Begging For Forgiveness

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Begging for forgiveness. Have you ever caught your self doing this? Maybe it was from a loved one you had deeply wounded? Or a friend you sliced with a slip of the tongue?

I have. And what is even more fascinating to me is begging forgiveness from Jesus. Maybe, like me, you have been paralyzed by the overwhelming sense of grief and shame from a particular sin. And out of this you, like me, are constantly begging the Lord to forgive you?

But just the other day, as I was doing my message on the Cross of Jesus, the Lord open my eyes to see something very profound: When He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34 NIV84), no one was asking for forgiveness, let alone begging. No one. And yet He forgave them—and us. This reality shuttered to my soul.

As I continued to ponder this, the truth became more and more evident: I don’t need to beg for forgiveness, I need only receive it! Once I have confessed my sin, owned its impact and consequences, and repented, then all that is left for me is to receive this gracious gift of forgiveness, which washes away my guilt, my shame and any regrets. No more begging! Merely receiving.

Perhaps you are farther down the road in your journey with Jesus than I am, but this is so freeing to me, so much so, it is even hard to capture right now in words.

How about you? What are your thoughts on the differences between earnestly begging for and merely receiving His forgiveness?

Main Text— Ephesians 1:7–8 (NKJV)— 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her,  “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more. John 8:11 (NKJV)

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV84)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I have repented of my sins. I forsake my past and give You my present and my future. I humbly receive the grace of Your forgiveness. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

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“Too Rushed”

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I am fascinated at how the Lord never appears to hurry or rush, but when He acts, it is timely: never too late, but also never too early. And definitely never rushed! 

As I ponder the prophecies of the cross, I am learning that many were hundreds of years in the waiting. But in the “fullness of time” they were all fulfilled: one by one by one. Though to some these could have appeared in a rush or an avalanche (because tens were literally fulfilled on, around, and at the cross), but, in fact, they were precisely “completed” with pinpoint accuracy.

Why do I note all this? Because when I rush, I inevitably forget something, misplace something else or just overlook an instruction or two, and sadly, in the rush I often cause more work and even sometimes more pain…. 

For instance, I was baking a cheese cake the other day (my grandmother’s recipe and my favorite—with which nothing can compare, I must say). In my rush and hurry to get to the finished product, I overlooked a simple note on our stove to check the oven before turning it on. About two-thirds of the way through the preheat cycle, I noted a rather strange smell. “Aggh!” I remember the note and the pans in the oven. Carefully donning oven mittens, I slowly removed the—by now—super-heated pans. I placed them in a safe location and took off my mittens. But something strange happened next. I noted one was too close to the other, so I reached out and…you guessed it: I burnt my hand…. Yikes!

Being too rushed not only extending my cooking time, but caused a wee bit of pain. 

Have you found this to be the case, too? Have you noticed that when we rush, we only make more work for us and sometimes even cause ourselves and others pain? Oh, how I wish I’d be more like the Lord in these moments when I’m tempted to hurry and rush and bustle and there is no reason for it. “It” will get done in a timely fashion. No hurry or rush necessary, eh?

Your thoughts?

Main Text— Isaiah 61:1-2a (NIV) 1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,  because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,  to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor….

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end  and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.Habakkuk 2:3 (NIV84)

But when the time had fully come, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons—Galatians 4:4–5 (NIV84)

The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.2 Peter 3:9 (NIV)

Lord Jesus Christ, may I rest in Your promises and in Your perfect timing to fulfill them. In Your Name, Amen.

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

Time for Questions?

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Have you ever noticed how often Jesus would ask questions? I did. And it is fascinating that He engages friend and foe alike with a question. He offers them a chance to answer. His questions at times seem innocent and innocuous enough, but other times like He has the “witness” on the stand and He is cross examining them.

Have you also noticed that when sharing Jesus with others, asking questions actually opens up the conversation? Have you found that in doing so, this establishes rapport as well as respect? I have.

I have also found that I need not be in a hurry to win the argument, if one should ensue, but rather take my time and build a relationship. To be sure, Jesus was an itinerant preacher of sorts. He would move from town to town and village to village. But who’s to say He wasn’t speaking to some of the same people? Even some of His adversaries may have been following Him, and in some strange sort of way, a relationship, though adversarial, was being developed. And out of respect for them, our Master would genuinely ask a question.

Oh, He may have asked a rhetorical question here or there, but more often than not His questions engaged His hearers, expecting sincere and honest answers….

Do you think its about time we become more skilled at asking sincere and deep questions that engage our relationships (friends and foes), rather than making harsh and dogmatic statements—even if true? What do you think?

