Mike's Memo is a devotional produced by Assistant Minister, Mike Heisler. It is originally posted on Instagram and Facebook. Like, share, and make sure you check back for new editions of Mike's Memo!
March 9, 2021 Disciple Who?
I failed. There I got that out. Now to explain.
Our mission statement is “To Be Disciples and to Make Disciples”. A disciple is more than a believer. It is someone who is following Jesus and being changed by Jesus, a student of Jesus. Like an apprentice who is learning a trade a disciple will not only learn the trade but then engage in it on their own. It requires time and shared experience.
Pre-lockdowns we had various watering holes for people-time: bakeries, cafes, Starbucks, IHOP (International House of Prayer). Wegman’s was a good option because you could mix the grocery shopping in with some fellowship, sometimes by just running into people.
It’s been hard this year. We’re still seeing less than half the pre-covid numbers actually coming on a Sunday morning. But I want to focus on a group you may already be spending time with - your family (or housemates).
I didn’t grow up with any discipleship in my home so I had no example to follow. I’ve not been part of a church that was intentional about discipleship so I haven’t experienced that either. My apprenticeship happened here and there as a few people came alongside me for short periods of time. Eventually I was able to work on my “Jesus trade” more on my own. You might say I grew into it.
So how did I fail? I failed to disciple my own children. It wasn’t on the radar. Now they’re having children and don’t have the experience or the tools to disciple them. Sunday school and youth group will not make disciples. They won’t catch it from you like they can a virus. You have to intentionally make time and share your Jesus life with them.
If you have kids, take it upon yourselves to engage in discipling them. In apprenticing them in knowing and following our Lord. If you don’t have kids perhaps you can come alongside others who do or share with housemates and friends, even make new relationships.
Chad Harrington writes:
“The greatest barrier to spiritual leadership at home is fear:
We fear that we’ll do it wrong.
We fear that we don’t know enough.
We fear our own shortcomings.
We fear not knowing how to handle Scripture.
The God who expects us to lead our families spiritually also gives us grace as we grow in leadership. You don’t have to get it all right, but you do have to try. “
This article gives some simple but effective ways you can start. They are helpful for a family or a group of people. Prayerfully consider what you should do and how we can help you do it. It’s never too late to start sharing the life of Jesus with others in your life.
"While going, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
February 25, 2021 Good News
An interesting morning. I felt restless and got up early. Got some coffee and headed to my “sanctuary”. Having an unused room is one of the perks of being empty nesters. It also helps when my “morning person” spouse is singing at 7am.
So I sit down, open the phone, touch the Kindle App. “Login please”. Oh, did I mention that I got a new phone yesterday? Hunt down the password, enter it and I’m on page 1 on the book’s introduction. Now where was I in that book? Just “sync to the furthest read” place you say? Nope, I had skimmed around and that was way out there. I found my place pretty quick but you can see where this is heading.
Now to my eSword bible app. It has KJV as the current version. No big deal. Select bibles and … KJV is all there is! I had like 10 bibles installed, different English versions, 2 Greek texts, and the OT in Hebrew and Greek. I downloaded enough of those to be satisfied for the moment and went on to the devotional. Of course they are all gone too.
Now I have actually paid for some of these so I’m scrounging for product keys and logins. I got today’s and moved on. Something about shedding innocent blood. (Deuteronomy 19) It was lost on me at this point. Even the quote for today left me scratching my head.
“He that accuses all mankind of corruption ought to remember that he is sure to convict only one.” Edmund Burke
I think that’s a warning for me at this point regarding my phone but I’m not sure.
That last straw was breakfast. I leave the room and head to the kitchen. I often listen to the “World and Everything in It” podcast while I eat. Not today. I’m just eating. Marsha comes out and asks if I’m going to listen to the news. “Why?” I said. “It’s either going to be about what the President has done to undo what the previous President did or what the Senate is doing to impeach a guy who’s no longer in office, or both. I could use a little good news today.”
Well that reminded me of a song, Anne Murray’s “A Little Good News”. You might have never heard it given that it was 1983, before some of you were born! It was quite appropriate for this year. Marsha didn’t remember it so I played it for her. (A Little Good News-Ann Murray (Original 1983 Video)) I was nearly brought to tears as I listened and contemplated where we are. I haven’t quite gotten over it yet.
In the grand scheme of things Jesus is our Good News. The kingdom of God, salvation and resurrection are Good News. I’m just struggling to align my emotions with my head today. May His mercy and grace be with you in these interesting times. Maybe you can enjoy these too:
Good News Network: Good News, Inspiring, Positive Stories
Squirrel News – Your Constructive News App, Some Good Local Government News
(I have no connections with them nor have I read them. Just search results.)
February 12, 2021 My Ignorance
In the 2014 movie “Captain America, the Winter Soldier”, a police car pulls up next to Nick Fury in his big black SUV. When they stare at him, Fury says “Do you want to see my lease?” That seemed funny at the time, oh, they might think he stole it. I didn’t grasp that it was only because he was black that they would think that. It wasn’t funny after all.
“It takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.” Thomas Sowell
Amen. Angela asked me about my bi-weekly post (which I’m not doing well with) and given it’s Black History month it seemed appropriate to touch on that topic. Not in terms of the history of black Americans but on what I’ve learned about it this past year.
While I would not have considered myself well read, I would have considered myself aware of the general news and goings on in the US and the world. I regularly listen to podcasts, news reports and read news articles and papers. I don’t pay attention to the various social media forces or follow online news. But hey, I’m 66, for most of my life that stuff didn’t exist. And frankly I’m suspicious of it. It’s too easy to rapidly “publish” inaccuracies, mistakes and lies.
I heard a while ago that during the depression it was said “Believe nothing you hear, and only half of what you read.” Referring to news and gossip. It probably stems from this quote “Believe nothing you hear, and only one half that you see.” ― Edgar Allan Poe. “Seeing” can relate not only to what we read but to what we sometimes think we see so clearly.
Getting back to being in my 60s. I lived during the civil rights movement, a bit too young to understand some of it, but old enough to take part as we emerged into the 70’s with new awareness, state laws, federal support, and general respect for Black Americans. I grew up in a predominantly white blue-collar town in western PA. My experiences with people of color were sometimes awkward but not hostile.
Then coming to Ithaca and Cornell I was exposed to a multi-ethnic, multicultural world that left me pretty open and accepting of most people. I thought others had left the prejudices of the 60s behind. That was so “last generation”. I moved to Ohio after graduation and realized that I was wrong on that one. Yet I did not see evidence of the kind of discrimination that was so pronounced prior to the earlier Civil Rights rulings. “Believe half of what you see”.
We moved back to Ithaca. Our best friends had adopted two black children and one from India. We adopted 4 Koreans. I was a minority in my own home. My kids were often the only non-white in their class. Yes, they experienced some occasional racism. Bullies will use any difference to torment people, race is an easy target. But overall there we saw little prejudice. My daughter married an African-American, my son a European-American and we were happy for them.
Then came what I’ll summarize as the mess of 2020. A positive outcome from all the turmoil was the new conversations we had with friends of color. We also watched some movies and documentaries that dealt with social and personal prejudices that we would not have otherwise considered. I became aware of my own ignorance. I was surprised, actually shocked by it.
My son-in-law received “the talk”. He understood that when the police stopped him he would be judged first on his race. In fact he may be stopped because of his race.
I talked to a friend from Kansas, not some industrial, east coast, inner city place, but a suburb of an educated, middle class, midwest city. I was told how the father wouldn’t walk the neighborhood street without one of the kids along for fear of having the police called out over this suspicious black man roaming the neighborhood.
I heard an IC faculty member had a security person pull a gun on them on campus. Suspicious of them because of their color. Several podcasts I listen to interviewed black Americans who repeated similar stories. These people are living in a world I was ignorant of.
Justice Clarence Thomas’ grandfather was stopped while driving an oil truck and cited for “wearing too many clothes”. What does that even mean? Given that this was in Georgia around 1960 it’s not too shocking. The laws of the time allowed for such behavior. Now they don’t. But sinful people in positions of authority can still cause grief and engage in prejudicial behavior.
Thomas Sowell’s quote that I began with emerges. I was more ignorant than I knew. Now what?
Lord, may we seek justice and love in our interactions and relationships. May we be a blessing to those of every color. May we realize how the prejudice of some has altered the lives of so many. May we seek to change hearts in the name and through the work of Jesus, one heart at a time.
Some things to watch:
“Common Sense in a Senseless World” A documentary on black conservative Thomas Sowell. (There are some great quotes in this.)
“Created Equal” Justice Clarence Thomas tells his story.
“Uncle Tom” www.uncletom.com, An oral history of the American Black conservative. We have purchased this, contact us if you can’t stream it for free and want to see it.
December 26, 2020 Desired Things
True godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. . . . But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
1 TIMOTHY 6:6, 9-10
I ran across this in a devotional and wanted to share it with you. “Desiderata” (Latin for “desired things”), a prose poem written in December 1933 by Max Ehrmann about attaining happiness in life.
Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant, they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let not this blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. And whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams; it is still a beautiful world.
Be of good cheer! The King is Born!
Be gentle on yourself and others this Christmas season.
October 6, 2020 Evangelicals, Trump and the Election
Okay, I watched part of the first “debate” last night. Seriously, how embarrassing. I’ve seen more reasoned discussion on sports talk shows.
In some respects this isn’t new. In a World Radio podcast of 9/24/20 Cal Thomas says:
“It isn’t that in earlier elections politicians refrained from slurring and slandering each other. Many did. The 1800 contest between John Adams and Thomas Jefferson was cutthroat in the extreme.
As CNN.com recalls, Jefferson’s camp labeled President Adams “a fool, a hypocrite, a criminal, and a tyrant.” In return, Adams’ men branded Vice President Jefferson “a weakling, an atheist, a libertine, and a coward.””
Is that all we’ll get in this election cycle? I think there must be more than the rhetoric. I’ve listened to several evangelical leaders who have been in private meetings with President Trump. (private as in a small group, not one-on-one) They have said he is polite, thoughtful and reasonable in these small groups. Nothing like what they see from press meetings and tweets. It’s sad that the value is lost in the presentation.
Frankly, given our choices, I’m less concerned about the individual that is elected than I am in what group is most influencing the country and in what direction. I look at the Democratic and Republican platforms and am more concerned about the groups than the individuals. We can’t expect the government to be solving problems we as individuals and the church are meant to address.
I’m not endorsing anyone. But as believers how do we even process the election issues? I hope this info provides an alternative view to some of the hyped media that’s all around us.
Documentary “Uncle Tom” https://www.uncletom.com/about “In a collection of intimate interviews with some of America's most provocative black conservative thinkers, Uncle Tom takes a different look at being black in America.”
Evangelicals, Trump and the Election with Dr. Michael Brown 18 Sep 2020 Dr. Michael Brown, author of Evangelicals at the Crossroads: Will We Pass the Trump Test?
These two are 9 months old but provide a summary of some thoughts on the matter.
Why did Evangelicals Vote for Trump? 07 Dec 2019 Dr. Frank Turek responds to questions about the 12/7/19 podcast in this podcast of 1/4/20
The Elephant in the Room isn’t Trump 04 Jan 2020
September 29, 2020 Choosing Life
I’ve had a hard time getting my ideas down to manageable memos lately. I’ve been wanting to get something out ASAP. The Derek Prince devotional for this week seemed really simple and addressed something I struggle with. Not, the “I wish I were dead” part, but the negative, pessimistic part. It’s a choice. A choice I struggle with. I hope this is helpful. God bless. Mike
I will not die but live, and will proclaim what the Lord has done. NIV
It’s so important that we have a positive attitude toward life – that we are not negative, that we are not pessimistic, that we are not death-oriented. I’ve discovered in many people’s lives that one of the most crucial mistakes that a person can make is to say something like this: “I wish I were dead.” You know that a death wish opens the way for all sorts of dark and negative forces to come swarming into your mind and to begin to take you over, and what began as an idle wish can end as a tragic happening.
In the words of Moses to the children of Israel he said, “Behold, I set before you this day life and blessing, death and cursing, therefore choose life that you and your descendants may live.” (Deut 30:19-20) Do you realize that life requires a choice? We cannot submit to circumstances in passive indifference and say, “What comes will come.” God says, “I’ve set a choice before you. On the one hand, life and blessing; on the other hand, death and cursing.” When God sets a choice before us, we have to make that choice. To make no choice is to choose, choose wrong. So choose life that you and your descendants may live.
To view a video of scenes from Israel with Derek's original audio on our website click here.
From Derek Prince Ministries
July 18, 2020 Trees
Marsha and I often walk on trails in wooded areas. Here is a typical conversation.
Marsha: "Isn't this beautiful!"
Mike: "It's nice"
A few minutes pass, we've walked further down the trail.
Marsha: "Isn't this beautiful."
Mike: "Marsh, it's more trees."
"It's more trees." has become a joke between us. Of course I'm thinking that it looks just like it did a few minutes ago and probably how it will look for the next 30 minutes. For me it lost its beauty shortly after the trail started up the hill, but not for her. She maintains that child-like wonder at the creation around her.
I was sitting on our deck the other morning doing my daily bible reading. There is a large silver maple tree right in front of me. "Isn't it beautiful." As I looked at it and sat before the Lord I saw the thousands of leaves on the tree. While all similar in shape none are exactly alike. Yes the tree has it's problems. A broken branch here and a dead branch there, some branches that need pruning, some leaves are getting eaten by bugs and others are dried up and dead. But it has beauty, provides shade on the deck and even reduces my carbon footprint.
Beyond that tree are more trees in our wooded backyard, red maple, black walnut, white pine and others. "Isn't it beautiful." No two are identical, each has its brokenness, beauty and strength. Beyond that the woods continue across a stream and up a hill, but I can't see the forest because of the trees. In each of those trees is life and depth and uniqueness, and beauty.
Then my mind wandered off to consider the church. Each person in a church is like a leaf on the tree, similar but unique. Each church is unique, some are similar, some quite different, like maple trees and pines. Yet each is a part of a larger "forest" of communities that is The Church. There is beauty in The Church, in each church, in each one of us. I think I sometimes miss the beauty of the church because of the problems with the leaves. I see the problems, the missed opportunities, the brokenness, the dried up and bug eaten and miss the beauty of our church, not as a part of a tree, but as the body of Christ.
Unlike the trees, we are created in the image of God, in His character. We are image bearers of the Creator! As believers we have His Spirit indwelling us. "Isn't it beautiful."
June 28, 2020 Fortress of Steadfast Love
These past two months I feel like I’m hiding in a fortress. We are confined to our homes, protecting ourselves and others from an invisible enemy. In my huddle time I have been participating in a Lectio Divina prayer practice where we have been reading in the Psalms. It’s not like I haven’t read the Psalms before. But the scripture is alive, and I’ve learned that it changes, or what I see in it changes. I see new things in the light of my own growth and experience. This time around I’ve been struck by how often the Psalmists mention God as a fortress, stronghold or refuge. What are they hiding from?
The English Standard Version (ESV) uses fortress 14 times, stronghold (hill-fort) 7 times and refuge 47 times. Ps 144:2 uses all three. When I’ve seen these words in the past I have always just thought of them as a place to hide, a place to be safe, a place to get away. But as I contemplated the Psalms and I considered God as a fortress, it begged the question, “Is there more to a fortress than hiding?”.
David authored many of the Psalms. He was well acquainted with battle, security, treachery and adversity. Over and over he turned to God for strength, safety, help, provision, healing and more. Then I noticed something in Ps 59. The power of David’s fortress is the steadfast love of God.
Here in Psalms these terms of refuge are repeatedly tied to God’s steadfast love. The Hebrew word is chêsêd, often translated as mercy or lovingkindness in the KJV. And that is what took me beyond a hiding place or a refuge, to a place of support, strength and hope.
A stronghold or fortress may provide a refuge from the weariness of battle, or just life. But if that’s all it does it’s just a temporary measure. Life goes on. Like the defenders at the fortress of Helms Deep in “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”, our enemy does not come to destroy our homes and crops. He comes to destroy the people.
As Aragorn tells the king “Open war is upon you. Whether you would risk it or not.” . The fortress of God’s love is a protected place and a place of security. A fortress is also a defensible place from which to fight.
A fortress is a place to resupply. We get drained in the battle. God’s love is like going to a stronghold to get fresh supplies. Not to hide but to regroup, reorganize and return to the fray. Now if He just had toilet paper.
A fortress is a place to be equipped. Sometimes we get attacked unprepared. We need masks and gloves when all we have is toilet paper. This is one of the purposes of the church, to equip the saints. We go to the armory to be equipped in HIs love and trust in HIs plan. 
A fortress is a place to train. Maybe we’ve been given some weapons, we’ve put on the armor of God but we don’t know how to use it. This is another aspect of the church’s equipping of believers. Training us on using the weapons so we don’t hide behind the bars of the fortress. We are sons and daughters of the King! As Eowyn shows, develop some skill with the Blade (the Sword of the Spirit). 
A fortress is a place of healing. God’s loving kindness brings healing to our body, mind and heart.
A fortress is a place of rest. God’s steadfast love provides a shelter and supply, healing and hope. A place of rest for all who are weary and heavy laden.
God’s steadfast love is a fortress. We, the church, are the body of Christ. We are a place of ministry when we equip, train, supply, and provide rest and healing. We are a base of ministry who reach out to others to teach, serve and bring healing.
Take on the enemy from a place of security and strength. Live in the fortress of God’s steadfast love among the comradery of His people.
I think I’ll go watch “The Two Towers”.
Psalms to consider:
Ps 55:8, Ps 59:9, Ps 59:16, Ps 59:17, Ps 18:2,39, Ps 27:1, Ps 71:17, Ps 6:2-4, Ps 144:2
Video clips mentioned above:
 Open War Is Upon You
 Getting equipped
 A Daughter of Kings - The Two Towers
June 24, 2020 The L-Word, Liturgy
Maybe that word doesn’t strike fear in your heart. I’m told there are some people that are quite fond of liturgies. I am reminded of an old beef ad campaign (which I can’t find any videos of, probably because it’s not PC) but it went something like, an actor bites into a nice steak or burger and says “I know people who don’t eat beef... but I don’t trust them.”
Liturgy, as many would define it, and as defined by Vocabulary.com, is like a script for a religious service, the official set of rules for performing a religious ceremony. It is part and parcel with Catholic and mainline denominational churches. Maybe you grew up in one. Maybe you are tired of the stale rituals, devoid of meaning.
Maybe you grew up in an evangelical church that had no liturgy at all. Everything was, like God’s mercies, new every morning (Lam 3:24,23). Or at least every Sunday. Routine things were done but there was no script for how it was done or what was to be said. It was supposed to be fresh. But, sometimes the spontaneous had little depth to it.
Maybe you didn’t grow up in any church and you have no idea what I’m making a big deal about. Praise God. You’ve come to Jesus and can appreciate whatever path he takes you on. God bless you.
But I want to ask us all something; have you experienced liturgy? I don’t mean just being in a service that uses it. I mean have you experienced liturgy. Let’s look at a definition from another “profound” source, Wikipedia. Liturgy represents a communal response to and participation in the sacred through activity reflecting praise, thanksgiving, supplication or repentance.
In this view liturgy sounds like a good thing. Is that possible? I was raised Catholic and went to a Catholic school for 7 years. Between that and attending a variety of other churches over the years I’ve been in a lot of liturgical services. Few were engaging enough that I felt I had “participated in a sacred activity”. Is that the fault of liturgy? Is it how the churches do it? Is it my bad attitude? Reading the Bible in one of those Catholic liturgies actually sparked an interest in the Word when I was in 4th grade. It didn’t last.
Now that I know so much more about the Old Testament and church history when I return to a Catholic service I am able to “respond and participate” in the liturgy. The understanding of what’s in the liturgy brings the Word into focus, gets me to think, thank and praise.
Some will say there is no liturgy in the Bible. Really? Let’s look.
We get the word liturgy from the Greek word leitourgia. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance identifies 3 forms of the word used in the New Testament. Strong assigns a number to each Greek word and lists the verses that contain that word. Leitourgia covers 3008, 3009 and 3011.
3008: to be a public servant, that is, (by analogy) to perform religious or charitable functions (worship, obey): - minister
Romans 15:27, Acts 13:2 (while they liturgied to the Lord), Hebrews 10:11
3009: public function (as priest or almsgiver)
2 Cor 9:12, Phillip. 2:17, 2:30, Heb 8:6,9:21, Luke 1:23 (while Zechariah performed his liturgy)
3011: a public servant, that is, a functionary in the Temple or Gospel, or (generally) a worshipper (of God) or benefactor (of man)
Rom 15:16, Heb 8:2, 1:6-7, Phillip. 2:25
Paul uses it 3 times in Phillipians chapter 2
17 “the sacrificial offering (liturgy) of our faith”
25: Epaphroditus ministered (liturgied) to my needs
30 (he) supplied what was lacking in your service (liturgy) toward me
All this is to say that when we do or say something regularly as part of our communal gathering that serves to produce praise, thanksgiving, supplication or repentance it is liturgy, and it is a good thing. Acts of charity and service are liturgy too. The very things “that God has prepared beforehand that we might walk in them.” (Eph 2:10)
The next time someone says “liturgy” be gracious and look for the acts of worship and ministry within it.
April 1, 2020 Lizards, Crows, and Slugs
This might seem a little strange. I want to talk about animals. I was struck this week while reading the February 15th edition of World magazine with how God’s animal kingdom is more closely intersecting our own. And you don’t need to go on a hike in the woods to find it. We keep developing land and moving around. We are both, human and animal, learning how to better live with one another.
The first one involves a quote from Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants. “The days of Noah’s Ark in the air are hopefully coming to an end.” Some of you might be wondering what that means. It’s a clear biblical reference, thank you Sara. But what’s the problem? Currently the US Department of Transportation allows passenger-certified “emotional support animals” to accompany airline passengers free of charge (emphasis is mine). Southeast Airlines handles over 190,000 emotional support animals per year. American Airlines carried 155,790 in 2017.
Now I’m sure you’re thinking about guide dogs and such. Animals trained to be around people and behave properly. Oh, but it’s closer to Noah than you realize. Passengers have “certified” cats, rabbits, peacocks, squirrels, turkeys, ducks, pigs and yes, miniature horses. (These Cute Miniature Horses Can Now Travel With You On Domestic Flights As Emotional Support Animals) DOT is proposing some rule changes to limit this to specially trained service animals. (Our own Diane Bird is a flight attendant. Ask her about her experiences with animals.)
In Lake Worth Beach, Florida, police were summoned to a home when a neighbor said she heard a woman screaming, “Help, hlep, let me out.” Deputies were relieved to find that the screamer was a 40-year-old green parrot named Rambo.
Next we go to Rochester, Minnesota, where city employees are tasked with stopping an invasion. Armed with lasers, starter pistols and bird calls they are “herding” a massive flock of crows from downtown to a cemetery just north of the city center. The crows have been coming the past few winters and make a mess on the streets not to mention the noise. I have seen large flocks of crows in the trees surrounding the AD White house on Cornell’s campus in the past but nothing requiring armed intervention.
In the Welch town of Wrexham. A set of traffic lights were sabotaged. City officials found that slugs had oozed their way into the control panel and shorted out the power supply.
