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Archive for the ‘forgiveness’ Category

I have double confession to make: 1. I am not good at giving gifts. I love to help, be generous, but gift-giving is not my spiritual gift. 2. I am not very good at receiving gifts either, a weakness for sure. I am way too German/Schwaebisch, which means I am terrible with “Kitsch,” useless, knick-knack, cheap stuff. When it comes to gifts the running joke and question in my family is whether I am going to take things back and exchange them. I am slowly improving, thanks to intensive tutoring by Susie (my wife, who is super good at the gift and receiving of gifts thing), but progress has been very slow.

Christmas is about giving and receiving, specifically God giving and us receiving. Above anything else, this Christmas would you think about, contemplate God giving us the ultimate gift (2 Corinthians 9:15) and your response to this gift of Jesus Christ.

However, before reflecting on God’s “indescribable gift,” Jesus Christ, think about everything else you have received from God. Let’s start from the very beginning. Your life, your first heartbeat, your first breath, all the way to this present moment is a gift from God. Your ability to laugh, cry, feel, do good, think, and chose, are all things God gave to you and me. The characteristics that make you you and me me, whether it is our tenacity, courage, boldness, tenderness, kindness, intelligence, handiness, …, are from God as well. The “lucky breaks,” the opportunities, the things you survived, can also be traced back to the giving heart of God. The fact is you and I have received from God all our lives, from the very beginning until now. It makes no difference whether you acknowledge this fact or sneer at it, it still stands as the truth; the only difference is that acknowledging it will make you grateful and not doing so will render you ungrateful, acknowledging it will cause you to have an increasing sense of responsibility towards God, disavowing it will cause you to be blind in your responsibility towards God. It is not a matter of whether you have received from God all your life but whether your life expresses your gratitude towards God.

Esau (Genesis 25-27, 25:34, 27:38) was born before his twin brother Jacob, which, in his ancient culture, meant he also got the significant firstborn rights and responsibilities. Unfortunately, he could have cared less about these gifts from God (admittedly, it is often hard to think of responsibilities as gifts), so in a careless moment he literally sold his birthright for a pot of stew, for mere pocket change. And he regretted it bitterly when it was too late. How grateful and careful are you for and with all God has given you up to this point in your life?

Esau is not in lonely company when it comes to being ungrateful for what God gave him, being careless with what God entrusted to him, shirking the responsibilities God handed to him. He is not the only sinner, the only one who has blown it, the only one who exchanged God’s gifts for something far less. No, you and are sitting right next to him in this historical boat (Romans 3:23). Which brings us back to Jesus, back to Christmas, back to God’s greatest gift, the gift that can save sinners, the gift that can help ungrateful screwups like you and me find forgiveness, restoration, and salvation. But like all gifts, it won’t benefit you unless you receive it, in this case him, Jesus Christ, God incarnate, God the Son, the Savior of the world.  “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of Go” John 1:12 (NIV).

To God be all glory. Let’s get ready for Christmas, Pastor Hans

 

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Amazing Grace and Ray Coffee,

I was his pastor for 33 years, in fact he, along with the others who voted in early August of 1984 to call me as the interim pastor of the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church, is responsible that I am your pastor today. He was about the age I am now when he cast that vote and I wonder how many times he wondered whether it was a smart move to entrust a stubborn German with the pastoral responsibilities of this flock. And, if I am honest there were times I wondered why in the world I signed on to be Ray’s pastor. Nevertheless, we ended up with 33 years of relationship and friendship, of sharing in God’s amazing grace.

From what Ray told me he was a rough, mean, hard-drinking, short-tempered man before God got a hold of him and he called on Christ to save him. He never did figure out why a girl named Barbara decided to love him and try to tame him, although she wondered a lot about how successful she actually was. Between Christ and Barbara, Ray did change, but growing spiritually was a struggle for him for as long as I knew him, “the old man dies hard,” the flesh wars against the spirit (Galatians 5:16-25). This struggle did make Ray more keenly aware that God’s grace in Christ was his only hope. He was saved by and died (“fell asleep” -1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), in amazing grace.

God assembled a small group of men and women in their late working and early retirement life to start a church here in Don Pedro. Everything that has happened in and through this local church body, this church family (that’s what it was for him) Ray has had a part in it, through serving, helping, building, giving, inviting, investing and showing up. This too is a result of amazing grace.

For Ray, like most of us, his greatest assets were also the source of his weaknesses. Ray had the gift of gab, the ability to communicate with complete strangers, to build relationships quickly, but his mouth also spoke when it should have kept silent, said things that were inappropriate, were ill-timed, and many times hurtful. His patriotism, service to the country, work-ethic, and dependability, were unquestionable, but they also could make him judgmental. His zest for life made him a person of action, but it also could make him selfish. So, it was more than just words when he sang about coming “to the garden alone” to walk and talk with God, to meet with living and eternal “Amazing Grace.”

I miss him, how could I not, 33-year relationships don’t happen all the time, 33- year friendships are a gift, 33 years of serving Christ together is precious. In this relationship, I got to graduate from the “kid” to “You are alright’’ to “my pastor,” I count that as a great honor, and as amazing grace.

