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Archive for February, 2015

I wonder how many sermons have been preached on Numbers 5:11-31? That’s the passage the outlines the procedure of a jealous husband bringing his wife to the priest because he suspects her of adultery. She has to drink water mixed with some dirt from the sanctuary and the ink with which the curses were wrote down. If she is innocent no harm no foul, if she is guilty she’ll end up childless with swollen belly and shriveled thighs. If you are grinning I don’t blame you, because so was I on reading Numbers 5 again. I also felt this tremendous sense of relief that my pastoral duties do not include administering this procedure; I don’t want to have anything to do with women’s shriveled thighs and swollen bellies. I do however have some questions:

  • How often was this actually practiced? Because what husband with even an ounce of smarts will subject his wife to this kind of humiliation. If she passes the test and emerges unshriveled I venture to guess that all kinds of things shriveled in her heart concerning what she feels about her husband.
  • Why are there no repercussions for the husband falsely accusing his wife? I take that back, he will have repercussions. “Babe, can’t you just let it go? I only did it because I love you so much.”
  • Why is there no equivalent procedure for the wife to put her husband through, to shrivel some of his parts? He probably will grow the gut all on his own.
  • How would this fly in my own life? “Susie, you’d better not mess with me or else it’s some bitter water for you.” Nah, I don’t think she’d ever think that was funny. Can you feel the ice?

There probably were some good reasons for this section of the Old Testament Law. Jealous husbands can be impossible to deal with and this allowed an innocent wife to establish her innocence, “If you don’t believe me then take me to the priest.” More importantly, no matter how strange this ritual may seem to us, is the fact that God sees and God knows the truth about each one of us. He knows what we are innocent of and what we are guilty of. A jealous husband might make his wife’s life miserable for something she has not done, but God never does that to us. We can rely on God for truth, fairness, and justice.

The complete truth about each one of us is that we are guilty, that we all have sinned (Romans 3:23), that we are all slowly shriveling up. That’s why we need more than truth, fairness, and justice, they cannot erase our guilt or deliver us from its consequences and penalty, for that we need mercy, grace, and forgiveness that only God can give, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7).

That dumb jealous husband dragging his wife before the priest has a dilemma. If she is found guilty he has to decide whether to forgive her or not. If she is found innocent he will need her forgiveness. The truth exposed will shrivel something, something that only mercy, grace and forgiveness can restore. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32, NASB).
To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Do you like salad bars? Smorgasbords? How about a good old-fashioned potluck? As a preacher I can do potlucks blindfolded, salad bars don’t get me too excited, and I don’t remember the last time I was at a smorgasbord, although I loved them when I was younger. You know the drill, get a plate, survey the offerings, and fill your plate with everything you love while bypassing the things you don’t like.

Growing up my oldest brother loved it when my Mama asked him to dish everybody up. He knew exactly what each one of us didn’t like, so, accompanied with a stupid grin, he would heap our plates with the stuff we didn’t like while quoting the rule, “Was auf dah Tisch kommt wird gessa!” (What’s put on the table will be eaten).

How do you approach God? Jesus Christ? Church? The Bible, God’s word? Are all three of them something you loved when you were younger but now you have developed a more discerning palate, a more selective taste when it comes to spiritual things? Do you get out your plate and fill it with all that you love while bypassing what’s not to your liking? Have you shifted to a different cuisine altogether?

How do like God? Cuddly and warm? Spicy or just a tiny hint? Loving or just? As the main dish, or side dish, as a dip, or as “but hold the …?”

Jesus Christ, do you consider him as a “got to have it,” or “I have to be in the mood,” or “yuck”?

What about church? Only if you have to, when it gets scooped onto your plate whether you like or not, but preferably not? Are you the food critic every time you show up?

“Oh the Bible, please only the sweet things in it?” “No, just the low calorie stuff, I hate that bloated feeling, some things take forever to digest.” “I have several food allergies, so I have to be very careful what I eat.”

The truth is the living God cannot be dished out in portions to our liking, religion can be but God and Jesus Christ cannot. The truth is that my Mama was more like God than my oldest brother (sorry Michael). He delighted in making our lives miserable (he’s changed), she delighted in keeping us alive, in us being well fed, and seeing us grow. She didn’t just give us what we liked (although she often did), she gave us what we needed. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” Matthew 4:4 (ESV, emphasis mine). The truth is when you treat God, Jesus Christ, the church, and the Bible like a salad bar, smorgasbord, or potluck you end up with eclectic and empty spirituality, or with a flabby Christianity with plates full of what we like, yet far from what God and Christ would have us to be; or you become a mere critic of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, and of his church, and of his word.

Allow me to put something on your plate from the Bible, something not all that tasty, but something we need as we try to cope with barbarism, terrorism, evil, enemies, and hate, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV). “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice” Proverbs 24:17 (NIV). “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” Romans 12:21 (NIV).

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Some things don’t mix well, fire and gasoline , coffee and pickle juice, ants and a kitchen, war and peace, lies and a clear conscience, wisdom and foolishness, love and fear, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love 1 John 4:18 (NIV). That’s why violence, abuse, uncontrolled anger, alcohol and drugs, cheating, lying, deceit, manipulation, selfishness, bitterness, and foolishness do not mix with romance, marriage, family, community, and a life with God.

When you are constantly in fear of the other shoe dropping, when you are constantly walking on eggshells, when you are always ducking outwardly and inwardly, when you are in constant dread of embarrassment, when words no longer hold water, when it all can blow up any second, when things are constantly out of control, when you are way past the first time, when the not normal becomes normal, when trust is a foreign word, when deceit not surprising, when disappointment is expected, when addiction and abuse have moved in, then you will find imperfect, twisted, perverted, and sick love.

Love is meant to beautiful, without fear, free of constant worry of it turning ugly. In the scripture quoted above the New King James Version uses the word “torment” instead of the “punishment.” Real love does not feel like torment, does not live in dread of torment, does not dish out torment. In fact where real love is growing, where real love is pursued fears are growing smaller and fewer, and torment is never a fit description.

Our problem is that so many of us are all too familiar with the tormented, sick, twisted, manipulative, and hurtful ways masquerading as love. The sad thing is that we are prone to settle for and repeat that which we know. It is easy to be in and get caught up in this web of love gone wrong, sometimes of no fault of our own, sometimes because of our own decisions, often because of both.

The good news is that God did not have the Apostles John and Paul (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) write about love in terms of mere definition or diagnosis. No, God had them write of what is possible, not just of what should or shouldn’t be, but of what can be. What may not be possible on our own is possible with God, “What is impossible for people is possible with God” Luke 18:27 (NLT). It is possible to walk with God and escape cycles and chains of the past. It is possible to walk with God and get out of darkness. It is possible to walk with God and learn from him how to love. It is possible to walk with God and grow in our capacity to love. It is possible!

When it comes to loving perfectly I am far from what I want to be, but God has been helping me to grow, especially when it comes to love. I am committed to real love because I don’t like the alternatives, because it is and feels right, and because God “renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake Psalm 23:3 (HCSB).

This Valentines weekend, if nothing else, make a start, be broken and repent of your wrongs, especially in regard to love and those you should love. Address that which is broken and twisted, pour out the full measure of your fears, and then take the loving hand of God to learn love without fear.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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There are three things that amaze me— no, four things that I don’t understand:
how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.
Proverbs 30:18-19 (NLT)

Obviously the writer of this proverb was a lot smarter than me, because there are a lot more than three things that amaze me and so very much I don’t understand. Just the other day I saw an eagle gliding through the sky, and yes it is amazing, flight is amazing. Snakes are different; they are sort of a creepy amazing. I think I could learn to navigate a ship right after I get over my sea sickness. But that man loving a woman thing – I have been at it for 35 years and am still free falling into the abyss of loving Susie. It is a wonderful, awesome, exhilarating, challenging, mysterious, “you’ve got to be kidding,” head scratching, heart mushing, “what the hesh!”, “I don’t want to live without her,” “why is she crying,” “no one makes me feel this good,” “no one can make me feel this miserable,” “twitterpated, “she is something else,” “there is nobody like her,” “Thank you God!” kind of life experience.

She can me feel like an HBoM (Hunking Block of Manliness), but also like a complete doofus who has not a shred of intelligence. She plays the most amazing compositions on the strings of my heart, but she is also able to tear out my gut. Her beauty is dazzling, her cuteness is disarming, her wit is adorable, her wisdom is rare, her laughter is a show, her spiciness is just perfect, her intelligence is formidable, her strength is deceptive, her devotion is a gift, and her love, oh that love – wow! Forget the eagles, snakes, and ships on the ocean, a loving woman is much more puzzling than all three of them combined.

Falling in love is not very difficult, staying in love and growing in love is, but it is possible. I think so, even more importantly God thinks so. He encourages lovers to learn ever more about love, to never let go of love, to excel in love, to grow deeper in love, to be ever amazed by love. Oh the love between a man and woman.

If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (fails). 1 Corinthians 13:3-8 (ESV, parenthesis mine)

To God be all glory. Happy Valentines, Pastor Hans

 

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