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Springtime, wake up time for rodents, ants, spiders, wasps, mosquitoes, flies and bugs. I know, spring doesn’t officially begin until March 20th, 9:15 am to be exact. But the above-mentioned critters don’t give a hoot about official anything, nor do they respect boundaries, comfort, property rights, or someone else’s hard work. They do pretty much whatever they want, wherever they want, and whenever they want.  They come by stealth, mass invasion, through the air, underground, at high noon, twilight, and under the cover of night. Relentless I tell you, destructive, unapologetic, and even dangerous.

I want them gone, out of my yard, away from my home, gone. If you want them, if your heart has a soft-spot for them, you can have them, the whole lot. A spider on my bedroom ceiling is not going to get the chance to play cat burglar and lower its multi-eyed self down on my bed in the middle of the night; it is going to get “splat!” The ground squirrels, wood-rats, mice, gophers, moles, voles will not encounter kind mercy; they will be trapped, shot, and poisoned when possible. The wasp eying my steak in its shifty flight will be permanently uninvited. The ants trying to homestead around 10417 Blanchard Road will meet the full brunt of available extermination methods. Not a single mosquito, kissing bug, beg bug, or termite will be tolerated, be invited to take a little sip or take a small bite, nor be merely trapped and released. Flies will be met by swatters, fly-papers, scented traps, and available chemicals; they will never receive permission for fly or stopovers.

Striking, isn’t it, how the first paragraph above could easily describe wicked men and women, mankind in unrestrained sinfulness, and how the second paragraph could easily portray the harsh and merciless measures and attitudes mankind has used against each other.  Is it right to hate wickedness, to yearn for and work toward a world without it? Absolutely, but we have to be careful not to act wicked our own self. Keeping critters and pests out of my house is different from stomping on them when I go on a hike. I can put up screens and seal cracks before getting out the swatter or setting deadly traps.

Of course, there is also the matter of worth. There is no question that even the life of the ground squirrel living under our playhouse and undermining the old trees in my backyard is amazing, regardless of it shamelessly mocking me this morning. However, there is a difference between all men being created equal and in the image of God, and all life being created equal. The first is true the second is unsustainable. So who gets to assign worth? God does, and has, Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26 (NIV). I hope you notice that different worth does not mean God doesn’t care about all of his creation, in fact not a single sparrow falls from the sky apart from God or is forgotten by God (Matthew 20:29; Luke 12:6-7). Obviously, for God, there is no tension counting a person as more valuable than a bird. For us, however, there is great tension in managing God’s creation responsibly, daily living and survival, and our own sinfulness.

I imagine that God is vastly more disturbed about the wickedness of mankind, one person treating another, valuing another like a rodent, like a pest than you and I are about actual rodents and pests. God could have responded to our wickedness without mercy but instead, he both reaffirmed our value and his great love for every man and every woman in the cross of Christ. Because of his great mercy and love he “is not slow in keeping his promise (of final judgment and justice on all wickedness), as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV, parenthesis mine). We, the church, followers of Christ, worshippers of the one living God should do no less, at home, in our communities, our countries, our politics, our policies, and our attitudes.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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Without question it is good to have God on your side, actually it is the very best life scenario for each one of us individually, for our families, for us and any people. The ancient Israelites would remind themselves of that great truth as they made their way up to the temple to worship, What if the LORD had not been on our side? Let all Israel repeat: What if the LORD had not been on our side when people attacked us? They would have swallowed us alive in their burning anger
Psalm 124:1-3 (NLT).

However, simply claiming that God is on your side does not put him there. The Israelites fooled themselves into thinking that God was automatically on their side because of their claim to be God’s “chosen people.” Jeremiah the prophet reminded them, “You have left Me. This is the LORD’s declaration. You have turned your back, so I have stretched out My hand against you and destroyed you. I am tired of showing compassionJeremiah 15:6 (HCSB); See, I am against you, O arrogant one, declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty, for your day has come, the time for you to be punished’” Jeremiah 50:31 (NIV). God is not automatically on the side of the United States just because we consider ourselves champions of freedom, have a long list of proud accomplishments, or simply lay claim to be good. God is not automatically on the side of any political party, group, or individual. In fact, God might be adamantly opposed. As good as it is to have God on your side it is absolutely terrible when God is “against you.”

God had the Apostle Paul pen,First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (HCSB). Notice:

  • “Everyone” – God wants everyone to prayed for, even those we do not want to pray for, those we disagree with, those who make life difficult for us, those who are outright enemies. “Everyone” is so darn encompassing.
  • “Everyone” – Includes “kings and all who are in authority.” God expects us to pry concerning politics, politicians, government leaders and officials, heads of state. (Paul most likely wrote 1 Timothy when Nero ruled in Rome.) Political praying is not so much concerned with pulling God to your side, to get more of God’s blessing than the other side, than it is about good and wise governing that effects “everyone,” that creates peace, justice, and stability, enabling people to live quiet, dignified lives.
  • “Everyone”- God wants everyone to come to be saved to understand the absolute necessity and reality of Jesus Christ. God’s agenda of redemption encompasses, everyone, all peoples, all nations. For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NLT).

Ultimately no one can be on God’s side apart from Jesus Christ. The very best thing politicians and government leaders can do is to be committed to Jesus Christ personally, not for getting votes during an election cycle, but for their own salvation, and then govern and exercise authority out of that relationship with God through Christ. Actually, this is the best thing “everyone” could and should do, because we are better when we are on God’s side.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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Saul of Tarsus, better known as the Apostle Paul, was wrong. It didn’t matter that he was highly educated, deeply religious, multi-lingual, and very intelligent. He was just plain wrong. There is no telling how many hours he spent reading and memorizing the scrolls of the Old Testament, how many days he sat under the tutelage of Gamaliel, one of the preeminent Jewish scholars of his day. Who knows how many seminars, symposiums, debates, and presentation Saul attended or contributed to? But it turned out that he was plain wrong. He was so convinced of the rightness of his theology, of the validity of his Old Testament interpretation that he felt justified to persecute those he deemed heretical in light of it.

Saul did not see the Christ the early church proclaimed in any of the Old Testament scriptures and certainly not in the ones they quoted in support of Jesus Christ. They were wrong, dangerously wrong as far as he was concerned. He was so sure of his rightness and their wrongness that he became the chief persecutor of the church in its infancy. Many have followed in his footsteps, and many more have simply dismissed Jesus as having no intellectual, spiritual, cultural, and personal importance.

Saul would not have denied that Jesus actually lived, that he was a real person – even a miracle working person, and that he was tried and executed for blasphemy, namely, declaring himself divine. However, no way could Jesus be the Christ, the promised Messiah, the fulfillment of prophecy recorded in the scriptures. Certainly Jesus resurrection was nothing but a myth, a clever lie conceived and perpetuated by church leaders. They were just dead wrong.

How did that man, Saul, in the span of a few days, turn into the Apostle Paul, the most ardent defender of Jesus being the Christ, the most preeminent theologian of the early church? He ran into Jesus, literally (Acts 9:1-22), and he had to admit that he was wrong. On his way to advance the rightness of his cause and extend the scope of his persecution of Christians, the living, risen Jesus Christ appeared to him, spoke to him, humbled him, and changed him, his mind, and his heart.

Whenever, and wherever, Jesus Christ is reduced to a figure of the past, someone less than divine, a religious figure, a theological argument, as a myth perpetuated by lying church leaders, or simply as someone who can be intellectually dismissed, you will find someone or entire groups, like Saul of Tarsus, being plain wrong.

You can’t miss the radical change, how much Saul was blinded by his education, association, and persuasion. “Immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is indeed the Son of God!’ All who heard him were amazed. ‘Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?’ they asked. ‘And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?’Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah” Acts 9:20-22 (NLT, emphasis mine).

Reading the Apostle Paul’s conversion story again compels me to ask a few questions, some addressed to you and some to myself. Let’s start with you since that is the polite thing to do: What is your verdict concerning Jesus Christ’s identity and importance? Are you as wrong about him as Saul was? Is God interrupting your life so you will confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God?

It was a long time ago when God spoke to me regarding Jesus and I confessed him as the Christ, as Savior. Since then I have done lot of studying, especially of the Bible, trying to be careful in my interpretations, and convinced I am right about a good number of things (Germans are good at that). But am I as right as I think I am? How many scriptures might I have read over and over, even memorized, but my interpretation is far from spot on, even wrong? How much of my interpretation is flawed because of my education, association, and persuasion?

I am certain of this, any education, association, and persuasion that dismisses or even opposes the truth of Jesus Christ, will in the end proof itself to be wrong. He is the living, eternal Son of God, crucified, buried, and risen. He is the only Savior for sinners, able to forgive sin and impart eternal life. He alone will judge the living and the dead. “As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.’ Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved’” Romans 10:11-13 (NLT).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Is it good for people to get close to you or should they stay away from you or does it not make a difference? Of course people want to be close to others for all kinds of reasons, “The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends” Proverbs 14:20 (ESV). Who you get close to can open doors, get dates, and has the potential to profoundly influence your life, “Bad company ruins good morals” 1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV) ; “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17. So how does hanging around you influence others? Does it sharpen them or corrupt them? Does it build their character or compromise it? Does it bless them or end up being a curse? Does it encourage them to seek God or ignore him?

People wanted to get close to Jesus, many simply for what he could do for them, “She (a woman hemorrhaging for twelve years) said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I will be made well’” Mark 5:28 (ESV, parenthesis mine), “He had healed many people, and now everyone who had something wrong was pushing and shoving to get near and touch him” Mark 3:10 (MSG). You can’t blame them; we would do the same if we are desperate enough. But don’t miss the fact that they thought Jesus cared about them, that he invited people to get close, that he enjoyed healing, blessing, telling the truth, changing lives, and bringing people back to a life with God. He was easy to get close to; he didn’t object to being touched, being in his company was and still is good, his influence is worthwhile to hang onto. We are called to emulate him, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” John 20:21 (ESV).

The Apostles followed in Jesus’ footsteps pursuing Christlike character, living by biblical wisdom, yielding spiritual power. The result, people wanted to get a hold of them; people were drawn to God, to believe in and follow Christ, “Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them” Acts 5:12-15 (ESV). Don’t miss the picture here. Early Christians met in outer corridor of the Jewish temple, “Solomon’s Portico”.  As Jews came to temple they wanted to hang out with those Jesus followers, but many were too scared to. They feared the repercussions of being associated with Christ and his followers. But deep down they wanted to and thankfully many finally did dare to reach out and grasp Jesus. Does this describe you?

Finally, God had the prophet Zechariah foretell many things about Jesus Christ and he also had him declare, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, “In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew (believer), saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” Zechariah 8:23 (NASB, parenthesis mine). It is hard to miss, isn’t it, we are meant to live lives of such spiritual vitality, such clarity about God, that others would want to grasp us, get a hold of us, come with us, in order to know God.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)

Our asking depends on our thinking, and our thinking is influenced by all kinds of factors. But generally we don’t ask beyond what our minds conceive is possible, legitimate, necessary, or even impossible. Maybe you are blessed with a mind that thinks audaciously big, but even it has a limit. Sometimes desperation makes us cry out for and wish for what our minds deem impossible, and still our minds paint a picture of what that looks like.

All too often we are beset with smallness of mind, so we don’t bother to even ask, “You do not have, because you do not ask God” James 4:2b (NIV). Of course some have no room for any notion of the reality of God, this too is a smallness of mind that shuts the door on all kinds of possibilities, and certainly to ask him for anything.

The harnessing of power has been an ongoing pursuit of mankind; we are much better at it than we are submitting to power. Yet, in spite of many incredible advances the gap between God’s power and ours has not narrowed, God still “is able to far more abundantly than all we ask or think.” All the additions to our knowledge, skills, and abilities has not negated our need for God, for what he knows, what he is capable of. Our minds cannot even conceive his eternal power, knowledge, and wisdom, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV). “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’”— 1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV).

Have you ever thought that God is not doing enough, both in general and for you specifically? This too is evidence of our smallness of thinking, as well as a considerable amount of hubris. It implies that God somehow is delinquent, that he somehow is misusing his power, that he fails to use his knowledge, his wisdom, and his power appropriately and timely. When we do so we forget that we owe our very existence to the application of God’s greatness, goodness, and power.

The verses that began this pastor’s note are part of prayer the Apostle Paul prayed for believers at Ephesus and Asia Minor. He wanted them and us to know God more, to love him more, to experience his greatness ever more, to grow beyond the smallness of ourselves and our thinking and to rely on him who is so great, so incomprehensible, so magnificent that he truly is worthy of all glory for all generations.

May God grant Paul’s request in regard to you and me, to live beyond what we can ask or think, ever thirsty for God to reveal more of himself and Christ.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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If you are searching for that that last minute or super special Christmas gift you might want to consider having a star named for the person you have on your mind. You can choose between an “Ordinary Star” (from $19.95), and “Extra Bright Star” (from $39.95), or a “Binary Star” (from $64.95). If you want go all out with this idea you can go with the gift sets (from $74.95, $84.95, $124.94 respectively).  You could join 17,000 others who plunked their money down to have someone’s name attached to a real star by this independent, albeit unofficial, star registry. Yes, you could brighten someone’s Christmas Day, more accurately night, in a way they never imagined. And if you ever misplace or lose your “Star Deed” you can contact the good folks at STARNAME Registry.org and they will help you. I am sure the passing along of this ordinary, extra, or double “bright idea” will be another reason why you so value my Pastor’s Notes.

I wonder. How much money have stars generated over time? How many other clever star schemes have people come up with? Astrology is alive and well even today, and suckers are still being borne every day. But the stars themselves, the universe as a whole does declare truth, The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship” Psalm 19:1 (NLT); “The heavens proclaim his righteousness; every nation sees his glory” Psalm 97:6 (NLT); “The basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes as such can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being. So nobody has a good excuse (for not acknowledging and worshiping God)” Romans 1:19-20 (MSG, parenthesis mine).

Regardless of the tendency of sinful human nature to either exploit and pervert spiritual things or to disregard God and explain him away, the testimony of the stars stands, God is real, his power and wisdom are both incomprehensible and immense, we are accountable to him, and the most proper response to God is to love, worship, and obey him. “Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him’” Matthew 2:1-2 (NLT). That star was visible to anyone who cared to look, but it seems people came to vastly different conclusion and vastly different responses. Most wise men from eastern lands stayed home, kept peddling the same astrology they had for centuries, it is difficult to adjust yourself to spiritual truth. King Herod saw the very notion of a new king as a threat his godless world of politics and power, it is difficult to submit to divine authority. The Jewish elite and scholars did not want their personal, political, and religious world be turned upside down, so they also gave it no significance, it is difficult to take God at his word.

For this Christmas I challenge you to look up into the night sky and see and hear its declaration of God, to pursue spiritual truth, to lead you to worship. If you follow that path it will still lead you to Jesus Christ, God incarnate, the ultimate revelation of God, the one who can save us from our sins.

Merry Christmas. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. If you are tempted to go the Star Registry website, RESIST! Instead look for ways to give those $20-100 or so to your church, a missionary agency, the Salvation Army, Red Cross, Doctors without Borders, World Vision, Compassion International, or help someone in your community, or find a way to help the millions of refugees of our day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Personality cults, immoral behavior and its acceptance, civil lawsuits, wild church services, making a mess out of communion, not grasping what church is, spiritual gifts misunderstanding and abuse, reliance on human wisdom above Gods’ word, a me first mentality, and major doctrinal confusion is what you would have found in the church of Corinth. The Apostle Paul wrote a lengthy letter to address and correct this collective ball of worms of Christian error and misbehavior eating holes all through the fabric of the Corinthian church, and continues to do so to the body of Christ even today.

There are four root causes to church messes:

#1. Sign seeking (1 Cor. 1:22-25) – Every church has sign seekers, those who think a powerful and hopefully miraculous experience will bring about strong and devotion to Christ, and at the same time prove their spiritual superiority. It’s a dead end. It has never worked, if it had then the Israelites who walked through the parted Red Sea would have been one of the most devoted and spiritual people who ever lived. But just week’s later the thrill had worn off and they danced and partied away from the God of the ten plagues, of the parted sea, of marvelous provision, and of fearsome glory, and exchanged him for a molten calf crafted from their own earrings.

#2. Human wisdom enthusiasm (1 Cor. 1:22, 30, 2:1-13) – Every church has them as well, those who overestimate our immense capacity for reason, for science, for rationality. Unchecked this capacity coupled with human depravity leads to the kind of pride that dismisses the supernatural, doubts the wisdom and promises of God’s word, and dares to dismantle God himself. There is no less pride to be found here than in sign seeking, it simply exchanges pride in a portfolio of experiences for walls lined with books. Ultimate, eternal, and saving wisdom cannot be found even in the best and most brilliant efforts of the depraved human mind and spirit but only through God revealing himself, supremely through Christ, and our submission to his revelation.

#3. Living according what is “Natural,” according to the “Flesh” (1 Cor. 2:14-16) – This is a temptation to all believers; it assumes that one can believe in Christ and not change. It believes that Christ is good for salvation but we are sufficient for Christian ethics, Christian morality, and Christian behavior in and of ourselves. This discounts the depth of human depravity, overestimates our capacity for goodness, orients itself too much on what we are accustomed to and what our culture deems right, and leads to constant conflict because everyone needs to agree with me or else they are wrong.

#4. Spiritual Immaturity (1 Cor. 3:1-20) – In some ways this is an outgrowth of #1, 2, and 3, but it is root of its own. Maturity is never automatic, if it was then parenting is a waste of time, as would be books about character building, seminars on values, and the study of history. Maturity is acquired, learned, and practiced, it doesn’t show up overnight. Maturity submits itself to wisdom, knowledge, values, habits, thinking, and ways that are mature. Christian maturity does not form itself through extraordinary experience, or through great human wisdom and intelligence, or through innate humanness or cultural superiority, no Christian maturity is based on a faith submission to the written revelation of God, the Scriptures, the Bible. In doing so the spiritual maturity Paul speaks of does not discount the power of God to do the miraculous,  neither does it put the mind out of gear, nor does it diminish our capacity to find wisdom, but it does not trust any on their own and so submits all of them to the eternal counsel of God’s word.

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”– 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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