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Archive for July, 2013

 

“ … whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” 1 Corinthians 10:31 (NIV).

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” Proverbs 22:6 (NIV)

I remember landing for the first time at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) way back when there were no scanners and security lines. I was sitting by a window and all I could see was water and no land until what seems like the very last moment. I was very relieved when the wheels of the plane touched solid ground; although I am sure to the flight crew it was just another routine landing.

A couple of weeks ago Susie and I were coming home from a long trip to Tanzania and Germany. Three days before our plane landed flight 214 of Asiana Airlines crashed in a routine attempt to land at SFO. As our Delta flight made its approach and landed we could see on the left beneath us the debris field and burned out hull of Asiana’s Boing 777. I was relieved our plane landed in one piece and I am fairly certain most people aboard felt the same way.

If you want to mess with the routine of life have kids, adopt a child, or take in a foster child. It is a great paradox that although children love and need routine they are also so very good at messing with it, messing it up.

I suggest to you that raising children into healthy, good, and God-loving adults is more difficult than flying and landing a plane. To me the scary thing is that the runway of life is littered with debris of crashed lives, lined with burned out hulls.

I am not an aviator (although I would love to be able to fly) but I know the pilots of the plane bringing us home had to file a flight plan, inspect the plane and go through a pre-flight checklist, follow the directions of the tower and air traffic controllers, monitor and adjust throughout the flight, and go through a post flight routine. Pilots follow the routine because they know it helps them with the challenges, the surprises, the unexpected, and the occasional sheer terror of flying. The goal is to take off, accomplish the purpose of the flight, and safely land.

As a parent, did you ever have a hard time spotting the runway, knew you were in over your head, were terrified of crashing, or felt like you were running a school of kamikaze pilots? Here is the core of what has helped Susie and me:

  • We have tried to use God’s manual, the Bible, to shape us personally and to instruct us on parenting.
  • We have tried to stay connected with the control tower and life/parent traffic control through a routine of consistent, daily prayer.
  • We have tried to stick with a flight plan for our children. We did not want to leave important things such as character building, values, faith, and good and godly habits up to chance.
  • We have tried to be consistent, practice what we preach and expect, and stick with daily and weekly (e.g. church) routines so we and our children would be prepared for the unexpected throughout the flight.
  • We tried to remember that we are co-pilots, to submit ourselves to Jesus Christ as the leader of our personal lives, our children, and our family.
  • Our goal has been to get them off our plane, to fly their own, and fly it well, to the glory of God.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Until God Wipes Away the Tears

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine– the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The LORD has spoken. In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the LORD, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
Isaiah 25:6-9 (NIV)

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21:1-4 (NASB)

No matter where you go in the world you will find tears, mourning, crying, pain, and death. By the time you get to the 25th chapter of Isaiah it is clear that God holds every nation, all peoples, and His own people responsible for their contribution to the sea of grief filled with tears. Tears, pain, and death caused by pride, oppression, exploitation, corruption, greed, godlessness, worship of false gods, violence, the thirst for power, evil desires, the exaltation of self, and a lack of kindness and compassion.

I rejoice in the fact that God promises real hope beyond this seemingly unbreakable cycle of tears, grief, and death. Most Christians, dare I say most people, would welcome no more mourning, crying, pain, and death. But not everyone will experience the glorious day when God wipes away the tears. We need to not just be quick to claim the promises, we need to also remember who can claim those promises, namely those who order their lives according to God’s heart, God’s will, God’s ways, and God’s Son Jesus Christ. God’s judgment will fall on the unrepentant, those who fail to love, those who turn a blind eye to the poor and suffering, those who ignore or pervert justice, and those who reject the Christ life.

It seems both the Prophet Isaiah and the Apostle John got the same glimpse of what God is working toward. I wish it would come sooner than later except that so many still need time to repent. I wish I would not have to make another hospital visit, counsel one more couple whose marriage is falling apart, respond to another humanitarian crisis in some way, or conduct another funeral service. I have to be careful not to lose myself in singing of all the glorious things God has prepared for those who loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8) while the world around me is crying. As much as we yearn for no more tears we need to remember what to do until then.

Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.
Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all!
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.
Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the LORD.
Instead, “If your enemies are hungry, feed them. If they are thirsty, give them something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals of shame on their heads.”
Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good.
Romans 12:15-21 (NLT)

Until the day of no more tears we must not forget that, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). I do not necessarily need anything else to mourn over or shed tears for and I am sure you probably don’t either, but who and what we mourn over and are able to weep with and for does define us –  and should define us – “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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“ …; and when he saw him, he felt compassion” Luke 10:33 (NASB).

Across from our hotel room window was the southern wall of the Sheikh Amri Abeid Memorial Stadium. The view behind the stadium is dominated by Mt Meru (Tanzania) which fills the landscape and towers over Arusha from every vantage point, and becomes spectacular when it is lit up at sun rise and dawn. The view of the southern wall of the stadium was anything but spectacular. Depressing, disturbing, heart breaking comes much closer. It was dominated by about ten boys of various ages, street children, who hung around burning piles of garbage to keep themselves warm, pan-handled and pestered people passing by, beat each other up, were robbed of their recyclables by a much larger man, made a racket all night, crawled under feed sacks and card board to sleep for a bit after the morning rush of people going to work slowed, and who finally dispersed into the city for the day.

The south side of the stadium has a stairway that leads to an entrance to the bleachers. The gate on top is tall and securely locked; the gate to the steps from the street has been pried opened a long time ago. The steps themselves are cluttered with piles of garbage and feces, the corners of the landings half way up are used for sleeping. One morning I thought I saw a little puppy amidst the garbage and excrements. Indeed it was a puppy; the little thing came out from the protective shadows to make friends with one of the street boys. But that would just be my mind projecting some quaint and cute scenario onto a harsh and brutal reality. That little dog is just trying to desperately survive. I saw no one on that street who cares about that little pooch, if it gets too close to a foot it will be kicked, if it gets too close to a car it will be run over, and it might just become target practice for the rock throwing boys. It’s odds for making it are slim, much smaller than the odds of it becoming part of the pile of trash on those stairs.

Strange, how I thought that puppy was cute and how I thought those boys were filthy. How easy it was to almost instantly feel compassion for that little dog in contrast to those boys. Even though I don’t think any of those boys chose to be street kids, do you? They ended up being street kids, dumped beside the road of life by Aids, poverty, or a myriad of other sad causes to live desperate, hopeless, hard, and most likely short lives in the margins.

Why is our sense of compassion so fickle? Why do we open our hearts to a little puppy but stick with observation and analysis regarding street kids and the situations like the one behind Sheikh Amri Abeid Memorial Stadium, if that? Why are we tempted to stay inactive and hide behind the fact that there are no easy answers? And why do we ignore the fact that having no easy answers does not mean there are no answers at all? I can care, I can give, I can engage in some way, I can pray.

What do you see outside your window? What is God showing us outside against which we insulate our lives? How is God challenging you to engage, to grow in compassion, to be broken for the broken and the brokenness of our world? How is God compelling us to be like Christ? What’s outside your window?

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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At the end of the service the deacon/treasurer stood to give a report of last week’s offering. The total was 8,000 Shilling, about $5.30. That won’t go far, even here in Tanzania. The next day, at the end of a seminar on biblical stewardship the same man stood to ask a question, “What if a church does not have the resources to support their pastor and family?” I was glad to be able to answer that one from personal experience, an experience of blessing.

When the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church asked me and my family to come and pastor the church could not support us financially, $500 was the very best the church could do (now $500 might be a Tanzanian’s pastor’s dream but it doesn’t go very far in the US, even if it was 1984). That was the point, I have always felt our church tried the very best it could to take care of our family. A church cannot do more than it can, knowing the church tried their very best was enough, and God proofed himself to be faithful.

Today is a different story, I no longer have to work several jobs. Your giving, your faithfulness in bringing your tithes and offering enable the church to take good care of us. I feel like the heart of the church has not changed, you are still trying to do the very best you can to honor (1 Timothy 5:17-18) your pastor. So I want to thank you, I want you to know how grateful I am to be part of a giving church.

Biblical stewardship is about managing all of life according to the wisdom and will of God, and for the glory of God. God wants us to be givers, generous people who love  giving, people who are no longer about getting but delight in giving, people who manage their resources so that they can give more and more. God loves, enables, and blesses cheerful givers. He is pleased when we exercise both obedience and faith, when we honor and worship him with our tithes and offerings.

As we passed out more  Bibles and watched the joy of someone having their very first copy of God’s Word, as we had over thirty deeply grateful pastors come pick up their libraries (four books and Bible) I thought of you because it was your giving that enabled this work. We had the privilege to watch your giving to people whose faces and names you do not know well up into praises, thanksgiving, and pure joy before God.

As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor. Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you.
Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God.
So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.
2 Corinthians 9:9-14 (NLT)

Thank you, to God be all glory, Pastor Hans

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