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Archive for the ‘Comandments’ Category

I am working on a car, again, the a/c (air-conditioning) is out. The car is drivable but on 104 (40 Celsius) or hotter days, Susie might want to make it to work without having to take another shower.

Our dishwasher rack is missing some prongs, but it is still washing dishes as well as it was when we bought it 25 years ago (Isn’t fun when God makes our things last?!).

Walking around our property I continually find vulture feathers, and sometimes when those magnificent flying creatures zoom low over our heads you can see where some of those feathers are missing, obviously, this does not rob them of their ability to fly. Of course, it would be a lot different if a vulture lost all its feathers at once, it would ground them for sure. The dishwasher and Susie’s car would be worthless if their water pumps gave out, or some other vital part failed.

It is no different with the Christian life, there are minor issues which might make things more uncomfortable, make things harder, or force you to make adjustments, and then there are major things that bring you to a screeching halt, keep you from soaring, and need immediate attention and repair. This is something the Corinthian Christians lost sight of; they were busy fixing the a/c when their engine had major problems. They argued and divided over minor things and forgot about the most important. As a result, they started looking and acting more and more ridiculous. Christians can employ the full Christian lingo and yet look like a vulture without feathers.

The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that if they got things right their Faith, Hope, and Love would be in top mechanical condition, be the main feathers of their plumage, would leave their dishes sparkling. And of these three, he said, Love was the most indispensable. Without it the individual believer and the Christian community/church is broken, without substance, going nowhere, accomplishing nothing.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 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 13:1-8 (ESV, parenthesis NASB).

So, now that you have read the scripture above, I want to challenge you to do a little exercise with me. Think through this passage with the heading:

If I don’t have love (the kind God wants you to have and practice)

How does that affect your life, the life of your church, and the lives of those around you? Here are the first four things I wrote down:

  • Without out love, I sound wrong, verse 1.
  • Without love, I think wrong (“I am nothing”), verse 2.
  • Without love, I go wrong (“I gain nothing”), verse 3.
  • Without love, I am not as patient as I can and should be, verse 4.

And Now you finish it up:

  • Without love,  __________________________________________________
  • Without love,  __________________________________________________
  • Without love,  __________________________________________________
  • Keep going! ….

Now ask yourself, “Who is at the brunt end of my lack of love?” This might be an individual, several people, or entire group or groups of people.

Finally, what is the first right loving action you need to initiate towards him, her, and/or them? ______________________________________________________ (It might include having to apologize and ask for forgiveness.)

Maybe you’re not feeling it. Maybe you think someone else needs to make the first move. If you are waiting on those two to change you might be waiting a long, too long of a time to become the loving person Christ wants you to be. Start fixing the most important things today.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will. Mark 14:36 (HCSB)

Jesus’ entire life was about doing God’s, his Father’s will. Christians, as followers of Jesus Christ we are obviously called to do the same, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you” John 20:21 (NLT2), Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did” 1 John 2:6 (NLT2).

Every time we pray, and we should pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:17), we are meant to concern ourselves with God’s honor, God’s will, and God’s kingdom before anything else, Pray then like this: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven …” Matthew 6:9-10 (ESV). But how often are our prayers centered on our families, our health, our problems, our frustrations, and our needs?

How can you and I grow into Jesus’ shoes when it comes to letting go of what we want, what we feel is best, from circling too much around ourselves? How do we get to the place where, although everything inside of us screams, “God get me out of this,” we pray, Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will”?

One absolutely necessary step is a commitment to the general will of God. There are things we know to be the will of God regardless of where we live, the positions we hold, the circumstances we find ourselves in, and the times we live in. Our best source for knowing the general will of God is the written word of God, the Bible.

Through the Bible, we learn that it is God’s will for us to be loving, kind, merciful, generous, hospitable, peaceful, forgiving, hard-working, patient, honest, … The scriptures tell us to be men and women of prayer, to pursue godly wisdom, to be active and committed to the church (Christ’s body), to serve others, to do good, to be unselfish, to care about justice and the poor, to worship, to learn the things of God, to use our skills and abilities to serve God and our neighbors, to be careful with what comes out of our mouths, to be grateful, to be witnesses for Christ, and much much more. You and I can be certain that all of these are God’s will. I don’t have to ask God, “Do you want me to be kind to this person?” or, “Do I have to care about her?” What I might end up praying though is, “He is driving me crazy Father, and I don’t know how much more of his rudeness I can take. I need your help Lord in maintaining and showing kindness to him.”

Let’s assume you have been praying for God to reveal to you his specific will in regard to a new job offer that would help you take care of your family better, and you got the job. The next Sunday you come to church thanking and praising God, testifying of his goodness, blown away how he worked it all out. Then on Monday you go to your new job and you immediately join in the gossip, you tell your first lie, you are rude and excuse it as setting boundaries, you spend an hour of company time doing various things on your smartphone, and finally you leave early. How long do you think it will take for your coworkers to believe that you are all about the honor of God, the will of God, and the kingdom of God? What are the chances that when things are really tough and you have a lot on the line you will cry out, “God, not what I will, but what you will”?

If we are going to become good at doing God’s will then we have to be men and women who are committed to knowing and doing God’s general will. This is the starting point. This is what will strengthen us in the battle of wills. This is what will grow in us a delight for God’s will. This will help us in discerning God’s specific will because the specific will of God will always entail doing the general will of God. Jesus practiced his Father’s general will for thirty years. He won innumerable small battles regarding Gods general will long before he fought and won his ultimate battle of wills in the Garden of Gethsemane. I believe we are both wise and will benefit from doing the same.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will. Mark 14:36 (HCSB)

We like it when things go according to our own way, plans, and desires, and when they don’t, we wish they would, complain, grow resentful, even bitter. Underlying this is the notion that the epitome of success is to have both the freedom and resources to do whatever we want to, to be able to grant our hearts desires free reign.

Interestingly, James in his letter, is especially hard on exactly those who have the means, the power, and the freedom to plan and do as they wish, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:13-17 (ESV). This kind of freedom, affluence, and opportunity is what we consider success and often call blessing, but it is also riddled with temptation:

  • The temptation to hold onto a wrong perspective of life.
  • The temptation to operate apart from, independently of God.
  • The temptation to be unconcerned about God’s will.
  • The temptation to be proud and arrogant, to overestimate ourselves.
  • The temptation to give ourselves too much credit.
  • The temptation to elevate doing our own thing over the right thing.

When we give in to these temptations, we forget that:

  • Life is about more than making a profit.
  • We do not control the future.
  • The importance of God and the doing of his will.
  • The very limited time we have to do what is right.
  • That we are prone to do evil.
  • Sin consists of both commission and omission.

The Apostle Paul cautioned the Galatian Christians, It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. Galatians 5:13 (MSG)  

Heavenly Father,

Hallowed be your name. Your will be done. Forgive us when we are consumed with our own honor, our own plans, our own comfort, that which both profits and pleases us most. Forgive us when we concern ourselves with your honor and will last and not first, when we treat you like an insurance or an emergency call station. Help us to commit our work and plans to you, to rely on you to establish us, to anchor ourselves, our plans, and all we do in your purposes (Proverbs 16:3, 9:21). Strengthen us when we are conflicted between what we want and what we know your will is, to, in that moment, be able to deny ourselves and trust you fully. Because we know only your kingdom will endure, you alone hold all power, and only you are fully deserving of all glory. Amen

Love you, Pastor Hans

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“A wise child brings joy to a father; a foolish child brings grief to a mother.”

“The father of godly children has cause for joy. What a pleasure to have children who are wise. So give your father and mother joy! May she who gave you birth be happy.” Proverbs 10:1; 23:24-25 (NLT2)

 My Mama was the mother of five boys. She kept telling us that we were exactly what she wanted, what she’d prayed for. I think she meant it, but I wonder how often she thought, “What in the hesch have I gotten myself into?” Her sister, my second Mama/Aunt, stormed out of our house on more than one occasion, yelling, “This house is nothing but an insane asylum!”

I didn’t think about whether I was bringing joy or grief to her back when she was raising us, but I have done so often since I left home. The verdict is clear, I brought her way too much grief. While she made her life about us, I made my life about me, and in doing so I helped turn her hair gray, added to her wrinkles beyond time, caused her to weep and pray, who knows how often.

Mother’s Day, which was an up and coming kind of thing back then, was a cheap way of easing the conscience. Buy something nice, be nice for a day, go back to the same old the next day. Sounds like cheap religion, doesn’t it? And it is. She was gracious though, acting like she really needed more of the same perfume, although she still had three full bottles on her dresser. But there really isn’t any perfume that can cover the stink we cause in someone’s life, is there? And I, we, stunk up her life, caused her grief instead of being big bottles of joy.

Where we stunk, she was fragrant, where I embraced wrong she chose right, where I pursued sin, she practiced godliness, where I was short-sighted she held on to the long-view.  She didn’t go the cheap route but instead gave us what lasts, what you can’t order on Amazon, what will remain fragrant even when I stink it up. So now, today, the memory of my Mama is a joy to me, a still rushing stream of blessing, although she has been gone for thirty years.

I am still the son of Margarete Frei, the woman who gave birth to me, the Mama who raised me, and it still matters whether or not I conduct myself in ways that are wise, that are selfless, that are godly, that bring her joy, that glorify God and Christ.

“Honor your father and mother” Exodus 20:12, not just for a day but with your life. It is what both pleases God and is rewarded by God.

Happy Mother’s Day. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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I needed to fix a slow air leak in a  riding mower front tire. Simple fix, really. You just put in an inner-tube. The guy at the tire shop where I bought an innertube informed me that they don’t like to work on those little wheels, “They are real little buggers,” he said.

I thought, “How hard can it be? I’ve done plenty of bicycle and wheelbarrow tires. I’ll save the fifteen buck installation fee.”

“Real little buggers,” was an understatement. “Gigantic pain in the posterior,” would’ve been much more accurate. I wrestled that little wheel like a greased pig and in the process managed to puncture the innertube six times. When I pumped it up it whistled like a pan flute, and, trying to fix the fix I ran out of patches.

Before putting it all back together I watched some YouTube videos on how to fix “little bugger” mower wheels because clearly, I didn’t know how to do it right. It is amazing what you can learn on YouTube.

I clearly needed some instruction before attempting to put things back together a second time (To be honest, I was tempted to take it back to the tire shop on my next trip to town and plunk down the fifteen bucks. But I couldn’t bear the thought of the tire shop guy looking at my new, six times patched tube and cracking up and call the rest of the shop crew over to “check out this clumsy fool!”) So, with my hurt pride, I got myself a YouTube education on wrestling these little butt-kicking wheels. Two Vise Grips and a long bolt and nut in the bench vise proved to be super helpful.

Would you call me “a little dense,” or “downright stupid,” if after watching helpful YouTube videos I would have tried to get that tire back on the same way I did the first time?

Would you think of me as “ridiculous” if instead of trying to follow the practical YouTube instructions I called everyone on the prayer-chain to have them join in praying for a miracle fix to my tire problem?

Would you have a difficult time not rolling your eyes at me, thinking “Really!” if this weekend at church I would tell everybody how Satan is attacking me again, making my life miserable, how everything that possibly can go wrong is going wrong, and that few people have suffered this deeply and profoundly.

Would you wonder if I had a brain if I would park a perfectly good running riding mower behind the shed and let it rot away because of flat a front tire I didn’t know how to fix myself?

Maybe you chuckled once or twice reading this pastor’s note so far, but thirty-five years of pastoring, preaching, and teaching the Bible this is what I see all too often:

  1. Christians ignoring the greatest life-instruction manual ever written, the Bible.
  2. Christians overestimating their own wisdom, knowledge, skill, and strength.
  3. Christians making a mess, leaking, dragging like flat tires.
  4. Christians turning to God, the Bible, and godly counsel in times of crisis (YouTubing solutions), only to ignore them and go back to what didn’t work before.
  5. Christians turning prayer into some kind of magic wand as a replacement for following sound biblical wisdom and instruction.
  6. Christians rolling in continual self-pity and catharsis but unwilling to inform themselves and refusing to implement biblical ways and wisdom into their thinking, attitudes, habits, behavior, circumstances, and problems.
  7. Christians dragging from Sunday to Sunday (or just dragging) leaking air through self-inflicted punctures only to park the whole tractor of a vibrant life in Christ in the scrap yard behind the barn with all the other old broken-down tractors, trucks, and implements.

“Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions the Bible gives you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:7-9 (adapted from NLT2)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. For your tires I got the phone # of the tire shop.

 

 

 

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“Follow me …” (Matthew 4:19, 9:9)

“His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them.”  Matthew 5:1b-2 (NLT2)

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT2)

Are you an old dog who doesn’t want to learn anything new or are you young dog with an attention span measured in milliseconds? Most likely, you fall somewhere in-between, vacillating between motivated and disinterested.

Did you know that our whole planet, the entire universe is an invitation to learn, to discover things about God, wisdom, life, causes, beauty, color, how to, and so, so much more. And, God did not only issue the invitation to learn and discover, but he also gave us the capacities to acquire knowledge and wisdom. One thing we should remember though is, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” Proverbs 9:10 (NASB).

So, it should not surprise us when Jesus, God’s son, spent much time teaching those who answered his call to follow him. One of the essential expectations Jesus has of his followers it that they will be learners, that they allow him to teach them, regardless if they are an old tired hound dog, an over-energized puppy, a dog trained to listen to only German commands, or an untrained pooch spoiled to do whatever it wants.

Salvation is free, a single marvelous moment when the saving grace of God is poured out on a sinner simply for the asking. But that moment is to be followed by a life of following. And, if I want to be a serious follower I have great need to learn all that that Jesus thinks I need to learn, because holiness, godliness, God’s wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and Christlike habits, attitudes, and ways are all acquired, learned.

If I am honest, I have too much old, puppy, and spoiled dog in me. I am also a slow learner, and too often I go back to what I knew before I met Jesus, ignoring all he taught me. Maybe this describes you as well. The danger with that is, though this may be an accurate self-assessment, it is also a convenient way to let ourselves of the hook, to use it as an excuse for being a poor, lazy, stubborn student. Jesus doesn’t put up with that (Matthew 8:26, 16:8; Luke 12:28), he expects you and me to learn, to apply what he teaches, to let an ever increasing knowledge of him, of God, his word (the Bible), and our world to change us into his image and to conform us to his will. We are commanded to love God “with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37), and that requires us to be life-long learners at the feet of Jesus.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36 (NIV)

Who should we be merciful to? Before telling his disciples to be merciful he gave them and us a list (Luke 6:27-35) that includes our enemies, those who hate, curse, mistreat, abuse and hurt us, those who take from us, ask of us and want to borrow from us. If you ask me, those are the people who make me less merciful, who make me think twice about being compassionate, or not think of it at all. Depending on what they have done to me, inflicted on me, or how they have taken advantage of me, the last thing I want to be is merciful. Chances are, that if you can read this, you have been hurt, burnt, and used. Being told to be merciful to those who did that to us feels like being told to be a sucker, an enabler, to be someone who doesn’t learn from experience. And yet, against all our possible objections, apprehensions, fears and feelings Jesus commands us to be merciful like God the Father. How do we do that?

1. Ruminate on the Father’s mercy. Contemplate how vast, how multifaceted, how indiscriminate, how continual, constant and eternal God’s mercies are. Consider the ultimate expression of God the Father’s mercy in and through his Son Jesus Christ (for more detail read part 1 to this pastor’s note). Ruminating on, contemplating God’s mercy is like looking at an inspiring picture that makes you go, “Wow,” and wish you were there. Pictures like that are good to have on the walls of our heart and mind.

2. Remember when you needed mercy. Everyone has needed mercy sometime during their lifetime, and most likely many many times. Remember a time when you had to ask for help, for assistance, for forgiveness, for another chance, or maybe you were merely hoping that someone would see and respond to your need. We are much humbler when we need mercy and we will be much more empathetic when we remember the times we were in those shoes. The Apostle Paul, for whom mercy wasn’t always a strength, remembered and wrote, “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all (how I needed mercy). But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life” 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT2, parenthesis mine).

3. Recall when you received mercy. It is one thing to ask, hope, and wish for mercy but it’s quite another to actually receive it, Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around” Proverbs 13:12 (MSG). Recall the joy, the relief, the gratitude you felt when you were on the receiving end of mercy.

4. Recognize and seize opportunities you have to be merciful. God doesn’t tell us to merciful and then not give us opportunities to be merciful. Before Jesus said “be merciful,” he already had told his disciples, Do to others as you would have them do to you,” or as Eugene Peterson paraphrases it, Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!” Luke 6:31 NIV &MSG. Think about how many “little” opportunities to be merciful daily come your way. I suspect, the better we become at seizing the small mercy moments the better we will be at the larger and more challenging ones.

Let’s go practice.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

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