… Until Christ is formed in you. Galatians 4:19

How do we grow spiritually? What promotes, fosters, and enables Christ being formed in us?

1.     Commitment – (1 Corinthians 15:31, Luke 9:23-26, Hebrews 12:2)

·        Making a daily and life-long commitment that cries out, “I want to be like Jesus!”

·        Continually choosing to conform our lives, minds, hearts, values, and actions to be Christlike.

·        Realizing and embracing that I am responsible for who I am and who I am becoming,

·        Allowing Christ and the Holy Spirit to change me, access everything in my life.

·        Giving myself to a lifelong pursuit of the Worship of God, the Word of God, the Will of God, and the Work of God. “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:9-10 (NASB).

·        “We become what we are committed to.”

2.     Company – (Matthew 9:9-10, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-9)

·        Making a daily and lifelong commitment that says, “I want to be with those who are becoming like Jesus”

·        Recognizing my constant need for Christlike models, godly examples, caring encouragers, honest rebukers, silent convictors, theological thinkers, and faithful sharpeners, who teach me Christ, His ways, His heart, His character, His word, His teachings and commands, and life in the Holy Spirit.

·        Refusing to be a solitary follower of Christ and instead always be found in the company of Jesus’ followers.

·        Serving together with others to do the work of the church in our world.

·        Desiring and working toward being a Christlike example others can follow and be blessed by.

·        We are shaped by the company we keep.

3.     Compliance – (James 11:22-25)

·        Making a daily and lifelong commitment that insists, “I will not put Jesus on hold.”

·        Training myself to immediately respond to what God says to me by the Holy Spirit through the Bible, prayer, solid teachers, and any other means the Spirit might employ.

·        Immediately putting into practice what I am being being taught, told, or asked to do.

·        Guarding a humility of mind and heart that not only knows that God knows better, but also trusts that God knows better regardless of how I feel, what my opinion is, or how difficult His will might be.

·        “If you love Me, you will keep My commands” John 14:15 (HCSB).

·        We grow when we obey.

4.     Consistency – (Acts 2:42, Galatians 5:22-25, Hebrews 5:11-14)

·        Making a daily and lifelong commitment that proclaims, “I will put in the hard work to become strong and fruitful in Christ.”

·        Realizing that in order to gain consistency I have learn to say both “yes” and “no.” “No,” to all that opposes, hinders, and short-circuits godliness and Christlikeness, and “Yes,” to all that fosters them.

·        Fully investing myself to build a strong super structure of thoroughly knowing the core beliefs of the faith and learning the practice of the core habits of the Christian walk. Like learning to read and interpret the Bible well, knowing the doctrines of the faith, memorizing scripture, practicing the habits of prayer, Bible reading, church, serving, generosity, etc.

·        Repetition, repetition, repetition of core beliefs and core habits, with the goal of developing discernment, decision making, and spiritual disciplines that are automatic, mature, wise, and thoroughly Biblical.

·        We acquire Christlike character by repetitively and consistently doing the Christlike.

… Until Christ is formed in you. Galatians 4:19

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

I’ve cut down and sawed up a tree or two over the years. Doing so, I often stopped, especially with large trees, to count the growth rings in order to find out how old that tree was. Dendrochronologist (those who study tree rings) can tell all kinds of things from their examination of tree rings, like climate patterns, rainfall, archeological dates, etc.

I’ve cut myself a time or two, and I’ve watched doctors cut on me more than a time or two, and I never saw a single growth ring. A dendrochronologist would be very frustrated after taking a core-sample of Hans. However, I am alive, as are you (otherwise you would be reading this pastor’s note) and we can be examined whether we are growing people, as to what is growing in our lives.

God has designed us to grow every bit as much as trees. In fact, He delights in growth, especially our personal growth, our spiritual growth. But unlike our physical growth, personal and spiritual growth are not automatic, they don’t just happen, they have to be fostered, embraced, pursued, and be deliberately engaged in. No guaranteed yearly adding of growth rings as long as we are breathing.

Since we are not designed to add growth rings, what are we supposed to grow in? Add year after year? What is God looking for when he examines our growth?

  • Growth in faith, 2 Peter 1:1-9.
  • Growth in character, James 1:2-4.
  • Growth in love, Philippians 1:9-11.
  • Growth in wisdom, James 3:13-18.
  • Growth in using our minds, Romans 12:2, 1 Corinthians 13:11.
  • Growth in using our abilities, skills, talents, and spiritual gifts, 1 Peter 4:10.
  • Growth in generosity, 2 Corinthians 9:7.
  • Growth in holiness, 1 Peter 1:15-16.
  • Growth in the use of our tongue, James 3:1-12, Ephesians 4:29.
  • Growth in discernment, Hebrews 5:11-14.
  • Growth in thinking and reasoning from a biblical perspective, Acts 17:2.
  • Growth in servanthood, Mark 10:45, Galatians 5:13.
  • Growth in virtue, 2 Peter 5:5.
  • Growth in our passion for and dedication to the kingdom of Christ/God, Matthew 6:33, 2 Corinthians 5:14.
  • Growth in prayer, Luke 11:1-13.
  • Growth in our handling, understanding, accurately interpreting, and faithfully applying of the Bible (God’s written word), 2 Timothy 2:15.
  • Growth in our contribution to the Jesus’s church, our communities, and society, 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, Acts 9:36.
  • Growth in our understanding of and application of justice, Proverbs 21:3, 15, 28:5.
  • Growth in developing godly, Christlike attitudes, Philippians 2:1:1-11, .
  • Growth in the use of our time, Ephesians 5:15-16.
  • Growth in handling and resolving conflicts, Matthew 18:15-18, 1 Corinthians 6:1-8.
  • Growth in shedding bad habits and replacing them with good habits, Ephesians 4:17-24.
  • Growth in breaking generational patterns of sin, Daniel 9:16.
  • Growth in courage, standing up for what is right, just, and good, 2 Timothy 1:7, Hebrews 11:32-38.
  • Growth in endurance, perseverance, and grit, Romans 5:1-5.
  • Growth in understanding, hating, and handling evil, Romans 12:9-21.
  • Growth in knowing God’s ways, God’s revealed purposes, and God’s life-principles.
  • Growth in handling frustration, bitterness, and anger without sinning, James 1:19-20.
  • Growth in forgiveness and asking for forgiveness, Ephesians 4:29-32, Matthew 6:9-14.
  • Growth in our imaginations, dreams, and aspirations, Acts 2:14-18.
  • Growth in hearing and processing criticism, Proverbs 9:8, 19:25.
  • Growth in gratitude, joy, and worship, Psalm 84:2, Philippians 4:6-8.
  • Growth in immediately responding to Spirit of God, the Word of God, the commandments of God, Acts 16:6-10.
  • Growth in reshaping our lives according to what God calls blessed, Matthew 5:1-16.
  • Growth in selflessness, Luke 9:23-35.
  • Growth in humility, Colossian 3:12, 1 Peter 5:5-6 .
  • Growth in yielding the power and authority of God, Titus 2:15.
  • Growth in introducing and incorporating Christ and the Gospel, everywhere, in everything, and to everyone Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20, Romans 1;8, 16.
  • Growth in producing the fruit of the Holy Spirit, Galatians 5:16-25.
  • Growth in knowing God, Christ, and the Holy Spirit ever deeper, 1 Peter 3:18, Philippians 3:7-11, Exodus 3:18.

I am not a dendrochronologist, but I am a pastor, a minister of Christ, and I confidently tell you, certify, that all of the above are true. So, get after it, pursue all God wants you to grow in year after year. Live in such a way that in the day of judgment your life’s core-sample will reveal such beauty and Christlikeness that the angels will stand in awe and shout, “Hallelujah, Glory to God!”

To God be all glory. Love you, and let’s grow together, Pastor Hans

Christians are meant to be growing people. After believing in and committing your life to Jesus Christ, publicly professing Christ in baptism, and being added to the church, the next lifelong commitment is to spiritual growth, to Christian maturity.

The Apostle John wrote, I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth” John 1:4 (NASB). Seeing those who professed Christ as Savior learning how to walk, run, and stand firm in the faith, delighted him every bit as much as when our kids speak their first word, take their first step, and make high character choices.

The Apostle Paul worried about, prayed for, and wrote to the Galatian believers because he saw them stumbling and being derailed theologically and behaviorally. “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you” Galatians 4:19 (NASB), he poured out his heart

The Apostle Peter’s last letter begins with a major section on spiritual growth (2 Peter 1:1-12). And, after reminding everyone of Christ’s certain return, the coming judgment (Day of the Lord), and the end of time (2 Peter 3:1-17), his final words, hope, admonition, and prayer were, But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity” Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 (ESV).

Since the Word of God and the testimony of the Apostles about every Christian being committed to lifelong spiritual growth is crystal clear three questions arise:

  1. Have I committed myself to spiritual growth, to continual, daily, life-permeating growth in Christ?
  2. What does spiritual growth entail? What are the specifics of it? What does it look like?
  3. How do I grow spiritually? What promotes, fosters, and enables Christ being formed in us? What hinders, obstructs, nullifies spiritual growth?

For the remainder of this pastor’s note consider question #1 and stay tuned for questions #2 and #3.

Ask yourself, “Am I committed to spiritual growth, to continual, daily, life-permeating growth in Christ?”

“Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day. They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” Acts 2:41-47 (NIV)

The Apostle Peter preached the truth of Christ, and everyone’s need for Christ to a very large crowd. 3,000 of them believed, repented, were baptized, and became part of the church that day. This meant there were 3,000 spiritual babies who now needed to grow in Christ. They didn’t know the first thing about spiritual growth. Here is how they got started on a lifelong commitment to spiritual growth, of Christ being formed in them:

  • They committed themselves, became devoted to learning the Word of God (the Bible) – “the Apostles’ teaching.”
  • They committed themselves, devoted themselves to being together, sharing life, meeting each other’s needs, participating in the life of the church – “the fellowship.”
  • They committed themselves to, practiced corporate worship and prayer – “the braking of bread and prayer,” ‘continued to meet in the temple courts.”
  • They committed themselves to building relationships and being part of smaller groups within the church that connected them throughout the week – “they broke bread in their homes and ate together.”
  • They committed themselves to sharing the Gospel with their relatives, friends, neighbors – everyone, inviting people, and publicly praising God – “enjoying favor with all the people,” “the Lord added to their number daily.”

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.
Ephesians 4:3 (NIV)

Every Christian, from the moment s/he is saved, born again by regeneration of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-8), also becomes a member of the body of Christ, his church, We have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit” 1 Corinthians 12:13 (NLT2). Every member of the body of Christ is meant to participate in that body life, church life where s/he lives. It is impossible to claim being a serious follower of Christ and not be involved in, be committed to Jesus’ Church where you live. Some of you reading this pastor’s note need to repent of your bad habit of not being part of, belonging to, and faithfully attending a church where you live (Hebrews 10:24-24).

Every Christian belonging to a church has responsibilities, is meant to contribute to the life that local body of Christ, and needs to part of making his/her church family better. This means every member needs to be committed to grow in Christlikeness, be committed to a holy life, and needs to “make effort to keep the unity of the Spirit.” Disunity never serves Jesus’ church, never helps people to grow spiritually, never enhances the testimony we are called to bear of Jesus. Disunity and divisiveness are never of the Holy Spirit, function out of the self-centeredness, worldly wisdom, ignoring scripture, and inevitably hurts people. At the bottom line a spirit of disunity and divisiveness is sin.

To keep the unity of the Spirit every church member, we, need to:

  • Be fully committed to our brothers and sisters in Christ. The church is not a club, Jesus commanded us to love one another as He loves us (John 15:12). “I don’t like him.” “If she goes to church here, I am leaving.” We do well to consider that Jesus just might add some difficult people to our church to help us and them to grow in the love of Christ. Running from them will not lead you and me to love them.
  • Watch our mouth. A church member never has the green light to lie, twist the truth, repeat gossip, spread rumors, talk negatively, or criticize a person without first talking to him or her. Doing so not only injures that person, but it also hurts the listener and Jesus body as a whole. Even if what you say about that person is true you have no business talking about him/her behind their back and without talking to them first.
  • Watch our ears. It is never okay to listen to a gossip, a slanderer, someone talking about someone else negatively or in criticism or worse.  The only way to do that is to cut off the speaker, to not lend your ears, to disassociate from gossips, dividers, rebels, etc. (Proverbs 20:19, 24:1, Titus 3:10). “Have you talked face to face with who you are talking about?” “Well, no.” “Sorry, this conversation is over. And I am sure you won’t mind me telling him/her that you are talking about them?” There are times we need to hold each other accountable, encourage each other to do the right thing, even rebuke one another.
  • Contribute to the life and ministry our church. Every church member has an active role, responsibility, and purpose in the life of the church. We quickly turn into critics sitting on the sidelines. Shared responsibility and work strengthen unity. The church has mission to fulfill and needs all hands deck working together.
  • Following the leaders of the church (Hebrews 13:7, 17-18). Not blindly but expecting them to be godly and teaching the scriptures accurately. It is scripturally out of bounds to level unsubstantiated charges against anyone, and especially leaders in the church (1 Timothy 5:19, Matthew 18:15-18).
  • Grow in the faith, including theological understanding, handling of the of scriptures, developing godly habits, forsaking worldly patterns, radically applying the scriptures to our conduct.

It takes all of us working together and handling things according to scriptures to be a healthy, growing church. The love, harmony, and unity of the church are under constant attack. Satan and the powers of evil love nothing more then church members behaving badly, not watching out for and contributing to the unity of their church, being divisive. Are you contributing to the unity of your church? Of not, what do you need to change, repent of, and who do you need to apologize to? “Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” Philippians 2:1-5 (NLT2).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

Grow Up

Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 2 Peter 3:18 (NASB)

Babies are little tricksters, they disarm and charm us with their sincerity, totally being themselves, and their cuteness, causing us to cheer and celebrate even “cute little poopoos.” But what is cute for a one-month-old isn’t the case for a six-year-old. A thirteen-year-old acting like a kindergartener, not so cute. Acting like a teenager at thirty-nine, anything but cute. We are meant to grow, grow up, mature, but maturity is not automatic. This is also true spiritually, the Apostle Paul verbally spanked the Corinthian believers when he wrote, “I was not able to speak to you as spiritual people but as people of the flesh, as babies in Christ” 1 Corinthians 3:1 (HCSB). Somehow, they had missed the memos of, “We are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” Ephesians 4:15 (ESV), “Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good” 1 Peter 2:2-3 (NIV).

Does God want everyone to be saved, to be born again spiritually through faith in Christ? Absolutely! But this initial commitment of trusting in Christ is meant to be the start of growing up into Christ, “until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” Ephesians 4:13 (NIV).

So, what is involved in growing up spiritually, becoming spiritually mature? Check yourself against the following (take the time to look up the scripture references):

  • Sitting under sound biblical teaching. Ephesians 4:11-12
  •  Immediately putting into practice what the Bible teaches. James 1:22-25
  • A willingness to listen to the tough stuff, what you don’t want but need to hear. 2 Timothy 4:1-4
  • Being an engaged and faithful member of a local church. Acts 2:41-42
  • Developing a solid Christian mindset, world view. Ephesians 4:4-5, 14-15
  • Learning to walk in the Holy Spirit, by radically practicing the fruits of the Spirit and godly wisdom. Galatians 5:16, 22-24, Ephesians 5:17-21, James 3:13-18
  • Sharing the Gospel, being witnesses for Christ. Acts 1:8, Matthew 28:19-20
  • Shedding bad habits and replacing them with godly ones. Ephesians 4:22-32
  • Embracing a life of service. Ephesians 4:12, Galatians 5:13
  • Never making excuses for immaturity and a lack of growth. 2 Peter 1:1-11
  • Doing what is right before God, even if it is costly. 1 Peter 4:12-19
  • Modeling and teaching others what spiritual maturity looks like. Hebrews 5:11-14, 1 Thessalonians 1:2-7

Last week the nurse prepping me for surgery asked me to rate my pain tolerance on a scale of 1 to 10. I hated the question because I didn’t want to be a wimp, but I also didn’t want to overrate myself out of pride. So, on a scale of 1-10, how spiritually mature are you? And more importantly, are you growing, are you becoming spiritually more mature, are you increasing in godliness and Christlikeness? The good news is that God has provided everything we need when it comes to spiritual maturity (2 Peter 1:1-4), even if our starting point is zero.

I am not a zero, I shouldn’t be after professing faith in Jesus for 44 years, but I also still have more to learn, more Christlikeness to grow into. And, oh how I want to.

 To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

Take a quick walk around your home or apartment and count how many things are plugged into an electrical outlet. In my tiny office the number is seven, heater, printer, little vacuum, computer, phone, cell phone charger, mini stereo. And yes, the only way that works out with just two outlets is adding a power strip. So, what was your number?

Every one of our plugged-in devices is totally dependent on the flow of power, from the super deluxe flat screen hanging on your wall to the lonely light bulb under the house. Whatever their purpose and function they are useless unless they are connected to a power source.

Living in Don Pedro you soon become familiar with power outages caused by winter storms, fires, accidents, failed transformers, rolling blackouts, and even woodpeckers. You quickly realize our power source is both fragile and unreliable. I am surely not the only one who has wished for a PG&E alternative or dreamed of unplugging from the grid altogether and be energy independent. But our need for electrical power will remain undiminished if not increasing.

Jesus was talking to a devoutly religious man, Nicodemus, one night. “You must be born again,” He told him twice (John 3:3, 7) in response to the question Nicodemus had not yet asked but wanted to know the answer to, “How can a person, how can I have eternal life?” Nicodemus knew that despite his religious devotion he was running out of life, that what he was plugged into and believed in was insufficient, held no hope, lacked any kind of reliability and assurance. Jesus told him that only by believing in Him, by connecting to the Son of God by faith, could he be spared from God’s judgment and have eternal life. There is only one eternal source of power and life, God Almighty revealed in Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:15-17).

Peter was preaching the truth of Jesus Christ to a large listening crowd of Jewish pilgrims when it dawned on them who Jesus really is, “the way, the truth, and the life,” and that, “no one comes to God the Father except through Him” (John 14:6). So, they wanted to know what they needed to do. “Each of you must repent of your sins, turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ to show that you have received forgiveness for your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” Acts 2:38 (NLT2), Peter informed them. He basically told them that whatever religion, whatever belief system, whatever they thought and trusted in was insufficient, that they were connected to power grid and company that could not sustain life, was flawed, and completely unreliable. The truth was that their “sins had cut them off from God” (Isaiah 59:2), which is also true about you and me, and that the only real and eternally lasting solution was to reconnect to God through Christ. However, for that to happen they had to first unplug (repent) from whatever they were plugged into, believed in, hoped in, and by faith plug the cord of their life into (believe in) the only outlet carrying the current and power of eternal life God has provided – Jesus Christ, crucified, buried, and risen from the dead.

Over 3,000 decided that day that it was time to be rightly connected to God, they put their faith and trust in Christ. Publicly, in baptism, proclaimed their unplugging from the old, sinful, and hopeless, and their new connection to Jesus Christ. In that first moment of connecting to Christ through faith, they were also connected to God’s family (born again into a spiritual family), they were connected to the body of Christ, His church, and then they began to learn and live together as people connected to, saved by, and made spiritually alive Jesus Christ. So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers” Acts 2:41-42 (HCSB, parenthesis mine).

Is this the day you need to switch your eternal connection to Christ? Feel free to contact me.

            To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

37 years ago, on a hot second Sunday in August, the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church called Susie and me to shepherd and lead them. I am not sure what they were thinking handing over the church keys to a 24-year-old, but they did, and God unmistakably had His guiding hand it.

3 plus 37 is what you find in 2 Samuel 23:8-39, our Bible reading this past Monday, it talks about David’s “Mighty Men.” These were men who were brave, selfless, committed, and fiercely loyal to the king. I am certainly not a king, in fact, a pastor acting like one needs to find another job. But I do know I didn’t get to year 37 on my own, many pastors quit ministry altogether, 1 in 10 gets fired, and the average length for staying at a church is 6 years or less. God has blessed me by putting “Mighty Women and Men” of God in my life and in our church. Men and women who were and are committed, selfless, passionate, and fiercely loyal to Christ the King, His Kingdom, and His Church.

Maybe I should have kept a written list, but I certainly can see their faces in my mind, and in the present, I am blessed serving alongside you who are following in the footsteps of the Mighty Women and Men of the past.

One of the exploits of the Three Mighty Men who towered above the rest seems rather trivial, During harvest time, three of the thirty chief men came down to David at the cave of Adullam, while a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim. At that time David was in the stronghold, and the Philistine garrison was at Bethlehem. David longed for water and said, “Oh, that someone would get me a drink of water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem!” So the three mighty men broke through the Philistine lines, drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem and carried it back to David. But he refused to drink it; instead, he poured it out before the LORD. “Far be it from me, O LORD, to do this!” he said. “Is it not the blood of men who went at the risk of their lives?” And David would not drink it. Such were the exploits of the three mighty men 2 Samuel 23:13-17 (NIV).

David just wished out loud and these guys sprang into action! That is certainly how I want to be in my relationship with Christ the King. And, what a blessing to be around people like these men. David sure noticed how the blessing of these men in his life, how much they cared about him, and how much they were willing to invest in his life, was a gift straight from God. It humbled David, filled him with gratitude, and led him to worship the LORD who gifted him with these terrific Mighty Men. Can you imagine how David felt about sharing life and pursuing the purposes and calling of God with them?!

How I thank God for every Mighty Woman and Man in my life and in our church. My list is different in that is 1 plus (and there is always room for more, David’s list expanded from 30 to 37). The one that is above all the others in my life is Susie, she towers above all other Mighty Men and Women in my life. No one has invested in, fought for, encouraged, and elevated my life, ministry, and our church, more than her.

One more thought, I want to be on someone else’s list of Mighty Men and Women of God. I think that is a godly aspiration and great thing to be thought of and be remembered for.

But I (alongside you) press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us Philippians 3:12b-14 (NLT2, parenthesis mine).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

I got to spend this VBS (Vacation Bible School) week with the 5&6th grade boys, Ryan, Gavin, Bradley, Adriel, and Jonah my youth helper (Thanks, Jonah). These guys are no longer as cute as the kindergarteners, but then then again neither am I. I do say they are top quality boys with great attitudes, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. All week long we talked about having a solid foundation regarding God, life, and character. They are right at the point of cementing things into their lives by their own choices. But of course, wise parents know that the process of cementing the important stuff into our children’s minds, hearts, habits, … begins much earlier, from the very day they find out that God blessed them with, gifted them with child (Psalm 127:3).

Good parents don’t leave parenting to chance, too much is at stake to do so. In fact, God, who has blessed us with the children in our lives, expects us to be very intentional when it comes to raising our kids. Our children happen to be the most valuable in our lives, and God will hold us accountable as to how we raise them.

Listen to what God long ago told parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, step-parents, guardians, and adults in general about raising up children in both their homes and in their communities, “Hear, O Israel/parents: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Deuteronomy 6:4-7 (NIV, italics mine)  

There are some important parenting instructions here and wise parents will follow them:

  • “The Lord is …” God is real, He exists. “The Lord is one.” God is singular, there is just one true and living, almighty, Creator, God. Every parent will teach their children about God, even if they are an atheist. But what counts is that we teach our kids the truth of God, and that the one true God is the foundation to everything in this life and for eternity. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” Proverbs 9:10 (NIV).
  • “And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your strength.” The most important relationship in life is your relationship with God. Of course, it is tough to encourage your children to have a relationship with God if you don’t have one yourself. But a wise parent knows the power of relationships, how much they influence who we are and who we become. I can guarantee you that the child, teenager, adult, and parent who deeply loves God will live a radically different and better life.
  • “And you must commit yourselves wholeheartedly to these commands that I am giving you today.” God’s commands are for our benefit (Romans 15:4, 1 John 5:3), they help us to know what to do and not to do, they define right and wrong/good and evil, lead us to blessing, and shed light on what pleases God. Good and godly parents show their kids what it looks like to be committed to God’s ways in every area of life.
  • “Repeat them again and again to your children. Talk about them when you are at home and when you are on the road, when you are going to bed and when you are getting up.” Repetition is a great instructor, it helps to know and remember stuff and get better at doing things, every athlete, musician, craftsman, and professional knows this. The goal is to engrain the important, the wise, the beneficial things so deeply that they become automatic, the backbone of who we are and what we do.

My prayer is for very parent, grandparent, aunt and uncle, and adult to take Deuteronomy 6:4-7 to heart, to make it their daily starting point and baseline in their parenting and their interactions with children. And in doing so I know God will be pleased and our children will be blessed.

To God be all glory. Love You, Pastor Hans

Racism, immigration, equality, crime, Critical Race Theory, #me too, which lives matter, crime, justice, voting rights, freedom, cancel culture, wokeism, 2nd amendment right, freedom of speech, …

I am sure you will have little trouble adding to this list of issues burning like wildfires across our land, creating deepening divisions, vastly different visions, and a flooding inferno of opinions. I am reminded of God’s indictment delivered through His prophet Isaiah, “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.
 For your hands are defiled with blood and your fingers with iniquity; your lips have spoken lies; your tongue mutters wickedness. No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they conceive mischief and give birth to iniquity.
 They hatch adders’ eggs; they weave the spider’s web; he who eats their eggs dies, and from one that is crushed a viper is hatched. Their webs will not serve as clothing; men will not cover themselves with what they make. Their works are works of iniquity, and deeds of violence are in their hands.
 Their feet run to evil, and they are swift to shed innocent blood; their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity; desolation and destruction are in their highways. The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths; they have made their roads crooked; no one who treads on them knows peace.
 Therefore justice is far from us, and righteousness does not overtake us; we hope for light, and behold, darkness, and for brightness, but we walk in gloom. We grope for the wall like the blind; we grope like those who have no eyes; we stumble at noon as in the twilight, among those in full vigor we are like dead men.
 We all growl like bears; we moan and moan like doves; we hope for justice, but there is none; for salvation, but it is far from us. For our transgressions are multiplied before you, and our sins testify against us; for our transgressions are with us, and we know our iniquities: transgressing, and denying the LORD, and turning back from following our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart lying words. Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter” 
Isaiah 59:1-14 (ESV).

Did your pointer finger begin to itch as you read this harsh criticism and assessment? Because this does perfectly describe ‘Them,’ doesn’t it. But the prophet’s words were not directed at just some but the nation as a whole, God wasn’t merely speaking to those we consider ‘Them’ but to ‘Us.’ God wasn’t just addressing those we think are more godless and wicked than we are but our collective failure and sin.

I am concerned, my heart is heavy, for your and my children and grandchildren. I want them to be blessed by what we leave behind. I want them to know “the way of peace,” the paths of justice and righteousness, and most of all, God (and there is just one) who gave them life, choice, truth to guide them both individually and collectively, and His Son Jesus Christ who alone can save each one of us from our innate depravity and sin. I want them to know what life is like when you have peace with God, follow the “prince of Peace,” Jesus Christ, and learn to love God more than anything and your neighbor as yourself.

This is why our little church is holding VBS (Vacation Bible School) next week, hoping and praying to teach as many kids in our community about God, how to know Him, how to live with and for His glory, how to not to be indicted by God but be blessed by Him.

This is why I encourage every parent, grandparent, guardian to be active in church, to worship God, to learn the Bible (the written Word of God) and radically and consistently apply and live it. Because The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight” Proverbs 9:10 (ESV).

Being justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” Romans 5:1 (NIV, italics mine).

To God Be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Romans 12:18 (ESV)

God picked a strange candidate to pen this verse, this command – impatient, high-strung, hard-charging, prone to pride and arrogance, former chief persecutor, Paul the Apostle. The man who caused city-wide uproars and disturbances to entire provinces. He was accused of many things but never of living a quiet life. God also had him write the following to his apprentice Timothy and to us, “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth. For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time” 1 Timothy 2:1-6 (NLT2).  

Did you notice the paradox, the contradiction? Being this nice praying Christian who cares about people and tries to live a peaceful and tranquil life while at the same time standing for and proclaiming that everyone who does not trust in Christ is not saved, does not understand the truth, and trusts in a religion or belief that is false – so much for peace-making! It is precisely this central truth of the Gospel that offended the Jews, Gentiles, and Imperial Court alike, both then and now. It is not nearly as much a contradiction as it seems because it is possible to care, to be engaged, and to stand up for the truth with all humility and respect at the same time. Trying hard to live peaceably with all never means having to abandon truth.

I bet you could hear a pin drop, slice the air with a knife, and feel the temperature instantly drop to freezing, the moment Paul confronted the Apostle Peter on his hypocrisy and prejudice, “But when Peter came to Antioch, I had to oppose him to his face, for what he did was very wrong. When he first arrived, he ate with the Gentile Christians, who were not circumcised. But afterward, when some friends of James came, Peter wouldn’t eat with the Gentiles anymore. He was afraid of criticism from these people who insisted on the necessity of circumcision. As a result, other Jewish Christians followed Peter’s hypocrisy, and even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy.  When I saw that they were not following the truth of the gospel message, I said to Peter in front of all the others, “Since you, a Jew by birth, have discarded the Jewish laws and are living like a Gentile, why are you now trying to make these Gentiles follow the Jewish traditions? You and I are Jews by birth, not ‘sinners’ like the Gentiles. Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law” Galatians 2:11-16 (NLT2).In short, Peter was living a like Gentile (The Antioch Church was largely Gentile), but as soon as some of the Jewish faction from Jerusalem came, he turned back to being all Jewish and separated himself from the Gentile Brothers and Sisters. Question, who was really disturbing the peace? Peter and those who held on to their old prejudices and the hypocrisy that accompanied them. Who was the peacemaker? Paul, who immediately recognized the wrong, the divisiveness of both their beliefs and actions, and the harm this would do to the church at Antioch and far beyond. So, he got up and publicly confronted Peter and those who followed his example, and for good measure published the incident in his letter to the Galatian churches who had been invaded by divisive, truth-twisting, Gospel-perverting Judaizers. He made sure that Peter, the most public figure of the early church, would be publicly accountable, that everyone was reminded that heresy, prejudice, and hypocrisy have no place in the church, and that we would know when peacemakers need to rise up, stand up, and speak up in the face of lies, falsehoods, prejudices, hypocrisies, and evils of every kind – especially and beginning among our own.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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