No Plan B; Just Plan A with Scars

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I have been thinking about this for a while now. It seems that with the Lord there is no Plan B. When He tells us to do something, we’d best do it or we will encounters some scars. So it seems to me that there is no Plan B; just Plan A with scars.

Samson tried  his Plan B, but ended up having Plan A with Scars: He lost his eyes. Moses had the scarring of 40 years in the wilderness. David had the soul scarring of losing a baby because of his sin with Bathsheba.

Wouldn’t you agree that obedience is the best first choice? But have you discovered that sometimes Plan A actually includes the scars? I know I have. And the more I study the Life of my Lord Jesus, I discover that the scars were always in the plan. There was never a Plan B. Even as He wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane, Plan A was never at issue ….

Now I am discovering a bit more of what He meant when He said, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24 NIV). The cross is a part of Plan A, and, apparently, so are the scars….

Poor Jonah had to learn this the hard way. Too often, I do, too. I’m learning that it is best to respond to the Lord the first time He directs, even if the directions involves scars. Have you found that the scars of  trying to implement a “Plan B” seem to hurt more than the intended scars of Plan A? I have….

Your thoughts.

Main Text— Jonah 1:3a, 17 (ESV)— 3 But Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. … 17 And the LORD appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

You became imitators of us and of the Lord. In spite of a great deal of suffering, you welcomed the word with the joy that the Holy Spirit produces.—1 Thessalonians 1:6 (ISV)

 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.—2 Timothy 3:12 (NKJV)

  Let no one make any more trouble for me, because I carry the scars of Jesus on my own body.—Galatians 6:17 (ISV)

Lord Jesus Christ, as I walk by faith and not by sight, empower me through Your Holy Spirit respond to Your Plan A—straightaway. “Make my hands like Your hands / If they must be wounded / Let all the pain that I will feel / Make me merciful and kind.”* In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

* from “Saviour of the World” by Bob Bennett & Michael Aguilar

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I Remember When I Was Young

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As I am reading through the New Testament this year, it gave me pause when I arrived (catching up as it were) to the main text below. Yes, I remember when I was young. I remember reading this passage over and over again, spurring me on to “set an example.” …

Now that I am not so young and have fewer years ahead of me than behind me, I humorously thought: “Now that I’m not young, I don’t need to set an example any more…! I can be a crotchety old man, constantly complaining of the youth of today, etc., etc., etc….”

I pursued that fantasy for just a bit and thought of all the men in my life who had been this very person…. 

Then I thought of the dear men in my life who were truly an example of Jesus “in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (v. 12). I thought of these men who continued well into their 80’s and 90’s who committed themselves “to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching” (v. 13). 

It is these men who were pleasant to be around. These men who had the fragrant aroma of a Loving Deliverer. It is these men who (paraphrasing v. 16) “watched their lives and doctrine closely; who persevered in them, … who saves both themselves and their hearers”—and me.

It is these men I desire to be like when I am gray and old and I am well on my way with the latter. Besides, I still feel pretty young from the waste up, hehe.

Main Text— 1 Timothy 4:12–16 (NIV) 12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity. 13 Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. 14 Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you. 15 Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. 16 Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.—2 Corinthians 6:4–10 (NIV84)

  Consider Him Who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.—Hebrews 12:3 (NIV84)

Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.—2 Timothy 2:10 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to finish strong. Overwhelm me with a sense of Your Love as I sometimes limp to the “finish” line. Strengthen me to run and not grow weary; to walk and not faint; to mount up with renewed strength as the eagle. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

Continue On

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Too often we may foreclose on the “Parable of the Sower.” “Oh, I know this already.” Or “I’ve heard this before.” But perhaps a “second” look with child-like wonderment will yield fresh insights for us. Sadly, though, still another foreclosure is our determination as to which soil our soul is. We often assume we are one or the other…you know, that Ol’ “Either/Or” mindset. But, if we look more closely with a Both/And understanding, we will discover that we can be the rocky soil in one instant and at that same instant good soil. (Yes, and this soil is being amended by the Spirit daily.)

 Sadly, once I foreclose on the soil test, I seem to stop. I stop growing. Stop weeding. Stop searching. Stop maturing. Stop. And the numbness of stopping creeps into my soul. But if I stop and rethink the soil test; if I stop and re-listen to the Lord’s words; if I stop merely as a rest stop prior to continuing on, then maybe, just maybe I will see more clearly the produce—the victory—the good soil has for me.

Let the spurs of Charles Spurgeon dig deep into your flanks—and continue on:

“Whatever foes may be before the Christian, they are all overcome. There are lions, but their teeth are broken; there are serpents, but their fangs are extracted; there are rivers, but they are bridged or fordable; there are flames, but we wear that matchless garment which renders us invulnerable to fire. The sword that has been forged against us is already blunted; the instruments of war which the enemy is preparing have already lost their point. God has taken away in the person of Christ all the power that anything can have to hurt us. Well then, the army may safely march on, and you may go joyously along your journey, for all your enemies are conquered beforehand. What shall you do but march on to take the prey? They are beaten, they are vanquished; all you have to do is to divide the spoil. You shall, it is true, often engage in combat; but your fight shall be with a vanquished foe. His head is broken; he may attempt to injure you, but his strength shall not be sufficient for his malicious design. Your victory shall be easy, and your treasure shall be beyond all count.” [Source:  Spurgeon, C. H. (2006). Morning and evening: Daily readings (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.]

Main Text— Matthew 13:19–23 (NIV84) 19 When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. 20 The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. 21 But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. 22 The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. 23 But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.  

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him.Matthew 7:7–11 (NLT)

  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 4:17–18 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I fix my eyes on You. Continue to remove the rocks, thorns and thistles from the soil of my soul as I continue to seek Your Face. 

Pastor Mike

“Into A Corner”

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Charles Spurgeon writes in a devotion found in Morning and evening: Daily readings selected for today: “The Lord sometimes suffers his people to be driven into a corner that they may experimentally know how necessary he is to them. Ungodly children, when they show us our own powerlessness against the depravity of their hearts, drive us to flee to the strong for strength, and this is a great blessing to us. Whatever our morning’s need may be, let it like a strong current bear us to the ocean of divine love. Jesus can soon remove our sorrow, he delights to comfort us. Let us hasten to him while he waits to meet us.” (Complete and unabridged; New modern edition.). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.

Shepherd-of-Psalm-23-232x300As we build families, I have discovered that some have been driven into a corner. There is no cause for celebration, but only sorrow. Their ‘prodigal’ has just begun his/her journey away from home. How can they celebrate family?

Indeed, the corner we’ve been driven into has a purpose: It is to show us our dependence on the One Who is All-Present, All-Powerful and All-Knowing. We cannot be present with our ‘prodigal’…

But instead of seeing a sea of the world, let us join Charles and see “the Ocean of Divine Love.” The Lord “Jesus can soon remove our sorrow, he delights to comfort us.” He will part the sea!

A song we sing at our church that has become a recent favorite of mine is, “Make A Way” by Jason Ingram and Jon Egan. My soul bursts with praise as I sing out with all my heart: “Where there is no way You make a way / Where no one else can reach us You find us / Where there is no way You make a way /Where no one else can reach us You find us.” But as I kept thinking about all the families I know who cannot celebrate Family because of a wayward son or a prodigal daughter, I thought of this song with different pronouns: “When cannot reach them, You reach them!” And then my soul settles down with a wisp of faith that soars into the heavenlies. I receive Charles’  spurring: “Let us hasten to [Jesus] while He waits to meet us” to comfort us. Join me as I come out of the corner, in a sprint or a crawl, but nonetheless join me fleeing to Jesus!

Main Text: — Mark 9:20–24 (NIV84)— So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”  “ ‘If you can’?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.— 2 Timothy 4:18 (NIV84)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.— 1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV emphasis added)

The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles. The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all — Psalm 34:17-19 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I patiently wait for Your deliverance of my loved one. Hear the cries of my heart. Give me songs in this night that I may yet praise You. Be still O my soul, and trust in the LORD. He will not fail you. Bless You, Jesus, for Your mercies and Your grace.  In Your Name,  Amen.

Coach Mike

“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.

“Relationships Can Be Rebuilt”

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Date: 02-24-15

The Big Idea: Relationships can be rebuilt but it will take a miracle.

We pray and pray and pray, praying to God for a miracle. Praying He will heal and restore this broken relationship, this estranged family member. And as we pray, we grow weary in the delay. Oh, we want it to be fixed—yesterday. We want things to be as they were: comfortable; innocent. And what I have found is: It is at this point many give up and quit praying because the miracle hasn’t come as quickly or as obviously as they would have liked….

Relationships can be rebuilt, but it will take a miracle. And what I have found is many are too impatience to wait for the miracle. Sadly, I have observed over the years of counseling and pastoring that many relationships stall in the second stage of a relationship: Innocence lost.  Perhaps you have noticed it, too, but I have discovered that every relationship goes through two stages, and, as I have noted, few make it to the third stage.

The first two stages are (1) innocence found and (2) innocence lost. We start out a romantic relationship or a friendship in the “innocence found” stage. It is new, refreshing, invigorating. There is a spring in our step and a lightness in our heart. But then something happens in the relationship to violate, ruin, disturb the innocence, and whoosh, innocence is lost–the second stage. It is here that everyone has a choice to make: (1) Leave the relationship and find a new, fresh one filled with that invigorating innocence; or (2) Work through the relationship until innocence is restore. Sadly, many choose the easier and, in truth, less fulfilling first option, leaving the landscape strewn with a profusion of “innocence lost” festering relationships. These continue cascading down the pinball machine of life bouncing from one frantic relationship to the next….

In choosing the second option, however, we give ourselves a chance to advance to the third stage of Innocent Restore. In this stage the relationship is rebuilt and restored and, in fact, is stronger than it was at the first. Now, at this point you might possibly be thinking, “Not in my broken relationships. It would take a miracle to repair this and restore the innocence that was deeply wounded and violated.”

And I would say you are right. It would take a miracle!

In the main text, noted below, we see Nehemiah’s servant leadership result in a miraculous rebuilding. And all those who witnessed this noted “that the work had been done by our God” (v.16). In all this, let us not miss the miracle. Period! Yes, this miracle was speed; building this wall in this short period of time is indeed miraculous. And when I note this miracle, I am not saying that your broken, fatigued or strained relationship will be fixed, repaired, or restored in 52 days—or two years, but what I am saying is: This passage gives us the hope of a miracle of rebuilding and restoring. And besides, it doesn’t depend on us. Remember the Miracle we pray for will ultimately be “done by our God.” Yes, we are co-laborers with Him in this outstanding miracle. But He does the ‘Work’!

So I have to ask myself as well as you: How’s my co-laboring going? Or have I given up? Let us pray for one another and spur one another on to complete the wall…,  and witness a Miracle!

Main Text: — Nehemiah 6:15-16 — 15 So the wall was completed on the twenty-fifth day of Elul in 52 days.16 When all of our enemies—including the surrounding nations—heard this, they became very discouraged, since they saw that the work had been done by our God.  [ISV]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

— Galatians 6:9 (NIV84)

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

— 1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV84)

Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. — Romans 12:19-21 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  I put You on as my Slippers of Patience: The Right Slipper of Forgiveness and the Left Slipper of Forbearance. Let me be a peacemaker who sows in peace in the confident hope that there will be a harvest of Righteousness. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Remain at Your Post”

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Date: 02-14–15

Text: — Nehemiah 6:10-13 — 10 One day I went to the house of Shemaiah son of Delaiah, the son of Mehetabel, who was shut in at his home. He said, “Let us meet in the house of God, inside the temple, and let us close the temple doors, because men are coming to kill you—by night they are coming to kill you.” 11 But I said, “Should a man like me run away? Or should one like me go into the temple to save his life? I will not go!” 12 I realized that God had not sent him, but that he had prophesied against me because Tobiah and Sanballat had hired him. 13 He had been hired to intimidate me so that I would commit a sin by doing this, and then they would give me a bad name to discredit me. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: When faced with opposition, stand strong and remain at your post.

My Thoughts: 

Truly, there are those times we need to withdraw and regroup, but there are also those times when we remain strong and stay at our post. We do this for several reasons. In the above passage, Nehemiah shows us that one reason is being a strong leader. As a strong leader, one must demonstrate integrity by remaining strong at our post. I see this in v. 11 above: “should a man like me.” Nehemiah was a man of integrity, and as a wise and strong leader, he did what he expected those he led to do: Do not be intimidated by the enemy’s lies; stand strong at your post!

Lifestyle worshiper, right now you may be enduring lies and misinformation about you or your circumstances. You may be encountering those who are trying to intimidate you into ‘leaving your post’. Stand strong! Remain at your post. And do this not just for your own integrity’s sake, but also for the sake of those you are posted to protect! You are building walls from the debris of broken relationships. Your success may not be as evident to you as it is to others, but many are looking to you. They see your courage, your integrity, and your faithfulness. Stand strong! Remain at your post!

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.

— Ephesians 6:10-11 (NIV84)

Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

— Galatians 6:9 (NASB95)

“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

— Joshua 1:9 (NASB95)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  be my strength as I stand against the schemes of the wicked one. You desire to rebuild! He has come to tear down. You restore. He scatters. You heal. He wounds. Blessed be Your Name for You are greater in and through me than he that is in the world. Amen.

Pastor Mike