Mike Preaches Again

You can take the man out of the pulpit, but you can’t take the pulpit out of the man! Anyone who has been around Mike knows his deep and abiding desire to minister again, in particular to preach. At the invitation of his dear friend Dr. David Harding, along with the elders of St. Petersburg Presbyterian Church, Mike Francis preached again on December 30, 2018:  God Is Available.

The topic of God being available was on Mike’s mind when Dave called, and we set about making the sermon a reality. I (Maria) transcribed the notes Mike made and the ideas he had about the ways that the God of the universe is available to the people he has created—Bible, prayer, fellowship, and God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  If you’d like to read the notes, scroll down to the end of the post, which end in a way fitting for beginning a new year:

Since God is available, you should pray and hope.  Praying is an act of hope in God.  You can pray anytime, and you can pray for free. 

Make the Bible useful in your life.  Use the Bible to grow up spiritually.  It’s a picture of God’s glory and love for you and all God’s work for you. 

This is how you get to know God, through the Bible and prayer, and both are freely open to us.

It seemed better to have Mike preach by dialoguing with Dave rather than reading his notes, and here is the sermon as it was preached.

What a gift! We thank God for Mike’s miraculous progress, for the beautiful dynamic of Mike and Dave working together to feed the flock, the generosity of St. Petersburg Presbyterian Church to invite Mike to preach, and so much more. Truly, it was a glorious morning of worship!

One the one hand, working with Mike on his sermon and then hearing it preached gave me ample opportunity to consider and grieve the loss of the brilliant mind that Mike once had and the sermons he preached. (If you didn’t know Mike then, hop over to the Sermons page and have a listen.) On the other hand, think about what our current Mike shows us about God and true faith. Faith is a gift, both at the moment one believes and every moment thereafter. Knowing God isn’t the same as knowing things about God—after all, nobody knows more about God than the devil. Mike’s life, as a man who formerly knew the Bible better than almost everyone, shows us a true picture of a person both saved and kept by God’s grace. And what a beautiful and encouraging picture it is to see God’s great work of ongoing salvation and to remember that we cannot keep our faith alive by on our own.  As I write this, I realize that I am saying everything that Aaron Denlinger said so well in his 2016 piece about Mike, Faith is a Gift (But Not That Kind of Gift).

Mike’s passion to preach and teach about our great God and how we can know him was on full display in the pulpit at St. Petersburg Presbyterian Church, as it is every day. If you were with him today, he would tell you what he said in his sermon; he would want you to get to know and love your Creator by reading the Bible and praying. He would ask you if you have a Bible and a Bible reading plan. He would tell you how he prays for “Bible every day” for everyone in the church directory (meaning that he prays for them to read their Bible every day, name by name down the list). His tradition at Immanuel was to make the last sermon of the year about the value of Scripture reading and the first sermon of the year about prayer, and I’d love for you to hear a pair of them I just posted on the Sermon Favorites page.

If you’re praying with us on this journey, would you please join us in these petitions?

  • As we attend a new church (River City Church), for the Lord to help us “know and be known” and to find our place of service there. Learning so many new names and faces is daunting for both of us!
  • As Luke starts a new job, for him to find success and be a blessing there and for us to enlarge the circle of helpers for Mike necessitated by Luke’s change of schedule.
  • For Mike’s pain, which has been creeping back, for Mike to get to know and remember people at Sender Retreat (his adult daycare) and at River City Church.
  • For Mike’s full and complete recovery.

Thank you for praying. May the Lord bless you and keep you in 2019!


December 30, 2018 | St. Petersburg Presbyterian Church
Rev. Mike Francis and Dr. David Harding

GOD IS AVAILABLE

What do you mean when you say that God is available?  How is God available to people?

God is available to us and also for us, in the Bible, in prayer, and in his Son, Jesus Christ.

What does it mean to be available? 

He’s close to us; he’s near. He’s so holy but he comes right into us in the Holy Spirit.  When you’re available, you want to help.  God wants to be helpful.  He’s for you.

1. THE BIBLE –What does it mean that God is available in the Bible?

The Bible is the very best book ever written, the best book in the universe, because its author is God. I thank God that there is a Bible. It’s so useful.  Genesis to Revelation.  There’s so much truth in it.  It’s here to help us, to encourage us, to correct us.  It tells us that he is holy and trustworthy.  He’s done so much for us.

Where did it come from? Why did God give us a Bible?  God didn’t have to give us a Bible.  Why did God inspire people to write the Bible for us? Through His word He tells us to love Him and serve Him.  He tells us how to live.  God tells us who he is, and also who we are.

God is the author of the Bible.  The Bible is God’s word.  What are our words?  Our words teach, they correct, they help.  Our words are very powerful.  Man speaks from that which fill his heart, so the Bible shows us God’s heart.  The Bible is a massive explanation of God’s love for us.

The Bible has as its focus many things such as God’s power and God’s strong and deep love for us.  I know this because it is the most powerful and truthful thing that exists—not to scare us, but to strengthen us, to help us, to benefit us in an amazing gift from a totally holy God.

The Bible is the story of God is for us, it’s to strengthen us and give us hope.  There’s no error in the Bible.

God loved us so much that he gave us his word.  You have a Bible because God loves us.  He wants us to know how holy he is.  God wants us to know that he’s for us, not against us.  God want us to know that he can be trusted.  … that he’s the God of truth.

So much of the Bible is stories about what’s going on with God’s people.  He’s been working through history. All of us are part of a story. The stories tell us that God is for us, that God is holy, that God is worth our worship.  The stories teach us many things.  The stories show us how God works, how God saves his people.

The Bible shows us God’s character, that God is loving.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his only son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)  The Bible promises eternal life when we believe.  The Bible teaches about eternity.

The Bible shows us that God is powerful.  He created everything.  Nothing exists that God did not create.  Every person.  If God isn’t powerful, what is the point of prayer.

The Bible shows us that God keeps his promises.  The Bible is where we find God’s promises.

The Bible is the place that explains that God gave himself for us.

We read the Bible because that’s where we get to know God more deeply.  The Bible is given to help us to know God and how to serve him.  God is holy; he’s perfect in every sense, in passion and love and respect.

2. PRAYER – What does it mean that God is available in prayer?

God is available in prayer. Let’s remember what prayer is. Prayer is talking with the Lord. It’s a massive openness of the Lord that we can actually talk to him.  It’s a massively powerful ministry that he gives us.  He has opened his heart to our prayers and is ready to hear us. We should respect and enjoy his openness and expect that God is going to do great things for us.  Prayer is also pleading.  Not all prayers are alike.  Some are confessions.  Given how holy God is, and how sin has infected every part of our body, although we don’t recognize it because we don’t have the same vision as God does. It’s an amazing gift that he has given us.  We can thank him.

1 John 5:14-15: “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will, He hears us, and if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

When we’re praying, we’re looking up to heaven, and God hears us.

What fellowship with God are you getting without prayer?

If you start with how holy God is, when I think about how holy God is and how perfect God is, and God’s passion is the truth and love.  God comes from heaven and listens to our prayers.

Why do I pray?  I’m praying so I can seek God for counseling.  I’m praying so I can be corrected.  I pray to encourage people, because it’s a ministry of love and respect for people.  We confess in prayer … “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)

What is prayer?  To whom are you praying?  To pray is to immediately address God.  You are talking with the most powerful thing in the universe. He’s eternal.  You’re a sinner saved by grace talking to God.  In prayer, we remember that exists and that he is for us, not against us.  He is so much for us that he gave us his Bible.

Why do you pray?  Do you think it’s going to work?  You can’t know God if you don’t pray.

I pray because I know that God exists and because God is for us, not against us.

God is available in the fellowship of his church. God is available in the Bible and prayer and fellowship.  God is available in fellowship because God uses friendship to strengthen the faith of people.

3. THE SON – How is God is available in Jesus Christ?

Let’s start at the beginning:  God who has existed since eternity.  God who sent his Son.  In Christmas, God came himself to save us.  God had to live a perfect life for us and then die us.  He had to receive the wrath of God that we deserve.

God came himself.  God came from a virgin’s womb; he was holy from his birth. Even his childhood was holy.  He was holy at every age of his life.  Every part of his life was for the glory of God.  He came to honor his Father.

As holy as God is, as vast as he is, God came for us. Why did God have to come for us?

The problem with us is that we’re not holy.  For there to be a relationship between God and us, the holy and the unholy, something had to happen.

God didn’t have to come, but God wantedto come.  God came for us, not because we were worth anything, but because of his great love for us.

Jesus was the word who became flesh and dwelt among us.  He was a perfect man who never sinned at all.

God came to be a man on Christmas.  God knows what you’re going through.  He lived like a man.  He went through it himself.

Who is God?  You can find out in the Bible.  What can you find out about God in the Bible?  You find out that he’s powerful.  That he’s trustworthy.  That he’s holy.  (God is so holy and we are so sinful that we should go to hell forever and not even complain about it.)  That he gave us a perfect life in Christ.  2 Corinthians 5:21 tells us that “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Let’s start at the beginning:  God who has existed since eternity.  God who sent his Son.  In Christmas, God came himself to save us.  God had to live a perfect life for us and then die us.  He had to receive the wrath of God that we deserve.

4. CONCLUSION – Since God is available, how shall we live in the year ahead?

Now that you know that that God exists and you know that God loves you so much that he sent his son. Be very hopeful!  You can have certainty of faith.  Your faith grows up gradually; God is maturing you and strengthening you like a tree.  He wants to renew your spirit.

Since God is available, you should pray and hope.  Praying is an act of hope in God.  You can pray anytime, and you can pray for free.

Make the Bible useful in your life.  Use the Bible to grow up spiritually.  It’s a picture of God’s glory and love for you and all God’s work for you.

This is how you get to know God, through the Bible and prayer, and both are freely open to us.

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