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You know you can grow it, and the more you do the more you have to share, to give away.

If you have tried your hand at growing a vegetable garden you are probably familiar with both a radish and zucchini surplus. Somehow those two just love to grow faster than you can eat them. The problem is that people who love to do the vegetable garden thing usually hang out with other such people and collectively they have planted too much and thus sharing becomes a moot point. Next thing you know you see zucchinis the size of a weightlifter’s arm appear in large boxes in the foyer of the church with a desperate handwritten sign, “Free, take all you want,” but no return address.

We are meant to grow them: faith, hope, and love. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV). For four reasons: 1. They are absolutely essential to being like Christ; 2. It is impossible to please God without them; 3. They make us strong; 4. They enable us, force us to set out our boxes of surplus, because they are a lot more valuable and needed than zucchini and radishes, and should never go to waste.

We are also meant to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ, in the midst of a godless, struggling, dark and often hostile world, But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 3:18 (ESV). I am pretty sure we are meant to export that too.

Can you imagine your life, your (our) church, your (our) community, your (our) country with an overabundance of faith, hope, love, grace, and life in Christ? Daily packing a box full, considering ourselves to be the sign that reads, “Free, take all you need,” and then taking our overflowing box to where it is most needed, to where or to whom you might not want to go but the Holy Spirit compels you to go.

Faith, Hope, Love, Grace, Christ seek engagement, want to flow like water, want to light up the dark, bind up the brokenhearted, comfort the weeping, feed the poor, heal the sick, liberate the captives, awaken justice, ennoble politics, replace hatred, battle evil, and save the lost.

So grow, grow, grow and go, go, go – in Jesus’ name.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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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)

Among the realities of the Christian are:

  • Abundance“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Ephesians 1:3, HCSB), “May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:2-3, HCSB).
  • SufficiencyEach person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8,(HCSB), “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, ESV), “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33, NLT).
  • Liberty Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17, (NASB), “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, NASB), “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13,NIV), “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16,NIV)
  • Fearlessness For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, (NLT), “Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:14-17, ESV), “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6, NASB).

All of the above enable believers to be people of hope, to overflow with hope. Our temptation, however, is to amass and hoard the very things God has intended to enable us to overflow with hope. We are tempted to get another bucket to store the overflow rather than seeking out another person who needs it. We are tempted to build or buy a bigger home rather than offer up the spare room we already have. We are tempted to wall up, lock out, and keep out all those who would make our lives messy rather than open our arms and hearts as wide as the joy, peace, and hope of God enables us to. We are tempted to view freedom as something that mainly enables “me”, gives us opportunity to indulge rather than seeing it as an opportunity to engage and serve. We love to hoard, if not money, then stuff, if not stuff then experiences, because more is better, even it means others will have to wait, will have to do without, will have to be kicked out. Falling to these temptations results in Christian sluggishness, in justifying what is unjustifiable in terms of the values and realities of the kingdom of God, in public pronouncements of our love for God while in private we love another.

We are meant to overflow, which means there is a point we have more than what we need, when our buckets are as full as God made them to be and all of the overflow is meant for someone else. At some point in our spiritual growth, in our transformation to Christlikeness, the overflow should become more important than what is in our bucket because we are absolutely confident that our bucket is in good hands with God and the Christian life is meant to be all wrapped up in the overflow. At that point we start dreaming of having a smaller bucket because that means more overflow, it is the point where less becomes more, and oh how God loves to fill the buckets of those who hunger and thirst for overflow.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Hope

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)

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. Lamentations 3:21-25 (ESV)

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

Am I, are you overflowing with hope? Is hope stirring and rising within us like popcorn filling a pan, lifting the lid, and spilling over? Do innocent bystanders get soaked with hope simply because they are standing too close to us? And not just any kind of hope, or some cheap kind of hope, but eternal hope.

The Corinthian Christians, like us, chased after all kinds of things that made them feel spiritual, superior even. They settled in on the spectacular like miraculous healing, special revelations and intellectual insights, and especially speaking in tongues. Whoever didn’t evidence some special spiritual endowment (gift) like that just wasn’t with it, was lacking, second rate, spiritually immature, and not all that important in the big picture of God’s work. The Apostle Paul reminded them that as crucial as the gifts of the Holy Spirit are, they are neither the measuring stick of spiritual maturity nor of spiritual excellence. They serve a temporary purpose but what lasts for eternity are FAITH, HOPE, and LOVE.

Susie and I just got back from spending a few days playing in the snow with a couple of our children and our one and two year old grandsons. What do I hope for them? What do I pray for them? What do I want to spill from my life into theirs? What do I want them drip all the way home and the rest of their lives? Without question among these is “hope.”

Jeremiah prophesied and wrote in terrible times. His nation, ancient Judah (Israel) was disintegrating politically, economically, morally, and above all spiritually. They were in collective denial, misplaced their hope, and settled for wishful but fatal thinking. And the disaster came. It is in the midst of humiliating defeat, ruined infrastructure, unimaginable bloodshed and atrocities, and life at the end as they knew it, that Jeremiah while writing a lament pens the words, “This I call to mind, and therefore I have hope,” and then reminds himself and us that real, lasting hope always begins with and is anchored in God, the “God of hope;” who loves to fill us with his peace and joy, and evermore so when we dare to trust him. The result is “overflowing hope,” not based on our limited strength but on the power of the very Spirit of God.

Let me return you one more time to the prophet Jeremiah, who on the heels of pronouncing a seventy year disaster, delivered God’s words and promises of hope to the ancient Israelites, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29:11-13 (NIV).

So this year, 2017, we the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church Family will concentrate on HOPE. We are going to search the scriptures, asking God to teach us about HOPE. We are going to ask God to show us what stands in the way of us overflowing with HOPE, to fill us with HOPE and HOPEFULNESS like never before, and we are going to ask God to put us into situations where we hope is needed, where hopers are needed, where Holy Spirit empowered overflowing hope is needed.

To God be all glory. Happy New Year, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Four Dollars of Hope

(If you have access to a Bible read John 5:1-15 and then proceed to the rest of this p-note)

My $4.00’s worth of hope of winning the $1,500,000,000.00 evaporated the moment I read that the only winning ticket in California was sold in Chico. No 1.5 billion of high living, generous giving, and doing good for me. My $4.00’s worth of hope ended up in someone else’s pocket. Dang!

I probably shouldn’t have even bought those tickets being a preacher, after all gambling is gambling, isn’t it? And had I had the winning ticket could I have given glory to God for this gambling windfall? How much criticism would winning the thing have garnered me? And would I have cared if I did? Probably not.

It was no wonder that scores of crippled, lame, blind, and paralyzed people were hanging around the pool of Bethesda. Every now and then there was a mysterious stirring of the water and whoever got in first – Bam! Healed! Didn’t even need a $4.00 ticket. But that was actually worse because you couldn’t leave, getting something to eat, going to the restroom became the gamble, it decreased your odds to no chance. It was a constant race, incessant pushing and shoving for a spot right by the water. And if you had to give up your spot, how long before you made it back to the front? How much kindness and civility do you think would we have found among all of that desperation, among these cramped hands clutching the tiniest sliver of hope for a normal, healthy, better life?

Was it worth it? This brutal wait, this hope that would come at someone else’s expense, that could only come to pass if it is “me and not you?” The answer of course depends on who you interview. I am willing to bet those healed, those able to escape the shackles and miseries of their disabilities would give it both thumbs up, “Worth it? Are you kidding me!” On the flipside, the man crippled for 38 years, who had camped out by that pool for who knows how long had a different answer. He had come up short so many times his response to the question, “Do you want to get well?” was no longer, “Yes!” What kind of dumb question is this?” All that came across his tired lips was resignation, “Someone always beats me to it,” and more painful still, “No one helps me, no one cares about me.” He sat hopeless by the oasis of hope.

And then Jesus comes by. He does heal him, hallelujah! But before he does he notices him, he talks to him, he listens to him, he cares about him, he has hope for him. These are all things I can do, even if I never win that big jackpot, my $4.00 and me are enough for me to engage, to care, to be generous, to bring hope. But I always have more than myself and my $4.00, I do know how to introduce people to the same Jesus who changed the life of that hopeless man by the pool of Bethesda. What do you think, maybe it is even greater if someone wins it all with my $4.00 tickets?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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Bucket Lists and Prayer

Do you have a bucket list, a list of things you want to do, places you want to see, things you want experience before you die? What’s on it? Climb the highest peak on every continent? Drive a race car? Swim with the dolphins? Cruise around the world? Play golf at Augusta and Saint Andrews? Run with the Bulls? Dive on the Great Barrier Reef? Build your own airplane? See the great pyramids, the Taj Mahal, and the Great Wall of China? Write a book? Visit all of the great art galleries? Run a marathon? Sky dive? Train a horse? Travel with your family? Buy a ranch? Learn an instrument? ….? What would be the two things you would put on top of that list? The two things you absolutely hope to experience and come to pass before you die?

Someone’s bucket list is very revealing, both for what’s on it and what’s not on it. It gives insight into your interests, passions, and dreams. It shows what you care about, what gets your juices flowing and what leaves you cold. What you would be willing to spend your time and money on (Bucket lists seem to take time and money, that’s why many have two bucket lists, the one they can afford and the one they would have if money were no object)?

Self-indulgent they are for the most part, our bucket lists. They are about what the “I” wants, the “me” likes. I wonder if Agur, the hireling, the gatherer, the collector, was working on his bucket list before he crumbled it up, tossed it in the trash, and replaced it with a bucket list prayer? “Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God Proverbs 30:7-9 (NIV). What are the chances you and I would have put something like that not only on top of our bucket list but also our prayer list? Integrity, honesty, genuineness, submission to God, the honor of God, how important are these to us? How much do we want to experience them? How much do they influence our desires, our dreams, our prayers? Maybe your bucket list is already what Agur petitioned God to keep him from: an exclusion of God from our desires, our dreams, our plans; God is not needed nor wanted? Maybe it is time to rewrite both our bucket list and our prayer list? Maybe the two should be compatible? Maybe we are lying to ourselves when they are not?

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

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Thank You, Thank You, Thank You

30 years ago, on second Sunday in August, I officially began serving the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church family as the Interim Pastor in place of Lowell Barnes, our church’s Founding Pastor, who had become too ill to continue. I think that calls for giving thanks.

First of all “I give thanks to Christ Jesus our Lord who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, appointing me to the ministry”— 1 Timothy 1:12 (HCSB). Whatever good has happened, whatever blessings came, whoever’s life was impacted during these years of ministry the glory belongs to God alone. He is the one who kept me and us, He enabled, He protected, He has been faithful, gracious, kind, patient, good, and glorious.

I also did not come here alone. Susie, Hansi, and six week old Betsie were at my side. Along the way we got blessed with Emily, Andee, Shaheed, and for a while AJ and Sarah. That made for a lively pastor’s family. I owe a lot to them, Susie above all. They have supported, put up with, sacrificed, helped, served alongside, prayed, encouraged, sharpened and blessed me and our church. They made sure I stayed grounded, humble, and real. I would not have lasted without being on their team. How I thank God for them.

And I am grateful for all who have made up this local body of Christ, this family of Jesus followers, this church and I thank God for their support, their service, their love for Christ, their passion for His kingdom, their love, their kindness, their prayers, and their faithfulness. It takes people like that for a church to function, to have life, to be a joy. I have been blessed here, been loved deeply, been appreciated, was helped in innumerous ways, have experienced goodness, benefited from generosity, and was allowed to make mistakes and grow. I thank God for making my family and me part of you.

30 years is a long time to make mistakes and blow it, so I ask for forgiveness if I have hurt you, disappointed you, dropped the ball, didn’t do it right, failed to be Christlike, came up short, got to proud, listened to little, or lacked in love. Please know that none of that was intentional, my heart is to be a good and genuine shepherd, a faithful preacher and teacher, a godly and dependable leader, an example worth following.

I love what God has called me to do and be. I am blessed by this long-term appointment to be your pastor here. I still dream of us to be the best, most Christlike, real, genuine, and growing church, where love abounds, where the Holy Spirit works in power, where souls are saved, lives are changed, disciples are made and send out, and through which the entire community is blessed.

To God be all glory, how I love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Learning Love That Does Not Fail

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,” Ephesians 5:25 (NIV).

Similarly, teach the older women to live in a way that honors God…These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands … Titus 2:3-4 (NLT).

Somehow we believe that the awesome feeling of being “in love” easily translates into a life of love, that “living happily ever after” will surely happen. Of course statistics tell us otherwise, not only do more than half of all marriages end in the divorce but the reality those who choose to stay together is that many are far from a romantic dream.

When God had Paul pen the instructions you read above marriages were by and large arranged. Love was not the predominant factor in marriage making, economics, connections, and even politics played a big role in who got married to who. That in a way explains the need for instructing married people to learn how to love each other. But what about today? Simply because we have the freedom to choose whom we want to marry does not mean there are not other factors involved, such as physical attraction, emotional needs, romantic dreams, and economics. The reality is that even with our freedom to choose most marriages end up far from the hopes and dreams that marked their beginning.

Falling in love is easy; it just kind of seems to happen. Who doesn’t love a good “love at first sight story?” The notion of twitterpation that knocks you of your feet (and senses) is intoxicating. Who doesn’t want to feel such passionate love and have it requited? But what happens when the pheromones wear off? At some point in a romantic relationship, in marriage, more is needed to sustain, to grow, and to carry it. At some point the reality of how we got into this gets exposed, our best behavior returns to our normal behavior, our charm gets to be annoying, our flaws become evident, our bad habits resurface, our past we try to escape reaches for us. It is then that we can fall out of love almost as quickly as we fell into it. It is then and there that we have to learn to love.

No one can teach you and I more about love and how to love than God, who is love (1 John 4:16). In learning to love God first and most we paradoxically do not end up loving our partner less but more and better. We usually go about it the other way and begin with our partner and in the process make him/her our idol, our object of worship, and nothing good comes from it. God doesn’t force himself into our romances, into our marriages, but we are smart to invite Him in if we want to learn all about love, if we want to bless one another with true love, lasting love, love that bears new blossoms throughout life, love that does not fail (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a).

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

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