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

Seeing Him in Everything

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Okay, I get it, Lord. First this morning I read this in one devotion: “What we need, then, is to see God in everything, and to receive everything directly from His hands, with no intervention or second causes” (Hannah W. Smith, The Christian’s Secrets of a Happy Life, p.102). Then I read in another devotion: “See God in everything, and God will calm and color all thou dost see” (H.W. Smith, Sept. 17, in Streams in the Desert)! I am to see You in everything. In the highs and the lows; the plenty and the want; the “good” and the “bad;” the known and the unknown—everything.

 Too many times, I must confess, I am more like Martha (in our main text below). I am distracted by too many things. These distractions prevent me from seeing You in the situation—in my Life. So I join her in crying out to You, “Lord, don’t you care that [they have] left me to do the work by myself? Tell [them] to help me!”

Lord, as the distractions begin to blur and move out of focus, let me clearly see You in my focus. Turn this dourness into Joy. Let me see the colors of Your presence in all the situations and people I encounter. May I not only see Your hand at work, but may I see Your face. Forgive me for the many times I have whined and completed—doubting that You care. 

Oh, but You are so patient, so kind. You do not chide me nor do You abandon me. Instead, with a gentle touch from Your words, You draw my focus back to You. Through the blur of tears, I am seeing You as I make preparations for Your people.

Indeed, You are good all the time no matter what!

Main Text— Luke 10:40 (NIV84) 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!” 

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.—Philippians 4:6–7(NIV84)

  O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.Luke 12:28b-29 (NIV84)

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I call to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies.Psalm 18:2–3 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, lead me not into distractions, but keep my eyes fixed on You. Empower me to keep focused on You no matter what I am doing. In Your Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The Grace of Healing Wholeness”

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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

“Celebrate With Your Whole Heart”

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For some, today is a joyous occasion. The little ones come bounding in bouncing on the bed: “Happy Mother’s Day, Mommy! We made you breakfast!” The joy of the moment cannot be match as each year it grows deeper and more profound, and as Mary, the mother of Jesus, did, you treasure all these things in your heart.

But for some this is a very tortuous day. Their own mother has recently passed or they have lost a dear one through a miscarriage or death. Or they cannot have any children of their own. I cannot imagine the sorrow and grief that these events have brought, and to say to you to “Celebrate with your whole heart,” would seem like pouring vinegar on baking soda or scratching an old fashion blackboard with your nails or worse….

For you, I pray peace and comfort from the God of all Comfort and the Prince of Peace. Only He can mend your wounded heart. Flee to Him and find comfort and grace….

For all of us, let us celebrate motherhood with all our hearts. Celebrate the joys and the sorrows. Do not let the enemy rob you of this Joy you have in Jesus. Remember, we have a Loving Savior who was “A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 NKJV)—acquainted with your grief! And yet for the joy set before Him, He endure the pain of His Cross.

My dear sister in Jesus, endure the pain of your cross for the joy set before you—the Joy of seeing Jesus face to face, the Joy of knowing He is good all the time no matter what cross you are carrying on this side of the veil.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4)

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 brothers50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.”

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.(Hebrews 12:2–3 NIV84)

 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.—John 16:22 (NIV84)

 My soul will boast in the LORD; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the LORD with me; let us exalt His name together. I sought the LORD, and He answered me; He delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.— Psalm 34:2–5 (NLT)

Heavenly Father, I seek You out in the joys and sorrows of my life. I draw close to You as infant to her mother. Lord Jesus Christ, be my Peace. As You mend my broken heart, I will yet once again hear laughter and rejoicing, for You are my God. I rejoice in Your Mercies and Grace doing so In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Really? God Loves Me?”

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Back in the early 70’s when I was in college, I first encountered what was known as the “Four Spiritual Laws,” which started with “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” When this was first ‘pitched’ to me, I laughed incredulously. “Yeah, right!” My plan was to be a professional baseball player and a lawyer in the off-season, but I had just been rejected by the University’s baseball coach, even denied a walk-on. My baseball coach knew the then head coach, but my coach never got my tapes and stats to him. So I walked in blind…. “Sorry, son, but I already have my players picked for this year.” He may have said more, and I either didn’t hear it, but I definitely don’t remember it. God Loves me, huh?!?

This was immediately followed by my first love’s rejection—all on the same day! Needless to say, I tumbled quickly into the black vortex I was so familiar with. Despair evacuated hope. Abandonment rifled my community. The darkness was overwhelming…. Sparing the details, suffice it to say, I spiraled my way across campus to a religious meeting. It was towards the end of the meeting and I snuck in and sat way in the back.

The speaker was closing up his talk with a simple question: “Are you living or are you existing? You see living is…, and existing is…” Perhaps you can fill in the rest, but that night I began my journey out of the black vortex and into the Light of the Love that the Lord truly has for me. I committed my life then and there to follow Him as my Lord, but as far as the Love part, well, this came much lately….

