Confessing Christ In The Hard Times

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Perhaps you will be encouraged as I was after reading the following from Hannah Whitall Smith’s The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life:

Again today I have tried to witness a good confession to the work the Lord hath wrought in my soul. But it is hard to testify where there is so little feeling, and Satan tries to hinder me by every possible suggestion he can bring forward. He tells me it is all a lie, and that I had better have had my tongue cut out before I ever presumed to say such a thing of myself, and tries to induce me to stay away from the meetings and from every place where confession could be made. But my indwelling Saviour keeps me from yielding to these suggestions or from entertaining them for a moment, and enables me to set my face like a flint that I will hold fast the confession of my faith without wavering, because faithful is He that hath promised.

Yes, I will believe, I will trust; even though the Lord should never again show me the light of His countenance, nor manifest Himself to my soul! My Jesus is dwelling in me, and has established His Kingdom there, and I am altogether and only His! Oh praise His holy Name!

One blessed result I do find, and that is that I love His will now with a genuine love that makes a cross borne for His dear sake filled with an untold sweetness.—Journal, June 15, 1869 ( from Smith, Hannah Whitall, and Melvin Easterday Dieter. The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life: The Unpublished Personal Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith. Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997. Print.)

Main Text— 2 Timothy 1:8–9 (NIV84) 8 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me His prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, 9 Who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of His own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time..

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD,  I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign LORD is my strength; He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, He enables me to go on the heights. Habakkuk 3:17–19 (NIV84)

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom He has given us.—Romans 5:3–5 (NIV84)

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:9–10 (NIV)

Lord Jesus Christ, be my strength as I endure hardships and insults. Let my weakness manifest Your strength. In Your Name, Amen

Pastor Mike

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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

“Two Modes of Forgiveness”

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Repenting-before-the-Cross

There are two modes or ways to dispense forgiveness. One mode is what I call “Confrontational Forgiveness.” (Please don’t get lost in the word, “Confrontational”; it starts with a “c.”). Matthew 5:23-24 and 18:15-20 present this approach. Either the offender or the “offendee,” respectively, cares enough to confront the other. There is a face to face meeting, confessing, forgiving, and hugging (generally). More often than not, this is the wisest approach. The purpose is to reconcile a relationship: winning the brother (see Matt. 18:15).

The second mode is what I call, “Cross Forgiveness.” This is what our Lord Jesus demonstrated on the Cross. This approach to forgiveness is simple and yet extremely challenging. The simple aspect is this: We climb up on the cross with Jesus, so to speak, and say what He said, ‘Father, forgive ______, for s/he does not know what s/he is doing to me.” Yep, pretty simple, indeed….

But the extremely challenging aspect of this is the “want-to”. Do we want to forgive? Allow me to explain. First of all, only God can forgive sin (see Luke 5:21-26 & 17:3-6). Through confession we enter into the forgiveness spoken and demonstrated on the cross. We cannot forgive. We do not have the power to separate the sin from the sinner. Only the Lord can do this. So, when someone says, “I can’t forgive them,”  “they” are speaking the truth. It is impossible for them to forgive them because, once again, only the Lord can forgive sin….

So what remains it the will: Do we want to forgive them? Once a very dear friend, Jess Kellerman, said to me in regard to forgiving someone, “Michael, you have a broken ‘wanter’!” “A what?” I incredulously asked. “It’s not that you can’t forgive; it’s that you don’t want to forgive.” From this he went on to explain a simple fact: Of course, I cannot forgive them, but do I want to forgive them. If I do not want to forgive, I have a broken “wanter”! He then offered a simple prayer, “Lord Jesus Christ, I confess I do not want to forgive _____. Forgive me for this. I ask You to give me the desire to forgive and then forgive ______ through me.”

As we observe Good Friday, and what Jesus did on the cross, let us also observe the “Cross Forgiveness.” Sometimes it is best that we climb up on the cross and humbly ask our Heavenly Father to forgive those who have no idea what they are doing to us. What are your thoughts? [For a brief discussion on forgiveness, see Endnote #12 p. 41 in my book, A Solemn Assembly: Gathering to seek the Lord’s Face.]

