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Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1 (NLT2)

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (NLT2)

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20 (NIV)

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT2)

Would you let a doctor in whom you had no faith in and did not trust operate on you? You can go ahead but I won’t, no way.  S/he can snip away on you but I won’t let that scalpel touch me. Misplaced faith never works out well and can be flat out dangerous. Who and what you put your faith in, believe in, trust in makes a big difference in all areas of life, but, because of the eternal ramifications, none more so than in the spiritual life.

Some believe the earth is flat, some believe it to be center of the universe, some believe the holocaust never happened, some believe there is no climate change, and some believe there is no God in whom and through who and for whom all things exist (Revelation 4:11, Hebrews 2:10). But just because some or you and me believe something does not make it so.

Christians are believers in Jesus Christ, God incarnate (in the flesh). We trust him more than anyone else in all matters of this life and eternal life. Thus faith is indispensable for today and for eternity; it will forever be a central part of living in a relationship with God/Christ.  It is neither a misplaced nor a completely blind faith. It is not misplaced because God and Christ really do exist and it is not totally blind because all of the universe, our conscience, Jesus Christ and Spirit of God all testify of his existence, greatness, power, and necessity.

It is impossible to write anything exhaustive about faith in one short pastor’s note, but I want to highlight three that are at the core of Christian faith:

  1. Relationship

We believe it is possible to live in a relationship with God through faith in his Son Jesus Christ. Sinners can be forgiven and be reconciled to God through the person, power, and cross of Christ. God is not an abstract, not a mere religious construct, but real and loving, so much so Holy God made a way for unholy people like you and me to be in an eternal relationship with him.

  1. Revelation

We believe we can trust the promises, principles, laws, and words of God revealed through the Spirit of God and the ultimate revelation of God – Jesus Christ. We believe in, trust in, and follow what he says and shows us.

  1. Right living

We believe in pleasing God through our actions. We have faith in the goodness of God and that in his goodness he means to transform us to live and act more like Jesus, to love ever more selflessly. We believe with James (James 2:17, 26, and entire letter) that real faith shows up in real life, making a difference in how we respond to trials, how we treat people, what comes out of our mouths, how we plan and do business, how we pray, and how we live in community with each other (and much more).

Not going to the doctor when you need one is a bad idea. Putting your trust in an incompetent doctor is not wise. Dismissing all doctors because some are lousy is foolish. Likewise, denying your need for God is a bad idea. Declaring all religion and spirituality equal is not wise. Dismissing God because of religious abuses is foolish (although at times understandable). The eternal God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – has never ceased to be holy, awesome, great, just, faithful, good, and loving. He is worthy of our complete faith in him, we can trust him completely, none who follow him will be led astray, and all who believe in him will be glad.

Put your faith in Jesus. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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What is your definition of blessing, your mental picture of a blessed life? A lot depends on it. It plays a significant part in determining what we value. It will impact how we evaluate our circumstances. It will shape our fears. It shapes the core of our faith. It will drive our actions.

Have you ever examined the prayer requests in y/our church and churches you have visited? The vast (and I mean vast) majority are about health, followed by requests for protection and provision. It reveals our spiritual priorities as much as the record of our checking accounts reveals our financial priorities. How do we reconcile this with Jesus’ instruction, “If God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” Matthew 6:29-33 (NLT2).

Small wonder that the “prosperity gospel,” health and wealth preachers find easy prey and are exploiting people and believers all over the globe. They tie into both the anxieties and definitions of blessings that are common to all people but should not be to followers of Christ. Small wonder the politics of nationalism, exclusion, and hate have always found vast audiences even among Christians. If our definition of blessing is at its core about health, wealth, prosperity, liberty, comfort and security we will be overcome by fear anytime they are threatened, and we will do whatever is necessary to maintain, protect, and restore those blessings. And when that happens, according to Jesus, we act no different than those who do not believe.

It is not wrong to seek the blessing(s) of God. Actually, the Bible (the written word of God) continually encourages living according to the commands, principles, and ways God blesses, for example, “Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams” Malachi 3:10 (MSG). Who wouldn’t want for God to pour out blessings beyond what we even asked and hoped for over him or her, over our families, over us as a people? Imagine with me getting it all (much like Solomon mentioned above), health wealth, peace, comfort, safety, not just for you but also for your family and nation. (Are you feeling blessed just imagining it?). Are you aware that this the point most people forget about God, quit depending on God, no longer have a need for God (including Solomon)? That this definition of blessing is also our greatest stumbling block, intoxicating to our sin-nature?

A Christian definition of blessing is much broader than health, prosperity, liberty, comfort, and safety; it has to be because it has to encompass earthly reality and the kingdom of God, it has to concern itself with more than own needs and include the needs of all of mankind, it has to be about more than the here and now and fully embrace the eternal, it needs to take us beyond our own dreams and completely embrace the plans and purposes of God. So, how confused do you think was Jesus’ audience when they heard him declare, “Blessed are the poor in spirit …, those who mourn …, the gentle …, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness …, the merciful …, the pure in heart …, the peacemakers …, and then top it off with the following, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me (Jesus Christ). Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” Matthew 5:10-12 (NIV, parenthesis mine)?

As followers of Jesus, we dare not live by an incomplete definition of blessing because in short order it will cause us to think, worry, speak, vote, cheer, and fight like unbelievers. And, it will render us a people with much passion for the things of this world (1 John 2:15-16) but little thought and even less fire for the Jesus’ kingdom.

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

 


613 – 10 – 2 – 1

Six hundred thirteen Old Testament Laws, 10 Commandments etched by the finger of God in tablets of stone, two “foremost” laws of God that are the heart and basis for all the others, and one new one Jesus explicitly gave to his disciples.

I am willing to go on a limb and bet that law school students wished there were only 614 laws to learn, that accountants can only dream of 614 tax laws spelling out the entire tax code, that employers would love it if there were only 614 workplace laws and regulations. However, for a guy like me, who, starting from my earliest memory, have never liked rules, 614 are still way too many, feels too restrictive. Of course, that has never hindered me from fully embracing rules and laws working to my advantage. And, you are right, it takes a lot of hubris and arrogance to make one’s self the final arbiter of which rules are worthwhile and good, and which are not.

I wonder, how many laws govern our universe, make life possible, keep everything from total chaos and collapse? Probably more than 614, don’t you think? And how glad are you that I am not the one who created the laws of the universe and of life? I’m certainly grateful it wasn’t you.

Maybe, you are from the tribe of the rule keepers, just shaking your head at folks like me. I thank God for you because without you our world would be a much greater mess than it already is, and the rule critics and breakers would lack an indispensable check. Of course, meticulous law abiding also lends itself to self-righteousness and a lack of compassion.

Why did Jesus feel compelled to add one more?  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:34-35 (ESV); after all, he better than anyone else knew that even the best rule keeper among us struggles with the two most important ones (Love the only true God with all your heart … and love your neighbor as yourself … Mark 12:28-34), never mind the ten or six hundred and thirteen. Why give us, who are already failing with God’s laws, and many of us who don’t like or even despise many of God’s laws, one more to struggle with, another one to flop at? I am certain Jesus wasn’t trying to frustrate and exasperate his disciples or you and me. (After all, God’s instructions to parents, especially fathers, was to avoid doing that exact thing, Ephesians 6:4 & Colossians 3:21.)

Close your eyes for a moment and picture with me a world in compliance with the Ten Commandments. What kind of world would that be? It would be fantastic! No religious confusion and exploitation, healthy rhythms and rest, honor in each home, no murder, sex as it is meant to be and in its proper context, respect for people and property, honesty, and contentment. I think that is still a vision to live by and for. Now close your eyes again and think of world functioning by two basic laws, “’The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these’” Mark 12:29-31 (ESV).  I maintain this too would be a beautiful world because we would be in affectionate harmony with both our Creator and each other. Would you dare ask yourself, “Is that true of me?”

Did you notice? Jesus commands a standard beyond loving our neighbor as ourselves. He commands us to love each other how he (God himself) loves us. I might muster up the self-discipline to love others like I love myself, but loving them like Jesus, the Son of God who left heaven’s glory, confined himself to a human existence, and suffered and died for a sinner like me (Philippians 2:5-11), seems impossible. And it is as impossible as it not optional. Jesus was serious, he did not suggest but commanded us to love each other as he loves us. With this command, he calls us to live a life dominated by and centered in his nature. And, in this command, he established the criteria for what it truly means to know and reflect him. But we, both those who love and those dislike rules, cannot love like that on our own. The only way we can is to profess our impotence and at the same time open ourselves up to Jesus putting his very life and heart into us, today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our days.

Close your eyes one more time and picture your world with you loving others like Jesus. How beautiful is that! Settle for nothing less.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

My Church Family,

I so love being your pastor and I am still amazed at Jesus calling me take care of his flock here in Don Pedro for almost 34 years.

The next three months are a first for us as a church and will be different for both you and Susie and me. Thank you for sending me into a sabbatical, giving me some extended time to rest, regroup, and recharge.

I am probably the last one to notice how badly I am need of this. Taking time off has not been a strong point of mine, something I hope to change in the future. Some of you have noticed though, certainly Susie, that, as difficult as it is to admit, I am run down, often running on fumes. This doesn’t serve you, us as a church, or Christ well. I owe you an apology.

Maybe you are wondering who will do what over the next three months:

  • Hopefully, you and every church member will step up in some way to help. Of course, this doesn’t mean that those who are already fully engaged and serving should do more. This is a great time to get involved, to commit to service and ministry in some way.
  • Jannett, our secretary will continue to serve as a hub, call here to see what help is needed.
  • Pastor Paul will serve as sabbatical pastor. He has one weakness – doing too much. So, you can be a help to him asking him every week how you can help and serve him and the church.
  • Our Deacons, Richard Mayes, Dennis Kluding, Bryan Berger, and Matt Garcia will help with caring for people, the flock. They will visit and help with the services. Matt is now our official youth leader and his responsibilities will be with shepherding the youth.
  • The Church Board, Diana Baker (will function as chairwoman), Dan Hankemeyer, Sue Kluding, Richard Mayes, Mitch Miller, and Monica Sult, bear the responsibility of oversight, please contact them in regard to any church business.
  • The Ministry Leaders will continue to function in their capacities. We still need new leaders for the Kitchen Ministry, Facilities Ministry, and Cleaning Ministry. This may be the time for you to step into one of those rolls. Talk with Pastor Paul about it.
  • All of us can visit, encourage, pray with people, and invite people.

My hope and prayer is for the Holy Spirit work so mightily in our church and community that at the end of this sabbatical you will say, “Pastor, you will have to leave more often!” and that I will be absolutely surprised by all God has done.

To God be all glory. How I love you and thank God for you, Pastor Hans

 

The man being interviewed on NPR (National Public Radio) told about a social worker who made both impression and a difference in his life. What he remembered all these later was a simple smile, no words, no particular action, just a genuine, hopeful, affirming smile.

Let me ask you, “Are you capable of a smile?” I know I am.

A lady, a complete stranger, after reading about my younger brother’s suicide in the paper penned a note and sent it to my Mama bringing immense comfort to her.

Let me ask you, “Are you capable of writing a note?” I know I am.

A handful of young teenage boys decided to not spend all of their allowances and earnings on themselves and instead contribute a few dollars each month to fund a poor teenager on a different continent so he could have food an education.

Let me ask you, “Are you capable of spending a few less dollars on yourself each month?” I know I am.

“Are you capable of doing good? I know I am.

“Do you have some skill, some ability, resources, or experiences with which you could bless someone else? I know I do.

Could you make some time, change your plans in order to help someone, encourage someone, or comfort someone? I know I could.

There are few things we need to continually remind ourselves when it comes to doing good.

  • Doing good is not optional if I am serious about following God/Christ.

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. 3 John 1:11 (HCSB)

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.” 1 Peter 3:10-11 (NIV)

  • I am much more selective in doing good than Christ wants me to be.

“But I (Jesus) say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” Luke 6:27 (ESV, parenthesis mine)

  •  I can learn to do good like God wants me to.

You (God) are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
Psalm 119:68 (ESV, parenthesis mine)

  •  Doing good and procrastination don’t go together, nor do I have any good excuses not to do good.

Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices. Hebrews 13:16 (HCSB)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9-10 (NIV)

  • Doing good can be very tiring, exhausting even, but it is always right and Christlike to do good.

As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired (grow weary) of doing good. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 (NLT2, parenthesis mine)

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all!”
Proverbs 31:28-29 (MSG)

 She, my Mama, must have read them in the bathroom; not the restroom, which was a separate little room, and anyway, she wasn’t into porcelain throne scholarship like some in our family were. The bathroom was the bathroom and laundry room. A bathtub (no shower) under the high up window where we got a weekly bath, next to the tub a sink with a mirrored cabinet you didn’t mess with, a washing machine to the right of the sink, two hanging cabinets filled with towels and washrags on the opposite wall, and two cloth hampers under those cabinets, one just for my dad’s clothes and the other for everyone else. You never wanted to open Dad’s hamper because the mixture of cigarette smoke and the stink of his socks was downright toxic. Anyway, my Mama spent a lot of time in that bathroom, not fixing herself up, but taking care of us.

I didn’t find out that she also read in the bathroom, most likely while doing laundry, until I got tall enough to reach the towel cabinets. I thought I had discovered a secret stash of forbidden literature hidden under the stack of towels on the top shelf inside. But they turned out to be boring magazines and pamphlets about parenting. I have no idea where she got them from, but they were worn from multiple readings.

I also know that Mama prayed in that bathroom, long after I had left home she told me so. I don’t think it was just ordinary prayer that happened in there, I think she languished in prayer while the washing machine went through its cycles. She knew we wouldn’t bother her while washing clothes because if you did you most likely got stuck having to help her hanging them up to dry. And we needed prayer, all five of us, and Dad as well. So, our dirty boys’ bodies got washed in there, our clothes got washed, and our souls and lives were taken before the one who could keep us and cleanse us from sin. And we could not have cared less about all three of these, except latter two when we started liking girls and clean bodies and clothes somehow became a lot more important.

I don’t know why I ended up with a great and godly Mama? I do know she was one of God’s greatest gifts in my life. But I also know she wasn’t just an accidental great and godly Mama. Great and godly rarely if ever just happen. Mama loved us in the little bathroom maybe more than anywhere else. Love, Learning, Languishing Prayer still spills out of the memory of my Mama in that bathroom, her commitment to these three shaped both her and us, her boys. How I thank God for her, and how I thank her.

Happy Mother’s Day, Pastor Hans

 

  • Changed wireless plan to unlimited for just five dollars more a month – a little thing.
  • Standing in line at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) for a ridiculously long time – a little thing.
  • Finished restoring the old 65 Aristocrat travel trailer – a little thing.
  • Our first granddaughter born healthy and her Mama is okay – a very big thing.
  • A lost, sinful soul found and restored – a very big thing in heaven (Luke 15)
  • Money management – a very little very big thing

            Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg– I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ ‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’ Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.  I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?  And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.  He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” 
Luke 16:15 (NIV)

In our perspective, and certainly in the Pharisees’ mindset, Jesus turned a lot of things upside down in just a few sentences. We are prone to managing God and worshipping money, but we should be doing the exact opposite. Did you also notice how the dishonest manager needed a change of perspective: from “now” to “long-term,” from focusing on making his life better to using his influence and power to make life easier for others, from misuse to right use of money, from hedonism to spiritual and eternal significance. (You might want to read on in Luke 16 and let Jesus confront you with the second parable/story in this chapter as well).

According to Jesus/God, there is a difference between being rich and being truly rich, but, truth be told, many (if not most) of us would settle for the former and give little thought to the latter. And so, we end up making a little (literally a smaller than microscopic thing) a big thing, which ends up making a huge impact on our hearts, our perspective, our priorities, our relationships, our character, and most importantly our eternal destiny.

The rich man in the second parable of Luke 16 implores Moses to send a poor, paralyzed man back from the dead to warn his brothers, to shake them up, so they would manage their wealth and lifestyle differently, with eternity and accountability to God in mind. Moses refuses the plea, telling him that they already have enough information in the Word of God (the Bible) to know what they should do and how to do it. Which means we do as well, and thus it is merely a question of whether or not we will.

To God Be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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