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Archive for January, 2020

“I am going fishing,” Peter said, and the six with him said, “We’ll come too.” (John 21:1-22, I encourage you to read it yourself)

Physically we have the ability to move forward, backward, and sideways, but not up and down like a hummingbird. In life, however, we are familiar with forward, backward, sideways, and up and down.

I don’t know if three years earlier Peter parked his fishing boat in a boathouse, left it in a slip at the pier, turned it upside down at the beach, or covered it with a tarp in his back yard or driveway.

The last few months and particularly the past weeks were crazy, a confusing rollercoaster ride, an incredibly stressful, challenging, and difficult stretch of life, lacking clarity, familiarity, and stability. So, they went backward, back to the old and familiar, that which their families had done for generations. They turned the pages of their lives back to before they heard Jesus say, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17).

What did you walk away from when you heard Christ calling you to follow him? What life did you leave behind? What did you set aside, put under a tarp, park in the backyard of your life? But now you’re back to it after your life with Jesus ran into hardship, tragedy, stress, suffering, and overwhelming challenges, leaving you confused, disoriented, yearning for familiarity.

It was a mirage, because we somehow clean up the old life in our minds. We forget how difficult it really was, how devoid of real and lasting meaning, how many nights you come from fishing with nothing, nothing but business worries, nothing but weariness, nothing but frustration.

“Did you catch anything?” Jesus yelled from the shore.

“No,” came the grumpy reply. Somehow, they didn’t remember the grumpy of the old life either.

“Try the other side,” Jesus sent back across the water.

“What the *@#&^!” Somehow, they forgot how rough, even vile, the old life could make you.

“What the *@#&^! Where did all these fish come from?” Somehow, they forgot how glorious was when Jesus interrupted your old life, when he spoke to you, directed you, surprised you. “It’s the Lord,” one of them connected the dots.

“Do you love me?” “Do you love me?” “Do you love me?” Jesus asked gone-back-to-fishing Peter.

“I do,” “I do,” “You know,” were Peter’s replies.

“Feed my sheep,” “Tend my sheep,” “Feed my sheep,” Jesus let him know (sheep being people, believers, his followers). Peter might have remembered that Jesus’ first invitation to follow him included that he would make him a “fisher of men,” but not the old life, the old boat, who he once was with just a little Jesus in it. Not the kind of living that is filled with the old but doesn’t concern itself with Jesus, his kingdom, his sheep.

Jesus told Peter again, “Follow me,” because he had gone back to fishing. Peter was going backward instead of forward; he had revived the old regardless of how unsatisfying and spiritually impotent it was. He, like you and I, needed to come to grips with that loving Jesus and the old life are incompatible, that following Jesus and living the old life are mutually exclusive, that he had to sell out and sell the boat.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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I say, “Obama,” you think _____________.

I say, “Trump,” you think _____________.

Chances are high, depending on your political persuasion, you’ve badmouthed one or the other, that you love one and despise the other, that you have respect for one while feeling at liberty to disrespect the other.

I say, “Taxes,” you think ____________.

I say, “You owe,” you think ____________.

Chances are high you have an opinion on taxes, and, living in the United States, chances are equally high that you are very familiar with owing, with indebtedness.

Romans 13:1-10 concerns itself with Christians living in the larger society, within the constructs of government, their surrounding culture, the country they live in. God, through the Apostle Paul, reminds us to  “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” Romans 13:7 (ESV). Do your responses above reflect the spirit and demeanor of the Romans 13 passage? Are your conversations, tweets, and posts in compliance with the word of God, or do they reflect the culture at large or the subgroup you affiliate with? Do you have an honor and respect debt?

Even after you’ve paid all your bills, paid off your mortgage, and are square on your taxes you owe, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law” Romans 13:8 (ESV), not according to some law passed by the legislature, but according to God’s law, “For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” Romans 13:1-10 (ESV).

Why do you and I owe love daily? Because we owe our very existence to God’s love and are daily recipients of his mercy and grace, “To you who are ready for the truth, I say this: Love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person. If someone slaps you in the face, stand there and take it. If someone grabs your shirt, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously. Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them! If you only love the lovable, do you expect a pat on the back? Run-of-the-mill sinners do that. If you only help those who help you, do you expect a medal? Garden-variety sinners do that. If you only give for what you hope to get out of it, do you think that’s charity? The stingiest of pawnbrokers does that. I tell you, love your enemies. Help and give without expecting a return. You’ll never—I promise—regret it. Live out this God-created identity the way our Father lives toward us, generously and graciously, even when we’re at our worst. Our Father is kind; you be kind” Luke 6:27-36 (MSG).

God has a vision for this world we live in, the countries we love, the communities we live in, and the lives we live (Read the Ten Commandments – Exodus 20:1-17, and the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5-7). And, he expects the followers of Jesus to live out that vision right now, not in some distant future. He wants us to embrace the highest law now, not when things are hunky-dory, but amid ugly politics, chaos, violence, injustice, opposition, stress, worry, and even evil.

Heavenly Father forgive me when my standards do not reflect yours, when I excuse myself from the supreme law, when I declare myself indebted to no one, when my daily life is without heavenly vision. Please me the courage, the tenacity, and humility to pay all I owe, especially my love debt. Amen

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Have you ever had a question to which you already knew the answer, but you didn’t like the answer?

“Yes, stop smoking, exercise, and change your diet,” was the doctor’s reply to his smoking, overweight patient asking, “Hey Doc, is there anything I can do to improve my health?”

 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Luke 10:25-28 (NIV)

This Jesus/God testing lawyer knew the answer to his question, but he didn’t like the answer. It’s even worse when the answer comes out of your own mouth, isn’t it? When you know you are and hear yourself being a living discrepancy. So, this lawyer did what you and I usually do, try to justify ourselves, tell ourselves why we can’t, why it is too difficult, fish for something simpler, a way out, find an excuse to not change. But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29 (NIV)

He was asking for a pill that would spare him having to act, not have to give up anything, change nothing. He was trying to excuse his not-neighbor-loving passivity by raising a philosophical/theological inner dilemma. He was fishing for a minimum standard, like love is in the habit of functioning by minimum standards. He wanted to remain in control instead of his love for God and people controlling him. He was looking for some legitimacy for selective loving or loving not at all.

Jesus never does answer the “who is my neighbor?” question, instead, he tells maybe his most famous story and asks a question in return, makes the God-tester say the answer out loud for the second time. In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise”
Luke 10:30-37 (NIV).

The question is not, “Who is my neighbor?” it is, “Are you a neighbor?” Because when you are a neighbor you see like a neighbor, you empathize like a neighbor, you have compassion like a neighbor, you engage like a neighbor. You no longer are trying to complete a checklist of love before taking off to eternal life/heaven but see life, people, circumstances through the eyes of love and react accordingly.

Maybe it is time to drop the excuses, the action-paralyzing mind-games, the magic pill search that will remedy our selectively loving or outright loveless hearts and begin to “love your neighbor as ourselves.”

May you and I, long before we go to heaven, be known as the kind of neighbors the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” envisions.

To God be all Glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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When a doctor gets sick of sick people, that’s a problem. When a pilot begins to loathe flying, that’s a problem. When a cook becomes disgusted by cooking, that’s a problem. When a teacher starts disliking students, that’s a problem. When a preacher/pastor hates church, that’s a problem. And, when Christians are down on the church, that’s a problem.

So, think with about the church for a minute:

It was Jesus’ idea to form the church, “… I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” Matthew 16:18 (NLT2). So to think of the church as something irrelevant and unimportant or worse is to call Jesus’ plan for his church a bad idea.

Jesus is the head of the church, “He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything” Colossians 1:18 (HCSB). So, it makes little sense to proclaim a personal relationship with Jesus but have no connection and submission to his church.

Jesus loves and died for the church, “… Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her” Ephesians 5:25 (NLT2). So, how can I claim to love Jesus and love what he loves and paid the ultimate price for?

The church is the body of Christ, “Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part” 1 Corinthians 12:13-14 (NLT2). So, since the same Holy Spirit who regenerates a sinner at the moment of salvation also places every believer in the body of Christ, I have no business living a life outside of that body.

The church is central to God’s plan and work in our world, “Through Christians like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!” Ephesians 3:10 (MSG). So being apathetic and disconnected from God’s church also I am not fully participating in God’s plan.

Jesus takes his church very seriously. So, he continually works on it, refines it, confronts it, encourages it, watches out for it, Revelation 2-3, Ephesians 5:26), and should not take it any less serious.

Church, being part of a church, participating in the work of the church is meant to become a habit, “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). So, I need to learn to be so involved and committed to the church that I no longer have to think about my commitment to it, my participation in it, my showing up for it.

We live in an I-Me-Mine culture, the Christian life is a stark contrast to this, it is about Him-You-Us-We (which is not to say that God does not care for each one of us individually and in Christ saves each one us personally). Switching from one to the other takes some major adjusting, reordering, rescheduling, and a total commitment to personal holiness and full participation in the body of Christ, his Church.

So, did you notice? This preacher is still high on Jesus’ Church, and the local body he has called me to pastor, hoping you will share the same appreciation and enthusiasm.

So, does your Christian life reflect an understanding of Christ’s church? Are you as committed the church, the body of Christ, as God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit would have you?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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VISION 2020: LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR!

All kinds of new laws went into effect today, January 1, 2020, fewer restrictions on marijuana, no hair discrimination in the workplace, the Real ID Security Act, the California Consumers Privacy Act, … Not that they are all bad or not needed, laws do have to keep up with changes, should strive for greater justice, protect freedom, and help us to function as a society.

Romans 13 – is my New Year’s reading recommendation for you. It has everything in it to cheer you up: Governmental authority and leaders, taxes, rendering honor, and to top it all off, not getting drunk and going wild partying. Just exactly what you need to hear on one of the great hangover days of the year.

In the middle of Romans 13, you will find an old law that should never come off the books, “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.’ These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law’” Romans 13:8-10 (NLT2).  All of God’s laws in regard to our interactions with others, concerning how to function as people and peoples have as their foundation “love your neighbor as yourself.” According to James, this is the highest, most supreme, “royal” law (James 2:8). The only greater law is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).

Of course, because of our broken, narcissistic, sinful hearts, we read this outstanding law of “love your neighbor as yourself” and immediately make it about us, our need to love ourselves first, think of ourselves first, our own needs, our own limitations… But did you notice? This supreme command is about love lived out in concrete actions, specifically self-denying actions, that benefit our neighbor most of all. According to God’s wisdom, this forms the very bedrock of living together in harmony, peace, kindness, and prosperity.

We are not living in a time when “loving your neighbor as yourself” is all of the sudden more important than it has been at any other time in history, but we are living in a time when loving yourself, your own group, your own people, is what comes first, the mantra drowning out the two most important and beneficial laws of human existence, interaction, and thriving, the most critical rules when it comes being and acting in the image of God (Genesis1:26).

2020 needs you and me to love our neighbor as God intended and like our world and future depend on it.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

P.S. Maybe you are asking a question asked before, “Who is my neighbor?” For an answer read Luke 10:25-37.

 

 

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