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Archive for the ‘self-pity’ Category

Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. Psalm 95:1-2 (NIV)

Are you obdurate? Not even knowing the definition of the word it didn’t sound good to me.

Merriam-Webster.com defines it: 1. Stubbornly persistent in wrongdoing; hardened in feeling; 2. Resistant to persuasion or softening influences.

Google dictionary lists the following synonyms: stubborn, obstinate, unyielding, unbending, inflexible, intransigent, implacable, pig-headed, bull-headed, stiff-necked, headstrong, willful, unshakeable, unmalleable, intractable, unpersuadable, unrelenting, relentless, immovable, inexorable, uncompromising, hard, stony, iron-willed, adamant, firm, fixed, determined.

The Complete Word Study Dictionary (CWD) translates the Greek word skleruno as: To make hard or stiff, make obdurate, and adds that in the New Testament it is applied only figuratively to the heart and mind.

The writer of the NT letter to the Hebrews, quoting from Psalm 95:8-10 warns four times (Hebrews 3:8, 13, 15; 4:7; NASB, parenthesis mine):

“Do not harden your hearts.”

 “Encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called ‘Today,’ so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

“Today if you hear his (God’s) voice, do not harden your hearts.”   

“Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

What both the Psalmist and writer of Hebrews refer to is an event (Exodus 17:1-7) of the generation of Israelites Moses led out of Egyptian slavery to go into the “Promised Land.” Except they never did make it into the land God had promised them but instead, because of the hardness of their hearts, wandered around in and died on Sinai peninsula for the next forty years. What we should learn from them is that we cannot come to God with a hard heart nor can we walk with God with a hard heart. A hard heart will keep us from God, from relying on his power and goodness, from entering into his promises and eternal rest. A hard heart will make us disobedient, resistant to God (Acts 19:9), and it will cause us to underestimate or be blind to the deception of sin (Hebrews 3:13). Our own hard heart becomes be rock we stumble over, a rock that will keep us from “the rock of our salvation.”

So, how obdurate is that heart of yours? What excuses have you come up with to let it remain hard? And, how well is that hard heart serving you in trusting and following God, in your relationships with those around you?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”
They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”
And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Mark 10:2-12 (ESV)

 

Sklerokardia, hardness of heart was the reason Moses acquiesced to write a soft divorce law into the legal code of ancient Israel. Of all the tough and strange laws Moses proposed this is the only objection mentioned and, according to Jesus, it was a straight argument against God’s design.

 

The disciples give us a clue as to what went on in their ancestors’ hearts when they responded to Jesus’ answer on divorce with, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” Matthew 19:10 (ESV). “Too hard,” they cried, “What if s/he turns out to a bum/ette? Or a nag? Or worse?” “That’s just not realistic!” Contrary to Moses, Jesus didn’t budge. Keep in mind that marriages in Jesus time were arranged marriages.

 

The difference between a hard and tender heart is amazing. One will keep track of every offense the other won’t even remember. One will be stuck on self while other serves. One will build bulwarks of defenses and excuses the other keeps trying. One will refuse to be merciful and tender the other refuses to give up on faith, hope, and love. One will cry, “Too hard!” the other will dare to move mountains. No wonder the wisdom book of the Bible  tells us to, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life (and marriage)” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT2, parenthesis mine), and Jesus described “… from the (unguarded, hard) heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander” Matthew 15:19 (NLT2, parenthesis mine).

“S/he won’t change!” “What’s the use?” “Believe me, I tried.” “I don’t love him/her anymore.” “There are no feelings left.” “I don’t know if we were ever really meant to be together.” Words spoken on the way out, words that originate from a hard heart. Words that say more about the person saying them than the one s/he is talking about, words that reveal much about their faith and their heart.

Isn’t it interesting that God is so inflexible about permitting us to walk out of a marriage? The most intimate of human relationships is meant to last, to reflect Christlikeness like no other relationship (Ephesians 5:22-33), to shape our hearts, our love to be like Christ’s.

Hard hearts don’t have to stay hard, although they surely want to be. A good place to start is to pray, “O God, please change my hard heart,” and follow that with the most loving action towards whom your heart has grown heart without expecting a particular response, and then do it again, and again, and …

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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It was looking forward to going fishing between the spillway of Union Lake and the inlet of Utica Lake. Everything looked perfect, the weather could not have been better, the scenery spectacular, my company, Susie, the best. And then, overnight, my night crawlers had all died. Next, I lost my favorite spinner. This was followed by the tip of my pole breaking. Finally, the coup de gras to my fishing adventure was delivered by a big red ant biting me where no man should be bitten. It might be a long while before I’ll try fishing again.

I hauled my severely humbled and dejected self back to where Susie was sitting on a rock. She was having a marvelous time taking pictures, and, because for some reason there was outstanding cell reception, she was sending them to her favorite people. In the background, I could hear all of the creatures of the forest snickering, and the osprey circling overhead was grinning from one end of its beak to the other. When I told Susie about my fishing disaster she, you guessed it, burst out laughing. She wasn’t about to join my pity-party. Good for her, I didn’t need pity, I needed perspective.

You can go fishing with self-pity, put that limp worm into enough spots, repeat your saga to enough people, and sooner or later someone will bite, feel really sorry for you, allow you, even if it is utterly trivial, to wallow in your misfortune. But you won’t be helped by it, you’ll get stuck in a twisted reality, you’ll continue to circle around yourself and miss the chance to change, to grow, to see the glorious, to laugh.

Self-pity has no grit, it speaks about ant bites like they’re shark bites. Jesus, encountering a man who had been lame for 38 years (certainly immeasurably more serious than sport fishing mishaps) asked him, “Do you wish to get well?” To which the lame man replied with a statement of self-pity and resignation (John 5:1-15). Jesus didn’t take the bait, instead, he told him, “Get up and walk.” The lame man had to make a decision, continue in his self-pity or trust what Jesus just told him. It is possible to drag around on the ground with two perfectly healthy legs.

Jeremiah the prophet was feeling sorry for himself. God answered him not quite how we would expect, he completely ignored Jeremiah’s dangling worm of self-pity, “If racing against mere men makes you tired, how will you race against horses? If you stumble and fall on open ground, what will you do in the thickets near the Jordan? Even your brothers, members of your own family, have turned against you. They plot and raise complaints against you. Do not trust them, no matter how pleasantly they speak” Jeremiah 12:5-6 (NLT2). Can you feel God’s empathy? Sounds more like, “Suck it up, it’ll get worse.” Obviously, God didn’t think pity was Jeremiah’s need for the moment, but he did need perspective.

Elijah the prophet went from an incredible victory and acts of faith to the depth of despair and wallowed in self-pity. “I am all alone,” he told himself and God twice. God’s response, “What are you doing here?” (2 Kings 19:1-18), “You are not alone, there are 7000 others faithful to me.” Never mind, that God and his angels were right there with him, providing, taking care of him.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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