“All the Time No Matter What”

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Date: 11-30-14

Text: — Isaiah 9:6 — For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: I know you know that God is Good all the time no matter what.

My Thoughts: 

Out of these majestic titles comes a rather profound and oft quoted truth: “God is Good all the time”: He is a Wonderful Counselor He plans our lives well and in all things works “for the Good of all who Love Him and are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28 emphasis added).

Because I have found that some add a “footnote” to this “God is Good” (the noxious “except for me” footnote), I needed to add “no matter what” (i.e. “God is Good all the time no matter what). I did this because I am learning that during the ‘working out’ period, He is our Prince of Peace & our Father of Eternity….

And how I was one of these “footnoters”. I would constantly hear the promises of God and almost certainly know that they were clearly for someone else—someone God Loved more than me. Not to place blame but to discover origin, I think this started as a teenager. I had a deep confounding question plaguing me. I brought it to my local perish priest. His answer was so compelling, only adding to my “noxious footnoting.”  He said, “God is too busy running the universe to be concerned for your situation. You need to work it out on your own.” Well, I knew I couldn’t work it out on my own; I had already tried. So clearly, God must Love others more than me….

In coming to a more intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus, I am learning that often in the short run, it doesn’t seem too “good.” (Remember: “Trained by the Pain!?”) Oh, it is good, I just don’t see it ‘now’. So I need to be constantly reminded that the Lord Jesus is in control of the long run. (This is what is meant by the title “Everlasting Father” lit. in Hebrew: “Father of Eternity”—that is, Controller of the long run.) And during the ‘short run’ He is my Prince of Peace, giving me a peace so unlike the world’s ‘peace.’ The Lord Jesus’ Peace guards my heart and my mind preventing me from acting out selfishly or impulsively or destructively.

Lifestyle worshipers, perhaps you have had a struggle like mine. And perhaps like I am doing, you need to go back through your Bible and ‘erase’ all those noxious footnotes from all the promises of God, especially the one that says, “God is Good to all except me”. …

Deep down in your soul I know you know that God is Good all the time no matter what. So no matter what trial you may be in now; no matter what winter is engulfing your moments; no matter what doubts and fears are assaulting your faith: Remember, our Lord Jesus, whose birth we will soon celebrate, is also your Prince of Peace. So confess with confidence that God is Good all the time no matter what.  Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

— Romans 15:13 (NIV84)

  For [Christ Jesus] Himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility.

— Ephesians  2:14 (NIV84)

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

— John 14:27 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, be my Prince of Peace in the midst of my winter. With You as my confident Hope I press on in the darkness clinging to the Truth that You are Good all the time no matter what. I praise Your Name for Your Faithfulness, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The False Dilemma of Mary & Martha”

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Date: 11-27-14

Text: — Luke 10:38-42 — 38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” 41Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” [NIV84]

The Big Idea: I discovered yet another factor in my remedy for self-deception.

My Thoughts: 

The joys of Thanksgiving linger as I wash the dishes in the kitchen. And then I’m reminded of Martha in Luke 10:38ff (see above). Fortunately, this is in my mind. This passage served as a check in my spirit, but alas, initially I was alone washing the dishes. Everyone else was engaged with the grandkids, and I was tempted, thinking, “Hey, I’d like to relax and watch the game and play with the kids….” I almost started laughing.

I have constantly vacillated between a Martha—workaholic type— and Mary—a monkish type. The dishes need to get washed. I really like seeing an uncluttered kitchen. But I also want to spend time with the family. These moments will quickly fly. In my heart I really want to understand the balance here. Perhaps you, too, struggle with the balance of desiring to get ‘things’ done for the Lord, and deeply desiring to sit at His feet.

From Martha’s perspective, nothing is getting done if we are merely sitting at Jesus’ feet. From Mary’s perspective, all is being at the feet of Jesus’…. I understand both.

Jesus tells us clearly what Martha’s issue is. It is not that she is stuck in the kitchen and should have chosen to sit at the Master’s feet. It is not that she is even asking Him to ‘help’ enlist others (though it is asked with a rather persnickety attitude). No, it is rather that she is being distracted by the duties of the kitchen. It was her distractions that were the issue.

Obviously, Martha’s heart was in turmoil. She truly wanted to listen to the Master at His feet, for He has the Words of eternal Life. She knows this. But she also wanted to please Him with the most wonderful meal her skilled hands could prepare. She knew these skills were from above. She also knew that the task was too great for her to do alone. Torn between the two poles, she requests the Master’s intervention.

