Author Archives: Pastor Mike Conaway

About Pastor Mike Conaway

I am the pastor of City On A Hill Church. City on a Hill Church is a diverse group of people whose lives have been changed by Jesus. We are sent by God back into our culture as missionaries to see our city transformed by God's grace. We come together every week as one family to worship Jesus. We are casual, so you can be too. Come expecting to engage in an uplifting celebration where worship, prayer, and the preaching of God's Word are essential. You'll hear a message about Christ on Sunday that applies on Monday. We are a family church with a caring nursery and preschool ministry and dynamic children's and youth ministries. There is something for everyone at COAH. Come experience a place where you are wanted, welcome, and invited.

The Champ is Here!

The goal of today’s blog is to push back against depression and discouragement.  I want to encourage us to push through the oppression that seeks to rob us of our motivation, steal our joy, kill our dreams and destroy our future.  My hope is that we will all discover the champion within.  My hope is that we stand up against these bullies whose sole purpose is to convince us that we are losers who don’t have what it takes.  My conviction is that we will stand in the face of adversity and fight to live the life God has called us to live holding unswervingly to the hope that we profess in Jesus’ victory over satan, sin and death.  Through Christ’s victory He has made us champions we are more than conquerors!  So the next time we face a formidable foe looking to dethrone a champion we will boldly proclaim, The Champ is here!

You may say this all sounds well and good but how?  I don’t feel like a champion.  I don’t feel like a winner.  I feel like giving up and giving in.  My friends we all do at different times.  I want to give you a game plan or a fighting strategy to help transform us into champions.  All of this is by God’s amazing grace of course.

Here we go!

# 1 Change Our Focus – The first step is changing our FOCUS.  We must discipline ourselves to focus on our goals and what can be achieved not our failures and what hasn’t been achieved.

Philippians 3:15-16 (MSG)  15-16So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.

One of the biggest reasons that we never achieve our goals is that we lose focus.  Usually failure is a result of losing focus and not seeing the bigger picture.  Nothing is impossible if we set a goal and put our concentrated focus on achieving that goal.

# 2 Our Decisions Define Our Future – We have to keep in mind that everyday we face critical decisions.  These decisions most often define our future.  These decisions are also shaped by what we truly believe.  Deciding what we believe is paramount to our decision making process which ultimately shapes our future.

John 8:30 (MSG) 30When he put it in these terms, many people decided to believe.

No decision is a decision.  Deciding not to act is a decision.  Think about it in every day life.  We can decide to better ourselves through higher education, starting a ministry, making a difference, who we allow to influence us, what we believe or don’t believe about faith,  who we put our faith in and the list goes on and on.  All of these decisions define us and determine our future.  Conversely we can also decide not to act and live a life filled with excuses.

# 3 Raise the Bar – I challenge everyone to Raise the Bar in your life!  Champions pursue excellence daily.

Isaiah 33:15-16 (MSG) 15-16The answer’s simple: Live right, speak the truth, despise exploitation, refuse bribes, reject violence, avoid evil amusements. This is how you raise your standard of living! A safe and stable way to live. A nourishing, satisfying way to live.

The gut level truth is that if you have major changes that we want to make in our lives it is going to require us to rise the bar. We must set high standards for ourselves.  Here is another hard truth, “In life you get what you are willing to accept and what you teach yourself to expect.”  If we teach ourselves to be average guess what we will be? You got it average!  I have heard it said, “Good is the enemy of great and the friend of average.” As champions in Christ let’s raise the bar in every area of our lives.

# 4 Give Big Energy to Big Things, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Be sure to give your time and energy to what matters most!  Don’t Major in the Minors.

Matthew 6:34 (MSG) 34Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.

Go big or go home:)  Don’t get caught up in little things that don’t amount to a hill of beans.  Give your life, time and energy to doing something bigger than you!  Pick a fight with a giant you can’t defeat without God’s help.  Choose an adventure that you can’t accomplish without God’s help.  Live by the philosophy if anybody can do it than let them!  Give me something nobody else can or wan ts to do this way God gets greater glory and we get a life well lived to the glory of God!  Life it is too awesome and we were meant for so much more to get caught up majoring in the minors!

# 5 Convert Our Knowledge Into Practical Actions – Don’t just possess knowledge put what you know into practice.

Philippians 4:8-9 (MSG) 8-9Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

The brutal truth is that most of us know everything we need to know to live the life we want to live and the life God has planned for us to live.  In order to live like champions we must be able to convert knowledge into action.  We are going to have to trust that we know what to do and then do it with all our hearts.  Obtaining knowledge isn’t enough.  Putting what we know into practice will allow us to live like champions and resist the temptation and schemes employed by our adversaries to bring us down in defeat.

# 6 Follow the Leader – Great Leaders are Great Followers.  Learn to follow.  Be wise when you choose who you will follow because whoever you are following is definitely leading you somewhere.

Matthew 8:22 (MSG) 22Jesus refused. “First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life.”

We must make it our goal to find mentors to lead us to places they have been and places we’ve never been.  We must also be sure that the way they got there is a way that is pleasing to God and their practices measure up to the scriptures.

We cannot lead well until we learn how to follow well.  Following requires trust, humility and character.  Proverbs 14:28 teaches us that the mark of a good leader is loyal followers and leadership is nothing without a following.  It is critical that we be someone worth following.  The greatest way I have ever found to become someone worth following is by following Jesus.

As I sit here today I point to my heart and state with conviction, “If the Champ (Jesus) is here then I can confidently say no matter where my feet touch, The Champ is here!”

Now that we have this knowledge what shall we do?  Focus, Decide, Raise the Bar, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff, Put Knowledge Into Practice, and Be a loyal follower!  If we can do these things we will shake off depression, destroy discouragement, abolish oppression and live the life of a champion!  Find a place right now where you can see your reflection and state, The Champ is here!  Be encouraged!

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Titanic Question

Recently I was making a hospital visit to a man who had a stroke the night before.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I was going there to be a blessing and to bring some encouragement and hope through prayer and a Psalm.  I arrived there and he was sitting up in bed drinking some juice.  We shared for a few minutes.  The news he had received wasn’t very good at all.  He seemed strangely at peace with the news and his station in life.  I was encouraged, he was encouraged we prayed then talked a few more minutes and I said my good bye and began to leave.  As I was leaving a man in the bed next to his was staring straight at me.  The man looked like Hemingway, very distinguished with a white beard and stern look.  As I was walking out of the room he broke his silence and asked in a strong voice, “Are you a preacher?”  I looked him in the eye and said, “Yes sir I am.”  He stared back at me with that same stern look and asked firmly, “Do you really believe everything in that book?, as he pointed to my bible.  I replied firmly but gently with conviction, “Yes sir I do.”  He then asked with a hint with a hint of skepticism, “Do you really believe in Jesus?”  I replied , “Absolutely!”  Then he asked me a simple yet Titanic question, “Why?”  He went on aggressively, “Give me one reason or one verse from that book that makes you believe.”  What a question!  What a challenge!  I have walked with Jesus for over twenty years.  I have been to seminary and yet this Titanic question still loomed over me.  I thought to myself, “If I am struggling under the weight of this Titanic question how many that I shepherd and lead will struggle too?”  I looked him in the eyes and I was filled with compassion for him.  I had no idea why he was in the hospital.  I thought maybe this is the end and he is facing eternity.  I shared with him, “Sir I will offer you my testimony as my subjective experience coupled with the objective evidence of this book (The Gospel), pointing to the Bible, and the testimony of the living God through His Holy Spirit working in and through my life.”  He pushed back, “Give me one verse in that book that proves Jesus is who he said He was.”  I replied, “Sir I cannot just give you one verse I offer this whole book from cover to cover as a testimony along with the testimony human history coupled with the power of personal faith as proof.  I offer you my personal testimony of a changed life as evidence for the faith I profess and possess.”  The man offered me a huge grin and said, “Young man I have walked with Jesus since I was seven years old.  You have answered well.  I want to give you a verse from the Bible as to why I believe.  May I?”  I replied, “Please.”

Titus 1:1-3 1 Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness,  in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by the command of God our Savior;

He shared with me that this verse says that God cannot lie and is faithful to keep everything that He has promised.  He went on to tell me that his faith has rested safely on these verses for 58 years of ministry.  Then he shared with me his vocation for the past 15 years, which lead me to name this blog Titanic question.  For the past 15 years he has been employed by the Titanic Exhibit traveling worldwide playing Captain Edward Smith and offering tours of the exhibit.  The catch is that during his tours he shares the story of Pastor John  Harper, The Titanic’s Last Hero , a preacher from Scotland who spent his last hours preaching the Gospel offering salvation to those on the Titanic.  He told me he had shared this story in countries around the world and looks at his time touring with the Titanic exhibit as his primary ministry.  We spent about 30 minutes talking and praying together.  I found out that he had a massive blood clot in his lung he was trusting God to dissolve.  He had been in the hospital for six days and was hoping to return to the exhibit soon.  He also shared that he wondered why he was in the hospital he thought perhaps it was to witness to those in the bed next to him.  I shared with him that he had ministered to me and challenged me greatly with his Titanic question.  As I walked out of the hospital room that day I knew my focus had been and will continue to be laser pointed.  It is all about Jesus, it has always been about Jesus and it will always be about Jesus.  The most simple yet Titanic questions a believer that can be asked must be answered and communicated effectively.  Do you believe everything in that book?  Do you really believe in Jesus?  Why?  Think about that right now, if you are a believer.  If someone asked you these three Titanic question right now what would be your answer?  Here is what I know, we must be ready because we never know when those questions are going to come.  I sure didn’t think they would come from a man I didn’t know laying in a hospital bed as I departed the room.  If you can’t answer these question for yourself I encourage you spend the time discovering why you believe what you believe.  Explore your faith.  Ask yourself the hard questions.  Use the Gospel and the leading of the Holy Spirit and your testimony and human history as evidence for your faith or to build your faith.

2 Timothy 4:1-3 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching.  For the time is coming when people will not endure sound[a] teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions,

I will leave you with one thought.  The man smiled at me and said he shares this thought with people often, “Eternity is too long to be wrong.”  Be encouraged!

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Ebb and Flow

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV) 1 For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: 2 a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3 a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.  

If there is one thing that I have learned about life it is that it has an ebb and flow. Ebb and flow defined means: “A decline and increase, constant fluctuations. For example, He was fascinated by the ebb and flow of the Church’s influence over the centuries. This expression alludes to the inward and outward movement of ocean tides.”

There are constant fluctuations with declines and increases.  We can see this in our relationships, our ministries, our jobs, our church experiences, our health you name it and it seems to have an ebb and flow.  Ecclesiastes says it best there seems to be a time and purpose for everything under heaven.  Learning to accept that and go with the ebb and flow of life can prevent undo stress and anxiety.  Understanding the sovereignty of God can help us to use the ebb and flow of life to our advantage.

Learning to grow even during a decline and flourish during an increase comes when we live in God’s grace understanding that no matter where we find ourselves within the ebb and flow of life God is there, God is working, and God is sovereign.  If we are not careful we can focus so much on the negative within the ebb and flow we miss all that is positive.  We are in danger of focusing on the dying, plucking, breaking down, weeping, mourning, casting away, refraining from embracing, losing, tearing, silence, hating and warring which only leads us deeper and deeper into decline fearing we will never increase.

We must learn to embrace the ebb and flow yet stay focused on the birthing, planting, healing, building up, laughing, dancing, gathering, embracing, seeking, keeping, sewing, speaking, loving and peace making.  It is there that we feel and experience the true depth of the increase afforded to us preparing us for the natural ebb and flow of life.  In turn it helps us to deal with the declines by focusing on the future increases and the lessons learned within the declines about ourselves, our lives, our church and our callings.

Here is an example.  In the business of church planting, church growth movement and pastoring the measure of success for so many is nickles, numbers and noses.  There is an ebb and flow in every one of those categories.  Success cannot be defined by nickles, numbers and noses it must be defined by knowing and doing the will of God for our lives.  The ebb and flow of nickles, numbers and noses can destroy a church planter, pastor and church.  When nickles, numbers and noses are in decline the pastor, church planter can fall into a deep dark depression feeling like a failure.  Then when the ebb and flow changes and the increase in nickles, numbers and noses comes the pastor, church planter feels like the cream of the crop.  This is not a healthy ebb and flow.  The healthy measurement for ministry and church planting is knowing and doing the will of God which also has an ebb and flow.  Hopefully it is more increase than decline.

The question isn’t nickles, numbers and noses the question is are we and have we discovered the will of God for our lives and the church and are we closer than we were a year ago, a month ago, a week ago or today.  When the ebb and flow of nickles, numbers and noses outweighs the ebb and flow of knowing and doing the will of God for our lives and the churches we lead we are in danger of falling into a deep decline and seeing the increases become few and far between.  The tide stays out longer and the whole eco-system of the church and the city God has called us to is affected.  Ebb and flow is natural accept it, learn to thrive within it and to be thankful for what God has provided during both the ebb and the flow.

This is true in all of life no matter what God has called you to.  When the ebb and flow of our life’s work outweighs the ebb and flow of knowing and doing the will of God for our lives successes become few and far between and declines seem to stay longer and take more than we were willing to give.  There is a natural ebb and flow to all of life learning to measure that ebb and flow according to knowing and doing the will of God for our lives makes dealing with the natural ebb and flow of life much more bearable and doable.

As I sit in my office today we have had two weekends in a row where the attendance has been unusually low at COAH. (One due to a tropical storm)  Numbers that I haven’t seen in two years since we first opened the church.  For two solid years we grew and grew and grew monthly increasing our daily average attendance.  Honestly, at first it bothered me.  Not because of numbers and noses but because so many are not getting the discipleship through the Gospel that they desperately need to sustain them during the ebb and flow of life.  It bothered me because I thought maybe I had done something wrong to keep them away.  It bothered me because people said it would happen and I chose to ignore their reports.

But then I stepped back and looked at it from the proper perspective of knowing and doing the will of God for our lives.  I am not bothered anymore.  Why?  I know that I know that we know and are doing God’s will in our city.  We are seeing the lost found, wanderers come home, disciples being made, disciples making disciples, missionaries are being sent.  We are seeing the fruit of a church deep and rich in faith.  I am glad we measure success by knowing and doing the will of God and not nickles, numbers and noses.  Besides the nickles, numbers and noses conflict for while the noses and haven’t been there the nickles have been above average to the glory of God.  What does that tell me?  Ebb and flow is happening within the church.  People are knowing and doing the will of God for their lives and are growing in their faith and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ which is expressed in their lifestyle.  What else does that tell me? Never measure success by the ebb and flow of nickles, numbers and noses!  Measure success by knowing and doing the will of God for your life.

So I sit here today fully embracing the ebb and flow of knowing and doing the will of God for COAH and my life.  I sit here today fully embracing the ebb and flow of church attendance in the summer time.  I sit here today fully embracing the ebb and flow of my life and the struggles I find myself in daily.  I sit here today ebbing in some areas and flowing in others all to the glory of God.  I sit here today measuring my life’s ebb and flow according to knowing and doing the will of God for my life focused on the future and ready to embrace both the times of decline and the times of increase all the while trusting in God’s ever sufficient grace to sustain me.  I pray the same for you today.  Whether you are ebbing or flowing know that God loves you!  Seek to know God’s perfect and pleasing will for your life and whether you ebb or flow you’ll be doing alright in both by God’s grace:)  Both ebb and flow are necessary to grow just be sure you know which ebb and flow to focus your attention on.  Be encouraged!