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Archive for the ‘Children/Babies’ Category

How rich would you want your children to be? I imagine you’d prefer them not to be poor. Susie, my wife, and I have worked really hard so our children would not have to ever be as poor as we once were, maybe you have done the same. Maybe you bought a lottery ticket or two for the slim chance of winning big so you can put the financial tightrope behind you and have your kids and grandkids be all set.

Of course, Susie and I didn’t just work hard on the money thing in regard to our kids, we wanted them to have opportunities as well. But with little money, opportunities are also harder to come by. I can’t tell you how many tamales got manufactured in our kitchen in order to raise money for an exchange student year and other opportunities we wanted our children to have.

But there is still more to life than money and opportunities, you can have lots of both and be poor in character. In fact, if we would have had to choose between money, opportunities, and character Susie and I would have asked for our children to grow up and be rich in character, for them to be honest, hard-working, kind, generous, dependable, thoughtful, wise, gritty, frugal, confident, ever- learning, courageous, caring, optimistic, daring, creative, fun-loving, and selfless people.

We also did not want them to have poor minds; a mind is terrible thing to waste. So, we read to them, filled our house with books, took them to the library mobile, limited the TV and other electronic mindlessness, challenged them to think, to figure things out, to love discovering and learning, and develop discipline and tenaciousness of mind. No, we did not want them to have poor minds, because poor minds think small and are easily deceived. I have to admit that there were times when we almost regretted working hard to enrich their minds, usually when they outsmarted us, blew holes into our parental arguments, or exposed our own mental poverty or duplicity.

There are so many ways to be poor and our constant prayer was we would succeed in raising our kids to be anything but poor. We don’t want them to have poor manner, poor social skills, poor foresight, poor judgment, a poor sense of justice, poor morals, poor vocabularies, poor habits, poor skills, poor money and time management, poor civic involvement, and so much more. Man, parenting to make your kids rich is tough, because you don’t just have to pay attention to so many things but you also have to model all that stuff.

Suppose you and Susie and I succeed in doing a really good job at all of the above helping them to grow up in a “rich” environment, a “rich” home filled with real love, fun, opportunities, values, security, and all the things that help them become rich in every way. We can succeed in all of the above and our children could still be utterly poor of soul if God is nowhere to be found in all of that riches. Jesus, in describing a hardworking man who is living the American dream, but with God nowhere in the picture, calls him both a fool and poor when it came to God (Luke 12:1-40).

There is not much good in poverty of any kind, but none is more far-reaching than poor towards God, leaving God and Christ out of life’s most important decisions, having a mind that is not curious and seeking after God, having a heart that does not love God, having values and morals that offend God, living and dying without trusting in, following, and obeying the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Fellow parents, how I pray that you give yourself to God through his Son Jesus Christ, that you build your family around your relationship with God and the word of God (the Bible), that you dedicate yourself to make your children really rich in what matters most, both now and for eternity.

If you are wondering where to start, get back on track, and stay on course for the long-haul I encourage you to do the following three things beginning today.

  • Every week for the next six months go to a church where the Bible is taught and lived.
  • Read the Bible in your home, start in Mark. Be prepared for your children to ask questions you can’t answer (that will have you come back to church for answers).
  • Pray in the name of Jesus with your spouse and your family.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Grady in January – Sanctity of Human Life, Human Rights, and Justice

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Did you know that you are precious, deeply loved, and incredibly valuable? But not just you, every other person is as well. It is an indisputable fact, from conception to the grave every human being is precious to God, loved by God, and has intrinsic value and dignity given to him/her by God.

Our children were home for this Christmas, when they arrived it was hugs and kisses and whenever my arms are wrapped around them I still feel like I am holding the most precious and valuable God will ever put into my arms. That’s also the thing making the good-byes so hard. For a number of years now one of the Christmas gifts Susie, my wife, has given to each family member is a calendar with pictures from our yearly family gathering at the beach. This year’s January is graced with a picture of Grady, the youngest grandson. It is beyond cute, off the precious scale. It’s not hard to spot the incredible value of that little boy, it is easy to fall in love with him, one look and you know he is a gift from God.

But what if Grady had been born with a handicap, if he wouldn’t be the perfect looking little baby boy? What if his conception was at an altogether bad time? What if his arrival spelled a serious inconvenience, even hardship? What if his life expectancy was very short? Would it alter his value? Would he be less precious? Would he be less lovable? Would he be less deserving of dignity? Would his life somehow lack sanctity? Of course not.

We struggle with human rights, with the sanctity of human life, with justice. Somehow while rallying for the right to choose we rationalize trampling on the right to live. Somehow we campaign for lives that truly matter while endorsing the slaughter of the most innocent. We are good at claiming rights for our ourselves but are much more reluctant to grant them to others, especially when and where they impact us, our freedoms, our opportunities, our happiness, and our prosperity and posterity. We are good at framing our arguments, catering to the like-minded, and vilifying, devaluing, stupidifying, and marginalizing those who oppose us. We are for liberty and justice for all who are like us, but then of course there are exceptions. We are prone to forget that preciousness and sanctity of every human life, human rights, and justice for all from conception to the grave is not just an issue, or a cause, a political platform item, an argument to be fought over, a debate about morals and ethics; it is about real people, pre-born, newborn, children, tweens and teens, young people, adults, and old people; friends, neighbors, classmates, coworkers, citizens, illegals, criminals, and enemies; poor, rich educated, illiterate, healthy, and sick people of all colors; all of them created in the image of God. Their pictures, even if it is an ultrasound, and existence are as real as Grady in January.

It is up to you and me, not just to law and policy (as important as they are) to stand for justice, for the right to life, to treat each other with dignity and respect, to acknowledge the sanctity of every human life. It takes both a personal and collective commitment to make liberty and justice for all work in real life.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy (kindness) and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NIV)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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Now the birth …. Matthew 1:18 (NASB)

 Before you can have a birth, you need conception and nine months’ worth of amazing development from a single cell to billions of cells organized in mindboggling complexity and endowed with a soul. All of it designed and overseen by God himself, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well” Psalm 139:13-14 (NASB).

Despite having watched videos of births in Lamaze class and on PBS, I was still unprepared for the birth of our first child. As they pulled him out I heard him take his first breath, make his first sound, and watched him turn from blue to pink. When they put him in my arms I couldn’t help but feel I was holding a little miracle in my hands. The second, third, and fourth time I was more prepared, but that feeling of holding a little miracle only grew stronger. However, the birth of Jesus Christ was a miracle of entirely different dimensions.

Back up nine months from “the birth,” zoom in on an obscure village called Nazareth in ancient Galilee, look for the carpenter shop, and there you find a happily engaged young man named Joseph, counting the days to his wedding. If you want to know where his fiancée (his “betrothed”) lives with her family you need to ask him for directions.

Fast forward a few weeks and go find Joseph again in his carpenter’s shop. He is clearly preoccupied, something is weighing on his mind, and it is not what he learned in Lamaze class or on PBS. If you could read his mind you would know that he is trying to break the engagement to Mary with as little fuss as possible. She told him that she is pregnant and he knows he is not the father. Her explanation that things are not what they seem and that she’s pregnant with a child conceived by the Holy Spirit makes no sense.

Since by now you know your way around Nazareth go back again a few months later and order some breakfast at Malachi’s Dinner and Bagel shop. Ask the waitress, Abigail, also known as “The Nazareth Daily News,” if she knows Joseph and Mary’s wedding date. Watch her scoot into your booth with her coffee pot in hand and listen to her tell you in a whisper that it turns out that little good girl Mary turned up pregnant and rumor has it Joseph isn’t the real father. “Can you believe that young fool is still willing to marry her when he could have almost any girl in town,” she says wagging her head. “Supposedly, he claims, God told him to her marry her anyway. And, sad to say, it sounds just like him. But if you ask me, that’s taking the whole God-fearing thing a bit too far,” she says while sliding out of your booth.

“So you liked Nazareth so much you had to come back eight months later, eeh?” You went by the carpenter shop but it had a “For Sale” sign in the window. So back to Abigail it is. “They went down South, Bethlehem I think, with her eight months pregnant, can you believe that. Fools I say! They don’t know a single soul down there. I tell you she is going to have that child down there, and then what?” she says shaking her head, “For the life of me I can’t figure out why either of their folks would let them,” and off she goes coffee pot in hand.

“I knew it; you’re already googling Bethlehem, aren’t you?” Abigail was right, by the time you get there Mary had that baby, in the middle of the night, in a strange little town, and in a barn no less. When you get to the barn you’re surprised to see that Joseph and Mary already have a bunch of visitors. Maybe Abigail wasn’t as right on as she thought she was. It’s a bunch of shepherds with a strange story of seeing the glory of God in the middle of the night and an angel telling them about this baby being born, and more importantly him being the Savior, the Christ, the Lord (Luke 2:8-20). You know what Abigail would say, “Don’t you know the only guys that drink more than fishermen are shepherds.” But these guys are sober, no doubt about it. They didn’t just witness a birth, but the birth, the miracle of the incarnation of God. They got to see more than the face of brand new baby, they got a glimpse of God.

How many babies were born the past week? Who knows? Each one is a precious life made in the image of God. Each one should be important and feel like a miracle to his or her parents, but it is not important for everyone to know about their birth or know their name. What is important is that you and I know about THE BIRTH, the birth of the Son of God, the Savior of the world, whose name is Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas. Love you Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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When you raise your children in Don Pedro and you encourage them to play outside the responsible thing to do is to teach them about snakes, in particular rattle snakes. But since you don’t want your kids to get close enough to a rattle snake to make a definite identification you tell them to stay away from all snakes dead or alive. “No playing with snakes, ever! Got it?” “No poking snakes with a stick, no touching snakes! Got it?!” “What do you do when you see a snake, or hear a rattling sound?”

“I turn around, run into the house, and tell Daddy or Mommy or the Babysitter.”

“Good answer, that is exactly what you do.”

“Do you ever touch or play with snake?”

“No, silly Daddy, you run and tell.”

“Why?”

“Because snakes bite and can hurt you very bad.”

“What else you don’t do when you play outside?”

“I don’t stick my hands where I can’t see and I look where I walk?”

“Why?”

“So snakes won’t bite me.”

“Do you play by the wood pile or in the rocks?”

“No Daddy.”

“Why?”

“Cause snakes like it there.”

 

You have to teach your kids about all kinds of things, like fire, respect, boys/girls, honesty, glue and glitter, honor, being color-blind, brushing their teeth, responsibility, selflessness, generosity, doing chores right, excellence, not quitting, using tools, changing tires, controlling their temper, working hard, cleaning up after your puppy, being a giver not a taker, contributing, being home on time, … But the most important thing we teach our children is what we teach them about God and the things of God. It will affect their entire life, their destiny, and their soul, “Bring them (your children) up in the discipline (training) and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4 (ESV).

In trying to be faithful to that command of God, Susie and I, found the Word of God (the Bible), prayer, and the community of God (church) indispensable.

“What is the most important thing you will ever do?”

“Love God and my neighbor, Dad.”

“You are so right! So very smart! And that is why you are my favorite (all the others are just ugly ducklings, runts, and trolls)!”

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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This is the written account of Adam’s line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “man” (human). Genesis 5:1-2 (NIV)

 

Men can’t have babies, God blessed women with that ability. Now I have heard women wish that men would have to go through pregnancy and childbirth because it would change them, humble them, look at life and the world a little different, and I suppose it surely would. The mere ability to sire and conceive a child does not make one good parent, a good Mom or Dad, that takes embracing the ability and responsibilities of motherhood and fatherhood. Too many children are born every day to men and women who like part A (the conceiving activity) and have no interest in part B (the Mom/Dad responsibility). But God has always meant for A and B to be inseparable, it is our selfishness and the brokenness of our world that far too often separates the two.

 

Children are blessed when someone takes on the responsibility of mothering and fathering them, conversely their lives are much more difficult without either, in fact far too many children never see the light of day wherever and whenever A is divorced from B. B (a Mother’s and a Father’s heart) seeks life, abundant life for their children and children in general. Did you notice in the scripture above that God made people male and female, with the ability to reproduce, to be Fathers/Dads and Mothers/Moms and that God blessed them as such. I can’t help but think that God meant for that blessing of his to continue, for them to be blessed together, for their family to be blessed, their children to be blessed, for their grandchildren to be blessed, for generations they would never see to be blessed. Ask yourself, “How important is mothering and fathering the way God has intended it for blessing to flow from generation to generation?”

 

Having a baby changes a woman’s body, being a Mom changes her heart. Pregnancy will leave stretchmarks on the body, parenting will leave stretchmarks on the heart, the mind, and the soul of both Mom and Dad. Having a baby is a nine-month process, being a Mom or Dad is lifelong. From what I am told and what I have observed, pregnancy and birth is challenging, uncomfortable, and painful. From my own experience I know that being a parent is challenging, uncomfortable, and often painful far longer. How many tears wept for their children will run down the faces of Moms and Dads and drip to the ground around the world today? How many oceans could be filled with the tears of Moms and Dads shed throughout the ages? On the flipside, how much goodness, how much joy, how much blessing will be dished out today by good Moms and Dads? How much blessing has the world seen and experienced because of women and men who have been willing to be Moms and Dads, who care enough to fully engage, who dare to dream blessing for their children, their children’s children, the children of our world. I challenge you to never divorce A from B, to make up your mind to be all that God has enabled you to be in regard to children, to be someone who funnels life and unloads boatloads of the blessing of God.

 

Happy Mothers’ Day. To God be all glory, 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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