways that could determine the outcome of your spiritual fervor. What will divine appointments reveal in you today?
I am looking forward to the next two weekends as we focus on Baptism. We have called it, “I Have Decided.” It is going to be a great weekend and I pray that we will better understand the obedient step in going public with our faith. Come and anticipate the Lord speaking in a powerful way. Invite a friend to attend with you. Ask the Lord of the harvest to set up a divine appointment this week and make it obvious as to whom you will invite.
Joy in Jesus!
Rev. Mike McClurg
Senior Pastor, Findlay First Church of the Nazarene