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Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

I didn’t think I needed sunscreen, after all it was kind of hazy and we were not going to be outside for very long, but man did I get sunburned.

For 45 years I didn’t think I need glasses, my older brothers did but not me. Then the food on my dinner plate was no longer in focus, and on my first visit to the optometrist I was told that I needed glasses.

Somebody at NASA during the Gemini program thought it was a good idea to stick a roll of duct tape on board of the space capsules and so, although it never did get used, they carried a roll on every mission during the Apollo program as well. Until the Apollo 13 mission got into trouble and, you guessed it, the duct tape was a big part of what saved the crew. I wonder how often it was suggested to no longer bother carrying the extra weight of the duct tape, that it was no longer needed?

The travel nurse made sure I had all my vaccinations in order before going on a trip to Africa, she told me to also pick up a prescription for a malaria preventative and Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic. “Do I really need that?” I asked. “I highly recommend taking it with you,” she said. Boy, o boy, was I glad that I listened to her when I was hit by some kind of intestinal inferno.

You, me, and my son need insulin if we want to live. When I get up in the morning I don’t think about insulin, my body takes care of all of my insulin calculations and needs. My son, a diabetic, thinks about insulin all of the time. He has to make sure he has insulin, syringes, needles, test strips, etc. on hand; he can’t afford to run out. He has to monitor, calculate, and administer continually. But the truth is we both need insulin if we want to live, however, our awareness of that need is vastly different.

So just because we don’t think we need something, or because we thought we’d never need it, or because we seemingly have not needed it yet, or because we don’t have to think about something we need, does not mean we don’t need it.

It is Easter, and Easter is about what we need most, I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures (the written Word of God) said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT, parenthesis mine). There are three inescapable facts regarding you, me, and everyone else:

  1. We are sinners (Romans 3:23)
  2. We will die (Romans 6:23, Ezekiel 18:4).
  3. We will have to face God’s judgment (Hebrews (9:27-28).

This is why we need Jesus Christ, to be forgiven of our sins, to not be defeated by death but instead receive eternal life, and to escape the judgment of God. There is no one else but the crucified, buried, and risen Jesus Christ, who can help you and me with these. “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12 (NLT). Let me ask you, “How wise is it to ignore what God thinks you need most?”

It is only If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved” Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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Palm Sunday Revisited

(Before you read the pastor’s note that follows I highly recommend taking out a Bible and read Matthew 21:1-46)

The drycleaners and Laundromats were busy after Jesus rode into town. All those coats and blankets needed cleaning and washing after being used for an impromptu welcoming mat, an unofficial red carpet. Of course it is easy to lay down your coat, to get all caught up in the spirit and hype of the moment, it is quite another thing to lay down your life and follow Jesus.

It went downhill quickly; the crowd’s expectations and Jesus’ expectations were miles apart. They missed the first clue. Jesus came riding a donkey, not a stallion, not a chariot, not a limousine, not a pope-mobile, no police motorcade, no demonstrations of power, military parades, fly-bys, and choreographed pageantries, no speeches, no press conference, just quietness and humility. But it is easy to overlook ‘minor’ details when seemingly big things are on the line.

They wanted their particular “Hosanna” (save now!) Jesus (Savior), who would represent and implement their particular brand of politics regarding personal and national interests. They wanted change without having to change. They wanted the foreigners, those who didn’t belong, out. They wanted times of former glory without repentance.

Jesus had entirely different expectations, his first act after parking the donkey was confronting what everyone had accepted, using God, using religion for our own ends. He walked into the temple and acted like a madman, flipping tables, kicking down booths where pilgrims and worshippers were exploited. Coming into God’s presence is supposed to be free of exploitation. God is not a racket. They had gotten so used to the perversion and misuse of the holy, of the spiritual, of God that they thought it was normal. It wasn’t just those who ran the temple, but also the common worshipper who thought all it takes is a coat in the street, the appropriate offering, a monetary contribution, followed by a prayer to get God onto your side, have him working for you, have blessed odds for your desired outcomes.

The next day, on his way back into Jerusalem, Jesus curses a fig tree that has leaves but no fruit. It, like the expectations of the people and the reality in the temple, was not how God has meant for it to be. Outward appearance is not enough, God has both public and private expectations of us, namely, to bear the fruit we are capable of bearing. He is expecting more than coats in the road, cheap religious pageantry and fancy liturgy, more than green leaves. What they wanted flipped and cursed is not what Jesus flipped and cursed.

We still do it, try to make Jesus conform to our particular brand of politics; it is so much easier than conforming our politics to Jesus. It is easier to pick a crowd to march and scream with than to deal with the tables that need to be flipped and the fruit that is missing. On the flipside it is easy to make following Jesus something that is merely personal, to claim a private relationship with Jesus that has no connection to the public and political. Don’t be fooled, it has its own “money changers” who convert the Christian life into a spiritual form of self-indulgence, a personal spiritual retreat where justice, poverty, sacrifice, suffering, involved compassion rarely make it into our prayers unless we ourselves need help, where there is lots of green but little or no of kingdom passion and fruit.

After they welcomed Jesus they picked up their coats, but “(Jesus) said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” Luke 9:23 (ESV, parenthesis mine).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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You and I are headed for either victory or defeat, the resurrection of the righteous or the resurrection of the wicked, heaven or hell. “…  there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous (just) and the wicked (unjust)” Acts 24:15 (NASB, parenthesis mine). “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” Matthew 25:46 (ESV). “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” 1 Corinthians 15:26 (ESV). “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” Hebrews 9:27 (ESV).

Maybe that’s not what you want hear, but it is what you need to know. Maybe you have a semi or full-blown allergic reaction to being called wicked; you just don’t see yourself in the same boat with those who you think are really wicked. But this is not about how we look at ourselves, or how others rate us. No, it this is about hearing God, about how things really are. The fact is that all of the scriptures you read above are true and apply directly to you.

Luke records two of Jesus’ parables that ought to make us cautious about declaring ourselves okay. In one Jesus tells of guy who obviously worked hard, was successful enough to retire early, and for all we know was a decent person. Yet all of his life calculations were off, he died on the front end of his retirement, and God’s warning about him was, “’You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” Luke 12:20-21 (NIV). The second one wasn’t poor either, he liked to party, the indulgent life, the “it’s mostly about me life,” ignoring what he knew God had said and wanted. He too died, as will we, and he, like us, faced all you read in the scriptures cited above. Jesus describes his reality after death, In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up (too late) …” Luke 16:23 (NIV, parenthesis mine). I am willing to bet that neither of these men, nor their friends would have considered himself “wicked.” Both vividly illustrate that you and I on our own are headed for certain defeat, death and God’s judgment will catch up with us.

This is why you and I need Jesus Christ. What you believe about him and do with him will determine God’s judgment over your life, it will decide which resurrection you will participate in, he is the difference between heaven and hell. Christ defeated that which we cannot: sin, wickedness, the devil, and death. He is able to save, to forgive, and to give eternal life. He, by his own power and righteousness stepped out of the grave victoriously (What are your and my chances of doing that?). But don’t just take my word for it, here is what God’s word says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16 (ESV). “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” 1 John 5:11-13 (ESV).

You and I are headed for certain defeat unless we decide to put ourselves into the victor’s, Jesus Christ’s hands. Do so today.*

Happy Easter, Pastor Hans

* If you are unsure of how to make a beginning with Christ, find a Bible and read Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:9, 10:9-10 &13. Or contact me 209-852-2029, dergermanshepherd@gmail.com, or visit our church.

 

 

 

 

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How Many Nails in Easter?

The answer is five, Easter has five nails.

On what do hang your hopes? Good luck? Your wealth? Your health? Your family and friends? Your own intelligence? An experimental drug? …?

What nail does your future hang on? Your charisma? Some special ability? …?

I have seen my fair share of rusty, bent, and failed nails – in hospital rooms, hospice beds, at crash sites, in treatment centers, living rooms, jails, prisons, counseling sessions, and at gravesides. I have not only seen them I have experienced failed nails in my own life, the pain, the confusion, the grief, and disappointment that comes with hanging life on the wrong nails.

Those Easter nails are significant because they offer us our only shot at real hope, lasting life, getting it right before God. You hang your hopes and your life on anything else and you will in the end find it all broken on the floor like a picture that has fallen off the wall.

Five nails. Three made sure Jesus really died. They fastened his hands and feet to a cross until every ounce of his life was drained out. On those three nails hang the redemptive purposes of God. God sacrificed his own Son so that by his death we might have life. One nail held Pilate’s sign posted above Jesus’ head, declaring “the King of the Jews.” Pilate made a common mistake. He didn’t think Jesus had any significance for him. He didn’t post his complete title, “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” He, like you and I, should have hung his life on Jesus’ identity, but he relegated Jesus to only having significance for the Jews, good for someone else. He stuck with the rusty nails of his own beliefs. And there is the fifth nail, the one that nailed God’s indictment of each one of us to the cross of Christ, the one that lists our personal sins and transgressions, the one that renders each one of us guilty before God. Paul reminded the Colossians who had trusted in Christ, “He made you alive with Him (Christ) and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14 (HCSB, parenthesis mine). It is the nail that spells hope and life for sinners.

This Easter examine the nails and make sure  your hopes, your future, your life hangs on the Easter nails.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Easter Questions

How long can you live without breathing? – Minutes.

How many days can you live without water? – Days.

How long could you live without eating anything? – Weeks.

How long can you live without Jesus? – Both milliseconds and years.

You and I exist from moment to moment only because the entire universe, every atom and particle, is sustained by the power of Christ, “For everything was created by Him (Christ), in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together” Colossians 1:16-17 (HCSB, parenthesis mine). On the other hand you and I can ignore, deny, or be against Jesus our entire lives, till our very last breath.

What has been the most important day of your life? – The day of your birth? Some other significant day? The day you became a believer in Christ?

What has been the most significant event all of human history? – Easter, Jesus Christ, incarnate God, conquering sin and death on a Roman cross, his corpse sealed into a tomb, and risen from the dead three days later. God, through the life of his Son, loving you and me at an unimaginable depth and offering forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption, a place in his family, and eternal life to sinners like you and me. There is no more incredible and significant event in all of history.

If you are scratching your head saying, “I don’t know?” or if you profoundly disagree consider the words of the Apostle Paul, “The message of the cross (Easter) is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.” So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” 1 Corinthians 1:18-24 (NLT, parenthesis mine).

My son is a diabetic. He needs insulin to live. He can complain, wail against the unfairness of it, summon his philosophical and theological objections, but that will not change a thing about his condition. No one is making him take his insulin, watch his diet, and adopt the lifestyle of a diabetic, but if he wants to live, if he wants to be well, he will. He can ignore his doctor, play Yoyo with his blood sugar, and drink or bathe in sugar, but he will not be able to escape the consequences that come with that. He can be offended, he can deceive himself into thinking it is all a bunch of …, but none of that diminishes his need for insulin.

You and I are sinners; sinners need the cross of Christ, the power of Christ to save them. The cross of Christ is not meant to offend, it is not foolishness, it spells hope and life. None of us will escape the consequences of our sins, none of us can conquer death, no one will survive the scrutiny of God’s judgment, and no one will live in the presence of Almighty and Holy God except through Jesus Christ.

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 (NASB)

Happy Easter, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Gophers and ground squirrels committing acts of subterranean terror, wood peckers in senseless destruction drilling holes into my house or by my office, ants trying to take over our home like Russia annexing Crimea, and termites like the NSA in cloaked secrecy chewing away on what is precious to me – my animosity, my loathing, my outcry over these is no secret.

These critters are relentless, the damages attributable to them are significant, and their consciences don’t seem to be all that bothered. I wonder if there is a rodent hell, a wood pecker purgatory, an eternal lake of fire for termites and ants? If not, there should be. This kind of destruction, havoc, senselessness, disrespect, and lack of caring should not go unaccounted for. There should be some kind of justice, shouldn’t there?

But what is our excuse? We are the creature with the most advanced brain, we are capable of figuring things out peacefully, we are able to empathize more deeply than any living thing. It is possible for us to make good choices that go beyond basic instinct, beyond emotion, beyond rage, beyond hatred, beyond what is just good for us. And yet no creature God has made is more  destructive than us, than mankind. We are politically destructive, ecologically destructive, economically destructive, emotionally destructive, personally destructive, and even spiritually destructive. Yet somehow we are prone to cry foul at the very notion that God would hold us accountable, that he would judge us for our evil, our failure to do good, are unwillingness to live for the highest ends of loving God and loving our neighbor.

Another observance of Easter, the recognition and celebration of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, conquering sin and death and rising from the dead, is approaching. I wish there was a gospel for gophers and the like. However, there is a Gospel for you and for me, for people. Unlike me, who has trouble eliminating a few gophers and ants, God could have exterminated us all, and no one could have faulted him because our collective and personal history indicts us. He could have responded with pure and justified hatred towards all of mankind. Somehow he didn’t and instead of withdrawing personally and emotionally He drew closer, and engaged himself deeper. He chose to love, to offer hope, to provide atonement and forgiveness, to conquer what we cannot – our sin and the reality of death.

I have no desire to become a gopher, to dwell among ground squirrels, to be part of a termite colony. As you well know, I have no love for any of them. But God in Christ chose to dwell among us, that’s incredible. On the one hand it brings incredible hope to our moral, existential, and spiritual dilemma; on the other hand it robs us of our last excuse of having no other option than to be who we are.

Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.”
Romans 5:7-10 (NLT)

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Some things only God can do. Only He can create a universe out of nothing except himself. Only He can lay eternal plans. Only He can execute perfect justice. Only He can save and forgive a sinner. Only He can raise the dead. Only He can instantly restore withered limbs and open blind eyes. Only He can do the impossible.

 

Sometimes the things only God can do become our excuse to do nothing. Often, very often, God chooses to work through you and me, through our capabilities, our limitations, our frailties, to accomplish His glorious will.

 

Remember Boaz, the kinsman redeemer, in the Old Testament book of Ruth. Yes, he illustrates the ultimate redeemer Jesus Christ, who alone can redeem our souls. But Boaz also illustrates God calling us to live redemptively here and now. Redemption is not just about going to heaven but also about our responsibility to engage in the symphony God has orchestrated around us and relinquish our insistence to play our own tune.

 

Redemption is not needed where nothing is broken, where nothing needs restoring, where there are no needs. But that is not the reality of our world, not even cozy Don Pedro. Boaz had to decide, and so do you and I, whether or not he would live redemptively in the context God had placed him in.

 

What does it look like to live redemptively? You use your blessings to bless, you grant mercy because you received mercy, you care because you are cared for, you love because you are deeply loved, you give because you have received (Ephesians 1:3; Matthew 18:33; Luke 3:11; Matthew 11:28; Galatians 2:20; Matthew 10:8; Acts 20:35). What God has poured in, filled up, restored, and healed, you and I pour out and employ where and when we can.

 

It is the week after Easter, the celebration is over, everyday life has returned. That’s where the challenge is, that’s where we are supposed to live like Easter people. There was another besides Boaz whom God gave an opportunity to act redemptively. He thought that gave him an opportunity to increase his wealth, but when it became clear that redemption is about people he checked out (Ruth 4) with some kind of lame excuse. I pray that will not be you and me.

 

Finally, how serious is God about us living like Easter people? What difference does letting redemption play out in my everyday life make? For the answer would you take the next five minutes and read Matthew 25:14-46.

 

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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