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 “The time has come,” he (Jesus) said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15 (NIV, parenthesis mine)

“… unless you repent, you too will all perish. Luke 13:3 (NIV)

It didn’t look like it was all that bad, but actually it is worse and getting worser. I am talking about the 1963 Aristocrat LoLiner camp trailer Susie and I are trying to fix up. One corner in the front showed some water damage, but now, that all the siding is off, it is evident that all four corners have water damage. At this point I am wondering if I will ever get the whole thing back together. I am tempted to just make the whole thing a flatbed trailer. I asked Susie if I could simply mount a portable toilet, a barbeque, a couple of outdoor chairs, and leave enough room to pitch a tent. However, I have learned a few things about rot:

  • Rot doesn’t look so bad as long as it is covered up.
  • Just getting to the rot is a lot of work, exhausting.
  • Seeing the full extent of the rot is discouraging.
  • Seeing the rot all exposed makes you wonder if the whole thing is worth it.
  • Figuring out how to fix the rot is overwhelming.
  • Fixing all the rot will take a lot of time, effort, and much more money than it seemed at first.

Of course we are just talking about a 14-foot camping trailer. There is the option to just scrap it or as mentioned turn into a flatbed utility trailer or go with the hillbilly camper option. That, however, isn’t an option when comes to rot in our lives, our families, even the rot in our culture and country. The temptation always is to cover it over, to come up with a quick-fix that doesn’t solve the real problem. A case in point is the left upper corner of the Aristocrat sitting exposed in our driveway. Some time back it rotted to the point it would no longer hold the staples that hold the roofing. The temporary fix was to screw some peg-board like material over the edge and then triple staple to that with longer staples. It obviously held for a good while, but it also allowed the rot to progress. More and longer staples, more screws, and lots more caulking may hold us together for a while longer but it never stops the rot and the eventual collapse.

All of the prophets of God down to Jesus himself preached repentance, “You must deal with the rot!” Not just some of it, but all of it. It is one of the major reasons many don’t care for God, about taking up life with Jesus. To have everything exposed that you have worked so hard to cover up and hold together feels incredible humbling and scary. To give Jesus a shot at rebuilding you and restoring you is long term commitment that goes much deeper than you think at first.

Why give Jesus/God a shot at your rot?

  • No one but Jesus can fix what is at core of all human rot – sin.
  • Jesus was a carpenter; he is very good at doing it right.
  • Jesus is the Son of God; he is able to fix the worst.
  • He cares for and loves you and me more deeply than anyone. He died for our sins, to deliver us from our depravity, to address all that is rotten with and within us.

Now you can pretend that none of this applies to you, go on and staple and caulk some more. But the truth is that you need to repent, to address the rot and sin of your life by letting Jesus Christ in and allowing him to go work.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)

 I hate to admit it, but I am not as sure footed as I was when I was 25. I was reminded of that last time I went trout fishing on the South Fork of the Tuolumne river. I used to be able to rock hop and leap all over. Now I am much more prone to stumble and fall. In fact, I hit the deck twice a few weeks ago just navigating around my yard. I blame it on my current back struggles and how they affect my left leg.

I watch my grandson trying to gain stability on his young legs. He too, spills regularly, but he doesn’t fall as far and his bones are softer than mine. Yet, if he fails to gain stability on his legs his life will be much tougher, much more bruised, and much more limited.

Of course we don’t just stumble with our legs. Ever stumbled with your mouth? Didn’t find the right words? Made a mess with the words you did manage? Wish you could somehow take them words back?

We stumble with our emotions. For many, their temper and anger (how they express and manage it) trip them up time after time. They continually make them stumble. For others it is depression, or anxiety, or paralyzing fear.

For some it is money, the making of it, the managing (actually mismanaging) of it, the spending of it, the love of it, that time after time causes them to stumble, to upset their lives, to add enormous stress and worry.

James is right when he writes, we all stumble in many ways” James 3:2 (ESV). People have stumbled over their ambitions, jealousy, because of their friends, relatives, how people have treated them, injustice, and ….

Jude’s main concern in his short letter next to the last book of the Bible is far too many people stumbling spiritually. I can attest to that after pastoring for 32 years. Heck, all I have to do is look in the mirror and get a glimpse of a stumbler.

Stumbling is a special concern to me as a Dad and now Granddad. I want to model and contribute to the stability of my children and grandchildren, and that is tough to do if I stumble too much, especially spiritually. There is absolutely no one better at helping me/us when it comes to stumbling, gaining balance, acquiring stability in life with all of its challenges and twist and turns, than God and his Son Jesus Christ. There is no resource better than the Bible (God’s written revelation) when it comes to building the strength of mind, heart, faith, and habits needed to avoid stumbling. There are few foundational habits as important as gathering weekly with other stumblers to encourage each other and worship the one who daily offers his almighty hand to keep us from stumbling.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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“Oh grow up!” Has anyone ever told you that? And have you, are you growing up?

There are a few ups that go with being grown up, like:

  • When to shut up and when not.
  • What to put up with and what not.
  • Who to lift up and who not.
  • What to give up and what not.
  • When to give up and when not.
  • Who to look up to and who not.
  • What to stand up for and what not.
  • Who to stick up for and who not.

He was about to throw a fit, my grandson, because he wanted to watch his favorite TV show NOW! That’s to be expected from an almost two year old who still has a lot of years of growing up to do, of growing out of a world that circles around him. If his parents raise him like grown-ups, they will have no interest in keeping him a cute little Bonsai. They will dream of him developing physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They will want his character to develop and grow. They will not encourage immaturity but foster maturity. They will expect him to grow up. They will rejoice and be glad if does, and they will be troubled and heart-broken if he doesn’t, A wise child brings joy to a father; a foolish child brings grief to a mother” Proverbs 10:1 (NLT).

God, the Heavenly Father, also wants you and me to grow up. He fully delights in us as babies, toddlers, kids, adolescents, and young adults (both physically and spiritually), but his expectation is for us to grow up, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity” 2 Peter 3:18 (ESV).  “Grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” Ephesians 4:15 (ESV). “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” 1 Peter 2:2 (NASB).

Real, full maturity, never happens apart from God and his Son Jesus Christ. But we are not automatically mature, spiritually grown-up, just because we claim to be Christians, because we have trusted in Jesus for salvation. Neither Jesus nor the Apostles Peter and Paul believed that. Maturity, spiritual growth, grow-upness doesn’t just happen, it is acquired and learned through practice and right/wise decision making. The “O grow up!” verses you just read highlight three indispensable things for growing up in a way that pleases and delights God:

  • Having and Emulating the right models, beginning and ending with Jesus Christ.
  • Being part of the right family. Ephesians 4:15 above is in the plural, written to the members of the family of God, the church.
  • Learning the right definitions and practices as spelled out in God’s written word, the Bible.

So, how growed up are you? If someone were to emulate you would that help him/her in growing up in a way that pleases not only you but the Heavenly Father? What do you need to change and what do you need to embrace and practice to grow like God would want you to? I pray you and me will be so committed to growing up that God continually has reason to say, “Son/Daughter watching you grow up brings nothing but joy to me.”

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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When Better Gets Us into Trouble, or A Better Better

We have it even if never really thought about it; in fact, the less we have thought about it the greater its grip on us and our behavior. I am talking about our definition of better. More money – better. Bigger house – better. More free time – better. Bigger TV, smarter smart phone, fancier car, kitchen, BBQ, furniture, … – all better. Notice how much better depends on more money.

How many of the following would you mark as better for you and us as a society? Greater devotion to God, to Christ, and his church. More generosity. More communal involvement. More sacrificial love. More commitment to marriage and family. Less stuff. More time to serve each other. Notice that all of them require time, money, but less for yourself.

Proverbs, the most extensive wisdom book of God’s word (the Bible), recognizes how easy it is to work out of a flawed definition of “better” and the need we have to check and adjust our definition of “better” against true wisdom. “Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil. Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf (T-bone steak) with hatred” Proverbs 15:16-17 (NIV, parenthesis mine). “Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice” Proverbs 16:8 (NASB).

The wrong working definition of “better” will breed discontent, greed, debt, ungratefulness, and all sorts of evil. A good definition of “better” recognizes the truth that “… true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money (and all the things money can buy) is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NLT, parenthesis mine).

It doesn’t come natural to us to work with, to live out of, a better definition of “better”. The Apostle Paul wrote that he had to learn contentment, continually gratefulness, and the joy of depending on God, “…I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT).

Two brothers were fighting over their inheritance. Clearly both of them thought more was better. Neither was content, happy, or grateful. Their definition of “better” was of no help, in fact their definition of better was more than willing to be unloving, unkind, use harsh words, and take each other to court. Court wasn’t going so well for one of the brothers so he turned to Jesus to help him arbitrate. Jesus refused, but he did challenge the one on the short end of the dispute to examine his definition of “better” and how it affected his heart, his attitude, his love, his relationships, and his life. Someone out of the crowd said, “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.” …  

Jesus replied, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods,  and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” …

“Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.  Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself. Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being” Luke 12:13-21, 31-34 (MSG).

“Where has your “Better” taken you? Where will your “Better” take you? Is it time to adopt a better “better”? Is it time to Make sure that your character is free from the love of money (and all it can buy), being content with what you have; for He (God) Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU” Hebrews 13:5 (NASB, parentheses mine).

To God be all glory. Love you, pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How rich is God? “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him” Psalm 24:1 (NLT). “’The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares the LORD of hosts” Haggai 2:8 (NASB).

Let the reality of what you just read about God’s unfathomable riches sink in for a minute. It means:

  • He is able to supply for all of our needs.
  • He will never run out, be in debt, go bankrupt, or worry about tomorrow.
  • He is completely unfamiliar with not having enough.
  • He knows how to manage for the long-haul. He has been doing an outstanding job with the entire universe for as long as it has existed.
  • He has better financial wisdom than all those wealthy people listed in Forbes Magazine combined (which doesn’t mean we cannot learn from those who manage well).
  • He owns everything you and I and everyone else has. Which means we are accountable to him for how we manage what we have.
  • The ultimate purpose of wealth is to please and honor its owner – God.

How in the world has the wealthiest nation on earth got itself into an over $19 trillion and counting national debt hole? Take a minute and go to http://www.usdebtclock.org , it will make your head spin. Even more staggering is the over $64,000,000,000,000 (64 trillion) total debt in the USA. That means it’s not just the government, the states, counties, and municipalities that are lousy in managing money, it is also the average citizen (the total personal debt is over $17 trillion). Somewhere along the lines we have forgotten an important truth about managing money, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” Proverbs 22:7 (ESV). When it comes to money and managing wealth we are collectively ignoring God’s wisdom and as a result are missing out on God’s blessing and ability to supply. God is not in the slavery business, but somehow our entire culture thinks that debt and the slavery that comes with it is a good thing.

If you are continually scraping by, never have enough, always borrowing, straining under a load of debt, forever worried, then maybe it’s time to tap into God’s wisdom, learn God’s ways, and seek God’s blessing.

The ancient Israelites needed to get back to God’s financial wisdom, they were limping from one financial crisis to the next. God told them, Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the LORD of Hosts. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure” Malachi 3:10 (HCSB). They needed to go back and learn what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians who weren’t following God’s financial wisdom either, “And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT).

If what you have read so far in this pastor’s note is hitting a nerve, if the last two scriptures you read is something you want then here is what you do:

  • Establish or reestablish a real connection with God. It is always about more than money. You get into a right relationship with God trough faith in Christ. Call me, email me, or come to the next church service if you have questions on that (209 852-2029, dergermanshepherd@gmail.com, http://www.ldpbaptistchurch.com ).
  • Come to all of the April church services because God’s ability to provide and his financial wisdom is this month’s topic.
  • Sign up for the seminar that will follow the sermon series, so you can learn the practical application of God’s wisdom. Call or email to get on the seminar sign-up list. (If you don’t live in Don Pedro check out http://www.daveramsey.com/fpu/ , or http://www.crown.org/ ).
  • Take a moment right now and ask for God to help you, tell him you need him and his financial wisdom, ask him to forgive you for where you have mismanaged both finances and life, tell him you are interested in his ways and blessing.

The best time to get started is right now. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”
1 Corinthians 15:57 (NIV).

Yesterday was a great day, my grandsons came up (well, Mom drove them). The one month old mostly slept and holding him that’s pretty much all I wanted to do too. The twenty-month old came with a to do list on his mind: Feed the chickens, put up the swing and try to wear it out, play guitar, get into the truck, and help Opa any way he can. He wore me out.

All week long I have been thinking about victory, it is what I want for my grandsons, it is what their parents hope and pray for, it is what I hope and pray for both you and myself. But I have lived long enough to know that defeat lurks around every corner, even in victory defeat doesn’t surrender. Don’t misunderstand, I am not advocating for being paranoid, that is a form of living defeated (sometimes also mental illness). But I have looked into defeated little faces in kindergarten, in fancy houses, on the other side of the world, in hospitals, churches, food-lines, and in the mirror. I have seen some of the vast arsenal defeat has as its disposal, words that wound and maim, violence that shatters, poverty that chokes, injustice that demoralizes, foolishness that wrecks, hate, bitterness, betrayal, pain, suffering, disappointment, regret, helplessness, seeing those who you love self-destruct, ruts too deep to get out of, evil, the evil one, wickedness, sin and its inherent twistedness and self-deception.

I wish there was a shot to inoculate my precious grandsons from all of the above, because I know they will be assaulted, defeat will try to bust through their doors throughout their lives. They will come to plenty of forks in the road where they will be forced to choose between the road to victory and the path to defeat. So I want to be a contributor to victory in their lives, after all the joy is in victory not in defeat.

You, me, and my grandsons can learn a lot about victory from history, from examining people who overcame, who triumphed, who refused to give in, cave in, or to give up. History will also expose us to people who did great things, won tremendous victories and ended in utter defeat – the final verdict on victory comes after we cross the finish line. But hands down, the greatest, the best source for victory is God and his written word (the Bible). Anyone who lets the Bible shape their character, determine his/her decisions, heeds its wisdom, relies on its power, submits to its authority, and takes the hand of the God and of the ultimate victor, Jesus Christ, will live victoriously, will overcome, will even overcome the onslaught of death. I pray these grandsons of mine will have an Opa who will serve as a life-long example of living out God’s word and they themselves will embrace it with all of their hearts, because if they do, they will be victorious – and so will you.

“My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine. I, the LORD, have spoken! “I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word” Isaiah 66:2 (NLT).

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

 

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Take a minute and go to the nearest bath or restroom and look in a mirror and open your mouth and examine that wiggly, moist muscle living behind your teeth. – (Did you do it? Or have you decided to just sit there and read on?) –  In many ways it is stronger than all of the rest of your muscles combined, With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” James 3:9-10 (ESV).

Family is another place where the power to bless or curse reside. In fact there are few things that affect us more deeply and profoundly than the blessings and/or curses of our families. Family can and should be like a sweet slice of heaven, a haven of happiness, but all too often it is like a putrid plate of hell, a hall of horrors. Often it is a mixture of, somewhere between the two, but how much doo-doo baked into a brownie makes it unpalatable?

Everyone reading this p-note is someone’s daughter or son, but not everyone is glad to be someone’s daughter or son. Many reading this are someone’s Mom or Dad and not at all happy how things are working/have worked out. All the members of a family have the power to bless or curse. Children can love and honor their parents and make them glad. Parents can love, bless, and raise the children right. But neither can do it without love, our power to bless diminishes with every choice that is contrary to love.

Both blessings and curses have the power to perpetuate. Love births love, generosity inspires generosity, kindness fuels kindness, hate conceives hate, violence begets violence, injustice cries for revenge, pain likes to bite. But it is our choosing that can both break the chain of blessing or end the cycle of sin and its curses.

It is not difficult to figure out which side God is on. The cross of Christ is about redemption, about reconciliation, and about forgiveness, regarding our individual relationship with God and being part of his family, but it is also about the redemption and restoration of the human condition and relationships. God in Christ is able to break the strongest curse, heal the deepest wounds, loosen the heaviest chains.

The book of Genesis ends with a family that is broken, dysfunctional, painful, fake, full of bad blood, secrets, and rotten history. It was meant to enjoy God’s promises, fulfill God’s purposes, and experience God’s blessing, but they settled for jealousy, betrayal, lies, and superficiality. They were much better at cursing than blessing. They were flushing both their own potential as well as God’s wisdom and help. That family was self-destructing. Except that one of them, Joseph, realized that he had both the power to bless and the power to curse and he chose the former over the latter. He decided to bless where he was cursed. He chose to orient himself on and rely on God who knows how to redeem, restore, reconcile, and forgive. He decided to love. And guess who was on his side helping him? “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” Genesis 50:20 (ESV)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (NIV).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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