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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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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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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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And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)

Getting married is easy, declare your love, pop the question, set the date, get the license, plan the party, and say, “I Do.” But what comes after is a lifetime of being married, of being a spouse. Making a baby is easy and fun (If you are wondering how? Have your Dad, Mom, Grandpa, or Grandma explain it to you). But what comes after is a lifetime of being a parent. Getting saved, being reconciled to God, and having your sins forgiven is easy. You simply have to put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the one who can save you, reconcile you, and forgive you. But what comes after is a lifetime of being a believer.

Once you get married, once you put a baby into this world, and once you become a Christian the question is, “And so what kind of spouse and lover, what kind of Mom or Dad, what kind of follower of Jesus are going to be?” Of course that doesn’t depend on what has already transpired but on what you do, what you value, how you think, and how you live in the present. And the present is continual, ongoing.

What are the chances of having a great marriage after a beautiful wedding if you don’t spend any time together, if you are disengaged, if you don’t maintain trust, if you don’t share values, and if you make lousy decisions? What kind of parent are you if the words sporadic, inconsistent, immature, and self-centered describe you? What kind of believer, disciple of Christ are you going to be if what happened when you were mercifully, graciously, and gloriously saved does not show itself in the ongoing present of the rest of your life?

In the letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul spends 11 chapters (I would love for you to get out Bible and read those chapters) explaining salvation: That all have sinned, that all have a need to be saved, that sinner can be forgiven and be saved from the judgment of God and the ultimate penalty of sin, death and hell through the atoning work and power of Jesus Christ. But once you have believed in and have called on Christ to save you, once you are saved, what then? That is what the rest of the Paul’s letter is about.

“And so” now that you are professing believer (brother and sister is a way believers see each other and often refer to each other, because through Christ they have become members of God’s family, John 1:12-13) this is how you become a good one, a life-long one, one worth emulating. There are two absolute essentials:

  1. You daily, continually offer yourself to God out of sheer gratitude. You see everything you involve yourself in as an opportunity to please, glorify, and worship God. Bringing yourself day after day as an “acceptable” sacrifice is above all an act of worship.
  2. You let God change the way you think by learning what he thinks, what he values, and what he loves. You let him teach you through his word (the Bible) how he looks at things and the ways he does things. And as you do you incorporate that back into point #1.

Here is an incredible reality, anyone who dares to live out his/her salvation in Christ based on the two core principles found in Romans 12:1-2 will end up being a better husband, better wife, better Mom, better Dad, better son, better daughter, better friend, better neighbor, and better human being. Oh I am for that!

And so, by all means make sure you are saved, and then live like you are saved.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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On the way to my oldest daughter’s wedding I thought about commitments we make in life, after all marriage is supposed to be a commitment “till death do us part.” If you think about it, there are not too many commitments that are meant to be life-long.

 

Our commitment to God through Christ is meant to be for life, until we take our last breath (2 Timothy 1:12-14).

 

Our commitment to our spouse, if we see it as God means for us to see it, is to the end of our days, a God-ordained union we are not to sever (Mark 10:9).

 

Our commitment to our children, if we have been blessed to be parents, is supposed to be for life (Psalm 127:3; Proverbs 13:22). We cannot un-mom or un-dad ourselves; the question is merely what kind of parents we will be.

 

Our commitment to the body of Christ, the church, sometimes also referred to as the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-32). Every believer becomes part of Christ’s body through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). Being committed to Christ means being committed to his body, contributing to the functioning of his body (Romans 12:3-6).

 

Have you ever thought about how much hurt, pain, frustration, and heartache come into the world when we enter into life-long commitments and then break them? The devil and his minions work overtime to sidetrack us from them, to think of them as being less serious as they are, to fool is into underestimating the consequences of not honoring them. On the flipside there is enormous blessing that flows into and through us when we stay fully committed to Christ, to our spouse, to children, and to Christ’s body.

 

In order to keep these life-long commitments love and perseverance are indispensible. Real love just won’t quit, it “always perseveres,” “endures through every circumstance,” “keeps going to end” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NIV, NLT, Msg).

 

There is good news about these life-long commitments, they are God’s idea and God supports his ideas. We do not ever have to wonder whether or not God will help us with our commitment to Christ, with staying faithful to our spouses, with being a parent, and with belonging to and being active in Christ’s body. God is committed to walking with us, blessing us, keeping us, strengthening us, and making us blossom into something beautiful when we honor these commitments for life.

 

I am in. I hope you are too.

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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