National Day of Prayer

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Thomas Paine once said, “these are the times that try men’s souls”.

America is in crisis, inside and out.  Protestors are threatening our peace from within, rioting if they don’t get what they want.  College age adults, trained in our schools, want limits on free speech.  They want to decide what is acceptable and what is not.  The PC police have frightened most Americans from speaking their own minds.   Outside of our borders we face new threats of terrorism on our shores.  Millions of people unhappy with their lot in life have been illegally streaming into our country in order to attain free benefits from our government: education, medical care, welfare, housing without having to work for it.  Our own politicians are enabling them in order to gain votes in any election.  O yes, they are not citizens, but they can get drivers licenses and they will vote.

 

Within our country we have seen the corruption of government in every sector, leaders who set up rules for the citizens which they themselves refuse to be a part of.  Just look at the degradation in our country due to a loss of proper values and morals.  Have your read about North Carolina’s new bathroom laws to protect our families and children, while our own Federal Justice Department is trying to overturn such laws as civil rights violations.  What about the rights of descent American’s who don’t want a few people’s perversions flaunted in their face while they try and use public bathroom?  Don’t they have rights as well?   We have a secular elite who want to remove our foundational freedoms in order to bolster their own power in government.  They are systematically tearing down and undermining the great foundations of our country.  What ever happened to the “will of the people”?

 

If there’s ever been a time in our countries history in which we ought to drop to our knees and begin to pray earnestly for our nation, this is it.

We have gone so far off course that it seems impossible to get back to what America used to be, what America needs to be for our sake as well as for the sake of the world. Abraham Lincoln once said, “I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go. My own wisdom and that of all about me seemed insufficient for that day.”  We have always had the sense that we could do anything and fix anything, but as I look today we have gone too far.  It is going to take a miracle of Biblical proportions to save America for future generations.

 

In the book “7 Men: And the Secret of Their Greatness,” by Eric Metaxas,

He recounts a story of George Washington’s commitment to prayer during the Revolution. His nephew, George Lewis, told a Washington biographer that “he had accidentally witnessed [the general’s] private devotions in his library both morning and evening: that on these occasions he had seen him in a kneeling position with a Bible open before him and that he believed such to have been his daily practice.”

 

Would that every Christian in America had that kind of commitment to prayer.  It was a miracle that we won the revolutionary war, it was a miracle that gave us success at Midway that opened the door for victory in WW2.  Throughout our history the God fearing praying Christians of America have touched the heart of God and kept our country afloat.  We must get back to this kind of passionate prayer.

 

At Chuck Colson’s center they have given us specific focus on how Christ’s church—the people of God—can make a difference in our culture and around the world. We should not hesitate to join them and millions of others throughout our country.

And here’s what we will pray:

  1. We will praise the Lord that His sovereign goodness is as true today as ever. We will remember that this world ultimately belongs to God,

who created all things and Who, in Christ, is restoring all things.

  1. We will repent of our sin, and thank God for His promised forgiveness.

We will remind ourselves that all have sinned, and that we are welcomed

by God through repentance. Nehemiah began his work in the world with repentance. So will we.

  1. We will pray for our current government leaders to fight evil and stand up for truth. We will remember that there is no place where God is not at work.
  2. We will pray that truth and justice will prevail over “political correctness” and “tolerance,” both in our own lives and in our culture. We will remember that right and wrong do not change according to cultural fashions, nor does legality alter morality.
  3. We will pray for the upcoming election season, that God would show us mercy and not give us what we deserve. We will remember that God ultimately orchestrates human history and uses whom He will to accomplish His purposes.
  4. We will pray that God unites His people, using them to bring restoration in this broken culture. We’ll remember that those who have been reconciled to God have been put on mission as agents of reconciliation.

 

Friends, as we pray, we must remember what is true about God, about the Church, and about the world. History demonstrates that God will not tolerate legally approved immorality & a country that spurns His Word & His Ways. But history also shows us that God will hear our prayers.

We CAN make a difference!  We must for the sake of our children & grandchildren.

Mike Samarkand 1024x768

 

Coram Deo,
 
Pastor Mike


Coffee anyone?

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A group of young adults got together at a friend’s home.
They talked about a lot of things but soon the conversation turned into complaints  about politics, stress in work, trouble in our country & life.
The host offered his guests coffee.  He went to the kitchen where he had already prepared the coffee.  He picked out a number of different cups and mugs, as he had a good collection.  Some were porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain-looking, some expensive, and some exquisite.  He brought it into the room with sugar and cream telling them to help themselves to the coffee.   After everyone had chosen a cup, and began to drink their coffee, the host remarked to the group.  "If you noticed, all the nice looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones. While it is but normal for us to want only the best for ourselves, that is the source of our problems and stress.   "Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee.  In most cases, it's just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink. What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup.   But, subconsciously, we go for the best cups...and then we began eyeing each other's cups.   "Now consider this: Life is the coffee, and the jobs, money and, the politics, our position in society are the cups. They are just tools to hold and contain life, and the type of cup we have does not define nor change the quality of life we live. Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us. God brews the coffee, not the cups.  Let’s enjoy our coffee.”   When a family suffers a devastating fire in their home a number of things transpire.  There is the immediate shock followed by the sense of loss when you start to realize all that was destroyed.  The task of sorting through the rubble, is often a very painful task.  People often have to move out of the house right away due to health issues or safety problems.  That change in itself can be very demoralizing.   At some point you begin to focus on what is really important in life. It always comes down to loved ones and relationships.  You realize that your life was not the house of the things in it.  Job, in the Old Testament, experienced this in a major way that. God forbid we will ever have to experience such a nightmare.   The house the clothes, the possessions, were just the cups that hold our lives. God is most concerned about His beloved children. The cups they come and go.  Sometimes in life the cups are beautiful and precious.  At other times they are downright disappointments. But through it all, it is the “coffee” that is important, what God is brewing in our lives.  
Fortunately, we know the end of the story.  These cups here are only temporary.  Jesus is preparing a new cup for us, that will be glorious and it will carry this precious gift of life into all eternity.
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Mike Samarkand 1024x768
Enjoy your coffee,
Pastor Mike


The Rebirth of the Church in Uzbekistan

rebirthI shared a bit of history with you last week.  It is important if you are going to understand the church & the culture of Uzbekistan.  Back in the middle ages the church in Europe had become corrupt, immoral and heretical, much like many churches in the mainline denominations today in America.  True Believers in God’s Word sought to reform the church bringing about the protestant reformation.  But while European Christianity struggled, the Nestorian Church in central Asia was blossoming.  Indeed, this place of Uzbekistan and surrounding countries were the flower of Christianity in those years.  It was a vibrant church, deep in faith & bringing enlightenment in the areas of medicine, education, astronomy, and business.  The math they learned from India, was adopted by the Muslims and later became known as the Arabic numerals.  It was India and the Nestorian Christians who advanced this.   Islamic leaders like Timur “the Great” (mentioned in my last blog) took all of this knowledge and wisdom from the Nestorians & then laid siege to them.  Timur was one of the chief despots who was responsible for the complete destruction of Christianity in Central Asia (from India to Moscow & eastward into China). He was the “ISIS” of his day. Christianity was literally wiped from the annuls of history until 20th century archeology discovered the evidence of this great Christian movement.            Now fast forward to the late 1990’s when Korean missionaries came to this land and planted the seeds of Christianity after the collapse of the USSR.  A new generation of Christians has emerged in Uzbekistan, discipled in the faith, nurtured by the spirit of God.  Then the Atheistic government discovered what the Korean’s were doing & had all the missionaries deported.  But it was too late.  You can still see & experience the impact of Korea in the culture, (I ate in a Korean restaurant last night).  But more importantly you see the fruits of their labors in a fledgling church.           Imagine the heavy hearts of these new believers as their leaders, their fathers & mothers in the faith, were taken from them, exported (not back to Korea) but to other countries in Central Asia were they continued their evangelism and church planting.  This is one of the greatest missionary efforts of our age.           One might think that the church in Uzbekistan struggled after that, but it did not.  They rose to the challenge.  They took the leadership reigns and organized themselves into a tremendous underground movement connected with other underground churches in the world.  They meet in houses throughout the country, intentionally keeping each “church” small in order to avoid detection from the government.  It is better to have hundreds of small house churches than to have larger churches that could easily be found and disbanded by the government.           The believers that I have met have all had skirmishes with the police, being arrested, imprisoned, beaten, or humiliated and released after some time.  But God’s spirit has given them courage and they are not afraid.  The authorities realize they are not afraid and can’t figure out why.  As a result, arrests are fewer and the beatings have pretty much stopped. Indeed, many of the police are curious as to what makes these followers of Jesus so committed to their faith.  But there is always that threat of arrest & the followers of quite aware of it.  They are very cautious and take great measures to keep their schools of faith & training hidden.  They continue to share their faith energetically, knowing that each time they might be compromised.  They smile about it.  “God is in charge”.           Therefore, it is not surprising to me that they never let me meet with one of the house churches.  They kept me away, and I met with the leaders in their homes for training and encouragement.  To be with them is an experience like I have never had before.  We reclined at a low table with pillows and cushions. There is always great food, and hot tea or coffee.  It is so relaxing, not like a formal teaching setting with chairs and a lectern. I would share, someone would translate and we would dialogue back and forth.           Their faith is genuine and their love for each other is so evident in all that they say and do.  It is like a big loving family has gathered together for fellowship in the midst of learning.  It was like the early church of Acts, reclining at a table.  We were breaking bread in a small room with the joy of Christ in their faces & the love of Christ in their voices.  I was touched and ministered to in a profound way. I came to share, but they gave me far more than I could ever impart to them.            They have the heart of Christ in their church.  They have the passion for the great commission in their minds.  They are reaching out to surrounding countries. They are strategizing and in a very organized way, they are bringing the Faith back to Uzbekistan after 500 years of silence. It is power-filled.  It is humbling to be with them and yet I felt like I was a part of their family.          Now it is on to Iraq.  – Love and Blessings, Pastor Mike


“The Problem of Pain”

C. S. Lewis on "the God We Think Will Satisfy" us, found in his book The Problem of Pain26435: "What would really satisfy us would be a God who said of anything we happened to like doing, "What does it matter so long as they are contented?" We want, in fact, not so much a Father in Heaven as a grandfather in heavena senile benevolence who, as they say, "liked to see young people enjoying themselves," and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, "a good time was had by all." That sounds pretty good doesn’t it? Why didn’t God create the world that way? If you have had any experience in this world at all, you know that that is not the way things operate. And if you have been paying attention, you will realize that the world is not that way because of evil. There is a dark force in the world that that somehow plagues us. You know it is true, because, just like me, you’ve had to do battle with it. Some people have a better track record than others, at least on the surface it seems that way. But in the secret places of our hearts and lives, we find that this darkness always has a way of winning the day. That is it did, until Jesus came to in order to deliver us from that very evil. I didn’t get a chance to finish my sermon yesterday (I know, so what’s new?) So I thought I would wrap it up with my conclusion that I never reached. The most important verses in Titus 3 are 4 through 7. Here is Titus 3:4-7 in the New American Standard Version. 4 But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, 5 He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Notice in Vs. 4, how He came after us. As I said yesterday, we may not always be faithful to Him, but He is always faithful to us. It is just a part of His nature, His Holiness and Righteousness. It is just the way God is, He loves you and me, the crowning point of His creation. He will go to any length in order to enjoy our company for all eternity. Even if it means sacrificing His Son on our behalf. Then beginning in vs. 5 Paul gives us one of the best summations of the "Gospel" in 3 brief verses. In the Greek, it is just one long sentence describing how we are saved from the darkness, and enter into the light. It is clear that there is nothing good enough in us to merit salvation, so God delivers it to us as a gift. Out of His own deep love for us, He pours out His mercy upon us. It is described as a "washing", a deep cleansing if you will, deep enough to penetrate to most darkened soul. And what does God use for His cleanser? "Regeneration" & "Renewing" these two are mixed together in the most potent way by the Holy Spirit of God. And the Spirit pours it out generously over our lives. Remember in Psalm 23 where David says, "Thou annointest my head with oil, my cup runneth over". That is what the Father is doing to us. Pouring His cleansing power generously over our lives so that we will have His power in full strength, not only to be saved from past sins, but to be protected from any future darkness that might try to creep back into our lives. Jesus Christ made this possible when He took it upon Himself to take the punishment for our evil. Hence forth, He is our Savior, the one who pulled us out of the pit of Hell itself. Notice in these verses, the Father, Son & Holy Spirit all play a part in our cleansing that saves us from the darkness. As a result we stand, not condemned, but justified before God Himself. That means we have been vindicated and now find ourselves acceptable in His sight. And not just acceptable, but part of His Forever Family. And what is the result of all this? We become "Heirs" to His Kingdom and His Glory. The darkness, death, and the devil himself, no longer have control over us. In Christ, with the Armor of God, we have the power over him. His desire is to take us home to be with Him for all eternity. Jesus told His followers that He is building a place for them. Can you even begin to imagine that, our Holy Father, building a new Heaven and a brand new pristine world, that He wants to share with us for all eternity. It doesn’t get any better than that folks. John Wesley’s comments on verses 57 are concise and penetrating. "In this important passage the apostle presents us with a delightful view of our redemption. Herein we have, (1) The cause of it; not our works or righteousness, but ‘the kindness and love of God our Savior.’ (2) The effects; which are, (a) Justification; ‘being justified,’ pardoned and accepted through the alone merits of Christ, not from any desert in us, but according to his own mercy, ‘by his grace,’His free, unmerited goodness: (b) Sanctification, expressed by the laver of regeneration, (that is, baptism, the thing signified, as well as the outward sign), and the renewal of the Holy Ghost; which purifies the soul, as water cleanses the body, and renews it in the whole image of God.(3) The consummation of allthat we might become heirs of eternal life, and live now in the joyful hope of it. Meditate on those verses and Wesley’s analysis. It is profound! It is the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a nutshell, the Readers Digest version, the Cliff Notes if you will. Sunday, I shared with you that we were all a part of the "League of the Guilty". God is in the business of changing that in our lives. He indeed is Re-making us in ways that we never dreamed. This coming Sunday I want to take you into that dream. I want you to Re-think your world view! Come Sunday, and dare to Re-think, to catch a glimpse of God’s dream for you and the ones you love.
Mike-e1342678172131-150x150Veritas pro Christo et ecclesia,
Pastor Mike
 


