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Archive for April, 2013

 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)

“ As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21 (NIV)

It is astounding, all the different pursuits and hobbies there are. Each one is its own world consisting of subcategories, lingo, knowhow, magazines, and industries supplying everything you could possible need. Take fishing, the world of bass angling is different from ocean fishing, which is different from trout fishing, which is different from commercial fishing. Or cars, you can be into muscle cars, or old timers, or new cars, or trucks, or racing street or oval, NASCAR, Indy, or Formula 1, or a specific Brand, or who knows what. Horses are no different, as are motorcycles, RVs, surfing, hiking, diving, running, cooking, barbequing, wood working, pottery making, painting, video games, antiques, photography, civil war reenactment, Celtic enthusiasts, sports and collecting of every kind.

 

I once took a wrong turn at a conference center and after passing through the lecture hall where the nano engineers had gathered I wound up in the middle of the quilting convention. Now I have spent a few hours of my life waiting in various fabric stores, have  even been sent there once or twice for an errand or two, but none of that prepared me for the this excursion into the world of quilting. I had no idea, the quilts were amazing works of art, craftsmanship, and creativity, but there were also dozens of vendors selling quilting supplies, lecture schedules, and workshops. I listened in on one group as they were discussing stitching techniques, they might as well have spoken ancient Babylonian. It was a beehive of activity; they loved being there, paid money to be there. It was another world with not another man in sight.

 

So what turns your crank, what makes your heart beat faster, what gets you talking, rearrange your calendar, and open your wallet. Maybe it is gardening, traveling, golfing, hunting, or cooking? Maybe it is bird watching, star gazing, theater, music, movies, or car audio? Maybe it is football games, sewing, guns, crafts, dogs, cats, or history? Whatever it is I would love for you to drop me a email and tell me what it is for you and why (dergermanshepherd@gmail.com).

 

What is God’s passion, pursuit (I am not sure about hobbies)? What makes his heart beat faster? The answer is people, you and me, your neighbor, the person working next to you, your boss, your teacher, your classmate, your family members, your doctor, your mechanic, your friends, and even your enemy. God’s heart beats for the poor, the oppressed, the neglected, the suffering, the hungry, and the forgotten. God’s heart beats for the lost, for sinners on their way to hell.

 

“How can we know that?” you ask. Because he held nothing back. God put his treasure where his heart is and offered up his Son, Jesus Christ, because of his love for people, for you and me.

 

One of the challenges of the Christian life is acquiring the heart of God, to be passionate about what He is passionate about, to pursue what He pursues, to use our time, treasure, everything as God would.

 

Let me ask a few questions and throw out a challenge, “Are we using what we are passionate about, even our hobbies, the way God would? Are our pursuits, loves, and hobbies mere self-gratification or are we redeeming them to accomplish what is on God’s heart? Are our hobbies and pursuits a reflection of Christian boredom or do we have a vision for using them to reflect the heart of God?

 

I challenge you to use what you love, to take your hobbies, to engage your passions in the work of God’s kingdom, to love, reach, and grow people in Christ.

 

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

P.S. Two additional thoughts: There are sinful pursuits, passions, and hobbies. I am not suggesting they are somehow redeemable, they must be let go. Secondly, if our core passion is different from God’s passion much of our lives, no matter how much fun or gratifying, will in the end be an empty pursuit and wasted opportunity.

 

 

 

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He said, “I believe.”

So I asked him, “Then why are you not married?”

He didn’t like where this conversation was going. His girl friend of the past four years tried to come to his rescue, “We’ve had some bad things happen,” she said with tears in her eyes, “We got hurt in church.”

“But if I read the Bible correctly getting married would be the right thing to do,” I persisted. I could tell she agreed, and I could tell he didn’t want to agree, he didn’t want to be challenged on what he believed. And part of me can’t blame them; Christians have made a mess out of marriage as much as the non Christian culture. And, yes churches too often hurt people. I know, I lead one, and few people know more about the ugliness that can occur in church than pastors. In fact, and to my shame, I have hurt people. Not intentionally, but I don’t think that makes a lot difference. I have also been hurt, deeply, many times.

 

What does it mean when I say, “I believe?”

What does it mean when you say, “I believe?”

 

I was young. I was ready to quit. I was out of church. The last three churches I was a part of were a mess. I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to be a minister after all. I was afraid of becoming a pastor and making a mess myself. I was shocked at how ugly things could get in a church. Somehow I ended up reading in Paul’s letter to the Romans, So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God” Romans 14:12 (NASB). That’s when God asked me, “What does it mean when you say, ‘I believe,’ Hans? Will you quit believing because things are hard? Are you going to throw in the towel because others are living disobedient? Are you going to use your hurt as an excuse to do your own thing? Are you only going to believe if everything works out and is rosy? Are others responsible for what you do? Are you really going to use the disobedience and unfaithfulness of others as a legitimate reason not be obedient and faithful yourself? Are you buying into that Hans?”

“No, Lord, I am not buying this myself. I am just confused and feeling sorry for myself. But I need your help,” was my reply. It hit me, “What if the whole world goes crazy? What if my life falls apart? What if God assigns me suffering, obscurity, and struggle? I will still have to give an account. I will have no one to blame for the choices I have made.”

So what does it mean when I say, “I believe?” It means I believe God exists, that He has revealed himself through Jesus Christ, who alone conquered sin and death, who is the way, the truth, and my life. I believe Jesus pursued me as a lost sinner, convicted me of my sin and lostness through the Holy Spirit, and caused me to trust Him with my life for all of my life. I believe Christ saved me from my sin and God’s judgment of sin, keeps me from day to day, and will raise me from the dead even if I die. I believe I have belonged to Christ from the moment I called on his name. I believe Christ has called me to follow him, to live Christlike, to love, and to order my life according to the Bible, God’s written word. I am a servant of Christ, it is His will not mine that is important, it is His purposes not mine that are paramount, and His ways are better than mine. I have no excuse for not loving Him who died for me, no excuse for not serving Him, no excuse for faithlessness and disobedience. Though the whole world around me goes kaput He is able to keep me now and forever. I believe.

To God Be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 
 

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GOD formed Man out of dirt from the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life. The Man came alive—a living soul!” Genesis 2:7 (MSG)

The Spirit of God has made me; the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
Job 33:4 (NIV)

I have witnessed it many times, someone taking their last breath. That’s all that separates life from death – one breath. You can almost see it, life leaving on the wings of that last exhale. The transformation is instant and decay visibly and almost instantly moves into that now hollow shell of a body. The Spirit, the soul, life has departed and you can sense the sacredness of the moment.

We hardly ever think about the value of just one breath, or the next breath, or how close to the edge of life each breath really is. There is grace in the fact that most of our breathing is a subconscious, automatic activity. Living life would be very difficult if every breath required conscious effort. But every now and then God confronts us with how precious, how wonderful, how great a gift life and breath really is.

Each breath allows us to live, gives us an opportunity to bless or curse, to sing or complain, to worship or ignore God who gave us breath. And it does make a difference what you live and breathe for. At the end of our last breath, the objections of the atheist or doubter none withstanding, we don’t cease to exist. At end of breathing our last we are summoned to give account (Romans14:12; Hebrews 9:27) how we spend the gift our life, what we did with what each breath enabled us to do.

As a kid I loved the first autumn mornings cold enough to reveal my breath. On the way to school my friends and I would pretend to be smoking. Ironic, we admired something with our breath that actually robs you of your ability to breathe. That’s how it is, things that rob us of life and breath usually dress up nice in the beginning. Life is full of a million invitations to waste your breath, to lead us down the path where your last breath reeks of regret.

How different God’s invitation, God’s challenge to us. At the end of the collection of songs and poems called the Psalms. At the end of pages filled with pain, worry, fears, highs, incredible lows, repentance, agony, deliverance, and goodness this is the invitation of God, Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD” Psalm 150:6 (NIV).

How I pray that both your last breath and mine, and all our breathing and living until then, will give wings to our praise of God and Christ.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Drought conditions and bark beetles are doing a number on the on the bull/digger pines around our property. So far this spring we had to cut down twelve of them and several more might soon follow.

Two years ago they all looked healthy, now they were just brown ghosts looking completely out of place on the green blanket of spring. It is doubly sad, for one they are part of what makes our property unique and once dead they also become hazards.

I am always amazed at how much space a tree occupies (Something you should take into account when planting a tree). When a tree hits the ground it leaves a large gap that takes some getting used to, and it will take a long time to fill that gap. On the bigger trees I counted the rings and I will have to live for another fifty years to see a replacement growto their size, which is highly unlikely since I am almost 53.

Drought and bark beetles will kill your spiritual life as well. However, drought in our spiritual lives is usually self-imposed. There is no shortage of water to hydrate your soul and spirit. The Holy Spirit is a believers source of water, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.’ He said this about the Spirit”  John 7:37b-39a (HCSB). He, the Spirit of God, will compel you and me to build our lives around spiritual waters, the most essential being:

  • God’s word, the Bible, “Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the LORD, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do” Psalm 1:1-3 (NLT).
  • Prayer, seeking the presence and conversation with God, The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” Psalm 23:1-3 (NIV).
  • Fellowship with other believers, belonging to and participating faithfully in a church, Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another” Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT). “They’ve refreshed me by keeping me in touch with you. Be proud that you have people like this among you” 1 Corinthians 16:18 (MSG).
  • Obedience, trusting in and living by what God wills and says, Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, Who leads you in the way you should go. ‘If only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your well-being would have been like a river, And your righteousness like the waves of the sea’” Isaiah 48:17-18 (NASB).

When we are dry we are vulnerable just like trees. Life is full of bark beetles, full of spiritual attack, and has no shortage of temptations, challenges, and trials. The good news is we don’t have to live in drought conditions, ever.

Compared to trees your and my life takes up vastly more space. We are meant to grow into towering, fruit bearing trees of blessing on the colorful landscape of life. Make up your mind and daily follow the Holy Spirit to the water.

May the roar of the chainsaw be far from you.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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Some things only God can do. Only He can create a universe out of nothing except himself. Only He can lay eternal plans. Only He can execute perfect justice. Only He can save and forgive a sinner. Only He can raise the dead. Only He can instantly restore withered limbs and open blind eyes. Only He can do the impossible.

 

Sometimes the things only God can do become our excuse to do nothing. Often, very often, God chooses to work through you and me, through our capabilities, our limitations, our frailties, to accomplish His glorious will.

 

Remember Boaz, the kinsman redeemer, in the Old Testament book of Ruth. Yes, he illustrates the ultimate redeemer Jesus Christ, who alone can redeem our souls. But Boaz also illustrates God calling us to live redemptively here and now. Redemption is not just about going to heaven but also about our responsibility to engage in the symphony God has orchestrated around us and relinquish our insistence to play our own tune.

 

Redemption is not needed where nothing is broken, where nothing needs restoring, where there are no needs. But that is not the reality of our world, not even cozy Don Pedro. Boaz had to decide, and so do you and I, whether or not he would live redemptively in the context God had placed him in.

 

What does it look like to live redemptively? You use your blessings to bless, you grant mercy because you received mercy, you care because you are cared for, you love because you are deeply loved, you give because you have received (Ephesians 1:3; Matthew 18:33; Luke 3:11; Matthew 11:28; Galatians 2:20; Matthew 10:8; Acts 20:35). What God has poured in, filled up, restored, and healed, you and I pour out and employ where and when we can.

 

It is the week after Easter, the celebration is over, everyday life has returned. That’s where the challenge is, that’s where we are supposed to live like Easter people. There was another besides Boaz whom God gave an opportunity to act redemptively. He thought that gave him an opportunity to increase his wealth, but when it became clear that redemption is about people he checked out (Ruth 4) with some kind of lame excuse. I pray that will not be you and me.

 

Finally, how serious is God about us living like Easter people? What difference does letting redemption play out in my everyday life make? For the answer would you take the next five minutes and read Matthew 25:14-46.

 

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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