Begging For Forgiveness

Standard

Begging for forgiveness. Have you ever caught your self doing this? Maybe it was from a loved one you had deeply wounded? Or a friend you sliced with a slip of the tongue?

I have. And what is even more fascinating to me is begging forgiveness from Jesus. Maybe, like me, you have been paralyzed by the overwhelming sense of grief and shame from a particular sin. And out of this you, like me, are constantly begging the Lord to forgive you?

But just the other day, as I was doing my message on the Cross of Jesus, the Lord open my eyes to see something very profound: When He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Lk 23:34 NIV84), no one was asking for forgiveness, let alone begging. No one. And yet He forgave them—and us. This reality shuttered to my soul.

As I continued to ponder this, the truth became more and more evident: I don’t need to beg for forgiveness, I need only receive it! Once I have confessed my sin, owned its impact and consequences, and repented, then all that is left for me is to receive this gracious gift of forgiveness, which washes away my guilt, my shame and any regrets. No more begging! Merely receiving.

Perhaps you are farther down the road in your journey with Jesus than I am, but this is so freeing to me, so much so, it is even hard to capture right now in words.

How about you? What are your thoughts on the differences between earnestly begging for and merely receiving His forgiveness?

Main Text— Ephesians 1:7–8 (NKJV)— 7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her,  “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more. John 8:11 (NKJV)

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.2 Corinthians 7:10 (NIV84)

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.1 John 1:9 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, I have repented of my sins. I forsake my past and give You my present and my future. I humbly receive the grace of Your forgiveness. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

Dealing with Issues of the Heart

Standard

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

“The Grace of Healing Wholeness”

Standard

Have you ever received the grace of Healing Wholeness from Jesus? You may not know it if you did, but chances are you are more than aware of this sense of wholeness in healing you have received.

It starts out with a quiet, gentle whisper in your soul: “Do you want to get well?” (The phrase “get well” literally means “made whole.”) At first you think it a strange question because who wouldn’t want to be made well? Then you think of someone you know who is always whining and complaining about their particular sickness or situation, and then you realize that there may be some who would indeed answer, “No”. Surprised as you may be at this though, you know deep in your soul you want to be made whole—put back together. All your fragmented pieces reassembled, as it were.

So you cautiously, but hopefully answer, “Yes!”

In this brief answer, you soon discover that the Healer of your soul is a gentlemen. He will not foist on you His plan, His desires for you. No, He wants you to be willing and available to accept this gift of grace. And grace it is….

So in the power of this healing grace of wholeness you attempt something you have been unable to do. A joy, an exhilaration surges through your whole being. Tears flood your eyes as hope fills your soul: You’ve been made whole.

What words of praise capture this moment for you? I have often found that none do…, but I praise Him anyway. How? By faithfully walking in the Grace of this healing wholeness.

Main Text— John 5:1–5 (ISV) Later on, there was another festival of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  Near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem is a pool called Bethesda in Hebrew. It has five colonnades, and under these a large number of sick people were lying—blind, lame, or paralyzed—waiting for the movement of the water.  At certain times an angel of the Lord would go down into the pool and stir up the water, and whoever stepped in first after the stirring of the water was healed of whatever disease he had.  One particular man was there who had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

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)

 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.—Romans 5:1–2 (NIV84)

  Though you have not seen Him, you love Him; and even though you do not see Him now, you believe in Him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.— 1 Peter 1:8 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, no words can capture the praise swelling up in my soul for this grace of healing wholeness. But I pray through the power of the Lord Jesus Christ’s Holy Spirit that my life may be a fragrant offering to You—an acceptable act of praise and adoration. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“The Awesome Responsibility to be Forgiveness Dispensers”

Standard

Allow me to assume for sake of discussion that forgiveness is a divine act of God: Only God can forgive sins and the Lord Jesus Christ has “earned” this authority on the cross and out of the grave—since, indeed, He is God, the Son. From this assumption comes the understanding that we are dispensers of this forgiveness. So in the Authority of the Lord Jesus Christ and through His blood we are able to forgive others; thus dispensing His forgiveness provided for on the cross.

With me so far?

Now comes my personal wrestling match with this morning’s main text below. It clearly says that through the power of the Holy Spirit we can forgive sins. (This is the forgiveness dispensing role, right?) But then our Master continues: “if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” Does this mean I have the prerogative not to forgive someone their sins? Or does it mean I have the awesome responsibility to dispense forgiveness to these “sinners” as well?

The former appears to be very unkind and unloving, but, in truth, in years past, I have actually been taught that, “I don’t have to forgive them because the Lord says so.” Oh? Would you agree? What are your thoughts on this wrestling match? Do we have the awesome responsibility to be a forgiveness dispenser? Or do we have the divine “right” to withhold forgiveness? How do you read it?

Main Text— John 20:21–23 (NIV84) 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, Receive the Holy Spirit23 If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.—Colossians 3:13–14 (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)

 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:59–60 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, make me an instrument of Your Presence to bring healing and not harm. Where there is injury, be pardon in me; where there is offense be forgiveness in me. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

Walking Right Through Rejection

Standard

Jesus Rejected

It appears that our Lord Jesus handle rejection calmly and clearly. At least, this is what I see in our main text. But before this rejection, He graciously read the key text found in the scroll of Isaiah (61:1-2) regarding His life. He confidently presented its fulfillment. Then in response to the whispers of  “Isn’t this Joseph’s son,” He clearly says, (to paraphrase), “Just because I grew up here, doesn’t make this a special place nor you a special people.” Not sure why He felt the need to say this, but from observing the texts He used to present this thought, it is clear what He is saying….

