Content with Relationships

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We all have relationships that are indeed like ships. They come; and they go. Some pass in the night; others after but a few short years. But there are those relationships that endure and are dear. All these can impact our lives

I yearn for the latter: For those relationships that last a life time. But in this morning’s main text, the Apostle Paul is showing me two simple protectors that can prevent my joy from being sapped. One is, I rejoice in the Lord for relationships that come and go because they show a timely concern. They may not have opportunity to develop the relationship to the degree I’d desire, but we had a very dear relationship all the same—even if for a short time. And this is okay.

The second protector of my joy is to learn contentment in those circumstances where a relationship is cut short, for whatever reason. There is a phrase I have employed with volunteers over the years when it comes to their commitment to a particular task or position: “Expect no less; demand no more.” Expect them to do no less than what they agreed to volunteer for; but demand no more of them, least I chase them away or burn them out.

Perhaps this can be applied to relationships, too? What do you think? What are the implications of not being content with the level/degree of a particular relationship? What results from discontent? Or even malcontent?

Main Text— Philippians 4:11–13 (NIV)— 10 I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls. 1 Peter 1:3–9 (NIV84)

 [Jesus said,] In a little while you will see Me no more, and then after a little while you will see Me.”John 16:16 (NIV84

Lord Jesus Christ, guard my heart as the Prince of Peace as You teach me these lessons of contentment in relationships. May I realize all the more that rejoicing in You is more than enough. In Your Name. Amen

Pastor Mike

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“Suffering With Him”

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Today we begin our third week of prayer and fasting as we also journey into the Heartwork devotion. This morning’s Heartwork devotion is entitled, “Day 16: Co-suffering with Christ.” Intriguingly, suffering in some cultures is normal while in other cultures it is not. Suffering on any level is often met with a little whine and a little pill (or several). Many people are allergic to suffering; when it starts, they break out in hurt all over….

Suffering for Jesus 2 Peter 2~19

Every Christian must realize that at some point in their lives they are going to suffer for Jesus, but not in ways that we may think. For instance, when our brothers and sisters suffer, our suffering may be joining them in theirs. When we are suffering for them, we are actually suffering for Him.

At least this is how I read 1 Corinthians 12:26 (main text noted below).

Or perhaps I should be phrasing all this as questions?

Is it possible that my current pain is but a reflection of the vicarious suffering for a brother or sister who is right now suffering in a prison cell in some distant land? Are we that connected in the Body of Christ as v. 27 seems to imply?

If Jesus suffered vicariously (in the place of) me and my sins, and I want to be more like Jesus, does it not also follow that I, too, will suffer for others—be it their sins or their personal suffering?

What are your thoughts on this ?

Main Text: — 1 Corinthians 12:26 (NASB95)— And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

    Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of His body, which is the church.— Colossians 1:24 (NIV)

For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.— 2 Corinthians 1:5 (NIV84)

 I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.— Philippians 3:10–11 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, as You empower me by Your Holy Spirt to endure the sufferings that You have in advanced prepared for me to walk in, may I be faithful to carry this cross as the Lord Jesus Christ is honor in and through my Life…. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Hard Letting Them Change?”

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“How many times is so’n so going to say they’ve changed, but in reality, they never do?” Have you said this before about someone? Or even thought it? I have. And it is sad if I believe that the Lord Jesus, the Great Transformer, has changed me, but He can’t change someone else? Ouch! Do I really believe He can change lives? Is it really that hard to “let” them change?

In our main text this morning, we have a very real and similar situation about “letting” someone change. This someone is Saul! You know the one who was “still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1 NIV 84). And now he wants us to believe that he’s all good with Jesus and not an infiltrator!? Yeah, right?

If it wasn’t for Barnabas—and the dramatic change in Saul’s life and belief system, most of us today would not have been so readily available to accept him into our small group, especially if many of our brothers and sisters in other small groups have been turned in to the Powers that Be….

So you and I have to sincerely and honestly ask ourselves: Are we letting others change? Have we become so jaded and stopped believing that the Lord Jesus can still change lives? Oh, we know the right answer, but seriously, think about it. We still call Rahab “the Harlot” and Thomas “the Doubter,” don’t we? Do we still call Peter the Denier?

First of all, I am thankful for the Barnabases in my life who have stepped forward to testify that the changes in my life are genuine, even if questioned by many. Secondly, I, in turn, have become a Barnabas for many who have clearly demonstrated a transformed life. Yes, I still struggle with becoming jaded. Yes, often my first thought is skepticism bordering on cynicism, but one by-product of my current wrecking has been this very thought: “If I am changing so dramatically, surely the Lord is doing so with _____, as well.”

Yes, I understand that for some, you’ve heard it before, but when Jesus truly steps in and transforms a life, we dare not be one to ‘not let them change,’ don’t you think?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 9:26-29 (NIV84)— 26 When [Saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.” Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”— Luke 19:8–10 (NIV84)

I [Paul] thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief. The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.— 1 Timothy 1:12–14 (NIV84)

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. — Philemon 8–11 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the power of the Resurrected Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, make me into a Barnabas who wisely celebrates the transformed lives around me.  In Jesus’ Name,  Amen.

Pastor 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.

“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

“Not Quite What You Expected”

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My Thoughts:

You’ve waited in line for days to be one of the first to see this promised sequel. As the electricity arcs in the air and the opening day final arrives, You shuffle along with the other faithful into the theater, the lights dim, the expectant hush falls upon the auditorium as the movie begins…. Was it better than you expected or a big disappointment?

Many of us have waited for many promises to be fulfilled from a simple “this dinner will be great” to “honest, I really will change this time.” Sometimes we have been pleasantly surprised, but many times we have been sadly disappointed.

And what is sad is sometimes we carry the perspective of this latter disappointment into those times we are waiting on the promises of God. We have Tommy Smothers’ attitude, “God loves you more than me” approach to the Lord’s promises.  We see others getting “blessed” and, well, we’re still struggling. I have even taught, “It is through the passage of time and the presence of struggle the character of Christ is forged” in us, but somehow when my struggle is prolonged and the wait extended longer than say a friend’s, I start to wonder, “Does the Lord Love them more than me?”

Silly me! Fortunately, I observed in our main text (below) that the Holy Spirit didn’t just light-up the Apostles. Nor did He merely light-up the Eleven skipping Matthias—since he really hadn’t put any real hard time in with Jesus. The Holy Spirit lit up all who were in the room, including our Master’s recently convinced, but formerly skeptical, brothers (see Acts1:14). New-comers and old-timers, former doubters and skeptics and even those of innocent faith: All received the filling of the Holy Spirit. Clearly, I say to myself, the Lord does not love some more than others—more than me! For if He did, this would have been a good place to start demonstrating this!

But Praise His Holy Name He did not. His Love for us is well beyond what we could think or imagine—or figure out. It’s unsearchable. When the wait is over, and  the Lord finally fulfills His promises, it’s just not quite what we expect, is it?

Main Text: — Acts 2:4 — 4 All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. And even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. — 1 Peter 1:8-9 (ISV)

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:“For Your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  — Romans 8:35-39 (NIV84)

Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  — Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, forgive me resisting Your Love. Remove the scabs and callouses that are preventing me from experiencing Your unconditional Love. Heal the pain and remove the shame that have long deceived me, blurring my vision of Your Goodness.  In Jesus’ Mercy & Grace, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Shift the Focus”

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Have you noticed that people who are filled with the Holy Spirit shift the focus from themselves to Jesus? I have. I have noticed that those who are filled with the Spirit are keenly aware that it is not about them but about Jesus.

I see this in our main text: Acts 2:22 (see below). The crowd is fascinated, bewildered, utterly amazed (vv. 6, 7) by the filling of the Holy Spirit in those who had been patiently waiting (v. 4). Some of the crowd sincerely asked how can this be that they are all hearing the praises of God in their native languages (v. 12), and yet some mocked saying those filled  were drunk (v. 13)!

Peter is prompted by the Spirit to get up and briefly explain what is happening (vv. 14-21). By quoting the prophet Joel, he apparently satisfies their question…, but he quickly shifts the focus from the apostles and the other vessels being filled by the Spirit to the Lord Jesus.

Lifestyle worshiper, do you find it sad that many who address this chapter focus on the Holy Spirit, when the Holy Spirit, Himself, is shifting the focus off of Himself and those being filled by Him to the One He came to bring glory to (John 16:13-14)? I do. I wonder if He is sad, too.

In all openness, I actually just saw this truth this morning as I was meditating on this passage. I had been caught up in answering all the various interpretations and positions that have been stirred up over this chapter when the Spirit opened my eyes to see that Peter really doesn’t linger on answering the crowd’s question. Rather, v. 15 records that he dismisses the drunk accusation, and then vv. 16-21 presents prophetic, Scriptural support for this power filling of the Spirit. If I had been the one who had stood up, I would have launched into my “Dump-Truck” effect and given the crowd far more than they wanted—or needed, and totally kept the focus on us and the Spirit.

But instead, Peter followed the promptings of the Spirit and promptly shifted the focus to Jesus. I truly need this reminder this morning. How about you?

Main Text: — Acts 2:22 — 22 Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him — Acts 8:35 (NKJV)

 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you..  —John 16:13-14 (NIV84)

   I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.  — Philippians 3:10-11 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, forgive me for being slow in shifting the focus to Jesus. I ask that You make my life a humble example of the filling of Your Holy Spirit as I constantly shift the focus to Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike