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You can believe the earth is flat but that doesn’t make it so, your belief, however sincerely or fervently held, will not somehow deflate and flatten the globe. Personal belief does not change or invalidate truth, empirical or spiritual.

Martha, in a conversation with Jesus, professed her belief in a future resurrection of the dead, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” John 11:24-25 (ESV).

The intellectual elite of ancient Athens had a divided response when the Apostle Paul declared to them the resurrected Christ and the judgment of all people, which necessitates the resurrection of the dead, “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, ‘We will hear you again about this’” Acts 17:32 (ESV).

Festus, the Roman Governor, interrupted with a shout, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!” Acts 26:24 (NLT2), when Paul told his story of how he turned from being anti-Christian to be a devoted follower of Jesus and declared that the entire Old Testament predicted that One, the Messiah (the Christ) must die; two, raised from the dead, he would be the first rays of God’s daylight shining on people far and near, people both godless and God-fearing” Acts 26:23 (MSG, parenthesis mine).

The Jewish factions of the Sadducees and Pharisees were on completely opposite ends when it came to the resurrection of the dead, the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these”
Acts 23:8 (NLT2).

 You too are found somewhere on this spectrum of responses regarding the resurrection of the dead in general and the resurrection of Jesus Christ in specific. But the truth is whatever you and I declare to believe on this most important subject, none of us has any real authority to claim. What we say doesn’t make it so, doesn’t affect the truth of the matter one bit. We’d be unwise, dare I say dumb, to ignore empirical facts discovered by authorities in various fields of the study of our universe, planet, our bodies, medicine, … Because of the far greater consequences, we are even more unwise, foolish, to ignore the only true authority, Jesus Christ, on eternity, life, and judgment/justice, and settle for our own opinion, preference,  tradition, or human authority. What matters here is not what you decide to believe, you cannot shape spiritual truth any more than you can believe the earth into being flat, you have to believe, trust the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ and the spoken and recorded word of God, the Bible:

There will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. Acts 24:15 (NIV)

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. John 5:25-29 (ESV)

 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.  Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
“Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” John 11:23-27 (NLT2)

 The unchanging Easter and eternally most significant question is, Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life?

             To God and the risen Christ be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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“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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Replacing the kitchen sink took the better part of two years to get done. Well, it was one-hundred-and-one weeks of talking about it, checking into it, reminding me of it (very patiently I might add), consulting, talking about it some more, researching it on my laptop, and talking and thinking about some more, the actual doing of it took less than a week (thank you Richard Miller). Obviously, the problem here was getting started.

In our son’s senior year in High School Susie bought an old 1960 Ford pickup truck. We (think me) were going to fix it up and look really cool riding around in it. I got as far as getting firing it up once and then tearing out the gas tank and radiator to have them redone, and then it Hansi graduated and went to college, which was followed by his sisters going to college, and all our spare money going to college. So, the truck sat there year after year rusting away and occasionally, I would pump up the aging tires. We finally sold it, we had lost our passion for it, it was never going to get done. Maybe you have some projects, some tasks, some assignments that are waiting, are on hold, as well?

Our bedroom is a mess right now, we have been giving it a makeover. It was going at the rate of the kitchen sink, but we actually did get started in less than two years, and it is mostly done. The walls are painted, the new floor is in, the baseboards are installed, most of the clothes are back in the closet. But it isn’t finished. Susie’s side of the bed is impassable, the floor is covered with stuff, the walls are bare, and we’re thinking about a new bed frame (sound’s like a project within a project, which invariably moves the finish line). If we’re not careful, we will simply carve a walkway to Susie’s side of the bed and never finish.

Following Jesus has a beginning, middle, and end; it requires a starting, staying at it, and finishing well; it is comprised of a first step, many in-between steps, and a final step. Following Jesus means following him, being devoted to him, serving him all the way to the finish, “Enduring to the end,” Jesus called it (Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13). The entire letter to the Hebrews is concerned about finishing the Christian life well, not quitting, not abandoning the race, not getting sidetracked by other projects, not losing our passion for Christ, “run with endurance the race set before us” Hebrews 12:1.

Scripture is replete with examples of believers who struggled with or didn’t finish well. Solomon, who got the title of Wisest Man, didn’t finish well. David, whom God called “a man after my own heart,” struggled with finishing well. Demas threw in the towel altogether. Most of the believers in the churches Jesus mentions in Revelation 2-3 were buckling at the knees, slowing down, getting sidetracked, were in danger of not finishing their Christian lives well, and Jesus repeatedly encouraged and warned them not to give up:

To him/her who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

To him/her who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him/her a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him/her who receives it.

Only hold on to what you have until I come.

S/He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his/her name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his/her name before my Father and his angels.

To Him/her who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will s/he leave it.

To him/her who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Revelation 2:7, 10, 17, 25; 3:5, 12, 21 (NIV, s/he and him/her, mine)

Maybe today is a good day to sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no slowing down, no wandering off,”* all the way to finish line.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

*(“I Have decided to follow Jesus” by Holland Davis & Eugene Thomas)

 

 

“Follow me …” (Matthew 4:19, 9:9)

“His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them.”  Matthew 5:1b-2 (NLT2)

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT2)

Are you an old dog who doesn’t want to learn anything new or are you young dog with an attention span measured in milliseconds? Most likely, you fall somewhere in-between, vacillating between motivated and disinterested.

Did you know that our whole planet, the entire universe is an invitation to learn, to discover things about God, wisdom, life, causes, beauty, color, how to, and so, so much more. And, God did not only issue the invitation to learn and discover, but he also gave us the capacities to acquire knowledge and wisdom. One thing we should remember though is, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” Proverbs 9:10 (NASB).

So, it should not surprise us when Jesus, God’s son, spent much time teaching those who answered his call to follow him. One of the essential expectations Jesus has of his followers it that they will be learners, that they allow him to teach them, regardless if they are an old tired hound dog, an over-energized puppy, a dog trained to listen to only German commands, or an untrained pooch spoiled to do whatever it wants.

Salvation is free, a single marvelous moment when the saving grace of God is poured out on a sinner simply for the asking. But that moment is to be followed by a life of following. And, if I want to be a serious follower I have great need to learn all that that Jesus thinks I need to learn, because holiness, godliness, God’s wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and Christlike habits, attitudes, and ways are all acquired, learned.

If I am honest, I have too much old, puppy, and spoiled dog in me. I am also a slow learner, and too often I go back to what I knew before I met Jesus, ignoring all he taught me. Maybe this describes you as well. The danger with that is, though this may be an accurate self-assessment, it is also a convenient way to let ourselves of the hook, to use it as an excuse for being a poor, lazy, stubborn student. Jesus doesn’t put up with that (Matthew 8:26, 16:8; Luke 12:28), he expects you and me to learn, to apply what he teaches, to let an ever increasing knowledge of him, of God, his word (the Bible), and our world to change us into his image and to conform us to his will. We are commanded to love God “with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37), and that requires us to be life-long learners at the feet of Jesus.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)

We got blessed the day Paul and Diana Baker walked into our church. At the time we had no idea just how great a blessing they would turn out to be, but now, years later, we know, and how we thank God.

They had built a beautiful retirement home, presumably to do a lot of bass fishing at Lake McClure and Lake Don Pedro. But I don’t think they ever did all the fishing and retirement stuff they had anticipated. Instead, they became ever more deeply involved in the life and ministry of our church family. The fishing boat got underused and their “free” time got overused in serving Christ and his local church here in Don Pedro. How we have benefited from that selflessness, yet how we thank God for it.

It is kind of surprising they stuck around after the first visit. Two Assemblies of God folks in a Baptist church lead by a German. Talk about being fish out of water. It made us better, this humility, this willingness to give some things up, this lack of insistence for their own comfort zone in order to further the work of and bless the body of Christ here in Don Pedro.  Oh, how we thank for it.

I can’t tell you how many hats they have worn working, serving, and ministering in our midst. I do know this much, there is no way I can juggle as many plates. Maybe it is all Diana’s fault, because, besides all that she did, she unleashed Paul and thus enabled this whirlwind, who became to us and always will be to us, Pastor Paul. How we thank God for that.

God knew what both our church and I personally needed. I sure needed a friend, someone to help carry the load, a brother to I in navigating some of the toughest times in my life and ministry, an encourager to cheer me on when I was far from my best. As such, how I thank God for Paul.

They flew this selling of their house and plan to go traveling under the radar. They knew I, and we would be praying against it with all our might. I think they also knew doing it any other way would be just too hard because this love between us has become a two-way street, or more accurately, a multi-lane major highway. And, how we thank and praise God for that.

To God be all glory. How we love you, Pastor Paul and Diana.

Pastor Hans

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somehow, by God’s wisdom and humor, I become Mel’s pastor at the ripe old age of twenty-four. I loved Mel, but it took him some time to love me. He was of the WWII generation and didn’t care much about Krauts. When his wife Aggie-Lou got sick I started to drive him to see her. One day he handed me the keys to pristine 69 Pontiac. He said he didn’t want to use my gas, but the moment we took off in his car for the first time it became clear I was no longer in charge. Mel told me where to go, where to turn, where to park, how fast to go, when to turn on the heater or a/c, what gas station to use, which pump to pull up to, and to make sure to stop pumping at the first click. Good thing I am somewhat patient, and me driving his “baby” meant that he had let this Kraut into his heart. He gave me the wheel, but not the pink-slip.

You can’t seriously follow Jesus and be the leader. The very act of following recognizes that someone else is the leader, is in charge. It is the leader, the one in charge who gets to determine the direction, the route, the stops, the agenda, the timing, and the activity. Jesus left no doubt about who’s the leader, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” John 12:26 (ESV). Even if he gives us the keys to the car, he’s still the leader.

With my hands on the steering wheel of Mel’s Pontiac, I had all kinds of thoughts running through my mind, “Let’s see what this four-barreled V-8 under the hood can do?” “Let’s lay down some rubber!” When Mel gave directions I would often think, “That’s the long way!” or, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” When he asked me to turn off the a/c on 105-degree day because he was afraid that the car might overheat, I was flat out flabbergasted, but I turned it off, it was his car I was driving. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV), the Apostle Paul reminded us followers of Jesus even while we have our hands on the steering wheel of our sexuality. Serious followers of Jesus continually acknowledge the Lord and Leadership of Jesus, the Sovereignty of God over their lives, and constantly bear in mind that, The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; …” Psalm 24:1 (NIV), even while we are steering this vehicle, called our life, registered in Jesus’ name.

What do you need to change after reading this pastor’s note?

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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