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Archive for the ‘praise’ Category

Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven!
Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness!
Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD! Praise the LORD!
Psalm 150:1-6 (NLT2)

I am assuming, by the fact that you are reading this pastor’s note, that you are breathing, which means Psalm 150 above is talking about you.

You might not have enough breath to produce a blast out of the “ram’s horn,” maybe not even enough to get it to squeak, but if you have any breath you are capable of praising God, the LORD.

You might not have the skill to play the lyre, harp, strings, or flute, but if you are breathing right now you are capable of praising God, the LORD.

Your dancing days might be over and a tambourine in your hands might not be a good thing, but if you can wiggle just a bit and even if that little bit leaves you out of breath you can still and should still praise God, the LORD.

Letting you play the drums might be huge mistakes and the end of any band, but if you can bang two pots together you are capable of praising God, the LORD.

So, the question is: Are you praising God? Are you known as someone who habitually and continually praises God? Are you using your breath and the life your breath represents to praise God? Because, if I read the last line of Psalm 150 correctly, every living, breathing thing is meant to praise God, the Lord, and that includes the two living, breathing two of us.

The donkey living a few houses down uses his breath to praise God and when he does, you know it. The many birds around our houses give daily morning and evening concerts of praise even when they had a hard day or difficult week. How much more should you and I, image-bearers of God, excel in singing praises to God!

It’s a mistake to quit praising God, to shut down our ability to praise God, to use up our breath with complaints, fears, anxieties, trivialities, things that don’t deserve repeating, empty talk, ugly words, and songs dripping with negativity. Of all the creatures capable of praising God we are the ones who have to choose to do so, we can choose to so.

So, give it a try, get out a pot and a big wooden spoon, step outside with it, look up and begin praising God for his greatness and follow each statement of praise with a resounding “BANG!” On your way to work this week turn off the news, the talking heads, your song list, and instead spend some time praising God for who he is and what he has done in your life. At the dinner table share your “Today, I praise God for ….!” And next weekend, come to the “sanctuary,” God’s house, to lift up your praises alongside others who delight to use their breath to praise God.

To God be all glory! Have a great Thanksgiving. Pastor Hans

 

P.S. If you are not traveling this Thanksgiving, invite someone in your neighborhood who would otherwise be alone to be part of your Thanksgiving celebration and feast.

 

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Almost twenty years ago, I began praying that God would allow our little country church to be more directly involved in Missions work somewhere in the world. On Wednesday 15 of us returned from two weeks of short-term Missions work in Tanzania. A team comprised of young and old, men and women, two pastors and thirteen laypeople, and members of three different churches. It marked the 8th time someone from our church went to Arusha, Tanzania, to serve with Tanzanian brothers and sisters to do kingdom work.

In the span of these almost twenty years God also raised up “Speedy” Payton Downing to be a missionary to Indonesia (a small team from our church went to see him, his wife Grace, and son Fin, two years ago), and God sent out Davidmark and Cindy Grabowski from our church to pastor at the First Baptist Church in Hughson, California. Davidmark and one of his deacons, John Porter, joined with our team on this recent trip. Also, Patti Littlefield, member of the Hickman Community Church and our former church secretary, whom God used, along with Blenda Highsmith, to direct us to Tanzania in the first place, was back with us.

The first week our team was spread out in six locations over 600 miles apart. Altogether we worked in 8 churches and their communities, trained over 100 pastors and pastor wives, engaged with hundreds of people, saw people coming to Christ, passed out almost 600 Bibles and trained people how to get started using them, trained leaders in each church in how to lead a basic discipleship course called Survival Kit for New Christians, expanded the Pastor Grant program (designed to help pastors generate income so they can stay in small churches), and left materials and equipment behind for Pastor Goodluck, whom we support as an indigenous missionary, to continue in starting, growing, and strengthening Tanzanian churches and pastors.

On our way home (a 10,000 miles, 30-hour journey), I thought about how many people it took to make these two weeks happen, to sent the 15 of us. Just on my part there are Susie who took on all the responsibilities at home, Jannette who took on being the music leader and being the church hub, Russ, Malcolm, and Russ who shouldered my small group assignments, Robert and Jim who preached in my absence, Richard Mayes who taught on Wednesday evening, Musicians doing double duty, and Chuck who drove me to the airport and back. For each one of our team members, there were multiple others who picked up the slack here at home to free us up for two weeks; that adds up to a lot of people. Then, you have to add all who contributed to cover the costs of materials and equipment, helped with travel expenses, and covered us with prayer. On top of that, you have to add Pastor Goodluck and his wife Glory, our translators and all the people who freed them up, and all the Tanzanian sisters and brothers who prepared and participated because they care about their churches, their communities, their nation, and above all the kingdom of God.

So, a big, huge THANK YOU! Is in order.

Above all, my heart is filled with praise to God, to Him be all glory.

Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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

It is tough to be merciful with a hard heart and it is impossible to be godly and Christlike with a hard heart.

It is a lot easier to accuse everyone else of wrong, of hardness of heart than to address our own heart condition.

At the Sabbath (church) service they were hoping Jesus would do something they could nail him on (sad). You can be sure your heart is hard when you’re waiting for people to mess up. What would he do for the man with the crippled hand? Would he break the man-made Sabbath interpretations and regulations? If he did, they were ready to pounce, to accuse, to raise a stink – something hard hearts love to do.

Jesus didn’t disappoint, in fact, he called the disabled man up front, had him stretch out his crippled hand (the thing he was hiding) for all to see, and healed him. However, before doing so he asked a question, “Is it lawful on Sabbath to do good or to harm, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4). That’s an easy question with an easy answer, but they didn’t want to answer, hard hearts hate to be exposed to be cornered, to answer questions that prove them wrong.

Their hardness of heart made Jesus angry and it grieved him. They were willing to let a man stay crippled for the sake of their man-made rules, their authority to enforce them, and their way of life. You know your heart is hard when there is an opportunity to do good and show compassion and you bypass it not because God’s law is hindering you, but because you love your own way, rules, opinions, and politics more.

Jesus healed the crippled man. The Synagogue should’ve exploded with cheers and praise, but hard hearts have a hard time cheering for those who expose them, even when they do incredible good. Instead, there is an eerie silence in the synagogue following the healing. I have to believe there were some who wanted to cheer and clap, but, to their shame, they let themselves be held in check by the hard hearts of their leaders. They were waiting to see what their leaders, their group would do and then, regrettably, fell in line with the silence when “Hallelujahs” were in order. Silence produced by hardness of heart is never good.

Rather than change those religious hard hearts “went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus” Mark 3:6 (NIV). Hard hearts find each and encourage each other (as do tender hearts). Can you see Jesus at any border hiding behind man-made rules? Would Christ applaud Captain Carola Rackete who steered Sea-Watch 3 filled with refugees into an Italian harbor although she was ordered not to and was promptly arrested? Who have you been criticizing, deploring, so much so that you can longer see any good they do? Are you staying silent both in the face of wrong and good because that is not what your group, your party, opposes and does not cheer? Towards whom do you have a hard heart?

Porosis is the Greek word used here by Mark. They had porosis of the heart, “moral ossification” (Robertson), the hardening of muscle tissue, meaning that which was meant to be soft became hard. The other word used in the New Testament for hardness of heart is sklerokardia. Maybe you have heard of osteoporosis – bones becoming brittle or arteriosclerosis – hardening/thickening of the arteries. You can go to the doctor for these conditions, although they are not necessarily easy to treat. Who do you go to with hardness of heart? God. You and I can trust him when he says, “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT2).

Don’t live another week with hardness of heart.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)

We got blessed the day Paul and Diana Baker walked into our church. At the time we had no idea just how great a blessing they would turn out to be, but now, years later, we know, and how we thank God.

They had built a beautiful retirement home, presumably to do a lot of bass fishing at Lake McClure and Lake Don Pedro. But I don’t think they ever did all the fishing and retirement stuff they had anticipated. Instead, they became ever more deeply involved in the life and ministry of our church family. The fishing boat got underused and their “free” time got overused in serving Christ and his local church here in Don Pedro. How we have benefited from that selflessness, yet how we thank God for it.

It is kind of surprising they stuck around after the first visit. Two Assemblies of God folks in a Baptist church lead by a German. Talk about being fish out of water. It made us better, this humility, this willingness to give some things up, this lack of insistence for their own comfort zone in order to further the work of and bless the body of Christ here in Don Pedro.  Oh, how we thank for it.

I can’t tell you how many hats they have worn working, serving, and ministering in our midst. I do know this much, there is no way I can juggle as many plates. Maybe it is all Diana’s fault, because, besides all that she did, she unleashed Paul and thus enabled this whirlwind, who became to us and always will be to us, Pastor Paul. How we thank God for that.

God knew what both our church and I personally needed. I sure needed a friend, someone to help carry the load, a brother to I in navigating some of the toughest times in my life and ministry, an encourager to cheer me on when I was far from my best. As such, how I thank God for Paul.

They flew this selling of their house and plan to go traveling under the radar. They knew I, and we would be praying against it with all our might. I think they also knew doing it any other way would be just too hard because this love between us has become a two-way street, or more accurately, a multi-lane major highway. And, how we thank and praise God for that.

To God be all glory. How we love you, Pastor Paul and Diana.

Pastor Hans

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This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. We are writing to God’s holy people in Colosse, Don Pedro, Coulterville, and La Grange, who are faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. May God our Father give you grace and peace.

Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful. Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts. And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father. Colossians 1:1-2; 3:12-17 (NLT2, italics mine)

The church, our church, the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church, and any other church is meant to be God’s/Christ’s community within the community where it is found. This community within the community is comprised of faithful brothers and sisters in Christ, women, men, children, and young people whom God has chosen to love and called to be holy.

This community, assembly, fellowship, and family of followers of Jesus, of Christians, is meant to be a living example of Jesus and of what God envisions for all human community. Thus we are meant to be committed to one another and clothe (our clothes are what others get to see, and we purposely put them on) ourselves with:

  • Tenderhearted mercy
  • Kindness
  • Humility
  • Gentleness
  • Patience
  • Making allowance for each other’s faults – being real
  • Forgiving one another as Christ forgave us
  • Loving each other
  • Having the peace of Christ rule us – Seeking harmony, unity, and peace
  • Always seeing ourselves to be vitally connected to other believers
  • Gratefulness, thankfulness
  • Focused on Christ and the Gospel
  • Teaching, counseling, helping each other
  • Praising, singing, worshipping
  • Doing all to the glory of God

Can you imagine a community where these are the consistent practice, the continual focus? It is nothing short of glorious, it’s an oasis, it is a slice of heaven. But we have to learn them, we have to internalize them, commit ourselves to them because they do not come naturally to us. So, if you claim to be a follower of Jesus then ask yourself, “How committed am I to God’s community, Jesus’ body, the church?” and, “How committed am I to make God’s community in my community to be a shining example of the very life of Jesus?”

Depending on your answers above, and according to the scriptures at the top of this pastor’s note, what steps do you need to take in regard to God’s community, Jesus’ church?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Christmas – Jesus, the Great and Most Needed Interruption

I remember the look in my kid’s eyes saying it all, “Somebody please stop him!” when I was on a parental roll, taking charge of the situation (usually without consulting Susie), laying down new rules, unleashing a fresh wind in the Frei household.

Have you ever wished for someone to stop you, interrupt you? Like when your mouth just wouldn’t shut up? When you were throwing a fit? When you were making a complete fool of yourself? When you were making lousy choices, spending too much, eating too much, texting while driving, …? When you were mean, petty, arrogant, unkind, or plain dumb or acting stupid?

Of course, there are much weightier things that need interrupting, like addictions, dysfunctional habits, violence, injustice, exploitation, oppression, tyranny, hatred, ignorance, poverty, excuses, lies, unforgiveness, hypocrisy, evil. However, just because something needs interrupting does not mean the interruption is welcome, darkness will fight the light to the bitter end, wrong and evil have no tolerance for interrupters.

“There was no room …” (Luke 2:7) for Jesus Christ in ordinary life, in political life, religious life, and in most people’s personal life. There was no room for the personified Word and will of God no matter how much it was, and still is, needed. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Creator, Source of all life and light came into this world, stepped into history, but he was not understood, human darkness recoiled at his light, and his own did not want him. The “grace and truth”, the innocence, goodness, righteousness, and hope interruption our world so desperately needs still finds few takers, few who will make room for it, welcome it, Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” John 1:12 (NIV).

It’s striking, unless we outright reject it, how much we dress up Christmas, the incarnation of God, in sentimentality, quaintness, and feel good. Let’s make it a superficial, fleeting interruption. But Christmas, Jesus is about God interrupting us at our core, our worst, in our deepest depravity, in our evil, at our most sinful, our total helplessness, our utter hopelessness, and in the darkest reality of ourselves and all humanity. Will we welcome him there? Will we make room for Christ there? Will we praise God for interrupting us through Christ and proclaim the excellencies of him who called (interrupted) you out of darkness into his marvelous light” 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV, parenthesis mine).

Merry Christmas! Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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How many stop signs do you encounter during an average day or your morning commute? Probably too many. I am fairly certain you don’t have a favorite stop sign, but chances are high you can tell me about a stop sign you don’t like, try to avoid, or think that it is in a ridiculous spot. Maybe you also recall a stop sign or two you or someone else ignored and things got hairy or disastrous. Stop signs are a nuisance in a go culture; they impede us and slow us down.

The Gospel of Luke (17:11-18) tells us of ten men whose lives were stopped, altered, and slowed down by the infectious and then incurable disease of leprosy. When Jesus came by they put up a verbal stop sign, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” Good for them, Jesus slowed down, stopped, and granted them healing. His specific instruction was, “Go show yourselves to the priests,” who also served as health officials, and which you only did if you somehow had recovered. So the ten lepers departed and on their way to the priests their leprosy vanished. The stoplight that had turned permanently red all of the sudden turned back to green. They were released back into a life of “go”, and they were not going to look back, except one. He stopped while the others continued, he turned around and went back to find Jesus. On the way he couldn’t help praising and glorifying God at the top of his lungs, and when he found Jesus “threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him” (NIV).

If you and I no longer stop to give thanks to God when he incredibly blesses us then we are going too fast with a head that is most likely way too big. When we get irritated by things as small as an inconvenient stop sign or slow-turning traffic signal we probably won’t handle it well when we are slowed or stopped by more weighty things.

King David confessed, When I was prosperous, I said, ‘Nothing can stop me now!’” Psalm 30:6 (NLT2). Did you notice his pace and the attitude? It lasted until God placed a stop sign he couldn’t ignore, “You turned away from me, and I was shattered” (verse 7, NLT2). So he did what the ten lepers did, he cried for mercy, “Hear me, LORD, and have mercy on me. Help me, O LORD” (verse 10, NLT2). And then he finally left the company of the nine and joined the leper who turned back to praise God and give thanks, You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever!” (verses 11-12, NLT2).

So what if for the remainder of this year we use every stop sign and red traffic light as a training tool to teach us to continually turn to God to thank and praise him, to embrace every stop as an opportunity to look through eyes of thanksgiving instead of grumpiness and ungratefulness, to let every stop remind us to not be too full of ourselves but instead to continually be full gratitude and praise to God. I hope you try it and share with me the impact, (dergermanshepherd@gmail.com).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

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