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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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I don’t understand it, never have, Christians proclaiming the unimportance of the church, Christians thinking that somehow living in community with other Christians is optional, Christians proclaiming their love for Christ but not loving the things Jesus loves, “… Christ loved the church and gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean …” (Ephesians 5:25).

The level of scriptural ignorance and/or willful dismissal regarding the importance of the church, the body of Christ, the local manifestation of the family of God is both as staggering as it is sinful. Maybe you are already objecting, “Whoa preacher, that’s getting out big stick, the “sin” hammer, mighty quickly.” On the contrary, I challenge you to find anything in the New Testament that makes belonging to, being part of, attending, and serving in a church optional. All the excuses are just that, excuses. The words for putting yourself outside of what God has put you in are sin, disobedience, rebellion, living according to your own will. Swift and clear was the Apostle Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthians Christians regarding being factious, only being around those they liked, dismissing the fact that they were to be completely interdependent on each other and needed to have a deep appreciation for each other: “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.” …  “All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:13, 27, NLT).

You and I can never be the church on our own. We cannot be the church watching spiritual TV programming, listing to podcasts, reading stuff on the internet. The only way for us to be church is to live in community with each other, working together, growing together, praying together, worshipping together, serving together, doing the Christian life together. Anything that stays from all of that is simply a bad habit, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, ESV, emphasis mine). Notice some of the implication for every believer.

  • Want to grow in and persevere with love and good deeds? You need the church.
  • Discouraged? You need the church.
  • Are all about theological issues like eschatology and the end times? It should drive you to deeper participation in the church.

When I first became a Christian a wise deacon gave me the following advice, “Hans, beginning today start reading and living the Bible every day. Secondly, wherever life takes you seek out fellowship and life together with other believers.” I could not have received better counsel. No Christian thrives without the Word of God and without participation in the body of Christ.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Next Sunday, December 4, we will have our annual business meeting. Our Agenda entails the usual items of approving the 2017 Church budget and the election of officers, but this year we are also considering permitting women to be deaconesses. That of course has the potential for conflict because opinions and interpretations of scripture vary widely on that subject. I think it is important for me as your pastor to remind us of some things.

The reasons for why we are looking at this matter this time is that the church leadership structure we adopted in 2013, which consisted of an Official Board made up of only ordained Deacons was not working due to deacons moving, dropping out, and prohibitive work schedules. The Board at most meetings had insufficient numbers to make official decisions, and no deacon trainees were in the pipeline; the polity was too ingrown and was not serving the church well. Thus, we as church charged the Board last year to recommend options and changes. This necessitated the discussion of who is eligible to serve on either a single Board model or a two Board model, and only the church body has the authority to make that decision.

This morning in our church Bible reading, God, through the Apostle Paul, reminded the Corinthians and us, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (NASB, emphasis mine), and, “Let all that you do be done in love” 1 Corinthians 16:14 (NASB). Both scriptures remind me of what I teach at every Membership Seminar:

  • In Essentials (things of first importance) we have Unity.
  • In Non-essentials we have Liberty.
  • In All Things we have Charity.

I have studied the matter in some depth and over the past weeks have asked you to do the same, and invited you to ask questions, talk after the services, call or email me (although few have done so). You can also pick up a small sample of scholarly commentary of 1 Timothy 3:8-13 and Romans 16:1-2 illustrating the point that this is both a non-essential and an issue Christians and Christian scholars have come to differing interpretations and opposing conclusions. Permitting women to hold the office of deaconess is not stepping outside the bounds of scripture or heretical. It is an issue that is within the boundaries of Christian liberty, of our church determining church structure and polity. We already have varying opinions and preferences on this subject in our church family and it has not kept us from functioning in harmony and love. So regardless of what we decide, we need to determine to continue with that same harmony and love.

It is also important to remember that deacons are not elders, bishops/overseers, or shepherds/pastors. All three of these terms describe the same office (1Peter 5:1-4, Acts 20:17&28) and the qualifications for it are set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9. The office of deacon or deaconess and its qualifications are a recognition that in a church, leadership besides pastoral leadership, is needed (Acts 6:1-7), both to aid the pastor/s and keep the church healthy and growing. All leadership in the church is servant leadership. The very word Deacon is translated servant. The entire church is based on a servanthood model, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” Galatians 5:13 (NASB). Whatever authority the church entrusts to any member is servant authority, anyone who seeks office in the church simply for authority sake should automatically disqualify him/herself.

So, when meet on December 4th what you and I want, prefer, and are used to is not the issue, hopefully we will all the check that at the door and pray as we enter, “Father, fill my sisters and brothers and I with the Holy Spirit and bless us here and now with wisdom, unity, and peace.” When we cast our votes on this and any other matter let’s keep in mind it is not about winning and defeating but about seeking what is best for the church, discerning the will of God as best as we can, and doing so within the parameters of God’s Word and with the love for one another by which all people can see that we are Jesus’ disciples.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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