No Plan B; Just Plan A with Scars

Standard

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

Advertisements

“Syrupy Love vs. Substantial Love”

Standard

Year’s ago when I used to get hurt a lot—usually in sports, but not always, I would look for that sympathy, you know, “You, poor baby,” kind of sympathy. I soon learned, however, that it vanished rather quickly. So I guess I kept getting hurt. A silly plan, right?

After a while, I started using the phrase, “Syrupy love,” to describe this kind of temporary concern that vanished in a few moments. Along the way, I added words like, “gushy” and “gooey,” too. Obviously, I was looking for something more lastly, more substantial. Maybe that’s why I really don’t like cotton candy? Hmmmm….

Sadly, I learned that this syrupy, gooey love says all the right things, but more often than not for the most selfish of reasons: to puff up the one giving the “love.” I found that the one being “loved” is more or less consumed to meet the needs, pleasures and desires of the one dispensing this ooey, gooey, syrupy love. Again, I would hear the “right” words, but like clouds that promise rain and move on, these promise, “I’ll always be there for you,” … yeah, right….

Like I said, I was looking for something far more meaningful, more lasting. I was look for Substantial Love. I was looking for the Love that is patient and kind. It is other-serving and not self-seeking, it does not demand its own way through intimidation, shout downs or skillful manipulation. It makes the other person the center of attention. It listens carefully, hearing the whole person. And this substantial Love is often inconvenienced, put out, put off, taken advantage of, and wounded. In and through all this, this Love never fails. It does not shift with moods, the wind or the seasons. It never gives up.

Sound familiar?

If you are familiar with the Bible or know Jesus, this Substantial Love will sound very familiar to you. This is the Love I found: This Substantial Love.  If you are not familiar with this Love, perhaps you would like to get to know it a little better? Check out the verses below….

Main Text— 1 Corinthians 13:4–8 (NIV)— 4  Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 8 Love never fails.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.John 13:34–35 (ESV)

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?Matthew 5:43–46 (ESV)

 Your love must be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.—Romans 12:9 (ISV)

  But God demonstrates His love for us by the fact that the Messiah died for us while we were still sinners.—Romans 5:8 (ISV)

Lord Jesus Christ, continue to reduce me to Your Love, Substantial Love. Empower me to Love exceedingly above and beyond what I am capable of. Let others know I know You by the Love I have for them.

Confessing Christ In The Hard Times

Standard

Perhaps you will be encouraged as I was after reading the following from Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life:

Again today I have tried to witness a good confession to the work the Lord hath wrought in my soul. But it is hard to testify where there is so little feeling, and Satan tries to hinder me by every possible suggestion he can bring forward. He tells me it is all a lie, and that I had better have had my tongue cut out before I ever presumed to say such a thing of myself, and tries to induce me to stay away from the meetings and from every place where confession could be made. But my indwelling Saviour keeps me from yielding to these suggestions or from entertaining them for a moment, and enables me to set my face like a flint that I will hold fast the confession of my faith without wavering, because faithful is He that hath promised.

Yes, I will believe, I will trust; even though the Lord should never again show me the light of His countenance, nor manifest Himself to my soul! My Jesus is dwelling in me, and has established His Kingdom there, and I am altogether and only His! Oh praise His holy Name!

One blessed result I do find, and that is that I love His will now with a genuine love that makes a cross borne for His dear sake filled with an untold sweetness.—Journal, June 15, 1869 ( from Smith, Hannah Whitall, and Melvin Easterday Dieter. The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life: The Unpublished Personal Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997. Print.)

Main Text— 2 Timothy 1:8–9 (NIV84) 8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9 Who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time..

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD,  I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights. Habakkuk 3:17–19 (NIV84)

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.—Romans 5:3–5 (NIV84)

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:9–10 (NIV)

Lord Jesus Christ, be my strength as I endure hardships and insults. Let my weakness manifest Your strength. In Your Name, Amen

Pastor Mike

I Remember When I Was Young

Standard

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

“‘Believer’ or ‘Follower’: Which is It”

Standard

Following Jesus More than Twitter

Have you notice that there appears to be a dichotomy between a “Believer in Jesus” and a “Follower of Jesus?” It seems to some that merely believing in Jesus isn’t enough, so they want to communicate their commitment to Jesus by saying, “I’m a follower of Jesus” (Or Christ, which is the Messiah).

Does it seem like this to you: Some who say they believe in Jesus don’t appear to live like Him? And from this do “the Followers” get the idea that if they call themselves followers of Jesus, it necessarily implies that they are living like He would desire them to live? Is this kind of like the ‘born again’ Christians of the 70’s?

Perhaps you have discovered what I have: To believe in Jesus has an action component. To truly trust in, rely on, and have faith in Jesus necessarily produces a follower. And yet some say they believe but have no action. (I think James refers to this as “deeds” or “works” in his letter, 2:14-26, don’t you?)

Okay, since not all who say,“I believe in Jesus,” appear to have the action component of a follower, does it also follow that those who say, “I’m a follower of Jesus” not necessarily make them a believer? Apparently not. Our Lord clearly addresses this in our main text below, with the key verses being vv. 64-66.…

What I am suggesting here, then, is we have a false dichotomy. This is not an Either/Or, but a Both/And: Our Lord Jesus wants Both Believers who Follow And Followers who Believe. If someone says, “I believe in Jesus,” their life should demonstrate this confession. Likewise, those who say, “I follow Jesus,” their lives and confession should integrate. Agree?

Perhaps then, our being Salt and Light will have a wee bit more impact on the world around us, more so than merely saying we believe or saying we follow.

What do you think? Your thoughts.

Main Text— John 6:60–69 (NIV84) 60 On hearing it, many of His disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” 61 Aware that His disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where He was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray Him. 65 He went on to say, This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless the Father has enabled him.” 66 From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him. 67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Why do you call Me, “Lord, Lord,” and do not do what I say?Luke 6:46 (NIV84)

 Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.—Matthew 7:24 (NIV84)

Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case—things that accompany salvation.— Hebrews 6:9 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to live the Life that is pleasing to You. May the confession of my mouth be seen in my feet as I follow in Your steps.

Pastor Mike

“Be A Change Agent for Jesus”

Standard

Peter & John in the Temple

My Thoughts:

I know a common prayer of mine has been: “Lord, use me.” Well, what if He doesn’t? What if He chooses to pour me out as King David did the water secured from his hometown well (see 2 Chronicles 11:17-19), will my life and my service be any less valuable to Him? Or More? I know I have been stuck in this utilitarian / performance base value system for some time, but in truth, the Lord does use us—and He uses us as a change agent for others.

I have found that at least two prerequisites for this are faithfulness and availability. When we are faithful and available, we can enjoy the blessings of being co-laborers with Him as Peter and John were in this morning’s main text (see below).

Peter and John were not walking around wondering how the Lord was going to use them. No, instead they were faithful in prayer, going to the temple for the daily prayers. They were available to the Spirit’s promptings. In short, their hearts were open and their eyes were open. This led to their hands being open to be used of the Lord in His ways and in His timing. (In this situation, an open hand to grasp a lame beggar’s, eh?)

Years ago, Brother Andrew and I were talking privately at a conference he spoke at, and he said, “Michael, too often we come to the Lord with our hands full of our projects and our ideas and say, ‘Lord, bless these.’ Instead, we should lift up empty hands and say, ‘Lord, what do You want me to do? Fill these empty hands with Your projects and Your ideas….”

Have you discovered that only empty hands can be filled with heavenly projects? I have, and I have also learned that an open heart that is in passionate pursuit of Jesus joined with open eyes for His Person leads to open hands for His business. Have you?  How does being faithful in prayer lead to these and to becoming a change agent of Jesus? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 3:6-7 — 6 Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” 7 Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And [Jesus] said to them, Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?  — Luke 2:49 (NKJV)

 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  — 1 Peter 3:15 (NIV84)

Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol  or swear by what is false. He will receive blessing from the LORD  and vindication from God his Savior.  Such is the generation of those who seek Him, who seek your face, O God of Jacob. — Psalm 24:3-6 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, give us clean hands and purify our hearts. Let us not give our souls to another. (adapted from Charlie Hall’s “Give Us Clean Hands”) May I always honor the Holy Name of Jesus, Amen.

Pastor Mike