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 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 (NLT)

 I learned something this week (no snide comments needed): Don’t delay Granny when she is wanting to see her newborn grandson. I am telling you this is serious business. Who knew? And why wasn’t I told?

There is something incredibly amazing about holding a newborn baby. That totally helpless, completely dependent little person has already expanded history. He has grown the love of his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and nephew. We, his family, have been entrusted with him, we bear lifelong responsibility towards him. It would be unthinkable to discard him, it would wrong not to love him, take care of him, meet his needs, have noble dreams for his future.

His little amazingness didn’t start at 5:30 AM on Monday morning. The Biologist, the theologian, modern medicine, and his parents all know when little Grady’s life began – the very instant he was conceived. He, like us, didn’t begin his life subhuman with a need to acquire humanness and personhood somewhere along the way. From the moment he was conceived, we, his parents, his family, his doctor, his community, his country never have had any legitimate freedom to see him and treat him as anything but a human being, a full member of the human race. We bear individual and collective responsibility to love him. The second greatest commandment of God has applied to Grady, and every other human being, from the moment his DNA fingerprint existed.

Someone challenged Jesus Christ on this demand of God for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29), he asked in order “to justify himself.” Jesus’ reply was what is now known as the story of the “Good Samaritan.” Jesus made it plain that the man, a lawyer, was asking the wrong question. Wrong questions lead to wrong answers. Wrong questions are convenient when you want to skirt the real issues. According to God, to Jesus, “Am I a loving neighbor?” “Am I responding to people placed in front of me with compassion, with care, with mercy, with a willingness to take time, to meet their needs?” When you ask those questions the issues of inconvenience, disruption, bad timing, etc. go right out of the window. The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” does not exclude pregnancy. In fact, no one will ever encounter a more vulnerable, dependent person than a child in the womb. That little girl’s or boy’s life depends on the mother keeping the second most important commandment, on his mother to love her/him as herself. It depends on us as a people to apply the same commandment to every human being, to ask the right questions, and to encourage and support every woman who choses love.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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On the way to my oldest daughter’s wedding I thought about commitments we make in life, after all marriage is supposed to be a commitment “till death do us part.” If you think about it, there are not too many commitments that are meant to be life-long.

 

Our commitment to God through Christ is meant to be for life, until we take our last breath (2 Timothy 1:12-14).

 

Our commitment to our spouse, if we see it as God means for us to see it, is to the end of our days, a God-ordained union we are not to sever (Mark 10:9).

 

Our commitment to our children, if we have been blessed to be parents, is supposed to be for life (Psalm 127:3; Proverbs 13:22). We cannot un-mom or un-dad ourselves; the question is merely what kind of parents we will be.

 

Our commitment to the body of Christ, the church, sometimes also referred to as the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:25-32). Every believer becomes part of Christ’s body through the work of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). Being committed to Christ means being committed to his body, contributing to the functioning of his body (Romans 12:3-6).

 

Have you ever thought about how much hurt, pain, frustration, and heartache come into the world when we enter into life-long commitments and then break them? The devil and his minions work overtime to sidetrack us from them, to think of them as being less serious as they are, to fool is into underestimating the consequences of not honoring them. On the flipside there is enormous blessing that flows into and through us when we stay fully committed to Christ, to our spouse, to children, and to Christ’s body.

 

In order to keep these life-long commitments love and perseverance are indispensible. Real love just won’t quit, it “always perseveres,” “endures through every circumstance,” “keeps going to end” (1 Corinthians 13:7 NIV, NLT, Msg).

 

There is good news about these life-long commitments, they are God’s idea and God supports his ideas. We do not ever have to wonder whether or not God will help us with our commitment to Christ, with staying faithful to our spouses, with being a parent, and with belonging to and being active in Christ’s body. God is committed to walking with us, blessing us, keeping us, strengthening us, and making us blossom into something beautiful when we honor these commitments for life.

 

I am in. I hope you are too.

