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Archive for the ‘death/dying’ Category

We all have them and we are all on them – people lists. Our genealogy/family list, friend list, favorite people list, not my favorite people list, enemy list, contact list, … You can find them in the Bible as well, and, the last one listed is the most important of them all, “The Lamb’s (Jesus Christ’s, God’s) Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27, 20:12&15, parenthesis mine). Although many have tried and are still trying to write their name into this book, on that list, only Jesus can put your name there. If your name is not on that list, you remain on the list of death and hell. We have to be erased from the latter in order to be on the former, no one will be on both, and, only Christ can transfer you from one to other, from death to life, from certain judgment to complete forgiveness.

Are you in the “Lamb’s Book of Life?” Many have said, “Nobody can be certain that they are.” The Apostle John didn’t think so, he wrote, Whoever has the Son (Jesus) has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” 1 John 5:12-13 (NLT2, parenthesis mine). You can’t be in God’s book of life without believing in and following Jesus,  “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” John 3:36 (ESV). That, of course, raises another objection, “So somebody can just profess belief in Jesus and live like hell, be a most selfish bugger, be downright evil and be in the book of life?” If that is your qualm or your reality, please, take a minute and read Revelation 20:11-15. You will notice that in God’s final judgment not only the “Lamb’s” list is reviewed but also the record of each one of our lives. Even though no one can be saved without completely relying on the saving mercy and grace of God in Christ, how we live matters, and everyone will be held accountable. Those who are on the “Lamb’s” list should live like it. I think that’s why the Apostle Paul exhorts us, “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 2:12 (ESV), even when no one is looking.

Keeping the above in mind, our believing in and following Jesus should change and impact the people lists we are on. We should be moving off the pain in the butt, dishonest, cheap talk, lazy, immoral, unkind, unreliable, no good, miserable, foul-mouthed, prejudiced, stingy, self-absorbed, stuck-up, arrogant, undisciplined, heart and headache, hypocrite, … list, and be transferred to the blessing, integrity, godly, kind, generous, just, Christlike list. We should be on the list of those who hated Jesus for who he was and what he did and we should be on the list for all that Jesus stood for and was loved for. From the day Jesus saved you and me and transferred our names from the book of judgment and death into his book of life, we should be living in such way that our names are erased from all the wrong lists and be transferred to all the good and right lists. So, besides asking yourself if your name is in the “Lamb’s book of life,” ask yourself how your name appears on people’s lists? And, are you on the move on those lists? Everyone in Jesus’ book of life should be.

To God be all Glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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“On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” (Edward Mote)

Coming back from a week of camping we drove past the heliport on the Lake Don Pedro dam. The Medi-Flight chopper, ambulance, and fire truck were all there. I found out later they were airlifting out a young person in dire condition. I am sure that for her family the day turned out nothing like they thought it would.

I made three visits (pastoral calls) on Tuesday. The first, to see a man who lost his wife of many years. The second, to see a lady who is dying and her husband who is taking care of her. The third, to see a man who’d just come back from a stint in the hospital. Things have not turned out like they hoped they would. All their plans and hopes have been interrupted, changed, permanently, and uninvited.

We know life is fragile, that it can turn on a dime, be completely altered in a split second, tear our hearts out, pay no attention to our plans, demolish our dreams, assign us paths we do not want to travel, and dish us up with more sorrow grief than we can bear. We long for permanence, for unchanging ground, but our reality is we live on the ever-shifting sand of a beach constantly moving in the daily ebb and flow, subject to sunshine and rain, gentle breezes and hurricane winds.

Susie and I pay for health insurance, home insurance, car insurance, life insurance (Which is really death insurance since it doesn’t kick in unless you die. But I suppose calling it that is not good for marketing), and maybe soon long-term care insurance. The hope is that we will not have to file claims, but the reality is that except for the life insurance we have had to use them all and were glad and grateful that we were insured because otherwise, things would have been even worse, and we would be flat broke. But none of these insurance policies have protected us from tragedy, from chaos, having to change our plans, from having to adapt and cope.

Wise women and men work hard at finding and embracing the truths, laws, principles, and ways that create the most stability, promote peace, and bring blessing. They also live without any illusions of being exempt from mortality and the unpredictability of life. And, they embrace God, who is permanent – eternal, unchanging – immutable, and perfect – holy. He alone can make eternal guarantees and sure promises. Only he can change the impermanent and mortal into the everlasting. No one else can save us from our human dilemmas, satisfy our thirst for permanence, and anchor our souls now and forever. Hear and respond to the words of Jesus, the Son of God, the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:30):

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 (NLT2)

I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth… And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT2)

I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. John 11:25-26 (NLT2)           

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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“Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will,” (Mark 14:36).

What I think is in my best interest might not be in your best interest, and what you think is in your best interest might not be in everybody else’s best interest. Today will not be much different from yesterday in the fact that the world over people will clash, siblings will have it out, husbands and wives will disagree, political factions will dispute, countries will be in turmoil internally and at war with each other.

We need very little training in exerting our wills, in claiming the high ground, in the kind of pride that asserts to know what is best. It is the beast within us trying to survive and thrive and have it easy that worships at the altar of self, that ignores morality, that breathes hubris. The mountain lion gives no thought whether it hunts deer to extinction. But we are not mere beasts, we are living souls created in God’s own image, capable of insight, foresight, moral contemplation, and acting out of more than self-interest and mere survival, of behaving honorably and godly. We are also fallen images of God, sinful souls from the moment we were conceived, under the reality of death. In the reality of death, the fear of losing out and survival become paramount, the interests of others are secondary, morality becomes a hindrance, the elevation of self is justified. In the end, however, we consume ourselves, we kill the tree that gives us life like mistletoe does to its host.

The greatest battles we fight are the ones were our wills clash with the interests of others, were our wills clash with the will of him who alone knows what is truly best for all, God. Our greatest battles are those where we must choose between acting like images of God or mere beasts, between trusting God’s will over our own.

Can we trust God’s will? Even if it includes losing out, suffering, death? And, hasn’t that kind of reasoning been used to lure people into evil religious radicalism and senseless martyrdom? The answer is, “Yes!” In our sinfulness and self-centeredness, we know how to pervert the good and right, to hijack the noble, to trample the godly. But it is also true that it was Jesus, the sinless one, who had not robed, harmed, abused, cheated, discarded, or lied to anyone, who prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will but yours, Father (God),” when he had to decide between escaping suffering and death and what was in the best interest of all of mankind according to God’s omniscience, purposes, and will. When he had to decide between his fears and the resurrection power of God.

It was a struggle; clashes of wills usually are. Three times, in deepest turmoil of soul, Jesus wrestled the temptation to run, to settle for what would spare him. And so much hung in the balance. We too will struggle, we will have to sort it out, and much hangs in the balance.

 “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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You can believe the earth is flat but that doesn’t make it so, your belief, however sincerely or fervently held, will not somehow deflate and flatten the globe. Personal belief does not change or invalidate truth, empirical or spiritual.

Martha, in a conversation with Jesus, professed her belief in a future resurrection of the dead, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” John 11:24-25 (ESV).

The intellectual elite of ancient Athens had a divided response when the Apostle Paul declared to them the resurrected Christ and the judgment of all people, which necessitates the resurrection of the dead, “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, ‘We will hear you again about this’” Acts 17:32 (ESV).

Festus, the Roman Governor, interrupted with a shout, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!” Acts 26:24 (NLT2), when Paul told his story of how he turned from being anti-Christian to be a devoted follower of Jesus and declared that the entire Old Testament predicted that One, the Messiah (the Christ) must die; two, raised from the dead, he would be the first rays of God’s daylight shining on people far and near, people both godless and God-fearing” Acts 26:23 (MSG, parenthesis mine).

The Jewish factions of the Sadducees and Pharisees were on completely opposite ends when it came to the resurrection of the dead, the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these”
Acts 23:8 (NLT2).

 You too are found somewhere on this spectrum of responses regarding the resurrection of the dead in general and the resurrection of Jesus Christ in specific. But the truth is whatever you and I declare to believe on this most important subject, none of us has any real authority to claim. What we say doesn’t make it so, doesn’t affect the truth of the matter one bit. We’d be unwise, dare I say dumb, to ignore empirical facts discovered by authorities in various fields of the study of our universe, planet, our bodies, medicine, … Because of the far greater consequences, we are even more unwise, foolish, to ignore the only true authority, Jesus Christ, on eternity, life, and judgment/justice, and settle for our own opinion, preference,  tradition, or human authority. What matters here is not what you decide to believe, you cannot shape spiritual truth any more than you can believe the earth into being flat, you have to believe, trust the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ and the spoken and recorded word of God, the Bible:

There will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. Acts 24:15 (NIV)

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. John 5:25-29 (ESV)

 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”
Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying.  Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?”
“Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” John 11:23-27 (NLT2)

 The unchanging Easter and eternally most significant question is, Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life?

             To God and the risen Christ be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Jesus Christ), and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross— whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:19-20 (HCSB, parenthesis mine)

 

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14 (NLT2)

 As a kid I saw my fair share of castles. Three things trumped everything else, the armory with all the swords, lances, fighting clubs, and other weapons, the dungeon way down in the bowels of the castle mount, and, usually not far from the dungeon, the torture chambers with its diabolical instruments. We were too young to imagine the real horror that went on in these places, although at times I would have liked to put one of my brothers in the iron maiden or on the stretching rack.

We can’t imagine the reality of ancient crosses any more than young boys chasing around the horrible places of old castles. We know of gallows, shooting squads, guillotines, electric chairs, lethal injections, all which are meant to execute and kill quickly. Crucifixion, on the other hand, was designed to prolong, to inflict pain, to publicly humiliate, to be terrible and violent, and only eventually snuff out life. Terrible what we are capable of.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh died on a Roman cross after sham trials, being beaten to a pulp and publicly mocked. He was substituted for a convicted criminal and terrorist. He did not summon his followers to violent counter strikes, he refused to unleash the armies of heaven, instead, the most innocent of all who ever lived submitted himself to the will of God, the treachery of evil men, and death on a cross, which was a cursed ending among the Jews.

He died there for you and me, to reconcile sinners like us to God. It’s ironic, isn’t it, total innocence suffering and dying on one of mankind’s cruelest inventions. The giver of life laying down his life for the dying. The sinless one paying for the sins of others. That’s what happened on the cross Jesus died on. The symbol of death, of fear, unforgiveness, and of mankind’s evil became the symbol of life, hope, forgiveness, and God’s love. “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.  As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”  So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish” 1 Corinthians 1:18-20 (NLT2).

 You and I cannot be reconciled and have peace with God apart from the crucified Christ. We must decide whether we trust the message of the cross or ourselves. Choose the cross!

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.”

“Daddy’ll fix it!” But it doesn’t take much to put Dad in the company of the king’s horses and men. There are toys no amount duct tape or super glue will fix. Worse yet, is the belly-up goldfish from the fair, the feet to the sky parakeet, or the rigamortised hamster.  Some things are beyond fixing, a hopeless mess.

“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT2).

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” Romans 15:13 (NIV).

It is one of the most puzzling questions and source of great frustration why our Heavenly Father, God Almighty, who can heal the lame, deliver the possessed, and raise the dead, doesn’t fix it all? Why does the God of hope, the one who tells us to hold hope as core value and virtue, why does he expose us to the pain of hopelessness and doesn’t prevent the brokenness in first place? Many have crashed on the cliffs of this conundrum, declaring that God is either impotent or unloving or both and as such he is less than he claims, an imposter, a farce. And once someone has gone down that path and accepted these conclusions the claim that we do not understand all of God’s ways, that they are higher than our intellect allows rings double hollow, unacceptable. This, of course, has at least one problem. It requires God to be higher, better, mightier than we are in order to be God but he has to prove himself to be such according to our assessment. If God is really God, and he is, then by his very essence, his very nature his thoughts and ways are far beyond ours, that is not a cheap cop-out but just reality.

However, the reality that God is omnipotent (all-powerful), omniscient (all-knowing), omnipresent (present everywhere), all-wise, just, good, holy, righteous, and loving in all he does does not anesthetize all of our pain, clear up all of our whys, insulate us from frustration, or keep us from all anger. It certainly has not done so for me. But it does give us hope, both for the future and for today.

Hope is a powerful thing, even the tiniest sliver of it. That is why it is easily exploited, why false hope sells, gets votes, and finds easy prey. Hope keeps looking for a good outcome, for healing, restoration, reconciliation, peace, family, freedom, success, prosperity, justice, and love. The greater the absence of these and the darkness and pain of this absence the more we are willing to cling to the thinnest, most fragile branch of hope. Have you ever witnessed or experienced that last sliver of hope fading away, that fragile twig snap, and the dissolution, the numbness, the resignation, the depression, darkness, and hopelessness that follows? It is a gut-wrenching thing. There is, however, a hope that “does not disappoint” in spite of suffering, affliction, tribulation, trials, and hardship experienced for a long, maybe life-long, time (Romans 5:1-11).

The hope that “does not disappoint” has to encompass more than our present circumstances, although it does not belittle them. It begins with the reality that Humpty Dumpty is not the only one who fell and will fall off the wall, we will too. Real hope has to be able to conquer not just hardship and suffering but also death, it has to be anchored in more than a circumstance but in eternity. Real, eternal, hope is rooted in:

  • The reality of God and that he can be completely trusted. None who trust him will be disappointed (Psalm 22:4-5, Hebrews 11:6).
  • The life and work of Jesus Christ who conquered sin and death who alone can make promises beyond the grave (John 11:23-26).
  • The Spirit of God who indwells all who trust God and believe in Christ and who is both God’s eternal guarantee and our enabler (1:10-14).

It is a grievous character flaw for Christians not to be hopeful. It is a terrible sin to claim hope for our Humpty Dumpty and then dam it up to frolic in it ourselves, instead funneling it wherever hope is needed. One major measure of Christian maturity is how good we are at being hopeful, hope-rs. So how good are we at it? Are we getting better at? How are we responding to the darkness, the evil, the pain, and the hopelessness we see around us? To what extent is the hope poured out in hearts flowing out of us? And why would we want to just trickle it?

Hope alongside faith and love will endure eternally, heaven will be filled with them. But, we are to live them presently; they are needed now and for all time and eternity, even Humpty Dumpty knows that.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans.

 

 

 

 

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Tomorrow

Today was yesterday’s tomorrow and tomorrow will only come after today is done. Sometimes we can’t wait for tomorrow to come and then there are times we hope tomorrow will take its sweet time, but tomorrow will come at the steady pace it has always come, paying no mind to how we feel about it.

I suppose the way we feel about tomorrow depends a lot on how today goes and yesterday went; one thing is for sure though, it won’t be exactly like today or yesterday. It might look an awful lot like yesterday, or it might be worse, and hopefully, it will be better.

Few things impact our tomorrows more than what we do today, what we do with today. For Mary and Martha, the past week or more had been terrible. Their brother, the one they depended on got sick and died. The doctors couldn’t help, their prayers didn’t help, and Jesus the healer didn’t show up until today (a case of, “Where was God when we needed him?”), four long days too late. So, today was another day of grief, actually, worse grief, because Jesus showed up and it brought up bitter questions about last week. “Why didn’t you come sooner?” “If only you would have showed up this wouldn’t have happened!” were the first words out of Martha and Mary’s mouths. It’s bad when yesterday leaves you with gnawing questions and doubts, when yesterday buries today’s hope. Death just wreaks havoc with tomorrow; it is an enemy we cannot defeat.

To us, death seems and feels like the end of all tomorrows, but it isn’t. It can destroy the body but not the soul, only God has the power over both (Matthew 10:28). Jesus didn’t blame Martha and Mary for feeling the way they did, but he also pointed out that they still did not understand who he is. It is possible to have good theology (and certainly bad theology) without understanding, “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” John 11:21-27 (NIV).

You didn’t enter today and you are not reading this today without believing something, and whatever your beliefs are will impact not only your immediate tomorrow but also your eternal tomorrows. It is neither our beliefs in themselves nor the sincerity with which we might hold them that can defeat our reality of death and empower us to cling to life. It is not just a matter what we believe but more importantly who we believe in. Only Jesus Christ is “the resurrection and the life,” and only those who “believe in him will never die.”

The objections to the truth of Christ have been many: Too narrow, too simplistic, too unreal, too difficult to believe for a rational mind, too … They always will be just that, objections, unable to change the truth of Christ any more than the truth that tomorrow will come. The only way to be truly prepared for tomorrow is to believe in and follow Jesus Christ because we do not know what tomorrow holds, Look, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation” 2 Corinthians 6:2 (HCSB). The Easter question is whether you will believe in and follow Jesus Christ, crucified, buried, and resurrected today and not put him off until tomorrow or too late? How I hope you will.

Have a glorious Easter. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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