Main Text— Luke 23:32–34 (NIV84)— 32 Two other men, both criminals, were also led out with Him to be executed. 33 When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified Him, along with the criminals—one on His right, the other on His left. 34 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up His clothes by casting lots.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.Matthew 18:35 (NIV84)

 Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’  For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.—Matthew 6:12–15 (NIV84)

If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.— Psalm 130:3–4 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, Lord Jesus Christ, and through His power, I forgive _______ for _______. I ask You, Lord Jesus Christ, to bear the consequences of his/her actions. Lord Jesus Christ, remove the pain and shame s/he has caused Your Name and me. Be that part of my life that has been damaged by him/her. I release ______ into Your hands. [Rossmann, Michael L. A Solemn Assembly: Gathering to Seek the LORD’s Face. Orlando: Xulon Press, 2015. print p. 30]

Pastor Mike

“Keep Up or Catch Up?”

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Sweeping upRight out of college, after failing to get a teaching position, I turned to day-work and part part-time jobs to get by. One was a janitor at a blood draw facility. I was being trained to hospital specs. There were many tests along the way. One was the quarter behind the door. I had to change it out to two dimes and a nickel. Another was surprise inspections. I learned a lot of sayings, too: Clean what’s seen, and then clean what is unseen; look up, look down, look behind, look around.

But one of my favorite sayings is: It is easier to keep up than catch up. So always do a thorough job each night, that it goes more quickly. Skipping areas and having to catch up expends too much energy and wastes time….

Have you discovered in your spiritual journey with Jesus that it is easier to keep up than catch up? Sometimes in our journey we get tired and take a break, lingering a wee bit too long before some temptation. Or we continue to pick up baggage along the way, slowing our pace as the burdens grows heavier….

Keeping up with Jesus is much easier than catching up; at least this is what I have found to be the case. When I deal with my burdens (aka grudges, regrets, disappointments, resentments, any sins) earlier, they are much easier to discard. But as I nurse them, they seem to take on a life of their own, and feel more at home, than Jesus does. Now I know I am one to fix things way too soon, and confess sins that I may not be quite ready to repent of yet, but I’d rather be too early than, well, too late. I have found that confessing sooner is much more liberating than waiting until I “feel like it.” Oh, there are those times I come later to the place of deep soul repentance, but I have found as my walk draws closer to Jesus, merely being in His presence somehow makes those grudges, resentments, regrets, etc., all the more dirty, unholy and flat out sinful. I am more quickly repulsed by them. …

Anyway, having to run long distances to catch up seems more of a challenge than merely keeping up. What do you think? What are your thoughts?

Main Text— James 5:13–16 (NIV84) 13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 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.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.Galatians 5:25–26 (NIV84)

  Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind—Psalm 26:2 (NIV84)

 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.— Psalm 139:23–24 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, keep my heart sensitive to those things that displease You. May I deal quickly with those things that  so easily hinder me and the sins that so easily entangle me. Empower my feet to be swift to keep in Your steps. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Dangerous Grace”

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Grace is dangerous and risky. It could lead to misuse and license: “Let us sin that grace may abound!” The Apostle Paul new of this danger and wrote extensively on it in several of his letters (e.g. see Romans 6:1-7:25 and Galatians 5:1-15), and we do not have space here to present a major treatise on this amazing subject of Grace (and there are many scholarly works available to peruse). But what I do want to present is the Hope of this dangerous Grace….

The hope? When we do fall, this dangerous Grace is all-sufficient for us to get back up and keep on walking in the Spirit in the steps of my Savior. We do not take this dangerous Grace lightly. We are fully aware of the price paid of the lavished Love flowing from such all-sufficient Grace. Yes, I could take it for granted, and continue wallowing in the muck and mire of my flesh—my sin, but the Love Lord Jesus has lavished on me somehow propels me to step out of the miry clay and have my feet firmly placed on the Rock that is higher than I. His dangerous Grace is faithful to forgive me when I confess my sin and cleanse me from all that muck & mire…. It is all-sufficient.

Charles Spurgeon, the 19th Century Prince of Preachers, shares a very personal moment regarding v. 9 of our main text:

The other evening I was riding home after a heavy day’s work. I felt very wearied and sore depressed, when swiftly and suddenly as a lightning flash, the text came to me, “My grace is sufficient for thee.” I reached home and looked it up in the original, and at last it came to me in this way. “MY grace is sufficient for thee”; and I said, “I should think it is, Lord,” and burst out laughing. … It was as though some little fish, being very thirsty, was troubled about drinking  the river dry…. Or, it seemed after the seven years of plenty, a mouse feared it might die of famine, and Joseph might say, “Cheer up, little mouse, my granaries are sufficient for thee.” Again, I imagined a man away up yonder, in the lofty mountain, saying to himself, “I breathe so many cubic feet of air every year, I fear I shall exhaust the oxygen in the atmosphere,” but the earth might say, “Breathe away, O man, and fill the lungs ever, my atmosphere is sufficient for  thee.” Oh brethren, be great believers! Little faith will bring your souls to heaven, but great faith will bring heaven to your souls. [Source: Streams in the Desert, February 26]

So I rest in the hope of this dangerous, all-sufficient Grace. The hope that gets me back up when I fall; the hope that a confessed sin is not only forgiven, but replaced with heaven’s righteousness; the  hope that my feeble steps behind my gracious Master are strengthened by His dangerous Grace. Does this hope spur you to get back up and drink in His never-ending all-sufficient Grace? Your thoughts?

Main Text— 2 Corinthians 12:7–10 (NIV) 7 Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;2 Corinthians 9:8 (NASB95)

  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)

  For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say, “No,” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for Himself a people that are His very own, eager to do what is good.— Titus 2:11–14 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, I am humbled by this amazing, dangerous Grace. I know I am not worthy to receive this, but Your Love for me has made me valuable. You Loved me even when I was Your enemy. Lord Jesus, I praise You for Your sacrifice of Love and Grace. No words can truly capture my heart’s gratitude. Baruch Ha Shem Y’shua! Amen.

Pastor Mike

“A Gift Too Precious”

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Have you ever been given a gift so precious, it was too precious? “Oh, I can’t accept this. It’s too expensive….” you barely audibly whisper overcome with a deep sense of unworthiness. “No, really I insist,” comes the giver’s overruling objection. I have and really to share Holy moments often soils them, but to give the general gist of the moment, I was in a store when the owner sense a need in my life, and offered me one of his wares—very expensive I might add. “Choose any one of these…,” he insisted. I was so overcome with a sense of emotion, I could barely move, let alone choose…. But I did.

Grace of God

Perhaps this is how you felt when you first encountered the Lord Jesus’ grace. “I forgive you all your sins and have seated you in the heavenlies.” “What? Me? Really? No?” we stammered. But it’s true. His Grace overwhelms us. We sense the  reality of our unworthiness, the injustice of this forgiveness, and the surface of the depth of this Grace of our salvation.

But as time has distanced us from this moment, have we lost the sense of the Grace too precious to receive—and yet we still receive it? And with a gift this precious, do we not put it in an equally precious place, guarding it with our very lives?  What are your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 15:10–11 (NIV84)— 10 Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? 11 No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.— Ephesians 2:8–9 (NIV84)

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.— Titus 3:5–7 (NIV84)

And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.— 1 Corinthians 6:11 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, what words can capture the glory of Your Grace. You have lavishly poured it out upon me. I embrace Your Son, my Lord Jesus. Continue to capture me with Your Love. In His Name, Amen.

Coach Mike

“Houses of Prayer”

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After reading in My Utmost for His Highest devotion this morning, Chambers sparked some questions in my soul:

When Jesus cleaned out the Temple and declared it to be a “House of Prayer,” was He not also declaring that we, as the Temple of the Holy Spirit, are to be a House of Prayer? And in cleaning out this Temple, did not our Master also suggest, by inference, that we, too, need cleaning? And, do we not understand that the we are to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and petitions (see Eph. 6:18)? Indeed, don’t we know that we can rely on the Spirit to intercede for us with grunts and groanings that cannot be utter, but dare we limit our prayer to the unutterable? And dare I suggest that all believers are to be “Houses of Prayer” since we are the temple of the Holy Spirit? And if I suggest this, does this not also mean that many are in desperate need of being cleaned up and out—including, yours truly?!? The answers seem to be a resounding, “Yes!” don’t they?

House of Prayer

So how do we go about cleaning up the Temple of the Holy Spirit? Do we scurry about as Martha did complaining to the Lord that Mary isn’t do her part of the housework? Or do we not become distracted by others and merely clean out the portion of the House for which we are responsible?

I find it fascinating that some of the cleaning in my House of Prayer actually is this very issue of being distracted by others who are not doing their cleaning. But at the same time I’d best not let my house cleaning be spoken ill of either, don’t you agree? What are your thoughts?

Main Text: — 1 Corinthians 3:16 (NKJV)— 16 Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And [Jesus] said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’ ”— Mt 21:13 (NKJV)

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.— Colossians 4:2 (NIV84)

If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear.— Psalm 66:18 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the shed blood of Your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ and through His power, I confess I have been negligent in prayer. My “House of Prayer” has been so cluttered with too many “distractions.” I ask You, Lord Jesus Christ, to bear the consequences of my actions. Remove the pain and shame I have caused Your name and be that part of my Life that has been disobedient to You. Create a clean hear within me so that I may walk in the Light as You are in the Light, becoming a clean House of Prayer for Your glory. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike