“Spoiling an Attitude of Gratitude: Crying over Sour Milk”

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Have you ever had those late night munches? You don’t want something huge; just a small bowl of some sweet breakfast cereal will do. You pour a bowlful as you mechanically grab the milk from the refrigerator, and pour just enough to get the right consistency of this precious snack. Raising the first spoonful to your mouth, you gag in utter horror! The milk is super sour!!! Ruining an entire bowl of your midnight delight….

As I was praying this morning and reviewing all the things and people and blessings I am thankful for, the Lord showed me my “sour milk”,  which was spoiling my attitude of gratitude: Resentments; regrets…. Apparently I had a lot more that I realized.

Yes, I want to be thankful. I want to devote myself to prayer in a humble spirit of thankfulness, but my sweet delight of prayer was being spoiled by some super sour “milk”. The confession flowed as the tears poured.

Many resentments were unmet personal expectations. Many regrets were unfulfilled dreams and desires and poor choices. Wow. ….

Lately, I have changed my prayers for mercy to a recognition that the Lord’s mercy is already granted. The same for His grace. Instead of praying, “Lord, be gracious to me,” or “Lord, be merciful to me,” I am praying, “Lord, thank You for Your Grace and Your Mercy. They are fresh and new every morning, indeed, every moment.”

This awareness—coupled with the release of those resentments and regrets—has truly moved my attitude to a more sincere place of gratitude. Perhaps you’ve had a similar journey? Let us spur each other on, and perhaps we can check our “milk” before pouring it first, eh?

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

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

   Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life.—Philippians 2:14–16a (NIV)

  Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.1 Peter 4:9 (NIV84)

The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.1 Timothy 1:5 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, forgive me for resenting ______, and forgive me for regretting ______. By Your shed blood cleanse me from this sin. Create in me a pure heart that I may be filled with sincere thankfulness. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“Two Modes of Forgiveness”

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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

“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

“Hard Letting Them Change?”

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“How many times is so’n so going to say they’ve changed, but in reality, they never do?” Have you said this before about someone? Or even thought it? I have. And it is sad if I believe that the Lord Jesus, the Great Transformer, has changed me, but He can’t change someone else? Ouch! Do I really believe He can change lives? Is it really that hard to “let” them change?

In our main text this morning, we have a very real and similar situation about “letting” someone change. This someone is Saul! You know the one who was “still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples” (Acts 9:1 NIV 84). And now he wants us to believe that he’s all good with Jesus and not an infiltrator!? Yeah, right?

If it wasn’t for Barnabas—and the dramatic change in Saul’s life and belief system, most of us today would not have been so readily available to accept him into our small group, especially if many of our brothers and sisters in other small groups have been turned in to the Powers that Be….

So you and I have to sincerely and honestly ask ourselves: Are we letting others change? Have we become so jaded and stopped believing that the Lord Jesus can still change lives? Oh, we know the right answer, but seriously, think about it. We still call Rahab “the Harlot” and Thomas “the Doubter,” don’t we? Do we still call Peter the Denier?

First of all, I am thankful for the Barnabases in my life who have stepped forward to testify that the changes in my life are genuine, even if questioned by many. Secondly, I, in turn, have become a Barnabas for many who have clearly demonstrated a transformed life. Yes, I still struggle with becoming jaded. Yes, often my first thought is skepticism bordering on cynicism, but one by-product of my current wrecking has been this very thought: “If I am changing so dramatically, surely the Lord is doing so with _____, as well.”

Yes, I understand that for some, you’ve heard it before, but when Jesus truly steps in and transforms a life, we dare not be one to ‘not let them change,’ don’t you think?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 9:26-29 (NIV84)— 26 When [Saul] came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. 27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. 28 So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. 29 He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 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)

I [Paul] thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, that he considered me faithful, appointing me to his service. 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 1:12–14 (NIV84)

Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul—an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus— I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains. 11 Formerly he was useless to you, but now he has become useful both to you and to me. — Philemon 8–11 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, by the power of the Resurrected Life of the Lord Jesus Christ, make me into a Barnabas who wisely celebrates the transformed lives around me.  In Jesus’ Name,  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