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Lord Jesus Christ,

Son of God, Creator, Sustainer, Savior, High Priest forever, Lamb of God slain for the sins of the world, Redeemer, Friend of sinners, head of the church, your very body and bride.

We, as a local representation of your body, your flock, your fellowship, your family,  your church lift up your name, worship you, and give thanks for you to God the Father, for who you are, what you are, and what you have done.

We thank you for loving us when we were unlovable, enemies of God, dead in our trespasses and sins, without hope, without merit, lost and condemned.

We stand amazed that you would seek for us, come to us, offer us your very life; extend to us mercy and grace, forgiveness and reconciliation, salvation and eternal life.

We marvel that you would pour out the Holy Spirit on us, entrust the Gospel to us, and consider and call us to be your body, your representation, your presence in this world in our time.

Lord, today, as the Lake Don Pedro Baptist church we pray for your harvest here where you have placed us. We are struggling to bring it in. Show us what we are missing, where we are lacking. Multiply the harvest workers. Forgive us where we have been slack, lazy, preoccupied, and unwilling.

Lord, this year teach us about payer. Prayer that is larger than our daily needs, deeper than our concerns for health, safety, comfort and good times. Teach us about prayer that enters the battle against temptation, the unmovable, the demonic, evil and the evil one. Teach us to love and pray for more than our friends and families – but our enemies. Teach us how to ask for more according to your will. Teach us how to pray in power and faith.

Lord, we want to be pleasing to you. So please, show us where and with what we are not accountable, where we are putting our own interests before yours, where we are uncommitted to that which you want us to commit to, where we are unconcerned where your heart breaks, where we are proud instead of humble, where we are selective in the application of your word, and where we resist and grieve the Holy Spirit.

Lord, you challenged us to be childlike in our faith, to be harmless and wise at the same time, to care about sinners, peace, justice, mercy, the lost, the displaced, the outcasts, those not like us, even the very least of humanity. Give us the heart, the will, long-term obedience to engage ourselves, to get dirty, to be worn out, poured out, and used for your glory and kingdom.

Lord, you told us to deny ourselves, to pick up our cross and follow you, to love you more than father and mother, children, friends, and country, to be radical in dealing with our sin and be patient with the sins of others, to go into and live in this world, in Don Pedro, Greely Hill, Coulterville, and La Grange like you did Jesus, and there to make disciples. We again commit ourselves to all of these, asking you for the strength, the power, and perseverance they require.

Lord Jesus, we love you, we love belonging to you, being led by you, and being your church, together here in this place. You alone are worthy, O Lord, to receive blessing, honor, power, and glory.

Amen

 

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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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Pastor Paul,

Starting this Saturday, April 1, 2017, Pastor Paul is retiring from being the Associate Pastor. He will miss the pay, $ 0, that’s for sure. Diana will miss him down at the church all the time. She’ll will no longer be able to say, “Don’t you have something to down at the church,” when she wants him out of the house. And she won’t have to fret over what else he committed himself to when she wasn’t paying attention.

All kidding aside, Paul and Diana are real gift to our church. In all of my years here few have involved themselves so readily, so deeply, and so faithfully. As Associate Pastor Paul lead and oversaw the Ministry Leadership Team, the Facilities Team, Amazing Grays, Advertising and Promotion, Majesty Adventures, Kitchen Team, and the Website, besides visiting, counseling, and leading an Adult small group. His energy and commitment to do it right amaze me. But more than that it is his heart to please God, to seek and do what is best for us as a church that has so enriched and blessed us. The good news is that Paul and Diana are neither moving nor leaving (you know how much I hate for people do either), but will continue to be involved in some of the above but without the pastoral responsibility. This gives opportunity for you and others to step up.

My favorite thing about Paul is that I can trust him, completely. He cares about you and me and us as a church as deeply as anyone. Even when I frustrated him, consternated him, disagreed with him, or disappointed him Paul has continued to serve, invest himself, and love deeply. I think he well deserves to be a little bit more retired and be a little bit less tied down. I think Diana, his kids, and grandkids will love that.

Three scriptures come to mind as a write this note:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” Philippians 1:3 (NASB). 

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Coming down upon the beard, Even Aaron’s beard, Coming down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon Coming down upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forever” Psalm 133:1-3 (NASB).

“What then is Apollos (Hans)? And what is Paul (Baker)? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 (NASB, parenthesis mine).

Thank You Paul and Diana.

With deep gratitude and praise, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Parts that do their part – beautiful

At the end of a movie do you linger and watch the credits? I usually don’t, but the few times that I have I was amazed at how many people it takes to make a movie. You need a lot more than just actors, directors, and writers. You need cameramen, makeup artists, bookkeepers, sound people, boom operators, special effects experts, stuntmen, wardrobe designers, set designers, logistics personnel, grunts, lot’s of grunts, electricians, carpenters, caterers, production people, and … No wonder movie making is expensive.

Take a look around, yup, right there wherever you are reading this, and think about all the things you see and how many people had to work together to make them and how many people it took for them to get to you. How many designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, craftsmen, workers, sales people, and … were involved?

Have you ever been wheeled into an operating room and managed to look around before the anesthesiologist told you to count backward from ten, and in my case knocked me out before I got to seven. From what I remember, it is a like beehive in there. Long before my doctor and his team ever got there someone had to get everything clean and ready. He wouldn’t do much operating if he had to do all the cleaning and prepping himself.

Every Christian is meant to serve on Christ’s ministry team from first the day s/he committed her/his life to Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” 1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV); it doesn’t matter who you are, where you have come from, or how gifted, educated or skilled you are, from the day a person is born again (John 3:1-21) by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ s/he is a part of the body of Christ, and thus has a function. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically” Romans 12:4-11 (NLT).

You won’t be in the movie credits, you won’t be part of any manufacturing team for long, and you won’t stay on the operating room staff if you don’t show up faithfully and if you don’t do what you are responsible for. You will be a mess if your body parts are mere volunteers and not committed members who delight in doing what they are supposed to do for the benefit of all the others. Serving in the body of Christ is much more than volunteering, it is about each part doing what the head, Jesus (Colossians 1:18), wants his body to do, and when Jesus’ body moves as one, doing what he wants, it is a beautiful thing.

So show up, be committed, be dependable, do your part.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Getting a room ready to observe the Passover, borrowing/renting an economy car/donkey, organizing a mass feeding, taking care of the money and the books, delivering letters, taking care of the needs of widows and orphans, using their homes for ministry, hosting guests, helping the needy, cleaning up and dressing a healed lunatic, instructing others in the word of God, help start a church, rowing Jesus around in a boat, participating in church leadership, helping with the worship services, greeting visitors, encouraging others, visiting the sick and imprisoned, organizing and engaging in relief ministries, organizing, music, prayer, … That’s what we find Christians, followers of Jesus doing in the New Testament.

Did you notice what I left out of that list? Yup, the spectacular, the miraculous, the extraordinary things Christians are recorded as doing as well, not that those are unimportant. My point is that all of the above is service and that service is central to the Christian life, the Christian community, the Church and its mission. In Acts 19:11 God was using the Apostle Paul in extraordinary ways (“extraordinary miracles” – I thought miracles were already extraordinary), but in Acts 18:1-4 the same Apostle Paul works for a tent making outfit to support himself for ministry on the weekend. Paul understood something that every believer needs to understand.

  • God had saved him and his life was no longer his own, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” Galatians 2:20 (NIV).
  • We are saved from sin to serve, But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved… through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV).
  • Every believer is assigned and empowered for service by the Holy Spirit, The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with 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.”
    1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NLT)
    “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically”
    Romans 12:4-11 (NLT).

At some point, and hopefully sooner than later, every believer has to go from just showing up regularly (hopefully you have that down) to committing to service, going from consumer to contributor, from flapping your wings at the edge of the nest to jumping off and flying. So this week talk to your pastor and volunteer yourself to service of some kind, either for the first time or because you need to get back into it. There is no glorifying God, no being like Jesus without serving. “For even the Son of Man (Jesus) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” Mark 10:45 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy (trustworthy, reliable) people who will be able to pass them on to others. 2 Timothy 2:2 (NLT, parenthesis mine)

I remember exactly where I stood, next to the sound-booth in the back of the sanctuary. We, Davidmark and I, were talking about youth ministry. Actually I did the talking, because I had been leading the church’s youth program (again), after a disastrous departure of the previous youth-pastor. I expressed the need for someone else to step in now that the dust had settled and asked Davidmark to pray with me on this matter. That’s when he let out that he had been considering stepping into this roll, “Really?” I said.

He, Cindy, and his children did indeed step into that role and gave it their all for the past eight years. They built their lives around that ministry, rearranged things, opened their home and hearts to scores of teenagers, teaching them, praying for them, and helping to carry their burdens. They learned on the fly and experienced both the joys and heartaches of ministry. They proved themselves to be a gift from God to us as a church, our community, and to me as the pastor.

God always looks first at the heart, and we do well to do the same. God is also good at knitting hearts together to carry out his purposes and the work of Christ’s kingdom. Whatever Davidmark and Cindy lacked in the beginning their hearts as servants of Jesus were exactly as they should be, and still are. In fact the challenge was often to help them focus on doing less rather than volunteering for more (especially Davidmark). So God paired a Polish mailman and a German preacher to serve him here in Don Pedro.

I will miss coming to church early on Sunday’s only find Davidmark already there making coffee and ready to pray together. I will miss the haggling over who forgot to inform the other. I will miss our exchanges on all kinds of things because our brains are wired so different. I will always give thanks for this faithful man and woman whose love for and faith in Christ has both a fire and tenacity. I pray they will seamlessly engage in God’s work in Modesto.

As for us, I will in the immediate timeframe lead our youth-ministry with those who have been helping Davidmark and Cindy. We will look to expand that team. I ask you, the church, to pray for new leadership, including a search for a permanent youth pastor/leader. I am praying for some of you to fill roles I need to relinquish in order to do a good job leading the youth. I am asking God for someone or more than one to join me on early Sunday mornings to get things ready and to pray.

Today however, I look back and give praise and thanks to God for the Grabowskis – Davidmark, Cindy, Jonathan, Joseph, Joshua, Joy, and Jacob.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

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You know you can grow it, and the more you do the more you have to share, to give away.

If you have tried your hand at growing a vegetable garden you are probably familiar with both a radish and zucchini surplus. Somehow those two just love to grow faster than you can eat them. The problem is that people who love to do the vegetable garden thing usually hang out with other such people and collectively they have planted too much and thus sharing becomes a moot point. Next thing you know you see zucchinis the size of a weightlifter’s arm appear in large boxes in the foyer of the church with a desperate handwritten sign, “Free, take all you want,” but no return address.

We are meant to grow them: faith, hope, and love. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV). For four reasons: 1. They are absolutely essential to being like Christ; 2. It is impossible to please God without them; 3. They make us strong; 4. They enable us, force us to set out our boxes of surplus, because they are a lot more valuable and needed than zucchini and radishes, and should never go to waste.

We are also meant to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ, in the midst of a godless, struggling, dark and often hostile world, But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 3:18 (ESV). I am pretty sure we are meant to export that too.

Can you imagine your life, your (our) church, your (our) community, your (our) country with an overabundance of faith, hope, love, grace, and life in Christ? Daily packing a box full, considering ourselves to be the sign that reads, “Free, take all you need,” and then taking our overflowing box to where it is most needed, to where or to whom you might not want to go but the Holy Spirit compels you to go.

Faith, Hope, Love, Grace, Christ seek engagement, want to flow like water, want to light up the dark, bind up the brokenhearted, comfort the weeping, feed the poor, heal the sick, liberate the captives, awaken justice, ennoble politics, replace hatred, battle evil, and save the lost.

So grow, grow, grow and go, go, go – in Jesus’ name.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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