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Archive for June, 2013

We don’t know where he came from. He just showed up one morning last week? One thing’s for sure, he is the ugliest, most beat-up, ragged looking creature ever to invade our lives. There is no telling where he’s been and what he’s been through, but he looks like a strung-out addict run over by a truck. Looking at his naked butt I am amazed he can walk. One thing, however, still worked fine, his crow. Yes, at first sunlight that rooster crowed and crowed some more, in fact he got into a full-blown crowing competition with the neighbor’s rooster.

Looking like he does, his feathers, where he still has them, look more like shaggy fur than feathers. I already mentioned his derriere, which is literally a sore sight. You would think the fellow would have nothing to crow about, but you would be dead wrong. This guy would never win a ribbon at the fair. In fact he looks like a pack of coyotes got a hold of him and one by one spit him back out. You would think he’d tone it down a bit, but no, he greets every new day with gusto, and there is no way he is going to let my neighbor’s pretty boy outshine him in giving his morning praise.

Maybe, you are wondering what makes me think he is giving praise to God each morning and not simply doing what roosters do in the morning? Have you ever watched birds in the morning, how they greet the day? Before they get all busy with their day they take time to sing, or crow if it’s a rooster. They welcome the day, they’re glad to be alive, and they have reason to praise because even if they’re not aware of it, Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27 (NLT).

I’m not always like that rooster. I don’t greet every day like that, do you? I forget the praise when life beats me up, when things are raw and sore, when I feel lost or out of place, when life feels terrible. I lose the simplicity that greets each day as gift, that simplicity of faith that my Heavenly Father knows how to and will take care of me. I stop singing, crowing, not because I forgot the songs or lost my ability to praise, but because I let worry fool me into thinking that so much depends on me. I can get so turned around that I miss the daily invitation to offer praise to the one who gives me life and breath, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!” Psalm 150:6 (NASB). That rooster sure hasn’t forgotten.

Come to think of it, with everything going on in my life over the past few weeks that rooster showing up was anything but an accident. Thank you God, thank you my Heavenly Father, you are glorious, and kind, and have a terrific sense of humor.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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It has been a trying few weeks for Susie and I. Our Grandson, “Junior,” was abused so badly by his Dad, our son, that he went into cardiac arrest and ended up at Oakland Children’s Hospital with catastrophic brain injuries. We often referred to Shaheed as our bonus son, because God placed him into our family when he was almost fifteen. He presented us with lots of “challenges” that stretched our love thin more than once, but nothing like this. A few days into the ordeal Shaheed finally confessed, was arrested, and is now jail waiting for the judicial process to take its course.

Anger, such anger, confusion, deeper than deep disappointment, shame, questions, so many questions, disbelief, shock, broken-heartedness, sorrow beyond words, yes, overwhelming sorrow and grief have filled our days. How could he? Why did he? The lies. The brutality. The caring for nothing but himself. The utter absence of excuses. The senselessness. The pain, Junior’s pain, his Mama’s pain. Hoping for a miracle, constant bleak medical outlooks, praying that this will not end with Junior in a long term vegetative state. Changes that look good and seem encouraging and yet might not be at all. Weariness. Sorrow. Our hearts and minds like parched ground yearning for drops of peace, that peace of God beyond understanding.

I haven’t taken his calls, not willing to pay $15 per call, afraid I’d say things I’d regret. A letter is as far as I have gotten. I have gotten various unsolicited advice though, which I am sure was meant to be helpful but if I am honest was hurtful.

I was sitting on our back deck a few days, in the coolness of early morning, thinking, praying, wondering how to navigate through this in a godly, Christlike way. So I reviewed in my mind sure directives from God’s word (the Bible), things I knew applied regardless of how I felt, words I could fully trust to be of the Holy Spirit. It didn’t take long before I had a short list, and surprisingly that list poured peace into my heart, settled my mind, refreshed my soul. I believe that moment to be an answer to the many prayers friends, brothers and sisters in Christ, have lifted up on my behalf. I believe that moment God wept with me and let His mercies and compassions, which are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), fall on me.

Maybe you are wondering what the list mentioned above entailed? Here it is:

  • I have to forgive, forgiveness is not optional for a follower of Jesus.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” Ephesians 4:32 (NASB).

And forgive us our sins, For we ourselves also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation” Luke 11:4 (NASB).

  • I have to love, it too is not optional for Christian.

“This I command you, that you love one another” John 15:17 (NASB)

“We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen” 1 John 4:19-20 (NASB)

  • I have to be careful not to let bitterness take a foothold in me.

Make sure that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no root of bitterness springs up, causing trouble and by it, defiling many” Hebrews 12:15 (HCSB)

  • I am allowed to be angry, but I am not allowed to sin in my anger.

BE ANGRY , AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger” Ephesians 4:26 (NASB).

“This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God” James 1:19-20 (NASB).

  • I need to guard my tongue which means I need to guard my thoughts.

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” Ephesians 4:29-30 (NIV).

Thank you for all your praying, caring, and loving.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

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Dad, what are you passing on? Like it or not, you are passing something on. It might be your presence or your absence, great memories or lousy ones, health or dysfunction, tools to succeed or habits for failure, love or anger, selflessness or selfishness, and so much more.

Putting a child into this world is the easy part. It is what we do after that gift of God is conceived that determines whether or not he or she is either blessed or cursed by their father. Yup, fathers are meant to be blessings to their sons and daughters and that means taking on the lifelong responsibilities of being a Dad. Strange, we go to great lengths and spent millions of dollars to teach our children how to avoid conceiving children and how to get rid of them if they “accidently” do, but we teach so little about the lifelong responsibilities of godly parenthood (especially to boys/young men).

Dad, what are you passing on? God devoted an entire book of the Bible, Proverbs, to things Dads should pass on to their children. But the most fundamental, the most important thing for Dad to pass on to his child/ren is a love for God and His Son Jesus Christ. “You must not have any other god but me. You must not make for yourself an idol of any kind, or an image of anything in the heavens or on the earth or in the sea. You must not bow down to them or worship them, for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God who will not tolerate your affection for any other gods. I lay the sins of the parents upon their children; the entire family is affected—even children in the third and fourth generations of those who reject me. But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands” Deuteronomy 5:7-10 (NLT).

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well” 1 John 5:1 (NIV).

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4 (NIV).

Can you raise great kids without the Bible, without any emphasis on God? Yes you can. There are wonderful Dads who are not believers and there are lousy Bible wielding dads (lousy dads of any sort don’t get a capital D). However, the God-given responsibilities of all Dads go beyond passing on what is good and upright, it also includes the godly, the holy.

Our responsibility as Dads is to pass on the right stuff, including being a living example of what we pass on. Our responsibility is to be a blessing according to God’s definition. Then at some point our children have to make a choice to embrace responsibility themselves, decide whether or not they themselves will be a blessing or a heartache to both God and their parents. May we give them every reason to choose the former.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

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That squirrel must have done something, something bad, at least in the eyes of the two woodpeckers giving it the beating of his life. I don’t know why I’m assuming that gray squirrel was a male, girls get into trouble too, don’t they? Those woodpeckers pecked, dive bombed, sat on the squirrels back and wacked it with their beaks. Now I imagine a woodpecker beak is as tough as steel. I am sure if you’d ask that squirrel she would totally agree. Finally after about fifty yards the squirrel made it to the side of the road and disappeared down an embankment. I thought about throwing out a few aspirin in that direction, because I was sure that was going to be one sore little arboreal rodent. I was also glad to be in a car in case those acorn woodpeckers were going to unleash their fury on me.

I am curious what that squirrel did to reap the wrath of those birds? And what is it going to do in the future? My guess is that it will not do “that” again. But it might go the opposite route, like we often do, and decide to invest a helmet and some body armor (but if I write a pastor’s note claiming to have seen a squirrel donning a helmet and armor then you might want to stop reading them).

What when our conscience fails us, when we do bad and nothing is pecking away on us? What if we have developed armor, calluses that allow us to continue in our wrong without anymore sense of guilt?

I don’t speak squirrel, and they do speak (you should hear all their yakking in our back yard trees), but I could bet I heard, “I’m sorry guys. Really, I am really, really sorry. I am so sorry you can stop now. Please. Pretty please. I really mean it please!” But I think its sincerity was questionable. I think it was just sorry enough to get out of the presently administered pecking. It probably cussed those #@%@## birds out the very next day, albeit from the safety of a distant tree.

What if God is pecking on you? What if God is trying to prick your conscience? I am grateful God doesn’t unleash steel beaked woodpeckers whenever I transgress, whenever I trespass into bad behavior, bad attitude, bad thinking, bad motives, or bad words (bad words usually accompany anything bad, but not just in the form of cuss words).

In the second chapter of Acts the Bible records people’s response to Peter preaching the word of God, the gospel. They were “pierced in the hearts,” their conscience was wounded. In fact the Greek word “katanusso,” according to the NASB dictionary means to “prick violently,” like two wood peckers on a squirrel. Feeling as they did they asked, “What should we do?”

“Repent, deal with your sins, and identify yourself, your life with Jesus Christ,” was Peter’s reply. Many did just that, and many went and bought helmets, put some calluses on their consciences and hearts. But it really doesn’t matter what they did or didn’t do. What are you going to do when God confronts your bad?

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

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