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Archive for December, 2011

choose

Choose

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15 (NASB)

Our capacity to choose, to make choices is one of the things that distinguishes us human beings, as men and women created in the image of God. Of course capacity and opportunity are two different things. Our hunger for freedom and economic abundance in a large measure flows out of our awareness that freedom and prosperity affords us greater choice. Power also grants greater freedom and opportunity to chose, to make decisions, to do as you please. Of course the freedom of the powerful to choose usually comes at the expense of the powerless, of those over whom they exercise power. Nevertheless, in some measure, however great or restricted, we have freedom, opportunity, and power to choose (except when for some reason our minds no longer function).

What we do with our freedom, opportunity, and power to choose is of utmost importance, not only for us personally but also for others. The choices we make always have an impact beyond ourselves. Ultimately, .., each of us will give a personal account to God” Romans 14:12 (NLT). This is why it is necessary to weigh our decisions as to whether or not they bear the mark of good or evil, right or wrong, righteous or wicked, just or unjust, honest or corrupt, wise or foolish, beneficial or detrimental, loving or narcissistic, of peace or war, holy or defiled, pleasing or offensive to God.

The decisions we make reflect who we are, really are. They show what and whom we value, reveal our wisdom or foolishness, testify to our character or lack thereof, uncover our true motives, evidence self control or impulsiveness (related to foolishness), display the condition of our hearts, confirm real intelligence or stupidity, and bear witness to our trust in or rejection of God.

2012 is a presidential election year, candidates and parties will do their best to present their case for, “Choose me – choose us.” But the campaign for our choices actually began the moment we were born, and it will not be over until we stand before God to account for the sum total of our choices. The choices we make, the votes we cast, the decisions we render do make a difference. Joshua, speaking in the verse you read above, knew that. He knew that for the people who marched out Egypt forty years earlier, for this next generation standing before him, a whole new world was about to open up. They were about to be handed a freedom they had not known, opportunities they could only dream of, and power they never had. This was the time to make decisions, good decisions, new decisions. He also knew that one decisions often spawns a whole chain of decisions and events, and that the first decisions in such a chain, and in front of every decision is the one we make about God. That’s why he said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Once you have made that most important decision then it is wise to examine every following choice in light of: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:9-10 (NIV).

We have no idea as to all 2012 will entail, but it is certain that it will require us to make choices. I pray you and I will in and through our choosing grow into a deeper knowledge of God and more radical doing of His will.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

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Why?

…  “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:10-11 (NIV)

Why?

Why bother? Sometimes it’s so much easier to start over, to replace, to get something new. It might actually be much easier and cheaper than fixing it, not to speak of it being faster.

It has always been so with us, from the earliest of times people dumped things, broken things, obsolete stuff, junk, garbage, and people. Archeologists love finding old dumps, they tell a lot, as do graves. No one knows how to dump things like we do; we are experts in discarding, replacing, and not bothering to fix things.

Nothing is more difficult than fixing humanity, people, you and me. And why bother? Help one; ten others will take his or her place. There is no corner of the earth where you won’t encounter human brokenness, need, suffering, and evil. It is utterly amazing that in spite of the incredible intelligence, creativity, and capacity contained within humanity, that in spite of our ability to love, care, and do good, human brokenness has not diminished. We rewrite the same story over and over, and in the big scheme of things the vast majority of people are utterly disposable, not worth fixing, way too expensive for making a profit, and way easier to use and use up than to really care for.

So why does God bother? If anyone has the capability to start over, to replace, to trade in this failed model for a new one, surely He is it. Why does God care about you and me, us? Why is He so patient with us, our brokenness, our stubbornness, our sinfulness? Why does His heart especially beat for the most needy, the insignificant, the helpless, and the hopeless? And why does He pursue us, invite us to be changed, changed into people who care, who bother like He does?

Christmas, the first coming of Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God is good news, glad tidings, and great joy because it testifies to the love God. God could not have bothered, He could have started over, He could have abandoned us to our self-created misery, lostness, hopelessness, and corruption, and be perfectly justified. Instead He loves us and offered, and gave His one and only Son to do for us what none of us can do ourselves. Namely, to save us, change us, to grow us into men and women who would love like He does, to become utterly incapable of saying, “Why bother?” and instead say “Why not?”

Merry Christmas, to God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

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Who

Who

You wouldn’t think that God’s company would be offensive. After all can you think of anyone better to be around? Anyone smarter? Anyone more interesting? Anyone more amazing? Anyone more genuine, more honest, wiser, imaginative, creative, artistic, kinder, and loving? Right, I can’t either.

Now I am not just talking about any god, but rather the one, the only true and living God. “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” Acts 17:24-25 (NIV).

The reality of Christmas is that, “… The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us” Matthew 1:23 (NLT). Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, in human form, He is God incarnate, “… in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body” Colossians 2:9 (NLT).  Strange how He wasn’t all that welcome, still isn’t, not in academia, the media, politics, business, and our personal lives.

I have to admit, the company of God is challenging, you just automatically have to watch yourself, even your thoughts. It is also hard to do anything you want, accountability goes way up. The powerful are threatened, the wealthy are humbled, the proud are exposed, the educated are not near as smart. You can’t impress Him, you can’t fool him, you can’t entice Him to anything that isn’t good, or loving, or holy.

What is most amazing is that God would seek our company, that He would care to not only live among us but actually invites us to walk with Him. If you are a sinner like me, living in a community without a zip code, that’s really good news. For the most part the vast majority of us just get to see the who’s who of the world on TV. Most of us have to stay behind the ropes of the red carpet; we do not have the credentials to mingle among the VIPs. If your or my name were mentioned in those circles the collective question would be, “Who?” Not so with God, He never has to ask, “Who?” He knows you and me by name.

Christmas is God’s invitation for us to really know Him, to know, and worship who He is. Most settle for their own or someone else’s idea of God, which always ends up as no god at all. Admittedly it this is much less offensive, much less intimidating, much less challenging. The way we spend Christmas, celebrate Christmas tells much as to who we are and who we know God to be.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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Where?

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of King Herod, wise men from the East arrived unexpectedly in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When King Herod heard this, he was deeply disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. So he assembled all the chief priests and scribes of the people and asked them where the Messiah would be born. “In Bethlehem of Judea,” they told him, “because this is what was written by the prophet: And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah: because out of you will come a leader who will shepherd My people Israel.” Matthew 2:1-6 (HCSB)

“Has anybody seen my keys (wallet, glasses, …)?”
“Where do remember having them last?”
“If I’d know that I probably wouldn’t be asking!”

“Where is that blasted 10 mm wrench? I just had in my hands.”

“Where is your brother (sister, father, mother, …)?”

“Honey, where’d you say the lunch meat was?”
“Third shelf, right behind the mayo?”
“I looked there, but I don’t see it?”
“(I swear that man is retarded) You’re gonna make me get up and look for it, aren’t you.”
“Well, I can’t find it (If she wouldn’t keep hiding things I wouldn’t have to ask).”
“Look, it’s right here where I told you!”
“No way! I looked all over the fridge, twice.”

“Just where do you think you’re going?!”

“Where did we/I go wrong in all of this?”

“Where is God in all of this?”

We often get confused when it comes to “Where?” We misplace things, get lost, find ourselves in unfamiliar surroundings, are in need of help, get our lives off track, … So we ask “where?” God is never confused when it comes to “where?” That’s why it is so smart and wise to walk through life with God, it eliminates a lot of confusion and feeling lost. As you prepare for Christmas the written Word of God (the Bible) challenges us to think about:

Where were you? (Job 38:1-4, 40:1-4) Do we really understand who God is?
Where are you? (Genesis 3:9) Are we hiding from God?
Where will you be? (John 14:1-6) Are you prepared for eternity?

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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When (Advent)

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When
will this economy turn around? When are we going to get there? When are we going to stop and eat? Doctor, when will I be able to …? When is this kid going to have some sense? When are you going to fix that …? And when will be a good time for us to talk about this? When is dad going to come home? When are you going to learn to pick up after yourself? When will whatever is smelling so incredible be ready to eat? When will I be old enough to …? When will things get better? When will God answer my prayer? When will God do what he said He will do?

When!

When I
am 18 I am out of here! When I get home I am going to whoop his little hiney! When I get the chance I will kiss her! When I win the Lotto I will buy all my friends a new car! When I retire I will never again …! When I retire I will …! When I get back on my feet I’ll pay you back, I promise! When I get paid, you’ll get paid! When you …, it makes me so mad I could …! When you get better we will …! When, not if, we stand before God, everyone will bow and confess that Christ is Lord!

When.

When you

are going to be late, call. When she asks a rhetorical question, either give the answer she is looking for or be willing to pay the consequences. When you have more than you need, give, bless someone. When she kisses you by all means kiss back. When you have the opportunity to do good, do it. When you talk less you’ll sin less, and you will be wiser. When you trust God, keep His commands and ways, and believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior, you will be blessed and not be disappointed.

When? When! When. That little word was part of people’s lives back before Christ was born every bit as much as it is part of our lives today. It is amazing what a difference tone makes when “when” is employed. Try it, read some of the above with an irritated, or angry, or sarcastic, happy, impatient, kind, hopeful, or “I am in a super good mood” voice.

People wondered about, scoffed at, ignored, or didn’t even know about the first coming of Jesus Christ, God in human form. God certainly had prophesied that the Christ/Messiah/Savior would come, but the exact when was difficult to figure out. As much as the first coming of Jesus was promised and foretold there is still a Second Advent, a return of Christ that has also been
prophesied. When? Only God knows, but if you ignore Christ’s first coming you will guaranteed not be ready at his second coming? Being able to set the exact date and time is not nearly as important as being able to answer the question: When Jesus comes again, will you be ready?

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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Stay Away From Evil

Some things are hard to stay away from, especially things we have an affinity or weakness for. Maybe it’s coffee, chocolate, wine, beer, soft-drinks, or some other kind of food or beverage for you. Just thinking of it makes you weak in the knees wishing for some. Maybe it isn’t food for you but anything that‘s on sale, or any  yard sale sign, is very difficult for you to pass up. Some can’t help but engage in any argument or fight. What about clothes, shoes, tools, gadgets? Or certain stores or restaurants? Or how about things on TV, whether it be cooking shows, sports, talk shows, violence, or …? Yup, there are things we are drawn to like flies to poop, or bees to blossoms (chances are you would rather see yourself as the bee than the fly, I certainly would).

Nothing is more difficult to stay away from than evil. This is so because evil is found everywhere, and you and I, as well as everyone else, are sinners. We have a natural, innate bend towards sin and evil. That’s why God has to tell us, “Stay away (abstain) from every kind (form) of evil” 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (HCSB, parenthesis mine). Some have responded to this command of God through monasticism, unfortunately walls and vows do not erase evil and our weaknesses. Some respond to God’s command by comparing, “I am not as bad as …,” “This isn’t as bad as …” Of course it’s easy to look like a bee compared to a child molester. Unfortunately it is a strategy only flies employ, comparing stink with stink still stinks. Doing nice things with evil motives – stink. All forms of greed (Luke 12:15) – stink. Abstaining from all forms of evil encompasses the stink you and I are drawn to, guaranteed. Evil resides in thoughts, motives, attitudes, value systems, traditions, customs, words, and fears as much as it does in desires, habits, behaviors, and actions.
To keep God’s command to “stay away from every kind of evil,” we need to:

  • Learn to love, love God and His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another. It is love that conquers sin (1 Peter 4:8), reconciles, forgives, cares, acts selfless, and flies right past all the stink right to all that is beautiful.
  •  Learn to discern good from evil, which takes a serious study of God’s Word (the Bible), honesty, and practice (Hebrews 5:11-14).
  • Learn to love knowing and doing God’s will. If you and I doubt rather than delight in the goodness, the rightness, the blessedness of God’s will we will struggle with the doing of His will. I encourage you to begin with this, “See to it that no one repays evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all. Rejoice always! Pray constantly. Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” 1 Thessalonians 5:15-18 (HCSB).

To God be all glory, love you,

Pastor Hans

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November 20 2011

Did you ever get caught being unprepared? Like when you have a flat tire and discover your spare is flat too. I thought I was prepared for marriage simply because I was madly in love with Susie, but having grown up in an all boys home I had no idea what it meant to live fulltime with a female. I loved the idea of becoming a dad, but I sure was unprepared when it came to knowing how to be father.

Being prepared means you have thought ahead and took specific actions that rendered you prepared. When a few weeks ago my bottom radiator hose popped off and my car quickly got really hot, I was glad that I was prepared. Living out in the country, with spotty cell phone reception, and some roads that often have little to no traffic, I put an emergency box in each one of our cars (some basic tools, a gallon of water, oil, transmission fluid and funnel, wire, duct tape, jumper cables, rags, toilet paper, a blanket, flashlight, matches, etc.). It sure came in handy that day, and I have used it several times before for helping someone who was stranded but was unprepared.

A couple of years ago Susie and I went through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace university course. He recommends that part of a good financial planning and habits is to establish an emergency fund, so you are prepared for emergencies and unexpected expenses (I highly recommend taking this course). Now, agreeing that this is a good idea, thinking that I should do something like that, will not bring an emergency fund into existence, and cause me to be prepared. I had to actually do something, adjust my thinking, change my spending habits, and grow some saving habits.

Of all the things to be prepared for none is more important than being prepared to stand before God. We all will, without exception, “Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God” Romans 14:12 (NLT); “… it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment—“Hebrews 9:27 (HCSB). Now there is a vast difference between knowing you should be prepared and actually being prepared, and there is a vast difference between thinking you are prepared and actually being prepared. I have heard all kinds of opinions in regards to being prepared to stand before God. The trouble is that just having an opinion doesn’t prepare you any more than thinking you should put some jumper cables in your car or begin to save some money. God’s written word, the Bible, is very clear when it comes to preparing to stand before God, when it comes to preparing for eternity. You have to be “in Christ” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, get a Bible and read 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:28, and John 3). Believing in Christ, following Christ, living for Christ, and serving like Christ is the only way to be prepared for God, everything else will leave you stranded, will make you come up short, the day you appear before God. By all means – prepare.

To God be all glory,

love you, Pastor Hans

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