Dealing with Issues of the Heart

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How do you deal with issues of the heart? What issues? Oh, the ones our Lord Jesus mentions in the Sermon on the Mount: Anger, lust, unfaithfulness, dishonesty, retaliation, and a closed heart. I don’t think He would have mentioned them if they weren’t common to the human condition. We all engage such issues, true. But do we entertain them?

I have found the best way to deal with these issues is to first confess my yearning to sin. “Yes, Lord Jesus Christ, You know I enjoy this _____. But I know it displeases You. Through Your Power I confess I want nothing more to do with _______.” (The blanks are filled with the specific sin.)

Now the next step is crucial. It times past I used to resolve never to do this sin again. I determined in my soul not to entertain the anger, lust, unfaithfulness, etc. And guess what? Oh, you know, too, don’t you? I would fail again. So I soon (like almost 15 years) realized that this simply just doesn’t work. But what does “work” is yielding to the Lord Jesus Christ—something like this:

“Lord Jesus Christ, be that part of my life that has been disobedient to You. I release myself into Your hands.” 

This is no magic formula or some easy peasy 1-2-3, A-B-C, for this prayer is also a matter of the heart. Once the heart (and the will) is (are) yielded to the Lord Jesus Christ, during the temptation a pause presents itself offering us a  moment to choose: Yield to the sin; or yield the Lord Jesus as my Righteousness. 

 For example, when it comes to lust, if my glance turns into a gaze, then I have yielded to sin.  But if my glance turns my eyes away (and my mind), then I have yielded to Righteousness—and all this by the power of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Holy Spirit.

So in dealing with the issues of the heart, I must allow the Heart-Transformer to do His work. I am, indeed, a co-laborer, but my part is much like the farmer’s: I merely prepare the soil; the Lord Jesus produces the increase. Have you found this to be so, too?

Main Text— Matthew 5:21-22, 27–28 (ESV) 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment;27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.Luke 8:15 (NIV84)

  Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.—Romans 6:12–14 (ESV)

  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)

Lord Jesus Christ, I yield to Your Holy Presence within me. Please Your Father in me that I may be a pleasing child of His. In Your Holy Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

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“Push The Pause Button”

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Anger Pause Button

The cleansing of the Temple is often used as support by many who get angry, and they say, “See, Jesus got angry.” Then they slide over to Ephesians 4:26, and once again, say, “See, see, it’s okay to be angry!” True, it is okay, but we are still not to sin. James puts it rather bluntly, “You must understand this, my dear brothers. Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. For human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20 ISV emphasis added).

Allow me to add a subtle nuance to this thinking, especially, the “slow” part of James 1:19. I find that in the two cleansings our Master did, there is something peculiar in each. John 2:12-15 describes the first cleansing. At this cleansing, Jesus pauses to braid a “flagellum,” i.e. a whip, out of cords of rope instead of leather straps. In Marks account of the second cleansing, he clearly notes that Jesus, coming off of His Triumphal Entry, walks into the Temple, looks around, and then leaves for Bethany (see Mark 11:11), apparently to come back the next day for the cleansing. Is it possible, in both these instances, that He was using the “pause button” to His anger—being tempted in every ways as we all are? And is it also possible, He did this to demonstrate true, holy indignation—true anger? And is it also possible that He did this to stand in stark contrast to the ‘justified’ anger we often baptize as ‘holy indignation’?

Do you think we too quickly justify our anger, and fail to push the pause button, quoting some out-of-context verse or passage simply to salve our guilty conscience because we know our anger is being fueled by selfish hurt or unmet expectations, or whatever is not holy?

Of all the times I have gotten angry, and sadly there are too, too many to recall in detail, but in principle, I can clearly observe that 99.9% of those I attempted to justify as “holy indignation” (and it was 99.9% of all the times I was angry), were anything but “holy”. Now, as Jesus has more control of me, I am more often than not, able to push the pause button, and in this pause reflect on what is really fueling my anger. And, let me say in honor of the late Gary Smalley, who taught this: “Anger is the idiot light on the dashboard of our lives and says that I cannot say, ‘you make me angry,’ but rather ‘You show me how plugged into you I am and not into Jesus!’” Double “ouch!” Your thoughts?

Main Text— John 2:13–16 (NIV)— 13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 In the temple courts He found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15 So He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; He scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16 To those who sold doves He said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.Proverbs 19:11 (NIV84)

  A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.—Proverbs 29:11 (NIV84)

  But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.— Colossians 3:8 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I yield my ‘temper’ to the Lord Jesus Christ. I ask You, Lord Jesus Christ, to be in so much control of my emotions, that I am able to push the pause button before ‘flying off the handle.’  Be my Peace, Lord Jesus Christ, that I may not be so easily offended. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Righteous Judgment?”

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Probably one of the most difficult things about a God, Who is Love, is to reconcile His Wrath and Judgment. It goes something like this: “How can a loving God send people to hell,” or the  like. And before we quickly dismiss this, we truly must engage the challenge. How can a loving God do this?

Obviously, treatises and tomes have been written attempting to resolve this conflict. I cannot pretend to say I have read them all or even a near majority. But what I can offer in this brief blog, is a Both/And response to an Either/Or Dilemma.

God is either severely wrath-filled and vicious or He is completely Loving and forgiving: This is the general framing of the conundrum. But I want to submit that a Holy-Love God can express both wrath against evil and Love toward Good at the same time. The problem comes when we reduce the LORD to a human parent, whose fickle punishment and discipline have scarred many for life.

Our God’s wrath is neither capricious nor reckless. The main verse notes that an essential element of His character is patience: He “is slow to anger.” But He is also “great in power”. His anger/wrath when executed is not out of control, thrashing about like a drowning swimmer. No, rather with pinpoint accuracy the LORD punishes the wicked, who refuse to repent, thus protecting His own, who have been cruelly treated by the wicked. This is true justice; Holy Love….

How slow was He to anger? Well, with the people of Noah’s day, it appears He waited 120 years (not counting the many years before Noah) before He executed judgment. And when He did, His Holy-Love spared Noah’s family. (I hear the book is better than the movie.) Another example of our LORD’s slow to anger is with Assyria. After they repented from their wickedness under Jonah’s reluctant preaching, the LORD spared them, on the low end, 120 years as well, before His Holy-Love destroyed the wicked nation for its sorcery, idolatry and violence, but yet protected His people, Judah….

Beyond the theological conundrum and the personal struggle with a God Who is Holy-Love, at least two questions need to be addressed: (1) How does this change my view of disciplining my children? and (2) Where does the cross fit in here?

When discipling our children, let us never do it in anger or reckless temper tantrums. Have a plan. Have reasons. Clearly explain the expectations and the consequences. The older the child the more involved they are in the discipline process. But remember, they do need discipline…

When considering the cross, I see the welding of God’s Holy-Love with Grace. I’m reminded of a sandwich quarter: Holy and Love are the two precious metals on the outside, but welded in the middle is another precious metal: Grace. Beyond the mystery of God, the trinity, etc., I find this fascinating. It was on the cross where the Love of God was demonstrated (Romans 5:8) and, at the same time, I see God’s Holiness express in the sacrifice, the required payment for sin—all sin. And I see the Grace proffered all people, so they do not have to receive the pinpoint wrath of an unrepentant heart.

What are your thoughts on this rather heavy subject?

Main Text— Nahum 1:3 (NIV84)— 3 The LORD is slow to anger and great in power; the LORD will not leave the guilty unpunished. His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of His feet.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit, through whom also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.— 1 Peter 3:18–21 (NIV84)

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God—John 3:17–18 (NASB95)

Whoever does not discipline his son hates him, but whoever loves him is diligent to correct him.— 1Proverbs 13:244 (ISV)

Lord Jesus Christ, fill my heart with Your Holy-Love so I may graciously discipline those under my care. In Your Name, Amen!

Pastor Mike

“Defensive or A Strong Defender?”

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When you are misunderstood, how do you respond: Defensive or Calm? Being open, my response was a knee-jerk barrage of defensive self-inflating and other-demolishing “evidence”. But as I grew more confident in the Lord’s Love for me and His constant protection, a calmness would come upon me. “What did you hear me say? … I must have misspoken. Let me try again.” I had a near out-of-body experience the first time I was able to say this….
Over the years, I have grown more and more confident that the Lord is my Defense and my Shield. I do not need to be defensive because He is my Strong Defense.
This came poignantly home to me during my first viewing of the movie, “The Judge”. The judge had been a revered institution on the bench in a small mid-west community; his black sheep son went off to become a high-powered, highly sought after, big city defense attorney. As the plot unveils, the Judge is accused of murder and the black-sheep son offers his skills as a defense attorney. Needless to say, their rocky relationship adds to the plot thickening, but at one point the son says something to the effect, “Keep your mouth shut and let me defend you.”
The father’s refusal to heed his son’s counsel gets him in even more hot water. And then the Spirit’s lance lands. I need to keep my mouth shut and let the Lord defend me: He is my Defense Attorney.
Perhaps some of you are father down the path on your journey with Jesus than I am, but for those of us, like myself, who have acted as our own defense attorney, this is a welcomed transformation in my life. Besides, I’m sure you know the old saying about defending yourself, “… every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.”
Join me in letting Lord Jesus be our Defense Attorney.  Your thoughts….
Main Text— Acts 22:1-5 (NIV84)—  “Brothers and fathers, listen now to my defense.”  When they heard him speak to them in Aramaic, they became very quiet. Then Paul said:  “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city. Under Gamaliel I was thoroughly trained in the law of our fathers and was just as zealous for God as any of you are today.  I persecuted the followers of this Way to their death, arresting both men and women and throwing them into prison,  as also the high priest and all the Council can testify. I even obtained letters from them to their brothers in Damascus, and went there to bring these people as prisoners to Jerusalem to be punished.
Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts
My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an Advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous.— 1 John 2:1 (NLT)
“When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”— Luke 12:11–12 (NASB95)
Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord.Vindicate me in Your righteousness, O LORD my God; do not let them gloat over me.— Psalm 35:23–24 (NIV84)
Lord Jesus Christ, be my Shield of Faith. Quench the fiery darts that are being hurled at me. Be my Shoes of  Peace that I may be calm when misunderstood. In Your Name, Amen!Pastor Mike

“It Takes Heart”

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Date: 02-19–15

The Big Idea: It takes heart to be a true servant leader, and, yes, sometimes, this heart seethes with righteous anger.

My Thoughts: I have said many times in the past, “If I didn’t care, I would be so upset.” Now, to be sure, there are various degrees of upset from flustered to full-throttled anger, and I’m not sure where Nehemiah’s gauges were when he responded to the unrighteous treatment of his people (see passage below), but I am sure he truly did care for his people. As a servant-leader, Nehemiah demonstrated a passion and compassion for the lot of those he led.

Lifestyle worshiper, it takes heart to be a true servant leader, and, yes, sometimes, this heart seethes with righteous anger. Let us not, however, use this phrase, “Righteous anger” to cloak selfish, self-centered explosions that are lit by any slight or inconvenience, but just as true let us not shrink back from a deep impulse of stirring anger that flares in times when those we led are being taken advantage of. Servant-leadership is neither wimpy nor passive. Rather, it is bold and active, taking care of those in are care—especially our loved ones.

Lifestyle worshiper, join me in living a life that worships our Heavenly Father in Spirit and Truth by having our hearts filled with a genuine concern and a deep affection for those we lead, serving their best interests in Love, vigorously defending the weak, the disenfranchised, the disconnected, and the downtrodden. Through this heart of servant-leadership we can more effectively defend the repairing of the walls of broken & fatigued relationships.

Main Text: — Nehemiah 5:6-7a — When I heard their outcry and these charges, I was very angry. I pondered them in my mind and then accused the nobles and officials. [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart.

— 1 Peter 1:22 (NIV84)

Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

— Psalm  82:3-4 (NIV84)

“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly;defend the rights of the poor and needy.”— Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV84)

  Lord Jesus Christ,  I put You on as my Coat of Compassion. Stir in my soul a passion for defending those in my charge. May I do so with a Righteous Love. In Your Name, Amen.

Coach Mike