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Archive for the ‘diligence’ Category

 Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all!”
Proverbs 31:28-29 (MSG)

 She, my Mama, must have read them in the bathroom; not the restroom, which was a separate little room, and anyway, she wasn’t into porcelain throne scholarship like some in our family were. The bathroom was the bathroom and laundry room. A bathtub (no shower) under the high up window where we got a weekly bath, next to the tub a sink with a mirrored cabinet you didn’t mess with, a washing machine to the right of the sink, two hanging cabinets filled with towels and washrags on the opposite wall, and two cloth hampers under those cabinets, one just for my dad’s clothes and the other for everyone else. You never wanted to open Dad’s hamper because the mixture of cigarette smoke and the stink of his socks was downright toxic. Anyway, my Mama spent a lot of time in that bathroom, not fixing herself up, but taking care of us.

I didn’t find out that she also read in the bathroom, most likely while doing laundry, until I got tall enough to reach the towel cabinets. I thought I had discovered a secret stash of forbidden literature hidden under the stack of towels on the top shelf inside. But they turned out to be boring magazines and pamphlets about parenting. I have no idea where she got them from, but they were worn from multiple readings.

I also know that Mama prayed in that bathroom, long after I had left home she told me so. I don’t think it was just ordinary prayer that happened in there, I think she languished in prayer while the washing machine went through its cycles. She knew we wouldn’t bother her while washing clothes because if you did you most likely got stuck having to help her hanging them up to dry. And we needed prayer, all five of us, and Dad as well. So, our dirty boys’ bodies got washed in there, our clothes got washed, and our souls and lives were taken before the one who could keep us and cleanse us from sin. And we could not have cared less about all three of these, except latter two when we started liking girls and clean bodies and clothes somehow became a lot more important.

I don’t know why I ended up with a great and godly Mama? I do know she was one of God’s greatest gifts in my life. But I also know she wasn’t just an accidental great and godly Mama. Great and godly rarely if ever just happen. Mama loved us in the little bathroom maybe more than anywhere else. Love, Learning, Languishing Prayer still spills out of the memory of my Mama in that bathroom, her commitment to these three shaped both her and us, her boys. How I thank God for her, and how I thank her.

Happy Mother’s Day, Pastor Hans

 

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“A man/woman must examine him/herself” 1 Corinthians 11:28.

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith” 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT).

Do you know someone who is good at dishing it out but is terrible at receiving it? Who is great at making fun of others but without humor and super sensitive when s/he is made fun of? Are you quick to criticize others but overly sensitive when you are put under the lens? Well, this pastor’s note meant to turn the spotlight right on you; not by me, however, but by your very own self.

In both his letters to the Corinthian believers/church the Apostle Paul told them to take a close look, to examine, to test, to judge themselves and the genuineness of their faith.

  • The first time was in regard to the observance of the Lord’s Supper or Communion. They had made it something that it was not, more of church potluck than a remembrance of Jesus’ death. And some were acting snobbish on top of that, lavishly indulging themselves with a select few while others went hungry. Paul reminded them that the Lord’s Supper has nothing to do with filling your stomach, but that is everything to do with a serious and genuine relationship with Christ. You don’t prepare for Communion in the kitchen but rather by examining yourself, checking on how it is between you and Christ, between you and the other members of Christ’s body, between you and your neighbor. You have to look into your own heart, at your recent behavior and decisions, your commitments, your spiritual flavor (saltiness – Matthew 5:13), your spiritual temperature (Revelation 3:15-22). The goal of this kind of self-examination is to set right whatever isn’t because Christ who died for us, the love he has shown, the mercy and grace he poured out deserves nothing less.

Obviously a good number of the Corinthian Christians were not in the habit of examining themselves like that, having a party with those they                  liked was much more important them. God didn’t let them slide; to him the death of his Son Jesus Christ and Christ-honoring behavior are very            serious matters and he promptly and severely disciplined a number of them including with sickness and even death. Wow! That kind of                            seriousness might empty a church – literally.

  • The second time Paul told the Corinthian Christians to examine, to test themselves was in regard to the genuineness of their faith; notice, not the sincerity of their faith but the genuineness, because you can sincerely believe something and yet be dead wrong, and what and who you believe will direct your life.

The issue here was that there have always been those who want to use God for their own ends, change the heart of the Gospel, highjack the                       church, and use scripture as means to support their own preferences, desires, and agendas. In order for them to be successful they have to                       discredit genuine leaders and examples of the faith, in this case Paul, who founded the Corinthian church, and apostolic doctrine.

It seems these usurpers were having a measure of success and were leading people astray. Interestingly Paul not only defends his apostleship and          the genuineness of his own faith, but he also asks the Corinthians (whom loves and deeply cares about) to examine their own faith. In a sense he            asked them to do a faith quality control. The goal of this kind of self-examination is about maintaining a high standard, living and discerning out            of our core beliefs, and continuing in and excelling with what is right and good.

The kind of continuing self-examination the Apostle Paul encourages every believer in Christ to practice has real benefits:

  1. It keeps our relationship with Jesus on track and real.
  2. It helps us to relate to in harmony and unity with other believers and treat all people with Christlikeness.
  3. It enables us to grow spiritually and as a person by being brutally honest with ourselves and dealing with stuff we need to deal with.
  4. It helps us to maintain our core beliefs (the faith) in the middle of the pressures of life, spiritual attacks, evil, and constant changes.

Ready to turn that spotlight on yourself?

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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“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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