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Archive for March, 2012

You’re invited

“Now go out to the street corners and invite everyone you see.” Matthew 22:9 (NLT)

It’s one of the dilemmas of wedding preparation, and one of the reasons some just elope – who do you invite? The couple getting married makes a list, and starting with the closest relatives and their very best friends it spirals outward from there. What was originally a small intimate wedding can mushroom into the hundreds, and that’s before the mothers of the bride and groom get to check the list.

“What you’re not going to invite the Nonnenmachers who were our neighbors when we lived in Coulterville?”

“But Mom, we moved from there when I was four.”

“But they still send us a Christmas card every year.”

So the list grows, only to run into budgetary constraints. That’s when the folks who were going to be invited are being uninvited and they don’t even know it. And of course great attention has to be paid as to who will get their feelings hurt, and who has invited you in the past. Any misstep here can cause hard feelings that have the potential to linger for decades (I am not making this up).

Long before the happy couple has to craft a guest list for their wedding they will have gained experience in this sort of thing going way back to kindergarten. Oh the headaches and politics of birthday party invitations. Since your Mom was in all likelihood very smart she probably said something like, “You can invite five friends to your birthday party.” See what I mean, because right there you were faced with a cut line. Sure, you knew you could squeeze a few more out of your Mom, seven, eight, and if you were really good even ten. Yup, I remember it well the social jockeying of those formative years. The girls, however, they had levels of drama and manipulation us boys could only dream of.

I am glad I will never know how many times I have been scratched off an invitation list, aren’t you. And I know that unless something really crazy happens my name will not appear on Hollywood’s A-list, nor is it likely my name will appear on an invitation to the White House. I did get an invitation to appear in traffic court once.

Somehow though my name, and yours, appears on the most important invitation list of all – God’s. Unbelievable you and I are invited to be part of the Jesus’ wedding feast in the kingdom of heaven. And in fact God is still sending out more invitations, we get to invite all of our friends, there is no cut line, no budgetary constraints, no politics to be played, no drama to avoid. All are invited, so let them know.

What great words, “You are invited,” especially when they come from God. I am going, are you?

To God be the glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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For the Son of Man (Jesus Christ) has come to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 (HCSB, parenthesis mine)

Hansel and Gretel would not have gotten lost in the woods if they would have had one (By the way that’s really a sad and gruesome story. No wonder those of us who grew up on that kind of literary fare are somewhat twisted).

We, Mabel Tubbs, Joanna Allen, Mary Fleming, and I, could have used one as well. We were lost in San Jose, going to a funeral no less. And since this episode took place before cell phones were common, and since I had obviously read our map incorrectly, and being the secure male that I am, I finally caved to the collective pressure and asked for redirections at a gas station. I told the ladies, “The good thing is that they won’t start without the preacher.”

Recently Susie and I were lost. We were trying to go to Saint Francis Hospital in San Francisco, but one wrong turn had rendered our Google Maps directions worthless. We tried to get back within the loop of the instructions, but to no avail. Finally, and desperately, we pulled over by an intersection and called our daughter Emily to help us. When we told her where we were she blurted, “What the heck, you’re almost in South San Francisco!” (I was tempted to tell her that it was her parents who had blessed her with that fancy GPS (Global Positioning System) device. But among other things, getting lost has a way of making you very humble). That wonderful child of ours, with the aid of her GPS, did get us to the Hospital in no time flat. And this past Christmas my children blessed me with my very own TomTom GPS – hello no more getting lost.

In the 15th chapter of his Gospel (would you get a Bible and read it) Luke records three parables Jesus told in response to those who criticized him for spending time with sinners (spiritually lost people) and tax-collectors (I guess they have never been popular). Jesus tells of a lost sheep, which in likelihood, just wondered off. He tells of a lost coin that got misplaced by the woman who owned it. And He tells of two sons, one who got lost in his rebellion and foolish choices, the other who got lost in the wrong values and his self-righteousness.

It could be that Jesus is describing you. When you are lost it doesn’t matter much how you got lost. What counts is that you are found. The reality is that if you are a sinner (and we all are, Romans 3:23) you are lost. You can be stubborn and tell yourself that you’re not, but that won’t change the facts. The only one that can save a lost sinner is Jesus Christ. Why? Because He came from God and knows the way back. He is the guide, the rescuer, and the restorer – Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to (God) the Father except through Me” John 14:6.  

One more thing, there is joy and celebration when what has been lost is found, when a sinner comes to God through Christ (Just for the heck of it, read Luke 19:1-10).

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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Warning! In this pastor’s note you will be asked to help and to respond. So if you you’re saying to yourself, “I’d rather not,” then right now get up, walk away to do something else, but don’t read on. If you read this far and if you’re thinking, “I’ll read what that preacher has to say and then decide if I will respond and help,” consider yourself caught. From this point if you read on it is like when you have clicked the “next” button after you have checked off the license agreement on a computer. Well, I see you read even further, you obviously have no intention of walking away until you’ve read it all. I take that as a sign of good faith on your part, that I can count on you to interact and help.

As you might know this rain season we have had not near enough precipitation here in Central California. It certainly has not been the first time or the last. I suppose this is the reason various cultures have invented a rain dance. Now trying to change the weather with my dancing skills would surely result in the opposite, an extreme drought. But yesterday I was reminded that some of my activities, in complete defiance of statistical probability, seem to be followed by rain. You ask, “What were you doing?” I sprayed weeds for several hours, and bam, by this morning it rained. The same seems to be true for planning a camping trip. Someone else told me that for them it is washing the cars. Would you email me (theGermanShepherd@juno.com) what seems to be your version of the rain dance.  And I apologize for having been so slack in spraying weeds and planning camping trips. All kidding aside, we have prayed for rain, and God who holds sway over all things has been gracious (Matthew 5:45).

Thinking about the weather made me think about “things I cannot change.” It is astounding how many there are. The weather, gravity and other laws of nature, the time, my age, your age, the past, stupidity (stupid is always stupid), people’s hearts, … What would you add to that list? Yup, you guessed it, email me that too.

God is in the people changing business, turning spiritually lost people into saved men and women, spiritually dead people into regenerated people, sinners into saints, enemies of His into beloved children of God, the broken into the restored, the hopeless into champions of faith, the violent into peace makers, the greedy into givers, the evil into Christlikeness (yes, email me what you would add to that list as well). And here you and I thought changing the weather was difficult. That’s why I am asking for your help. God has called us, you and me, Christians, the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church into the people changing business, “follow me and I will you make fishers of men (Mark 1:17-18).” I am asking you that between now and Easter to join me in doing two things: 1. Pray for specific people to come to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ. 2. Each week invite at least five people to join you in your Bible study group and in a church service. I am sure that as smart as you are you will email or give a list of the people you are praying for and a list of those that you want to invite.

May God let it pour! Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness. Proverbs 26:11 (NLT)

Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins. Proverbs 10:12 (NKJV)

Now the end of all things is near; therefore, be serious and disciplined for prayer. Above all, maintain an intense love for each other, since love covers a multitude of sins. 1 Peter 4:7-8 (HCSB)

I tell you what; she knows how to irritate the living snot out of me. And she was so cute when we brought her home. Now she has grown up to be the biggest dog we have ever owned, but her brain has not kept pace with her body. Just this morning I walked into my garage and confetti made from a roll of shop towels covered the floor. A roll of shop towels I had purposely set up on my work bench because I thought, “If I leave this toll sitting by this jack Sweet Tea will make confetti out of.” So what does she do, besides reading my mind, she gets them off the work bench. Yup, and she also does the vomit thing you read in the proverb above, she is both dumb and dumber and disgusting. When she is confronted she does this “I am really very sorry” thing, looking all contrite, and then thinks she can weasel herself into good graces with her wet nose nuzzling my hand. Well, all I can say is that Sweet Tea can be very rancid, and that she is walking on thin ice.

Things like that with a dog are one thing, but what about when it comes to people, people we love and care about. It isn’t easy to know what love looks and acts like beyond the emotion of our hearts, but in the face of repeated foolishness, of anger, of hatred, of strive, of what is and feels like constant manipulation, of wrongs, and of sins. What if things are way beyond thin ice, but so broken, and so painful that going there feels like returning to vomit, embracing senselessness, inviting frustration, a total waste?

I swear (I know good preachers are not supposed to do that) that dog is trying to guilt trip me, like somehow I am responsible for all her misbehavior and destruction. She ‘s got the whole package going, the poor me face, the “I’m such an abused dog” slinky walk and saggy butt, the silent treatment, and the “I am just going to stay in this corner and not give you any affection until you feel so guilty you will apologize” gig. If she could talk she would undoubtedly use words to ratchet up the guilt trip even more. Maybe you are familiar with that spiel when it comes to people as well?

When trying to figure out what love means in difficult context, what love should look like in terms of a particular person, what decisions to make without being riddled by guilt, there are some things to keep in mind:

  • Love is the way to go, don’t give up on love (1 Corinthians 13:8);
  • Love is honest, both with others and with self (1 Corinthians 13:6);
  • Love is kind, it refuses to let pain and evil to rob itself of kindness (Luke 6:35);
  • Love does say no, it doesn’t play games or let’s itself be manipulated (1 Corinthians 13:5-6)
  • Love hopes, but does not enable. (1 Corinthians 13:7, Mark 10:17-22)

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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