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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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There was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”
“Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”
But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.
When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”
This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
John 2:1-11 (NLT2)

You are probably familiar with the experience of running out of something, I sure am. I have run out of gasoline, money, food, water, cookies, whipped cream (Oh No!), prescription medicine, fishing bait, nails, and various other building materials, know-how, wisdom, options, excuses (probably a good thing) patience, tears, laughter, strength, kindness, time, and …

They’d served it all up, all the amphoras (think cases of bottles) were empty, not a drop of wine to be found. Even the water had run out. This party was going to end quickly. Funny how important food and drink are to keep a party going.

If you are familiar with running out of something, you are most likely also acquainted with the stress of running out. It is stressful to see your gas gauge flirting with “E” (for empty) and the next filling station miles away. It is even more stressful to actually run out and be stranded by the road with your little kids, who have already drained their bottles and Sippy-cups.

Since you are familiar with running out, you know it is also embarrassing. It is humiliating to be at the grocery checkout and what is in your wallet won’t cover what you have in your cart forcing you to take stuff out in front of your kids and the other folks in line. This under-planned and under-funded wedding was going to be the talk and laughter of the town and the horror story for all future weddings in Cana to avoid.

Jesus’ Mom caught it, while others were sipping the last of the wine she noticed the stress of the wedding planner, his forced smile, his whispers to the parents of the bride and groom. Some are much better at noticing people who have or are running out. Notice, she also didn’t snap a picture and pushed “send” to start the gossip. Instead, she turned to and inconvenienced Jesus for help. She knew he cares about people who are stressed, who are embarrassed, who are panicking, who are at their wit’s end, who have run out.

If you’ve run out, bring your empty to Jesus and follow his instructions, today.

If you see someone who’s run out and only God can fill this, take him, take her, with his or her empty to Jesus, today.

If you run into someone who has an empty and you can help fill it, be an extension of Jesus and follow his example and instructions, today.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

Eight glasses of water? Four cups of coffee? A pot of tea? Several energy drinks? A two-liter bottle of Coke? A six-pack of beer? It doesn’t matter how much you drank yesterday, you will be thirsty again today.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a few snacks. Cereal, sandwiches, wraps, burritos, burgers and fries, TV-dinners, salads, steak and potatoes, barbeque, gourmet creations? It doesn’t matter how much you ate yesterday, you will be hungry today.

Yesterday’s peace-offerings, compromises, political arrangements, concessions, sacrifices, wise arrangements, handouts, freebies, none of them will satisfy for long. The cry for more, for change, for “my/our” way now, will return.

It reveals our brokenness, this insatiability, this inability to sustain life, happiness, justice, and peace for any length of time. It reveals our sinfulness, our constant complaining and bickering even when things are going great and we have more than enough, our willingness to mistreat, rob, roll over, treat others unjustly in the pursuit of our needs, appetites, wants, and dreams, our short-lived gratitude or outright ungratefulness.

We are always running out, constantly having to refill, never having enough, unable to lay hold of what is lasting. We can’t make anything last, much less make it eternal, beginning with satisfying our most basic needs and those of our neighbor.

“Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified” Mark 15:15 (ESV). It worked for less day, then they were back asking for more (Matthew 27:62-65)

Solomon in his pursuit of pleasure, status, and empire-building amassed for himself what might have been the largest harem in history (1 Kings 11:3) and yet, he advised his sons, Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love” Proverbs 5:18-19 (ESV).

Haman had a thriving career, wealth, influence, and power, but his anti-Semitism, his hatred left him continually dissatisfied,  “All this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate” Esther 5:13 (ESV).

Achan, rummaging through the rubble after the victory at Jericho, took what God had declared as belonging to him,  when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath” Joshua 7:21 (ESV). It didn’t matter that he was on his way to receive his portion in the land God had promised them. His greed and covetousness, a bottomless pit, became a snare to him and his family.

Jesus warned the rich, fat, happy, and-self-sufficient Christians of Laodicea, “You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” Revelation 3:17-18 (ESV). They were so deceived by their prosperity and self-sufficiency that they were blind and oblivious to any reality outside their own happiness, that none of it would last, their spiritual needs, and that they lived like they didn’t need God. Jesus said, “You’re leaving a bad taste in my mouth, I am ready to spit you out!” – Ouch!

The only one who can satisfy the thirsts of our souls both now and for eternity. Jesus told a Samaritan woman who had come to get water from the local well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” John 4:13-14 (NIV). You and I are no different from her, from the crowd Pilate tried to appease, from Solomon and his sexual desires, or Haman and his hate, Achan and his covetousness and greed, or the spoiled and oblivious Laodiceans. Our greatest need is God, the life that is found only in Christ, the forgiveness poured out in Jesus death, the wholeness of our souls brought about by the water offered from Jesus’ hands.

So, reach out your cup, let Christ fill it.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

This morning I filled my coffee mug twice, my Musli bowl and stomach once, and all my morning hours even though got up way early. This past week we went camping with the family so we filled the truck bed with camping gear, the gas tank with diesel, the ice chests with food and drinks, several garbage bags (to the delight of the raccoons), our bellies with camping cuisine, our time with adventures, and our memories with joy.

Face it, in living life we do a lot of filling up, we have to, we get to, and it makes a difference what we fill up with.

  • It makes a difference what you put into our body, both in how well it functions and what it will crave.
  • It helps to fill up your bank account every now then, you’ll have less stress and you can pay your bills. But it also makes a difference whether your deposit was earned honestly or otherwise.
  • It is inevitable that your time will be filled up, but what you fill it with will determine if it is wasted or used wisely.
  • It makes a huge difference what you fill your mind with because it will establish how you think, what you will dwell on, and how you process life.
  • It is a vast distance between a heart filled with hate, bitterness, pessimism, grudges, and revenge, and a heart filled with love, kindness, optimism, goodwill, and forgiveness.

All of the above the Word of God/Bible addresses because it knows the realities of life, including the constant filling that we are engaged in. As followers of Christ, we are as engaged in these constant filling tasks and activities as much as anyone else, however, if we are going to be wise and godly when comes to this constant filling up in life the following are indispensable:

  • Constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:17-20). Which means to continually yield control to him in all we do, wherever we are, and in all we plan.
  • Constantly filling our mind and thinking with the written Word of God, the Bible (Psalm 1). Which means taking time to read it, meditate on it, and then trust it enough to apply it to real life.
  • Constantly praying. Which means running everything by God, seeking his will, his wisdom, his guidance, his presence, his glory, and refusing to live without it (Matthew 6:9-16).
  • Constantly living in community with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). Which means I recognize that only together with others can we be the body of Christ, and I need sisters and brothers in Christ pouring into me even as I pour into them (1 Corinthians 12-13, Ephesians 5:21)

Most every morning I get up and brew some coffee for Susie and me, filling my mug, usually at least twice. I didn’t always do that, but now I am pretty consistent with it. The same has been true of the four constant fill-ups I need as a follower of Jesus, a Christian. It took me a while, but now my life feels like an empty coffee cup in the morning without them.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

We all have them and we are all on them – people lists. Our genealogy/family list, friend list, favorite people list, not my favorite people list, enemy list, contact list, … You can find them in the Bible as well, and, the last one listed is the most important of them all, “The Lamb’s (Jesus Christ’s, God’s) Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27, 20:12&15, parenthesis mine). Although many have tried and are still trying to write their name into this book, on that list, only Jesus can put your name there. If your name is not on that list, you remain on the list of death and hell. We have to be erased from the latter in order to be on the former, no one will be on both, and, only Christ can transfer you from one to other, from death to life, from certain judgment to complete forgiveness.

Are you in the “Lamb’s Book of Life?” Many have said, “Nobody can be certain that they are.” The Apostle John didn’t think so, he wrote, Whoever has the Son (Jesus) has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” 1 John 5:12-13 (NLT2, parenthesis mine). You can’t be in God’s book of life without believing in and following Jesus,  “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” John 3:36 (ESV). That, of course, raises another objection, “So somebody can just profess belief in Jesus and live like hell, be a most selfish bugger, be downright evil and be in the book of life?” If that is your qualm or your reality, please, take a minute and read Revelation 20:11-15. You will notice that in God’s final judgment not only the “Lamb’s” list is reviewed but also the record of each one of our lives. Even though no one can be saved without completely relying on the saving mercy and grace of God in Christ, how we live matters, and everyone will be held accountable. Those who are on the “Lamb’s” list should live like it. I think that’s why the Apostle Paul exhorts us, “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 2:12 (ESV), even when no one is looking.

Keeping the above in mind, our believing in and following Jesus should change and impact the people lists we are on. We should be moving off the pain in the butt, dishonest, cheap talk, lazy, immoral, unkind, unreliable, no good, miserable, foul-mouthed, prejudiced, stingy, self-absorbed, stuck-up, arrogant, undisciplined, heart and headache, hypocrite, … list, and be transferred to the blessing, integrity, godly, kind, generous, just, Christlike list. We should be on the list of those who hated Jesus for who he was and what he did and we should be on the list for all that Jesus stood for and was loved for. From the day Jesus saved you and me and transferred our names from the book of judgment and death into his book of life, we should be living in such way that our names are erased from all the wrong lists and be transferred to all the good and right lists. So, besides asking yourself if your name is in the “Lamb’s book of life,” ask yourself how your name appears on people’s lists? And, are you on the move on those lists? Everyone in Jesus’ book of life should be.

To God be all Glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

Without Love

I am working on a car, again, the a/c (air-conditioning) is out. The car is drivable but on 104 (40 Celsius) or hotter days, Susie might want to make it to work without having to take another shower.

Our dishwasher rack is missing some prongs, but it is still washing dishes as well as it was when we bought it 25 years ago (Isn’t fun when God makes our things last?!).

Walking around our property I continually find vulture feathers, and sometimes when those magnificent flying creatures zoom low over our heads you can see where some of those feathers are missing, obviously, this does not rob them of their ability to fly. Of course, it would be a lot different if a vulture lost all its feathers at once, it would ground them for sure. The dishwasher and Susie’s car would be worthless if their water pumps gave out, or some other vital part failed.

It is no different with the Christian life, there are minor issues which might make things more uncomfortable, make things harder, or force you to make adjustments, and then there are major things that bring you to a screeching halt, keep you from soaring, and need immediate attention and repair. This is something the Corinthian Christians lost sight of; they were busy fixing the a/c when their engine had major problems. They argued and divided over minor things and forgot about the most important. As a result, they started looking and acting more and more ridiculous. Christians can employ the full Christian lingo and yet look like a vulture without feathers.

The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that if they got things right their Faith, Hope, and Love would be in top mechanical condition, be the main feathers of their plumage, would leave their dishes sparkling. And of these three, he said, Love was the most indispensable. Without it the individual believer and the Christian community/church is broken, without substance, going nowhere, accomplishing nothing.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (fails)” 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 (ESV, parenthesis NASB).

So, now that you have read the scripture above, I want to challenge you to do a little exercise with me. Think through this passage with the heading:

If I don’t have love (the kind God wants you to have and practice)

How does that affect your life, the life of your church, and the lives of those around you? Here are the first four things I wrote down:

  • Without out love, I sound wrong, verse 1.
  • Without love, I think wrong (“I am nothing”), verse 2.
  • Without love, I go wrong (“I gain nothing”), verse 3.
  • Without love, I am not as patient as I can and should be, verse 4.

And Now you finish it up:

  • Without love,  __________________________________________________
  • Without love,  __________________________________________________
  • Without love,  __________________________________________________
  • Keep going! ….

Now ask yourself, “Who is at the brunt end of my lack of love?” This might be an individual, several people, or entire group or groups of people.

Finally, what is the first right loving action you need to initiate towards him, her, and/or them? ______________________________________________________ (It might include having to apologize and ask for forgiveness.)

Maybe you’re not feeling it. Maybe you think someone else needs to make the first move. If you are waiting on those two to change you might be waiting a long, too long of a time to become the loving person Christ wants you to be. Start fixing the most important things today.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

On the second Sunday of August 1984, the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church, called me to be the interim pastor. Susie and I had no idea that this would become a 35-year love story of a pastor and his flock. We didn’t know that this would be only church our children would know growing up. We didn’t know how many people would come alongside us to encourage us, bless us, and love Jesus with us. We didn’t know much, period. But we did rejoice and were grateful. We still rejoice and are even more grateful.

 

When this, our church (it makes a big difference whether you think of a church as this church or our church) called us I was deeply struggling with church and becoming a minister because over the span of a year and a half I witnessed firsthand church dysfunction and preacher misconduct in four different churches. In spite of being a Bible college graduate and a call to ministry, I wasn’t sure I wanted any more of church – until I read Romans 14:12 in my personal morning Bible study, “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (NASB). It didn’t matter what everyone else did, how they behaved or misbehaved, I am responsible to God for how I follow him, even if everything and everyone around me goes crazy. It was a watershed moment for me, and a few weeks later I was leading the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church.

35 years is a lot of time to make mistakes and I have made my fair share of them. The bad thing is that church and pastor mistakes usually hurt people (Remember, the church is a fellowship, a spiritual family of people). If you read this pastor’s note and are one of those I have hurt, disappointed, or let down I ask for your forgiveness if I have not already done so. And, I thank God for all who confronted me, were gracious to me, had patience with me, and forgave me.

I praise God for all who have served with me over these years, for those sharing the same love for Christ, his church, and his kingdom. Besides the goodness and faithfulness of God, you’ve helped make 35 years possible. Like the apostle Paul, I can say, “I thank God for every remembrance of you.”

Our church officially called me to be the pastor but it also meant Susie was going to be the pastor’s wife and our children were going to be the pastor’s kids. All I can say that they, and especially Susie, have been awesome. They have shared the load and have made quiet sacrifices few know about. They have blessed me and our church.

The real reason I became a preacher was that Susie, before we ever dated, told me in a letter that she was going to marry a preacher one day. So, I figured the only way I was going to have a chance with her was to become a preacher. Not really! But at my birth, the midwife/nurse who delivered my two older brothers as well handed me to my mom and said, “This one will be a preacher.” Really!

Finally, to God be all glory. Thanks, your Pastor

 

 

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