“Different is Wrong?”

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As I grew in my relationship with my future wife, Kathy, and into the early years of our marriage, I struggled with “different”. If she did something different than I did, one of us must be wrong, or at least this is what I deeply believed. Then I started going to a pastor for some counseling. Early in the sessions, we discussed how different isn’t wrong. But I kept arguing: “But it is!… Etc., etc., etc.!” Finally after many intense exchanges (all from me, BTW), we came up with a compromise: “Difference isn’t necessarily wrong. It could be, but maybe not.”

Love One Another

I bring this up to say, that I have learned (or still am learning?) in the Body of Christ we are all different: uniquely and intentionally designed so. And this “different” is what the Lord Jesus uses to refine our divine design into looking more uniquely like Him. So, whereas, “Different” might be “wrong” in the Body of Christ, it is still used for the Good.

When I see someone who Loves Jesus in a vastly different way than I would, this is okay. Or if I see someone whose walk is a little different than mine, this, too, is okay. Some have said that difference is the spice of life, but I have found it is the test of Love. Can I Love (i.e. both agapé & philos) my brother, my sister in Christ even when they are different from me—even beyond looks, eh?

So when our Master told the tax collector, Levi, to “Love one another,” He was including Simon the Zealot—who in turn must Love the different Levi. This included the fishermen, Peter, Andrew, James & John having to Love Thomas & Nathaniel…and the differences could be multiplied between us as well.

When the Lord brings someone different into my Life, it is not simply to spice it up, but more so it is to extend and expand my Love for Him and His Body. And I am learning I still hold to a little of that, “Different is wrong” plank in the platform of my belief system. Or is it in my eye? How about you? What are your thoughts?

Main Text: — John 15:12 (NIV84)—  My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.— Romans 15:7 (NIV84)

No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God’s approval.— 1 Corinthians 11:19 (NIV84)

All of us who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. — Philippians 3:15–16 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, forgive me for not recognizing the differences in the Body of Christ and for not embracing them as Your kaleidoscope of Love. Lord Jesus Christ, renew a fresh sense of the Holy Spirit in my Life so that I may Love Your Body, the Church, as much as I Love You, the Head! In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

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“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

“We’re All We Got, Baby!”

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Community of the Cross

My Thoughts:

Why is Christian community so important, and why did our Master really stress it during the Last Supper? In short, we’re all we got—so Love one another. He makes this very, very clear in John 15:18-20 that, “…If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you. …”(v. 19). The world is going to hate us at some point on our journey with Jesus, and one method will be by luring us with its pleasures and treasures. Jesus warns us of this in Luke, “The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature” (8:14). Yes, one of the ways the world will hate us is by offering us our heart’s  desires! This will be a counterfeit, to be sure, but a really good one at that….

In these pleasures and treasures we may find a false sense of self-reliance and self-security—even fellowship.And yet our  fellowship with the saints slowly fades away as we get more and more involved in the pleasures of this world. And, according to Jesus, this, too, is hate….

The gathered body of believers in humble community is the only place where we can be told the truth in Love (Eph. 4:15), air our dirty laundry and be forgiven (James 5:16), and know our backs are covered and not stabbed (Romans 12:9-18). Or is it?

What are your thoughts on this? Are the other places believers can go to have these, and many more, blessings? Or is the church community truly the only place we ought to–or even can–have this?

Care to share?

Main Text: — Acts 2:42-44 — They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.  — John 16:33 (NIV84)

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  — John 13:34-35 (NIV84)

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.   — John 15:13 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the profound nature of the community Your Son paid the ultimate price for.  By Your Mercy & Grace and in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Even the Lone Ranger Had a Friend”

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My Thoughts:

Being so deeply wound by fellow Christians, I went through a phase commonly called, “Anti-Church.” Oh, I would still go to services and studies, but I seriously refused to join any of them. I basically felt they didn’t need me and I didn’t need them.

Because this went on for some time, I became known as a loner, and yet I had “friends,” but I wouldn’t commit or open up to any of them. Slowly the Lord healed my wounded soul, and I realized that even the Lone Ranger had a friend: His dear friend Tonto. (Beyond the overplayed issues of the more recent ‘remake,’ it was clear that they had each other’s back….)

It took me quite a while to overcome these feelings of rejection and isolation, finally coming to a place where I could trust people again. As I did, the Lord showed me that the best way to show my Love for Him was to “Love one another” (John 13:34).

What was harder was realizing that in order to ““Love one another,” I need to be committed to a group of people I could really get to know, (let alone the extreme degree of this Love, “as I have Loved you ….”)

A major wrecking came in my middler year of seminary, but, to a large degree, the wrecking has continued to this day. I often fight isolating myself from the Body with feelings of “I don’t need you,” and “you don’t need me.” As a pastor this is rather curious, no? But in the Lord’s grace and mercy, He is healing my wounded heart in such a way that I am getting a of glimpse of what He said to Peter, “Do you truly Love me more than these…” (John 21:15)? It is a process, to be sure.

As a team player, I have often found this anomaly in my soul rather paradoxic, like maybe I didn’t feel like a part of the team? Because of this, it has been one of my passions to make others feel a part of Jesus’ team, and to be the Tonto in some loner’s life so that they, too, may come to realize, the Community of Christ is far larger than themselves…. I know I’m learning this.

How about you? Have you been on such a journey with Jesus? Care to share?

Main Text: — Acts 2:42-44 — 42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!”  — 1 Corinthians 12:21 (NIV84)

If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body.  — 1 Corinthians 12:15-16 (NIV84)

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.  — 1 Corinthians 12:27 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, forgive me isolating myself from Your People. Remove the pain and shame I have caused Your Name and others by these attitudes. Be that part of my Life, Lord Jesus Christ, that has been in bondage. Free me to Love as You Love.  By Your Mercy & Grace and in Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike