Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘spiritual growth’ Category

We all have them and we are all on them – people lists. Our genealogy/family list, friend list, favorite people list, not my favorite people list, enemy list, contact list, … You can find them in the Bible as well, and, the last one listed is the most important of them all, “The Lamb’s (Jesus Christ’s, God’s) Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27, 20:12&15, parenthesis mine). Although many have tried and are still trying to write their name into this book, on that list, only Jesus can put your name there. If your name is not on that list, you remain on the list of death and hell. We have to be erased from the latter in order to be on the former, no one will be on both, and, only Christ can transfer you from one to other, from death to life, from certain judgment to complete forgiveness.

Are you in the “Lamb’s Book of Life?” Many have said, “Nobody can be certain that they are.” The Apostle John didn’t think so, he wrote, Whoever has the Son (Jesus) has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” 1 John 5:12-13 (NLT2, parenthesis mine). You can’t be in God’s book of life without believing in and following Jesus,  “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” John 3:36 (ESV). That, of course, raises another objection, “So somebody can just profess belief in Jesus and live like hell, be a most selfish bugger, be downright evil and be in the book of life?” If that is your qualm or your reality, please, take a minute and read Revelation 20:11-15. You will notice that in God’s final judgment not only the “Lamb’s” list is reviewed but also the record of each one of our lives. Even though no one can be saved without completely relying on the saving mercy and grace of God in Christ, how we live matters, and everyone will be held accountable. Those who are on the “Lamb’s” list should live like it. I think that’s why the Apostle Paul exhorts us, “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 2:12 (ESV), even when no one is looking.

Keeping the above in mind, our believing in and following Jesus should change and impact the people lists we are on. We should be moving off the pain in the butt, dishonest, cheap talk, lazy, immoral, unkind, unreliable, no good, miserable, foul-mouthed, prejudiced, stingy, self-absorbed, stuck-up, arrogant, undisciplined, heart and headache, hypocrite, … list, and be transferred to the blessing, integrity, godly, kind, generous, just, Christlike list. We should be on the list of those who hated Jesus for who he was and what he did and we should be on the list for all that Jesus stood for and was loved for. From the day Jesus saved you and me and transferred our names from the book of judgment and death into his book of life, we should be living in such way that our names are erased from all the wrong lists and be transferred to all the good and right lists. So, besides asking yourself if your name is in the “Lamb’s book of life,” ask yourself how your name appears on people’s lists? And, are you on the move on those lists? Everyone in Jesus’ book of life should be.

To God be all Glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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

What I think is in my best interest might not be in your best interest, and what you think is in your best interest might not be in everybody else’s best interest. Today will not be much different from yesterday in the fact that the world over people will clash, siblings will have it out, husbands and wives will disagree, political factions will dispute, countries will be in turmoil internally and at war with each other.

We need very little training in exerting our wills, in claiming the high ground, in the kind of pride that asserts to know what is best. It is the beast within us trying to survive and thrive and have it easy that worships at the altar of self, that ignores morality, that breathes hubris. The mountain lion gives no thought whether it hunts deer to extinction. But we are not mere beasts, we are living souls created in God’s own image, capable of insight, foresight, moral contemplation, and acting out of more than self-interest and mere survival, of behaving honorably and godly. We are also fallen images of God, sinful souls from the moment we were conceived, under the reality of death. In the reality of death, the fear of losing out and survival become paramount, the interests of others are secondary, morality becomes a hindrance, the elevation of self is justified. In the end, however, we consume ourselves, we kill the tree that gives us life like mistletoe does to its host.

The greatest battles we fight are the ones were our wills clash with the interests of others, were our wills clash with the will of him who alone knows what is truly best for all, God. Our greatest battles are those where we must choose between acting like images of God or mere beasts, between trusting God’s will over our own.

Can we trust God’s will? Even if it includes losing out, suffering, death? And, hasn’t that kind of reasoning been used to lure people into evil religious radicalism and senseless martyrdom? The answer is, “Yes!” In our sinfulness and self-centeredness, we know how to pervert the good and right, to hijack the noble, to trample the godly. But it is also true that it was Jesus, the sinless one, who had not robed, harmed, abused, cheated, discarded, or lied to anyone, who prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will but yours, Father (God),” when he had to decide between escaping suffering and death and what was in the best interest of all of mankind according to God’s omniscience, purposes, and will. When he had to decide between his fears and the resurrection power of God.

It was a struggle; clashes of wills usually are. Three times, in deepest turmoil of soul, Jesus wrestled the temptation to run, to settle for what would spare him. And so much hung in the balance. We too will struggle, we will have to sort it out, and much hangs in the balance.

 “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

Read Full Post »

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.

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

“Follow me!” Jesus told Peter, Andrew, John, James, Levi, Matthew, … right down to you and me.  Did you notice? They never asked, “Where do we follow you to?” “How long do we follow you?” And, Jesus didn’t say, because the answers to these questions are implied, “Follow me, everywhere I go,” “Follow me, all the way into eternity.” That is a much further and a lot longer than we can imagine, but there is only one way to get there – following Jesus one day at a time, right down to our last day. Following Jesus is about following him today with the determination that, when we finally fall asleep tonight, we will get up and follow him tomorrow. Following Jesus daily requires at least three things:

  1. Letting go

“If you wish to be complete, … (let go of everything) and come, follow Me” Matthew 19:21 (NASB, parenthesis mine). It is foolishness to follow anyone or anything you can’t trust, and when it comes to eternity God/Christ is the only one we can trust. But we struggle with letting go, every bit as much as the young man Jesus was speaking to in the verse above. In order to follow Jesus today what do you need to let go of?

  1. Denying yourself

            “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me’” Luke 9:23 (NASB). If letting is hard, denying yourself is even harder. Sunday will be Palm Sunday; the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last time. The crowds wanted to install him as king, but he knew they would sing a different tune in just a few days. He knew he would be dead, crucified before the week was up. What would you do if you had only a short time to live? Jesus didn’t get out his bucket list and book some flights, not because he didn’t want to, but because he was more concerned with living out the will of his Father/God. For that to happen he had to deny himself, walk past his fears, and embrace his cross. In order to follow Jesus today what cross do you need to carry?

  1. Hearing Jesus’ voice

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” John 10:27 (NASB). Have you ever had a conversation with your GPS on your car dash? Nah, not you! Have you ever ignored that voice because you knew a shortcut, a better route, only to have to pull over to recalibrate because you got yourself completely turned around? There are no shortcuts to eternity, to holiness, to godliness, to Christlikeness, you have to follow the only one who knows and is the way, you have to stay close enough to recognize and hear his voice, and you have to do what he says. It is the only way to “get there.” In order to follow Jesus today what is he clearly saying to you that you need to obey?

I have found that the less willing I am to let go, the more I refuse to deny myself, the more selective I become about following what Jesus is saying to me, and soon become a confused and tired sheep living by my own strength and wisdom and will, which bring me nowhere near eternity. Make this Easter a surrender, a renewal, a recommitment to follow Jesus all the way into eternity.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: