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This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)

 Joseph’s reaction and actions were determined by him being a “righteous man. What are you known for, identified as? A patient woman will react and act differently than a woman known for her temper. A generous man’s reactions and actions will not be same as the those of a miser or greedy man. A wise person will make different choices than a fool.

Joseph had a reputation of being a “righteous man.” It is one thing to be righteous in your own eyes (Luke 18:9) and quite another to be called righteous by God, your family, and the people in your town. You can’t get a “righteous’ man/woman reputation overnight, it requires acting righteously consistently over time. But you will never have that reputation if don’t start sometime, like today.

When we meet Joseph in the Word of God (the Bible) he already has this reputation of being “a righteous man.” Notice, it did not protect him from bad news and hurt. His fiancé told him she was pregnant and he knew he wasn’t the father, which could only mean one thing, she betrayed him – ouch! How would you handle that? We know Joseph handled it as a “righteous man.” Which meant what?

  • Right Actions – Regardless of how he felt, he didn’t act in inappropriate, vindictive, ugly, kneejerk, foolish, sinful, and regrettable ways.
  • Right Heart – Her betrayal and his hurt didn’t snuff out his compassion, his dislike of public mudslinging, his love of mercy and grace.
  • Right Reaction – He pushed the pause button, he “considered,” his options, what godliness looked like in this situation, and most importantly Mary, the woman who betrayed him.

Joseph’s righteous disposition, his righteous habits, his righteous heart enabled him to handle the situation in a righteous way. Because he was and acted righteously, he was;

  • Able to hear God – I don’t think it too far fetched to imagine Joseph praying about what to do, bringing his hurt and confusion before God, asking him to help and direct him.
  • Able to believe God – Accepting that your fiancé’s pregnancy is a result of the Holy Spirit’s action is some serious faith.
  • Able to follow God – which meant he would change his plans, marry Mary instead of divorcing her, raise the child as his own, and put his own dreams and needs on hold.

It is a lot easier to be unrighteous than righteous, but it is a lot better to be righteous than unrighteous. Before Christmas we do a lot of wrapping, Joseph had been wrapping himself with righteousness, and what a difference it made.

Merry Christmas. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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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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