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Archive for the ‘decision making’ Category

Did you ever not really want do it, the right thing, the pressing thing, the needed thing that is? That for which you were born, for which the sovereignty and providence of God had placed you there and then (and here and now)? That which makes you have to decide between what is good for you and what is good for others, between playing it safe and risky, between comfortable and suffering, between carefree and weighty responsibility, between your will and God’s will?

Often we talk about politics and politicians in ways that depicts the whole thing as them versus us. We freely express our disapproval, our disappointment, our frustration with “them,” the Washington establishment, the president, Congress, the courts, the EPA, FDA, DHS, …, and often very justifiably so. We bemoan the partisanship, the corruption, the fiscal irresponsibility and waste, the disconnectedness, the shortsightedness, double speak, the lack of morality, and … We want more honesty, more integrity, more selflessness, more restraint, and more wisdom from those politicians, judges, and officials. We wish for more caring for what is good for all for the long term rather than what is good for just some, and worse, what is merely good to staying in power. We want treasured values to be upheld, not undermined, or for sale to the highest bidder, or prostituted to garner ratings and votes. Those people in Washington D.C. and Sacramento need to get it together!

Like many of you I received my absentee ballot this past week, it is reminder that you and I have political responsibility beyond opining and complaining. We have a responsibility to participate, to embrace our part, to practice the very integrity, selflessness, discipline, foresight, caring, and wisdom we have judged our politicians and leaders lack.

Politics, power, and influence always walk together. You combine the power of a large group if small, seemingly insignificant, people and their influence grows as well. They might even become a movement that changes the political landscape. One person embracing God’s will, taking up the responsibility the power and influence granted to him/her can make a huge difference in a family, community, a nation, in this world (e.g. Joseph, Genesis 37-50). The fact that the two candidates, one of whom will most likely be the next US president, are deeply flawed, rate low on the truth telling index, do not have a track record that inspires trust, and are dogged by corruption and scandal is also a reflection and indictment of the politicians at the most grassroots level, the voters, you and me. In the 2012 presidential election less than 55% of the total electorate voted, more than half of evangelical Christians abdicated their responsibility to vote. These are staggering statistics testifying of political and spiritual irresponsibility and disengagement.

The two highest values in the universe are loving God and loving people, caring about cares about and caring for others like we care about ourselves (Mark 12:29-31). Both of these values will lead you and me to service, serving God, serving others, serving our nation, serving the world. Those values will call us to do things we don’t really want to do, things that stand in the way of self-serving, self-indulgence, self-seeking, and the like. Those values will compel us to be engaged, to embrace every responsibility, every opportunity to influence our world to the glory of God.

Mordecai posed a rhetorical question to his niece Esther, the queen of Persia, who hesitated to become politically involved, “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 (NIV). Of course she was! Just like God has placed you and me into this time with power and influence to affect lives and politics for the glory of God. And so we must chose both at the ballot box and in the daily voting of our lives.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fill in the blanks (find possible answers at the bottom):

  • When you get yourself a puppy you will have to ________________________________________________________
  • When you get drunk you will ________________________________________________________
  • After you buy a car you will ________________________________________________________
  • If you leave the windows down on that car and it rains overnight, you will ________________________________________________________
  • If you grab a strange man or woman’s butt thinking it is your wife/husband you will _______________________________________________________

Now you don’t have to get a puppy, get drunk, buy a car, marry, or grab things, but if you do inevitable things will happen. This is not only true about things we can choose it is also true about things we don’t chose.

Wouldn’t it be nice if life were as benign as inadvertent grabs or windows not rolled up? Wouldn’t life be awesome if it were as cute as puppy? Yes, it would be, but it isn’t. As a son of an alcoholic I can’t tell you how quickly funny went out of being drunk. Having clocked my fair share of miles on the road there is nothing funny about losing your cool, road rage, endangering others.

Why did Jesus teach his disciples to pray, And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” Matthew 6:13 (NASB)? Because we will encounter evil, we will be enticed to choose evil, we will be both the object and the source of evil. We will encounter evil that poses as cute and funny. We will be tempted to buy things we shouldn’t, to anger that excuses itself, to words that are bitter, wrong, and wound. Evil and the temptation to do and be evil is inevitable, inescapable in the world we live in. It is never just someone else’s problem it always is also our own.

Evil always tries to start a chain reaction, even as it inflicts it tempts, it suggests that the best way to get back at evil is with evil, to answer anger with anger, hate with hate, wounds with wounds, bitter with bitter, always in kind. But the will of God is absolutely clear whenever and however evil touches us, be it small superficial scratches or having been keyed from head to tail and down to the metal, to the bone, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone” Romans 12:17 (NASB); “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people” 1 Thessalonians 5:15 (NASB),Avoid every kind of evil” 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (NIV).

If we need to pray, “Deliver us from evil,” then it is obvious that we need God’s help for evil to be defeated, for us to respond correctly to it, and to not be a contributor to and perpetuator of it.

Now that you have made it the end of this pastor’s note take a minute and reflect, take responsibility for yourself, and reach out and take God’s hand to help you deal with, cope with, evil in and around you, and pray, “Heavenly Father, God, please forgive me my sins, as I forgive those who have sinned against me.  And don’t let me yield to temptation, but deliver me from evil” Matthew 6:12-13

To God Be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. This weekend go and worship at a nearby church with others who seek to live out the above.

Puppy: Clean up messes, find things chewed up, be bitten, have that tongue put slobber on you in laces that ought not to be slobbered.

Drunk: lose control, say stupid things, do stupid things, be stupid, hurt someone sooner than later.

Car: See lots of other cars like it on the road, buy gas, get a scratch on it, run into numerous idiots who should never be allowed on the road, be one of those idiots.

Windows down: Pronounce yourself an idiot, drive sitting on several towels and still get your posterior wet (so bring an extra pair of pants), drill drain-holes because obviously you can’t trust yourself (maybe not).

Butt grab: (could also the sneak up from behind kiss): For answers ask my wife she has experience with this, get laughed at for a very looong time – basically for the rest of your life, get slapped, turn very red.

 

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The tickets were booked a long time ago but today is the last day before the trip, that means last minute stuff. I am always glad when I am finally in my seat and the plane is accelerating down the runway, I feel like I can relax at that point. Well, the relaxation point is still some hours out, which brings me back to last minute stuff. Obviously this pastor’s note is one of those things to get done before hopping in the car to drive to airport.

There is something about time running out, invariably some things don’t get done because they have to be done, they’re just not that important. The level of important things that needed to be done and actually got done depends on how little you procrastinated and how well you prepared. The last minute stress level depends on how much last minute stuff you let pile up in relation to how little time is left. It also depends on how many people are depending on you. And it depends on how many unexpected things crop up at the last minute. A pig pile of last minute stuff drenched in a downpour of the unexpected will make your eyes twitch.

All of our tickets have been booked, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be Psalm 139:16 (NIV). With each passing day everyone of is getting closer to our departure. Our upcoming trip has both a first stop and a final destination, that’s how it is with everyone’s final trip. The first stop, “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”  Hebrews 9:27 (NIV). The final destination depends on who you booked with, but it will either be heaven or hell, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal lifeMatthew 25:46 (NASB).

I have been a preacher for over thirty years and it has been my experience that in general people do not prepare for the final trip. They leave messes their children and family have to sort out, they life lives with little or no thought of God’s judgment, they book trips into eternity depending on themselves, trusting in human philosophy, scientific enlightenment, and man-made religion to either avoid or prepare them for a complete accounting before God, believing good thoughts and sentimentality can both keep them out of hell and propel them into heaven. There is no peace, no assurance, no hope in any of that. The reality of being unprepared is that all piles up until it is too late, until not only the unimportant is left undone but also the essential. The truth is that anyone who books his or her journey into eternity through anyone but Christ is unprepared.

Now Matthew 25 Jesus makes it abundantly clear that there are those who smugly and glibly claim Christ but their attitudes and actions reveal who they really have booked with. They fool themselves into thinking they are going to one place but will end up in another.

I stood by the bedside of a dying man. He hadn’t expected for his final trip to come this soon. He’d gone church off and on. He could claim a religious episode, but he knew he was unprepared just hours before takeoff. He had wasted life on himself. Is there hope for someone like him? The answer is, YES! All of us will be found wanting at the first stop of the final journey, none of us has enough merit to stay out of hell, not a single one of us can pay for the ticket on the jet bound for heaven, Jesus Christ graciously and mercifully has paid for that. Book with him and live for him now, not later.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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I am sitting on the balcony of my brother’s third floor apartment on the Westside of Stuttgart. It’s early Sunday morning and few people are up and at it, which is not the case for the swallows circling over the courtyard busy catching breakfast. I am reminded of, Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” Matthew 6:26 (HCSB).

Matthew 6:19-34 (Can I encourage you to get out a Bible and read that passage before you go on reading this pastor’s note) is about wealth, masters, worry, anxiety, and trust. Whom or what we trust has a big impact on our worries, our anxiety levels, our attitude toward and the handling of wealth, and who or what our master is. Jesus is saying, “You can trust God, the birds do, the lilies of the field do, so why not you?” Maybe you’re objecting because after all we’re not birds. None of those swallows checked on their investments last week, none of them had bills to pay on the first, they don’t have a boss, or job, or career to worry about, they’ve got it easy. Yes, all of that is true, but like you and me they do need to eat and drink every day, they have young ones to raise, and all kinds of things beyond their control affect the circumstances and wellbeing of their lives. Yes, they do not have human capacities, but they are like you and me creations of God, they like you and me have life, today, and if God wills tomorrow because God has granted it.

We are more prone to trust in money, it can do so much, but it is never free of worry. Before you know it is your master, it will dictate your decisions, your attitudes, the very issues of your heart.

We are prone to worry, to be anxious, so much is beyond our control and life is so precarious. Before you know it worry is your master, it will influence your decisions, your attitudes, your outlook, and the very condition of your heart and mind.

Only God is completely trustworthy and completely able all of the time. It might seem strange to totally trust in someone you cannot see. But if you and I could see him he would be far too small to trust him with all we have and are. We yearn for God’s immanence but it is transcendence that displays his greatness, that invites us to trust in him and no other. He doesn’t just feed the few swallows in my field of vision, no, he feeds them all, all over the world, every day. He commands the universe and all that lies beyond space and time. It is He, Creator, God Almighty, omniscient, all-wise, holy, awesome, present everywhere, whom Jesus encourages us to trust. It is when we trust the Almighty instead of our wealth, when we rest in his control of things and not our capacity to figure it all out, when we “seek his kingdom and righteousness” (verse 33) that we experience the closeness, the nearness, the immanence of God along with peace, true riches, and life.

All of this is not just fancy preacher talk, it is a promise of God, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” Matthew 6:33 (NLT).

Is it time look at the birds of the air? To take a look at whom or in what you trust? To examine why and what you worry about? To seek the master of the birds? To really rust God? To live according to his promises? – Jesus clearly thinks so.

To God be all glory. Love you Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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I don’t know how the small cardboard box ended up at the youth yard sale raising money for camp, but it did. Cristy brought it to the office; it was leaking ashes, someone’s ashes. No urn, no burial, not even a deliberate sprinkling of the ashes at some meaningful or beautiful spot. They just got picked up in the standard box, were stashed somewhere, and finally where scooped up with a bunch of other no longer wanted stuff and taken to the yard sale at the church. No takers though, some stranger’s ashes are not what people are looking for.

What a contrast it was to Lodgie’s memorial service held in our church’s sanctuary while the yard sale wrapped up in the parking lot. People came from far and wide, wept, gave glowing eulogies, played beautiful music, sang their hearts out, gave praise and glory to God for her life, her influence, her contribution, and her love. Brought together by her death they lingered long afterwards to reminisce, to remember, to comfort each other. There was no obscurity here, no carelessness, to Lodgie’s family and to us our church family that would have been unthinkable, she was too precious, too valuable, too much of a blessing.

I knew Lodgie. I have nothing but speculation about the individual in the cardboard box. However, I think the chances of your remains ending up in a dusty, uncared for, standard box at a yard sale are greatly diminished if you live a life that pleases and honors God. We reap what we sow, Don’t be misled—you cannot mock the justice of God. You will always harvest what you plant. Those who live only to satisfy their own sinful nature will harvest decay and death from that sinful nature. But those who live to please the Spirit will harvest everlasting life from the Spirit. So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up. Therefore, whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone—especially to those in the family of faith” Galatians 6:7-10 (NLT).

Death, our mortality, should cause us to think, should cause us to make better, wiser, and eternally significant choices, “A good reputation is more valuable than costly perfume. And the day you die is better than the day you are born. Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies— so the living should take this to heart. Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time” Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 (NLT). I don’t think the family of the person in the cardboard box heeded the advice Solomon, it might have been because of what s/he did or did not sow, but we really don’t know. What we do know is that you and I have limited time to do good, to love, to bless, to please and honor God, and then we face the reality of Hebrews 9:2728, “Just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him” (NLT). Where and how we end up depends on our choices, whose wisdom we follow, and whose power we trust. Lodgie left no doubt, the person whose ashes were in the cardboard box at the youth yard sale, who knows. I know where and how I want to end up, that’s why I trust and follow Jesus Christ.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Take a look at your hands and ask yourself, “How good am I of letting go.” Now pick up two things, one with your left hand and one with your right. Keep holding those two items as you go to the kitchen to make yourself a cup of tea or coffee. (Email me with the outcome of this exercise, dergermanshepherd@gmail.com).

We hold onto things with more than just our hands, our minds and hearts know to grasp and not let go every bit as our hands, maybe even better. It doesn’t really matter what we use to hold on to something, as long as we hold on to one thing it limits us, or completely prevents us, from grasping or doing something else.

My brother, who was a pain specialist, once told me that after a while our nerves will hold onto pain even if the source of the pain is removed. Have you ever had to pry your fingers off something you had hold onto for a long time? Letting go can be very hard, even painful, especially if we have held onto something for a very long time, if what we have held onto was very heavy, if what we have held onto is very important to us. I don’t want to hold onto things that will damage me, that will deform me, that will cause pain long after something is past, that will prevent me from laying hold of better things.

My goal is to know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, assuming that I will somehow reach the resurrection from among the dead. Not that I have already reached the goal or am already fully mature, but I make every effort to take hold of it because I also have been taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I do not consider myself to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and reaching forward to what is ahead, I pursue as my goal the prize promised by God’s heavenly call in Christ Jesus” Philippians 3:10-14 (HCSB).

Real maturity and Christlikeness are impossible without knowing what to let go and what to hold onto. I hear the Apostle Paul saying, “I let go of everything that would prevent me grasping everything God, through Christ, has for me. So I have to learn to be good at letting go.”

How good are you at letting go? What do need to let go? What “worries, wounds, wrongs, weaknesses, and wishes” (Eric Rees) do you need to let go?

Before you finish this p-note can I encourage you to get a Bible, find Philippians and read both chapter 2 and 3 (or maybe all of it), then sit down, look at your hands again, and then have a conversation with God about what he would have let go of.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

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“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 (NIV)

What gift for whom? What color? What brand? What price range? By something or make something? Give something that makes the person laugh, or something they could use, or something they need? How many choices did you face, how many decision did you make about the gifts you will be giving this Christmas?

We love the freedom to make decisions, to have lots of choices. It is one of the reasons we love money, the more we have the more choices we have. Most of us are familiar with wanting to buy something but being unable to do so because our wanter was bigger than our funds.

Christmas is about God giving all of mankind a choice we did not previously have. None of us has the resources to acquire eternal life. None of us is able to extricate him/herself from God’s judgment. We don’t lack the want to, most of us do want to have God on our side, most of us do want to go to heaven, if for no other reason than to be united with those whom we loved but who have died.

I was standing in line at In & Out Burger with a little boy in front of me. When it was his turn he plunked down a handful of coins and asked for a chocolate milk. “We only have chocolate shakes,” said the girl at the cash register. He decided that‘s what he wanted. She counted his change, “$1.27. Sorry, that’s not enough for a shake.” He just stood there. All his wanting was not going to get him a shake, he did not have that choice because he did not have the means to make that choice – unless – someone was willing, someone was gracious, someone cared. “A chocolate shake it is,” I said, and plunked down a couple of bucks. When I had sat myself down, he looked over at me and said, “Thank you.”

Spiritually we are in far worse shape than that little boy at the counter: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” Romans 3:23 (NIV). “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, … 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” Ephesians 2:4-5 (NIV). God sent his Son, not because the world needed one more religion, but because of our total helplessness. In him, in Christ, we have a choice we would otherwise not have. That’s why the coming of Christ is such good news, that’s why he is the most incredible gift. Will you believe in Him?

Merry Christmas, Pastor Hans

 

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