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Archive for the ‘change’ Category

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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We are in the last week of 2019 and are about to step through the front door of 2020, which means we are finishing and starting, again. Both, starting and finishing can be difficult, and how well you do both makes a difference, but you already knew that. Or maybe you didn’t want to be reminded because it makes you feel too guilty, which is just too bad because I’ve already started this pastor’s note and I am determined to finish it.

2020 has my 60th birthday and 40th wedding anniversary on the calendar, considering that Social Security gives males an average life expectancy of 76.04 years, I am entering the last quarter of my life and the third period of my married life. Maybe I should move to Canada, it would net me an extra 4 statistical years and get me to 80. Regardless, because of my age, I need to consider finishing well issues, which means I might have to start some things in order to do so. You can’t finish well without starting the right things the right way.

I cleaned up my office desk today. Among the things on my desk were notes of premarital work I’ve been doing with three young couples. Their 2020 calendar entails different dates than mine, but by getting married they finished the single life. For sure they are starting all kinds of new things, and what and how they start will have a huge impact on their lives by the time they hit my age. That’s the very reason we did premarital work in the first place.

You don’t have to finish everything you start. Like a worthless book or bad movie, some things are a waste of time, and some things are just bad for you, you don’t have to finish your life smoking just because you started. Jesus, of course, left this life with the famous words, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), which meant he completed his life’s mission. On the other hand, he also left some things unfinished, for his disciples to finish, like his church and its work. So hopefully, even if I run out of time finishing them, I will not be shy starting things just because I am closer to the end.

2020, like every year, has a beginning and it will have an end, and the end will be determined by what we start and our commitment to the things we do in the long in-between before the end. I am hoping you and I leave 2019 and enter 2020 with a “Caleb Attitude.” At 40 he was voted down by his countrymen, at 80 he could have been really grumpy and cynical, but instead, he itched to see what God could do now, he was ready for a whole new chapter of life (Joshua 14:6-15), he still wanted to slay giants. His testimony, his reputation was that he “followed God fully.” Even after a 40-year detour, after his whole sourpuss generation was buried before him, he couldn’t wait to finish what God had him involved in starting.

Well, at some time, and I think we are there, you have to quit talking and get to the doing or else there is no starting and without starting there is no finishing well. 2020 is a great time to unleash your inner Caleb/Calebette.

To God be all glory. Happy New Year, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)

 Joseph’s reaction and actions were determined by him being a “righteous man. What are you known for, identified as? A patient woman will react and act differently than a woman known for her temper. A generous man’s reactions and actions will not be same as the those of a miser or greedy man. A wise person will make different choices than a fool.

Joseph had a reputation of being a “righteous man.” It is one thing to be righteous in your own eyes (Luke 18:9) and quite another to be called righteous by God, your family, and the people in your town. You can’t get a “righteous’ man/woman reputation overnight, it requires acting righteously consistently over time. But you will never have that reputation if don’t start sometime, like today.

When we meet Joseph in the Word of God (the Bible) he already has this reputation of being “a righteous man.” Notice, it did not protect him from bad news and hurt. His fiancé told him she was pregnant and he knew he wasn’t the father, which could only mean one thing, she betrayed him – ouch! How would you handle that? We know Joseph handled it as a “righteous man.” Which meant what?

  • Right Actions – Regardless of how he felt, he didn’t act in inappropriate, vindictive, ugly, kneejerk, foolish, sinful, and regrettable ways.
  • Right Heart – Her betrayal and his hurt didn’t snuff out his compassion, his dislike of public mudslinging, his love of mercy and grace.
  • Right Reaction – He pushed the pause button, he “considered,” his options, what godliness looked like in this situation, and most importantly Mary, the woman who betrayed him.

Joseph’s righteous disposition, his righteous habits, his righteous heart enabled him to handle the situation in a righteous way. Because he was and acted righteously, he was;

  • Able to hear God – I don’t think it too far fetched to imagine Joseph praying about what to do, bringing his hurt and confusion before God, asking him to help and direct him.
  • Able to believe God – Accepting that your fiancé’s pregnancy is a result of the Holy Spirit’s action is some serious faith.
  • Able to follow God – which meant he would change his plans, marry Mary instead of divorcing her, raise the child as his own, and put his own dreams and needs on hold.

It is a lot easier to be unrighteous than righteous, but it is a lot better to be righteous than unrighteous. Before Christmas we do a lot of wrapping, Joseph had been wrapping himself with righteousness, and what a difference it made.

Merry Christmas. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven!
Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness!
Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD! Praise the LORD!
Psalm 150:1-6 (NLT2)

I am assuming, by the fact that you are reading this pastor’s note, that you are breathing, which means Psalm 150 above is talking about you.

You might not have enough breath to produce a blast out of the “ram’s horn,” maybe not even enough to get it to squeak, but if you have any breath you are capable of praising God, the LORD.

You might not have the skill to play the lyre, harp, strings, or flute, but if you are breathing right now you are capable of praising God, the LORD.

Your dancing days might be over and a tambourine in your hands might not be a good thing, but if you can wiggle just a bit and even if that little bit leaves you out of breath you can still and should still praise God, the LORD.

Letting you play the drums might be huge mistakes and the end of any band, but if you can bang two pots together you are capable of praising God, the LORD.

So, the question is: Are you praising God? Are you known as someone who habitually and continually praises God? Are you using your breath and the life your breath represents to praise God? Because, if I read the last line of Psalm 150 correctly, every living, breathing thing is meant to praise God, the Lord, and that includes the two living, breathing two of us.

The donkey living a few houses down uses his breath to praise God and when he does, you know it. The many birds around our houses give daily morning and evening concerts of praise even when they had a hard day or difficult week. How much more should you and I, image-bearers of God, excel in singing praises to God!

It’s a mistake to quit praising God, to shut down our ability to praise God, to use up our breath with complaints, fears, anxieties, trivialities, things that don’t deserve repeating, empty talk, ugly words, and songs dripping with negativity. Of all the creatures capable of praising God we are the ones who have to choose to do so, we can choose to so.

So, give it a try, get out a pot and a big wooden spoon, step outside with it, look up and begin praising God for his greatness and follow each statement of praise with a resounding “BANG!” On your way to work this week turn off the news, the talking heads, your song list, and instead spend some time praising God for who he is and what he has done in your life. At the dinner table share your “Today, I praise God for ….!” And next weekend, come to the “sanctuary,” God’s house, to lift up your praises alongside others who delight to use their breath to praise God.

To God be all glory! Have a great Thanksgiving. Pastor Hans

 

P.S. If you are not traveling this Thanksgiving, invite someone in your neighborhood who would otherwise be alone to be part of your Thanksgiving celebration and feast.

 

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Look carefully then how you walk (live), not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:15-21 (ESV, parenthesis mine)

“Get out and get me someone competent in here!” the ER doctor yelled after the assisting nurse had contaminated the sterile field while the doctor was sewing up a deep gash that exposed the kneecap. You can’t be too careful when it comes to avoiding infection.

Have you ever been to a classic car show? Talk about paying attention to every last little detail, whipping off every little spot, polishing even nooks and crannies to a full shine.

You can tell when someone is being careful about something. What we should be most careful about is how we live, specifically being a wise person down to small details of our lives, carefully avoiding any contamination of foolish behavior. In the scripture passage above Paul lays out seven marks of a wise person, of a careful follower of Christ:

  1. Wise persons/believers seek wisdom. No one comes by wisdom magically but rather by pursuing it, searching for it, and when finding it applying it.
  1. Wise persons/believers manage their time, don’t waste time, fill and spend their time wisely.
  1. Wise persons/believers not only acknowledge God but actively seek to know God’s will and then radically adjust their lives to God’s will.
  1. Wise persons/believers are careful about what controls them and avoid handing over control over to anyone but the Holy Spirit.
  1. Wise persons/believers are worshippers, not just for an hour on Sunday, but all the time. They keep their worship earbuds in all the time and have a very distinctive song list.
  1. Wise persons/believers practice and express gratitude. They notice even the small beautiful, kind, thoughtful, acts and blessings, and are good at tracing them back to their source – God.
  1. Wise persons/believers live in community, don’t isolate themselves, but acknowledge their need for one another, know the benefit of living life and serving God together.

Isn’t it strange how we can be very careful about some things while at the same time being sloppy, careless, even foolish about other things? You and I don’t have anything more valuable than the life God gave us than the living soul he created us to be. Let’s be most careful about it. Look again at the seven points above and mark the ones that need attention, need changing, need for you to learn to be careful with.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness
. Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

  Mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:13 (ESV)

 You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins.
Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”
Luke 1:77-79 (NLT2)

 The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made.
Psalm 145:8-9 (ESV)

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Matthew 5:7 (ESV)

No one ever paid for God’s mercy because for one it is free, and for another, none of us could afford to pay for it, it’s completely out of our price range (Romans 11:33-36; 2 Corinthians 9:15). But truth be told, we often treat God’s mercy like a raggedy couch sitting by a curb with a scraggly “Free” sign on it, smiling as we drive past.

We like things that make us feel warm and fuzzy, especially about God. New, fresh, daily mercies and love – awesome (and it is). Mercy triumphing over judgment – thumbs up (yeah). Tender mercies cleaning up our sin mess – who doesn’t like that (I sure do). Gracious, merciful, super-patient, loving, good to me God – that’s definitely the kind of God I like. God blessing and giving to me – sign me up. Sometimes you get lucky and that couch with the free sign is actually in decent shape and super comfy, but do I really want to mess with it?

Nothing about God and his mercy is cheap, optional, or comfortable. He, in His mercy, makes life possible, extends patience, holds back his wrath and judgment, supplies and sustains not just our lives but the universe as a whole. Every sunrise we have witnessed, every sunset we photographed, every breath we have taken, every heartbeat counted, every kindness experienced, every opportunity that unfolded, every drop of love that fell on us traces back to God, to Christ, to his tender mercy and love.

Sitting on that unstained, beautiful, and free couch should make us grateful, cause us to be devoted worshippers, have us value this kind of and this magnitude of mercy as priceless, and inspire us to be merciful like our Heavenly Father (Luke 6:36). Did you notice the last scripture above? The only way to not be cut off from God’s mercy is to embrace it, be transformed by it, and become an extension of it (Matthew 18:21-34). If we do that, instead of merely settling for some fuzzy god-feeling and god-idea of our liking, we will be both be blessed and be a blessing, and/but it and we won’t be cheap (and that is a good thing).

To our merciful God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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