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Spend, Save, Earn, Give, Enjoy. When it comes to the ‘how’ of managing wealth, possessions, and money you have to deal with those five words. The way you order them and prioritize them will make a big difference. So, take a minute and write down your order _______, ________, _______, _______, _______. Now ask yourself whether the way you order them is the way God would have you order them?

Honor the LORD from your wealth and from the first of all your produce; so your barns will be filled with plenty And your vats will overflow with new wine Proverbs 3:9-10. This nugget of financial management wisdom puts honoring God first and enjoying the overflowing vats last, which gives us the bookends of managing according to God’s wisdom and ways.

 Did you spot the ‘earn” in these two verses? “Crops” is a synonym for income in an agrarian society. “Firstfruits” are the first and best of the harvest, as opposed to the gleanings, which are the leftovers of the harvest. Unless you worked hard and smart you had little chance for a crop. The earning comes right after the “Honor the Lord.” Of course, even the earning itself has to be marked by integrity, morality, and justice in order to honor God.

 How about the ‘spend’? Well, you can’t give or spend it unless you earn it. Unless you listen to my son when he was just a small kid. We were poor by every government measure. Our kids saw a Disneyland commercial and wanted us to take them. We told them that we couldn’t because we didn’t have the money, and if they wanted to go, they needed to ask God to provide. One evening our son (who has been an excellent money manager all his life) informed us that we could go to Disneyland. “Nope, we don’t have the money,” we reminded him. “Yes!” he insisted, “All we need is a DiscoverCard.” In our debt-loving society, we are trained to think about spending in terms of debt payments we can afford, completely forgetting that “the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Proverbs 22:7). We did eventually get to take our kids to Disneyland when we had saved up the money, and after we paid our bills.

 A couple more considerations about spending. First, you have to spend less than you earn, it is the key to operating in the black, saving, and giving. Don’t follow the example of our government, instead follow the Bible, which makes it clear that you should owe as little as possible, Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another …” Romans 13:8. Second, spending has a spiritual dimension because money, wealth, and possession management, like all aspects of life, has a direct effect on your testimony, your reputation.

Did you like the stuffed barns and overflowing wine barrels? That’s surplus, more than what you need. But before a barrel overflows or a barn runs out of storage space you have to fill them. Storage equals saving, and it is more important than going to Disneyland, buying fancy clothes, or a digital entertainment package, … Even ants understand this, “Take a lesson from the ants, … Learn from their ways and become wise! … they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter” Proverbs 6:6-8 (NLT2). Saving equals preparedness, for emergencies, the unexpected, the unpredictable, the seasonal.

And now it is finally time to think about the overflow. You got options, which is something you should enjoy and be grateful for. You can get out the glasses, fill them, invite your friends, and have a party. You can invest it. You can build an inheritance. You can share your plenty with those who don’t have enough and enjoy the blessing of being able to be generous. You can …

The first priority of life, including managing wealth, possessions, and money, is to honor God, to please and bless the owner of it all. So, the first cart of the harvest, the first portion of the paycheck, doesn’t go to the barn but to the temple/church as an offering to God. However, before you have it to give you have to earn it, in a holy manner, in honest and just ways. Besides sending the first truck to the temple, you have to pay your bills on time, remembering that your testimony, your reputation, is on the line. Then, instead of indulging yourself, you embrace the wisdom of saving, being aware that by embracing God’s wisdom and ways you also honor Him. And then you are ready to be even more generous even while you get to enjoy the blessings of God, making sure that even with your surplus you don’t forget to honor and please God.

Now comes the tough part, making the adjustments, embracing the changes, learning to practice them consistently, day in and day out, for the rest of your life.

            To God be all glory. Manage away, Pastor Hans

If you need help translating this in practice, sign up for the course “Managing Your Finances God’s Way.” Email me dergermanshepherd@gmail.com , or call the church at 209 852-2029. The course will begin in August 2022.

As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury.
He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “I tell you the truth,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.” 
Luke 21:1-4 (NIV)

Even the poor widow Jesus commended for putting her last two pennies into the Temple offering box (Luke 21:1-4), had to manage her possessions and money. According to Jesus, her offering outweighed the sum of all other contributions that day.

This unnamed widow had already settled the first question when it comes to managing our possessions, wealth, and money. Who do I manage for? She realized that all she had and owned was entrusted to her by God and that the first order of business, of stewardship, of managing, was to honor, glorify, worship, and serve Him with it. And boy did she, radically so – Jesus noticed and applauded her.

If we are going to manage our possessions, wealth, and money there is another question to consider. What are you managing for/towards?

·        Faith

Command/teach those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV, italics mine). The widow managed her last two pennies to be an expression of faith. Some would have called it foolishness, like when some criticized the woman who poured ridiculously expensive perfume over Jesus (Mark 14:3-9). No such judgment from Jesus, however, just praise. So, are you managing your possessions, wealth, and money in such a way that they are an expression of God-honoring, Jesus-pleasing faith?

·        Testimony

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph… (Luke 23:50 NLT2).  There was a believer in Joppa named Tabitha (which in Greek is Dorcas). She was always doing kind things for others and helping the poor (Acts 9:36 NLT2). Are you managing towards having a good testimony? Are you wasting, hoarding? Is your family taken care of? Are you honest or dishonest as an employer or employee? Do you work hard or are you lazy? Are you living above your means? Do you take care of what you have? Do others consider you wise or foolish in the way you manage? Are you mooching and manipulating? Are you continually borrowing? Are you paying back your debts? Are you known for generosity?

·        Accountability

Each one of us will give an account of himself to God (Romans 14:12 NASB). Are you managing your possessions, wealth, and money towards answering to God for what you did with them? Does He figure into your management equation? Will God commend or condemn the way you managed it all throughout your life? Are you considering the eternal implications? Are you, like the widow, managing toward being heaven rich, or are you merely focused on being rich here on earth?

·        Generosity

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7 ESV). Are you managing towards generosity? Is being able to be generous more important to you than acquiring? Is it important to you to be the kind of cheerful giver God loves? Is it a joy to you to see your stuff, home, money, business, used to help and bless others? Do you love supporting and underwriting the work of the Gospel and Christ’s kingdom with your possessions, wealth, and money?

·        Inheritance

A good wo/man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children, … (Proverbs 13:22 NIV, italics mine). What will you leave behind? Will it help and serve the next generations? Are you managing in light of blessing your grandchildren? Are you fixated on the here and now, on how you can bless yourself? Are you willing to live with less so the generations after you can have more?

To God be all glory. Manage away. Pastor Hans

How generous and giving do you want to be?

How generous and giving can you be?

How generous and giving does God want you to be?

Would you rather be rich or be generous and giving? I can hear the objection, “They are not mutually exclusive! Lots of wealthy people are very generous and giving.” And right you are. But just for the sake of you checking your own heart, and because I didn’t ask about the “lots of generous folks” but you, what are your answers?

One of the facts of life, and especially the Christian’s life, is that we are stewards, managers of what God has entrusted to us: our souls, lives, relationships, abilities – talents- giftedness, minds, hearts, influence, the Gospel, grace, and resources – possessions – and money. The thing is they are not separate little facets of life but they all interconnect. In Luke 12 and 16, Jesus mentions two rich men, both miss the connection of the use of their wealth to their accountability before God, their responsibilities toward others, and the eternal destiny of their souls. Generosity and giving clearly were not high on their priority lists, living a comfortable retired life and living it up were.

Jesus left no doubt when it comes to riches the goal is to be rich in heaven, to use earthy wealth for eternal, God-glorifying, helping-people purposes. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Matthew 6:19-21 (NASB).  “… remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.'” Acts 20:35 (NASB). If we want to seriously respond to Jesus, you and I have to address the Who, What, and How.

Who do you manage for?

What are you managing for?

How do you manage well?

Our theme for 2022 is “CARE,” and our theme scripture is Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 25:25-37). What a terrific example this Samaritan is, he’s got his compassion as well as doing-the-right-thing switched on. He also responds with serious generosity. Think about this Samaritan’s generosity and giving for a minute. How much was it enabled by the way he managed his life and money? He didn’t have to set up a GoFundMe (nothing wrong with that), because he was already fully funded, because he had been managing his business and wealth in a way that enabled him to be generous and giving. According to Jesus, following in that neighborly Samaritan’s footsteps is not only a very good idea, but the very embodiment of the second most important commandment of God, “loving your neighbor as yourself.”

Bottom line. We can’t be truly rich, heaven-rich, without being generous and giving, and managing well enables generosity and giving.

Time to sign up!

            To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

Some weeks it is very tough to write a pastor’s note, this is one of those weeks.

For one it is Memorial Day weekend, a very solemn national holiday remembering those slain in service of our country. These lives cut short remind me that some things are indeed worth dying for but before you die for them you have to live for them. They remind me that daily I live in the debt of those who procured and safeguarded our way of life, our liberties, and our opportunities to pursue happiness. I am reminded that these slain were sons and daughters, husbands and wives, Dads and Mothers, brothers and sisters, … and all of these loved ones shared in that sacrifice. The news of their deaths brought sorrow, grief, hardships, and scars. The voices of these slain call to us to care about the important things of life, to care about each other, to be invested in making our country and world better.

We also had another horrific school shooting, nineteen school children and two of their teachers mercilessly gunned down in the town of Uvalde. The evil of this is unbearable, as is the fact that we have to use the word “another.” And adding to the tragedy is that even before the small dead bodies of these precious children were removed from the floors of their own school the political ping pong started. Who are we as a people? What evil has been unleashed in our midst? What has changed in our collective moral fiber that the unthinkable has become the “another?” Why are we unwilling to reign it in?

Along with the above, Guidepost released their damning report on sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention. The shamefulness of this is beyond words. The exposed CYA attitude, utterly appalling. The deafness to and treatment of the victims inexcusable.

We can, we must, we are called to be and do better, as a nation, as a people, as the church – the body of Christ.

Oh Lord,

Have mercy on us.

Forgive us.

Help us.

Deliver us from evil.

The last five minutes count. Not just in sports, baking, and cross-Atlantic flights, but especially in life. Which brings me to Linda Carter (not Wonder Woman).

I had known Linda for a few years. She dipped in and out of church a few times. However, the last few months were different, and as it turns out, they were her last five minutes.

Linda ended up back in church because Merle Martin, one of our deacons, ended up at her house through his job, and besides the business side of things they got to talking about spiritual things as well, and he invited her back to church.

I don’t know how many people I have invited to church who never have shown up. Linda, however, did and this time around something clicked. Maybe it was because she had been searching for real peace all her life. Maybe she had an inner sense that she was down to her last five minutes. For sure it was the Holy Spirit tugging on her heart, Jesus offering her a sip of the water of life.

She turned in a response card, indicating she wanted to get baptized, which in turn brought the preacher, me, to her house to talk about what baptism meant, making sure she understood that believing in Christ and calling on His Name was the prerequisite to the public confession of Christ in baptism. She followed Romans 10, confessed with her mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in her heart that God raised him from the dead, and was saved. With her heart she believed and was justified, and with her mouth she confessed and was saved… She called on the name of Jesus and was saved (Romans 10:9-10, 13)She prayed a precious prayer, confessing her sinfulness, asking for forgiveness, admitting her need for Christ, and stating her belief in the crucified, buried, and risen Christ. And something changed, you could tell, a burden lifted, a peace invaded, a joy rained down.

She did get baptized, almost bouncing with her cane in and out of the baptistry. Next, she joined the church. Then she wanted something to do (Talk about getting it right). But what was constantly on her lips and all over her face was joy and peace. And then, her last five minutes were up. She fell “asleep” in Jesus, she crossed over “Jordan’s stormy banks” right into the promised land where peace and joy never end.

I got a little bit of her story, some of the many years that preceded her last five minutes, and how I wish could have seen more of the photo album of her life. But I feel really privileged to have been a part of and a witness to the last five minutes because they were glorious, they were a downpour of God’s mercy and grace, they were a thirsty soul taking the cup of living water from Jesus’ hands and thirsting no more, they were an end to a life-long search for lasting peace, they were a sinner being overjoyed with salvation.

No one but God, who numbers our days (Psalm 139:16), knows if the next five minutes are our last five minutes. So, the wisest thing anyone of us can do, no matter where we are on the journey of life, is to make the next five minutes count, to realize the very best decision is to trust in Christ this minute, the next five minutes, and down to our last minute.

            To God be all glory. Thank you, Linda. Love you, Pastor Hans


You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.”
2 Corinthians 9:7 (NLT2)

We discovered, actually, we have been introduced to a new role in church.

Even a casual reading of the New Testament makes it clear that every follower of Christ should be an active, growing, present, involved, and serving member of a local church. Everyone has a part, a function, a role in the body of Christ (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, 1 Peter 4:10, Hebrews 10:24-25). When you think of roles in church, what comes to your mind? Maybe a few of the following came to your mind: Pastor, Deacon/ness, Board member, Treasurer, Ministry member or leader (such as Children, Youth, FoodBasket, Prayer, Youth, Worship, Multi-Media, GriefShare, Missions, Maintenance, Cleaning Crew, Kitchen, …), Small group member or leader, Usher. Or maybe you thought in terms of being a helper, encourager, giver, …

The new role we have been introduced to is offering-leader. Who would you give that role to? I didn’t even know this role existed until a few weeks ago. I had no idea how much the church could be blessed by it or what a difference it could make. Others have noticed as well; some have suggested we need to have offering-leaders as a regular part of our services. So tell me, who would you pick for this?

Because we were ignorant of this role we didn’t pick anybody. But if we had, we probably would have picked someone responsible, someone dignified, someone with a track record when it comes to giving and offerings. However, due to us being in the dark as to offering-leaders I think they are themselves a gift straight from the hands of the Holy Spirit. Now the thing is this, there is already a great spirit of giving and generosity in our church, but it seems there is another level -an attitude of giving we are being introduced to by our new offering-leaders.

Maggie and Alice are four-year-old twins with smiles that can make your day. A few weeks ago, their Mom, trying to teach them, dispatched them down the aisle of “Big Church,” to drop their offering into the plate in front of the stage. There they came, smiling, dancing, waving their dollar bills, dropping their offering into the plate with sheer joy, pleasure, and a God-honoring attitude that fits bringing an offering to God. Now other children are joining in, they are forming an offering brigade dancing to the front of the sanctuary led by Maggie and Alice. A few adults are starting to catch on, following the example of our new offering-leaders. It is hard to resist that kind of unencumberdness, purity of heart, and joy.

These two are making a difference, not just with the other kids, but in the whole church. Never mind what all the adults do, what the preacher has cooked up, it is worth coming just to be part of an offering led by Alice and Maggie and the children’s offering brigade.

What’s the point? We all have roles, in life, in our families, our community, and in church. It doesn’t matter if you are four, fourteen, forty, or approaching triple digits, we can bless, inspire, encourage, contribute, be an example, and bring glory to God by embracing our roles with hearts of abandon like Maggie and Alice, our offering-leaders.

            To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. If you don’t want to wait till next Sunday, can’t come to the next service, or you just want to practice, go to our church website ldpbaptistchurch.com, click on “giving,” and follow the instructions. But before you do your final click- do a dance, smile with joy, and punch the key in the way you picture Alice and Maggie would do it.

Some are assigned to you, some you get to choose, some you like, some you don’t care for, some are hard, some come easy, some drive you crazy, some are a joy, some are permanent, some are only for a season, and some you have no business holding, for all of them we will be held accountable.

Roles

I am a creation of God, a man, husband, Dad/parent, Opa (Grandfather), brother, uncle, nephew, cousin, in-law, friend, follower of Christ, pastor, boss, employee, neighbor, community member, citizen, … I have been a child, coach, teacher, board member, welfare recipient, patient, student, exchange student, witness, … I have also been called a thing or two, both good and bad, often tied to how I was living out a particular role in the mind of the person doing the assessing.

From the moment we are conceived we have roles assigned by none other than God himself, a person made in God’s image, a child, a son, a daughter, … We have all seen the light of day, taken our first breath, let out our first cry because someone took on their role as a child-bearer, gave us a chance for the first nine months of our lives, went through the gauntlet of pregnancy and childbirth.

“She (Eve, wife of Adam) conceived and gave birth to Cain …” Genesis 4:1. Like many women, Eve was a creation of God, a woman, a wife, and now a mother. Whether chosen or assigned it was up to her what kind of God-created person, woman, wife, and mother she would be. Being a man, I don’t know anything about being a woman, wife, or mother. But being raised by a terrific Mama, being married to the extraordinary Mother of our children, and being blessed by both a daughter and daughter-in-law who are outstanding Moms, I know a lot about what being an excellent Mother looks like. It doesn’t just happen, it takes commitment, presence, sacrifice, selflessness, perseverance, humor, discipline, grit, and an all-in attitude to be an outstanding, terrific, extraordinary Mom.

One of the outstanding examples of embracing and glorifying God in our roles is Joseph of the book of Genesis (chapters 37-50). He chose to be a good son, an upright brother, a trustworthy slave, a model prisoner, a responsible government official, a ruler with integrity, a father seeking blessing for his kids, always seeking to honor God with his life and roles.

This Mother’s Day it might be a wise thing to do a role check. Start with those assigned to you. Next, look at those you chose but are lifelong. Then look at those the ones you chose but are temporary. Don’t forget the ones you should have taken on but refused. Finally, consider those that are not for you to hold, that you have no business playing. Then make the adjustments, make the changes each role requires, followed by a tenacious daily commitment of great Mothers.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

Empty gas tank – not good. Empty seat next to you on along plane ride – very good. Empty bank account – not good. Empty freeway – good. Empty refrigerator – not good. Empty waiting room – good. Empty gopher trap – not good. Empty hospital bed – good. Empty promises – not good. Empty tomb where Jesus was buried – Hallelujah good!

Consider the following Easter “empties” (Matthew27:57–28:15):

  • The Empty Cross (Matthew 27:57-66)

            They were in a hurry to take Jesus and the two criminals down from those ghastly crosses. Too disturbing. Too brutal. A sight no one needed on the eve of Passover and a weeklong celebration. It needed to be cleaned up, those naked, bloody, mangled, dying bodies needed to come down. Those crosses needed to be empty.

             The empty middle cross still stood out with that sign on top reading “King of the Jews.” Every passerby was reminded that someone, Jesus, really died there. And for what? Our sins, carried and atoned for by Jesus, hung there (Colossians 2:13-15).

  • The Empty Tomb (Matthew 28:1-8)

             Tombs and graves are usually empty because they are new, waiting to be used. Or, they have been robbed for one reason or another, usually because it was profitable. Neither was the reason for Jesus’ empty tomb, after three days He walked out alive, resurrected by His own power (John 2:19-22). He didn’t have to wait for someone else to come along to perform a miracle, He held the power over death in His own hands. Jesus, the Creator of all things and God in flesh, has always had life within himself (Colossians 1:15-17; John 1:1-4, 10:17-18).

            Jesus’ empty tomb is a reminder to you and me that only Christ has the power to overcome judgment of sin and death, only Jesus can grant forgiveness and eternal life. Without Him, your and my grave will be the most hopeless places on earth, with Him our graves have no power to hold us (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Hallelujah!

  • The Empty Explanation (Matthew 28:10-15)

            Those most responsible for Jesus’ death on the cross were scrambling. They knew of His prediction of rising from the dead after three days. They had made sure this couldn’t happen by sealing the tomb and posting a Roman guard. In their pride, stubbornness, and hate they had underestimated Jesus. They thought of Him as a mere mortal. They refused to believe He was the Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God. As if refusing to believe can change the truth, the facts, reality. They had tried to contain The Uncontainable and failed. So, they had to come up with an alternate explanation that included bribing the guards, telling a nonsensical lie, “The grave was robbed by His disciples,” and was very expensive.

            Are you settling for an empty Jesus, Easter, resurrection explanation? Something other than the truth, the facts? Something that allows you to bypass Jesus, explain Him away, reduce Him to unimportance? Something that permits you to hang on to your own beliefs, to what you’re comfortable with, your own way of dealing with God, sin, death, and judgment? Something that in the end will be very expensive, costing you eternal life and your soul (Mark 8:36).

Please! Please! Pause and think as you pass the empty cross, don’t ignore the facts of Jesus’ empty tomb, and don’t spend another Easter believing empty explanations of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Kneel at the foot of Jesus’ cross and repent and admit your sin for which Christ died. Call on Jesus to have mercy on you, to forgive you, to save you. Worship at the nail-pierced feet of Him whose tomb is empty.

            “He is risen!” Love you, Pastor Hans

The day before Passover, for maximum exposure Pilate’s PR department had picked the date carefully. Jerusalem would be packed with Jewish pilgrims, entering the city they would have to go right past the execution site, Calvary, Golgotha, the place of the skull. For increased effect, it would be a triple crucifixion, two ordinary criminals and a notorious rebel, a terrorist as far as Rome was concerned. The message sent would be unmistakable, “Don’t mess with Rome!” Fear is a great tool to squelch many things.

The centurion ordered to lead the execution detail had checked off the items on the prep list. Three crosses, nails, digging the holes to drop in the crosses, sedatives, who does what at the site, sufficient protection – you never know.

The legalities were all wrapped up and recorded, charges, verdicts, sentences. Not that they were needed, after all, these three were not Roman citizens, just Jewish riffraff. But it’s so much tidier when things are don’t right, less to worry about afterward.

Both the centurion and the court official got an early morning call, “Change of plans. The insurrectionist Barnabas is to be released, a guy named Jesus will take his place, just make sure you put him in the middle. Everything else will go as planned.” Most likely, it didn’t matter to the centurion, the court officials, or the other two death row inmates who else would or wouldn’t be crucified, but somehow Jesus ended up being executed between two nameless criminals. Although, it seems, both were not unfamiliar with Jesus, maybe they had heard him preach or even witnessed a miracle of his.

And there they hung, surrounded by an angry mob insulting Jesus. Luke recorded the scene: “When they came to a place called The Skull, they nailed him to the cross. And the criminals were also crucified—one on his right and one on his left.
 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” And the soldiers gambled for his clothes by throwing dice.
 The crowd watched and the leaders scoffed. “He saved others,” they said, “let him save himself if he is really God’s Messiah, the Chosen One.”
 The soldiers mocked him, too, by offering him a drink of sour wine. They called out to him, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”
 A sign was fastened to the cross above him with these words: “This is the King of the Jews.”
 One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”
 But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?  We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”
 And Jesus replied, “I assure you, today you will be with me in paradise.” 
Luke 23:33-43 (NLT2)

I hope you and I don’t miss the beautiful and amazing in the center of this brutal, ugly, vicious scene. There, from that middle cross, dripped more than blood. Mercy flowed and tried to touch the soldiers who enjoyed their grisly task just a bit too much, the hostile crowd which had demanded Jesus to be nailed there, and the two criminals dying next to Jesus. Sadly, out of all of them, only one both recognized and received it.

For the two criminals, the last-minute substitution was the most fortuitous moment of their lives. When, not if, you’re going to die, having Jesus next to you is the very best thing that could happen. However, the responses of the two dying men beside Jesus are worlds apart. One dies in darkness, breathing cynical, faithless words down to the very end of a misspent life. He wastes the last and best opportunity of his life and lets the mercy, forgiveness, and hope of Christ fall to the ground he’d be buried in before sunset. The other recognized the moment, and more importantly, who he was dying next to, Jesus the Christ, Son of God, Savior of the world, the Way, the Truth, the Life. He didn’t let the mercy, forgiveness, hope, and eternal life puddle at the foot of his cross and slowly seep away. No! He repented, reached out with arms that could not move, and laid hold of the Savior. Hallelujah!

And, what about you?

            To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

Jesus, a sign, our sins – All three were nailed to the wooden cross of Jesus Christ’s execution.

·      Jesus, Son of God and son of Mary, beaten and flogged to a pulp, was stretched out naked and staked to the beams and hoisted up to die in agony and as a public spectacle. From a Roman perspective, he was no different from the thousands of other no-citizens and slaves they had strung up and executed in that fashion.

 God incarnate, the Creator and Sustainer of the universe not just stripped of his clothes, but of his rights, of justice, of his life, or least so it seemed. Outwardly this was the display of political power over the religious, it was the triumph of treachery over innocence, the lie over the truth. But! But Jesus didn’t die on that cross because of the power of Rome, nor was it the jealousy and treachery of the Jewish leaders that won out, nor was He stripped of His clothes, justice, and rights because He was powerless. Jesus hung on that cross because He volunteered, because He chose to suffer, because He submitted Himself to His Father’s desire and will to save sinners, because of His unfathomable love for you and me. He was not stripped of anything, He laid it down, including His life, and He took it back up. (Colossians 1:15-20, Philippians 2:5-11, John 4:34, Luke 2:42, 1 Timothy 1:15, Ephesians 5:2, Titus 3:4, John 2:19-22).

 The truth is you and I, our world, need Jesus. All we know is how to perpetuate the cycles of sin, brokenness, injustice, abuse of power, and … Without His intervention, His love, His forgiveness, His life-giving and life-changing power we are lost now and without hope when facing God’s judgment. At the cross of Christ is the right place to worship.

 ·      The sign Pilate, the governor who gave the execution order, had nailed above Jesus’s head was wrong, or at least incomplete. “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews,” it read in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek. The Jewish leaders wanted it changed to, “He said, ‘I am the king of the Jews.’” Pilate was unmoved, probably because he was sick and tired of the whole affair. Pilate thought Jesus deserved a title. The Chief Priests thought the last word about Jesus should be an empty claim to kingship.

 People have nailed something above Jesus’ head ever since, “Founder of one of the great religions,” “Prophet,” “Rabi/Religious teacher,” “Heretic,” “Leader of a sect,” “Clever invention,” … It’s a great way to dismiss Jesus, of putting him on the sidelines, reducing him to being insignificant to us personally and collectively. A Jewish king held no significance for Pilate, the Roman governor sworn to Caesar. Just claiming to be the Messiah, the rightful heir to King David’s throne, had little weight as far as the Jewish leaders were concerned. Being one among many religious greats in history, allows us to pick and choose.

 The sign should have read, “Son of God, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords” (Mark 15:39, Luke 22:70, Revelation 17:14, 19:16), the actual truth of Jesus. But that would have mocked the crucifixion and not the other way around. That would have indicted anyone who dismisses Jesus as rebellious toward God, as dishonoring the eternal King. It still does, so be careful what title you give to Jesus Christ.

 ·      Something more than Jesus himself and Pilate’s sign was nailed to the cross, your and my sin, the certificate of our sin debt, our indictment before God, hung there as well. The Apostle Paul reminded the Colossian believers, “You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.  He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross” Colossians 2:13-14 (NLT2). Peter wrote, Jesus personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By his wounds you are healed. Once you were like sheep who wandered away. But now you have turned to your Shepherd, the Guardian of your souls” 1 Peter 2:24-25 (NLT2, italics mine).

There is only one place and one person where and through whom our sins can be forgiven – the Cross and Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus died on that cross for sinners, for you and me. He took our place, paid our penalty, offered up His righteousness for our unrighteousness. So, don’t bypass the Cross of Christ. Bow before the crucified Christ, confess your sinfulness, receive His forgiveness, acknowledge his Kingship, and pledge your allegiance.

            To God and Christ be all glory. Pastor Hans

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