Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘words’ Category

The Us Postal Service, UPS, Fed-Ex, DHL, are all busy delivering packages. Several of them were dropped off at our doorstep this week. I’ve never worked for any of those outfits but it has to be crazy around Christmas time.

Just today the UPS man delivered a new artificial Christmas tree, complete with lights. Our old one was dropping needles like a dried out real Christmas tree, slowly morphing into a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. This of course means it is time to bring up the decorations from under the house and get everything looking like Christmas.

In one sense it is good that Christmas only lasts for a short (albeit ever expanding) season, we’d be worn out, even fatter, and broke if it were. But wouldn’t it be great if some of the things of Christmas were to persist all year long, like generosity, the effort to bless people and make others happy, an emphasis of recognizing and worshipping God?

Back to the delivery guys this pastor’s note started with. All of us actually do deliver something most every day and throughout the year. Sometimes our deliveries bless, bring joy, help, and encourage. Sometimes our deliveries resemble more a Waste Management truck backing up and dumping its load at the local landfill. I am talking about what our lips deliver on a daily basis. If you have a few minutes get out a Bible and read the Christmas story in Matthew 1-2 and Luke 1-2, as you read look for what comes out of the mouths of the people who really get Christmas, look for “Christmas Lips” and ask yourself if you have yours on? Hear the words of praise and worship, of kindness and blessing, of hope and peace, of awe and surrender, of truth and compassion, of wonder and amazement, both spoken and implied, from both the tongues of men and angels. So do you have them on, your “Christmas lips?”

Imagine what difference it would make if long after all the Christmas decorations are put back under the house we still had our “Christmas lips” on? What if kind, peaceful, and encouraging words would scent the air throughout the year? What if truth, hope, and mercy would be packages we regularly, continually, and faithfully deliver? What if the fruit of our lips were never foul but sweet, forgiving, and beneficial? What if the words from our mouths were more God-centered, more spiritually aware, more filled with worship and praise? How would it impact our relationships, our homes, our places of work, our public discourse if we decided to not take down and pack up our “Christmas lips?” What would it be like if others anticipated with joy things delivered with our mouths?

Let me end with a “Christmas Lips” prayer, Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer” Psalm 19:14 (NASB).

Merry Christmas. Pastor Hans

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

To whom shall I speak and give warning that they may hear? Behold, their ears are closed and they cannot listen. Behold, the word of the LORD has become a reproach to them; they have no delight in it. Jeremiah 6:10 (NASB)

How’s your hearing? Especially when it comes to hearing God? I know, I know, it is easy to claim to have heard from God, it is quite another thing to actually have ears that are capable of listening to God. For the former all you have to do is say some words, for the latter you have to actually address your ability to hear.

Our physical ability to hear is impacted by host of things, trauma, genetics, illnesses, and age (No one told me that by middle age I would all but lose my ability to grow hair, except of course in my ears which all of the sudden are able to grow hair as quickly and as dense as a patch of bamboo. And how far does sound carry in a thick forest?).

What affects our spiritual ears, our ability to hear God?

  • Apathy. Not wanting to, not caring to hear from God. We don’t pay much attention to what we do not care about. We listen so much better to what is important to us.
  • Age. When we are young we are unfamiliar with the ways God speaks. As we get older it is not just unfamiliarity but also more and more things/“hairs” that impede and muffle God’s voice.
  • Filters. We develop filters through which we hear: cultural and sub-cultural filters, political filters, personal filters, religious/philosophical filters, interest filters, love and hate filters, and such. This filtering process limits God to speaking on only certain frequencies, on the channels we like, on the content we approve. It is tough to really hear God when we are busy censoring him.
  • Bones. Our ears don’t work well when we are mad, angry, bitter. When we are at odds with God it is difficult to hear him, when he allows the fire to burn us, evil to touch us, pain to torture us, injustice to cheat us, grief to strike us, or the inexplicable to happen to us or those who deeply care about without any good and satisfying explanation. It is so tough to hear while picking a bone.
  • Answers. There are few, if any, questions when we have all the answers and the more answers we have the more we usually talk and the less we listen. The more answers we have the more we claim to have it all figured out, the more we have all figure out the more we think others should listen, preferably to us, including God.
  • Noise. Try having a conversation at a rock concert, when the TV is blaring, with someone who has head phones on, in a crowded room. Try talking with someone who’s filled with worry, always in a hurry, constantly interrupted, or stuck in the trivial. Not to speak of some of things you read above under “bones.”
  • Inflexibility. Listening to God, being in a relationship with him requires faith and faith requires flexibility. In speaking to us God invites us to adjust ourselves, our lives to him. We like to have it the other way around, that’s why the more opinionated we are the less flexible we become. (I can already hear some objections, calls for theological clarification, but remember the topic of this p-note is listening to God.)

Oh how much I want you and me to be good at listening to God, to what he said through his Son Jesus Christ, when he speaks today by the Holy Spirit. Our lives are so much richer when we hear, when we know how to listen, especially to God.

“He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:9 (NASB)

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

Read Full Post »

“Your teeth are as white as sheep, recently shorn and freshly washed. Your smile is flawless, each tooth matched with its twin.” Song of Songs 4:2 (NLT)

It seems rotten and missing teeth have never been considered beautiful, even 3000 years ago beautiful white teeth were highly valued; a bride did not want to have any missing teeth. Of course our culture has taken it to a whole new level, far beyond diligently brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash. Multitudes of kids and many adults suffer through braces, retainers, expanders, rubber bands, globs of wax, and various other contraptions and procedures. It is not enough to have healthy teeth, they also have to be perfectly straight and perfectly white. So what comes out of a tube of tooth paste does far more than clean, it also dispenses fluoride, breath freshener, whitening agents, peroxide, and even sparklers. However, beautiful teeth and a great smile do not make for a beautiful mouth.

I was lucky; my teeth were fairly straight except for a small overbite. This got me a retainer I had to use for some years to expand my upper jaw, which it did beautifully. Then my wisdom teeth started to come in and shift things around until I had them pulled. My older brother had bigger issues but he hardly ever wore his contraptions (he thought they interfered in the girlfriend department) so the orthodontist kicked him out of the program and his teeth never did get straightened out. However, he did end up with a beautiful mouth.

So how did my older brother, how can you and I end up with a beautiful mouth?

  1. Know God’s definition of a beautiful mouth: “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” Ephesians 4:29 (ESV).                                                                      “Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone” Colossians 4:6 (NLT).
  2. Deal with and clean up what operates your mouth – you heart: “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks” Luke 6:45 (NIV).
  3. Daily brush, floss, and use mouthwash on anything that corrodes: “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth” Colossians 3:8 (ESV).
  4. Talk to who you need to talk to instead of everybody else: “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother” Matthew 18:15 (ESV).                                                             “Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret, lest he who hears you bring shame upon you, and your ill repute have no end” Proverbs 25:9-10 (ESV).
  5.  Don’t participate in gossip with neither your ears nor your mouth: The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to a man’s inmost parts. Like a coating of glaze over earthenware are fervent lips with an evil heart. A malicious man disguises himself with his lips, but in his heart he harbors deceit. Though his speech is charming, do not believe him, for seven abominations fill his heart” Proverbs 26:22-25 (NIV).                       “A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t associate with a gossip, with a person who talks too much” Proverbs 20:19.
  6. Speak truth, it is the best breath freshener and teeth whitener: “Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart” Proverbs 3:3 (NASB).                                                                                                           “Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy. So stop telling lies. Let us tell our neighbors the truth, for we are all parts of the same body” Ephesians 4:24-25 (NLT)

So do you have a beautiful mouth? Is what comes out of it refreshing? Can others trust what you say? If someone were to point out beautiful mouths would yours be among them? If God’s the groom and you are the bride, how would he describe your mouth?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

In nature you find some wicked, nasty looking mouths. Like the mouth of the shark someone landed on deep sea fishing boat I was on, rows and rows of serrated teeth forming the gateway to a nasty abyss. That possum who cornered Susie in the staircase of our apartment years ago, what nasty, slimy, snarling mouth. Don’t forget the hippo, what a mouth, no wonder it’s one of the most dangerous creatures in African rivers. Gators, snakes, piranhas, komodo dragons, or go no further than the bats living under my roof tiles with their sick toothy grins. But the nastiest, most wicked mouths are found among our own species, no creatures in the animal kingdom can compare.

A shark can maim, kill, and eat you with its mouth but it is incapable of spewing lies, planting rumors, twisting the truth, wounding the soul, destroying trust, shamelessly exaggerating, deceiving, maligning, misleading, making all it up, embellish, being malicious. A komodo dragon’s mouth might be full of deadly bacteria but it will never repeat what shouldn’t be repeated, deny what is true, incite riots, degrade others, dehumanize, make empty or false promises, dish out abuse, fuel anger, slander, or encourage wickedness and violence, no that would be our mouths. A possums mouth will never filled with insincerity, deliberate barbs, say too much or say too little, it won’t circumvent, euphemize, minimize, evade, or inflame. Those bats will never stay silent when they ought to speak, issue empty apologies, spit out meaningless platitudes, speak without thinking, talk behind someone’s back, , gossip, or talk to everyone except who they should be talking to, no that would us.

No wonder God’s word addresses our mouths,Curses and blessings out of the same mouth! My friends, this can’t go on” James 3:10 (MSG). If there is any part of us that needs redemption surely our mouths need it. If we are serious about living the way God wants us to live then our mouths will have to become a construction site, we will have to schedule ourselves with a spiritual dentist, oral surgeon, orthodontist, and dental hygienist. We will have to have things pulled, implanted, filled, drilled, shifted, wired shut, and whitened. We will have to acquire new habits to keep our mouths clean and alter their use. How much treatment, learning, and change do you think you will need to make the following a reality? “We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.” “Each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor …” “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” Ephesians 4:15a (NLT), 25a, 29 (NIV).

If you want to see a lot of different creatures with nasty, wicked, bizarre, and frightening mouths I recommend you go visit a zoo, or where people gather, or sadly often times the church. But this should not be so, the church should be the place you’ll find the most amazingly beautiful mouths. May that be true of the church you are attending because you are attending it.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

Read Full Post »

I am sitting on the balcony of my brother’s third floor apartment on the Westside of Stuttgart. It’s early Sunday morning and few people are up and at it, which is not the case for the swallows circling over the courtyard busy catching breakfast. I am reminded of, Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” Matthew 6:26 (HCSB).

Matthew 6:19-34 (Can I encourage you to get out a Bible and read that passage before you go on reading this pastor’s note) is about wealth, masters, worry, anxiety, and trust. Whom or what we trust has a big impact on our worries, our anxiety levels, our attitude toward and the handling of wealth, and who or what our master is. Jesus is saying, “You can trust God, the birds do, the lilies of the field do, so why not you?” Maybe you’re objecting because after all we’re not birds. None of those swallows checked on their investments last week, none of them had bills to pay on the first, they don’t have a boss, or job, or career to worry about, they’ve got it easy. Yes, all of that is true, but like you and me they do need to eat and drink every day, they have young ones to raise, and all kinds of things beyond their control affect the circumstances and wellbeing of their lives. Yes, they do not have human capacities, but they are like you and me creations of God, they like you and me have life, today, and if God wills tomorrow because God has granted it.

We are more prone to trust in money, it can do so much, but it is never free of worry. Before you know it is your master, it will dictate your decisions, your attitudes, the very issues of your heart.

We are prone to worry, to be anxious, so much is beyond our control and life is so precarious. Before you know it worry is your master, it will influence your decisions, your attitudes, your outlook, and the very condition of your heart and mind.

Only God is completely trustworthy and completely able all of the time. It might seem strange to totally trust in someone you cannot see. But if you and I could see him he would be far too small to trust him with all we have and are. We yearn for God’s immanence but it is transcendence that displays his greatness, that invites us to trust in him and no other. He doesn’t just feed the few swallows in my field of vision, no, he feeds them all, all over the world, every day. He commands the universe and all that lies beyond space and time. It is He, Creator, God Almighty, omniscient, all-wise, holy, awesome, present everywhere, whom Jesus encourages us to trust. It is when we trust the Almighty instead of our wealth, when we rest in his control of things and not our capacity to figure it all out, when we “seek his kingdom and righteousness” (verse 33) that we experience the closeness, the nearness, the immanence of God along with peace, true riches, and life.

All of this is not just fancy preacher talk, it is a promise of God, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” Matthew 6:33 (NLT).

Is it time look at the birds of the air? To take a look at whom or in what you trust? To examine why and what you worry about? To seek the master of the birds? To really rust God? To live according to his promises? – Jesus clearly thinks so.

To God be all glory. Love you Pastor Hans

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12:25 (ESV)

Most likely you have never done this, adding to somebody’s anxiety, weighing their heart down. You know, someone is telling you about an impending operation they will have to undergo and you tell them how your aunt Maggie had the same operation and had nothing but complications. In fact she nearly died twice, was in excruciating pain for weeks, and never really has been the same since. Yep, and your brother went to that same hospital for a simple procedure but got one of those hospital infections and he ended up in ICU for two weeks. He isn’t quite the same either. And of course there is your neighbor who was allergic to the anesthesia; you don’t even want to know how that one turned out.

We are all capable of good words, words that sooth, calm down, are right for the moment, are helpful to the hearer. We are capable of speaking words of love, of encouragement, of wisdom, of meaningful truth, of proper perspective. We are capable of speaking words that do some, maybe even do tremendously much good. No, our capability of speaking good words is not the trouble, it’s that we also know how to speak words that cause anxiety, words that stoke worries, words that inflame, that contribute to something, just not good.

According to James words can be like matches, “(The tongue like) a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire” James 3:5 (NLT). You yell, “Bat!” in a congregation of mosquitoes, “Shark!” on a crowded beach, “High Jack! On an airplane, “Gun control!” at an NRA convention, and watch what will happen to anxiety levels. It might be wise to consider how dry the ground is, how much tinder is in someone’s heart and mind before saying a word.

Words can also be like ice cold glasses of water on a scorching day, they can help someone with their heavy load, they can lift someone’s spirit, they can calm someone’s soul. Who around you needs a good word today? Who needs a word that will lift something off, that will make glad? Will you be the one to deliver it, to speak it? (And for goodness sake leave those matches alone).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.Proverbs 25:11 (NASB)

I just finished my morning chores, one of them is taking care of my daughter’s horse, and one of the horse chores is dealing with horse pucky. In German horse doodoo is sometimes called “Pferdeaepfel,” which literally means horse apples (road apples). It seems that horse has a knack for depositing his apples liberally and right where he shouldn’t. He is not at all like his predecessor who was nice and tidy. I can tell you this, dealing with horse apples is not my favorite, it is a stinky unpleasant chore.

There is something worse than Pferdeaepfel, rotten verbal apples. They not only stink, they sting, they hurt, they wound. Careless words, angry words, ugly words, discouraging words, mean, malicious, manipulating words, devious, destructive, deceptive words, false, lying, bitter, gossiping words. Stinky road apples carelessly or deliberately dropped in the wrong circumstances, at the wrong time, for no or the wrong purposes. Words that someone has to muck up, deal with, and overcome.

God’s word instructs, encourages, and commands us to do the exact opposite, to deposit apples of gold into the circumstances, the situations, the lives of others. Words that need no mucking up, words that are true and loving, words that bless, words that encourage and enlighten, words that help, words that can be trusted, words that care, words that refresh, that have no need to be deodorized and be disposed of, words that that are welcome to linger, words that can be treasured.

So what are my words? Apples of gold or apples originating from the backside of a horse? Words that cheer or words that corrupt? Words of value or words of vitriol? Words that heal or words that hurt? What does my mouth deposit into the lives of others? Do my words bring smiles or do the hearers need to grab shovels?

You and I can deposit words that are like apples of gold in settings of silver into the circumstances, the struggles, the pain, the confusion, the hopelessness, the bitterness, and the hardship of others. To do so we have to care, to empathize, and to want to make things better. We have to give as much thought what we shouldn’t say as to what we should say (saying nothing at all is still better than horse pucky). We have to consider what God would want us to speak into the lives of others.

There is one more thing even better and more glorious than we have sense enough and a heart loving enough to speak apples of gold. It is when God himself speaks into both the circumstances of others and our own, when the eternal Word deposits his words into our ears, into our heart and minds, and into our circumstances. And sometimes He uses our mouths to just that.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: