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

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“Hope for Today–And Beyond”

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As I prepare this message on hope, I’ve had to constantly ask myself: Do I have hope for today? To some it may seem like a strange question, and indeed it is. Oh, I have hope for the future. I know Jesus is coming back to rescue me. I know I’m going to get a newly transformed body—free of age, aches and pains. I know I will be filled to the bursting of my new body’s seams with Joy and Peace and Adulation, for I will be seeing my risen Lord face to face….

But do I have hope for today? In today’s turmoil and strife and mild aches and severe pains and disappointments? Of late, I have caught myself saying, “Lord, this is bad,” with a very new thought that follows: “And I can’t wait to see how You work this out for good!” Whoa! Where did this thought come from!!!!???? Yes, I believe He works all things out for the good, but do I believe, in this moment, that He is working even this current “bad” pain, or trial or disappointment for the Good—for my good?

As I have continued this small exercise in a very mustard seed-like faith, I have been experiencing a rather strange buoyancy—a rather confident assurance mixed with a swirl of joy. And it is not fleeting as such feelings have been in the past….

Yesterday, at a community meeting, the person I was sitting next to had commented on something I was saying to a third person: “Don’t we need to live in the moment?” I know I have often missed the current “moment” because I was obsessed with past hurts or future worries, but she struck a chord in me. I know I have been on a long journey to learn to not live for the moment but in the moment. And when I live in the moment for Jesus, He connects all the moments, giving them a larger purpose beyond the moment of “today.”

And it is in this connection a Hope springs for today and beyond.

Have you had a similar journey with Hope, trusting the Lord to turn the current “bad” into good—in the moment? Or perhaps you are farther down the path than I? Your thoughts about hope for today—and beyond?

Main Text— John 3:16–18 (NIV84) 16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. 18 He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On Him we have set our hope that He will continue to deliver us,2 Corinthians 1:10 (NIV84)

We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints— the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel.—Colossians 1:3–5 (NIV84)

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope.— 1 Timothy 1:1 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, be Hope in me this day so that I may see how You are connecting my moments for a larger purpose in You. 

Coach 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

“Feel Unlearned & Unschooled?”

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My Thoughts:

I am most frustrated when I don’t know something and can’t figure it out. Beyond my schooling, personal study, etc., there is still a lot I don’t know, and this frustrates me. There are some things, circumstances or issues I just can’t figure out….

Educated Elites

If you feel like I feel or if you even feel you are unlearned and unschooled, then maybe we can both learn the lesson that: This is exactly where the Lord wants us to be.

Huh?

Let me explain what I am learning from Peter and John’s experience….

There they stood before the educated elite of their day. These were they who were deeply studied in Torah. The could not just quote extended passages, more than likely they could quote the entire Torah, and much, if not all, of the Nevi’im (the Prophets) and the Kethuvim (the Writings). These priests and Sadducees were the crème de la crème of their society, of society, in general; the envy of anyone who desired to live a religious life that pleased their God—at least this is how they viewed it….

But before these educated elite stood two “uneducated and untrained men” (from Acts 4:13 NASD95), who had just performed an incontrovertible miracle: They were amazed! Well, amazed as any educated elitist could get, since there is little they do not know or cannot explain, eh?

These educated elitists were so astute that they noted (my paraphrase), “Oh, this explains it, ‘they were with Jesus’!” Though they cannot dismiss the miracle, they can easily dismiss and discredit the ones who ‘did it’. Sound familiar?

Yet this is exactly right where the Lord wants us. This is the lesson I am learning: He wants others to see that we’ve been with Jesus and not that we are super educated or formally trained. (Now, I do not dismiss formal education or studying to show ourselves approved, but I’ve learned these both—and more—need to be “with Jesus.”) The focus needs to be on Jesus. Now you and I both know this, but somehow we have disqualified ourselves because we don’t know enough or get tongue tied. But this is when the Lord shines brightest. Through His Spirit He will give us words and thoughts and ideas and phrases that even the educated elites can refute (though they can dispute, deny or ignore them, eh).

Now if you are still like me, you feel a little strange being so vulnerable, but this is where I’m learning to trust the Lord all the more. I still must study to show myself approved, a workman who need not be ashamed (see 2 Tim. 2:15), but I do not “lean on my own understanding, [but] in all [my] ways acknowledge Him and He will make [my] paths straight” (Pro. 3:5-6 NIV84, emphasis added), even when I’m talking with educated elites.

So whenever I get a chance to share Jesus with others, especially these educated elite types, I can relax & rest in Him and let the Spirit do the talking. Pretty exciting, eh?

Main Text: — Acts 4:13— When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.  [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. — 1 Corinthians 2:2-5 (NIV84)

But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you. They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of My name. This will result in your being witnesses to them. But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.  — Luke 21:12-15 (NIV84)

 Heavenly Father, let me rest in Your Son’s promise to provide words and reasoning to present Him to others. Dispel any reluctance or fears. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Power, Love and a Sound Mind. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Pastor Mike

“The Waiting Whine”

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It may be easy enough to whine to our parents while waiting to go to the Mall, or to our spouse as we’re waiting to leave, but can you image whining to the Lord when He tells us we have to wait for the manifestation of His Kingdom?

Lifestyle worshiper, perhaps you, like I, have not so much whined to Him about Kingdom matters, but whined about other issues—well, honestly, minor things like the stop light or the line I’m standing in. But I have also whined about why is it taking Him so long to resolve some struggle in my life or someone else’s…. Maybe you’ve done this kind of whining, too?

But as I become more aware of my subtle whines, I become acutely aware of the fact this is really more of a trust issue. He tells the apostles, “Don’t leave but wait. Trust Me. You’ll need wait I have you waiting on.” Yes, “Trust Me,” the Lord gently reminds me. “Trust Me, you will definitely need what I have you waiting on.” Maybe the circumstances just aren’t quite ready or maybe my emotional make up hasn’t caught up with what’s about to take place. Or maybe there are other ‘players’ in my life that are not quite lined up yet, so I need to reach out in confident faith and ‘Trust Him’ while I patiently wait….

As a side bar, it is interesting to note that this particular word for “wait” has an expectancy component. We are waiting patiently for an expected out come. And if the Lord is good all the time no matter what (and He is), then the expected out come it, ah, Good! Wouldn’t you agree? Your thoughts?

Main Text: — Acts 1:4-7 — On one occasion, while he was eating with them, he gave them this command: “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about5 For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” So when they met together, they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” [NIV84]

Additional Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

  The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. — 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV84)

For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay. —Habakkuk 2:3 (NIV84)

  Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. — Romans 5:3-4 (NIV84)

 Lord Jesus Christ, I put You on as my Slippers of Patience. May I quietly and peacefully wait on You, trusting in Your Goodness and Your timing. In Your Name, Amen. 

Pastor Mike

“Following Jesus is a Trust Issue”

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Text: John 13:36-38 —  Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.”  Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.”  Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times![NIV84]

The Big Idea: Following Jesus has a lot to do with how much I trust Him.

My Thoughts: 

I have learned that following Jesus has a lot to do with how much I trust Him. And because I have had trust issues in my life, I have found it rather difficult  the longer I have walked with Him. Yes, this is hard for me to admit, but it is nonetheless true.

As a young Christian, my faith was fresh and innocent,and I followed Jesus closely. When I read in the Word about a particular action or task (e.g. from the Sermon on the Mount, see Matthew 5-7), I’d do it virtually without hesitation—from giving the coat on my back to some transient in need to a place to stay or walking that “second” mile. (Or driving as the case may be!)

Yes, at one time my faith was like Peter’s who courageously got out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water. He so desperately wanted to follow Him, that Peter impulsively, but nonetheless, faith-filled, ‘followed’ his Master. If we freeze frame this moment, Peter had the innocent faith of a child who falls into his father’s loving arms. But the frame cannot be frozen, and Peter moved on and began to doubt. His childlike faith had become an adult faith, “What am I doing? Where am I going? The waves!? The water!? … Lord, save me! I’m sinking!”

(As an aside, any time I have tried to walk on water, I didn’t start sinking. Nope, I plummeted! I down right sunk. Immediately, with no hesitation. But from the account (see Mt. 14:30) it appears that as Peter’s faith evaporated, his feet followed suit and ‘began to sink’!. Fascinating, no?)

So is it possible that my trust issues are not with Jesus, but with me? In some small way, it appears I doubt my own ability to trust Him. Perhaps, this is what Jesus meant when He gently chided Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt” (Mt. 14:31, NASB95)? But as I pursue this thought, I wonder if it is a Both/And, a combination of my doubting His goodness & faithfulness coupled with my own brokenness, weakness and shortsightedness.

This brings me to the next trust issue: Do I trust Jesus when I cannot see where He is leading me? As I pondered this, a powerful thought came to me as I was searching for following passages. During the Last Supper, Peter pleads with the Lord to follow Him, but Jesus says, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later” (John 13:36 NIV84). Apparently, Jesus is saying that when we are following Him, there are some places we are not quite ready to go. Oh, one day we will get there, but not now! Hence, this comment.

And though Peter reiterates his desire to follow Jesus, the Lord gives him a cold shower: “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times” (John 13:38 NIV84). The Lord is basically telling Peter, “You will follow me ‘there’, but not now. You are just not ready.” This is made even clearer when Jesus reinstates Peter on the beach (see John 21:15-23). As Jesus presents Peter with three chances for reaffirmation (vis a vis ‘denial’), He accepts where Peter is at, even though he is ‘still not ready’ to go ‘there’ (i.e., to the cross), but his philëō Love for Jesus is more than enough to follow Jesus for now.

I have seen this in my own life. I think I am ready to follow Jesus to a particular destination or level in my walk with Him, and He gently notes, “you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” And sometimes with Peter, I say, “Lord, why can’t I follow now’!” (Can you hear the almost whiney voice? I can.) But I have to trust Him even when I do not see or understand where He is leading me.

The Lord has comforted me with a rather fascinating image. I picture Him weaving in and out of a crowd of people, like at a crowded outdoor festival. He has a tight grip on my hand and says, “Follow me.” I burp, “But where, Lord?” Not answering my question, He continues on, glancing back with a huge, endearing smile that shines His Love. Squeezing my hand to reaffirm that He is there, we continue weaving through the crowd. After some time, He scoops me up in His arms, and places me on His shoulders. Now, I can clearly see where He was leading me all along….

Yes, following Jesus is a trust issue. I am learning not to trust what I can see or cannot see. I am still learning to trust Him with that fresh, innocent childlike faith that follows no matter what. And as long as I can see His back through this crowd of doubts and fears, I’m okay. Ah, but then there are those times He glances back, and I see His warm smiling face; I am okay. I can trust His tight grip of my hand (and my Life), and I can trust He is leading me to a very wonderful place that will most definitely honor Him and bless me.

Scriptures to Renew Your Thoughts

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.

— Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV84)

 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with Me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”  — John 14:1-4 (NIV84)

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” — Jeremiah 22:3 (NIV84)

Lord Jesus Christ, empower me to keep my eyes focused on You whether I know where I am going or not. As You enlarge my trust in You, let the Joy of the Spirit light my way on my journey with You.. In Your Holy Name. Amen.

Pastor Mike