“Regrets? I’ve had a few”

You might recognize those words from one of Frank Sinatra’s hits,
“I did it my way”. I’ve always disliked that song. I thought it was egotistical, an affront to the Face of God, and just plain arrogant.

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full.
I've traveled each and every highway;
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I've had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
And more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

If you are like me, you have had some regrets in your life. I have had more than a few, and more than I care to admit. There are a couple of things that I have learned about regrets in life:
First of all, you cannot go back in time and fix it. It is far too late for that. The decisions that you made back then, that felt so good and right at the time, turn out to be something that you will never fully recover from. You can seek forgiveness, and that will help with the healing. But some choices we make, we are bound to live with and that can remain a very hurtful part of your life, for the rest of your days on this earth. It is true in relationships, careers, moral choices, and the list can go on and on.
Secondly, I have discovered that the biggest hurts of all come from the ones you love the most. I have counseled many people in the course of my career, and it is unbelievable how much pain we cause for the ones that mean the most to us. Why is this so true? Why do we hurt the ones we love so deeply? The answer to those questions vary from hurt to hurt. Most of the time it comes from our childish immaturity. We want it our way. And we are willing to do just about anything to have it our way.
As I look at my life, the end is very near. Every day now, I hear of people dying of this or that, who are far younger than I am. And as I perform my duties as a pastor, laying them to rest, I can’t help but contemplate my own life. Because of my great insecurity, I always turn to the things that I messed up. The things I could have done differently or at the very least, better. You see, unlike the song, my regrets are “far too numerous to mention”. I could write a book about my own failures and lack of accomplishment. Too often, I see myself before God, feeling ashamed, trying to hide my face from the One who sees everything.

It is much more difficult to see my successes. They seem so small, so few, and so far in-between. That is what happens to us when we just have to do it our way. It is the oldest trick in God’s book, having it our way. It comes from the pride of the serpent, feeding Eve the great lie of life, “You can have it all, your way.” You get to be God.