And intervene He did, but not in the way she desired or expected. At first glance, it appears that Jesus is completely siding with Mary, while excluding Martha’s choice and from and Either/Or worldview this would be so. But I do not think our Master is framing it quite this way.  Mary has removed distractions from her heart. Martha had not. Mary had chosen to sit undistracted at the feet of Jesus. Martha chose to remain in the kitchen completely distracted, resenting Mary all the while. Remember, distraction is the issue (v. 40). Mary could have sat at the Master’s feet and be completely distracted. Oh, she may “look” good, but the Lord sees the heart.

The unifying factor from a Both/And perspective is to deal with the heart’s distractions. Martha can still be in the kitchen, but she also could have chosen listening to the Master as well. (Or if the kitchen was not in earshot, she still could do the cooking with a heart full of joy and thanksgiving—knowing she is serving the Lord in this manner.) And by this choice the meal would be completed in due time and her soul would have enjoyed its feast as well.

She needed to deal with her resentment of Mary—and of the Lord. Truly, doing this would have set her free and resolved the apparent Either/Or conflict.

The dilemma is really: for if no one is in the kitchen, then no one would eat. (Now from one perspective this may be good, but Lord puts the two together in Dt. 8:3, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD” (NIV84).) People need both to live. In truth, we need both Martha’s and Mary’s for us to live.

But why make this a true dilemma?

Lifestyle worshipers, have you read Brother Lawrence’s Practicing the Presence of God? He offers us a wonderful Both/And solution that taps into the omnipresence of our Lord. Leaving his private prayers, he arrives in the kitchen to do his daily duties. Though he is now in the kitchen, Brother Lawrence has not left the presence of the Lord, for at the beginning of his duties he offers up this prayer:

“O my GOD, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy Presence; and to this end do Thou prosper me with Thy assistance, receive all my works, and possess all my affections” (Excerpt From: Brother Lawrence. “Practice of the Presence of God.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/Jvchw.l  p. 27)

Have you wrestled with this dilemma: wanting to get things done, but also wanting to sit at the feet of Jesus? Care to share your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. — 1 Corinthians 12:4–7 (NIV84)

You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. — Galatians 5:13 (NIV84)

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

— Romans 12:10-12 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I confess any resentments and distractions to You. Focus my mind. Deliver me from any resentments I may harbor in my heart. I put You on, Lord Jesus Christ, as my Gloves of Kindness. May I serve You and Your Body with joy & thanksgiving.  Be that part of my life that has been in bondage to any resentment. I release myself into Your hands. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Can We Know How Much We Are Deceived?”

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Text: — James 4:1-3 — 1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. [NIV84]

The Big Idea: I discovered yet another factor in my remedy for self-deception.

My Thoughts: 

In our walk with Jesus, can we really know how much we are deceived by this world’s system? In the passage above, James jabs some rather pointed indictments, while pulling no punches later in the verses that follow. But as we read this, is your initial response, “I don’t do any of this?” Mine was. I do not kill anyone. I really don’t covet…. Ah, but do? Is it possible that I have not because when I ask, I ask merely to spend it on my selfish pleasures (v. 3)? Good question, oh my soul; good question, indeed.

Twice in his letter, James warns us not to deceive ourselves (1:22, 26). Self-deception is very cunning. The sad truth is, we really do not know when we are deceived. (If we did, we wouldn’t be, right?) I think this is why James closes his letter with “My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth…” (5:19 emphasis added). (The Greek word for wander has the implication of being deceived from any source.)

Lifestyle worshipers, is it important to discover how much we are or have been deceived? I think so. If the truth shall set us free, then knowing the Lord Jesus (The Truth!) more intimately will set us free from deception, be it self-delusion or other-concocted.

Several years back, for several Sundays—which seemed like months, “We don’t know how much we are deceived” kept sneaking into my sermons. I am not sure if the Holy Spirit was talking to someone else, but He sure was directly talking to me. It was shortly after this that I had an epiphany. I received a DVD in the mail asking the question: “Is America A Christian Nation.” For years I had argued it wasn’t. I had all my history books from College and high school which clearly demonstrated we were more deistic is foundation than Christian, but as the DVD unfolded with original documents to establish that America, indeed, had deep Christian roots it her founding, my worldview of this began to crumble and a melancholy grieving overtook my life for some months to follow. (In subsequent research, I had discovered that this specific aspect of history had been systematically sterilized from our text books for decades.)

