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Archive for the ‘encouragement’ Category

When a doctor gets sick of sick people, that’s a problem. When a pilot begins to loathe flying, that’s a problem. When a cook becomes disgusted by cooking, that’s a problem. When a teacher starts disliking students, that’s a problem. When a preacher/pastor hates church, that’s a problem. And, when Christians are down on the church, that’s a problem.

So, think with about the church for a minute:

It was Jesus’ idea to form the church, “… I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” Matthew 16:18 (NLT2). So to think of the church as something irrelevant and unimportant or worse is to call Jesus’ plan for his church a bad idea.

Jesus is the head of the church, “He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything” Colossians 1:18 (HCSB). So, it makes little sense to proclaim a personal relationship with Jesus but have no connection and submission to his church.

Jesus loves and died for the church, “… Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her” Ephesians 5:25 (NLT2). So, how can I claim to love Jesus and love what he loves and paid the ultimate price for?

The church is the body of Christ, “Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part” 1 Corinthians 12:13-14 (NLT2). So, since the same Holy Spirit who regenerates a sinner at the moment of salvation also places every believer in the body of Christ, I have no business living a life outside of that body.

The church is central to God’s plan and work in our world, “Through Christians like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!” Ephesians 3:10 (MSG). So being apathetic and disconnected from God’s church also I am not fully participating in God’s plan.

Jesus takes his church very seriously. So, he continually works on it, refines it, confronts it, encourages it, watches out for it, Revelation 2-3, Ephesians 5:26), and should not take it any less serious.

Church, being part of a church, participating in the work of the church is meant to become a habit, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV). So, I need to learn to be so involved and committed to the church that I no longer have to think about my commitment to it, my participation in it, my showing up for it.

We live in an I-Me-Mine culture, the Christian life is a stark contrast to this, it is about Him-You-Us-We (which is not to say that God does not care for each one of us individually and in Christ saves each one us personally). Switching from one to the other takes some major adjusting, reordering, rescheduling, and a total commitment to personal holiness and full participation in the body of Christ, his Church.

So, did you notice? This preacher is still high on Jesus’ Church, and the local body he has called me to pastor, hoping you will share the same appreciation and enthusiasm.

So, does your Christian life reflect an understanding of Christ’s church? Are you as committed the church, the body of Christ, as God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit would have you?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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We are in the last week of 2019 and are about to step through the front door of 2020, which means we are finishing and starting, again. Both, starting and finishing can be difficult, and how well you do both makes a difference, but you already knew that. Or maybe you didn’t want to be reminded because it makes you feel too guilty, which is just too bad because I’ve already started this pastor’s note and I am determined to finish it.

2020 has my 60th birthday and 40th wedding anniversary on the calendar, considering that Social Security gives males an average life expectancy of 76.04 years, I am entering the last quarter of my life and the third period of my married life. Maybe I should move to Canada, it would net me an extra 4 statistical years and get me to 80. Regardless, because of my age, I need to consider finishing well issues, which means I might have to start some things in order to do so. You can’t finish well without starting the right things the right way.

I cleaned up my office desk today. Among the things on my desk were notes of premarital work I’ve been doing with three young couples. Their 2020 calendar entails different dates than mine, but by getting married they finished the single life. For sure they are starting all kinds of new things, and what and how they start will have a huge impact on their lives by the time they hit my age. That’s the very reason we did premarital work in the first place.

You don’t have to finish everything you start. Like a worthless book or bad movie, some things are a waste of time, and some things are just bad for you, you don’t have to finish your life smoking just because you started. Jesus, of course, left this life with the famous words, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), which meant he completed his life’s mission. On the other hand, he also left some things unfinished, for his disciples to finish, like his church and its work. So hopefully, even if I run out of time finishing them, I will not be shy starting things just because I am closer to the end.

2020, like every year, has a beginning and it will have an end, and the end will be determined by what we start and our commitment to the things we do in the long in-between before the end. I am hoping you and I leave 2019 and enter 2020 with a “Caleb Attitude.” At 40 he was voted down by his countrymen, at 80 he could have been really grumpy and cynical, but instead, he itched to see what God could do now, he was ready for a whole new chapter of life (Joshua 14:6-15), he still wanted to slay giants. His testimony, his reputation was that he “followed God fully.” Even after a 40-year detour, after his whole sourpuss generation was buried before him, he couldn’t wait to finish what God had him involved in starting.

Well, at some time, and I think we are there, you have to quit talking and get to the doing or else there is no starting and without starting there is no finishing well. 2020 is a great time to unleash your inner Caleb/Calebette.

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

 

 

 

 

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Praise the LORD! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heaven!
Praise him for his mighty works; praise his unequaled greatness!
Praise him with a blast of the ram’s horn; praise him with the lyre and harp!
Praise him with the tambourine and dancing; praise him with strings and flutes!
Praise him with a clash of cymbals; praise him with loud clanging cymbals.
Let everything that breathes sing praises to the LORD! Praise the LORD!
Psalm 150:1-6 (NLT2)

I am assuming, by the fact that you are reading this pastor’s note, that you are breathing, which means Psalm 150 above is talking about you.

You might not have enough breath to produce a blast out of the “ram’s horn,” maybe not even enough to get it to squeak, but if you have any breath you are capable of praising God, the LORD.

You might not have the skill to play the lyre, harp, strings, or flute, but if you are breathing right now you are capable of praising God, the LORD.

Your dancing days might be over and a tambourine in your hands might not be a good thing, but if you can wiggle just a bit and even if that little bit leaves you out of breath you can still and should still praise God, the LORD.

Letting you play the drums might be huge mistakes and the end of any band, but if you can bang two pots together you are capable of praising God, the LORD.

So, the question is: Are you praising God? Are you known as someone who habitually and continually praises God? Are you using your breath and the life your breath represents to praise God? Because, if I read the last line of Psalm 150 correctly, every living, breathing thing is meant to praise God, the Lord, and that includes the two living, breathing two of us.

The donkey living a few houses down uses his breath to praise God and when he does, you know it. The many birds around our houses give daily morning and evening concerts of praise even when they had a hard day or difficult week. How much more should you and I, image-bearers of God, excel in singing praises to God!

It’s a mistake to quit praising God, to shut down our ability to praise God, to use up our breath with complaints, fears, anxieties, trivialities, things that don’t deserve repeating, empty talk, ugly words, and songs dripping with negativity. Of all the creatures capable of praising God we are the ones who have to choose to do so, we can choose to so.

So, give it a try, get out a pot and a big wooden spoon, step outside with it, look up and begin praising God for his greatness and follow each statement of praise with a resounding “BANG!” On your way to work this week turn off the news, the talking heads, your song list, and instead spend some time praising God for who he is and what he has done in your life. At the dinner table share your “Today, I praise God for ….!” And next weekend, come to the “sanctuary,” God’s house, to lift up your praises alongside others who delight to use their breath to praise God.

To God be all glory! Have a great Thanksgiving. Pastor Hans

 

P.S. If you are not traveling this Thanksgiving, invite someone in your neighborhood who would otherwise be alone to be part of your Thanksgiving celebration and feast.

 

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There was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”
“Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”
But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.
When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”
This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
John 2:1-11 (NLT2)

You are probably familiar with the experience of running out of something, I sure am. I have run out of gasoline, money, food, water, cookies, whipped cream (Oh No!), prescription medicine, fishing bait, nails, and various other building materials, know-how, wisdom, options, excuses (probably a good thing) patience, tears, laughter, strength, kindness, time, and …

They’d served it all up, all the amphoras (think cases of bottles) were empty, not a drop of wine to be found. Even the water had run out. This party was going to end quickly. Funny how important food and drink are to keep a party going.

If you are familiar with running out of something, you are most likely also acquainted with the stress of running out. It is stressful to see your gas gauge flirting with “E” (for empty) and the next filling station miles away. It is even more stressful to actually run out and be stranded by the road with your little kids, who have already drained their bottles and Sippy-cups.

Since you are familiar with running out, you know it is also embarrassing. It is humiliating to be at the grocery checkout and what is in your wallet won’t cover what you have in your cart forcing you to take stuff out in front of your kids and the other folks in line. This under-planned and under-funded wedding was going to be the talk and laughter of the town and the horror story for all future weddings in Cana to avoid.

Jesus’ Mom caught it, while others were sipping the last of the wine she noticed the stress of the wedding planner, his forced smile, his whispers to the parents of the bride and groom. Some are much better at noticing people who have or are running out. Notice, she also didn’t snap a picture and pushed “send” to start the gossip. Instead, she turned to and inconvenienced Jesus for help. She knew he cares about people who are stressed, who are embarrassed, who are panicking, who are at their wit’s end, who have run out.

If you’ve run out, bring your empty to Jesus and follow his instructions, today.

If you see someone who’s run out and only God can fill this, take him, take her, with his or her empty to Jesus, today.

If you run into someone who has an empty and you can help fill it, be an extension of Jesus and follow his example and instructions, today.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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This morning I filled my coffee mug twice, my Musli bowl and stomach once, and all my morning hours even though got up way early. This past week we went camping with the family so we filled the truck bed with camping gear, the gas tank with diesel, the ice chests with food and drinks, several garbage bags (to the delight of the raccoons), our bellies with camping cuisine, our time with adventures, and our memories with joy.

Face it, in living life we do a lot of filling up, we have to, we get to, and it makes a difference what we fill up with.

  • It makes a difference what you put into our body, both in how well it functions and what it will crave.
  • It helps to fill up your bank account every now then, you’ll have less stress and you can pay your bills. But it also makes a difference whether your deposit was earned honestly or otherwise.
  • It is inevitable that your time will be filled up, but what you fill it with will determine if it is wasted or used wisely.
  • It makes a huge difference what you fill your mind with because it will establish how you think, what you will dwell on, and how you process life.
  • It is a vast distance between a heart filled with hate, bitterness, pessimism, grudges, and revenge, and a heart filled with love, kindness, optimism, goodwill, and forgiveness.

All of the above the Word of God/Bible addresses because it knows the realities of life, including the constant filling that we are engaged in. As followers of Christ, we are as engaged in these constant filling tasks and activities as much as anyone else, however, if we are going to be wise and godly when comes to this constant filling up in life the following are indispensable:

  • Constantly being filled with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:17-20). Which means to continually yield control to him in all we do, wherever we are, and in all we plan.
  • Constantly filling our mind and thinking with the written Word of God, the Bible (Psalm 1). Which means taking time to read it, meditate on it, and then trust it enough to apply it to real life.
  • Constantly praying. Which means running everything by God, seeking his will, his wisdom, his guidance, his presence, his glory, and refusing to live without it (Matthew 6:9-16).
  • Constantly living in community with other believers (Hebrews 10:24-25). Which means I recognize that only together with others can we be the body of Christ, and I need sisters and brothers in Christ pouring into me even as I pour into them (1 Corinthians 12-13, Ephesians 5:21)

Most every morning I get up and brew some coffee for Susie and me, filling my mug, usually at least twice. I didn’t always do that, but now I am pretty consistent with it. The same has been true of the four constant fill-ups I need as a follower of Jesus, a Christian. It took me a while, but now my life feels like an empty coffee cup in the morning without them.

To God 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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Replacing the kitchen sink took the better part of two years to get done. Well, it was one-hundred-and-one weeks of talking about it, checking into it, reminding me of it (very patiently I might add), consulting, talking about it some more, researching it on my laptop, and talking and thinking about some more, the actual doing of it took less than a week (thank you Richard Miller). Obviously, the problem here was getting started.

In our son’s senior year in High School Susie bought an old 1960 Ford pickup truck. We (think me) were going to fix it up and look really cool riding around in it. I got as far as getting firing it up once and then tearing out the gas tank and radiator to have them redone, and then it Hansi graduated and went to college, which was followed by his sisters going to college, and all our spare money going to college. So, the truck sat there year after year rusting away and occasionally, I would pump up the aging tires. We finally sold it, we had lost our passion for it, it was never going to get done. Maybe you have some projects, some tasks, some assignments that are waiting, are on hold, as well?

Our bedroom is a mess right now, we have been giving it a makeover. It was going at the rate of the kitchen sink, but we actually did get started in less than two years, and it is mostly done. The walls are painted, the new floor is in, the baseboards are installed, most of the clothes are back in the closet. But it isn’t finished. Susie’s side of the bed is impassable, the floor is covered with stuff, the walls are bare, and we’re thinking about a new bed frame (sound’s like a project within a project, which invariably moves the finish line). If we’re not careful, we will simply carve a walkway to Susie’s side of the bed and never finish.

Following Jesus has a beginning, middle, and end; it requires a starting, staying at it, and finishing well; it is comprised of a first step, many in-between steps, and a final step. Following Jesus means following him, being devoted to him, serving him all the way to the finish, “Enduring to the end,” Jesus called it (Matthew 24:13, Mark 13:13). The entire letter to the Hebrews is concerned about finishing the Christian life well, not quitting, not abandoning the race, not getting sidetracked by other projects, not losing our passion for Christ, “run with endurance the race set before us” Hebrews 12:1.

Scripture is replete with examples of believers who struggled with or didn’t finish well. Solomon, who got the title of Wisest Man, didn’t finish well. David, whom God called “a man after my own heart,” struggled with finishing well. Demas threw in the towel altogether. Most of the believers in the churches Jesus mentions in Revelation 2-3 were buckling at the knees, slowing down, getting sidetracked, were in danger of not finishing their Christian lives well, and Jesus repeatedly encouraged and warned them not to give up:

To him/her who overcomes, I will give the right to eat from the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.

Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life.

To him/her who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give him/her a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to him/her who receives it.

Only hold on to what you have until I come.

S/He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his/her name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his/her name before my Father and his angels.

To Him/her who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will s/he leave it.

To him/her who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne.
Revelation 2:7, 10, 17, 25; 3:5, 12, 21 (NIV, s/he and him/her, mine)

Maybe today is a good day to sing, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no slowing down, no wandering off,”* all the way to finish line.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

*(“I Have decided to follow Jesus” by Holland Davis & Eugene Thomas)

 

 

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