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Archive for May, 2014

“Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil.
Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf with hatred”
Proverbs 15:16-17 (NIV).

Complications are not good.

When your surgeon comes out during the surgery to inform your family that there are complications, that’s not good.

When the pilot comes on the intercom and announces complications, that’s not good.

When your mechanic calls and tells you your car has some complications, that’s not good.

When your credit card company lets you know that there have been some complications with your account, that’s not good.

When an officer at an airport in a foreign country tells you that there are complications with your visa, that’s not good.

Complications are not good. We know that. Complications wear you out, are often costly, usually painful, sometimes deadly, a waste of time, and of course complicated. How many things can you think of that you wish were less complicated? The tax code? Check. Insurance forms? Yup. Women? Uh-huh. Kids, husbands, gadgets, buying a mattress, the DMV, getting through on the help line? Check them all.

Uncomplicated is good, very good. Simplicity is where it is at. Unfortunately somehow simplicity seems to be hard to hold onto, complications always manage to invade, and if they don’t we have a knack for complicating things all by ourselves.

It doesn’t take much to complicate things, one mistake, one wrong word, one lie, one moment of inattention, one stupid decision, one unwise response, rushing too much, waiting too long, stubbornness, selfishness, greed, anger miss-handled, too much assuming, ….

God invites us to a life of simplicity with him. Adam and Eve only had to watch out for one, yes one, thing: stay away from one tree – that’s simplicity. Ten Commandments for an entire society to function by – that’s simplicity. Love God, love your neighbor, love one another as the core guideline for all of life, all relationships, all interactions, all decision making – that’s simplicity. Jesus Christ loving us and giving his perfect life to save sinners (sin is the ultimate complication) through faith in him – that’s simplicity even a child can understand.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

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“I’M NOT TIRED!” was the angry scream of several of our kids, and it was a sure sign that they really were tired, very tired. Sometimes we are tired and don’t even know it, although it is no secret to those around us. But there really are things we don’t get tired of; this preacher hasn’t gotten tired of.

Below the milk collective, where the farmers dropped off their milk in our little German town, they sold milk, butter, cheese, and whipped cream in a waffle cone for 10 Pfennig, a little over 2 cents. I was hooked the first time my Grandpa took me there (I had no idea whipped cream was addictive). I will scrape off frosting but to this day I am a sucker for whipped cream.

I have not gotten tired of love, even though it doesn’t always make life easier. There is something incredibly beautiful about real love. To me it is more addicting than whipped cream. The most important things in my life all depend on love: Being a child of God, being Susie’s husband (HBoM – Hunking Block of Manliness), being our children’s Dad, my church family, my friendships, my family, being a pastor. There is nothing like loving and being loved.

I love happy endings, not just in movies or books, but in real life. I don’t get tired of them, I pray for them, hope for them, haven’t given up on them. And it is not because I have not experienced grief, ugliness, evil, and the inexplicable. Maybe it is because of it. Great outcomes are rare, happy endings are precious, and they are worth it. I believe Jesus thinks so too.

Angels rejoice, celebrate, over one sinner who repents. It is an awesome thing to see a sinner kneel at the cross of Christ and just for the asking receive forgiveness, eternal life, a heavenly birth certificate, and a chance of living every day with God himself. I haven’t gotten tired of telling about that day in my own life, and I am not tired of witnessing someone else’s day of salvation.

Goodness I don’t tire of either. I vote for it every chance I have. I am still for honesty, for saying what is meant and meaning what is said. I am in favor of integrity, transparency, simplicity, and generosity. They scrub the air like rain in the summer; you can breathe deeply where there is goodness. And at the beginning and end of every single drop of goodness you and I get a glimpse of God, because when it comes to goodness he is involved in it. No, I am not tired of goodness or the glimpses.

I don’t tire of God amazing me. “Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far?2 Samuel 7:18b (NASB).

To God be all glory, love Pastor Hans

 

 

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When the preacher gets tired

 

Since I am always encouraging others to not hide behind generalities, and because I can’t speak for every other preacher it is better if I let you know about when this preacher, when pastor Hans gets tired.

 

I know this much, when I am tired I am not as efficient, I am more critical, am more negative, have less patience, prayer becomes a struggle, I let myself get sidetracked, procrastinate, and wonder if all effort, all that preaching, teaching, shepherding is making all that much of difference.

 

When I am tired I am tempted to holler more from the pulpit, which is kind of like a frustrated parent yelling at their kids. But since I have been at this for a while I know that doesn’t do a whole lot of good, you end up having to holler more and more.

 

There are different aspects to my tiredness but they are intertwined like night crawlers at the bottom of a worm can. Some of it is my own fault, too little rest, doing too much, my ministry habits and patterns. Susie and I were dirt poor when we got into this ministry thing. When you are dirt poor you fix things yourself, cut your own firewood, do your own pest control, and save wherever you can. When you pastor a small church start in a tiny community you work several jobs, are the janitor, service planner, youth director, and end up plugging the dam a lot. That has shaped me, maybe scarred me, and certainly has worn me out more than once over the years.

 

Some of my tiredness stems from what I am tired of. I am tired of hearing someone who claims to be have been a believer for 25 years still claiming that they don’t know how to share the Gospel with their family, neighbors, and friends, or being afraid to pray out loud or for someone right on the spot. I am tired of watching brothers and sisters scale back or drop out all together, I don’t get it. I am tired of pussy footing, anonymity, outright gossip, and too many careless and trivial words. But I am hollering, ain’t I.

 

I am tired of having to motivate those who profess faith in Christ to follow Christ, to be faithful, to commit themselves to growth, to service, to think missional. I wonder if that is my own fault? Am I preaching Jesus incorrectly, if people are not internally compelled to follow, to change? If there is not a heart constrained by the love of Christ, continually overwhelmed and grateful for the mercy poured out and received?

 

I am tired of Christians talking Bible and flushing it as soon as there is conflict, hardship, change, or something they don’t like. Talking scripture without living it when it really counts is hollow, bridle, lifeless.

 

I am tired of the level of conformity that is required in my own denomination and other denominations. There are too many Christian circles all requiring conformity, be it some form of patriotism, liberalism, activism, or some particular theological ism. So you have to watch what you say and do or you are outrageous, outdated, or simply out.

 

There is a relentlessness to ministry, to being a pastor that is tiring to me. One sermon done another one coming (and it should be good, boring preaching is inexcusable). People don’t transform easily. The needs never stop. The spiritual battle never has a cease fire. There are always things weighing on my heart and mind.

 

Some of my tiredness comes from the fact that a good deal of what I do I am neither gifted for nor passionate about. I know that’s like any other job, which means you know exactly what I am talking about.

 

I am tired, shamed even, by my own slow progress, by the wide gap I still see after so many years between what is the present reality of my Christian life and what Christ, what scripture, calls me to be.

 

Now, I haven’t penned this note to elicit your pity. You could write your own. Teachers, plumbers, police officers, doctors, parents, … all get tired. I wrote this pastors note because I want to live with you in real and transparent fellowship. I hate having to pretend, so I don’t want you or me to do so, not in regard to tiredness or anything else.

 

Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them? Hebrews 13:17 (MSG)

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. I will use next week’s pastor’s note to let you know what this preacher never gets tired of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” From that time on, this disciple took her into his home. John 19:25-27 (NIV)

We are told that from the time Jesus was born his Mama, Mary, did a lot of “pondering,” a lot of wondering, being amazed at this child and what God was doing (Luke 2:19). I think a lot of people have wondered and pondered with her. Think about it. A baby, a child is amazing in and of itself, but some kids take it to extraordinary levels. Some are geniuses, some are monkeys, some are sweetness personified, some are “Lausbuben” (rascals, they give their Mama’s not much time for pondering but lots of reasons for worrying. If you’re wondering how I know- just trust me), and one was God incarnate. That’s the one Mary got. Can you imagine a toddler, grade schooler, teenager, young man who never sins? What kind of difficulties did that cause in the home, with his siblings?

At age 12 he went missing. When his worried parents finally found him he was confounding the brightest, best educated minds in Jerusalem. What surprises me is that they didn’t get on him, they didn’t whoop him (they whooped kids back then). By that age his Mom and Dad obviously thought he had very good reasons for whatever he did. At twelve I didn’t have good reasons for a lot of things I did and was on a path of having fewer and fewer good reasons for whatever I did.

Can you imagine how much joy and delight Jesus brought to his Mom and Dad? Kids can do that. Of course they can tear your heart out too. One thing I wish is that I would have grieved my Mama less.

Can you fathom the sense and weight of responsibility of having the assignment to bring up the Son of God? Wouldn’t that automatically shift you into the overprotective gear? There is enough to worry about in raising children without that kind of pressure?

How did Mary end up at the foot of the cross, at the execution of her son? Did she follow him around? Did they meet up because it was Passover? We don’t know, but we do know that one of the last things Jesus did is make sure his Mama was taken care of. I wonder if she pondered that too. I wonder if Mary, who knew a lot about costly obedience to God, ever imagined that obedience to God’s will could be this costly, this painful, and so horrific? Can you imagine what was happening to her heart?

Guess who was there, looking right at him, when Jesus felt forsaken by even God the Father? Mary, his Mama. And Jesus made sure that someone would take care of her.

We are blessed by what kind of Mama Mary was. Jesus was blessed by her. Being a great and godly Mom is still costly, still requires surrender to God’s will, still involves being there, and still requires a pondering heart. Mary couldn’t do what Jesus did, but no one standing there had invested more than she.

Happy Mothers’ Day, keep investing.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

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