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Archive for August, 2016

Praying Like Jesus

Christians, believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, are meant to be people of prayer. We are to pray in private, all the time, and together (Matthew 6:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 1 Timothy 2:8). We are to pray for each other, the sick and the hurting, government leaders, church leaders, peace, the spiritually lost, for more to engage in God’s redemptive work, for personal and spiritual growth, against evil and for our enemies. We are to pray in the face of worry and anxiety, in times of need, in making decisions, and where discernment, forgiveness, and mercy is needed.

All of this praying is rooted in and worthwhile because of who God is and trusting the facts about God, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” Hebrews 11:6 (NLT). Jesus in responding to his disciples’ request to teach them how to pray reminded them when praying they should remember the following facts about God:

  • God exists (Luke 11:1)
  • God is approachable (Luke 11:1)
  • God is able (Luke 11:3-8, 13)
  • God is aware (Luke 12:6-7, 30)
  • God cares (Luke 11:2, 13)
  • God hears (Luke 11:9-10)
  • God is good (Luke 11:13)
  • God is dependable (Luke 11:2, 13)
  • God responds (Luke 11:13)

The reason the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray was because they observed a difference between their praying and his. Not all praying is equal, some praying is meaningless (Matthew 6:5, Luke 18:9-14), some is ignorant (Matthew 6:7-8), and some is a form of disobedience (Isaiah 1:15-17). The disciples obviously recognized that there was a connection between who Jesus was and did and his prayer-life.

Jesus, in response to his disciples’’ request to be taught how to pray, emphasized four things:

  • Frequency. – Luke 11:2. “When you pray,” actually praying is a must if you want to learn how to pray, as is the frequency, the more occasionally the slower the learning.
  • Content. – Luke 11:3-4, Matthew 6:6-13, Philippians 4:6-8. It is possible to fill our praying with fluff, “meaningless repetition” (Matthew 6:7), self-righteousness, platitudes, formulas, etc. But God is looking for “real,” for substance.
  • Confidence. – Luke 11:9-10. Prayer is an opportunity to exercise confidence in who God is (see list above) and how he acts. He is the good Heavenly Father, unlimited in power, wisdom, knowledge, compassion, and goodness.
  • Persistence. – Luke 11:5-10. This is not about having to get God’s attention but continuing in prayer until God answers. Strong, mature, praying has a tenaciousness, an unwillingness to settle for anything less than that which God has in mind.

To God be all Glory. Pray on, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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It is easier to ask the doctor for a pill than changing your diet, stop smoking, and exercise. It is easier to have someone pay your bills than change your spending habits. It is easier to criticize than to help. It is easier to do a few nice things than change your character. It is easier to be a fan than a follower of Jesus.

Jesus had a lot of fans, especially once he started healing and feeding people. But Jesus also preached and taught. In Luke 5 &6 Jesus amazes some fishermen, cleanses a leper, forgives and heals a paralytic, turns around a crooked tax-collector, attends a party with sinners, heals a multitude of people, changes the destinies of 11 ordinary men, and steps right over some ridiculous religious convention to restore someone’s use of his hand. That is a whole lot to be excited about. It is also a whole lot of evidence that Jesus Christ is completely extraordinary, the Son of God.

Then toward the end of the sixth chapter, after laying out clear, profound, and demanding teaching, Jesus says “So why do you keep calling me ‘Lord, Lord!’ when you don’t do what I say?” and follows it up with, I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it.
It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against the house, it stands firm because it is well built. But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins”
Luke 6:46-49 (NLT).

Jesus still is hoping you and I will be more than just fans, he is interested in us being devoted followers. Fans do a lot of whooping and hollering, they know just when to break out in “Amens” and “Hallelujahs”. Fans are good at wearing the team merchandize, getting team or favorite player tattoos, love rallies, and tailgate it. Fans love fan forums, clichés and platitudes, and are often less than gracious to opposing fans. They are also fickle, at least many of them; most of the Jesus fans in the Gospels went on to root for somebody or something else or nothing at all.

So what did Jesus say that dowsed the pep-rally? Well, he dared to bless the poor, the hungry, the grieving, and those who would follow him even if it meant persecution. Then he pronounced woes, to the rich, to the well-fed, to those who laugh, and to those who are acceptable to all. But Jesus didn’t stop there, he demanded that we love our enemies and those who mistreat us, to “turn the other cheek”, he insisted on real generosity, on becoming givers not takers, he asked his followers to treat others how they want to be treated, to not be judgmental, and to be merciful like God. Jesus started talking in black and white terms regarding being consistently good, every now and then does not cut it for those who are serious about following him (Luke 6:20-48).

It wasn’t the first time Jesus threw cold water on fandom and demanded that people listen to and accept what he had to say. He refused to put on a show in hometown and instead read an important scripture they needed to understand. So they turned on him and were ready to throw him off a cliff (Luke 4:16-30).

Jesus isn’t looking for a cheering squad, he is looking for followers. He is not looking for spectators, he is looking for doers, for those who are willing to live out what he taught, which is very demanding. Jesus is deeply interested in you and I not crashing and that’s why he insists that we dare to do what he says. It separates the fans from the followers, the hoopla from the substance, the fluff from the real.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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You can date your kids by the Disney movie that was popular when they were little. Our youngest is of the “Mulan” generation. I can still her high-pitched, breathy rendition of “When will my reflection show, who I am inside?”