Main Text— Mark 8:27–30 (NIV) 27 Jesus and His disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way He asked them, “Who do people say I am?” 28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” 30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about Him.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him. The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.” Mark 10:51 (NIV)

 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  “What is written in the Law?” He replied. How do you read it?”Luke 10:25–26 (NIV)

  “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’  ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.   Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted? “The first,” they answered.—Matthew 21:28–31 (NIV)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to discover the needs of others through the questions You prompt me to ask. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Syrupy Love vs. Substantial Love”

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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.

Provision in the Wilderness

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Ironically, as I was preparing for this week’s message, I caught myself complaining about how long I’ve been in the wilderness. This was in light of the main text below. “Lord, if I’m to make my days count, how can I do so in the wilderness? Besides, how long can this wilderness be…?” And just as I said this, a light, “40 years!?” floated through my mind…. Ah, I’ll be grateful for the brief time I’m having in this wilderness…

But what hammered home the point was v. 7, the Psalmist, David says, “My hope is in You.” As David counted the fleeting moments whisking by, as he  noted the brevity of life, his hope in this desert—this wilderness—is the LORD. As I paused on this thought, the heaviness of the reality settled on me: The LORD provided for the Israelites in their wilderness for 40 years, and for Moses in his wilderness for 40 years, and even HIS Son, the Lord Jesus, for 40 days; will He not also provide for me in my brief wilderness—for however long it is?

Then I was reminded of those dear little ones praying before they go to bed: “Thank You, Lord Jesus, for my Mommy & Daddy. For Grandma & Grandpa. For Nana & Papa; for my dolls & my toys; for my bed; & my clothes, and ….” The innocent childlike wonderment of their awareness of the Lord’s provision was truly humbling. So I began to pray as they reminded me: “Thank You, LORD, for all these provisions. Thank You for my house and my car; for the hot water and the refrigerated air; Thank You for my wife and daughters and sons-in-law and grandchildren….”

The Lord is truly my Hope in the wilderness and He is clearly blessing me with many provisions in whatever I may consider is my wilderness. How about you? Do you see His provisions in your wilderness?

Main Text— Psalm 39:4–7 (NIV84)  Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life.  5 You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. Selah 6 Man is a mere phantom as he goes to and fro: He bustles about, but only in vain; he heaps up wealth, not knowing who will get it. 7 But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in You.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Matthew 6:26–27 (NIV84)

nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.2 Chron. 20:12b (NASB95)

I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 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 3:16–21 NIV84]

Pastor Mike

How Heavy is Your Burden?

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Whether it is a heavy purse, briefcase, backpack or grocery bag, we’ve all carried around something a wee bit too heavy for us. Oh, we seem to manage, but afterwards are shoulders and just below our neck are killing us. But we made it. We gently drop the purse, briefcase, backpack, or grocery bag where it belongs. Whew! Glad that’s done!

Ah, but a lot of times in life, we never put down, let alone drop, that heavy “purse,” “briefcase,” “backpack,” or “grocery bag.” Instead, we carry it for days, months—dare I say it, years? The burden? The heaviness that stoops our shoulder or aches our neck? Unforgiveness….

Yes, unforgiveness. Now, I am looking at this from two perspectives: (1) me not forgiving someone; AND (2) me not receiving forgiveness….

The first is often more readily identifiable. There is no floating anger; it is laser focused. I know the one I haven’t forgiven. Sadly, the thought may shoot through my mind, “I’ll never forgive…,” only to be stopped by the grace of the cross. But still, unlike Jesus, I am still carrying this cross—instead of laying down on it, and joining Him in saying, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34 NIV84).

Ah, the second perspective is rather more challenging, often floating in our being: I have refused to receive the forgiveness that is mine from Jesus. So what do I do? I continue to carry that heavy briefcase (or purse or backpack, etc.) And my whole body—physically, spiritually and emotionally is “groaning all day long” (Ps.32:3 see main text below).

What do I need to do? Fortunately, I kept reading: “Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to the LORD’” (v. 5). And what did the LORD do? The rest of verse 5: “You forgave the guilt of my sin!” My burden was removed from my briefcase. The freedom of release was overwhelming. Joy flooded my soul….

How Heavy is your burden? Probably no heavier than mine. And, guess, what? The LORD can forgive you, too. Yep, just acknowledge your burden and receive His forgiveness. Sounds too simple; too easy, huh? Which is easier? Carrying that heavy purse, briefcase, backpack or grocery bag or letting it drop?

Main Text— Psalm 32:3–5 (NIV84) 3 When I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was sapped as in the heat of summer. Selah 5 Then I acknowledged my sin to You and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”— and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

So I’m telling you that her sins, as many as they are, have been forgiven, and that’s why she has shown such great love. But the one to whom little is forgiven loves little.Luke 7:47 (ISV)

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 1:13–14 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I confess my burden to You. Lift this burden of unforgiveness. I receive the release of my burden and the Joy of Your Salvation in my life. Empower me to let others know how much You Love them, too. Amen.

Pastor Mike