Now I know to some, this would seem like a frivolous bunny trail of sorts, but for me it was a soul stirring moment. Because after this unveiling, I had to ask, “How much more was I being deceived on other subjects—civil or sacred?” Back to the Word I went!

If the Word is the Truth, and if the Holy Spirit has imbued it with the very essence of the Holy Trinity, then it naturally follows that this Word shines a bright spotlight on any deception I may be in…. So I studied the Word all the more intensely. And in doing so, I discovered yet another factor in my remedy for self-deception, and I think James is subtly telling us this: We need each other to expose our blindspots.

In Love, I need to confess my sins to my accountability team (see 5:16) in order to find healing, and part of this healing is lifting the self-deception from my life. I must practice true wisdom from above (see 4:17) by often checking in with a close confidant in order to get a ‘spiritual checkup’ as one would a physical checkup. And in Love, I must make myself available for those who have ‘wandered from the truth,’ and gentle restore such a one, who may not realized that they, too, have been deceived.

Have you discovered these same elements if addressing deception? Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive.”

— Matthew 24:4-5 (NIV84)

I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. For though I am absent from you in body, I am present with you in spirit and delight to see how orderly you are and how firm your faith in Christ is. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness

—Colossians 2:4-7 (NIV84)

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise.

—1 Corinthians 3: 18 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I submit myself to You. Renew my mind. Deliver me from any deception I may be exposed to, whether it is self-imposed or not. I put You on, Lord Jesus Christ, as my Belt of Truth. Sanctify me and set me apart by Your Truth: Your Word is Truth.  Be that part of my life that has been in bondage to any deception. I release myself into Your hands. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The Healing Confession”

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Text: — James 5:16 — Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.  [NIV84]

The Big Idea: I have found that in the moment of confession followed with “I forgive you,” or “you are forgiven,” there is deep soul healing.

My Thoughts: 

I have found healing in the confessing to others my sin. And as a pastor/counselor I have found that in the moment of confession followed with “I forgive you,” or “you are forgiven,” there is deep soul healing. Have you found this to be so, too?

There are several traditions of confession in the Church. Some offer this opportunity daily, some weekly and some monthly. In some traditions, there is an element of obligation, and though for some, this functions as a motivator, perhaps the promise of healing is better motivator.

For me, it is the promise of healing. The relief and release this healing of forgiveness brings motivates me in confession. I have a vivid memory of hearing those words, “You are forgiven, my son.” I remember the feelings of freedom, the relief and release that came after listening to the intercessor, and then as left the building, my steps were airy—buoyant—as a peace and a joy flooded my soul, a rare experience, indeed. In the tradition of confession I am in now, I endeavor to bring this more formal, conscious element to the forefront. As I mentioned above, I have found that many (dare I say, “all”?)—including myself—need to hear, “You are forgiven….”

Lifestyle worshipers, do you offer this opportunity to your brothers and sisters in Christ? This opportunity for relief and release from the bondage of their sins through forgiveness? Indeed, do you connect the “powerful and effective” prayer of v. 16 above to “confess your sins to each other” in this healing process? I do.

Many, however, are more than cautious to be so vulnerable in this type of confession—“to each other.” (Gossip, for one, is a major cancer here. Being reminded of our past sins in a disagreement or argument is another.) I know that being so vulnerable has its own set of factors and wounds and awkwardness. So I have learned from the Word two guiding principles when it comes to confession: (1) As public the sin so public the confession; and (2)  As private the sin so private the confession. In the former, those who witnessed the sin need to witness the confession; in the later, if the sin never makes it out of our heads, then there the confession is said; the Lord literally knows, anyway.

Perhaps these two guiding principles will dispel some fears and awkwardness, but alas confessing our sins  doesn’t appear to be completely free of such. Or do you think the promise of healing and freedom overcomes such?

Your thoughts?

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

— Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV84)

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)

Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed their evil deeds.

—Acts 19: 18 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I confess I have been fearful of confessing those sins that need to be confessed to my brothers and sisters. I have sinned against You and denied myself the healing and freedom that comes from this confession. I ask You, Lord Jesus Christ, to bear the consequences of my actions. Remove the pain and shame I have caused Your Name. Be that part of my life that has been disobedient and in bondage to fear. I release myself into Your hands. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike