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Archive for August, 2014

I didn’t learn everything I ever needed to know in Kindergarten. I did start ditching though and I learned about bullying. I didn’t learn everything in first and second grade either, but I did learn to read and that there are some terrific teachers. I didn’t learn everything in grades three and four but I learned to both fear and respect Herr Weiermueller, aka Kaiser Red Beard, who was tough as nails and cared at the same time. After 4th grade things seemed to spiral downward and it seems that if I had learned everything in Kindergarten then grades five through 10 would not have been such a struggle, but if you would have asked me back then I would’ve claimed to know pretty much everything and that my teachers, parents, and everyone who disagreed knew nothing (but there really were some dinkeldorfers among them). I learned a lot during my year as an exchange student but a far cry from everything I ever needed to know. College, graduate school, seminary taught me a lot, including stuff I never wanted to learn but someone thought I should.

Besides all of this formal education, like you, I was enrolled in the school of life from the day the midwife spanked my behind which caused me to cry out, “Present!” However the school of life doesn’t teach everything either. It lets you make the same dumb mistake over and over, you don’t have to advance if you don’t want to, it might even turn you into a twisted, tortured, scared, and scarred soul. But I have enjoyed some of its courses tremendously, like being a husband, Dad, brother, friend, or hard work, helping, and enjoying good.

Somewhere along the path of my life I learned to love learning. My parents played a part in that, as did my aunt, a number of teachers and professors played that role as well, as did my wife and my children. And there have been so many whose knowledge and skills I admired, and often needed, who were willing to take the time and effort to teach me simply for the asking. I learned that even though I might not be the brightest or most skilled, I could learn. What a tremendous gift.

I almost missed learning what is most important, not because it was unavailable to me. There were two churches in my hometown, there were Bibles (God’s written word) in our home, we had “religion” as a subject in school, some of my relatives talked about it, but I wasn’t interested, I was distracted, I didn’t see much value in it. I did not understand the importance of knowing about God and Jesus Christ. Lots of people seem to live just fine without ever thinking about God, which is the exact opposite of what God thinks, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psalm 14:1). How important is it to know where we have come from? Where we are going? Who we are accountable to? What we are responsible for? What we cannot afford to ignore? Who has ultimate power? And who values and loves us more than anyone? We are stuck in our sin and the dysfunctional cycles of human history when we are disconnected from God. We are spiritually and eternally lost outside a relationship with God. We are poorer without him. We lack any true and lasting foundation for life, hope, and justice without him. It is possible to amass vast learning and miss what is most important. It is through God’s written word, the Bible I learned:

“Start with GOD—the first step in learning is bowing down to GOD; only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.” Proverbs 1:7 (MSG)

“All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Him (Jesus Christ).” Colossians 2:3 (HCSB, parenthesis mine)

“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.” John 3:16 (NASB)

To God be all glory; love you, Pastor Hans (a fellow learner)

 

 

 

 

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Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Matthew 5:4 (NIV)

Michael Brown is dead, shot by a police officer. James Foley is dead, beheaded by a jihadist. Dr. Ameyo Adedavoh died after she contracted Ebola when she had to physically restrain an infected patient, American-Liberian Patrick Sawyer, who wanted to leave the hospital. We only know about them because they made the news but along with them scores have died whose names we will never know, precious only to those who loved and knew them or maybe to no one at all.

There is no shortage of opinions on the death of Michael Brown, on James Foley, on the Ebola epidemic. There is no shortage of outrage, anger, propaganda, political agendas, and rhetoric. There is no shortage of onlookers, head-shakers, and “what is the world coming to”-ers. There is no shortage of anger, hatred, and violence. What is missing are the mourners, those who weep, those whose hearts are moved, those who feel the brokenness, the senseless, the loss.

If I am not careful my observation about the lack of mourning is just my clever tack to have a novel non-involved opinion. Am I mourning? Is the death of Michael Brown causing me to mourn? Am I grieved that there is still a big gap between the treatment of people with different colors of skin? Do I weep over the fact that our police chiefs see a need to assemble military like forces to keep the peace? Do I open my heart to feel the loss of countless Muslims who, like James Foley, have suffered through senseless violence, war, corruption, sectarianism, and religion run amuck? Does my heart hurt so much I dream of better for black teenagers, radical Islamists, and disease stricken, impoverished Africans? Am I willing to plead their cases on my knees before God? Am I willing to get out my check book? Am I willing to turn my back on meaningless talk and opinionating and instead mourn openly, publicly?

“Blessed are those who mourn.” There is no blessedness in anger, in violence, in injustice, in poverty, in oppression. There is no blessedness in apathy, on-looking, commentating, disengaging.

“Blessed are those who mourn.” We don’t mourn over things we do not care about, we don’t feel their loss. The Prophet Jonah was rebuked by God because didn’t care if 120,000 little kids along with their families got wiped out, but cried and grieved over the loss of his air conditioner (Jonah 4).

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Mourners know how to help. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4 (NIV). The Greek word for comfort paints the picture of coming alongside, the very word Jesus used to describe the Spirit of God (John 14:16-17). No wonder calls us blessed when we are willing to mourn, we act like him when we do.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

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You and I can’t go where the President of the United States can go. Just try strolling into the White House next time you’re in D.C. Or try to go to the nearest military base on your next day off and demand to see the commanding officer right away. You can call me from jail and tell me how it went. We don’t have the position, status, or authority the President has. He has access to people, places, information, and power the ordinary citizen does not have. He doesn’t have to stand in line and wait. I am sure he’ll have a hard time remembering the last time he had take a number. There are things only the president gets to do while he is in office.

Of course the power of the President is limited and most of us are quick to point out whenever we think he overstepped his bounds. Most of us would consider our private lives none of his business. Were we live, how we spend our money, the work we do, our opinions, and our lifestyles, and our love-life are all things most of us would not only consider none of his business but also beyond his Presidential authority.

The President is not the only one who has had his authority questioned. Pretty much everyone who has ever held any authority has had his/her authority questioned, “You can’t do that! You don’t have the authority? Who do you think you are?”

No one has had his authority questioned more than God, than Jesus Christ. When Jesus dared to address and forgive a paralyzed man’s sin people were aghast. He seemingly had overstepped two lines you just don’t cross: 1. the man’s private, personal sphere, and 2. Claiming authority that only belongs to God (Mark 2:1-12).

Does God really have the authority, the right to make judgments regarding our private lives, our personal spheres, our morals, the way we spend our money, our thoughts and desires, our plans, our words, and our decisions? Can he really tell us what is right and what is wrong, what is just and unjust, what is good and what is evil, what is pure and what is impure, what is righteous and what is sinful? Of course you don’t have to like the answer anymore than the authority the president yields, but that does not negate the authority. You can try to get away from the President’s and governmental authority. You can move to another country, fall of the grid, or try a rebellion or revolution. All of these, however, will not work with God. His authority is absolute, infinite, and eternal. Nothing lies outside of his authority. He has rightful access over everything in our lives “… We are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand” Isaiah 64:8 (NASB). Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable Hebrews 4:13 (NLT). “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” Job 40:2 (NLT).

Remember the paralyzed man mentioned above? This is what Jesus said and did to answer those who questioned his authority, “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to (point out, define and to) forgive sins”—He said* to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.’ And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this” Mark 2:10-12 (NASB parenthesis mine).

God/Jesus Christ has legitimate authority over your and my life. Thus the question becomes whether or not you and I are submitted to his authority.

To God be all glory, pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

30 years ago, on second Sunday in August, I officially began serving the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church family as the Interim Pastor in place of Lowell Barnes, our church’s Founding Pastor, who had become too ill to continue. I think that calls for giving thanks.

First of all “I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry”— 1 Timothy 1:12 (HCSB). Whatever good has happened, whatever blessings came, whoever’s life was impacted during these years of ministry the glory belongs to God alone. He is the one who kept me and us, He enabled, He protected, He has been faithful, gracious, kind, patient, good, and glorious.

I also did not come here alone. Susie, Hansi, and six week old Betsie were at my side. Along the way we got blessed with Emily, Andee, Shaheed, and for a while AJ and Sarah. That made for a lively pastor’s family. I owe a lot to them, Susie above all. They have supported, put up with, sacrificed, helped, served alongside, prayed, encouraged, sharpened and blessed me and our church. They made sure I stayed grounded, humble, and real. I would not have lasted without being on their team. How I thank God for them.

And I am grateful for all who have made up this local body of Christ, this family of Jesus followers, this church and I thank God for their support, their service, their love for Christ, their passion for His kingdom, their love, their kindness, their prayers, and their faithfulness. It takes people like that for a church to function, to have life, to be a joy. I have been blessed here, been loved deeply, been appreciated, was helped in innumerous ways, have experienced goodness, benefited from generosity, and was allowed to make mistakes and grow. I thank God for making my family and me part of you.

30 years is a long time to make mistakes and blow it, so I ask for forgiveness if I have hurt you, disappointed you, dropped the ball, didn’t do it right, failed to be Christlike, came up short, got to proud, listened to little, or lacked in love. Please know that none of that was intentional, my heart is to be a good and genuine shepherd, a faithful preacher and teacher, a godly and dependable leader, an example worth following.

I love what God has called me to do and be. I am blessed by this long-term appointment to be your pastor here. I still dream of us to be the best, most Christlike, real, genuine, and growing church, where love abounds, where the Holy Spirit works in power, where souls are saved, lives are changed, disciples are made and send out, and through which the entire community is blessed.

To God be all glory, how I love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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One ten foot section has no less than seven patches, and that does not count all the other patches/fixes on the waterlines underneath our church building. All of these patches were meant to be temporary, but some of them are years old. The problem is that someone got a “good deal” on some cooper pipe that is the wrong grade, cheap doesn’t always pay. Somebody else put in a hot water heater for the kitchen but didn’t think about electrolysis and improperly connected different metals. Finally beyond the frequent fixing of leaks and talking about permanently fixing the problem we really haven’t done what needs to be done, until we do it is merely a matter of time before the next leak.

 

Maybe you have a ten foot section in your life that continually springs leaks and sports numerous patches from the past? Maybe you have things that are incompatible connected to each other that will cause problems as long as you refuse to disconnect them and start over doing it right? Maybe you too know exactly what needs to be done but never get beyond the temporary fix and talking about really addressing the problem? Maybe the spots of the next leaks and breakdowns are already beginning to show?

 

How are your spiritual water pipes? According to God they are problematic, “all have sinned” (Romans 3:23), they are leaky, the wrong grade, and faultily connected. They are continually decaying, held together by temporary patches, doomed to completely fail. They are a testimony to procrastination, misplaced priorities, bad habits, and a stubbornness that refuses to address the problem according to the knowledge, wisdom, and word of the Master Plumber. An Old Testament parallel is God’s indictment of the ancient Israelites, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV). Godlessness causes us to leak the most precious substance of them all, life.

To permanently address the problem we need to first of all be connected to God the right way and that is only possible through God’s Son Jesus Christ, “And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life” 1 John 5:11-12 (NIV). Then we need to let the Master Plumber replace the old leaky pipes with new pipes that won’t leak even under pressure. We need our life to be re-piped with holy habits, right attitudes, and godly wisdom based on God’s standards and codes found in His word, the Bible, “…learn from me (Jesus Christ), for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls (no leaks there)” Matthew 11:29 (NIV). How I pray our stubbornness, shortsightedness, procrastination, and pride will not keep us from finally letting God have a go at our pipes leaking life.

To God be all glory, love you Pastor Hans

 

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