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Archive for May, 2015

 

“Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (NLT)

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 (NLT)

There is a good chance you won’t like this pastor’s-note (p-note) very much, it sticks a finger into your flab. Most of us are much more familiar with abundant flab than with tight buttocks or abs. We know we should, we know we could, and we know we’d be better off if we would, but we don’t, and we won’t and the result is flab, weakness, illness, ungodliness.

Flab does not surrender easily, it is relentless, it keeps coming back. So you have to work to get rid of it and you have to work to keep it away. To win against flab you got embrace ugly words: discipline, exercise, daily, good habits, commitment, pushing yourself, denying yourself. That’s why we look for alternatives, the two minute exercise routine that will offset even the biggest burger and fries, the exercise machine that will overcome gallons of soda, the pill that will make you skinny, fix the diabetes, and gets rid of wrinkles, the electronic gadget that will give you muscles while sitting in your easy chair. Collectively we spend millions trying to bypass the ugly words, we keep listening to the lies of the flab while getting flabbier still.

Our guts, chins, thighs, and butts are not the only things that can get flabby. We can be mentally flabby, spiritually flabby. Dare we, in just one pastor’s note, to stick a finger in that flab too? Let’s. Same aversion to dirty words: discipline, exercise, good habits, commitment, pushing yourself, denying yourself. Same search for a magical and quick fix. Same result, more, abiding, limiting, useless, ungodly flab.

I hate to say it, but a p-note a week will not make you spiritually strong. P-notes make for great for great flab-pokers, but if you want to get rid of the flab at some point you have to embrace discipline, daily exercise, good spiritual habits, lifelong commitment, pushing yourself, denying yourself. The amount of flab or lack thereof is in direct proportion to how much you embrace the words flab considers dirty, useless, obsolete, and threatening.

Both fit body and a sharp mind are enabling, the same is true about godliness. In fact God makes it clear that the most important thing to exercise, to keep from being flabby is godliness. You can get your body-fat down to 2 % and be a mean self-centered person. You can be sharp as a tack mentally and be proud and arrogant. You can be fit and sharp and be utterly godless. But if we train ourselves in godliness we will deal will gluttony, we won’t stay ignorant, and we will deal with hubris. Godliness benefits the entire person but never to selfish ends.

Before I remove my finger from the flab, let me ask you, “How flabby are you? How flabby is your body? How flabby is your mind? And above all how flabby are you when it comes to godliness, to Christlikeness? And when will that change?”

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

P.S. I am aware this p-note could easily be understood in our culture which is obsessed with youth and certain kind of ideal body image. The question is not who we are in comparison to others and certain cultural norms, but rather who we are in comparison to who God has made us and for what God has enabled us, namely to be men and women who worship him and Jesus Christ and who whose character and behavior is godly trough and through.

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“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
Matthew 6:10 (ESV)

Why should you and I yearn for, pray for, and work for God’s kingdom to come? Is it worthwhile to completely abandon yourself to God’s kingship, God’s authority, God’s rule? The answer is, “Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes!”

Critics and scoffers have maintained that devotion to God and Christ is the root of narrow-mindedness and the cause of all kinds of ills. This is simply not true. What is true is that the disposal of God and any practice of halfhearted devotion causes both narrow-mindedness and all kinds of human ills. Where God is rejected and subjected is where we are far from the kingdom of God. Contrary to the accusations we will never be villains or fools if we commit ourselves to the pursuit of God’s kingdom. “Let your kingdom come.”

The overarching reality of God’s kingdom is that his will is done. The subjects of God’s kingdom consistently and completely embrace the will of God, the wisdom of God, the ways of God, and the commandments of God. Have you ever dared to imagine what that looks like? Everyone relating to one another out of heart of love, with no thought of injuring, defrauding, oppressing, or hurting your neighbor for your own ends; no fear of losing out on life because the love of God anchors your life and you know nothing can separate you from it. No need for jealousy because you can freely rejoice in the success of your neighbor, his/her success does not threaten or diminish you, it brings glory to God and that is enough. “My your kingdom come.”

People are not dispensable in the kingdom of God, everyone is assigned an eternal place, contribution, and purpose. This is not so with godlessness or idolatry, people are dispensable there. Those who cannot contribute, those who threaten the current power structure, those who became a financial liability, those who can be a means to an end, those believe differently are all dispensable in the kingdoms, philosophies, and man-made religions of our world. Not so with God’s kingdom, sinners, the broken, the feeble, the weak, and the poor are esteemed and invited on the same level as the powerful, the rich, the privileged. “Your kingdom come.”

How many keys do you have? How many PIN #s and passwords? When God’s kingdom is fully realized you won’t need any of them because you won’t have to be afraid of someone coveting or stealing your stuff. “Your Kingdom come.”

We are not meant to just wait for it, that’s a gross misinterpretation of eschatology. As a follower of Christ I am citizen of the kingdom (Philippians 3:20), I am called to live out God’s kingdom will now, yearn for it now, pray for it to unfold now. But to do so in a world that seeks its own kingdoms will be costly, will require faith, will stretch and challenge us daily, but it is worth it, a thousand times worth it. “Let his kingdom come.”

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

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Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18 (NASB)

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. Proverbs 18:1 (ESV)

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. … The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 1 Corinthians 12:13, 21 (ESV)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)

Do you live in spiritual community? If you are a Christian you should show up, go to church, be with other believers, you can’t have any sort of community if you do not show up. Showing up regularly should be a foundational habit; you should not even have to think about it, it should be “normal” for every believer.

Spiritual community is more than going to service, it is a way of life, the interaction does not stop when you leave the church service. In spiritual community, in a real church family, you develop a closer circle of brothers and sisters. Men and women with whom you pray, are honest, and seek to encourage each other to grow in Christ and do God’s will.

You can go to church and still isolate yourself. You can go to church and participate in nothing but small talk and superficiality. You can go to church not at all participate in the opportunity of, Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17 (ESV). You can go to church and interact with other believers and be nothing but a fountain of negativity, carnality, and worldliness. You can go to church and be alone.

Do you have brothers and sisters (it is both right and good foe Christians to think of each other as family) who really know you, who challenge you, with whom pray outside of church gatherings? Do you have brothers and sisters in your life with whom you not only talk about personal issues of life but about kingdom of God issues, the knowing and doing of God’s will? Fellowship where the word of God becomes conversation, where the leading and impressions of the Holy Spirit are shared, and where you are encouraged to dream kingdom dreams and give you all for Christ and his Gospel? Are you surrounding yourself with people who seek and practice that kind of fellowship?

The wise Christian does show up, faithfully, rain or shine, but the wise Christian never settles for just showing up.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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I need my Momma,” was the frequent, often sobbing request of one of our children.

Once, in the middle of the night Susie poked me awake and said, “It’s your turn.” So I crawled out of bed to tend to one of our “cute,” screaming treasures. The moment she saw it was me and not her Mom she demanded, “I want Mommy!!!” needless to say, things deteriorated from there.

On his way into this world our first child got his head stuck in the birth canal. After 24 hours of labor ordeals Susie was still holding it together remarkably well, even when the doctor told her that it’s time for a C-section she didn’t crack, but when her Mom came into the room she broke out in tears because sometimes you just really need your Mom, your Mommy, your Momma, your Mama. Everybody ends up needing a Mom sometime.

God called my tuckered out Mama home over 26 years ago, I can’t tell you how much I still feel her influence, how much I still miss her, that there are moments when I so wish for her. I believe that’s good thing, it is a testimony that she got her mothering right, that she blessed her boys.

I wonder if my Mama felt the same way, there were incredibly difficult things that came my Mama’s way after her Mom, Oma, died? I imagine so, because Oma was every bit as good at sowing Mama blessings as my Mom was. She was committed, selfless, loving, and godly; the kind of Mom you look for when you need comfort, hope, encouragement, direction, and love.

The very best thing my Mama lived out and passed on is her dependence on God, because in life there are things that rock and overwhelm even the best of moms, sometimes you just need God, his love, his wisdom, his strength, his guidance, his comfort, his touch, his presence.

