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Archive for the ‘worship’ 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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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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Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will. Mark 14:36 (HCSB)

We like it when things go according to our own way, plans, and desires, and when they don’t, we wish they would, complain, grow resentful, even bitter. Underlying this is the notion that the epitome of success is to have both the freedom and resources to do whatever we want to, to be able to grant our hearts desires free reign.

Interestingly, James in his letter, is especially hard on exactly those who have the means, the power, and the freedom to plan and do as they wish, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:13-17 (ESV). This kind of freedom, affluence, and opportunity is what we consider success and often call blessing, but it is also riddled with temptation:

  • The temptation to hold onto a wrong perspective of life.
  • The temptation to operate apart from, independently of God.
  • The temptation to be unconcerned about God’s will.
  • The temptation to be proud and arrogant, to overestimate ourselves.
  • The temptation to give ourselves too much credit.
  • The temptation to elevate doing our own thing over the right thing.

When we give in to these temptations, we forget that:

  • Life is about more than making a profit.
  • We do not control the future.
  • The importance of God and the doing of his will.
  • The very limited time we have to do what is right.
  • That we are prone to do evil.
  • Sin consists of both commission and omission.

The Apostle Paul cautioned the Galatian Christians, It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. Galatians 5:13 (MSG)  

Heavenly Father,

Hallowed be your name. Your will be done. Forgive us when we are consumed with our own honor, our own plans, our own comfort, that which both profits and pleases us most. Forgive us when we concern ourselves with your honor and will last and not first, when we treat you like an insurance or an emergency call station. Help us to commit our work and plans to you, to rely on you to establish us, to anchor ourselves, our plans, and all we do in your purposes (Proverbs 16:3, 9:21). Strengthen us when we are conflicted between what we want and what we know your will is, to, in that moment, be able to deny ourselves and trust you fully. Because we know only your kingdom will endure, you alone hold all power, and only you are fully deserving of all glory. Amen

Love you, 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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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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Lord Jesus Christ,

Son of God, Creator, Sustainer, Savior, High Priest forever, Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world, Redeemer, Friend of sinners, head of the church, your very body and bride.

We, as a local representation of your body, your flock, your fellowship, your family,  your church lift up your name, worship you, and give thanks for you to God the Father, for who you are, what you are, and what you have done.

We thank you for loving us when we were unlovable, enemies of God, dead in our trespasses and sins, without hope, without merit, lost and condemned.

We stand amazed that you would seek for us, come to us, offer us your very life; extend to us mercy and grace, forgiveness and reconciliation, salvation and eternal life.

We marvel that you would pour out the Holy Spirit on us, entrust the Gospel to us, and consider and call us to be your body, your representation, your presence in this world in our time.

Lord, today, as the Lake Don Pedro Baptist church we pray for your harvest here where you have placed us. We are struggling to bring it in. Show us what we are missing, where we are lacking. Multiply the harvest workers. Forgive us where we have been slack, lazy, preoccupied, and unwilling.

Lord, this year teach us about payer. Prayer that is larger than our daily needs, deeper than our concerns for health, safety, comfort and good times. Teach us about prayer that enters the battle against temptation, the unmovable, the demonic, evil and the evil one. Teach us to love and pray for more than our friends and families – but our enemies. Teach us how to ask for more according to your will. Teach us how to pray in power and faith.

Lord, we want to be pleasing to you. So please, show us where and with what we are not accountable, where we are putting our own interests before yours, where we are uncommitted to that which you want us to commit to, where we are unconcerned where your heart breaks, where we are proud instead of humble, where we are selective in the application of your word, and where we resist and grieve the Holy Spirit.

Lord, you challenged us to be childlike in our faith, to be harmless and wise at the same time, to care about sinners, peace, justice, mercy, the lost, the displaced, the outcasts, those not like us, even the very least of humanity. Give us the heart, the will, long-term obedience to engage ourselves, to get dirty, to be worn out, poured out, and used for your glory and kingdom.

Lord, you told us to deny ourselves, to pick up our cross and follow you, to love you more than father and mother, children, friends, and country, to be radical in dealing with our sin and be patient with the sins of others, to go into and live in this world, in Don Pedro, Greely Hill, Coulterville, and La Grange like you did Jesus, and there to make disciples. We again commit ourselves to all of these, asking you for the strength, the power, and perseverance they require.

Lord Jesus, we love you, we love belonging to you, being led by you, and being your church, together here in this place. You alone are worthy, O Lord, to receive blessing, honor, power, and glory.

Amen

 

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 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. Romans 14:12 (NLT)

“… 22, 23, 24, 25 – Ready or not here I come!”

“No fair! You counted too fast. You have to start over, and no cheating this time!”

It would be nice if the beginning of each new year would be more than an arbitrary line, if it would be a real do-over, a fresh start. But it usually comes, “ready or not.” Life seems to count at its own pace, and things we were not ready for last year have a way of continuing into the next.

There are so many twists, turns, temptations, events, circumstances, consequences, and reactions we are not ready for. It seems, it feels unfair. We should get more time to get ready, life shouldn’t be allowed to come at us “ready or not,” and why are we accountable for what we are not ready?

They were some of the greatest days of my life, and in my ignorance, I thought I was ready the day I got married, the moments my children were born. I really wasn’t, I had no idea how much was involved in being married for life, in raising incredible, fragile little people, and yet I was fully responsible, fully accountable, “ready or not.”

I wasn’t ready for the most terrible days either, all the dying, tragedy, craziness, unfairness, and …, I didn’t wish for and often prayed against. But they came, often in bunches, certainly regardless of whether I was ready.  Accountability didn’t take a break or give me a break there either, it holds me responsible for how I handle, how I respond to all.

Most of us would like to postpone old age and prolong other life stages, but they too come and go “ready or not,” and we are fully accountable how we handle and live through each one of them, no excuses, no mitigating circumstances.

It’s humbling, sometimes humiliating, often disturbing, the “ready or not” aspect of life, and it is daunting that I am, we are, fully responsible, completely accountable for it. This has caused me to pray more, to seek, worship, and thank God in everything. He is the only one whom life doesn’t catch unprepared, not ready. He knows how to navigate, how to help me, how to get it right even when I am not ready. I also read God’s word, the Bible, constantly in search of eternal wisdom and daily habits that will help me with what I am responsible for. I have also looked for models, for godly women and men who navigate life with Christlikeness. I have found it beneficial to be involved in selfless engagement of some kind, some way of serving God, of serving others, to be engaged with others’ “ready or not.”

To God be all glory, “Ready or not.” Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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