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Archive for September, 2013

Stinking woodpeckers. They don’t even have any respect for the church (the church building to be more precise). And of all the walls to peck on they have to pick the one my office is on. No sooner do I sit down to work and the pecking starts. So I bang on my metal desk, yell “Get out of here!” But these acorn woodpeckers are stubborn, inflexible, a one track mind kind of bird, so I also have to get up and open my window and rattle the blinds. Then I watch to see if a bird actually flies away. I can’t tell you how often this little routine replayed itself the last couple of weeks. At this point I just want wring those little hammer-beaks’ necks. I‘ve invited them to take a look at the baptistery but I think they deciphered my intentions.

Many feel about Jesus Christ as I do about woodpeckers. They are annoyed the moment they hear his name. They roll their eyes (if not outwardly then inwardly) and shift into a shooing off routine.

Granted, Jesus Christ is invasive. He will peck holes into your world view, your philosophy, your spirituality, and your religion. He will expose your sinfulness and mortality.  He will ask you to follow him, to deny yourself, to devote yourself to live for his kingdom. He will demand of you to live a life of faith and love. He will relentlessly remind you that he is the Son of God, God in the flesh, who holds in his hands life, judgment, forgiveness, and salvation. He wants you to remember that he died to pay for your sins, that he conquered sin and death, and that he will return. He makes no excuse for telling you the truth that he alone can reconcile you with God, that he alone can keep your feet out of hell, and he alone is the way to heaven.

Although I hope not, maybe your thinking “peck, peck, peck!” Maybe you’re kicking yourself for reading this far, for not chasing off this pesky preacher earlier. “These relentless Christians, always putting Jesus into my face.”

You’re not the first person who wanted to get rid of Christ. Someone beat you to it. They thought a cross would silence him, a tomb would put him far out of sight and out of mind. They thought their lives were just fine without him. But God didn’t think so, because we are not just fine without him, we perish without him, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. …He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” John 3:16, 36 (NASB).

If someone kept knocking on house because it is on fire would you be annoyed with them? Maybe, at least until you realized your house was on fire. Jesus doesn’t knock on your door for the heck of it, to irritate you, or to annoy you, but because your house is on fire and ignoring him will cost you your life.

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 (NIV)

Then he (Jesus Christ) said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels” Luke 9:23-26 (NIV, parenthesis mine)

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Leftovers

Leftovers

I grew up with four brothers which translates into leftovers being a rare thing. Heck we would fight over who gets to clean out the pot or lick the bowl. On the rare occasion when there were some leftovers my Dad usually called dibs on them, which was huge mistake because that only drew attention to their existence, which in turn caused their speedy disappearance. He tried hiding them but it was pointless considering his pack of five young blood hounds.

Picture it, leftover meatloaf, pizza, lasagna, enchiladas, roast, jambalaya, stew, barbecued chicken, pulled pork, not even mentioning deserts, pies, cakes, cookies, or cinnamon rolls. Yes, leftovers are a fine thing. Raise your hand if you agree.

Picture this, you invited your boss, or your senator, or your children’s principal (they might be less than excited about that), or your new neighbors, your good friends, or even your preacher over for dinner. Raise your hand if you would even consider inviting them to a dinner of leftovers. (Well, maybe I should have left your preacher off the list, they’re known for eating just about anything.) As tasty as leftovers can be we do not consider them when serving guests, especially important guests.

This is precisely the point of the last book of the Old Testament, Malachi. God confronts the ancient Israelites and us regarding leftovers, not leftover food, but the leftovers of life. “Isn’t it true that a son honors his father and a worker his master? So if I’m your Father, where’s the honor? If I’m your Master, where’s the respect? … when you offer worthless animals for sacrifices in worship, animals that you’re trying to get rid of—blind and sick and crippled animals—isn’t that defiling? Try a trick like that with your banker or your senator—how far do you think it will get you? the Lord Almighty asks you” Malachi 1:8 (MSG, italics mine). God got the leftovers when it came to their time and worship, their personal lives and families, and their resources and money. That in turn was reflection where God really ranked, figured into their lives. And how does God rank in your life? How does He figure into your existence, the routine of your life? How much respect does He get in the management of your time, your money, your decisions, and your relationships and family?

My prayer is that every time you eat some leftovers you will be reminded to not serve leftovers to God, but to show Him respect and to honor Him by giving Him the first and the best.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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In Honor of Billie Barnes

Can anything good come out of Oklahoma, or as I call it Okiehoma? Well, sometime in the early 1940 two girls hitchhiked from Oklahoma to California, one them was Wiletta June Clayton. She married Lowell Barnes, had children, worked, got involved in church, and eventually moved to a house they’d built in Don Pedro to retire.

Don Pedro really is a great place to live, but when Lowell and Billie moved here it had what was an obvious problem to them, no church. So they made one of the best decisions of their lives, they started one, right in their living room. When the living room got too small they moved to the one room school house where now you find Don Pedro High School. When the one room school house got too small they build the sanctuary we worship in every weekend. It is amazing what God can do when he finds obedient and ready hearts.

Think with me for a minute, How much has come to pass and grown out of the obedience of these two retired lay people? How many people in Don Pedro have heard the Gospel, have come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ because Billie and Lowell surrendered their retirement to God? How many have had an opportunity to hear and study the word of God, to find fellowship and love, to receive help in various ways because Billie and Lowell took Jesus’ challenge to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” serious?

Just a few years into this adventure of beginning our church Lowell became sick and went to glory, but before he died God in his great sense of humor brought in a young German with his family to pastor the church. Thus it was that an Okiehoman widow of a pastor and a Kraut were paired up. Billie made another decision. She decided to support me, to back me up, to pray for me, to relinquish the reigns. She knew how important that was, she understood that each member of our church needs to be faithful even when life brings hard to bear changes; she knew how essential unity is to have a healthy church family. Think about it, how much have we benefited from that decision? I wonder how often and how much I stretched the limits of her patience? Or how often she thought, “What were we thinking when we called him to be our pastor?”

I have been asked many times how and why I have stayed so long here at the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church. It might be that Germans are not as bright as Okiehomans, or maybe it is because Krauts are more stubborn than Okiehomans. But it is much more likely that, beyond the opportunity, my family and I found love here, got to join into simple obedience to Christ, and ran into a widow named Billie who cheered for this church and us to her last breath. So what do you think? Can anything good come out of Oklahoma? Sometime in the early 1940s Billie did.

Thank you Billie, your grateful Church family and Pastor.

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Inescapable

Some things you cannot escape. The most popular examples are death and taxes. Over the past weeks here in Don Pedro the smoke produced by the massive Rim Fire has been inescapable. One smoky morning I texted my kids, “If this keeps up we will be permanently smoke flavored.  We will be the smoky people, a whole new ethnic group.  Then we will have to have a movement to be recognized as such.  That sounds like so much work and effort, but it will stand up in court because the judges and juries will be able to smell us plain as day.  Then being smoky will turn into a cool thing and everybody will want to be like us, which will spawn all kinds of commerce, smoky perfumes, soaps, air fresheners, etc. “Smoking hot” will have a whole new meaning, “Smoking someone out” will be insensitive, and “smoking” will have to be renamed.  When one of us becomes the pope they will no longer signal the decision with smoke, and one of us might eventually be president, “be smoked right into office.”

I don’t know how I got so sidetracked, but let’s get back to things you cannot escape. How about yourself, like it or not you are who you are, makes no difference whether or not you like or dislike who you are. You also cannot escape the consequences of your decisions. In fact our decisions and their consequences shape who we are, who we are becoming, where and how we end up.

Who are you today? And who will you be tomorrow? And how big of a role will the consequences of the decisions you make play in that process? Even more sobering is the fact that there are others who cannot escape the consequences of our decisions. Our lives always cast larger circles, the smoke of the fires we light never just stays in our own yard.

Before he turned twenty he got both a raw deal and a great opportunity. His home and country was destroyed, he was separated from his family, and he was deported, exiled to another country. He had no rights, no recourse, and no resources. But he wasn’t dead, and he ended up at a special training school for government service. Most importantly he still was able to make decisions. He, Daniel, ended up as one of the most outstanding and influential people of his time. He became a man of sterling character, incredible wisdom, and remarkable faith in large part because from early on he understood the inescapability of the consequences of our choices, and because he lived with an active awareness of that truth.

Daniel also understood that the consequences of our choices are governed by God. The principle of “You reap what you sow” (Galatians 6:7-10), has its origin in God. The reality that there are choices which result in blessing and choices which result in destruction, hurt, pain, and judgment  is also of God. And the ability to make good choices that have consequences shaping us for good, even you if get the shaft or much worse, is a gift from God.

It is no surprise that the first significant thing God’s word highlights in Daniel’s life is both the choice he makes as a teenager and how the consequences of that choice shaped his life for good and God. But Daniel made up his mind that he would not defile himself with the king’s choice food or with the wine which he drank; so he sought permission from the commander of the officials that he might not defile himself.  Now God granted Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the commander of the officials” Daniel 1:8-9 (NASB).

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Dogs and Watchmen/women

Our dogs are napping more. Doing so means they are neglecting one of their two responsibilities they have. They are still doing a fine job greeting people, everyone is greeted with one dog squeaking like a toy and the other giving a hearty lick. But it’s the second task they’re slacking on. I can tell, the deer are chomping on stuff and in places they never have before, while our two well fed canines are snoozing their lives away. If it is true that one human year equals seven dog years then a two hour nap by my watch is a fourteen hour dog nap. Wow, I had no idea how bad that slacking thing has actually become until I just did the above math. These dogs are not just slacking a bit they are taking total advantage of the situation. The way this is going pretty soon they will install a bell so they can ring for us to feed them in bed.

Don’t you wish you only had two responsibilities, you only had to watch over two things? Sometimes it seems like too much, all the things to watch over, to take care of, to be responsible for. I wonder if Ezekiel felt like that? When his wife got sick and died God told him to refrain from any outward, public acts of mourning (chapter 24). I bet he had to watch himself on that. Then God told him to be careful because God had appointed him, assigned him as a spiritual watchman for his countrymen, and that God would hold him responsible if he failed to warn people regarding their accountability to God, that they needed to change their ways while there was time or else suffer the judgment of God.

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman,
and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’
Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life”
Ezekiel 33:1-9 (NASB).

Now Ezekiel’s contemporaries could have cared less, his warnings went in one ear and out the other (read the end of the chapter). His warnings fell on deaf ears. At what point do you begin to be tempted to slack off when no one’s paying attention? But regardless of the responses of those around him they needed to be warned, as do the people around us, our family members, our neighbors, friends, class mates, coworkers, employees, and acquaintances. Those we love, those we don’t care for, and even our enemies need to know that now is the time to repent, not later, the judgment of God is on its way. This is what Jesus told people everywhere, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15 (NIV), and it is what he told his followers to do, “So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God” Mark 6:12 (NLT).

Followers of Jesus Christ are watchmen and women, may those who he has assigned us to find us faithfully “blowing the trumpet.”

To God be all glory, love you Pastor Hans

 

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