Unity in the Community

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Years ago, God gave me the vision that “Revival” of the Church will start in Alliance Ohio.  From MY question to God, “Why have you brought me here???”

I was born and raised in Columbus Ohio, and shortly after graduation from High School, I joined the United States Navy.  I served for 8 years. My career was cut short because my disabled father had implored me to get out so that I could carry on the family furniture business. The business was in Alliance Ohio.  So, I was obedient and was honorably discharged in 1990.  So, with my (then) wife and 3 girls, we traveled to Alliance Ohio. I’ve heard folks say “Nothing good comes out of Alliance!” Nothing good happened to me here until 2008.  My first wife left me with the 3 girls, then as I was starting my life over, she came back to get them.  Shortly after she left, I lost my place in the family business because my dad and step mother couldn’t see eye to eye, so she bought him out, gave me a severance and I said good bye to any chance of having a legacy… (at least with that…)  I then lost my house, no job, so I had to move in with my neighbor (who’s boyfriend ironically took off with my wife at the time)

To fill in the blanks, I D.J.’d for awhile where I met my SECOND wife.  Things were good at first, and then she got pregnant with my FOURTH daughter, and adopted her son.  She too desired not to be with me.

As I tried to pick up the pieces AGAIN, I lost the factory job I had held for ELEVEN years! So, here I am again, homeless….again.  No job, no wife, my older kids were out of state, and I wasn’t allowed to see my daughter for a long time…

As time went on, I met who is NOW my THIRD wife.  This was God. 
I got saved in 1982, but “fell off the boat” for 25 years….ALL THE WHILE…God through His Holy Spirit kept calling me back…
Long story short (at least I’m trying to make it short)I married my third wife (My Soul-mate, God chosen), and we moved in together (not necessarily in that order)
  As she was going to church, I too started going back to church, gradually declining in my drinking, we finally came to a place where God told us to open up a Christian bookstore in 2009…  And THAT is where I got the vision.  God wanted me, anyone, SOMEONE to see His vision for His children and orchestrate a ministry that would be the hub for ALL the churches in Alliance to band together, igniting the spark that would create the flame, for the FIRE of the Revival of the Church….  THE WHOLE CHURCH!!

I know, I know….sounds “Twilight Zoney”; Sounds made up….

I felt I was crazy, up until about a year ago when we hooked up with a street ministry that was focused on the same thing… we “dropped the ball” somewhere along the line, and I feel that someone saw the vision as well and picked up the mantle.

That ministry has been strong in bringing unity to the churches in
Alliance….then last night, 6 to 8 churches got together for a unity night! 2 pastors preached at a church that wasn’t theirs. 
Wednesday, 2 more pastors preaching at a different church. 
Thursday and Friday, more of the same.  Christ Followers from all over are attending each night of worship and to hear the word…
The common theme: UNITY.

Why such a big deal?  It’s a big deal because we are all “One Body, One Spirit, One Faith, One Baptism!”

Jesus prayed this prayer in John 17, verses 20-23: “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;  that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:  I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.”

Paul IMPLORED the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 1:10, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.

Paul said it again in Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.

Below is an excerpt of a sermon that Max Lucado wrote in 2012 at a “Promise Keepers Convention”:

“God has enlisted us in his navy and placed us on his ship. The boat has one purpose—to carry us safely to the other shore.

This is no cruise ship; it’s a battleship. We aren’t called to a life of leisure; we are called to a life of service. Each of us has a different task. Some, concerned with those who are drowning, are snatching people from the water. Others are occupied with the enemy, so they man the cannons of prayer and worship. Still others devote themselves to the crew, feeding and training the crew members.

Though different, we are the same. Each can tell of a personal
encounter with the captain, for each has received a personal call. He found us among the shanties of the seaport and invited us to follow him. Our faith was born at the sight of his fondness, and so we went.”

I wish I could put it ALL here, but I think I wrote too much… 🙂
The gist is that to run a “tight ship” we must ALL be looking at “The Captain” for guidance, and follow HIS lead… inso doing, there is UNITY because we are all FOCUSED ON THE SAME THING!!
HIM!

Today’s “Christ Followers” are known by the world of what they are against…not WHAT or WHO they are for… 
The world sees “The Church” as an ancient religion, all washed up.  How much LESS do they see Jesus??

Why are we not being the “Light of the World”?  Why are we not going “out into the world making disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit??

Why are we so involved in our “Country Clubs” our “Social Clubs” that we don’t see the LOST out there? 
If the CHURCH were unified..(like we are in Alliance this week)  Wouldn’t you think the WORLD would see Jesus in a more
POSITIVE AND EFFECTIVE light?

If God chose me years ago with this vision, and obviously others in the past several years…. how many more are there out there???  Let’s get to it!!

~Peace, Mike

Do they know you by your love?

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The pic you see at the beginning of this blog post is a door that separates our living room from the dining room.  Around the holidays, it sports Christmas cards from friends and loved ones.  As we took down the decorations, my 19 year old daughter felt that this space was kinda bare!  So she went to work on this project that took her all of a couple of days.

This from my offspring who, also struggles with depression, introvertedness (if that’s a word lol), and a myriad of other struggles most of us have.

Here’s the thing though: she is anti-social, doesn’t like hugs, saying “I love you” first, and on the surface, she appears to be callous and unfeeling.  For whatever reason, this is who my daughter is, and behavior that we have grown to accept.  We have always challenged her, since she is a Christian, to bear more fruit.  She doesn’t put herself out there, volunteer for anything….serve.

But, she is a young woman I respect and love because of her uncanny ability to have a sense of humor where it is hard to have one, she doesn’t worry about what is going on or fret over life’s decisions.  She is an outside of the box thinker, very much like Jesus wants us to be.  The ways of the world don’t bother her, and she doesn’t think mainstream society.  I am only mentioning my daughter and this thing she created, because it reminds me DAILY that people are watching me.  The “seeds” of the fruit of the spirit are a constant reminder in my face every day as I sit to do Bible study, think, or blog.

We always say that if we are Christ Followers, we should be bearing fruit! Jesus talks extensively about it, and so does Paul. One of his most famous letters is in Galatians 5:19-23

“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.”

The meticulous effort of my daughter, putting all the seeds of the fruit of the spirit is, in of itself a fruit.  A beautiful, thoughtful, loving FRUIT.  Put there to remind us of the lives we MUST BE living as Christ Followers!

Are you loving the “unlovable” today? Are you teaching the “unteachable”? Are you serving as Christ served?  Are you patient, loving, kind, joyful, peaceful, GOOD, Faithful, gentle, and are you operating under the self control of the Holy Spirit?

Then, GOOD! ~ Peace Mike

“Should Auld Aquaintance Be Forgot”

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Yesterday morning, I woke up to my verse of the day, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature (creation). Old things are passed away, behold, all things have become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17

Whether it was on purpose, or a Godsend verse for me,
it was especially poignant today.
The end of a year. The beginning of a new one.

So many times in our lives we rehash things. Argue about the past,
or hold on to bad memories and grudges.

This is not God’s plan for our lives.

Even in the song “Auld Lang Syne”, the title means: “times long past”
We hold on to so much negative in our lives, or hold on to so many
things that we can’t do anything about!

All this does is create dissension in our lives, and ruins our
relationships with people, because we don’t trust wholly, and are therefore cynical towards them and life in general!
In Philippians 3:13-14, Paul puts it eloquently, “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but this one thing I do,
forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
I think those that choose to live without Jesus are at a loss. In more ways than one… But in this context, they are missing out on a joyful, blessed life in Christ. And that those of us who harbor grudges and ill feelings towards people and things in the past, are only making our futures bleak and depressing.

If anyone has a reason to dwell on the past, it would be myself.  I come from a broken home, both parents remarried.
Drugs interwoven throughout my childhood and much of my teenage years.
Sexual and Physical abuse to top it off.
Also on the list:
2 failed marriages, and homelessness.
I have watched friends die, and have had my share of “suffering” at the hands of others.
I have been dealing with depression for as long as I can remember…

Yet, I stay focused on the here and now.

Many of us have had our share of family disputes, marital battles, and kids that don’t talk to us, and vice-versa.  We continue to keep the embers burning for our grudge to the point that not only does it NOT burn out, but it is forever hot.

Why do we hold on to so much negativity in our lives?  Is it that it is so much easier?  Divorced couples still fighting and
in stalemate after years of being separated.  Countries battling against each other for reasons that are long- forgotten..
Even the present-day Hatfield’s and McCoy’s of
West Virginia/Kentucky fame don’t even
know why they were still feuding!

For those that don’t know Jesus, I suppose I can understand, to a point, why most harbor unforgiveness, and grudges, because they don’t know the magnitude of what Jesus did on the cross!

But…to Christians? I really don’t understand.  Hebrews 8 talks about Israelite’s betrayal to God, and how God said, “ For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds, I will remember no more.”

God can forgive a whole nation for inflicting pain on each other,
worshiping idols, and partaking in evil for centuries….
But the Father of the universe says, that He will NOT remember
their sins and lawless deeds ANYmore!

We can take a lesson here! What good does it do to harbor grudges forever?   Isaiah quoted God in Chapter 43, verse 25: “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more”

A beautiful passage in Psalm 103:10-14 says,

“He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities For as the Heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
As far as the east is from the west,
                     So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

(He remembers them NO MORE!)
As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.”

So, what are Christians doing, walking around in unforgiveness?
One of my favorite verses of all times puts very clearly the
MAGNITUDE of what our Savior did on the cross for us.
1 John 1:9 says, ” If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to
forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. “

If Jesus can forgive murders, thieves, liars, adulterers, idolators,
betrayers, child beaters, and rapists…
(most of us don’t fall into ANY of these categories)….THEN WHY on God’s green earth can’t we forgive those who have suffered unto us, the slightest of infractions?

I get it.  Life is bad sometimes.  But living in the PAST?  How is that working for you?  Why, if we had a horrible childhood, would we want to trudge that back up, just to prove that a brother or sister wronged us?

How about the spouse that was caught in infidelity?  That is some pretty wicked stuff!  How could you possibly forgive that person?   Or the person who talked about you behind your back?  Let’s go a step further…what about someone that got a better break than you in life and they’re doing just fine, while you are festering under your breath how your life sucks, and they are doing fantastic?

Yeah, life is unfair…sometimes things don’t go your way.  Maybe you aren’t what you wanted to do when you were planning out your life.  Maybe you are STUCK in your life with “no way out”  Life is just downright depressing.  But, if you’re a Christian, then you have the likes of Job who lost IT ALL!  You have Jesus who did nothing but show love and do miracles have His life here on earth end so
tragically painful and gruesome…could you endure what He did
going to the cross for you?
What about Paul, writer of 1/2 of the New Testament?
He experienced so much pain and torment in his entire life, and died at the hands of many of the same folks that he ran with while
persecuting the church!! (How’s that for backstabbing?)

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Forget the past, it has nothing for you anymore.  It is done, over with. Stop hanging on to “what might have been”  It didn’t happen for a reason.  Deal with it! God had a better plan than what you could come up with! So, you’re having a rough life?  Ever think that you are miserable because, A: You WANT to be miserable? or
B: your negativity might actually be holding you back?

I am not begrudging anyone to have a pity party once in awhile,
believe me, I still throw a couple of those for myself…but we don’t have to stay at the party! We can CHOOSE to pick up our head, walk straight, and keep focusing on Jesus, because,  HE is “the author and finisher of our faith”  and when we have troubles, we can go to the Father and pray to our hearts content.

If we don’t know any bad, or have any trials or tribulations, then how will we recognize the good when we see it?  Easy. We won’t!! We will take EVERYTHING for granted, and just be whiny spoiled brats who get whatever we want!

Paul put it this way in Romans 5:3-5, “Not only that, but we REJOICE in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does NOT put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us!!

God gave you a story to tell.  Tell the STORY.  Tell HIS story! But, whatever you do, don’t tell the story in a
backwash of negativity…Tell your story with EXCITEMENT,
with GRATEFULNESS, WITH POWER that you NOW HAVE OVER that story.

When I tell my story that God gave me, I don’t cry in remembrance, I don’t look back with melancholy.
When I tell the story of what others did to me,
I tell it with THANKFULNESS and CHEERFULNESS…
that GOD allowed these things to HAPPEN to strengthen me.

I don’t speak ill of anyone that ever hurt me,

I don’t CURSE God because He allowed it to happen.

I don’t run around saying “WHY ME??!!!”

I am not the only person on this planet.  Last I checked there were some people (Some very close to us) going through some pretty wicked things right now…

(and as I pray for them…I am reminded of how blessed I am to be where I am at!)

How can I be so PIOUS to think that I am the only one going through anything right now?

This is a new year!  Don’t make this year like all the others…make up your mind that you are going to Keep your eyes focused on Jesus.  Make up your mind that you will pray for anyone that is less fortunate and celebrate with those that have more than you!

Stop portraying yourself as a martyr.  Look at the trial as a lesson, a test, a REASON to LEARN and to draw closer to God!

STOP DWELLING ON THE PAST.  It is done. It is over. There is NOTHING you can do to erase it….

STOP WORRYING ABOUT TOMORROW.

(The day has it’s OWN troubles…)

LIVE FOR TODAY.  Because your life can only be lived NOW.

When we worry about anything, or dwell on anything, or obsess about anything other than the HERE AND THE NOW… We rob ourselves of precious time to make a difference with the gifts God gave us to change the things within our sphere of influence!

Here’s to NEW BEGINNINGS! ~ Peace, Mike