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Archive for the ‘worship’ Category

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” …  going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:1-2 & 11 (ESV, italics mine)

“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Deuteronomy 5:7-10 (NASB)

We are all worshippers; it is what God created us to be. This means we all worship someone or something. It is not a matter of if, but of who or what you worship. Maybe you’re already strongly objecting, “Not me, I’m not even religious!”

Worshippers bow down, prostrate themselves, pay homage to someone or something. They honor, respect, and submit to a reality greater than themselves. Their hearts embrace, ‘kiss’ (literally in ancient times), and acknowledge a superior power. You don’t have to be religious to that, you can even worship yourself, but that would be a serious delusion.

The Eastern Wise Men who sought to worship the infant Jesus were not atheists, few people in the ancient world were, most likely they were polytheists (believing in many gods). What we know for sure is that they were intelligent enough to know that it makes no sense to worship just anything. They understood enough to know that whatever they worshipped had to be greater than the stars and universe they were observing. They followed the evidence the universe and all of nature presents, namely, that before and behind all we can see and observe must be something or someone much greater, much older, and much more powerful. They also understood that we don’t get to choose who or what that is because he/it already was, and all of the universe, including you and me, is subject to him/it. And, these wise men knew that the universe testifies to more than a lifeless beginning, it does not declare an it but a HIM, because it drips with wisdom, with design, with creativity, with imagination, and, especially for us to see here on earth, with life. The most natural response to these truths and realities is to worship at the feet of the one who made all of that.

Modern man likes to think of him/herself as more advanced but in truth, we are not far removed from the those who worshipped and still worship rocks, fetishes, ancestors, handmade idols, nature, or gods who resemble narcissistic flawed human beings more than the divine, all of them part of this physical world and mere human imagination. We moderns have built different altars but of the same kind and with the same limitations, altars of scientific knowledge, academia (please note I am not against either), personal spiritual truth, or general godlessness that allows to us worship whatever we want. None of these can transcend this creation but are merely part of it.

When those wise men worshipped Jesus, they worshipped him “who was and is and is to come” (Revelation 4:8), the one true beginning from whose heart, mind, and power everything we see and perceive with our senses has originated, who will judge the living and the dead, and who alone is worthy to be worshipped, “whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne (of eternity), who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created’” Revelation 4:9-11 (ESV).

Christmas is and always has been a call to forsake idolatry, personal spiritual preferences, and ideas and instead worship Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, God with us, God Almighty, God alone.

Merry Christmas. Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas and the Revelation and the Knowledge of God

The revelation of God, the knowledge of God comes to us in four ways: The Cosmos, Scripture, Experience, and Jesus Christ:

  • Creation, the cosmos, the physical world

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him,” the wise men asked Matthew 2:2 (NLT2, italics mine). The entire cosmos, from what is seen through the most advanced telescope to what is revealed under the most powerful microscope or super-collider, reveals God, “… ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God” Romans 1:20 (NLT2). Every sunset picture you snapped, every night sky you looked up into, every facet of the natural sciences is an invitation to discover God, to search for this amazing Creator and life-giver until you find him.

  • Scripture, the Bible, is God’s written revelation.

King Herod called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, ‘Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?’
‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they said, ‘for this is what the prophet wrote: And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
Matthew 2:4-6 (NLT2, italics mine). Scripture, the Bible, gives an understanding of God, his nature, his ways, and his plans we cannot get from observing our physical world alone. You can’t learn God’s name from reading DNA, nor can you learn from astronomy God’s workings in human history. Among many things, apart from scripture we wouldn’t know the depth of our depravity and sinfulness or its consequences, we wouldn’t know our true identity of being image-bearers of God himself, and we wouldn’t know of God’s great love for us and his provision to save us from our sins.

  • Faith Experience

“We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”…
“When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!  They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh”
Matthew 2:2&10-11 (NLT2). There is a knowledge of God that only comes through faith, through trusting what he says, following his directions, doing what he tells us to do and be (as opposed to what not to do and be). The Eastern wise men didn’t travel for hundreds of miles to merely have someone tell them about Jesus, they wanted to see him, worship him, and honor him with their gifts. They experienced Jesus by putting together what the night sky declared, what scripture confirmed, and then responding to that revelation and knowledge through faith. They experienced the reality of the living God and Jesus Christ by believing what they saw and heard enough to saddle up their camels and beginning a whole new life of faith.

  • Jesus Christ

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows” Matthew 1:18 (NASB). Jesus Christ is more than a mere man, more than a prophet, more than the leader of one of the world’s great religions, he is God incarnate, God in human flesh, Immanuel – “God with us” (Matthew 1:23); it is what Christmas is all about. There is no greater and more personal revelation of God than Jesus, that is why you can’t claim to follow God and bypass Jesus Christ, they are inseparable, “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body” Colossians 2:9 (NLT2). No king has ever been announced and predicted like Jesus, that is because there is and never will be a king like him, he is Jesus Christ is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God … On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” Revelation 19:16 (NIV); “… at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW … and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Philippians 2:10-11 (NASB).

How have you responded to God’s revelation of himself? Be a wise man, a wise woman today!

Merry Christmas! Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven!
Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness!
Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD! Praise the LORD!
Psalm 150:1-6 (NLT2)

I am assuming, by the fact that you are reading this pastor’s note, that you are breathing, which means Psalm 150 above is talking about you.

You might not have enough breath to produce a blast out of the “ram’s horn,” maybe not even enough to get it to squeak, but if you have any breath you are capable of praising God, the LORD.

You might not have the skill to play the lyre, harp, strings, or flute, but if you are breathing right now you are capable of praising God, the LORD.

Your dancing days might be over and a tambourine in your hands might not be a good thing, but if you can wiggle just a bit and even if that little bit leaves you out of breath you can still and should still praise God, the LORD.

Letting you play the drums might be huge mistakes and the end of any band, but if you can bang two pots together you are capable of praising God, the LORD.

So, the question is: Are you praising God? Are you known as someone who habitually and continually praises God? Are you using your breath and the life your breath represents to praise God? Because, if I read the last line of Psalm 150 correctly, every living, breathing thing is meant to praise God, the Lord, and that includes the two living, breathing two of us.

The donkey living a few houses down uses his breath to praise God and when he does, you know it. The many birds around our houses give daily morning and evening concerts of praise even when they had a hard day or difficult week. How much more should you and I, image-bearers of God, excel in singing praises to God!

It’s a mistake to quit praising God, to shut down our ability to praise God, to use up our breath with complaints, fears, anxieties, trivialities, things that don’t deserve repeating, empty talk, ugly words, and songs dripping with negativity. Of all the creatures capable of praising God we are the ones who have to choose to do so, we can choose to so.

So, give it a try, get out a pot and a big wooden spoon, step outside with it, look up and begin praising God for his greatness and follow each statement of praise with a resounding “BANG!” On your way to work this week turn off the news, the talking heads, your song list, and instead spend some time praising God for who he is and what he has done in your life. At the dinner table share your “Today, I praise God for ….!” And next weekend, come to the “sanctuary,” God’s house, to lift up your praises alongside others who delight to use their breath to praise God.

To God be all glory! Have a great Thanksgiving. Pastor Hans

 

P.S. If you are not traveling this Thanksgiving, invite someone in your neighborhood who would otherwise be alone to be part of your Thanksgiving celebration and feast.

 

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The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness
. Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

  Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13 (ESV)

 You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins.
Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
Luke 1:77-79 (NLT2)

 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
Psalm 145:8-9 (ESV)

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7 (ESV)

No one ever paid for God’s mercy because for one it is free, and for another, none of us could afford to pay for it, it’s completely out of our price range (Romans 11:33-36; 2 Corinthians 9:15). But truth be told, we often treat God’s mercy like a raggedy couch sitting by a curb with a scraggly “Free” sign on it, smiling as we drive past.

We like things that make us feel warm and fuzzy, especially about God. New, fresh, daily mercies and love – awesome (and it is). Mercy triumphing over judgment – thumbs up (yeah). Tender mercies cleaning up our sin mess – who doesn’t like that (I sure do). Gracious, merciful, super-patient, loving, good to me God – that’s definitely the kind of God I like. God blessing and giving to me – sign me up. Sometimes you get lucky and that couch with the free sign is actually in decent shape and super comfy, but do I really want to mess with it?

Nothing about God and his mercy is cheap, optional, or comfortable. He, in His mercy, makes life possible, extends patience, holds back his wrath and judgment, supplies and sustains not just our lives but the universe as a whole. Every sunrise we have witnessed, every sunset we photographed, every breath we have taken, every heartbeat counted, every kindness experienced, every opportunity that unfolded, every drop of love that fell on us traces back to God, to Christ, to his tender mercy and love.

Sitting on that unstained, beautiful, and free couch should make us grateful, cause us to be devoted worshippers, have us value this kind of and this magnitude of mercy as priceless, and inspire us to be merciful like our Heavenly Father (Luke 6:36). Did you notice the last scripture above? The only way to not be cut off from God’s mercy is to embrace it, be transformed by it, and become an extension of it (Matthew 18:21-34). If we do that, instead of merely settling for some fuzzy god-feeling and god-idea of our liking, we will be both be blessed and be a blessing, and/but it and we won’t be cheap (and that is a good thing).

To our merciful God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This morning I filled my coffee mug twice, my Musli bowl and stomach once, and all my morning hours even though got up way early. This past week we went camping with the family so we filled the truck bed with camping gear, the gas tank with diesel, the ice chests with food and drinks, several garbage bags (to the delight of the raccoons), our bellies with camping cuisine, our time with adventures, and our memories with joy.

Face it, in living life we do a lot of filling up, we have to, we get to, and it makes a difference what we fill up with.

  • It makes a difference what you put into our body, both in how well it functions and what it will crave.
  • It helps to fill up your bank account every now then, you’ll have less stress and you can pay your bills. But it also makes a difference whether your deposit was earned honestly or otherwise.
  • It is inevitable that your time will be filled up, but what you fill it with will determine if it is wasted or used wisely.
  • It makes a huge difference what you fill your mind with because it will establish how you think, what you will dwell on, and how you process life.
  • It is a vast distance between a heart filled with hate, bitterness, pessimism, grudges, and revenge, and a heart filled with love, kindness, optimism, goodwill, and forgiveness.

All of the above the Word of God/Bible addresses because it knows the realities of life, including the constant filling that we are engaged in. As followers of Christ, we are as engaged in these constant filling tasks and activities as much as anyone else, however, if we are going to be wise and godly when comes to this constant filling up in life the following are indispensable:

  • Constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:17-20). Which means to continually yield control to him in all we do, wherever we are, and in all we plan.
  • Constantly filling our mind and thinking with the written Word of God, the Bible (Psalm 1). Which means taking time to read it, meditate on it, and then trust it enough to apply it to real life.
  • Constantly praying. Which means running everything by God, seeking his will, his wisdom, his guidance, his presence, his glory, and refusing to live without it (Matthew 6:9-16).
  • Constantly living in community with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). Which means I recognize that only together with others can we be the body of Christ, and I need sisters and brothers in Christ pouring into me even as I pour into them (1 Corinthians 12-13, Ephesians 5:21)

Most every morning I get up and brew some coffee for Susie and me, filling my mug, usually at least twice. I didn’t always do that, but now I am pretty consistent with it. The same has been true of the four constant fill-ups I need as a follower of Jesus, a Christian. It took me a while, but now my life feels like an empty coffee cup in the morning without them.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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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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