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Archive for the ‘character’ Category

The ancient people of God, the chosen people of God, were commanded to:

  • Love God, Deuteronomy 6:5, 11:1, 30:6, Joshua 23:11
  • Love their neighbor as themselves, Leviticus 19:18
  • Love the strangers and aliens as themselves, Leviticus 19:34, Deuteronomy 10:19
  • Love good, Amos 5:15
  • Love kindness, Micah 6:8

Jesus, besides reaffirming the above added:

  • Love your enemies, Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-36
  • “Love one another, as I have loved you,” John 15:12, 17, 1 Peter 2:17

The Apostles reaffirmed all the above and added:

  • “Let all be done in love,” 1 Corinthians 16:14
  • Speak truth in love, Ephesians 4:15
  • Love like Jesus, Ephesians 5:2
  • Love from a pure heart, 1 Timothy 1:5
  • Pursue love, 2 Timothy 2:22
  • Love your wife, husband, and children, Ephesians 5:25, 28, Titus 2;4
  • Add love to your faith, 2 Peter 1:7
  • “Keep yourselves in the love of God,” Jude 1:21 (which includes all the above and more)

What all these commandments assume is that we, you and I, 1. have a God-given capacity to love, 2. that we do not necessarily exercise this capacity, and 3. that in a large measure we will be judged, be held accountable for what we have done with our capacity to love.

Have you ever given God thanks for your ability to love, to love extraordinarily, to love like God, like Jesus? It is hands down one of the greatest gifts God has blessed us with. Exercising that gift makes us more like him than anything else, “When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us” 1 John 4:16 (MSG).

Wednesday is Valentine’s Day, it too reminds us of our capacity love (maybe we should close the divorce courts on the day celebrating love – just an idea). It reminds us that unleashing our love capabilities is beautiful, exciting, sweet, and feels incredibly right and good. And it and gets even better when the response is just as loving.

Would you take a moment and read over the God’s love commandments, I listed above, one more time? Did you notice that they were exclusive and inclusive at the same time, challenging to us to excel in the exclusive love relationships of life – God, spouse, children, friends; while at the same time not neglecting God’s insistence to engage with all people, neighbors, enemies, foreigners, strangers with love that is as strong, kind, merciful, generous, and continuous as the love we have for ourselves and as the love of Jesus.

Heavenly Father, God of love, help us, help me to grow in love, develop and unleash my capacity for love the way you command it, look for it, and enable it.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith. 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT)

Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Galatians 6:4 (MSG)

And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—
James 4:3a (NLT)

God hears and answers every prayer, but God does not grant every request. The student who fervently prays for God’s help to pass the upcoming major test yet spend the time s/he could have been studying playing video games, or binge-watching a favorite show, or simply farting around is probably best advised to spend whatever time is left studying instead of praying. The person foolishly wasting money and then pleading with God for a financial bailout might be better off enrolling in a money management course to change his/her habits than asking God to underwrite bad habits. The liar, the drama queen, the agitator, the hater, the cruel, the over-sensitive, the selfish or self-centered bugger praying for others to change and treat them nicer stands little chance for God granting them their request of exempting them from the consequences of their actions; what do you think?

There are things God will not support. I challenge you to take a moment and make a list of ten things you are pretty sure of that God will not support them. Ready?

1.

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.

Now use that list like a mirror, examine yourself against it, think about what you should do and how you should pray in light of your list.

I know for myself I don’t want God to shake his head and sigh because of the immaturity, the emptiness, the audacity, the twistedness, or the lack of Christlikeness of my prayers.  “… get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls.  But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.  For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.  But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it. James 1:21-25 (NLT)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

(Regardless of how much I pray, God, among other things, does not support: 1. Laziness, 2. Hatred, mismanaged anger, bitterness, 3. Revenge, 4. Disobedience, 5. Sin and wickedness, 6. Immorality, 7. Greed of all kinds, 8. Cruelty, 9. Injustice, 10. Selfishness, self-centeredness, and self-promotion, 11. Foolishness, 12. Dishonesty, 13. Unforgiveness, 14. Pride, hubris, arrogance, 15. Praising yourself, 16 Gloating over the fall of enemies, 17. Lawlessness, 18. Lack of love, mercy, grace, and kindness, 19. Idolatry of any kind, 20. Neglecting to do good and help when and wherever we can, 21. Dishonoring Jesus Christ, 22. Misusing his name, 22. Empty spirituality, 23. Foolishness of all kinds, 24. Transgressing his commandments, ways, and principles, 25. Apathy, ….)

 

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“A man/woman must examine him/herself” 1 Corinthians 11:28.

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith” 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT).

Do you know someone who is good at dishing it out but is terrible at receiving it? Who is great at making fun of others but without humor and super sensitive when s/he is made fun of? Are you quick to criticize others but overly sensitive when you are put under the lens? Well, this pastor’s note meant to turn the spotlight right on you; not by me, however, but by your very own self.

In both his letters to the Corinthian believers/church the Apostle Paul told them to take a close look, to examine, to test, to judge themselves and the genuineness of their faith.

  • The first time was in regard to the observance of the Lord’s Supper or Communion. They had made it something that it was not, more of church potluck than a remembrance of Jesus’ death. And some were acting snobbish on top of that, lavishly indulging themselves with a select few while others went hungry. Paul reminded them that the Lord’s Supper has nothing to do with filling your stomach, but that is everything to do with a serious and genuine relationship with Christ. You don’t prepare for Communion in the kitchen but rather by examining yourself, checking on how it is between you and Christ, between you and the other members of Christ’s body, between you and your neighbor. You have to look into your own heart, at your recent behavior and decisions, your commitments, your spiritual flavor (saltiness – Matthew 5:13), your spiritual temperature (Revelation 3:15-22). The goal of this kind of self-examination is to set right whatever isn’t because Christ who died for us, the love he has shown, the mercy and grace he poured out deserves nothing less.

Obviously a good number of the Corinthian Christians were not in the habit of examining themselves like that, having a party with those they                  liked was much more important them. God didn’t let them slide; to him the death of his Son Jesus Christ and Christ-honoring behavior are very            serious matters and he promptly and severely disciplined a number of them including with sickness and even death. Wow! That kind of                            seriousness might empty a church – literally.

  • The second time Paul told the Corinthian Christians to examine, to test themselves was in regard to the genuineness of their faith; notice, not the sincerity of their faith but the genuineness, because you can sincerely believe something and yet be dead wrong, and what and who you believe will direct your life.

The issue here was that there have always been those who want to use God for their own ends, change the heart of the Gospel, highjack the                       church, and use scripture as means to support their own preferences, desires, and agendas. In order for them to be successful they have to                       discredit genuine leaders and examples of the faith, in this case Paul, who founded the Corinthian church, and apostolic doctrine.

It seems these usurpers were having a measure of success and were leading people astray. Interestingly Paul not only defends his apostleship and          the genuineness of his own faith, but he also asks the Corinthians (whom loves and deeply cares about) to examine their own faith. In a sense he            asked them to do a faith quality control. The goal of this kind of self-examination is about maintaining a high standard, living and discerning out            of our core beliefs, and continuing in and excelling with what is right and good.

The kind of continuing self-examination the Apostle Paul encourages every believer in Christ to practice has real benefits:

  1. It keeps our relationship with Jesus on track and real.
  2. It helps us to relate to in harmony and unity with other believers and treat all people with Christlikeness.
  3. It enables us to grow spiritually and as a person by being brutally honest with ourselves and dealing with stuff we need to deal with.
  4. It helps us to maintain our core beliefs (the faith) in the middle of the pressures of life, spiritual attacks, evil, and constant changes.

Ready to turn that spotlight on yourself?

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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 “… Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?’” (1 Samuel 19:5 ESV) is what Jonathan asked as he stood up against his Dad, King Saul, who was out to kill David, who was also Jonathan’s best friend. In the long term this didn’t benefit Jonathan, it wasn’t beneficial to his career, soured the relationship with his father, and complicated his life. Standing up for what is right is usually costly, yet in doing so Jonathan not only protected his friend’s life but also drew a line in the sand against one of the seven things God hates, “Arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, …” (Proverbs 6:17 HCSB).

They journey together, form a wicked triumvirate, the shedding of innocent blood, arrogance, and lying; where you find one you do not have to look far to find the other. Shedding of innocent blood requires the arrogance of your life being more valuable than the one you are willing to depose off, it necessitates lying to both to yourself and those to whom you justify the act. And God absolutely abhors and hates all three. It is a terrible thing to find ourselves doing what God hates, what is completely unlike him.

One of the consequences of leaving, disavowing, turning your back on the only true and living God and substitute manmade religion or godless philosophies and ideologies, is that we end up playing God, and in doing so we both feed our pride and lie to ourselves. Listen to the ancient indictment of God’s own people, “They did not destroy the peoples as the LORD had commanded them but mingled with the nations and adopted their ways. They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons. They shed innocent blood— the blood of their sons and daughters whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; so the land became polluted with blood. They defiled themselves by their actions and prostituted themselves by their deeds.
Therefore the LORD’s anger burned against His people, and He abhorred His own inheritance”
(Psalm 106:34-40 HCSB).

How much innocent blood has been spilled across this land since 1776? Justified on the altars of greed, Westward expansion, racism, political expediency, progress, personal freedom, and the worship of self? And we are continuing the bloodshed, arrogance, and lies. But the numbers of the most innocent, the unborn, the ones whose cries we cannot hear, are  staggering: More than 59,000,000, yes, fifty-nine million since 1973 (Roe vs. Wade); 926,000 in 2014 (touted as a record low).

We are foolish to think that God’s anger will not “burn against” us when we embrace that which he hates. We too will reap what we sow, personally and collectively. Calls for God to “bless America” will be hollow if we do not dare to stand with Jonathan wherever and whenever innocent blood is spilled.

May we humble ourselves and repent this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, January 21, 2018.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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Abram – the Church- and Spiritual Maturity

What you live for and what you’d you die for says a lot about you. Maybe even more importantly who you live for and who you would die for. It tells of what is important to you, who is most important to you, what you’re passionate about, whom and what you value, what is most precious to you, what you hold most dear, what means the most to you.

Abram (most of us know him as Abraham) needed to sort something out with Lot his nephew. Both men were very wealthy but they needed to separate their ranching businesses. Abram, the older, told Lot to pick, “If you go right I’ll go left. If you go east I’ll go west.” The first thing Abram did in his new location was set up an altar to worship God. Lot picked what was easier and also better for the bottom line and settled close to Sodom. Sodom promptly got invaded, lost the war, and Lot and family ended up as captives, plundered of their wealth. As soon as Abram heard of it he organized a force to go and rescue Lot and the other captured people. After the battle Abram encountered Melchizedek the priest of God and made and offering, he gave a tenth (tithe) of all the spoils to him. The king of Sodom asked Abram to just give him his people back and told him to keep all their retrieved possessions. But Abram refused – he wanted no part of the stuff of the people of Sodom; he knew it came with strings attached (if you want the details, read Genesis 13-14). Now what does this tell us about Abram, who and what he was living for and who and what he was willing to die for?

  • He didn’t live for stuff; he wasn’t greedy. He was willing to settle for less, was generous, and didn’t want other folks’ things.
  • He cared about peace and was willing to humble himself for it, sacrifice the easy for it, take the shorter end of the stick for it.
  • Seeking and worshipping God came first, even in a new place.
  • He loved family; he was willing to die in the effort to rescue Lot.
  • Honoring God with his wealth was important to him; the blessing of God was important to him.
  • He valued his freedom; He didn’t want to beholden to anyone but God.

So what does Abram have to do with the church? He illustrates that true men and women of God live for and are willing die for certain things, they chose to live by different values – by things important to God. Few things are as important to Jesus as his church; he died for it, “… Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her” Ephesians 5:25 (NLT). Jesus considers the church his bride – family, no wonder he was willing to lay down his life for her. Growing in our relationship with God, maturing in our faith in Christ means that, like Abram/Abraham, we increasingly love what Jesus loves, we more and more live for what is important to God, and we order our lives around what God values.

Join a sound church today. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. Romans 14:12 (NLT)

“… 22, 23, 24, 25 – Ready or not here I come!”

“No fair! You counted too fast. You have to start over, and no cheating this time!”

It would be nice if the beginning of each new year would be more than an arbitrary line, if it would be a real do-over, a fresh start. But it usually comes, “ready or not.” Life seems to count at its own pace, and things we were not ready for last year have a way of continuing into the next.

There are so many twists, turns, temptations, events, circumstances, consequences, and reactions we are not ready for. It seems, it feels unfair. We should get more time to get ready, life shouldn’t be allowed to come at us “ready or not,” and why are we accountable for what we are not ready?

They were some of the greatest days of my life, and in my ignorance, I thought I was ready the day I got married, the moments my children were born. I really wasn’t, I had no idea how much was involved in being married for life, in raising incredible, fragile little people, and yet I was fully responsible, fully accountable, “ready or not.”

I wasn’t ready for the most terrible days either, all the dying, tragedy, craziness, unfairness, and …, I didn’t wish for and often prayed against. But they came, often in bunches, certainly regardless of whether I was ready.  Accountability didn’t take a break or give me a break there either, it holds me responsible for how I handle, how I respond to all.

Most of us would like to postpone old age and prolong other life stages, but they too come and go “ready or not,” and we are fully accountable how we handle and live through each one of them, no excuses, no mitigating circumstances.

It’s humbling, sometimes humiliating, often disturbing, the “ready or not” aspect of life, and it is daunting that I am, we are, fully responsible, completely accountable for it. This has caused me to pray more, to seek, worship, and thank God in everything. He is the only one whom life doesn’t catch unprepared, not ready. He knows how to navigate, how to help me, how to get it right even when I am not ready. I also read God’s word, the Bible, constantly in search of eternal wisdom and daily habits that will help me with what I am responsible for. I have also looked for models, for godly women and men who navigate life with Christlikeness. I have found it beneficial to be involved in selfless engagement of some kind, some way of serving God, of serving others, to be engaged with others’ “ready or not.”

To God be all glory, “Ready or not.” Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. Romans 14:12 (NLT)

That collides with our notions of personal freedom; the higher the accountability the less free we are. So, we advocate for others to abide by our own standards—it makes accountability easier for us, and living by “What happened in Vegas, stays in Vegas” is a lot less complicated and embarrassing. Unfortunately, (actually fortunately), God has never agreed to our varied standards of accountability. Saint Ambrose may have coined “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, but God has never endorsed this phrase.

There is a difference between high accountability and complete accountability. We appreciate people who embrace high accountability, and we credit them for having integrity. We expect certain people to live with high accountability, like judges, law-enforcement officers, leaders, and clergy, and we bitterly bemoan when they turn out to be corrupt. We like it when those we do business with are accountable, when they deliver on their word and don’t hide behind fine print. We love it when our children develop morally and embrace accountability over secrecy and excuse-making. But complete accountability, the kind God talks about and will eventually exact of us, is quite a different thing. This is how the scriptures, God’s written word, define it:

 I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. Matthew 12:36 (HCSB)

 For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the ideas and thoughts of the heart. No creature is hidden from Him, but all things are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account. Hebrews 4:12-13 (HCSB)

 For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.  Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others. God knows we are sincere, and I hope you know this, too.  2 Corinthians 5:10-11 (NLT)

 We are responsible for every act, every opportunity, everything we are capable of, every dollar spent, every thought, every desire, even every little word—that’s complete and total accountability. It makes the heart of sinners sink, makes us want to slink into a dark corner and hide, it causes us to quickly grasp for some kind of cover (even one as flimsy as fig leaves), and when all of these fail (and they do) we start with the excuses and finger pointing (Genesis 3).

If we’d have a vote on this we would cast it for high accountability or as-little-as-possible-accountability, but complete and total accountability would not garner many votes, certainly not a majority. God, on the other hand, tells us that complete accountability is absolutely necessary, and each one of us has a date with it. Why? If we are ever going to be judged correctly everything must be looked at and taken into account. If there is any hope for complete justice everyone will have to stand and give a full account of everything to the only One who has the capacity to comprehend such knowledge, who holds the power over life and death, and who alone has always been completely accountable.

I know complete accountability damns me, and it damns you regardless of whether you acknowledge what God has clearly stated. You and I need help, more than that we need mercy and grace in the day of complete accountability, in the day of judgement (“Remember, we will all stand before the judgment seat of God’ Romans 14:10 NLT). God will not spare us from compete accountability, from having to give a full account, he would have to cease to be just if he were to do so. Fortunately, God in his love has provided mercy and grace through Jesus Christ who has already considered all our sins, substituted himself into our place, paid the full penalty, satisfied the justice of God, and is able to rescue us from sure damnation and offer forgiveness, hope, and eternal life. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT); that is why Jesus is such good news for sinners awaiting complete accountability. Don’t enter God’s judgment without him!

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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