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Archive for the ‘Easter’ Category

Of all the times, it started Easter weekend, sewer problems. The first sign, a smelly wet-spot behind the house. Digging up said spot revealed a collapsed pipe, which means there will have to be a whole lot more digging before this problem is rectified.

I knew we had a septic system, but I never knew exactly where it was, I do now. It has communicated, visibly and olfactory, saying, “You have used me, but you have not appreciated me. I have served you, but you have neglected me. Quite frankly, I have put up with you stink for decades but the way you have treated me really stinks!”

We, humanity, have always had a waste problem, we still do, moreso than ever. Often, we don’t pay any attention to it until it starts talking to us in our back yard. When the septic pumper guy opened the lids to the septic tank, the stern talking turned to a nauseating scream. Wow! And, Ugh! Close the windows, quick. Whatever Jeremy is getting paid, it isn’t enough.

At least there is a solution to this septic issue, other waste is much tougher to deal with. Some waste takes decades to decompose, some centuries, and radioactive waste like plutonium 239 has a half-life of 24,000 years, I-29 has a half-life of over 15 million years. But the most toxic and long-lasting human waste is produced by our sin, not nuclear power plants. Sin has eternal consequences, even a single careless word (Matthew 12:36), one bite of forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:13).

It would be nice if we could simply drop our sins into the toilet and pull the handle to flush it all down. It would be nice if we could drop it off at the landfill on toxic waste days, even if we had to pay extra. There is no place to take it, there is no one to can take it and render it harmless, transform it into something pristine and see-worthy like Glass Beach.

Actually, there is a place and someone. The place: The cross of Christ. The person: Jesus Christ. Only there and by him can our sin be disposed of, detoxified, disarmed. Only there and through Jesus can we be washed clean of the stench and filth of our sin. Only there and through him can a sinner be transformed into a saint. Only there and through Jesus Christ can the power of sin be broken, and sinners find forgiveness and eternal life.

So, a broken septic system fits perfectly with Easter, when God in Christ addressed our greatest need, our filth, our sin and offers us a chance to be clean. Which makes ignoring Christ and his cross the greatest foolishness, the most consequential decision of them all.

“But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6 (NKJV)

 “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT2)

“Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD (Jesus Christ) will be saved.” Romans 10:13 (NLT2, parenthesis mine)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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You can believe the earth is flat but that doesn’t make it so, your belief, however sincerely or fervently held, will not somehow deflate and flatten the globe. Personal belief does not change or invalidate truth, empirical or spiritual.

Martha, in a conversation with Jesus, professed her belief in a future resurrection of the dead, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” John 11:24-25 (ESV).

The intellectual elite of ancient Athens had a divided response when the Apostle Paul declared to them the resurrected Christ and the judgment of all people, which necessitates the resurrection of the dead, “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, ‘We will hear you again about this’” Acts 17:32 (ESV).

Festus, the Roman Governor, interrupted with a shout, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!” Acts 26:24 (NLT2), when Paul told his story of how he turned from being anti-Christian to be a devoted follower of Jesus and declared that the entire Old Testament predicted that One, the Messiah (the Christ) must die; two, raised from the dead, he would be the first rays of God’s daylight shining on people far and near, people both godless and God-fearing” Acts 26:23 (MSG, parenthesis mine).

The Jewish factions of the Sadducees and Pharisees were on completely opposite ends when it came to the resurrection of the dead, the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these”
Acts 23:8 (NLT2).

 You too are found somewhere on this spectrum of responses regarding the resurrection of the dead in general and the resurrection of Jesus Christ in specific. But the truth is whatever you and I declare to believe on this most important subject, none of us has any real authority to claim. What we say doesn’t make it so, doesn’t affect the truth of the matter one bit. We’d be unwise, dare I say dumb, to ignore empirical facts discovered by authorities in various fields of the study of our universe, planet, our bodies, medicine, … Because of the far greater consequences, we are even more unwise, foolish, to ignore the only true authority, Jesus Christ, on eternity, life, and judgment/justice, and settle for our own opinion, preference,  tradition, or human authority. What matters here is not what you decide to believe, you cannot shape spiritual truth any more than you can believe the earth into being flat, you have to believe, trust the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ and the spoken and recorded word of God, the Bible:

There will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. Acts 24:15 (NIV)

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. John 5:25-29 (ESV)

 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”
Jesus told her, “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. Do you believe this, Martha?”
“Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” John 11:23-27 (NLT2)

 The unchanging Easter and eternally most significant question is, Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life?

             To God and the risen Christ be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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“Follow me!” Jesus told Peter, Andrew, John, James, Levi, Matthew, … right down to you and me.  Did you notice? They never asked, “Where do we follow you to?” “How long do we follow you?” And, Jesus didn’t say, because the answers to these questions are implied, “Follow me, everywhere I go,” “Follow me, all the way into eternity.” That is a much further and a lot longer than we can imagine, but there is only one way to get there – following Jesus one day at a time, right down to our last day. Following Jesus is about following him today with the determination that, when we finally fall asleep tonight, we will get up and follow him tomorrow. Following Jesus daily requires at least three things:

  1. Letting go

“If you wish to be complete, … (let go of everything) and come, follow Me” Matthew 19:21 (NASB, parenthesis mine). It is foolishness to follow anyone or anything you can’t trust, and when it comes to eternity God/Christ is the only one we can trust. But we struggle with letting go, every bit as much as the young man Jesus was speaking to in the verse above. In order to follow Jesus today what do you need to let go of?

  1. Denying yourself

            “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me’” Luke 9:23 (NASB). If letting is hard, denying yourself is even harder. Sunday will be Palm Sunday; the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last time. The crowds wanted to install him as king, but he knew they would sing a different tune in just a few days. He knew he would be dead, crucified before the week was up. What would you do if you had only a short time to live? Jesus didn’t get out his bucket list and book some flights, not because he didn’t want to, but because he was more concerned with living out the will of his Father/God. For that to happen he had to deny himself, walk past his fears, and embrace his cross. In order to follow Jesus today what cross do you need to carry?

  1. Hearing Jesus’ voice

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” John 10:27 (NASB). Have you ever had a conversation with your GPS on your car dash? Nah, not you! Have you ever ignored that voice because you knew a shortcut, a better route, only to have to pull over to recalibrate because you got yourself completely turned around? There are no shortcuts to eternity, to holiness, to godliness, to Christlikeness, you have to follow the only one who knows and is the way, you have to stay close enough to recognize and hear his voice, and you have to do what he says. It is the only way to “get there.” In order to follow Jesus today what is he clearly saying to you that you need to obey?

I have found that the less willing I am to let go, the more I refuse to deny myself, the more selective I become about following what Jesus is saying to me, and soon become a confused and tired sheep living by my own strength and wisdom and will, which bring me nowhere near eternity. Make this Easter a surrender, a renewal, a recommitment to follow Jesus all the way into eternity.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tomorrow

Today was yesterday’s tomorrow and tomorrow will only come after today is done. Sometimes we can’t wait for tomorrow to come and then there are times we hope tomorrow will take its sweet time, but tomorrow will come at the steady pace it has always come, paying no mind to how we feel about it.

I suppose the way we feel about tomorrow depends a lot on how today goes and yesterday went; one thing is for sure though, it won’t be exactly like today or yesterday. It might look an awful lot like yesterday, or it might be worse, and hopefully, it will be better.

Few things impact our tomorrows more than what we do today, what we do with today. For Mary and Martha, the past week or more had been terrible. Their brother, the one they depended on got sick and died. The doctors couldn’t help, their prayers didn’t help, and Jesus the healer didn’t show up until today (a case of, “Where was God when we needed him?”), four long days too late. So, today was another day of grief, actually, worse grief, because Jesus showed up and it brought up bitter questions about last week. “Why didn’t you come sooner?” “If only you would have showed up this wouldn’t have happened!” were the first words out of Martha and Mary’s mouths. It’s bad when yesterday leaves you with gnawing questions and doubts, when yesterday buries today’s hope. Death just wreaks havoc with tomorrow; it is an enemy we cannot defeat.

To us, death seems and feels like the end of all tomorrows, but it isn’t. It can destroy the body but not the soul, only God has the power over both (Matthew 10:28). Jesus didn’t blame Martha and Mary for feeling the way they did, but he also pointed out that they still did not understand who he is. It is possible to have good theology (and certainly bad theology) without understanding, “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” John 11:21-27 (NIV).

You didn’t enter today and you are not reading this today without believing something, and whatever your beliefs are will impact not only your immediate tomorrow but also your eternal tomorrows. It is neither our beliefs in themselves nor the sincerity with which we might hold them that can defeat our reality of death and empower us to cling to life. It is not just a matter what we believe but more importantly who we believe in. Only Jesus Christ is “the resurrection and the life,” and only those who “believe in him will never die.”

The objections to the truth of Christ have been many: Too narrow, too simplistic, too unreal, too difficult to believe for a rational mind, too … They always will be just that, objections, unable to change the truth of Christ any more than the truth that tomorrow will come. The only way to be truly prepared for tomorrow is to believe in and follow Jesus Christ because we do not know what tomorrow holds, Look, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation” 2 Corinthians 6:2 (HCSB). The Easter question is whether you will believe in and follow Jesus Christ, crucified, buried, and resurrected today and not put him off until tomorrow or too late? How I hope you will.

Have a glorious Easter. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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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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