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Archive for August, 2013

Stuck

Stuck

I was dropping something off at Dennis’ house and made the mistake off backing up onto some soft ground. Slick highway tires, nothing in the back of my truck, and soft ground, you guessed it, equals getting stuck. They flew passed us as Susie and I drove slowly through Yosemite to take pictures of the valley in the snow. As we came around the next corner, you guessed it, there they were stuck in a snow bank on the side of the road (we did help them to get un-stuck).

It is so easy to get stuck, to get stuck in life, to get stuck in a mindset, a bad attitude, in grief, bad habits, an addiction, a bad relationship, a reputation, in a boring or lousy marriage, in lies, in something that ends with …holic, and so much more. People are stuck in hospital beds, nursing homes, prisons, gangs, jobs, war zones, party lines, violence, abuse, oppression, cultural norms, religions, and so much more. And don’t forget being stuck in what ifs, in guilt, regret, pain, hopelessness, consequences of bad decisions, debt, and sin.

When you read through the Bible (God’s word/written revelation) you constantly encounter people, groups, and even entire nations being stuck. By the time you get to the book called Lamentations you are ready to weep with the prophet Jeremiah, the stuckness is staggering, as it is today.

There is a common denominator running through all of this stuckness: Human stubbornness, human sinfulness, human failure, an unwillingness to listen to God, to regard the wisdom of God, to follow the ways of God, to embrace the will of God, and to respond to the word of God with faith and obedience. When Jeremiah pens his lament, his cry, the measure of the consequences of all this unwillingness towards God has piled up. The Israelites personally and collectively find themselves stuck deeper than would have ever imagined.

They were stuck in the anger and judgment of God, stubbornness and unwillingness to listen to God will lead you there, guaranteed. Amazingly, even the living hell they were experiencing was not enough to soften their hearts. It is a terrible thing to have a stuck heart, an angry heart, a bitter heart, a vengeful heart, an unforgiving heart, a merciless heart, a self-centered heart, a greedy heart, a lustful heart, a faithless heart, an unloving heart , an unyielding heart towards God.

Jeremiah finally cries out and states the obvious, “I/we are stuck beyond hope – except forYou God.” Maybe that’s your cry, if it is, then turn or return to God.

I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity (happiness) is.
So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.”
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Lamentations 3:17-24 (NIV, parenthesis mine)

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Come to Me

“Come to Me …”

The accelerator (gas pedal) kept sticking on the old 63 VW Bug. When you wanted to stop and pushed in the clutch the motor just stayed revved up. The pushing down wasn’t the problem, letting off the gas was. You had to reach down, drive blind for a second, and pull it back with your hand, not a good or save idea.

You ever feel like that? That your accelerator is stuck? That your life stays revved up? And even when you have a moment to stop your insides, your mind, your emotions continue to race? The questions, the anger, the frustrations, the worries, the fears, the pain, the being overwhelmed, and the thoughts just won’t return to idle? And it would be nice if it were as easy as reaching  down to pull back the pedal, but you have no idea where the pedal is?

Unfortunately we live in a culture that stays revved up, and if anything the RPMs are only increasing. Couch potatoes are glued to TVs, computers, and video games. Something seems to be always on, the music, the talk, and the images never stop. We are rarely disconnected; the phone is never off, always within reach. The I-Pod plays and plays, and all along more and more and more information. Our response as a society is to take more and more pills hoping to unstick the accelerator. We drink more, grow more pot, seek more distractions, and try anything and everything to unwind. Because we know, like that 63 VW Beetle, we are not built to run without idling. We are not meant to go through life with the pedal to the metal. If we do, we wear out, we get sick, we break down, and eventually we’ll blow up the motor.

It’s the back of the gas pedal and the linkage that’s the problem. Those parts are worn out from use and a spring is missing. I came up with a temporary fix and then went online to order replacement parts. That’s so much like us isn’t it? We jump at the temporary fix because it allows to keep going, except  it is, well, temporary and so we find ourselves back to square one sooner than later. Don’t you wish it were as easy as ordering a few replacement parts and installing them? Then again maybe it is?

Ferdinand Porsche, who designed the VW Beetle, was by all accounts a brilliant guy. He knew that besides his design the car also needed a regular maintenance schedule for oil changes, valve adjustments, etc, and that the car should be regularly inspected to look for and fix worn out parts.  And it needed to be driven right, understanding that it wasn’t a race car.

God, who designed you and me, is without question more brilliant than all of the world’s geniuses, including you. He knows that there are things we regularly need to keep going. Weekly worship and rest, daily prayer, continual adherence to the operating and maintenance manual (the Bible), driving/living with gratitude, simplicity, generosity, compassion, humility, selflessness, doing good, and Christlikeness.

If you own a VW Bug you can ignore Ferdinand, but don’t be surprised if your accelerator sticks and all kinds of things break prematurely and leave you stranded. If you have life and breath (since you read this far it is safe to assume that you do), you can ignore God, but don’t be surprised if your accelerator sticks, all kinds of things break down, and no amount of pills, alcohol, pot, fun activities, fancy vacations, metaphysical gyrations, or strange “spiritual” practices will bring you lasting peace and rest for your soul.

When things are broken in your life, when things stick, when you no longer know how to slow or settle down, when anxiety, fears, worries, destructive habits, and a lack of inner peace are part of your reality, your life, it is a sure sign you need to remember and return to your Designer, your Creator, God, and His wisdom and ways for living.

“Come to Me, all you who labor (are weary) and are heavy laden (burdened), and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NKJV, parenthesis mine)

To God be all glory, love you Pastor Hans

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I have been told I look good in the color green, actually you do too.

From space the earth is the blue planet because over 70% of the earth’s surface is covered by water. So if you are travelling in space and are looking for water blue is a beautiful color. However, if you are like me then you have never looked for water in space (although I have been known to space out or get spacey), but I have looked for water on the earth and that’s when green is the color, especially in dry Don Pedro.

A widow had called me because she was told her sewer line was broken. I had no idea where to begin digging, except for a small patch of green between the house and the septic tank – bingo. If during the driest part of summer you go up to the old Penon Blanco fire lookout you are not only treated to a magnificent view but you also can see exactly where the water is. In the distance you see the Merced river laying like a green snake on mat of straw, circles of green rimming even dried out ponds like oasis in the desert. Yes, green is a beautiful color in spite of the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare hitching it to envy and Americans associating it with money. And God’s word agrees, The man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence indeed is the LORD, is blessed. He will be like a tree planted by water: it sends its roots out toward a stream, it doesn’t fear when heat comes, and its foliage remains green. It will not worry in a year of drought or cease producing fruit” Jeremiah 17:7-8 (HCSB, also Psalm 1 and 2 Peter 1).

Actually Jeremiah contrasts two different people, two different approaches to life, the person who trust in himself and his own strength vs. the person who trusts and relies on God. You already read God’s description of the latter it stands in contrast to what God says about the former, “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives” Jeremiah 17:5-6 (NIV).

Green looks good on us, God thinks so. How green, how spiritually alive, how fruit-bearing we are is not related to our circumstances it is related to our trust and reliance on God. If you, based on your trust and dependence on God, would have to place yourself into the view from old Penon Blanco lookout where would you end up, where would we spot you? Out in the barren spots, the “wastelands” (some confuse church with God and Christ and dwell in the wasteland of a pew, a denomination, something other than a trusting, alive, faith relationship with God)?” or would you be right next to the river, next to the “living water” (John 7:38)?

Have I told you that you would look really good in green?

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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Why?

Why?!

Why can just be curious, “I wonder why bald men are better looking?”

Why can be an exclamation, “Why I’ll be, that kid does know how to clean his room!”

Why can be accusatory, “Why did you do that?”

“Well I thought it was funny.” (bad, very bad answer)

Why can be mean, “Why you’re just dumb, you’ll never amount to anything.”

Why can be filled with self-pity, “Why me (God)?”

Why can be confused, “Why do the wicked prosper?

Why can be mad, angry, “Why are you not saying anything? Speak to me when I am talking to you.”

Why can be hurting, filled with pain, “Why am I suffering?”

Why can be a combination, “Why did you let this happen God?”

God is no stranger when it comes to our whys. In fact He is often at the end of our whys, especially when we suffer, are in pain, confused, hurting, and think things are unjust or not fair. When we do not understand why God who is all powerful and loving does not intervene, prevent evil from happening, come to our aid, or set things right.

The pages of scripture are filled with people who asked, “why?” Habakkuk is known as the prophet who asked, “Why?”

Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?”  Habakkuk 1:3-4, 13 (NIV)

God knows we ask, “Why?” confused, angry, hurting whys. I am glad I get to bring those to Him as well. In fact I have found God and Christ to be the best resting place for myself and my whys.  If I don’t rest them there I will rest them somewhere else like in anger, or bitterness, or apathy, cynicism, and a host of other attitudes, behaviors, and destinations – none of which I care for and God has in mind for me for. So I pray you and I will bring our whys to God and rest them there and find God’s incredible peace in the midst of it all.

To God be all glory, love you pastor Hans

P.S. On the flipside, how good are we at hearing God when He asks, “Why?

 

 

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“…,”I must turn aside now and see this marvelous sight, …’” Exodus 3:3 (NASB)

It was the most spectacular sunrise I have ever seen, right here in Don Pedro, on my way to church last Sunday. I noticed the lighting before I even stepped out of the house and I just stood next to my truck for while just looking into the morning. By the time I made it half way to church on Lozano the morning sky had turned from spectacular to breathtaking. I pulled over, rolled down my window and was just transfixed. Bundles of sunrays streamed from behind the clouds whose edges seemed on fire, and as the sun rose the intensity magnified, it was breathtakingly beautiful.

A few weeks ago Susie, my brother Andi, and I went to my parents and brother Friederich’s grave. After watering the flowers there we stood, Andi and I, arms around each other and I thought about what should have been but isn’t. This was the first time I had been to the cemetery with Andi since he had his stroke, which stole his health and career.  My brilliant brother Fritz lays buried there because a disease of the mind struck him down. My parents died too early because of heart attacks. I thought about my grandson who is in the hospital fighting for his life, still not conscious. Sometimes it is just so difficult to see the beautiful because life serves up so much loss, so much sorrow, so much grief, so much, maybe even too much.

When the LORD saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him … And he said, ‘Here I am.’” Exodus 3:4 (NASB). I should have gotten out of the truck. I should have done more than just admire the sight. I should have remembered to take off my shoes. I should have made the connection between the “marvelous,” the “great,” the “breathtaking” and holiness, His holiness. I should have recognized the invitation of the beautiful and have stopped to step into His presence. I saw, but I forgot to listen. I slowed down, but I didn’t say, “Here I am.”

I don’t need more burdens, nor do I need more activity, or wish for more hours in the day. I need eyes to see God’s beauty, I need the good sense to turn aside to take in the marvelous, and wish for ears that hear Him calling and a tongue and heart that is quick to say, “Here I am.”

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:5 (NIV)

 

 

 

 

 

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