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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“A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children” Proverbs 13:22a (NASB)

We are going to leave something to our kids, it is not a matter of if but of what. Leaving them something good and worthwhile requires we recognize how important that is and the determination to do something about it, that in turn requires the determination to be good ourselves because we usually produce what we are, or as Jesus put it, “The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him” Matthew 12:35 (NIV). It is tough to hear it that bluntly, isn’t it? So what will your children inherit? Not just financially but culturally, ethically, intellectually, and spiritually? Are we passing an inheritance of blessing, of how to think, how to be, how to act, how to care, and how to worship?

Good doesn’t just happen; you have to work on good. Ordinary, mediocre, messes just happen, but good takes concentrated and sustained effort. You have to want good, practice good; excellence and blessing rarely just happen. You only get an inheritance if someone didn’t spend it all, if someone was smart, if someone saved, if someone cared enough to pass something on. To a good man/woman that’s important, to good parents and grandparents that’s important.

To be good, to do good, to pass good things on you have to know what is good, good has a definition. Good was good before we came along and good will still be good after we are gone. Good is not arbitrary, it is constant, it is eternal, it finds its roots in the reality and truth of God. We, the parents, the grandparents, our children, and grandchildren have the ability to alter the meaning of good (which far too often renders good no good) but ultimately we will be held accountable to God’s definition of good. Thus the wise man, the wise woman, wise parents will be careful to pass on a spiritual inheritance even more than a material inheritance. Our kids are not blessed if they are rich and godless, if they are wealthy and wicked, if they have the “good” life but are immoral, if they have opportunity but don’t perceive it as a means to care about others and to glorify God.

A good and sizeable inheritance enables, it gives future generations a head start, that’s why good men and women work on leaving one to their children and grandchildren. This is why we should care about politics, the national debt, justice, hatred and bigotry regardless which flag it hides behind, violence, education, personal responsibility, wickedness, freedom, education, values, morality, and our responsibility before and accountability to God.

“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” Ephesians 6:4 (NIV).

“For what does it profit a man (woman, child, son, daughter, grandson, or granddaughter) to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?” Mark 8:36 (NASB).

Let’s leave our children and grandchildren an awesome inheritance, one that God would applaud.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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For as long as have had the awesome, God-given, privilege of being a Dad I have wondered about the best things a Dad can do for his kids. My motivation was that I did not want to screw up, hurt, or negatively impact the lives of the children entrusted to Susie and me, instead I wanted to be a source of blessing, a contributor to my children’s success, a source of joy, and an example of wisdom, integrity, faith, and godliness. Thus I have observed, picked the brains of Dad’s I admired, read books, contemplated, attended seminars, and studied the God’s word (the Bible). Here are a few things I have learned:

Don’t

  • Be stupid. Stupid is never funny, kid’s pay a high price for parental stupidity.
  • Be absent. You can never be a good Dad if you don’t show up.
  • Be drunk, high, or addicted, unless you want to curse your children.
  • Be violent or abusive. A strong and good man does not hurt or abuse his children.
  • Be a jerk, you’ll make your children angry.
  • Think that giving your kids stuff will make anything.
  • Live your dreams through your kids.
  • Chase the American dream, have a kingdom of God dreams instead.
  • Break your word or lie. Let your children be able to trust what you say.
  • Sin, sin is always corrosive and destructive. And if you sin do don’t cover it up but quick to repent.

Do

  • Get involved in your children’s lives, you they will be the richer for it.
  • Show your love in as many ways as you can. There is safety in love.
  • Affirm your kids in who they are, help them to be all that God has made them to be.
  • Laugh, have a great sense of humor. If your kids make fun of us in front of us they’re not afraid of us. This will also help in not making mountains out of mole hills.
  • Have a plan, a clear picture of what you want your kids to be like. Great parents don’t leave things up to chance.
  • Have standards when it comes to conduct, character, courage, commitment, chores, community, charity, quality (working hard and doing things right), compromise, and compassion. Make sure you model them or it will be a tough sell.
  • Love their Mom, openly, constantly, and beautifully. It sets a tone. It exposes your kids to something rare and precious, it will also undermine their efforts to divide and conquer.
  • Earn and require respect. Respecting Mom, siblings, other people (even those who you don’t like or disagree with) is not an option.
  • Make room for expressing anger, but never let anger be expressed in sinful ways. This means you have to be really good at it yourself.
  • Apologize when you messed up. Eat crow when you need to. Model how to take responsibility and not make excuses.
  • Encourage your kids to dream, to try things, to not be afraid of failure.
  • Use your mouth to bless your kids, to sow good things into their hearts and minds, to cheer, to encourage, to be kind, to build up, to be straight forward, to set a beautiful tone in your home and your relationship with them.
  • Love all the things God loves: Jesus Christ, people, the church, the Bible, generosity, justice, compassion, creation, doing good, sinners being found, worship, praise, blessing others.
  • Pray yourself, as a family, with their Mom, with others. Pray constantly, pray bold, pray with your mind and heart engaged. Ask for big and important things regarding your children and family. Pray beyond everything to merely be smooth and effortless in your children’s lives.
  • Strive to be consistent in your conduct, discipline, and behavior.
  • Shoot for being the godliest Dad you could possibly be, for your kid’s to be able to call you a man of God.

 

Ancient King David is near the end of his life. He is busy organizing everything so his son Solomon is set up for success, and then David prays, “Give my son Solomon the wholehearted desire to obey all your commands, laws, and decrees, and to do everything necessary to build this Temple, for which I have made these preparations” 1 Chronicles 29:19 (NLT).

To God be all glory. Happy Fathers’ Day, Pastor Hans

 

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Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” Genesis 2:18 (NASB)

Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment. Proverbs 18:1 (ESV)

For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. … The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 1 Corinthians 12:13, 21 (ESV)

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:23-25 (ESV)

Do you live in spiritual community? If you are a Christian you should show up, go to church, be with other believers, you can’t have any sort of community if you do not show up. Showing up regularly should be a foundational habit; you should not even have to think about it, it should be “normal” for every believer.

Spiritual community is more than going to service, it is a way of life, the interaction does not stop when you leave the church service. In spiritual community, in a real church family, you develop a closer circle of brothers and sisters. Men and women with whom you pray, are honest, and seek to encourage each other to grow in Christ and do God’s will.

You can go to church and still isolate yourself. You can go to church and participate in nothing but small talk and superficiality. You can go to church not at all participate in the opportunity of, Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17 (ESV). You can go to church and interact with other believers and be nothing but a fountain of negativity, carnality, and worldliness. You can go to church and be alone.

Do you have brothers and sisters (it is both right and good foe Christians to think of each other as family) who really know you, who challenge you, with whom pray outside of church gatherings? Do you have brothers and sisters in your life with whom you not only talk about personal issues of life but about kingdom of God issues, the knowing and doing of God’s will? Fellowship where the word of God becomes conversation, where the leading and impressions of the Holy Spirit are shared, and where you are encouraged to dream kingdom dreams and give you all for Christ and his Gospel? Are you surrounding yourself with people who seek and practice that kind of fellowship?

The wise Christian does show up, faithfully, rain or shine, but the wise Christian never settles for just showing up.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Some things don’t mix well, fire and gasoline , coffee and pickle juice, ants and a kitchen, war and peace, lies and a clear conscience, wisdom and foolishness, love and fear, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love 1 John 4:18 (NIV). That’s why violence, abuse, uncontrolled anger, alcohol and drugs, cheating, lying, deceit, manipulation, selfishness, bitterness, and foolishness do not mix with romance, marriage, family, community, and a life with God.

When you are constantly in fear of the other shoe dropping, when you are constantly walking on eggshells, when you are always ducking outwardly and inwardly, when you are in constant dread of embarrassment, when words no longer hold water, when it all can blow up any second, when things are constantly out of control, when you are way past the first time, when the not normal becomes normal, when trust is a foreign word, when deceit not surprising, when disappointment is expected, when addiction and abuse have moved in, then you will find imperfect, twisted, perverted, and sick love.

Love is meant to beautiful, without fear, free of constant worry of it turning ugly. In the scripture quoted above the New King James Version uses the word “torment” instead of the “punishment.” Real love does not feel like torment, does not live in dread of torment, does not dish out torment. In fact where real love is growing, where real love is pursued fears are growing smaller and fewer, and torment is never a fit description.

Our problem is that so many of us are all too familiar with the tormented, sick, twisted, manipulative, and hurtful ways masquerading as love. The sad thing is that we are prone to settle for and repeat that which we know. It is easy to be in and get caught up in this web of love gone wrong, sometimes of no fault of our own, sometimes because of our own decisions, often because of both.

The good news is that God did not have the Apostles John and Paul (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) write about love in terms of mere definition or diagnosis. No, God had them write of what is possible, not just of what should or shouldn’t be, but of what can be. What may not be possible on our own is possible with God, “What is impossible for people is possible with God” Luke 18:27 (NLT). It is possible to walk with God and escape cycles and chains of the past. It is possible to walk with God and get out of darkness. It is possible to walk with God and learn from him how to love. It is possible to walk with God and grow in our capacity to love. It is possible!

When it comes to loving perfectly I am far from what I want to be, but God has been helping me to grow, especially when it comes to love. I am committed to real love because I don’t like the alternatives, because it is and feels right, and because God “renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake Psalm 23:3 (HCSB).

This Valentines weekend, if nothing else, make a start, be broken and repent of your wrongs, especially in regard to love and those you should love. Address that which is broken and twisted, pour out the full measure of your fears, and then take the loving hand of God to learn love without fear.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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My Little Big Brother

I have two older brothers. One is my big big brother, Michael, and the other is my little big brother, Andreas Paul. Andi, is the little big one, little because size-wise he was the smallest of us five, big because other than his size there really wasn’t anything little about him. He was big in his influence, certainly on me. He was big in faith, big in heart, big in generosity, big in smarts, skill, energy, people skills, and huge in will power and tenacity. He was big enough for someone to model their life after him, big in true friendship, big as Dad, big as a husband, big as doctor. Like I said, he is my little big brother.

 

In my opinion everyone should have a little big brother like that because you if you have one your life is so much better, so much richer. A LBB (Little Big Brother) is great to have if you want someone to ditch Kindergarten with for the very first time. A LBB is an excellent companion to sneak out of the house with in the middle of the night to do stuff you shouldn’t do. But an LBB is not just good for doing stupid stuff when you’re young, you learn of his real value as you go through life you can talk with him, pray with him, worship with him, and lean on him. A LBB gives you all kinds of reasons to be proud of him, you can brag on him and it is not really bragging because it is true (mostly, except when you get carried away – but no one will blame you).

My LBB is down to his last few breaths, too soon, much too soon. Soon he will be buried; fortunately he began digging a long time ago and buried things in my heart, in my mind, in my memory. It is treasures he buried there, it’s what LBB’s do, they make you rich, they leave inspiration, they leave life, they never leave things empty. But have to warn you, it’s hard, very hard, to say goodbye to your LBB. I think it is because they are so precious, so irreplaceable, so darn easy to love, but that too is typical of my LBB.

Faith, faith in Christ changed him, challenged him, keeps him. You would have a completely false picture of my Little Big Brother without his faith. When he surrendered his skepticism he also surrendered himself. When he drank from the cup of God’s grace he didn’t just sip and so he anchored it all in Jesus, his soul, his marriage, his family, his giftedness, his work, his passions, his days. When towering flood waves overran the shoreline of his life and swept out to sea his health, his career, his speech, and so much more, that faith remained. In the struggle to reclaim, to rebuild, and in the relentless pounding surf of “Why? Why? Why?” that faith remained. And so my LBB is not just leaving behind precious memories but real hope, the hope that comes when you can call Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the one who lived, and died, and rose again, your brother, “So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters” Hebrews 2:11 (NLT).

My Little Big Bother’s last words to me were, “Liebe dich sehr” (love you so).

To God be the glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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