Finally, raining lizards. On January 21 South Florida received a National Weather Service warning for ... iguana showers! Or is it a chance of light iguana fall, or maybe a drizzle of lizard? Apparently, as temperatures drop into the 30s the lizards are stunned and fall from the trees. Most recover unharmed in the morning. Not only might you not want an iguana in your hair they can hurt too. Some of them weigh nearly 20 pounds. Is snow really so bad?
In Genesis 1:20-26 God created the fish, birds and animals, before man. Then man is created and given dominion over the animals (1:28). In chapter 2, verse 20, Adam gets to name the animals. There is a harmony going on. Of course sin soon enters and dominion goes from stewarding to exploiting and we eventually see near extinction of various species brought on by over zealous “dominion”. Fortunately we’ve retreated some from those days and many animals are recovering and returning and they are showing up in some unexpected places.
My prayer is that we can appreciate what God has created, take good care of it and learn to live together in ways that benefit all of us.
PS I just read about a live owl that was found on the side of the road. It couldn’t fly and was taken to a vet hospital. The problem? It was too fat to fly! A two week diet took off the needed weight and it’s been released.
March 23, 2020 Quiet, God's Talking
Back on January 19th Pastor Ward spoke about Walking in the Spirit, the Way to Peace of Mind He encouraged us to get away, turn off the electronics and spend some time with God. We can get to the gym for an hour to workout but we can’t get away for 10 minutes with God. Okay, that’s a bad example. Most people I know with gym memberships don’t get there either, that includes me last year.
Regarding a quiet time, I’ve been doing this thing off and on, mostly on, for almost 40 years. It’s had some ups and downs. What have I learned? (This got longer than I intended but I hope it helps)
I’ve done journals. I’ve got years worth of writing in binders under my bed. Have I ever looked back? Well yes, I have. Just not in a thoughtful way. I’m always looking for a particular promise or word that I think is there but can’t quite remember well. “Didn’t God say something about …?” While I’m looking back I’m pleased with my progress, reminded of God’s provision and sometimes disappointmented that I’m still fighting some of the same old things. History builds faith.
The longer I journaled the less I had to say. His words were less frequent, or less clear, that’s another issue. Eventually I stopped getting the book out. That’s a mistake. Leave it out, with a pen, even if you aren’t using it. It will be ready when you are, like reading the bible or in the middle of the night. If you’re concerned about someone reading it, put it away but make it easy to grab. Jot down small things and see where it leads. And yes write it out, you want to take notes with pen and paper, because the action of physically writing something alters your brain structure so that you remember what you've learned. 
I’ve used devotional materials. There are a lot of them out there. “Our Daily Bread” was popular when I started. Now many are available for free on web sites and apps. Some are specific to a topic that may address a need in your life. I had gotten out of the habit of using these until Ward gave me one, “A year with CS Lewis”. I appreciated the topics and insights. I used it for three years benefitting from different things each time.
How many of you caught my inconsistency? I mentioned turning off the electronics and now I’m recommending apps. Bad Mike. A few weeks ago I was doing my reading on my phone app and a text message came up on my screen. It’s 6:30am, who’s texting at 6:30? I won’t go into detail but let’s just say it was trouble enough that it messed with my whole day. It happens. Find a book if it happens a lot.
Reading the bible is always good. Don’t let a “Walk through the Bible” in a year fool you. Reading the Bible in a year is a sprint not a walk. If you do it expect to miss some days and don’t stress over it. So what if it takes 14 months this is about peace not stress. I prefer shorter things like the OT Prophets or NT in 3 months, or Gospels and Acts in 2 months. The daily readings are shorter and I feel like I’m accomplishing something.
Tired of reading the same thing? Try different versions. If you normally read the NIV try the Message or NASB. Try a chronological version that intersperses things like the Psalms and Prophets with Samuel and Kings. It also will interleave the Gospels so you can see them together. Just put some time in the Bible.
Prayer time can be, the biggest challenge for some of us. I can discipline myself to follow a reading plan and a one page thought for the day but then to quiet myself to meditate on what I’ve read and converse with God, that can be a struggle. Music can help you settle down. Yes, I’m turning on the phone again, just for one song. God inhabits the praises of His people. Start with worship and go from there.
When & where should you do this? I’m going to discourage you right off from using your drive to work for prayer. Audio bibles or podcasts are good but you need a time without distractions to get with God. Yes, I’ve had some amazing conversations with God while driving across the state. But that’s in addition to a daily routine with God.
Do whatever you can to be consistent. Most people I know, like 95% end up doing it in the morning. When they wait for evening they are too tired, out of time, too preoccupied, always too something to stay with it. My day starts with a good morning to Marsha (who’s been up for an hour and is reading scripture out loud in the kitchen!), getting my coffee, and heading to the basement.
If you can find a space at home, on campus, in a park, just somewhere regular you will discover that it will help you focus and settle down. It becomes a sanctuary, holy, set apart from common use. Put a chair in a corner and only use it for your time with God. Ward likes to drive to a parking lot on South hill that overlooks the lake or near a field and watch the sun rise. Okay, he’s a little crazy but there are some awesome places around here in God’s creation that can bring you closer to Him. You get the sense that He is already there and it just makes it easier.
Another help is accountability. Tell someone else what you’re trying to do and allow them to ask you about it. I mentioned my ups and downs with this. Here’s my embarrassing confession. I had all but stopped doing any of this a few years back. Then Ward started doing his biannual questionnaire on being a disciple. The second time I had to check “no” to this stuff I was convicted and got back into the routine. It’s been a blessing.
I may revisit journaling and prayer in a later post. I’d be interested in what experience others have had. May the peace of God dwell in you richly.
 PowerPoint Makes Us Stupid. Here Are 3 Smarter Alternatives, Geoffrey James, Inc.com
January 31, 2020 What's The Point?
So why am I even writing a “Mike’s Memo” in the first place? I don’t have anything interesting to share. I’m not smarter or more profound than others. There are really two reasons.
The first is personal. Sometimes I’m reading or studying and I have these epiphany moments. Something that says “I’ve never seen that before.”, or at least not in that way. Or I’ll hear someone on a podcast or video explain something in terms that just make sense to me. They give me the verbage I’ve needed to relate a topic I’ve known or believed but couldn’t put into words. Like “The reason most young people are talked out of their faith in college is because they’ve never been talked into it.”, care of Frank Turek’s Crossed Examined podcast introduction.
I’ve been writing things in a notebook for years but it just collects dust. Writing these memos will help me dust them off and share them with others who might find them useful. I like Colossians 1:28 (you’ll have to look it up!)
The second reason is more pragmatic. Our media team was looking for regular content. I never remember to upload pictures from events or meetings so this is my contribution to the ongoing media effort. I pray someone finds it useful.
I’m mostly going to stick to life, bible and the current reading I’m doing. (That’s been mostly apologetics lately.) I know politics is popular but it isn’t something I want to raise a banner over. BUT… I had to share this one from my daily bible reading yesterday. It made me chuckle. Considered one of the wisest men who ever lived King Solomon writes:
Ecclesiasties 10:2 A wise man's heart inclines him to the right, but a fool's heart to the left.
Given the increasing and deepening divisions across so many issues in the country that people label “Right” or “Left” this is a good verse to have in your pocket. At least if you lean “Right”.
Speaking of the political, two recent Crossed Examined podcasts provided some interesting criticism and support for our president. 12/7/19 “Why did Evangelicals Vote for Trump?” and a follow up responding to questions on 1/4/20 “The Elephant in the Room isn’t Trump”. This podcast series may now be named “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”. I haven’t kept up with the reorganization they are doing. While this isn’t the “whole story” it does cover some important topics and provide some resources for further reading if one is so inclined.
Did you know there is a web site that for the past 30 years has been analyzing and quantifying bias in media presentation, https://www.mrc.org/. Or that there is another site, https://www.allsides.com/unbiased-balanced-news, that has a 3-column parallel news format with articles from, right, center and left publications. (I don’t know who decides what’s RCL but that’s beside the point.) I didn’t know that!
Okay, you might say I’m apolitical but I also believe that God is sovereign. That has a big affect on how I look at all this stuff. Am I worried about the state of the country? Would it help? (see my sermon from 11/24/19 https://ithacavineyard.org/sunday-mornings/sermons/worry-would-it-help)
God bless, MIke
January 24, 2020 Gardening and Harvesting
I became a Christian in the late 70’s as a Junior at Cornell. Christianity was still an accepted part of the culture. Maybe we were in the post-Christian era but the Jesus Movement had been going on in Southern California for a few years and lots of young people were being saved. Most people still accepted heaven, hell, God and knew the basics of the Christian story.
Fast forward 40 years and we’ve gone from a post-Christian culture to what is quickly becoming an anti-Christian one.The hostility isn’t just against you sharing your faith. It is against the biblical world view, the biblical view of truth and reality. We breezed by what marriage means. Now we don’t agree on what it means to be human. What it means to be male or female.
The science and the academy have declared there is no God and are rewriting everything from that point of view. Bear in mind that science and education don’t actually write anything. Scientists and professors do the writing. Supposedly based on the data, the facts. Data that must be interpreted through some predetermined rules of engagement, of logic, math and yes, morality. Rules that now exclude a god (any god) to the point where the assumptions are less likely and more problematic than accepting some form of supernatural involvement. As William Geisler and Frank Turek have put it “I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist”.
So how does this relate to gardening? In Matthew 13 Jesus tells a parable, a relatable story with a God centered meaning. A farmer is sowing seed. Some falls on the path or along the road and birds come and take it. Later Jesus explains that this seed is His message of the kingdom of God. “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is the one on whom seed was sown beside the road” (Matt. 13:19).
Other seed falls on good soil where it grows and produces a crop. “The one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (Matt. 13:23). This group understands the message, accept it and pass it on.
Paul encourages us to make the most of every opportunity. That doesn’t mean we have to get a commitment to Christ, a confession of faith, harvest fruit. It means we plant a seed in a way that is understandable. Maybe the seed was planted by someone else and we do some watering. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth regarding his task, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.” (1 Corinthians 3:6) People came to believe through their gardening, planting and watering.
Greg Koukl, author of “Tactics” writes: “Fruitful harvest, in other words, is always dependent on diligent spadework: sowing, watering, weeding, nurturing.” 
Jesus reflects this idea in John 4 where he tells his disciples “They (the fields) are ripe for harvest. Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.” (John 4:35-38)
Two points here. One, it takes time, one sows and another reaps. There is time and work in between. Secondly, one harvests but others have done the hard work in the field! They planted, watered, weeded, chased the crows away, whatever. Eventually someone reaps the harvest and enjoys the benefit of all that work.
So the next time your in a place of feeling like you must “close the deal” ask God what He’s doing. Ask what He wants from you today. Is this the growing season or the season for harvesting? Are you to be a gardener or harvester today?
A couple of catch phrases I’ve heard over the years include that can reduce your stress: “We aren’t called to bring people to Christ. We are called to bring Christ to people.” “Make a friend, be a friend, bring a friend to Christ.”
Make your faith Understandable Relational Relax, God grants the increase.
BTW you’ll possibly run into people who will argue against your God, or any God. It’s okay. It might mean you need to learn more about God, the nature of things and about the claims Jesus made about Himself.
Books such as “Tactics”, “I don’t have enough faith to be an Atheist” and “Cold-case Christianity” can help you feel more confident with what you believe and how you can express it.
 Gregory Koukl, Tactics—A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions, 10th Anniversary Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2019)
 Greg Koukl, PUBLISHED, Wed, 01/01/2020 - 00:00 https://www.str.org/SolidGroundJan2020-harvester-or-gardener#.Xg31wxdKgWp
January 3, 2020 In Sight Of a New Year
The Vineyard has been blessed by a new column this year. Mike's Memo is a devotional produced by Vineyard Leader, Mike Heisler. Like, share, and make sure you check back for new editions of Mike's Memo!
2020, I can’t help but think of eye charts. 20/20 is “perfect” vision. I quote perfect because really it’s just normal visual acuity, the clarity or sharpness of what you see. 20/20 vision means you can see clearly at 20 feet what should normally be seen at 20 feet. Maybe 20/10 is perfect if you’re a baseball player (you can see clearly at 20 feet what others must be closer to see). I remember telling my daughter “Look for yourself.” when she asked me “What time is it?” for a third time. Her response, “I can’t see the clock.” Turns out she had 20/300 vision! Time for some correction.
So what do we see as 2020 is upon us. Are we seeing clearly into the new year? Are we far-sighted? Able to see clearly at a distance but close up is fuzzy. Or maybe we are near-sighted, only seeing clearly what’s right in front of us. Life has a way of forcing us to be near-sighted. We focus on getting done the short term tasks, the papers due next week, the bills that need paid, the appointments to keep and the car that needs fixed.
Visually, I’m far-sighted. I don’t need my glasses to drive, but then I can’t read the dashboard! I can put my glasses on so I can tell what buttons do on the dash but then I can’t read the street signs.
I tend to live near-sighted. I find myself doing all the urgent stuff which means I sometimes neglect the important things. Sometimes that’s necessary, the urgent really is urgent and it just needs to have our attention. More often than not, I’m treating something as urgent as a way to avoid the important. The “urgent” is doable, the important is hard. The urgent screams at you. The important whispers.
Having just reached 65 I look around and see an awful lot of important things that never happened because I kept busy with the urgent. At least what I saw as urgent. Were my glasses on or off? With the glasses on I saw the todos in front of me and sometimes missed the important signs, and potholes, along the road.
I want to encourage you, to take a look back on this year. They say hind-sight is 20/20, actually it’s probably more like 20/10. How are you living? Did you make time for the important things last year? What’s your life look like for this year? More of the same? Probably.
Take a day and try on some different glasses. Look up close and far ahead. Consider what’s urgent and what’s important for the next 6 months to a year. If necessary schedule time with God, family and friends so you don’t lose sight of them in the distance. How you live is more important than what you do.
Ecclesiastes 12:12-14 Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body. Now when all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.
P.S. One other thing I’ve learned at my age. Planning more than 3 years out will always be subject to change. Don’t get hung up on your long term plans.