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Archive for the ‘atonement’ Category

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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When Governor Felix heard the preacher he kept under arrest talk about resurrection he was interested to hear more, as was his wife. It doesn’t matter who you are, how low or high your position is in life, most people want to have some hope for what comes after death.

Felix had another motive as well. He thought since Paul was an influential leader of a religious group that they would want to bail him out, or more precisely bribe him out. As interested as he was in the afterlife he was even more interested in this life.

“A few days later (after hearing Paul for the first time) Felix and his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish, sent for Paul and listened to him talk about a life of believing in Jesus Christ. As Paul continued to insist on right relations with God and his people (righteousness), about a life of moral discipline (self-control) and the coming Judgment, Felix felt things getting a little too close for comfort (became afraid) and dismissed him. ‘That’s enough for today. I’ll call you back when it’s convenient.’ At the same time he was secretly hoping that Paul would offer him a substantial bribe. These conversations were repeated frequently (often)” Acts 24:24-26 (MSG, parentheses mine).

What Felix wanted to hear and what Paul told him were two different things. Felix liked the thought of going to heaven but he didn’t care for having to think about right and wrong, morality, and especially judgment. He was part of the Roman elite, the powerful who had tremendous leeway when it came to their actions, their morality, and accountability, as long as they did not conflict with the interests of the emperor. This preacher was making him feel guilty, didn’t not grant him the luxury of appeasing his conscience as to his deeds, his standing before God. This preacher left him no wiggle room as to what would be overlooked and what wouldn’t be. This preacher highlighted his responsibility to exercise morality beyond what was acceptable in Rome, but would stand up in the judgment of God. On top of all that this preacher was making sense, this wasn’t irrational religious nonsense.

Felix was smart enough to realize the implications of the truths this preacher was laying out before him. If was going to have real hope beyond death and the judgment of God he would have to face his accountability to God for his actions, for his past, now and in the future. He would have to seek forgiveness. He would have to humble himself. He would have to believe in and follow Jesus Christ, who alone can atone for, propitiate for a person’s sins, bring him/her safely through the judgment of God, raise the dead, and grant eternal life.

Felix did what many do at that point of understanding, the point where God, where Christ gets too close for comfort, where you have to repent and believe. He sent the preacher away, “I’ll call you back when it is convenient,” He kept it on his terms, not God’s.

Felix did have the preacher back, “often” we are told. He knew what he was hearing was the truth, but as far as we can tell he kept checking out when it got “to close for comfort.” Two years later he was transferred, we do not know what became of him. What we do know is real hope, resurrection hope is only found in Jesus Christ.

Maybe this pastor’s note is a little too close for comfort? Will you check out or will you believe?

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Easter Questions

How long can you live without breathing? – Minutes.

How many days can you live without water? – Days.

How long could you live without eating anything? – Weeks.

How long can you live without Jesus? – Both milliseconds and years.

You and I exist from moment to moment only because the entire universe, every atom and particle, is sustained by the power of Christ, “For everything was created by Him (Christ), in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together” Colossians 1:16-17 (HCSB, parenthesis mine). On the other hand you and I can ignore, deny, or be against Jesus our entire lives, till our very last breath.

What has been the most important day of your life? – The day of your birth? Some other significant day? The day you became a believer in Christ?

What has been the most significant event all of human history? – Easter, Jesus Christ, incarnate God, conquering sin and death on a Roman cross, his corpse sealed into a tomb, and risen from the dead three days later. God, through the life of his Son, loving you and me at an unimaginable depth and offering forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption, a place in his family, and eternal life to sinners like you and me. There is no more incredible and significant event in all of history.

If you are scratching your head saying, “I don’t know?” or if you profoundly disagree consider the words of the Apostle Paul, “The message of the cross (Easter) is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” 1 Corinthians 1:18-24 (NLT, parenthesis mine).

My son is a diabetic. He needs insulin to live. He can complain, wail against the unfairness of it, summon his philosophical and theological objections, but that will not change a thing about his condition. No one is making him take his insulin, watch his diet, and adopt the lifestyle of a diabetic, but if he wants to live, if he wants to be well, he will. He can ignore his doctor, play Yoyo with his blood sugar, and drink or bathe in sugar, but he will not be able to escape the consequences that come with that. He can be offended, he can deceive himself into thinking it is all a bunch of …, but none of that diminishes his need for insulin.

You and I are sinners; sinners need the cross of Christ, the power of Christ to save them. The cross of Christ is not meant to offend, it is not foolishness, it spells hope and life. None of us will escape the consequences of our sins, none of us can conquer death, no one will survive the scrutiny of God’s judgment, and no one will live in the presence of Almighty and Holy God except through Jesus Christ.

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 (NASB)

Happy Easter, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Gophers and ground squirrels committing acts of subterranean terror, wood peckers in senseless destruction drilling holes into my house or by my office, ants trying to take over our home like Russia annexing Crimea, and termites like the NSA in cloaked secrecy chewing away on what is precious to me – my animosity, my loathing, my outcry over these is no secret.

These critters are relentless, the damages attributable to them are significant, and their consciences don’t seem to be all that bothered. I wonder if there is a rodent hell, a wood pecker purgatory, an eternal lake of fire for termites and ants? If not, there should be. This kind of destruction, havoc, senselessness, disrespect, and lack of caring should not go unaccounted for. There should be some kind of justice, shouldn’t there?

But what is our excuse? We are the creature with the most advanced brain, we are capable of figuring things out peacefully, we are able to empathize more deeply than any living thing. It is possible for us to make good choices that go beyond basic instinct, beyond emotion, beyond rage, beyond hatred, beyond what is just good for us. And yet no creature God has made is more  destructive than us, than mankind. We are politically destructive, ecologically destructive, economically destructive, emotionally destructive, personally destructive, and even spiritually destructive. Yet somehow we are prone to cry foul at the very notion that God would hold us accountable, that he would judge us for our evil, our failure to do good, are unwillingness to live for the highest ends of loving God and loving our neighbor.

Another observance of Easter, the recognition and celebration of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, conquering sin and death and rising from the dead, is approaching. I wish there was a gospel for gophers and the like. However, there is a Gospel for you and for me, for people. Unlike me, who has trouble eliminating a few gophers and ants, God could have exterminated us all, and no one could have faulted him because our collective and personal history indicts us. He could have responded with pure and justified hatred towards all of mankind. Somehow he didn’t and instead of withdrawing personally and emotionally He drew closer, and engaged himself deeper. He chose to love, to offer hope, to provide atonement and forgiveness, to conquer what we cannot – our sin and the reality of death.

I have no desire to become a gopher, to dwell among ground squirrels, to be part of a termite colony. As you well know, I have no love for any of them. But God in Christ chose to dwell among us, that’s incredible. On the one hand it brings incredible hope to our moral, existential, and spiritual dilemma; on the other hand it robs us of our last excuse of having no other option than to be who we are.

Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.”
Romans 5:7-10 (NLT)

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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In this way he will make atonement for the Holy of Holies because of the uncleannesses of the Israelites, their acts of rebellion, and all their other sins.
Leviticus 16:16a (MSG)

It is always easier to point at others. It is easier to spot their faults and correct their ridiculous ways. Politicians and lawyers make easy targets, and depending on which side of the political isle you’re on, liberals, tea-partiers, NRA members, environmentalist, the rich, the entitled, unions, banks and big business, socialists and the conservatives are all easy targets. Rednecks, immigrants, gays and lesbians, gangs, welfare people, trash of various colors, young people, old folks, druggies, Muslims, Christians, and atheists make fine targets for finger-pointing as well. If the president Obama and the Congress would pay more attention to all of our finger-pointing and connected problem solving skills everything would be so much better.

I am sure the ancient Israelites did their share of finger-pointing, including the priests and High Priests. But God had ordained a day when their fingers could not point at him, or her, or them, a day where the only pointing to be done was at me and us – the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16).

On that day the High Priest had to first of all deal with his own sin and every citizen had to take responsibility for his contribution to our sin, the collective guilt. There wasn’t anybody who could say I did not contribute, I am without sin, without guilt. Only after the High Priest dealt with his own sin was he allowed in the presence of God to make atonement for the people’s sin. Maybe we should learn from that? Maybe we need to do less finger-pointing and more concentrating on our own affairs, our own sin before God? Maybe we need more of an us and less of a them mentality?

Atonement (covering my sin properly, dealing with my sin God’s way) is about me, it is about us. Of course ultimate and lasting atonement comes only through Jesus Christ, When these things were all in place, the priests regularly entered the first room as they performed their religious duties. But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. So Christ has now become the High Priest over all the good things that have come. He has entered that greater, more perfect Tabernacle in heaven, which was not made by human hands and is not part of this created world. With his own blood—not the blood of goats and calves—he entered the Most Holy Place once for all time and secured our redemption forever Hebrews 9:6-7, 11-12 (NLT).

We like holidays, celebrations, feasts and fests. Give us Mardi Gras, Carnival in Rio, Fasching in Germany, the Super Bowl, Fourth of July, yes give us a party. But what we need is Holy days, none more important than the Day of Atonement, the day Christ – God dealt with our sin and guilt. The day we stop evading, look in the mirror, stop speaking about them, and acknowledge our need for God’s mercy, and find atonement in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

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