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Archive for April, 2014

You can’t shop for God.

We are inundated with choices. How many different car brands are there? How many different models does each automaker sell? I have been looking for tires, luckily for the odd size I am looking for there are less than 100 choices. How many different brands and kinds of soda does your supermarket sell? What do you like? Coke, Diet Coke, Coke Zero, Vanilla Coke, Cherry Coke? Or are you a Pepsi, Diet Pepsi, Throwback Pepsi, Pepsi Maxx drinker? Maybe you prefer Dr. Pepper, or Dr. Pepper 10, or Diet Dr. Pepper? Who knows it might be RC, Mountain Dew, or 20 different flavors of store brand for you? Maybe you are a water only kind of person? In that case you will have to decide what brand, what size, and what flavor. You can repeat this exercise in every aisle of the grocery store, department store, home improvement store, and at every shopping mall. And if by chance you do your shopping on line then you have simply exploded your choices a zillion times.

Way back there was a commercial touting cat food for the finicky feline. Of course it came in numerous flavors. Since then the choices in the pet food aisle have multiplied. However, manufacturers and merchants have obviously figured out that we are the most finicky creatures of them all. We know what we like and don’t like. We know how sensitive our taste buds are, how delicate our sense of fashion is, and even what our tender backsides prefer in the restroom.

So when it comes to God, to spiritual things, we like to go shopping. God has to taste right, feel right, fit right, and preferably be on sale. He has to match our preferences, our lifestyle, our morals, and appetites. He needs to be helpful but not too demanding, accessible but not intrusive, loving and forgiving but not requiring anything, and of course always ready to bless, even a mess.

The problem is you can’t shop for God. Whatever we pick and choose in the aisles of religions, world views, and philosophies is not God. If God is defined by what we think he should look like, feel like, and be like then he is as small as can of cat food. If God fits in a shopping cart or neatly into our lives then he is as insignificant as six-pack of whatever is your favorite. You can’t shop for God, he is not for sale, there is no store or mind large enough to contain him.

One God, One Savior, One Way, One Truth, One Book does not fit into our approach to life. “There has to be choice! – Right?” The answer is, “No.” There is only one true, living, eternal, and almighty God, and the only way to come near to him and live with him is through his Son Jesus Christ, everything else is futile shopping. “… there is no other God besides Me, A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me” Isaiah 45:21 (NASB). “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us” 1 John 3:23 (NASB).

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. A word to all of us who claim to believe in and follow Christ. Before we say, “Amen,” and shake our heads at those who do not yet follow Christ, let’s ask ourselves, How often do we go “shopping” when we read our Bibles, attend Bible studies, and decide on the shape and content of our Christian lives based on what fits us, feels good to us, and seems right to us? How often do we pick and choose and in the process end up with something far less than God, than Jesus has in mind?

 

 

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Sometimes working on a car can frustrate the living snot out of you. I thought I was done but when I turned the key the newly installed power steering pump proved to be defective, it howled like coyote on a moonlit night. On the second attempt I forgot to hook up the transmission cooler lines to the radiator and after turning the engine on pumped a liberal amount of transmission fluid onto my garage floor. After cleaning up the mess it became obvious the pressure line to the power steering pump didn’t seal. This is how small jobs escalate into major headaches. I can see why people take their cars to a mechanic, except that Dad is whole lot cheaper.
Since Susie and I are not tired enough, and since I seem to cave in under the pressure of my daughters, and since I seem to like having a puppy slobber all over my face  while I am lying under a car, we added a little canine to our lives. Where were my friends that should’ve stopped me. Too late, Leroy Brown has moved in, let the chewing begin.
I wish tiredness and weariness would be confined to small things like that, don’t you? If life would be that simple Jesus would’ve had no need to tell people then and now to, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” Matthew 11:28-30 (NLT).
What tiredness and weariness was Jesus speaking about? How much tiredness was Jesus addressing when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me” Matthew 5:1-11 (NASB, italics mine)?  Ever been tired of yielding little to no influence, to always be at the mercy of powers greater than you? Or what about being tired of mourning caused by the continual destruction dished out by violence, war, death, corruption, greed, pain and wrong? How many will get tired today of being gentle, humble, and meek and decide to get a piece of theirs by whatever means? How long does it take to be tired of thirsting and hungering for poverty, injustice, and evil to end? And when does being merciful turn into being taken advantage of and becomes exhausting? How hard is it to keep a pure heart in impure situations, in a nasty world? When do you give up on peace and throw in the towel? When does the price for living right, for trying to be godly become too steep?
Tiredness and tiredness of soul tempts us to surrender, to cave in, to check out, to be overcome by and participate in the very things that wear us down. It makes a difference who we listen to, who and what we follow when we are tired. There are ways to be blessed, and to bless even when we weary, exhausted, and beat up. “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock” Matthew 7:24-25 (NASB).
Always remember who and what God blesses. Pastor Hans

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Easter Questions

How long can you live without breathing? – Minutes.

How many days can you live without water? – Days.

How long could you live without eating anything? – Weeks.

How long can you live without Jesus? – Both milliseconds and years.

You and I exist from moment to moment only because the entire universe, every atom and particle, is sustained by the power of Christ, “For everything was created by Him (Christ), in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together” Colossians 1:16-17 (HCSB, parenthesis mine). On the other hand you and I can ignore, deny, or be against Jesus our entire lives, till our very last breath.

What has been the most important day of your life? – The day of your birth? Some other significant day? The day you became a believer in Christ?

What has been the most significant event all of human history? – Easter, Jesus Christ, incarnate God, conquering sin and death on a Roman cross, his corpse sealed into a tomb, and risen from the dead three days later. God, through the life of his Son, loving you and me at an unimaginable depth and offering forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption, a place in his family, and eternal life to sinners like you and me. There is no more incredible and significant event in all of history.

If you are scratching your head saying, “I don’t know?” or if you profoundly disagree consider the words of the Apostle Paul, “The message of the cross (Easter) is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” 1 Corinthians 1:18-24 (NLT, parenthesis mine).

My son is a diabetic. He needs insulin to live. He can complain, wail against the unfairness of it, summon his philosophical and theological objections, but that will not change a thing about his condition. No one is making him take his insulin, watch his diet, and adopt the lifestyle of a diabetic, but if he wants to live, if he wants to be well, he will. He can ignore his doctor, play Yoyo with his blood sugar, and drink or bathe in sugar, but he will not be able to escape the consequences that come with that. He can be offended, he can deceive himself into thinking it is all a bunch of …, but none of that diminishes his need for insulin.

You and I are sinners; sinners need the cross of Christ, the power of Christ to save them. The cross of Christ is not meant to offend, it is not foolishness, it spells hope and life. None of us will escape the consequences of our sins, none of us can conquer death, no one will survive the scrutiny of God’s judgment, and no one will live in the presence of Almighty and Holy God except through Jesus Christ.

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

Happy Easter, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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When the sons of Israel cried to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the sons of Israel to deliver them, Othniel the son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him, and he judged Israel. When he went out to war, the LORD gave Cushan-rishathaim king of Mesopotamia into his hand, so that he prevailed over Cushan-rishathaim. Then the land had rest forty years. And Othniel the son of Kenaz died. Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD. So the LORD strengthened Eglon the king of Moab against Israel, because they had done evil in the sight of the LORD. And he gathered to himself the sons of Ammon and Amalek; and he went and defeated Israel, and they possessed the city of the palm trees. The sons of Israel served Eglon the king of Moab eighteen years. Judges 3:9-14 (NASB, emphasis mine)

Do you contribute to conflict, chaos, clamor, confusion, and acrimony? Do you help stir things up or settle things down? Do your words and actions cause nerves to be raw or calm? Can people around you rest or do you set them on edge? Are you an influence of peace or of drama? Is the “land” (your family, your relationships, your work place, class room, home, business, neighborhood, etc.) at rest or disturbed because of you?

They never could hold onto it for too long. The ancient Israelites gained their freedom, had God’s promises and presence, and had a chance to have an awesome life, but they never were at rest, at peace, undisturbed and quiet for too long. Invariably they left and ignored the things that make for peace and rest. Then when it was gone, when things were miserable, they cried out to God like in the example you read above and God in his mercy and goodness granted them deliverance, freedom, and rest. Under Othniel (whose name means “God is powerful”) it was forty years. And then they chucked it again. Why did they? And why do we?

Something died with Othniel, something did not take root in the two generations that benefited most from Othniel’s contribution to their freedom, their quality of life, their spiritual foundation. They saw no value in honoring God in everyday life, in accepting spiritual restraints, in practicing Biblical ethics. They did not consider these essential; they made no connection between fidelity to God and peace and blessing. They forgot that peace and rest don’t just happen but are the result of trusting in God, embracing goodness, practicing justice, and forsaking evil and wickedness. They didn’t believe that “there is no peace for the wicked” (Isaiah 57:21).

So, are you part of the answer or part of the dark that causes others to cry out for deliverance and rest? Are you willing to let God use you as a deliverer, a restorer, as one who causes peace and rest to bless the “land” throughout your life? And what do you need to address and change so God can use you like an Othniel?

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:9 (NASB)

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Gophers and ground squirrels committing acts of subterranean terror, wood peckers in senseless destruction drilling holes into my house or by my office, ants trying to take over our home like Russia annexing Crimea, and termites like the NSA in cloaked secrecy chewing away on what is precious to me – my animosity, my loathing, my outcry over these is no secret.

These critters are relentless, the damages attributable to them are significant, and their consciences don’t seem to be all that bothered. I wonder if there is a rodent hell, a wood pecker purgatory, an eternal lake of fire for termites and ants? If not, there should be. This kind of destruction, havoc, senselessness, disrespect, and lack of caring should not go unaccounted for. There should be some kind of justice, shouldn’t there?

But what is our excuse? We are the creature with the most advanced brain, we are capable of figuring things out peacefully, we are able to empathize more deeply than any living thing. It is possible for us to make good choices that go beyond basic instinct, beyond emotion, beyond rage, beyond hatred, beyond what is just good for us. And yet no creature God has made is more  destructive than us, than mankind. We are politically destructive, ecologically destructive, economically destructive, emotionally destructive, personally destructive, and even spiritually destructive. Yet somehow we are prone to cry foul at the very notion that God would hold us accountable, that he would judge us for our evil, our failure to do good, are unwillingness to live for the highest ends of loving God and loving our neighbor.

Another observance of Easter, the recognition and celebration of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, conquering sin and death and rising from the dead, is approaching. I wish there was a gospel for gophers and the like. However, there is a Gospel for you and for me, for people. Unlike me, who has trouble eliminating a few gophers and ants, God could have exterminated us all, and no one could have faulted him because our collective and personal history indicts us. He could have responded with pure and justified hatred towards all of mankind. Somehow he didn’t and instead of withdrawing personally and emotionally He drew closer, and engaged himself deeper. He chose to love, to offer hope, to provide atonement and forgiveness, to conquer what we cannot – our sin and the reality of death.

I have no desire to become a gopher, to dwell among ground squirrels, to be part of a termite colony. As you well know, I have no love for any of them. But God in Christ chose to dwell among us, that’s incredible. On the one hand it brings incredible hope to our moral, existential, and spiritual dilemma; on the other hand it robs us of our last excuse of having no other option than to be who we are.

Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.”
Romans 5:7-10 (NLT)

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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