So what does your reflection show? If you look in a mirror you get an accurate look at your outward appearance, but your mind’s eye might see something very different. After his visual inspection my dentist took some x-rays, they showed that although the outside was looking fine the story under a large old filling is heading for a dreaded root-canal (Yikes!). If you want to get an accurate reflection of yourself spiritually, of your character and motives dare to look at yourself through the mirror of the word of God (the Bible), For if you listen to the word (of God) and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.  But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it” James 1:23-25 (NLT, parenthesis mine); For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” Hebrews 4:12-13 (ESV).

Have you ever overheard somebody (or wanted to yourself) tell someone, “Hey, you look like hell!” If you’re told that it usually means you are you’re not looking too good, that you partied too hard, or abused your body, or are not taking care of yourself, or are letting yourself go, or all of the above. Jesus told the religious leaders of his time that they although they passed their own mirror examination they looked like hell on scripture x-rays (Matthew 23:13-26, Luke 11:37-54). “Your sons of the Devil” (John 8:31-47), he told a group of people who didn’t like what he had to say, who didn’t care for what they saw in the mirror Christ held up.

There are other things you can look at and see reflection of yourself:

  • Your money trail (checkbook/account). It reflects your spending habits and your financial priorities. It will tell you if you are financially wise or foolish, if you are spender, saver, or giver. How important God is to you.
  • Your music play list. It will reflect more than your musical tastes and preferences. It will also reflect how important spiritual songs, praise, and worship are in your everyday.
  • Your social media interactions say a lot about you, give a reflection of you, tell something about your life in general and your spiritual focus.
  • Your calendar or absence of one, will reveal what fills your time, what your plans are, what is important to you. It will also reflect your engagement in the work of Christ’s kingdom.
  • What comes out your of your mouth, what dominates your conversations, your casual conversations, your serious discussions, and your angry interactions, your talking about others and your opinionating.
  • Your political persuasions, affiliations, and leanings reflect a lot about you personally and spiritually.

Maybe I stepped on too many of you toes already, but how clear a picture do You want of yourself? Who are you really? Are you really as spiritual and Christlike as you think yourself  to be? What do your reflections show? How do you look in front of the mirror that hides nothing, misses nothing, that takes off all the makeup, all the pretending, removes all of the facades, strips you of any kind of self-defense and excuse?

We don’t have ask, “When will my reflection show, who I am inside?” It is already showing it. It is merely whether or not you and I are willing to look at it, how we respond to it, and whether or not God would be pleased with our response.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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Making our way around Glasgow I couldn’t help but be reminded of Christianity’s powerful past influence, the effects of John Knox and the Reformation, and the wealth generated by the British empire and the industrial revolution. Large, imposing church structures still dot the skyline. An enormous statue of John Knox dominates the “Necropolis”, a Victorian era cemetery that is like nothing I had ever seen.

On Sunday morning we worshiped with a Baptist congregation around the corner from where we were staying. They had just finished their version of Vacation Bible School, and the place was packed. That afternoon we toured the Glasgow Cathedral. The sound of the mighty pipe organ and a small choir filled the place. They were practicing for the regular afternoon service about to start. We sat down to worship there as well.

Everything about a cathedral makes you feel small, the sheer size of the structure, the front doors, the pillars, the high ceilings, the booming sound of the organ demanding you to listen. The stained-glass windows are tall spectacles of color, telling stories, filling the room with light from above. They are placed high on the walls, keeping you from looking out, or even looking around, but drawing to look up.

I loved sitting there, listening, hearing the Scripture read, joining in the singing, feeling small, reminded of the majesty of God and that he dwells in a “Cathedral” (Temple) not made by human hand (Acts 17:24). It was also strange. Strange because only a few people present in the cathedral bothered to sit down, were interested in worship. All through the service tourists scuttled about, admiring what man had built, without thought for whom and what is built.

A number of these old church structures no longer house a congregation. One of them had been converted to a bar and restaurant, another housed a mosque, one was a visitor center, and some stood empty. This is not only true of Glasgow but all around Europe and the United States, and it saddens me. Yes, these structures are enormously expensive to maintain, the old pews or chairs are really uncomfortable, and they make you feel small, even insignificant. But they used to house congregations who met there to worship, to hear the word of God, to pray.

It is not only the buildings that are difficult to maintain. In fact, they still stand long after the congregations that inhabited them have died. The fellowship, the spiritual family, the people who constitute a church, who are a living expression of the body of Jesus Christ, are a much more fragile thing. Living things are generally more fragile than wood and stone. This is why the Gospels, every letter, and all the authors of the New Testament remind us to diligently maintain the faith and the community of faith, to strive and work together for the glory of God, to build up the body of Christ, to preserve the unity of the Spirit, to practice holiness, to engage in spiritual accountability, to encourage, care for, and love each other. Our experience of coming together, of being the church, should cause members and visitors alike to look up, to be humbled, to worship.

 “I (Paul), … beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all” Ephesians 4:1-6 (NLT, parenthesis mine).

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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