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Archive for January, 2014

Learning Love That Does Not Fail

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” Ephesians 5:25 (NIV).

Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God…These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands … Titus 2:3-4 (NLT).

Somehow we believe that the awesome feeling of being “in love” easily translates into a life of love, that “living happily ever after” will surely happen. Of course statistics tell us otherwise, not only do more than half of all marriages end in the divorce but the reality those who choose to stay together is that many are far from a romantic dream.

When God had Paul pen the instructions you read above marriages were by and large arranged. Love was not the predominant factor in marriage making, economics, connections, and even politics played a big role in who got married to who. That in a way explains the need for instructing married people to learn how to love each other. But what about today? Simply because we have the freedom to choose whom we want to marry does not mean there are not other factors involved, such as physical attraction, emotional needs, romantic dreams, and economics. The reality is that even with our freedom to choose most marriages end up far from the hopes and dreams that marked their beginning.

Falling in love is easy; it just kind of seems to happen. Who doesn’t love a good “love at first sight story?” The notion of twitterpation that knocks you of your feet (and senses) is intoxicating. Who doesn’t want to feel such passionate love and have it requited? But what happens when the pheromones wear off? At some point in a romantic relationship, in marriage, more is needed to sustain, to grow, and to carry it. At some point the reality of how we got into this gets exposed, our best behavior returns to our normal behavior, our charm gets to be annoying, our flaws become evident, our bad habits resurface, our past we try to escape reaches for us. It is then that we can fall out of love almost as quickly as we fell into it. It is then and there that we have to learn to love.

No one can teach you and I more about love and how to love than God, who is love (1 John 4:16). In learning to love God first and most we paradoxically do not end up loving our partner less but more and better. We usually go about it the other way and begin with our partner and in the process make him/her our idol, our object of worship, and nothing good comes from it. God doesn’t force himself into our romances, into our marriages, but we are smart to invite Him in if we want to learn all about love, if we want to bless one another with true love, lasting love, love that bears new blossoms throughout life, love that does not fail (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

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 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

Many claim to believe in Jesus. Many testify that they have asked Jesus into their heart (even though nowhere in the Bible are we compelled to do so). Many claim to have received some form of Christian baptism. And many testify to awesome spiritual experiences they have had as believers. But why is there so much turmoil, so much anxiety, so much heaviness, such a lack of souls at rest and of lightness among Jesus followers and in his church?

If the church is made up of those who have “come,” who have slipped into Jesus’ “yoke,” who are “learning from him” then this rest and lightness should be evident, not just in us individually but also in us collectively. We are not just the community of the saved (true as that is), but also the community of the delivered, and the community of those being changed by the power of God. The church is not just a self-help group, or recovery group, or social action group, or a charity, or a service club, or a patriotic organization, or a political action committee, or a community organization (although it/we might be engaged in any or all of these). The church is a community of once tired and weary people who have come to Jesus and found forgiveness without having to work for it, found redemption without paying for it, found reconciliation instead of condemnation, found justification though guilty. And that makes it, or should make it a super happy and grateful bunch. Amen!

Some are quick note, “What about repentance Hans?” Well, when Jesus says, “Come to me ..,” and someone turns to and comes to him with all of their baggage isn’t that an admission that life is not working out without him, that you need him, that he has what that person has not? But when do we celebrate? When do we butcher the fatted calf? When do we rejoice with someone who has come to Jesus and found rest, because rejoicing should follow repentance?

After pastoring our church for almost thirty years I still love being part of it, I still look forward to us coming together, I still imagine what it will be like if we who have come to Jesus learn even more from him – we’ll be more at rest, we’ll experience even more exquisite peace, we’ll walk even lighter in a world that remains heavy. What will it be like among us when we learn to love even more like Jesus, when we learn even more to serve others like Jesus, when we learn think and act ever more like Jesus? All I know is that I want to be part of it with you.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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“… learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” Matthew 11:29 (NIV)

Remember Alice Cooper singing “School’s Out?” Maybe you couldn’t wait for it to become true. Maybe you sang it at your graduation.

“… No more pencils
No more books
No more teacher’s dirty looks

Well we got no class
And we got no principles
And we got no innocence
We can’t even think of a word that rhymes

School’s out for summer
School’s out forever
School’s been blown to pieces …” (Lyrics by Alice Cooper)

I remember a young lady for whom Math was a nightmare. It kept her from finishing her college degree. She had almost straight As except for math, she had flunked it numerous times. Talk about frustrated.

Did you ever ask a teacher or your parents, “Why do I have to learn this? How much of this am I actually ever gonna use in real life?”

The reality is that throughout all of life you have to learn unless you want to be stupid, make stupid decisions, repeat stupidity, and suffer from the effects of stupidity. Learning can make your life better, make you wiser, make things easier.

If I make the same mistakes over and over maybe it’s time to learn to do it different?

If my life is full of turmoil, drama, and conflict maybe it’s time to examine what I have learned and how valuable it is. Maybe I need to show up for school again, regardless of how much I like Alice’s sentiments.

If my relationships are not working, if I am always broke, if habits are hurting me, if I constantly hurt others, if lack discernment then maybe it is time to admit that I don’t know as much as I think I do and that I might need to depart from what I have learned so far.

If others are not blessed by me, if love, goodness, generosity, wholeness, wisdom, joy, laughter, and peace isn’t something that others get from being with me then maybe enrolling with the best teacher ever isn’t a bad idea.

As far as I know Jesus never taught a course on physics, math, biology, or chemistry, although as the creator of them all he certainly could have. No, he left that type of teaching to others. What Jesus focused his teaching on was on life, on God, on reality, on true success. You can know everything about math and be a terrible person. You can be the most skilled surgeon and be a heartache to your colleagues and family. You can be the savviest business woman and be dishonest and corrupt. You can be the best at football and be a jerk.

“Learn from me,” maybe it’s time to take Jesus up on the offer. From what I have heard, even Alice Cooper did.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

What does it mean to find rest for your soul? To have your mind and heart be at rest?  And why does this rest of soul seem so difficult to come by and so hard to maintain?

Jesus’ words, “I am gentle and humble in heart,” just drip with restfulness, at least to me. Proud and harsh don’t go together with a soul at rest, that’s for sure, neither do anxious, worried, hurried, arrogant, violent, greedy, or being all about yourself.

Jesus at once confronts both empty religion as well as simply ignoring the truth. The soul cannot find rest in either. Empty religion regardless of its name promotes something less than the truth and will peddle salvation and peace with God through some system of merit, of works of our own, and fill your bowl with guilt if you don’t comply. That’s why the religious leaders of the very people Jesus talked to constantly came out with new and more nuanced regulations. And that’s why people then and now turned their back on religion. Guilt is a big burden to bear it won’t let the soul rest. But godlessness does not bring rest to the soul either; it ignores the truth of the soul and of God. The truth of the soul is that exists because of God and is accountable to God, and death does not provide relief from accountability but simply ushers us into final reckoning. The truth of God is that he exists and his sovereignty extends over our lives, he can and does decree what is right and what is wrong, what is moral and what is immoral. If empty religion piles on false guilt then ignoring God fails to deal with real guilt before God. One is harsh and the other is proud. Neither can give the soul true rest.

This is why I am growing ever more leery of moralistic preaching. It allows the soul to give itself a false sense of rest. It provides rest based on comparison to others, “I thank you God that I am not a sinner like …” (Luke 18:9-14). It steeps us in rest of soul based on merit and vaporizes the instant we transgress ourselves. It will strap the burden of hypocrisy on your back in the blink of an eye.

This is why I am leery of empty preaching, the kind that looses itself in self-improvement, in comfort, in mere political action. The kind of preaching that leaves Jesus out or makes him secondary, the stripped down version of Jesus or the cleaned up version of Jesus. The fact is that he is more than psychotherapist, more than a guru, more than economist, more than a revolutionary, more than one among many. We exist because of him and only because of him (Colossians 1:16-17). He is not neat, comfortable, and clean, but beaten, bloody, crucified, buried, and risen because of his great love for us and our great sinfulness. He really can forgive, he really can teach me how to forgive, how to die to self, how to love God, how to love my neighbor, and how to love one another and find in that rest for my soul.

Are you as amazed as I am that he says to us restless souls, “Come to me ..?”

Thank you God for Jesus! Love you, pastor Hans

 

 

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