…and it is clear from His neighbors’ response that this is exactly what they were thinking. Ouch! So instead of humbling themselves and pleading for mercy and grace, they decide to take matters into their own hands, and, well, execute the “Self-proclaimed Messiah,” you know, the One Who just did all those wonderful miraculous signs—go figure.

As they “drove” Him a couple of miles—according to some scholars, they obviously jostled and shoved Him along the way; and He let them—right up until the precipice. Then, and only then, did He calmly reject their rejection and “walked right through the crowd and went on His way” (v. 30). Why did He wait so long? Good question.

As you and I ponder this question, let me offer one possible answer: Is it to demonstrate that He was tempted in all ways like we are? Even if the precipice were merely 200 yards away, to be jostled and shoved for that distance would be rather painful and trying, wouldn’t you agree? And would you, like me, be tempted to hurl insults and shove back all along the way: “Hey, I was just telling you the truth and you’re doing this to me!? What gives!?”

It appears that our Lord was modeling for us how to handle rejection, even from neighbors and friends, and even the vicious kind that goes well beyond venomous words of ridicule.

You’ve been there. I’ve been there. From elementary school through High School—and even into college. I was in the middle of the ring of older boys as they shoved me around mocking and ridiculing me. I was the kid that the others conspired to ditch. I was the one they ignored once I became a Jesus Freak in college—abandoned and rejected. And I wish I could tell you I handled all these as calmly as our Shepherd did. But I didn’t.

As I have ponder this text, I am realizing as well that He actually has  been transforming me so that I no longer “see” rejection, in general, and in particular, I do not get as riled as I used to. I wish I could testify that I calmly “walked right through the crowd and went on [my] way,” but alas I do not, but I’m much, much closer to His likeness in this. The wounds are healing and the fear is evaporating. Love—His Love, which is beyond the rejection, is seeping into the crevices of my wounded heart and mending my wounded soul.

Have you experienced the sort of vicious rejections as our Master has?  Has He been transforming you to be more like Him as well? Care to share?

Main Text— Luke 4:27–30 (NIV84)— 27 And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed—only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29 They got up, drove [Jesus] out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him down the cliff. 30 But He walked right through the crowd and went on His way.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.Psalm 27:10 (NIV84)

Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.—Matthew 10:17–23 (NIV84)

 At my first defense, no one came to my support, but everyone deserted me. May it not be held against them. But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to His heavenly kingdom. To Him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.— 2 Timothy 4:16–18 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, calm my heart as I focus on You in the face of rejection and ridicule. Be my confident assurance that I need not defend myself. In You I have nothing to lose and nothing to prove. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Keep Up or Catch Up?”

Standard

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

“Forgiveness is Giving Up”

Standard

As our Lord Jesus hung on the cross He taught us true forgiveness. He taught us that forgiveness is giving up. His was a choice not a violation, extortion or resignation. He willfully chose to forgive.

And in this forgiveness He gave up three rights. The first right He gave up was the right not to hurt. He possibly gave it up the moment He decided to be incarnated, but truly the hurt, anguish and pain of carrying all the sins and its punishment on the cross cannot compare to all the sorrows He experienced up to that point. Isaiah identifies this giving up for us rather vividly (see below). Yes, the offense hurt you deeply. And only by a gush of grace will you be able to do what only Jesus can do: Forgive them in spite of the hurt. Yes, even after He said, “Father, forgive them,” He was still on the cross; still in agony; He was still hurting….

The second right our Master gave up was the right to make it right or to fix “it”. The relationship between Him and his creation was broken, and without the cross, it was irreparable. By hanging on that cross, He became that bridge of reconciliation for us. Yes, He did many healings and even a resurrection or two, but all these would get sick and die again. It is only after the cross in His resurrection are things made new—are fixed. St. Paul identifies this giving up in Colossians (see below). Yes, once the offense has taken place, the relationship, the item, the circumstance may remain broken beyond repair, but we can move on in the hope the resurrection power offers: One day this relationship, item or circumstance will be restored, but right now He has given us grace enough for the moment to dealing with the new relationship following a break….

The third right our Lord gave up was the right to get back. He could have warned them, “Just wait until I’m resurrected. Then you’ll know I am who I claimed to be; then you’ll bow before me!” Rather than immaturely taunting or threatening His adversaries—those who deeply wounded Him, He spoke words of forgiveness instead: “Father, forgive them…” (Luke 23:34). Our brother, St. Peter, identifies this giving up in his first letter to us (see below). Yes, our knee-jerk response it to flinch in retaliation or burp a word of disgust. Yet once again, relying on the gush of grace the Lord Jesus’ Life provides for us, we can return blessing for insult and promise of hope for threat of harm. We entrust ourselves, as our Master did, to the One who can truly bring justice (1 Peter 2:23 below).

One final “give up” I’d like to mention, but request your thoughts on how this fits into forgiveness, and that is when we are told at the end of Jesus’ earthly life, He says: “ It is finished. With that, He bowed His head and gave up His spirit” (John 19:30 emphasis added). The Greek word for “give up” is to “to hand over, to give.” Lifestyle worshiper, how do you see this act of Jesus’ Love, of giving up His own life, fitting into His grand act of forgiveness?

Main Text: — Ephesians 4:32 — Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Our Thoughts

He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. — Isaiah 53:3-5 (NIV84)

 and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation —Colossians 1:20-22 (NIV84)

 When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by His wounds you have been healed. — 1 Peter 2:23-24 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to forgive those who have hurt me, frustrated me, or disappointed me. I ask You to overwhelm me with a gush of Your grace to forgive them as You have forgiven me. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike