“An Upside Down Walk with Jesus”

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If I have learned anything in my journey with Jesus and the Life He has infused in me, I have learned that it is an upside down walk with Him. In order to find, I must lose (Matt. 10:39); in order to get, I must give up (Acts 20:35); in order to live I must die (Gal. 2:20); and the way up is down (Phil 2:5-11).

Stones of Forgiveness

Truly, our walk with Jesus is upside down from the world around us.  So why should ‘a glorious victory’ be any different? It would appear it is no different. Stephen was going about doing good. Helping widows, orphans and strangers. The Lord used this humble vessel to do “great wonders and miraculous signs” (see main text below). And yet, “Opposition arose!” For doing good? Go figure….

In the denomination that I was raised, I took away the belief that martyrdom was the fast track to heaven. So I ask the Lord if I could die for Him before I was 30. Ironically, my first child was born 30 days before I turned 30! I have since learned that I ought not seek this, but if it does come, I am not to run or shrink from it. I do not find it strange that some in our world today seek martyrdom—physically or emotionally or spiritually. I understand why many do. They truly understand how sinful they are and realized that they won’t make it to heaven on their own. They see that martyrdom is the ‘easiest’ way to “make it”. But Stephen went about doing good, and martyrdom found him. It swiftly came upon him. He remained faithful to the point of death, and this is indeed a glorious victory.

I deeply honor my brothers and sisters who have, maybe even today, received this glorious victory—the crown of Life (Rev. 2:10). They have remained faithful even to this extreme point.

While many look at the many deliverances from prison and sickness and disease and bills and whatever we deem ‘bad’ as glorious victories, I see an upside down reality here. True, the Lord can and does deliver us from ills and evils, and these are indeed glorious victories, but we dare not discount, we dare not down play the glorious victory of not being released from prison, of not being healed, of not being delivered from the fire—or the blade or stone. These, too, are glorious victories, are they not?

As I walk with Jesus in this upside down way, I often find it curiously silly when I complain about something ‘bad’ like a silly red light when I’m late, or getting charged twice for item in the store. Or being rejected by my peers; Or being insulted or maligned. What are these? Perhaps these are small training opportunities for yet another quiet, but nonetheless, glorious victory? What do you think? Please feel free to share.

Main Text: — Acts 6:8–10 (NIV84)— 8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, did great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. 9 Opposition arose, however, from members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called)—Jews of Cyrene and Alexandria as well as the provinces of Cilicia and Asia. These men began to argue with Stephen, 10 but they could not stand up against his wisdom or the Spirit by whom he spoke” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.— Ephesians 4:1–3 (NIV84)

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.— 2 Corinthians 4:16–18 (NIV84)

Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. — Philippians 1:18b-21 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I yield to the Lord Jesus Christ as He empowers me by His Holy Spirit to live a life that is pleasing to You, so that whether by my Lifestyle or in my death, I will bring You the Glory You alone are worthy of. In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

“Enjoy the Ups; Endure the Downs”

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Romans 8-28

My Thoughts:

Years ago I was told, “When things are going well, watch out: the enemy is about to attack.” I appreciated the advice to remain vigilant, but I took it to an extreme so as not to enjoy the good times. So when times were good, I was preparing for them to fall apart. My focus was on the “what ifs” of life and not on the “what is’s”.

Truly, our walk with Jesus has its ups and downs. We are to enjoy the ups and endure the downs. But during the “ups” I am learning to live in the moment for Jesus and not live for the moment in myself. This has been a rather challenging journey. There are times, especially when the grandkids are over, that I have to consciously say to myself—sometimes out loud, “‘That can wait for later; I’m with my grandkids now.” Then the joy of the moment begins to seep into my soul.

As I search the Words of the Book for encouragement on this new perspective, I was brought back to a well-worn passage and a pointed verse I had memorized years ago, but never really applied in this manner. (It’s always that next verse, eh?) In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Yet, indeed, in the next verse He says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itselfEach day has enough trouble of its own.” In a very subtle way, it appears Jesus is saying, live only in the moment, for it has enough to deal with. When I am worrying about tomorrow, or the “what ifs” or “shoulda, coulda, wouldas” of life, then I miss the joy in the moment—the “ups”….

Now that I am beginning to enjoy the “up” moments the Master has blest me with, what about those “down” times, those incidents I deem “terrible, horrible, no good or very bad”? As I sledge through the wrecking of my current life (lower case “l”), I find that I have to rework such phrases as, “That’s not good,” or “that’s bad!”. Why? Because if I really believe the Lord works out all for the Good, then even those times—those incidents—that I deem “terrible, horrible, no good or very bad” He is using for the Good—even if my small perspective cannot see it at the moment and I burp out, “this isn’t good!”

Instead, I have been trying to say—again, I’m a rookie at this, “This, too, the Lord will use for the Good!” It has been a fascinating mind-bend. Indeed, the transformation has been slow, but the Holy Spirit is steadily renewing my mind. I have found I am less reactive in situations I have traditionally deemed “bad,” etc., especially when I ‘see’ by faith that, “this, too, the Lord will use.” Now I not only endure the “downs,” I do more than endure them: for I am more than a conquerer through Jesus Who Loves me. Through the “Ups” and the “Downs” His Love holds me….

Have you had a similar journey with Jesus on this? Or are you farther up the path? Care to share?

Main Text: — Acts 5:17-20— 17 Then the high priest and all his associates, who were members of the party of the Sadducees, were filled with jealousy. 18 They arrested the apostles and put them in the public jail. 19 But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the jail and brought them out. 20 “Go, stand in the temple courts,” he said, “and tell the people the full message of this new life.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?   — Romans  8:31-32 (NIV84)

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.  — Romans 8:28 (NIV84)

Fear the LORD, you His saints, for those who fear Him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. — Psalm 34:9-10 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, continue Your transforming work in my Life as I realize in each passing moment that, “You are Good all the time, no matter what,” I may think about a given moment or incident, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Surround with Integrity”

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My Thoughts:

A friend of mine used to say that many people are an inch deep and a mile wide. They had no depth or integrity. But believers in Jesus can be a mile deep and an inch wide—if we choose to be someone of integrity….

One person defined integrity as you are the same person whether  anyone is watching or not. Another definition is the inside and the outside are the same. How would you define integrity?

Would Joseph, from Cyprus, fit your definition of integrity? Apparently he was so well respected by the early church that they nicknamed him, Barnabas, Son of Encouragement. I find it fascinating that he was identified in our main text, and, at that, in direct opposition to Ananias and Sapphira (from our last blog)—and he is named first….

Luke, the author of Acts, uses Joseph as an example of those who were meeting the needs of the early church as reported in Acts 4:34-35: “There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.” He was one of those who owned land and sold a parcel. The big deal is Joseph was a man of integrity. He said he was going to give the church all the money from the sale and he did!  (Whereas Ananias & Sapphira did not, remember?)

Is it possible that Luke is suggesting to us that there are two types of people in the church from which we can choose to surround ourselves? Either the Children of Encouragement or the Children of Lies?

I’d like to be chosen by Team Encouragement & Integrity. How about you? Do you feel we have a choice in this matter, and if so, what ramifications does this choice have? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 4:36-37 36 Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means Son of Encouragement), 37 sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.  — Philippians  3:17-20 (NIV84)

Always set an example for others by doing good actions. Teach with integrity and dignity.  — Titus 2:7 (ISV)

Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.  — 2 Timothy 2:22-23 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, as I follow in the footsteps of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and as I surround myself with my brothers and sisters who are on this same journey with Jesus, keep me in step with the Spirit in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Surrounded by Deceit”

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My Thoughts:

The young church was glowing with joy and harmony and fellowship and a lifestyle of worship, when suddenly a fracture in the perfect church was revealed. Yes, Ananias, and his lovely wife, Sapphira, conspired to deceive those stately saints, especially the Apostle Peter. What was their deception? Well, apparently they promised to give to the church the full amount from a sale of some of their property. As it was, they apparently received a lot more for the property than they had originally expected. So instead of giving the full amount, they held back some from their “faith promise”. The fracture rips….

broken down church

How dare they bring lying and deception into the church?

Well, they definitely were not the last. Sad to say, I, too, have been crushed with this reality. As the Lord has been wrecking me on my pursuit of the Lord Jesus Christ and the perfect church, He has gently pointed out to me that even as far back as this, the church was never really perfect. And throughout the letters to the churches, both the apostles Paul and Peter had to rebuke those in the church to “Stop lying” (see Eph. 4:25; Col. 3:9; 1 Pet. 2:1, 22). This may seem terribly obvious to some of you, but to me this was earth shattering: The early church was not perfect and, in fact, they had liars in their midst!

Then the Lord led me to Isaiah 6:1-6. I discovered there that I would often skip the first part of Isaiah’s wrecking and immediately focus on the second part: “Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! … I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5). He’s surrounded by deceit! Unclean lips, indeed.

Oh, the part I skipped, “For I am a man of unclean lips.” Isaiah had the temerity—and the humility—to first include himself in this “among.”

Perhaps you can join me in coming to grips—as Paul, Peter, & Isaiah did— with the deceit that surrounds us, starting with ourselves, eh? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 5:1-5— 1 Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. 2 With his wife’s full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles’ feet. 3 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? 4 Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. 6 Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  — 2 Timothy  3:12-15 (NIV84)

Eloquent lips are unsuited to a godless fool—how much worse lying lips to a ruler!  — Proverbs 17:7 (NIV)

Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” — 2 Timothy 2:19 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, purify my heart and my lips by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Keep me humble in Your presence, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Coach Mike