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Archive for the ‘beauty’ Category

I am working on a car, again, the a/c (air-conditioning) is out. The car is drivable but on 104 (40 Celsius) or hotter days, Susie might want to make it to work without having to take another shower.

Our dishwasher rack is missing some prongs, but it is still washing dishes as well as it was when we bought it 25 years ago (Isn’t fun when God makes our things last?!).

Walking around our property I continually find vulture feathers, and sometimes when those magnificent flying creatures zoom low over our heads you can see where some of those feathers are missing, obviously, this does not rob them of their ability to fly. Of course, it would be a lot different if a vulture lost all its feathers at once, it would ground them for sure. The dishwasher and Susie’s car would be worthless if their water pumps gave out, or some other vital part failed.

It is no different with the Christian life, there are minor issues which might make things more uncomfortable, make things harder, or force you to make adjustments, and then there are major things that bring you to a screeching halt, keep you from soaring, and need immediate attention and repair. This is something the Corinthian Christians lost sight of; they were busy fixing the a/c when their engine had major problems. They argued and divided over minor things and forgot about the most important. As a result, they started looking and acting more and more ridiculous. Christians can employ the full Christian lingo and yet look like a vulture without feathers.

The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that if they got things right their Faith, Hope, and Love would be in top mechanical condition, be the main feathers of their plumage, would leave their dishes sparkling. And of these three, he said, Love was the most indispensable. Without it the individual believer and the Christian community/church is broken, without substance, going nowhere, accomplishing nothing.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (fails)” 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 (ESV, parenthesis NASB).

So, now that you have read the scripture above, I want to challenge you to do a little exercise with me. Think through this passage with the heading:

If I don’t have love (the kind God wants you to have and practice)

How does that affect your life, the life of your church, and the lives of those around you? Here are the first four things I wrote down:

  • Without out love, I sound wrong, verse 1.
  • Without love, I think wrong (“I am nothing”), verse 2.
  • Without love, I go wrong (“I gain nothing”), verse 3.
  • Without love, I am not as patient as I can and should be, verse 4.

And Now you finish it up:

  • Without love,  __________________________________________________
  • Without love,  __________________________________________________
  • Without love,  __________________________________________________
  • Keep going! ….

Now ask yourself, “Who is at the brunt end of my lack of love?” This might be an individual, several people, or entire group or groups of people.

Finally, what is the first right loving action you need to initiate towards him, her, and/or them? ______________________________________________________ (It might include having to apologize and ask for forgiveness.)

Maybe you’re not feeling it. Maybe you think someone else needs to make the first move. If you are waiting on those two to change you might be waiting a long, too long of a time to become the loving person Christ wants you to be. Start fixing the most important things today.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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On the second Sunday of August 1984, the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church, called me to be the interim pastor. Susie and I had no idea that this would become a 35-year love story of a pastor and his flock. We didn’t know that this would be only church our children would know growing up. We didn’t know how many people would come alongside us to encourage us, bless us, and love Jesus with us. We didn’t know much, period. But we did rejoice and were grateful. We still rejoice and are even more grateful.

 

When this, our church (it makes a big difference whether you think of a church as this church or our church) called us I was deeply struggling with church and becoming a minister because over the span of a year and a half I witnessed firsthand church dysfunction and preacher misconduct in four different churches. In spite of being a Bible college graduate and a call to ministry, I wasn’t sure I wanted any more of church – until I read Romans 14:12 in my personal morning Bible study, “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (NASB). It didn’t matter what everyone else did, how they behaved or misbehaved, I am responsible to God for how I follow him, even if everything and everyone around me goes crazy. It was a watershed moment for me, and a few weeks later I was leading the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church.

35 years is a lot of time to make mistakes and I have made my fair share of them. The bad thing is that church and pastor mistakes usually hurt people (Remember, the church is a fellowship, a spiritual family of people). If you read this pastor’s note and are one of those I have hurt, disappointed, or let down I ask for your forgiveness if I have not already done so. And, I thank God for all who confronted me, were gracious to me, had patience with me, and forgave me.

I praise God for all who have served with me over these years, for those sharing the same love for Christ, his church, and his kingdom. Besides the goodness and faithfulness of God, you’ve helped make 35 years possible. Like the apostle Paul, I can say, “I thank God for every remembrance of you.”

Our church officially called me to be the pastor but it also meant Susie was going to be the pastor’s wife and our children were going to be the pastor’s kids. All I can say that they, and especially Susie, have been awesome. They have shared the load and have made quiet sacrifices few know about. They have blessed me and our church.

The real reason I became a preacher was that Susie, before we ever dated, told me in a letter that she was going to marry a preacher one day. So, I figured the only way I was going to have a chance with her was to become a preacher. Not really! But at my birth, the midwife/nurse who delivered my two older brothers as well handed me to my mom and said, “This one will be a preacher.” Really!

Finally, to God be all glory. Thanks, your Pastor

 

 

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“A wise child brings joy to a father; a foolish child brings grief to a mother.”

“The father of godly children has cause for joy. What a pleasure to have children who are wise. So give your father and mother joy! May she who gave you birth be happy.” Proverbs 10:1; 23:24-25 (NLT2)

 My Mama was the mother of five boys. She kept telling us that we were exactly what she wanted, what she’d prayed for. I think she meant it, but I wonder how often she thought, “What in the hesch have I gotten myself into?” Her sister, my second Mama/Aunt, stormed out of our house on more than one occasion, yelling, “This house is nothing but an insane asylum!”

I didn’t think about whether I was bringing joy or grief to her back when she was raising us, but I have done so often since I left home. The verdict is clear, I brought her way too much grief. While she made her life about us, I made my life about me, and in doing so I helped turn her hair gray, added to her wrinkles beyond time, caused her to weep and pray, who knows how often.

Mother’s Day, which was an up and coming kind of thing back then, was a cheap way of easing the conscience. Buy something nice, be nice for a day, go back to the same old the next day. Sounds like cheap religion, doesn’t it? And it is. She was gracious though, acting like she really needed more of the same perfume, although she still had three full bottles on her dresser. But there really isn’t any perfume that can cover the stink we cause in someone’s life, is there? And I, we, stunk up her life, caused her grief instead of being big bottles of joy.

Where we stunk, she was fragrant, where I embraced wrong she chose right, where I pursued sin, she practiced godliness, where I was short-sighted she held on to the long-view.  She didn’t go the cheap route but instead gave us what lasts, what you can’t order on Amazon, what will remain fragrant even when I stink it up. So now, today, the memory of my Mama is a joy to me, a still rushing stream of blessing, although she has been gone for thirty years.

I am still the son of Margarete Frei, the woman who gave birth to me, the Mama who raised me, and it still matters whether or not I conduct myself in ways that are wise, that are selfless, that are godly, that bring her joy, that glorify God and Christ.

“Honor your father and mother” Exodus 20:12, not just for a day but with your life. It is what both pleases God and is rewarded by God.

Happy Mother’s Day. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)

We got blessed the day Paul and Diana Baker walked into our church. At the time we had no idea just how great a blessing they would turn out to be, but now, years later, we know, and how we thank God.

They had built a beautiful retirement home, presumably to do a lot of bass fishing at Lake McClure and Lake Don Pedro. But I don’t think they ever did all the fishing and retirement stuff they had anticipated. Instead, they became ever more deeply involved in the life and ministry of our church family. The fishing boat got underused and their “free” time got overused in serving Christ and his local church here in Don Pedro. How we have benefited from that selflessness, yet how we thank God for it.

It is kind of surprising they stuck around after the first visit. Two Assemblies of God folks in a Baptist church lead by a German. Talk about being fish out of water. It made us better, this humility, this willingness to give some things up, this lack of insistence for their own comfort zone in order to further the work of and bless the body of Christ here in Don Pedro.  Oh, how we thank for it.

I can’t tell you how many hats they have worn working, serving, and ministering in our midst. I do know this much, there is no way I can juggle as many plates. Maybe it is all Diana’s fault, because, besides all that she did, she unleashed Paul and thus enabled this whirlwind, who became to us and always will be to us, Pastor Paul. How we thank God for that.

God knew what both our church and I personally needed. I sure needed a friend, someone to help carry the load, a brother to I in navigating some of the toughest times in my life and ministry, an encourager to cheer me on when I was far from my best. As such, how I thank God for Paul.

They flew this selling of their house and plan to go traveling under the radar. They knew I, and we would be praying against it with all our might. I think they also knew doing it any other way would be just too hard because this love between us has become a two-way street, or more accurately, a multi-lane major highway. And, how we thank and praise God for that.

To God be all glory. How we love you, Pastor Paul and Diana.

Pastor Hans

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My Church, My Family in Christ,

I have never been a great fan of Halloween, although I did drive my kids and their friends around to collect candy. Jacob Kluding might recall the first time he went with us as a little kangaroo, which was a hit on the cuteness scale, which in turn meant he had the largest candy haul I had ever seen. He might also remember the inebriated lady in a nightgown who opened the door and fell out in slow motion like a swooning ghost and the only reason she didn’t crash to the ground was a handful of kids propping her up. Funny? Yes. Memorable? For sure! But nowhere near as meaningful as Thanksgiving, especially the actual giving of thanks.

I thank God for you my church family. I am blessed to serve you as your pastor. I am thankful you treat me with grace, with generosity, with goodness, and gratefulness. If I am honest, I am amazed you have put up with me for as long as you have, but I am ever so glad you did. I would have crashed and burned a long time ago were it not for a long line of you who helped me, encouraged me, bore the load with me, challenged me, taught me, cheered me on, validated me, and diligently prayed for me. Thank You.

I have been encouraged a time or two to write down the stories of my long journey with you and of being a pastor here in Don Pedro. It would have to have a chapter of the plain weird and strange, of animal calls that seminary did not prepare me for, of more I wasn’t prepared for, of trials and disappointments, of the mysterious, the glorious, the inexplicable, of brothers and sisters, of heard prayers, and much more. But above all it would be a thankful book, dripping with gratitude for deep bonds, rich love, and living and ministering in Christ together.

I cannot tell you how often I drive onto the church campus am already blessed by seeing people serve in all kinds of ways or hear stories of church members living out Christ during the week that make me proud to be their brother and pastor.

This week Monica Sult deserves some special thanks for not only spearheading the Community Thanksgiving Dinner but also filling in at the church office for Jannett.

Matt and Wendy Garcia have taken on the youth ministry leadership role earlier in the year. Talk about a major commitment. They deserve three cheers, our thanks, our support, and our prayers.

This pastor’s note would get far too long if tried to name everyone but here are a few more of our brothers and sisters who have taken on responsibilities and stepped into service opportunities: Beverly, Jose’ and Beatrice, Russ, Security Team members, Jerry, the other Jerry, Merle, Bill, Jacob, Suzette, Ray. Thank You!

To God be all thanks and glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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“The manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10)

We know infinitely less about God than we know about him, so, it is not surprising for us to be puzzled and perplexed by him, to often have more questions than answers. But what little we do know is amazing, glorious, and sometimes flat-out frightening. We could say the same thing about the universe, but we would make a mistake to let that lead us to equate the universe with God, as some do. God is infinitely greater than the entire universe and all of our current knowledge combined. This reality makes the fact of God caring about you and me, thinking about you and me, seeking an eternally loving relationship with you and me, all the more amazing.

John Newton the vile slave trader turned pastor got it right when he penned the words to the now famous song “Amazing Grace.” We do not understand the scope of the grace of God but we do know that it is manifold, multi-faceted, more amazing than we can comprehend. Without it John Newton could not have escaped his human wretchedness, could never have found forgiveness for his sins, had no chance to escape the judgment of God and hell, had not an ounce of hope for eternity and heaven, but neither could you and I.

God was gracious to John Newton, and to us, long before he realized it. However, after he experienced God’s saving grace he recognized the grace of God in his past, his present, and future. He learned that he could depend on the grace of God to work for good in this life, that it protected him, kept him, and was transforming him. (This might be a good time to look up “Amazing Grace” on your computer and read it for yourself or listen to it).

Let me end this pastor’s note by quoting Ephesians 2:1-10 (MSG, parenthesis mine):

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work (you are saved by grace through faith in Christ). All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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613 – 10 – 2 – 1

Six hundred thirteen Old Testament Laws, 10 Commandments etched by the finger of God in tablets of stone, two “foremost” laws of God that are the heart and basis for all the others, and one new one Jesus explicitly gave to his disciples.

I am willing to go on a limb and bet that law school students wished there were only 614 laws to learn, that accountants can only dream of 614 tax laws spelling out the entire tax code, that employers would love it if there were only 614 workplace laws and regulations. However, for a guy like me, who, starting from my earliest memory, have never liked rules, 614 are still way too many, feels too restrictive. Of course, that has never hindered me from fully embracing rules and laws working to my advantage. And, you are right, it takes a lot of hubris and arrogance to make one’s self the final arbiter of which rules are worthwhile and good, and which are not.

I wonder, how many laws govern our universe, make life possible, keep everything from total chaos and collapse? Probably more than 614, don’t you think? And how glad are you that I am not the one who created the laws of the universe and of life? I’m certainly grateful it wasn’t you.

Maybe, you are from the tribe of the rule keepers, just shaking your head at folks like me. I thank God for you because without you our world would be a much greater mess than it already is, and the rule critics and breakers would lack an indispensable check. Of course, meticulous law abiding also lends itself to self-righteousness and a lack of compassion.

Why did Jesus feel compelled to add one more?  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:34-35 (ESV); after all, he better than anyone else knew that even the best rule keeper among us struggles with the two most important ones (Love the only true God with all your heart … and love your neighbor as yourself … Mark 12:28-34), never mind the ten or six hundred and thirteen. Why give us, who are already failing with God’s laws, and many of us who don’t like or even despise many of God’s laws, one more to struggle with, another one to flop at? I am certain Jesus wasn’t trying to frustrate and exasperate his disciples or you and me. (After all, God’s instructions to parents, especially fathers, was to avoid doing that exact thing, Ephesians 6:4 & Colossians 3:21.)

Close your eyes for a moment and picture with me a world in compliance with the Ten Commandments. What kind of world would that be? It would be fantastic! No religious confusion and exploitation, healthy rhythms and rest, honor in each home, no murder, sex as it is meant to be and in its proper context, respect for people and property, honesty, and contentment. I think that is still a vision to live by and for. Now close your eyes again and think of world functioning by two basic laws, “’The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these’” Mark 12:29-31 (ESV).  I maintain this too would be a beautiful world because we would be in affectionate harmony with both our Creator and each other. Would you dare ask yourself, “Is that true of me?”

Did you notice? Jesus commands a standard beyond loving our neighbor as ourselves. He commands us to love each other how he (God himself) loves us. I might muster up the self-discipline to love others like I love myself, but loving them like Jesus, the Son of God who left heaven’s glory, confined himself to a human existence, and suffered and died for a sinner like me (Philippians 2:5-11), seems impossible. And it is as impossible as it not optional. Jesus was serious, he did not suggest but commanded us to love each other as he loves us. With this command, he calls us to live a life dominated by and centered in his nature. And, in this command, he established the criteria for what it truly means to know and reflect him. But we, both those who love and those dislike rules, cannot love like that on our own. The only way we can is to profess our impotence and at the same time open ourselves up to Jesus putting his very life and heart into us, today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our days.

Close your eyes one more time and picture your world with you loving others like Jesus. How beautiful is that! Settle for nothing less.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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