It reminds me of a story I once heard:
A young, enterprising store clerk convinced his boss that a ten-cent sale would be a great way to reduce the overflowing inventory. The boss agreed, and the sale was a tremendous success.
This gave the young man an idea: He would open his own store stocking nickel and dime merchandise! So the young man approached his boss and asked him to invest in his idea for a portion of the profits.
The boss said no. He thought the idea was ridiculous, and told the young man, "Honestly, where would you find enough merchandise to sell for a mere nickel or dime?"
The determined young clerk went ahead with his plans anyway.
And eventually, F.W. Woolworth had stores all over the country!
Later, his former boss said with regret, "As far as I can figure out, every word I used to turn Woolworth down cost me about a million dollars."

Do you have some things in your past that you regret? Perhaps it's losing contact with someone you love or holding a grudge. Or losing a relationship that meant all the world to you. Or being unforgiving. The good news of Jesus Christ is that every day is a new day for His followers! His blood has cleansed us from all of our sins and Jesus gives us the amazing opportunity to start anew every day! That's the power of His Amazing Grace!

Thank God for the cleansing power of the cross to erase all your sins.
And then you ask Him to help you with any past regrets you might have.
By His grace you can start anew one day at a time It won’t feel that way at first, but if you are persistent, it can happen. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” --2 Corinthians 5:17 Perdonare Per Diem  - Pastor Mike



I Can’t Wait!

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A long, long, time ago, Alabama sang a song that 'fit me to a tee':

 

"I'm in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I'm in a hurry and don't know why.
Don't know why I have to drive so fast
My car has nothing to prove,
It's not new But it'll do 0 to 60 in 5.2
Can't be late, I leave plenty of time
Shaking hands with the clock,
I can't stop I'm on a roll
and I'm ready to rock
I hear a voice That say's I'm running behind
I better pick up my pace, It's a race
And there ain't no room For someone in second place."

 

I remember my mother laughing at me when I was 5 years old and just starting kindergarten (a traumatic life style change for me). My question was very simple. “How long do I have to keep going to school?” After falling apart in laughter, she gently broke the news to me that it would be, at the very least, another 12 years.

 

In my mind, the starter’s gun shot out, & my “race with time” had just begun.

I couldn’t wait to finish kindergarten.

I couldn’t wait to finish grade school and then high school.

I couldn’t wait to finish college. I stumbled out of the starter’s gate & it took me 5 years, but I finally did finish.

By then, I was a follower of Jesus and had my call to full time ministry.

I couldn’t wait to get married and have our own children.

I couldn’t wait to finish Seminary & come back home to California.

I couldn’t wait to get my first church in Kernville.

I couldn’t wait to become an associate up in Yuba City. But after 3 years,

I couldn’t wait to leave.

I couldn’t wait to finish my doctoral studies, but no one seemed to notice.

I couldn’t wait to grow a large church in Orangevale, but it all fell apart right before my very eyes. I wasn’t completely broken, but I was badly bent.

I couldn’t wait to get well, to get my mind right. It is still a battle at times.

I couldn’t wait to get on the “mission field”. After several short term trips,   I couldn’t wait to get into the 10/40 window and reach those yet unreached.

 

I know what you must be thinking. “Now there is a “Type A” Driven man."

And I have no defense for that accusation. As you can clearly see, I have been impatient for most of my life.

The good news is that God has a lot of patience.

2 Peter 3:8-9 NASB

8     But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day.

9     The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

 

For people like me, that is incredible. He could have squashed me like a bug, years ago. But His love for me, my soul, my eternity, is so very important. He was (& is) waiting for me to accomplish the task that was assigned to me when I became a follower of Jesus.

 

For me, I just keep prodding and kicking, like a rice farmer in Myanmar, trying to get that beast of burden to move a little faster. Some might say that I am too persistent. There is a big difference between being impatient and being persistent. Impatient people like me worry so much. We are fearful that we might run out of time & thereby miss out on the opportunity. I can see it all now. They are closing the door to the plane that I should have been on. As I race to the terminal gate, I am too late. I missed my connection. And so I worry. Always thinking about what might have been.

Matthew 6:25-34 NASB

25     “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink;

nor for your body, as to what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?

33     “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness,  and all these things will be added to you.

34     “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.

 

Life becomes so much sweeter when we allow God to do the leading and directing. He has His own timetable.

 Mike-e1342678172131-150x150

Tempus fugit – Pastor Mike