My Mama is a precious and keeping memory, but God through Christ is a present and eternal reality. My Mama loved us well, God loves me better still. My Mama is an abiding blessing, God is the one who gave her to me. My Mama knew how limited she was and how almighty God is. My Mama had dreams for her boys, none more important than for us to walk with God. My Mama knew her mothering was important, she also knew we needed to learn to yearn for and lean on God’s presence more than her own. Only God can say, Even though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for I am with you; my rod and my staff, they comfort will comfort you” (Psalm 23:4).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Take a look at your hands and ask yourself, “How good am I of letting go.” Now pick up two things, one with your left hand and one with your right. Keep holding those two items as you go to the kitchen to make yourself a cup of tea or coffee. (Email me with the outcome of this exercise, dergermanshepherd@gmail.com).

We hold onto things with more than just our hands, our minds and hearts know to grasp and not let go every bit as our hands, maybe even better. It doesn’t really matter what we use to hold on to something, as long as we hold on to one thing it limits us, or completely prevents us, from grasping or doing something else.

My brother, who was a pain specialist, once told me that after a while our nerves will hold onto pain even if the source of the pain is removed. Have you ever had to pry your fingers off something you had hold onto for a long time? Letting go can be very hard, even painful, especially if we have held onto something for a very long time, if what we have held onto was very heavy, if what we have held onto is very important to us. I don’t want to hold onto things that will damage me, that will deform me, that will cause pain long after something is past, that will prevent me from laying hold of better things.

My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” Philippians 3:10-14 (HCSB).

Real maturity and Christlikeness are impossible without knowing what to let go and what to hold onto. I hear the Apostle Paul saying, “I let go of everything that would prevent me grasping everything God, through Christ, has for me. So I have to learn to be good at letting go.”

How good are you at letting go? What do need to let go? What “worries, wounds, wrongs, weaknesses, and wishes” (Eric Rees) do you need to let go?

Before you finish this p-note can I encourage you to get a Bible, find Philippians and read both chapter 2 and 3 (or maybe all of it), then sit down, look at your hands again, and then have a conversation with God about what he would have let go of.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

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“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock” Matthew 7:24 (NLT).

My brothers and I put in some serious Lego playing time. We each had our own color, this way there was no confusion over whose Legos where whose. This required some serious negotiations when you ran out of pieces you needed. It’s the pits when a brother is in a strong negotiating position. It was even worse when negotiations broke down and war was declared, this meant all pieces previously acquired had to be returned, along with threats and curses, which meant having to disassemble whatever had been build, leaving us all sitting on the floor with piles of Lego rubble. My memories are filled with building awesome things together and Legos flying, returning them on the heels of failed negotiations was never accompanied by civility and kindness.

When it comes to life I wish I had all the right pieces in all the right colors to build something beautiful that is not exposed to the claims, needs, or treachery of others. But even though life doesn’t hand us all the right pieces, we do build, each one of us, we are all building something. It was really irritating when one of my brothers build something and then let it just sit there for days, tying up pieces I needed. That’s how clandestine raiding started, or the challenge of taking pieces of something without disturbing the outside look of it so it would not be obvious. Life can be nasty.

Legos don’t smell, but a lot of what life hands you stinks. Lego’s are designed to neatly interlock, life just hands you pieces, many of them broken, sharp, even awful. How are you supposed to build anything worthwhile with that? Legos don’t move on their own, the pieces of my life are constantly moving in ways I have no control over. Legos are expensive, so is life, in more than one way, it is astounding how much some things cost us.

The Bible, God’s written word, doesn’t say a word about Legos, but it says all kinds of things about life and about building. It makes a difference what you build your life on, what you build with, how you acquire your materials, what you do with the broken and the stink, whose plans you follow, how you deal with the moving parts, and how you deal with the things that can bring it all down.

The Corinthian church was a mess because they were acting like a bunch of Frei boys playing Legos. They had forgotten that they were supposed to build something beautiful, that in Christ and by the grace of God they were enabled to build something that glorifies God and blesses others. So the Apostle Paul gave them an earful, For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames” 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 (NLT).

Have you made Christ your foundation? What are you building on it? Can what you build withstand the storms of life and the judgment of God? Does what you do with the pieces of your life glorify God and bless others?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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