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Archive for February, 2016

Extreme love

Have you ever had someone watch a YouTube video clip and make all kinds of “Uhh, Ahh” sounds and commentate with exclamations like, “Unbelievable, “That’s insane,” “These guys are crazy,” “You’ve got to watch this.” A few days ago Susie was watching a clip sitting in her recliner and let me know that I had to watch this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-PBwENlkUoI). She stuck her ipad under my nose and pushed play and all I can say is, “Wow!” “That’s insane,” “These guys are crazy.”

Susie asked me if I would want to do something like that? I have to confess, I think it would be awesome, but they would have to double diaper me, then again maybe I am just trying to seem super adventurous and daring. But people do extreme things that leave you breathless just watching, and for many of those things you have to be in really good shape, which might be the reason most of us are better at watching this extreme stuff than executing it ourselves.

Jumping off cliffs, free climbing Half Dome, surfing on 60 foot waves, starring down sharks, or doing flips on motorcycles is not the only definition of extreme. I once wandered into a quilting convention. The level they took quilting to was extreme. I told Susie, “You’ve got to see this!” Looking at what they created was nothing short of “Wow!” I watched Tommy Emmanuel perform “Mombasa” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-k8EQ1aPzcw) and had to show it to the drummers of our worship team – “Wow!” “Incredible!” “Extreme.”

Of course this pastor’s note is not about getting you to watch more YouTube; it’s about taking love to the extreme in real life. You don’t have to be in superb physical condition or possess some mad skill to love to the extreme. But you cannot be a spectator, you will have to get up and do it, you will have to learn it, to practice it, take risks, and push it to higher and higher levels. Love is the one thing God wants us to take to the extreme, for us to push to its limits, and higher still, both our love for God himself and our love for others. When it came to love the Apostle Paul’s challenge to the Thessalonian believers was to “excel still more,” – “Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another; for indeed you do practice it toward all the brethren who are in all Macedonia. But we urge you, brethren, to excel still more” 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10 (NASB).

So who are the people God is putting in front of you that provide you with an opportunity to take love to the extreme? What are the circumstances God is allowing in your life that that motion to you to love to the extreme but it feels as scary as standing on mountain ledge in winged suit right before you jump? What are you simply content to watch without engaging yourself? “Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God” Ephesians 5:1-2 (NLT). The example of Christ is that when stood at the edge of eternity and looked down in to the valley and darkness of human history and saw the sinfulness, the brokenness, the depravity, the lostness, and hopelessness of humankind it was extreme love that made him jump.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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Take a minute and go to the nearest bath or restroom and look in a mirror and open your mouth and examine that wiggly, moist muscle living behind your teeth. – (Did you do it? Or have you decided to just sit there and read on?) –  In many ways it is stronger than all of the rest of your muscles combined, With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” James 3:9-10 (ESV).

Family is another place where the power to bless or curse reside. In fact there are few things that affect us more deeply and profoundly than the blessings and/or curses of our families. Family can and should be like a sweet slice of heaven, a haven of happiness, but all too often it is like a putrid plate of hell, a hall of horrors. Often it is a mixture of, somewhere between the two, but how much doo-doo baked into a brownie makes it unpalatable?

Everyone reading this p-note is someone’s daughter or son, but not everyone is glad to be someone’s daughter or son. Many reading this are someone’s Mom or Dad and not at all happy how things are working/have worked out. All the members of a family have the power to bless or curse. Children can love and honor their parents and make them glad. Parents can love, bless, and raise the children right. But neither can do it without love, our power to bless diminishes with every choice that is contrary to love.

Both blessings and curses have the power to perpetuate. Love births love, generosity inspires generosity, kindness fuels kindness, hate conceives hate, violence begets violence, injustice cries for revenge, pain likes to bite. But it is our choosing that can both break the chain of blessing or end the cycle of sin and its curses.

It is not difficult to figure out which side God is on. The cross of Christ is about redemption, about reconciliation, and about forgiveness, regarding our individual relationship with God and being part of his family, but it is also about the redemption and restoration of the human condition and relationships. God in Christ is able to break the strongest curse, heal the deepest wounds, loosen the heaviest chains.

The book of Genesis ends with a family that is broken, dysfunctional, painful, fake, full of bad blood, secrets, and rotten history. It was meant to enjoy God’s promises, fulfill God’s purposes, and experience God’s blessing, but they settled for jealousy, betrayal, lies, and superficiality. They were much better at cursing than blessing. They were flushing both their own potential as well as God’s wisdom and help. That family was self-destructing. Except that one of them, Joseph, realized that he had both the power to bless and the power to curse and he chose the former over the latter. He decided to bless where he was cursed. He chose to orient himself on and rely on God who knows how to redeem, restore, reconcile, and forgive. He decided to love. And guess who was on his side helping him? “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” Genesis 50:20 (ESV)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (NIV).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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There are three things that amaze me— no, four things that I don’t understand:
how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.
Proverbs 30:18-19 (NLT)

 This is Solomon’s song of songs, more wonderful than any other. Kiss me and kiss me again, for your love is sweeter than wine. Song of Songs 1:1-2 (NLT)

Love really messes with you, but it feels wonderful. I remember when it happened to my brother Andi. It was at a “Fasching” (like carnival) dance at the gym in my hometown. You could see how it was messing with him, hooking him, and how the wonderful of it was intoxicating him. In one evening all of his plans changed, our plans changed, she was in and his friends and I were out. Other than God/Christ captivating his heart this was the best night of his life, for the first time he got to sip from the cup of true love, a love that held him captive for the rest of his life.

I remember the moment when my heart went from friendship to “in love.” It was when I opened another letter from Susie and out fell her High School senior picture, all I remember is “WOW!” I recall my heart jumping for joy when I spotted her with my former exchange student family picking me up from the airport when I returned to the US. And how the moment of her placing her hand into mine is etched into my very soul. To this day I feel something wonderful when her beautiful, slender hand rests in mine. Loving and being loved by this incredible, tantalizing, and beautiful woman is nothing but an extension of the amazing grace of God, “Find a good spouse, you find a good life— and even more: the favor of GOD!” Proverbs 18:22 (MSG).

Wherever and whenever two people get to drink of true love they get to experience something that originates from, is part of the very essence of God, even if they reject the very notion of God. And of course the first sip yearns for more, for greater intimacy, for something that lasts. This is so because real love has nature like God’s, who “is love” (1 John 4:8,16), and thus is willing to commit, to hang in there, to keep on dreaming of and working towards a beautiful future, to give yourself for the benefit of the other, “Long ago the LORD said to Israel: ‘I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself’” Jeremiah 31:3 (NLT).  “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).  “For God so loved … that he gave …” John 3:16 (NIV).

How good is it to know that God is 100% for true love, for falling in love, for that love to blossom into something marvelously beautiful and lasting down to our very last breath? How good is it know that true love does seek commitment, to be married, to be exclusive, to be intimate, to be faithful, to dream? How awesome is to wake up and look at the love of your life and know that God is on your side? How good is to know that that sweet love is a constant invitation to discover more about God and Jesus Christ, to grow in our ability to love, to emulate the One who “is love.”

Happy Valentine’s Day, Pastor Hans

 

 

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 “…  And I will show you an even better way.” 1 Corinthians 12:31 (HCSB)

Take a moment and complete the following, “I would love to be better at ______________________________________________________________________

I would love to be able to play my guitar as well as my guitar teacher. He told me about going to a Tommy Emanuel (one of the world’s finest acoustic guitar players) concert and was completely blown away by some of the things he saw and heard. He went home inspired to become even better.

I am reading a book on preaching and how I would love to be a much better and effective communicator of God’s word.

I have loved being a dad, and of course I will be a dad the rest of my life, I would love to still get better at it.

I love being a grandpa/Opa, and since my oldest grandson isn’t even two yet I don’t have a lot experience and knowhow in the Opa-thing, but oh how would love to get better and better at it.

I have been married to this super cute girl for over 35 years, and I am far (sometimes very, very far) from having this marriage thing figured out, but I would so love to be better at it.

I have been a Christian, a believer in and follower of Jesus Christ since I was 17 years old. I wouldn’t trade my life and experiences with Christ for anything, but how I would love to be more like him.

I have read, studied, and taught the Bible throughout my Christian life to the point I know it better than many, but would love to understand it better, remember more of it, and be better at applying it to my own life.

There are so many more things I would love to better at, but if had to pick just one it would be LOVE. I wish our whole world would be better at LOVE. Wherever there is more love things are better. All of God’s commands are summarized by: Love God with all you got, love you neighbor as yourself, and love each other like Jesus loves you. Can you imagine the impact if we’d all excel at love above anything else? I think it would be fantastic, God and Christ certainly think so.

I already bought some Valentines chocolates, sometimes love is easy like that, sometimes it is just plain hard, but no matter what I want to better at it.

Hopefully you’ll join me. Pastor Hans

“If I … do not have love, I am nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:2 (HCSB)

 “Love never fails (ends)…” 1 Corinthians 13:8 (NASB, parenthesis mine)

 

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