“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

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“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

“Rethinking Our Culture”

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Very few of us seem to inventory how much we are like the world’s culture. Somehow we have baptized the current culture we are in as ‘sacrosanct’—as if in some way we have captured the Kingdom of Heaven’s culture. …

Conform Transformed Butterfly

As we enter Day 6 in this month of corporate fasting coupled with our Solemn Assembly and Heartwork, we are encouraged in the Heartwork Devotion for today to “Unlearn Our Culture.” The way I see it before I am able to learn something new, I need to unlearn something “old.” And before I can unlearn something “old,” I need to identify the old as being out of sync with the Word and Jesus’ Heavenly Culture—no matter how much I have baptized it or relabeled it or PC’ed it, eh?

This rethinking actually requires that I stop and think. Ouch! Then I ask the Lord Jesus Christ to reveal to me by His Spirit those ‘things’ (such as, habits, thoughts, attitudes, passions, etc.) that are displeasing to Him. We may be surprised to learn that some of these “things” may be rather “good” things. But because I have been infected by the culture around me, I have made them an ‘idol’ or have engaged ‘them’ in my own strength. In this way I have tarnished a ‘good’ thing….

But, we may also find that we have been deceived or even deceived ourselves into thinking that this habit, thought, attitude, passion, etc. is, in fact, justified, warranted, and simply Okay. “I have a right to….” You can finish this sentence. But as the Light of His Word and Holiness concussion us, we are first blinded to the Truth of our deception, maybe even to the point of being defensive. But once our spiritual eyes become adjusted to the Holy Light, we see clearly the distinction between Truth and Deceit.

This can definitely lead us to a ruining, a wrecking, an emptying, an undone state of life. Some times I fall into verbal self-flagellation where I bemoan the fact that I have been so naive, so stupid, to have been deceived so. Once I snap out of this, I am able to thank the Lord Jesus for being merciful to me to end this deception. Here then begins the transforming process of unlearning the culture! And it all started by rethinking…. Are you courageous enough to join me. I wasn’t—not at first, and without the Lord Jesus being my courage, I would not have gotten this far. How about you?

Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Romans 12:2 (NIV84)— Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

 Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you— Romans 12:2 (The Message)

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.— James 1:22 (NIV84)

For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. They think it strange that you do not plunge with them into the same flood of dissipation, and they heap abuse on you. — 1 Peter 4:3–4 (NIV84)

Heavenly Father, strengthen my feeble arms and weak knees. Empower me by the Lord Jesus Christ’s Presence thorough His Holy Spirit to reject those cultural ‘bad’ habits, attitudes, thoughts, & _____. Lord Jesus Christ, be my courage as I turn from these ‘things’ that so displease You and pursue You along with those who call upon You out of a pure heart.  In Your Love and Great Mercy,  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