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Look carefully then how you walk (live), not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:15-21 (ESV, parenthesis mine)

“Get out and get me someone competent in here!” the ER doctor yelled after the assisting nurse had contaminated the sterile field while the doctor was sewing up a deep gash that exposed the kneecap. You can’t be too careful when it comes to avoiding infection.

Have you ever been to a classic car show? Talk about paying attention to every last little detail, whipping off every little spot, polishing even nooks and crannies to a full shine.

You can tell when someone is being careful about something. What we should be most careful about is how we live, specifically being a wise person down to small details of our lives, carefully avoiding any contamination of foolish behavior. In the scripture passage above Paul lays out seven marks of a wise person, of a careful follower of Christ:

  1. Wise persons/believers seek wisdom. No one comes by wisdom magically but rather by pursuing it, searching for it, and when finding it applying it.
  1. Wise persons/believers manage their time, don’t waste time, fill and spend their time wisely.
  1. Wise persons/believers not only acknowledge God but actively seek to know God’s will and then radically adjust their lives to God’s will.
  1. Wise persons/believers are careful about what controls them and avoid handing over control over to anyone but the Holy Spirit.
  1. Wise persons/believers are worshippers, not just for an hour on Sunday, but all the time. They keep their worship earbuds in all the time and have a very distinctive song list.
  1. Wise persons/believers practice and express gratitude. They notice even the small beautiful, kind, thoughtful, acts and blessings, and are good at tracing them back to their source – God.
  1. Wise persons/believers live in community, don’t isolate themselves, but acknowledge their need for one another, know the benefit of living life and serving God together.

Isn’t it strange how we can be very careful about some things while at the same time being sloppy, careless, even foolish about other things? You and I don’t have anything more valuable than the life God gave us than the living soul he created us to be. Let’s be most careful about it. Look again at the seven points above and mark the ones that need attention, need changing, need for you to learn to be careful with.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

Almost twenty years ago, I began praying that God would allow our little country church to be more directly involved in Missions work somewhere in the world. On Wednesday 15 of us returned from two weeks of short-term Missions work in Tanzania. A team comprised of young and old, men and women, two pastors and thirteen laypeople, and members of three different churches. It marked the 8th time someone from our church went to Arusha, Tanzania, to serve with Tanzanian brothers and sisters to do kingdom work.

In the span of these almost twenty years God also raised up “Speedy” Payton Downing to be a missionary to Indonesia (a small team from our church went to see him, his wife Grace, and son Fin, two years ago), and God sent out Davidmark and Cindy Grabowski from our church to pastor at the First Baptist Church in Hughson, California. Davidmark and one of his deacons, John Porter, joined with our team on this recent trip. Also, Patti Littlefield, member of the Hickman Community Church and our former church secretary, whom God used, along with Blenda Highsmith, to direct us to Tanzania in the first place, was back with us.

The first week our team was spread out in six locations over 600 miles apart. Altogether we worked in 8 churches and their communities, trained over 100 pastors and pastor wives, engaged with hundreds of people, saw people coming to Christ, passed out almost 600 Bibles and trained people how to get started using them, trained leaders in each church in how to lead a basic discipleship course called Survival Kit for New Christians, expanded the Pastor Grant program (designed to help pastors generate income so they can stay in small churches), and left materials and equipment behind for Pastor Goodluck, whom we support as an indigenous missionary, to continue in starting, growing, and strengthening Tanzanian churches and pastors.

On our way home (a 10,000 miles, 30-hour journey), I thought about how many people it took to make these two weeks happen, to sent the 15 of us. Just on my part there are Susie who took on all the responsibilities at home, Jannette who took on being the music leader and being the church hub, Russ, Malcolm, and Russ who shouldered my small group assignments, Robert and Jim who preached in my absence, Richard Mayes who taught on Wednesday evening, Musicians doing double duty, and Chuck who drove me to the airport and back. For each one of our team members, there were multiple others who picked up the slack here at home to free us up for two weeks; that adds up to a lot of people. Then, you have to add all who contributed to cover the costs of materials and equipment, helped with travel expenses, and covered us with prayer. On top of that, you have to add Pastor Goodluck and his wife Glory, our translators and all the people who freed them up, and all the Tanzanian sisters and brothers who prepared and participated because they care about their churches, their communities, their nation, and above all the kingdom of God.

So, a big, huge THANK YOU! Is in order.

Above all, my heart is filled with praise to God, to Him be all glory.

Love you, Pastor Hans

 

  • Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NASB)

Being a follower of Christ, a Christian means being a disciple-maker, which means leading others to faith in Christ, to follow Christ, and to grow in Christ. It means to go out by the authority of Jesus to reach the entire world with the Gospel of Christ and training all those who turn to Christ for salvation, forgiveness of sin, and eternal life.

Disciple-makers have to, first of all, be disciples themselves, learning and observing all Jesus commanded ourselves, being genuine and committed ourselves. This doesn’t mean you have to wait to be disciple-maker until you have it all down perfectly (you never will), but it does mean we have to be ongoing learners and practitioners all the time and everywhere.

  • “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NASB)

Every disciple of Christ is also a witness of Christ, of the fact that Jesus is alive, that he conquered sin, death, and the grave. A good witness needs two things, a testimony and integrity, truth and credibility. Jesus told his disciples that through the Holy Spirit he would empower them to be his witness. Interestingly the Holy Spirit is called Holy, true holiness includes absolute integrity, it is spotless, The Holy Spirit is also called the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17, 15:26, 16:13). Since he empowers us to be Jesus’ witnesses, we can assume he will continually work towards us embracing holiness and truthfulness, to have a genuine testimony and integrity.

  • So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” John 20:21 (NASB) “For even the Son of Man (Jesus) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (NASB, parenthesis mine)

Every disciple of Jesus, everyone who testifies of Jesus is meant to act like Jesus, to carry out the will of God like Jesus, to be a servant to both God and people like Jesus. We are on God’s, Jesus’ mission.

  • We are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 (NLT2)

Christians are Christ’s representatives, ambassadors of God’s kingdom. We are meant to be about Christ’s interests, Jesus’ politics, Jesus’ message to the whole world.

  • Disciple, disciple-maker, witness, sent servant, ambassador – GO!

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

God has spoken plainly, and I have heard it many times: Power, O God, belongs to you; unfailing love, O Lord, is yours. Surely you repay all people according to what they have done. Psalm 62:11-12 (NLT2)

 With a big, audible click the power went off. PG&E (our power company) pulled the plug and no one knows for how long. Safety blackout, it is fallout from the huge and devasting fires that have ravaged our state (California) the past couple of years, and it is a first for us.

Susie and I live in a house where, except for the woodstove and water, everything depends on electricity, the lights, water heater, cookstove, fridges, freezer, other appliances, computers, and modems, … So, with the power out we are having to improvise, make do in other ways. We are now depending on our little 1,600 (2,000 peak) watt camping generator. As I type this pastor’s note, it is purring away outside feeding a power cord connected to an outlet strip I borrowed from the garage. The outlet strip feeds other power cords we keep switching around between lights, coffee maker, chargers, and refrigerators and freezer because 1,600 watts don’t power all that much. The water heater, dishwasher, washing machine, cookstove, and oven will lay dormant until the power is restored.

With a limited power supply comes a different way of doing things, that’s for sure. If we run out of gasoline then we will be down to no power at all, the food in the freezer and fridges will spoil, computers and phones won’t get recharged, the battery lanterns will grow dim and dark. Hopefully, the blackout will be over before any of that happens.

God is the ultimate source of power, whatever power there is in the universe has its origin in him. Think about that for a minute, let it sink in. Every little watt of electricity you and I have used traces back to God himself. Think about the consequences of being disconnected from God, how much it complicates life, increases how much time and effort we have to spend on even basic tasks. Consider, how much in your life and our world spoils because of not being connected to the one true and living and almighty God.

I have already thought about getting another generator I can run in tandem to power the house in future power outages. I have, even before this blackout, already begun to save up to go solar. Foolishly, we bring the same mentality to God. Foolish, because there is no substitute for God, living disconnected from him guarantees a more complicated, burdensome, cord-dragging, life with way too much spoilage. Foolish, because being disconnected from God is not like PG&E pulling the plug but is entirely self-inflicted. Ask yourself, “In what ways and what areas of my life am I living disconnected from God?”

Finally, what do you do when you find yourself disconnected from God? You reconnect, that is what you do. How?

  • Be honest and admit it that it is entirely your own fault.
  • Be willing to abandon your disconnected-from-God lifestyle.
  • Take up God’s offer to reconnect you through his Son Jesus Christ, who is the reconciler, the reconnector (Romans 5:10, 2 Corinthians 5:20), and ask him to do so.
  • Start, or start over, living a life that stays as close to Christ every single day.
  • Watch your life begin to light up.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Imagine you gave me a brand new, four-wheel drive, Toyota Tundra truck (feel free to actually do that), and the first thing I did was to punch a couple of holes in the fuel tank, and for good measure do the same to the radiator. What would you think about me? And, if I told, “It’s much better that way,” after you asked me what in the hesch I was doing, then what would you think? I know what I would think of you if the roles were reversed. I might even take you in right there and then to have your head examined!

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV), was God’s word to the people in Jeremiah’s day.

How many water faucets are in your house? We have eight inside and seven outside. There are people all over the world who would love to have just one running water spigot putting out clean drinking water. What would you think Susie would tell me if I told her we will abandon using all those faucets and from now on will go down the hill on the backside of our property to get all of our water from the muddy waterhole down there? What are the chances of her agreeing with me that this was a vastly better way of getting water? “But Babe, we would be independent of the water company! No more monthly water bills! We’ll rely just rely on Mother Nature (As everyone knows, she is really dependable in Central California when it comes to water)!

This is the problem of godlessness, deciding that you don’t need God, that you can be free of God and live. As long as we reject God and Christ, abandon God for philosophies, theologies, and ideologies of our own we leak, are condemned to our own foolishness, and quickly run out of life. It is amazing we can spot stupidity and absurdity so easily except when it comes to God, Christ, and spiritual reality, there we give ourselves a pass, are even proud of what is obviously ridiculous.

So, how long are you going to drive with holes in the tank and radiator, constantly having to stop and refill, often finding yourself stranded, but stubbornly refusing to fix the obvious?

How long will you insist on hauling and living on muddy water when living water could be flowing in your life? Jesus declared for anyone to hear, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” John 7:37-39 (NIV).

Today is a great day to fix the two core sins, evils, problems of your life, but you will need Jesus Christ for that.

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We were having the time of our lives playing in the sandbox. But it seems inevitable that playing hard will lead to some kind of accident, especially when you are surrounded by a fleet of Tonka heavy equipment and with shovels furiously digging. Sure enough, one of my grandsons lost control over the bulldozer he was operating bonked himself a good one. He cried and I yelled, “Stupid dozer!”

Immediately he shifted gears, quit crying, walked over to me, looked me straight into the eyes, and with a most serious voice scolded me, “We don’t say that Opa!”

“Say what?” I asked.

“You know. It’s a bad word Opa!”

“What word?” I wanted to know.

“I’m not going to say it, but you know, OPA!”

Indeed, I did know, and clearly, I was trying to corrupt my grandson. You have to be careful what you fill little hearts and minds with, because what you fill them with will be what comes out. This is not just true of little hearts and minds but yours and mine as well. Our mouths, our actions, our reactions are an indication of what fills us, “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, … For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” Matthew 15:18-19 (NIV).

It is easier to fill an empty cup than it is to fill one that is already full, that’s why wise parents from the get-go pay careful attention to what goes into their kids’ hearts and minds. A heart and mind that has been filled with bad words, habits, attitudes, ways of thinking and behaving can’t be filled with goodness and godliness until you first pour all that out. Before the Spirit of God can fill you and me with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” we have to pour out what the Holy Spirit wants to replace, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified (poured out and continue to pour out) the sinful nature with its passions and desires,” because the reality of a holy and godly life is only possible by God’s Spirit and making room for all he desires to fill us with, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” Galatians 5:22-25 (NIV).

That pouring out, letting God have complete control of the filling and directing our hearts, minds, wills, plans, desires, attitudes, and habits, is difficult. In our sinfulness, we love to hang on to the sinful, selfish, spoiled, soiled, and same. And, in our perverseness others’ spilling over with what shouldn’t fill us makes us feel a little better. This, our brokenness and sinfulness, is why Christ came and is necessary, only he can help cleanse our hearts and minds and fill us with the Holy Spirit.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

“God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life” Psalm 51:10 (MSG)

            

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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