Perhaps some of you know how that black vortex numbs your emotions. This is not to say that the Love God has for us is purely emotional, but the spiritual reality bleeds into the emotional receptors, and these were numbed by life’s concussions….

Slowly, I have come to realize that the Lord does Love me. When this reality finally resurrected in my soul, there were no fireworks or light shows, but a quite whisper, gently healing my wounded soul, “Yes, Michael, I truly do Love you.” He knew exactly how and when to communicate this truth to me. Any other way, and it would have closed my sore soul. But as Randy Stonehill sings, “I was lost in a fantasy that blinded me until your Love broke through….”

“Your Love Broke Through” Like to Randy’s song)

His Love broke through to me; how about you? In your journey with Jesus has His Love broke through yet? Your thoughts?

Main Text— 1 John 3:1-3 (NIV84) How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.  Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

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)

As He says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘My people’ who are not My people; and I will call her ‘My loved one’ who is not My loved one.”—Romans 9:25 (NIV84)

 Since He did not spare even His own Son but gave Him up for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?— Romans 8:32 (NLT)

Heavenly Father, continue to open my heart and soul to the Love You have for me in and through Your Son, Christ Jesus. In His Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The Source of Our Strength”

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Date: 04-29-15

The Big Idea A sense of light airiness comes upon me, sometimes even in some rather dire situations, and an inner strength appears, so that somehow, in my spirit, I know He is working all things out for the Good.

My Thoughts: In five places found in most common English translations of the Bible, strength and joy are connected. None is as direct as our main text noted below. In Nehemiah’s declaration, he basically equates the LORD’s joy with our strength. Thus, when we are infused with the LORD’s joy, then we are strengthened to live His Life more fully….

The intriguing aspect of Joy is we cannot conjure it up or manufacture it. Nope! It is clearly the LORD’s joy and the Fruit of the Spirit…. So no matter how hard I try to be joy-filled, I cannot in and of myself….

I have found that when the Spirit fills me with joy and thanksgiving, a delight floods my being. A sense of light airiness comes upon me, sometimes even in some rather dire situations, and an inner strength appears, so that somehow, in my spirit, I know He is working all things out for the Good.

Other times, however, I need to wait on Him for this manifestation of Joy. Sadly, however, I have found as with  myself, many do not wait on the LORD for a renewal of joy—of strength. Instead they attempt to go around gleefully acting as if they are filled with His joy, when in fact they are not. It is, at best, manufactured glee. Ah, but if we wait on the LORD, He will renew our strength AND—remember—the Joy of the LORD is our strength!

Fellow lifestyle worshipers, have you discovered this connection of joy and strength as well? Have you learned that at times we need to wait on Him to renew our Joy (strength)? What are your thoughts on joy and strength being connect like this?

Main Text: — Nehemiah 8:10 — Nehemiah said, “Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is sacred to our LORD. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But those who keep waiting for the LORD will renew their strength. Then they’ll soar on wings like eagles; they’ll run and not grow weary; they’ll walk and not grow tired. — Isaiah 40:31 (ISV)

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in Him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to Him in song.  —Psalm 28:7 (NIV84)

Sing for joy to God our strength; shout aloud to the God of Jacob! Begin the music, strike the tambourine, play the melodious harp and lyre. — Psalm 81:1-2 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, I wait on You to refresh my strength as You flood my very being with the Joy of the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Can We Give Joy Away?”

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Date: 04-28-15

The Big Idea: This joy is growing in ways I truly cannot capture in words because of its uniqueness to my experience.

My Thoughts: For many, possessing (let alone expressing) joy in a world so familiar with loss, and sorrow and grief is more than a formidable challenge. There are those, however, who can express the joy they possess in a sincere and infectious manner that lightens the load of many fellow travelers….

But in light of what Jesus says (noted below in John 16), can we give our joy away? He says that no one will be able to take it from us, but does this leave open the option of giving our joy away, much like letting go of an untied balloon?

The reason I ask this is because I have known many throughout my life and in my ministry who are somewhat, shall we say, joyless—this often includes me. Most recently on my journey with Jesus I am  coming to experience the joy He promises and this joy is growing in ways I truly cannot capture in words because of its uniqueness to my experience.

But as I look back on my journey, I have seen myself giving joy away, releasing balloon after balloon of joy only to see it fizzle and quite frankly ppffffftt (or however the onomatopoeia is spelled for this).

So my answer to my question is a mumbled, “yes.” I can give my joy away, but if Joy is a fruit of the Spirit, am I truly giving it away, or merely stifling it?

So, lifestyle worshipers, what are your thoughts on ‘giving joy away’?

Main Text: — John 16:22-24 — 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete. [NIV]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness. — Galatians 5:22 (NIV)

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.  —John 10:10 (NIV)

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.  — Philippians 1:25-26 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, I confess I have a deep desire to experience the substantial Joy of the Holy Spirit. Create in me a pure heart so that I may be a vessel of Your Joy, in Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike