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Archive for the ‘diligence’ Category

“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit” Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT).

When I turned off the engine in the parking lot of Mission San Miguel Arcangel, off Highway 101, the thermometer in my truck read 109 degrees (42.8 Celsius). The heat sucked out the air-conditioned coolness of the cab as soon as we opened the doors. It was only a few steps to the entrance of the mission but the sun still managed to give us a good hard slap before we made it into the shade of the long covered porch. Inside we were greeted not only by very nice lady but by an incredible coolness. 200 years ago, long before the power grid and air-conditioning, or triple pane gas-filled windows they obviously know something about how to build dwellings that stayed cool in the heat.

Even for a construction layman like me a few things were obvious: The several feet thick walls keep cool in and heat out. The porches surrounding the outside and the inside courtyard prevent the sun from directly hitting the walls. The windows are small and few. (I wonder how many people got yelled at for leaving a door open). And of course you can’t build something like that overnight, this is more costly and labor and time intensive than nailing a few sticks of lumber together and covering them with siding and sheetrock.

We also wondered about the criteria for picking the spots of these Missions. One of them was distance between one Mission and the next, but the most crucial criteria was a source of water that could sustain people, livestock, and crops, even scorching and prolonged heat.

Living in Central California we know that the heat will come, the rainfalls will cease for months, rivers will shrivel into trickles or dry out all together, North-winds will blow and bring unbearable heat waves. Life is like that, filled with dry-spells, the unbearable, and that for which we must prepare (if we are wise). God continually tries to direct and equip us so we can not only survive, but thrive, prosper, and stay cool in the heat of life. Central California is an illustration of that too. What looks so dry, scorched, and barren is also home to one of the greatest agricultural marvels when you combine it water, foresight, knowledge, work, and the discipline good farming requires.

In a very real sense every believer in Jesus is called to be a Mission, an outpost, an oasis, but we do not become one unless:

  • We draw a clear line between the godly and the wicked (Psalm 1:1, Jeremiah 17:5-6).
  • Trust and hope in God completely and exclusively (Jeremiah 17:7)
  • Love, know, and implement the word of God (the Bible), the wisdom of God, and the ways and principles of God (Psalm 1:2).
  • Acquire the skills, habits, and strength required to build what lasts and bears fruit (2 Peter 1:1-8)

One last Mission observation, they were large complexes, built for more than just one person but for entire community. They provided shelter, cool, and life for more than “me.”

Stay cool. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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Making our way around Glasgow I couldn’t help but be reminded of Christianity’s powerful past influence, the effects of John Knox and the Reformation, and the wealth generated by the British empire and the industrial revolution. Large, imposing church structures still dot the skyline. An enormous statue of John Knox dominates the “Necropolis”, a Victorian era cemetery that is like nothing I had ever seen.

On Sunday morning we worshiped with a Baptist congregation around the corner from where we were staying. They had just finished their version of Vacation Bible School, and the place was packed. That afternoon we toured the Glasgow Cathedral. The sound of the mighty pipe organ and a small choir filled the place. They were practicing for the regular afternoon service about to start. We sat down to worship there as well.

Everything about a cathedral makes you feel small, the sheer size of the structure, the front doors, the pillars, the high ceilings, the booming sound of the organ demanding you to listen. The stained-glass windows are tall spectacles of color, telling stories, filling the room with light from above. They are placed high on the walls, keeping you from looking out, or even looking around, but drawing to look up.

I loved sitting there, listening, hearing the Scripture read, joining in the singing, feeling small, reminded of the majesty of God and that he dwells in a “Cathedral” (Temple) not made by human hand (Acts 17:24). It was also strange. Strange because only a few people present in the cathedral bothered to sit down, were interested in worship. All through the service tourists scuttled about, admiring what man had built, without thought for whom and what is built.

A number of these old church structures no longer house a congregation. One of them had been converted to a bar and restaurant, another housed a mosque, one was a visitor center, and some stood empty. This is not only true of Glasgow but all around Europe and the United States, and it saddens me. Yes, these structures are enormously expensive to maintain, the old pews or chairs are really uncomfortable, and they make you feel small, even insignificant. But they used to house congregations who met there to worship, to hear the word of God, to pray.

It is not only the buildings that are difficult to maintain. In fact, they still stand long after the congregations that inhabited them have died. The fellowship, the spiritual family, the people who constitute a church, who are a living expression of the body of Jesus Christ, are a much more fragile thing. Living things are generally more fragile than wood and stone. This is why the Gospels, every letter, and all the authors of the New Testament remind us to diligently maintain the faith and the community of faith, to strive and work together for the glory of God, to build up the body of Christ, to preserve the unity of the Spirit, to practice holiness, to engage in spiritual accountability, to encourage, care for, and love each other. Our experience of coming together, of being the church, should cause members and visitors alike to look up, to be humbled, to worship.

 “I (Paul), … beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all” Ephesians 4:1-6 (NLT, parenthesis mine).

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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In the long-haul walls built by fear don’t work. The Great Wall of China in spite of being one of the Seven Wonders of the World never did do its job. The walls of Jericho offered no real protection. The wall Nehemiah rebuilt around Jerusalem boosted morale but did nothing to stop the tug of war carried out the great world powers in that territory. The Maginot line of defense didn’t stop Hitler for even a moment, he simply Blitzkrieged around it. The Berlin wall and the border fence separating East from West Germany failed to quench East Germans’ thirst for freedom, so they tore it down at the first real opportunity. Walls build by fear don’t work and it doesn’t matter whether or not they are made of concrete, or words of fear and hate, or usually both.

I am surprised how many Christians are answering the siren call for more walls, be it more prison walls, border fences, or rhetoric that keeps repeating the refrain of “let’s keep them out so we can be safe within.” But how much Concertina wire do we want, how high and thick do the walls need to be, and at what point do we end up imprisoned ourselves, both actually and in our mentality?

Christmas is just weeks away. Maybe we need to remember that God himself took on flesh to break down walls. Wall-building is the very antithesis of the reality of Christmas. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to liberate, to tear down walls that separate, to not be ruled by fear but by faith rooted in love, to help us escape from the inescapable walls our sins create, and to help us across the wall no one can leap over, death. Jesus came to reconcile and has entrusted us with the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). As stewards of the Good News he has called us to concern ourselves not with how many we can keep out, but about how many we can bring in through the door of the cross.

Do we as Christians have to be afraid that our Heavenly Father is no longer capable of feeding us, the immigrants (both legal and illegal), and the refugees (for whose plight we are partially responsible) knocking at our door? Have we forgotten that, “God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT); that, “This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19 (NLT); and that, Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me” Matthew 25:40 (HCSB)?

Before we give credence to the rhetoric of the those who constantly cry for more walls, before we attach ourselves to the political bandwagon of anyone who thinks wall building is a good idea, and before we repeat carefully crafted arguments for wall building rooted in patriotism or any other human rationale I am asking you to thoroughly examine the scriptures and let the word of God (the Bible, and specifically the New Testament) inform your opinions, your conversations, and your actions. “For he himself (Christ) is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” Ephesians 2:14-19 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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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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“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” Proverbs 13:22a (NASB)

We are going to leave something to our kids, it is not a matter of if but of what. Leaving them something good and worthwhile requires we recognize how important that is and the determination to do something about it, that in turn requires the determination to be good ourselves because we usually produce what we are, or as Jesus put it, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” Matthew 12:35 (NIV). It is tough to hear it that bluntly, isn’t it? So what will your children inherit? Not just financially but culturally, ethically, intellectually, and spiritually? Are we passing an inheritance of blessing, of how to think, how to be, how to act, how to care, and how to worship?

Good doesn’t just happen; you have to work on good. Ordinary, mediocre, messes just happen, but good takes concentrated and sustained effort. You have to want good, practice good; excellence and blessing rarely just happen. You only get an inheritance if someone didn’t spend it all, if someone was smart, if someone saved, if someone cared enough to pass something on. To a good man/woman that’s important, to good parents and grandparents that’s important.

To be good, to do good, to pass good things on you have to know what is good, good has a definition. Good was good before we came along and good will still be good after we are gone. Good is not arbitrary, it is constant, it is eternal, it finds its roots in the reality and truth of God. We, the parents, the grandparents, our children, and grandchildren have the ability to alter the meaning of good (which far too often renders good no good) but ultimately we will be held accountable to God’s definition of good. Thus the wise man, the wise woman, wise parents will be careful to pass on a spiritual inheritance even more than a material inheritance. Our kids are not blessed if they are rich and godless, if they are wealthy and wicked, if they have the “good” life but are immoral, if they have opportunity but don’t perceive it as a means to care about others and to glorify God.

A good and sizeable inheritance enables, it gives future generations a head start, that’s why good men and women work on leaving one to their children and grandchildren. This is why we should care about politics, the national debt, justice, hatred and bigotry regardless which flag it hides behind, violence, education, personal responsibility, wickedness, freedom, education, values, morality, and our responsibility before and accountability to God.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4 (NIV).

“For what does it profit a man (woman, child, son, daughter, grandson, or granddaughter) to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36 (NASB).

Let’s leave our children and grandchildren an awesome inheritance, one that God would applaud.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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For as long as have had the awesome, God-given, privilege of being a Dad I have wondered about the best things a Dad can do for his kids. My motivation was that I did not want to screw up, hurt, or negatively impact the lives of the children entrusted to Susie and me, instead I wanted to be a source of blessing, a contributor to my children’s success, a source of joy, and an example of wisdom, integrity, faith, and godliness. Thus I have observed, picked the brains of Dad’s I admired, read books, contemplated, attended seminars, and studied the God’s word (the Bible). Here are a few things I have learned:

Don’t

  • Be stupid. Stupid is never funny, kid’s pay a high price for parental stupidity.
  • Be absent. You can never be a good Dad if you don’t show up.
  • Be drunk, high, or addicted, unless you want to curse your children.
  • Be violent or abusive. A strong and good man does not hurt or abuse his children.
  • Be a jerk, you’ll make your children angry.
  • Think that giving your kids stuff will make anything.
  • Live your dreams through your kids.
  • Chase the American dream, have a kingdom of God dreams instead.
  • Break your word or lie. Let your children be able to trust what you say.
  • Sin, sin is always corrosive and destructive. And if you sin do don’t cover it up but quick to repent.

Do

  • Get involved in your children’s lives, you they will be the richer for it.
  • Show your love in as many ways as you can. There is safety in love.
  • Affirm your kids in who they are, help them to be all that God has made them to be.
  • Laugh, have a great sense of humor. If your kids make fun of us in front of us they’re not afraid of us. This will also help in not making mountains out of mole hills.
  • Have a plan, a clear picture of what you want your kids to be like. Great parents don’t leave things up to chance.
  • Have standards when it comes to conduct, character, courage, commitment, chores, community, charity, quality (working hard and doing things right), compromise, and compassion. Make sure you model them or it will be a tough sell.
  • Love their Mom, openly, constantly, and beautifully. It sets a tone. It exposes your kids to something rare and precious, it will also undermine their efforts to divide and conquer.
  • Earn and require respect. Respecting Mom, siblings, other people (even those who you don’t like or disagree with) is not an option.
  • Make room for expressing anger, but never let anger be expressed in sinful ways. This means you have to be really good at it yourself.
  • Apologize when you messed up. Eat crow when you need to. Model how to take responsibility and not make excuses.
  • Encourage your kids to dream, to try things, to not be afraid of failure.
  • Use your mouth to bless your kids, to sow good things into their hearts and minds, to cheer, to encourage, to be kind, to build up, to be straight forward, to set a beautiful tone in your home and your relationship with them.
  • Love all the things God loves: Jesus Christ, people, the church, the Bible, generosity, justice, compassion, creation, doing good, sinners being found, worship, praise, blessing others.
  • Pray yourself, as a family, with their Mom, with others. Pray constantly, pray bold, pray with your mind and heart engaged. Ask for big and important things regarding your children and family. Pray beyond everything to merely be smooth and effortless in your children’s lives.
  • Strive to be consistent in your conduct, discipline, and behavior.
  • Shoot for being the godliest Dad you could possibly be, for your kid’s to be able to call you a man of God.

 

Ancient King David is near the end of his life. He is busy organizing everything so his son Solomon is set up for success, and then David prays, “Give my son Solomon the wholehearted desire to obey all your commands, laws, and decrees, and to do everything necessary to build this Temple, for which I have made these preparations” 1 Chronicles 29:19 (NLT).

To God be all glory. Happy Fathers’ Day, Pastor Hans

 

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“Do not waste time arguing over godless ideas and old wives’ tales. Instead, train yourself to be godly. Physical training is good, but training for godliness is much better, promising benefits in this life and in the life to come.” 1 Timothy 4:7-8 (NLT)

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 12:2 (NLT)

There is a good chance you won’t like this pastor’s-note (p-note) very much, it sticks a finger into your flab. Most of us are much more familiar with abundant flab than with tight buttocks or abs. We know we should, we know we could, and we know we’d be better off if we would, but we don’t, and we won’t and the result is flab, weakness, illness, ungodliness.

Flab does not surrender easily, it is relentless, it keeps coming back. So you have to work to get rid of it and you have to work to keep it away. To win against flab you got embrace ugly words: discipline, exercise, daily, good habits, commitment, pushing yourself, denying yourself. That’s why we look for alternatives, the two minute exercise routine that will offset even the biggest burger and fries, the exercise machine that will overcome gallons of soda, the pill that will make you skinny, fix the diabetes, and gets rid of wrinkles, the electronic gadget that will give you muscles while sitting in your easy chair. Collectively we spend millions trying to bypass the ugly words, we keep listening to the lies of the flab while getting flabbier still.

Our guts, chins, thighs, and butts are not the only things that can get flabby. We can be mentally flabby, spiritually flabby. Dare we, in just one pastor’s note, to stick a finger in that flab too? Let’s. Same aversion to dirty words: discipline, exercise, good habits, commitment, pushing yourself, denying yourself. Same search for a magical and quick fix. Same result, more, abiding, limiting, useless, ungodly flab.

I hate to say it, but a p-note a week will not make you spiritually strong. P-notes make for great for great flab-pokers, but if you want to get rid of the flab at some point you have to embrace discipline, daily exercise, good spiritual habits, lifelong commitment, pushing yourself, denying yourself. The amount of flab or lack thereof is in direct proportion to how much you embrace the words flab considers dirty, useless, obsolete, and threatening.

Both fit body and a sharp mind are enabling, the same is true about godliness. In fact God makes it clear that the most important thing to exercise, to keep from being flabby is godliness. You can get your body-fat down to 2 % and be a mean self-centered person. You can be sharp as a tack mentally and be proud and arrogant. You can be fit and sharp and be utterly godless. But if we train ourselves in godliness we will deal will gluttony, we won’t stay ignorant, and we will deal with hubris. Godliness benefits the entire person but never to selfish ends.

Before I remove my finger from the flab, let me ask you, “How flabby are you? How flabby is your body? How flabby is your mind? And above all how flabby are you when it comes to godliness, to Christlikeness? And when will that change?”

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

P.S. I am aware this p-note could easily be understood in our culture which is obsessed with youth and certain kind of ideal body image. The question is not who we are in comparison to others and certain cultural norms, but rather who we are in comparison to who God has made us and for what God has enabled us, namely to be men and women who worship him and Jesus Christ and who whose character and behavior is godly trough and through.

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