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Archive for the ‘simplicity’ Category

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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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 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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Join the Army, and you will be doing Army things. Join Weight-Watchers, and you will be doing Weight-Watcher things. Join a book club, and you will be reading books. Join bad company, and you will be doing immoral things (1 Corinthians 15:33). Join Jesus, and you will be doing Jesus things. The decision to follow Jesus, to trust him as the Lord (Director) of your life and Savior of your sinful soul, also means you will get involved in what he is doing. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” (Mark 4:19), Jesus told the two Galilean fishermen Peter and Andrew.

  • Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time doing nothing. He didn’t waste any time. He modeled and called his followers to a life completely surrendered to God’s will and activity. “Jesus explained, ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does’” John 5:19 (NLT2).“We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work” John 9:4 (NLT2).

 

  • Jesus told the disciples what he wanted them to be and do. So, we see them preaching, teaching, praying, casting out demons, healing, feeding the hungry, washing and clothing people, taking care of widows and orphans, being generous, serving Christ and each other, caring for and going into the whole world, … “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” John 12:26 (NASB). Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” John 20:21 (NIV).

 

  • There is not enough time to do all we want to do and what Jesus tells us to do, one or the other has to give. When Jesus calls you to fish for people you can’t keep fishing for fish. When Jesus sends you to town to get a donkey you can’t put it off until after your favorite TV show (Matthew 21:1-3&6). When Jesus sends you to preach to people you don’t like you can’t go on vacation to Spain instead (Jonah 1). “… I want your will to be done, not mine” Matthew 26:39 (NLT2).“… the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” Luke 12:42-43 (ESV).

Where is your life, are your activities in conflict with what Jesus is doing, with what he is asking you to be and do? What adjustments do you need to make?

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)

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Matthew 5:7 (NIV)

In order to be numbered among the merciful, you have to be merciful. But why should we want to be merciful in the first place? First of all, because God the Father and Jesus Christ are merciful, but also because we reap what we sow, and because a merciless world is a terrible world to live in and a merciless life is a terrible life to live.

My earliest memory of being merciless is in Kindergarten on a warm early summer morning that had us wearing shorts. We, the other bullies and I, had mentally and socially challenged Heinzi cornered in the corner of the blind spot of the play yard. On one side of the corner was the wall of the building, the other side was a fence, and the entire corner was overgrown with tall sting nettles. Sting nettles are nasty plants with leaves that have poisonous barbs at the edges of their leaves that burn like bee stings and leave nasty welts. “I’m burning! I burning!” Heinzi cried as he tried to escape but was sent back tumbling into the nettles again and again. He finally just gave up and sat there weeping, unable to comprehend why? We wandered off, laughing, but inside I knew it was wrong, I felt wicked without knowing the word. I should’ve gone back to help Heinzi, but I didn’t, I lacked the courage. And, I wish it was my only memory of being merciless, but sadly and shamefully it isn’t.

Heinzi never told on us, which is surprising because Heinzi told everything. Besides what was going on in our own consciences we suffered no consequences. It bothered me so much I left the bully club of five-year-olds and the picture of the incident still hangs on the main wall of my memory. Somehow, Heinzi and I became friends, which says more about him than it says about me. Somehow, this little boy whom we deemed inferior and weak met my mercilessness with mercy, with forgiveness, and a willingness to try again and be friends. It wasn’t until many years later that I figured out that whether he knew it or not he was being like “Our Father,” who told us through Christ, “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful” Luke 6:35-36 (ESV). Somehow, when I think if this evil I was part of in the corner of the Kindergarten yard I think of Christ, who in dying agony, unspeakable injustice and cruelty, and with one of his last breaths looked down at mocking, jeering, merciless crowd and with compassion and mercy said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” Luke 23:34 (NIV).

2019 needs more mercy not less, which means it needs more of us to be “merciful,” to act merciful like God the Father and Christ, like Heinzi weeping in the sting nettles.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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The man being interviewed on NPR (National Public Radio) told about a social worker who made both impression and a difference in his life. What he remembered all these later was a simple smile, no words, no particular action, just a genuine, hopeful, affirming smile.

Let me ask you, “Are you capable of a smile?” I know I am.

A lady, a complete stranger, after reading about my younger brother’s suicide in the paper penned a note and sent it to my Mama bringing immense comfort to her.

Let me ask you, “Are you capable of writing a note?” I know I am.

A handful of young teenage boys decided to not spend all of their allowances and earnings on themselves and instead contribute a few dollars each month to fund a poor teenager on a different continent so he could have food an education.

Let me ask you, “Are you capable of spending a few less dollars on yourself each month?” I know I am.

“Are you capable of doing good? I know I am.

“Do you have some skill, some ability, resources, or experiences with which you could bless someone else? I know I do.

Could you make some time, change your plans in order to help someone, encourage someone, or comfort someone? I know I could.

There are few things we need to continually remind ourselves when it comes to doing good.

  • Doing good is not optional if I am serious about following God/Christ.

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. 3 John 1:11 (HCSB)

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.” 1 Peter 3:10-11 (NIV)

  • I am much more selective in doing good than Christ wants me to be.

“But I (Jesus) say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” Luke 6:27 (ESV, parenthesis mine)

  •  I can learn to do good like God wants me to.

You (God) are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
Psalm 119:68 (ESV, parenthesis mine)

  •  Doing good and procrastination don’t go together, nor do I have any good excuses not to do good.

Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices. Hebrews 13:16 (HCSB)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9-10 (NIV)

  • Doing good can be very tiring, exhausting even, but it is always right and Christlike to do good.

As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired (grow weary) of doing good. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 (NLT2, parenthesis mine)

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all!”
Proverbs 31:28-29 (MSG)

 She, my Mama, must have read them in the bathroom; not the restroom, which was a separate little room, and anyway, she wasn’t into porcelain throne scholarship like some in our family were. The bathroom was the bathroom and laundry room. A bathtub (no shower) under the high up window where we got a weekly bath, next to the tub a sink with a mirrored cabinet you didn’t mess with, a washing machine to the right of the sink, two hanging cabinets filled with towels and washrags on the opposite wall, and two cloth hampers under those cabinets, one just for my dad’s clothes and the other for everyone else. You never wanted to open Dad’s hamper because the mixture of cigarette smoke and the stink of his socks was downright toxic. Anyway, my Mama spent a lot of time in that bathroom, not fixing herself up, but taking care of us.

I didn’t find out that she also read in the bathroom, most likely while doing laundry, until I got tall enough to reach the towel cabinets. I thought I had discovered a secret stash of forbidden literature hidden under the stack of towels on the top shelf inside. But they turned out to be boring magazines and pamphlets about parenting. I have no idea where she got them from, but they were worn from multiple readings.

I also know that Mama prayed in that bathroom, long after I had left home she told me so. I don’t think it was just ordinary prayer that happened in there, I think she languished in prayer while the washing machine went through its cycles. She knew we wouldn’t bother her while washing clothes because if you did you most likely got stuck having to help her hanging them up to dry. And we needed prayer, all five of us, and Dad as well. So, our dirty boys’ bodies got washed in there, our clothes got washed, and our souls and lives were taken before the one who could keep us and cleanse us from sin. And we could not have cared less about all three of these, except latter two when we started liking girls and clean bodies and clothes somehow became a lot more important.

I don’t know why I ended up with a great and godly Mama? I do know she was one of God’s greatest gifts in my life. But I also know she wasn’t just an accidental great and godly Mama. Great and godly rarely if ever just happen. Mama loved us in the little bathroom maybe more than anywhere else. Love, Learning, Languishing Prayer still spills out of the memory of my Mama in that bathroom, her commitment to these three shaped both her and us, her boys. How I thank God for her, and how I thank her.

Happy Mother’s Day, Pastor Hans

 

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