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

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Be Different When Judging Others

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When we manifest the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount, we will find our lives to be markedly different. In this wonderful sermon the Lord Jesus is calling His followers to live His Words, not just hear them (see Matthew 7:24). Indeed, living them would make us different enough, but if we are honest with ourselves, we cannot live them. Thus, as we have noted in previous blogs, the Lord Jesus Christ must be our Righteousness in order for our righteousness to exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees (see Matthew 5:20). 

But what does it look like to be different”? Our Master focuses on four areas in Chapter 7 in which we are to be markedly different. The first one is we are to be different when we judge others….

Sadly, some believe that Jesus is teaching never to judge. But this is not so. He is actually presenting us a “procedure” to follow when “judging” others. V. 1 cautions us to stop judging, especially in light of the areas He has just presented in His sermon. Indeed, having a critical spirit when judging does not produce the greater righteousness required….

In v. 2 our Lord says to avoid crooked measuring sticks or faulty measuring weights. Having these creates a double-standard, which does not produce the greater righteousness required.

He then offers a proper approach to “judging” in vv. 3-5: First do a self-evaluation using the higher standard Jesus offers in this sermon, and then assist your sister or brother in removing the little splinter. In this self-evaluation, don’t you find it humorous when Jesus says you and I will discover we have a huge plank blinding us from seeing the little splinter? I call this mirror theology: When we criticize  other’s behaviors & attitudes, it is only a reflection of our own behavior or attitude.

 Would you agree that the Lord is saying, we are to humble ourselves first by accepting (and confessing) our huge faults and shortcomings so that if and when we do approach a brother or sister, we will do so in humility rather than in superiority?

To me, this is what it means to be different: Humbly dealing with our own issues first; then humbly offer to help others deal with theirs. Recently I was painfully reminded that unsolicited advice is unheeded. Many do not want to remove the splinter from their eye; and they definitely do not want someone to help them. But when they see a humble Jesus follower removing his/her huge plank, perhaps then they may ask for a mirror? What do you think?

Main Text— Matthew 7:1–6 (NIV84)— 1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.  3 Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. 6 “Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and then turn and tear you to pieces

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.John 7:24 (NIV84)

  Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.—Galatians 6:1 (NIV84)

  Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?— Roman 2:4 (ESV)

Lord Jesus Christ, I humbly yield to Your Holy Presence within me. Continue to make me more like You. In Your Holy Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

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

“Urgent Need to Pray for Our Nation”

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Do you sense the urgency to pray? I do. No matter what your position is in the political arena, there is a Kingdom above this one and He is ruling. It is He Whose Face we need to seek; and His will we’d best please. Even as our constitution—and this nation—was being establish, Ben Franklin enjoined the assembly: 

I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth that God Governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings, that “except the Lord build the House they labour in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better, than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall become a reproach and bye word down to future ages. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human wisdom and leave it to chance, war and conquest. I therefore beg leave to move-that henceforth prayers imploring the assistance of Heaven, and its blessings on our deliberations, be held in this Assembly every morning before we proceed to business, and that one or more of the Clergy of this City be requested to officiate in that Service. (Source: http://candst.tripod.com/franklin.htm)

He sensed the urgency then; do you today?

If you do, then join me on this National Day of Prayer to pray for our nation, her leaders, her people and her purpose. Pray the Lord of Heaven and earth for mercy and grace. Humbly seek His Face, and in seeking His face let us turn from our ways that are displeasing to Him. 

Do you sense the urgency? Then…

…Let us be those of whom it is said, “Here are My mother and My brothers. For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother, and pray.

Main Text— Matthew 12:47–50 (NIV84)— 47 Someone told Him, “Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” 48 He replied to him,Who is My mother, and who are my brothers?49 Pointing to His disciples, He said, Here are My mother and My brothers. 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.(Ephesians 6:18 (NIV84)

  I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.—1 Timothy 2:1–2 (NIV84)

 And we are confident that [the Lord] hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases Him. And since we know He hears us when we make our requests, we also know that He will give us what we ask for.— 1 John 5:14–158 (NLT)

Heavenly Father, You are high in Heaven; we are on earth. You are Holy. We are not. You are Righteous. We have strayed from Your Paths. Forgive me for not faithful seeking Your Face in my daily tasks. Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil. I fix my eyes on Jesus, the King of kings and the Lord of lord. Oh, Lord, hear. Oh, Lord act. In Your Mercies and Grace and  In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike