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Archive for January, 2016

 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 (NLT)

 I learned something this week (no snide comments needed): Don’t delay Granny when she is wanting to see her newborn grandson. I am telling you this is serious business. Who knew? And why wasn’t I told?

There is something incredibly amazing about holding a newborn baby. That totally helpless, completely dependent little person has already expanded history. He has grown the love of his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and nephew. We, his family, have been entrusted with him, we bear lifelong responsibility towards him. It would be unthinkable to discard him, it would wrong not to love him, take care of him, meet his needs, have noble dreams for his future.

His little amazingness didn’t start at 5:30 AM on Monday morning. The Biologist, the theologian, modern medicine, and his parents all know when little Grady’s life began – the very instant he was conceived. He, like us, didn’t begin his life subhuman with a need to acquire humanness and personhood somewhere along the way. From the moment he was conceived, we, his parents, his family, his doctor, his community, his country never have had any legitimate freedom to see him and treat him as anything but a human being, a full member of the human race. We bear individual and collective responsibility to love him. The second greatest commandment of God has applied to Grady, and every other human being, from the moment his DNA fingerprint existed.

Someone challenged Jesus Christ on this demand of God for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29), he asked in order “to justify himself.” Jesus’ reply was what is now known as the story of the “Good Samaritan.” Jesus made it plain that the man, a lawyer, was asking the wrong question. Wrong questions lead to wrong answers. Wrong questions are convenient when you want to skirt the real issues. According to God, to Jesus, “Am I a loving neighbor?” “Am I responding to people placed in front of me with compassion, with care, with mercy, with a willingness to take time, to meet their needs?” When you ask those questions the issues of inconvenience, disruption, bad timing, etc. go right out of the window. The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” does not exclude pregnancy. In fact, no one will ever encounter a more vulnerable, dependent person than a child in the womb. That little girl’s or boy’s life depends on the mother keeping the second most important commandment, on his mother to love her/him as herself. It depends on us as a people to apply the same commandment to every human being, to ask the right questions, and to encourage and support every woman who choses love.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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Four Dollars of Hope

(If you have access to a Bible read John 5:1-15 and then proceed to the rest of this p-note)

My $4.00’s worth of hope of winning the $1,500,000,000.00 evaporated the moment I read that the only winning ticket in California was sold in Chico. No 1.5 billion of high living, generous giving, and doing good for me. My $4.00’s worth of hope ended up in someone else’s pocket. Dang!

I probably shouldn’t have even bought those tickets being a preacher, after all gambling is gambling, isn’t it? And had I had the winning ticket could I have given glory to God for this gambling windfall? How much criticism would winning the thing have garnered me? And would I have cared if I did? Probably not.

It was no wonder that scores of crippled, lame, blind, and paralyzed people were hanging around the pool of Bethesda. Every now and then there was a mysterious stirring of the water and whoever got in first – Bam! Healed! Didn’t even need a $4.00 ticket. But that was actually worse because you couldn’t leave, getting something to eat, going to the restroom became the gamble, it decreased your odds to no chance. It was a constant race, incessant pushing and shoving for a spot right by the water. And if you had to give up your spot, how long before you made it back to the front? How much kindness and civility do you think would we have found among all of that desperation, among these cramped hands clutching the tiniest sliver of hope for a normal, healthy, better life?

Was it worth it? This brutal wait, this hope that would come at someone else’s expense, that could only come to pass if it is “me and not you?” The answer of course depends on who you interview. I am willing to bet those healed, those able to escape the shackles and miseries of their disabilities would give it both thumbs up, “Worth it? Are you kidding me!” On the flipside, the man crippled for 38 years, who had camped out by that pool for who knows how long had a different answer. He had come up short so many times his response to the question, “Do you want to get well?” was no longer, “Yes!” What kind of dumb question is this?” All that came across his tired lips was resignation, “Someone always beats me to it,” and more painful still, “No one helps me, no one cares about me.” He sat hopeless by the oasis of hope.

And then Jesus comes by. He does heal him, hallelujah! But before he does he notices him, he talks to him, he listens to him, he cares about him, he has hope for him. These are all things I can do, even if I never win that big jackpot, my $4.00 and me are enough for me to engage, to care, to be generous, to bring hope. But I always have more than myself and my $4.00, I do know how to introduce people to the same Jesus who changed the life of that hopeless man by the pool of Bethesda. What do you think, maybe it is even greater if someone wins it all with my $4.00 tickets?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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Hope Your Horses

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12 (NASB)

Everyone of us knows something about hope and disappointment. The more our hopes come true the more hopeful we become, the less our hopes are realized the more negativity, cynicism, and other sicknesses of the heart gain a grip on us.

It is good to be hopeful, to be a person of hope. Hope is beautiful like the blossoms of spring, it is full of life like green grass or leaves on a tree, it has a freshness to it like the air after a rain. One of the things that will endure forever is hope, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love …”  1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT). Heaven will be a place filled with unending hope, but we do not have to wait until we get there to live out of the hope that is part of what makes heaven glorious. There is hope for today and tomorrow; there is hope in grief and sorrow; there is hope in loss and pain; there is hope amidst confusion and questions; there always is hope for those who love and know Jesus Christ and who know how to dwell in the presence of the Almighty, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! … The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.  Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you” Psalm 33:6-8, 13-22 (ESV).

It does make a difference what we hope for and who or what we look to anchor that hope in, what “horse” you’re betting on. The truth is, when it comes to hope there is just one “horse” that is able to carry our hopes today, tomorrow, and for all of eternity. Hope needs someone who is strong, someone who can, who is able, who is merciful, gracious, and compassionate, and there is no one who has all of these in greater abundance than the one who can even raise the dead, Jesus Christ.

I challenge you to go check on your hopes today, on the horses in the in your “hope corral”. Who or what are the horses you hope in? Can any of them carry your hopes better than Christ, God can? Who are you waiting on to carry your hopes?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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We not Me is what Jesus prayed for all those who would trust him for salvation, forgiveness, and eternal life, for those who would believe in him, follow him, and be identified with him, for all who claim to be Christian, “I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one…. I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me” John 17:9-11, 20-23 (ESV)

Following Jesus’ crucifixion, burial, resurrection, ascension, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit we see for the first time what the “we” the “one” Jesus prayed for looks like, “Those who believed what Peter said were baptized and added to the church that day—about 3,000 in all. All the believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, and to (the) fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayer. A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders. And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had” Acts 2:41-44 (NLT, parenthesis mine).

A Christian who claims the “me” is enough ignores what Jesus prayed for all those who follow him. Someone who does not belong to local expression of the body of Christ, a local church and does not participate in its life practices the opposite of what Christians did from the very beginning. A believer who does not love the church does not love what Christ loves, “… Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” Ephesians 5:25 (ESV). God’s “intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” Ephesians 3:10-11 (NIV). And Jesus made it plain that in living out the “we” we become properly identified as his disciples, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” John 13:35 (NIV).

Being a ‘spiritual house” and a “holy priesthood” is a “we” concept “Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 2:4-5 (NKJV). A belief in Christ’s return and a coming judgment should cause us to an increasing embrace of the “we”, a greater connection to Christ’s fellowship, a growing desire to worship, pray, serve, and torbe together, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV). Did you notice all of the “we”, “us”, and ”one another” in that last scripture? So what is your habit when comes to the “we” of being a Christian? Are you, a “living stone”, cemented together with other “living stones” in the community where God has placed you? Does your commitment to Christ and his fellowship encourage others? Does your involvement with Christ’s church make it stronger? O how I hope it does.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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