To God be all glory. Pastor Hans

 

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“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus” Acts 15:11 (NLT). But that wasn’t what everybody in the room where the Apostle Peter spoke those words believed. It was their disagreement on this very point why they had this meeting in first place. It is still a point of contention today. So what do you believe when it comes to being saved?

Of course you have to first settle what is meant by “saved”? Saved from what? The short answer is, saved from sin, death, and the judgment of God. All three of these are universal afflictions, problems, and dilemmas for all of mankind, including you and me. They are as inescapable and as they are real.

Maybe your response is, “Hogwash, typical religious speak,” maybe the above merely elicits a benevolent but dismissive smile, maybe you agree but you have different solution from “the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” One thing is clear; we all believe something or another. However, mere belief does not make you right, or me for that matter, it simply puts us into different corners in the room of beliefs.

Some things are more important than others, and then some things are crucial. Of course it is difficult to agree on what those are as well. When Peter spoke the words you read above, he wasn’t suggesting that this was matter where everyone gets decide what works for him or her, that this was what he and some others believed but that someone else could believe something entirely different and be right. Peter wasn’t propagating the notion that what is most critical in regard to God, our sin, our accountability to God, and our eternal destiny is that we feel comfortable with it. No! Peter was declaring a fact, a universal truth, an inescapable reality, “We are all saved the same way, by the underserved grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are either saved by Jesus Christ or not at all, 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), “Anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment” John 3:36 (NLT).

You can insist on your opinion, shout as long as you want to from your corner of the room on how much you disagree, but it will not change your need salvation, for forgiveness, for eternal life. You can declare and embrace alternatives that sound good, seem reasonable, and feel right, but they will not eliminate your absolute need for Jesus Christ, There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” Proverbs 14:12 (HCSB).

I don’t trust myself to know enough on eternal matters, when it comes to God, concerning my sins, and how God will judge; neither should you. Doing so would be both foolishness and arrogance (both are an outgrowth of sin), the most tragic self-deception. No, on salvation we are wise to believe what God has declared, what God has revealed through his written word, the Bible, and most importantly his Son Jesus Christ. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation” Romans 10:9-10 (HCSB).

The question God wanted everyone in the room to ask was not, “How to be saved?” He had already spoken plainly on that, what everyone in the room with Peter should have asked him or herself is what you and I should ask ourselves, “Am I saved the way God says I need to be saved?”

Be saved today.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. If you have questions, need to talk, need more clarity regarding salvation, being right with and be at peace with God, please call me (209) 852-2029, or contact me at dergermanshepherd@gmail.com

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At the moment everything around us is awash in color, predominantly variations of green, but what stands out from this canvas of green are the specks of poppy orange, the stacks of lupine blue and white, the intense purple in tangles of common fetch, and if you peek down the hill behind our barn when the sun is setting the soft blues brodiaeas light up like tiny light bulbs. It is amazing how little color is needed to stand out, how breath-taking tiny dabs of beauty can be.

I wonder what God is trying to teach us through nature’s yearly dress up gala. God does speak through the things he brought into being, he reveals things about himself through what he created, his existence, his power, his greatness, his imagination, and much more are declared from mountain peaks to the depth of the seas, in the deserts and jungles, at the end of a microscope or a telescope. But to me, this spring, it is the littleness and the loudness of the dots of colors that has my attention.

Many springs I simply mowed them down, after all, when you have to mow you have to mow. But this year I left unmowed circles where the flag signals of flowers let me know, “I am here.” If I mow them down before they finish blooming and go to seed they won’t be back next year, and I do want them to come back and in greater numbers.

Flowers are not the only ones who know how to be beautiful. We, formed in the image of God and unlike flowers, can chose to be beautiful anytime and anywhere. Sometimes, no oftentimes, to many times I tell myself that it takes too much effort, that I need gallons of paint to really make a difference, and so I won’t open my little half pint, my small heart, my drab imagination to splatter what little I have.

We know how to beautiful. We could be beautiful every day. We could indiscriminately splatter love. We could unleash the brilliance of kindness. We could be like lupines and bring splendor to someone’s roadside. We know of the beauty of generosity, compassion, help, selflessness, goodness, justice, forgiveness, and so much more, and that we are capable of them, even if it is in just tiny measures. We know how to speak beautiful, encouraging, healing words. We know how to be beautiful. God has made us to be beautiful. And yet, I have to be reminded to by the flowers of the field.

How glad are they? Those who live where God has planted you? How glad are they for the color, the beauty you add to their field, their lives? Do you do so well that even the wicked mow circles around your splashes of color, hoping there will be more of it?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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What’s the best gift you have ever received? Maybe you are having a difficult me narrowing it down to just one, which simply means you are very blessed. Go ahead list some “bestest gifts you have received,” that immediately come to you mind:

If you are having too much fun remembering keep on going.

Here some of mine:

  • Many years ago my friend Art gave me a stainless steel Thermos coffee/tea mug. It has flown off the top of my car numerous times, been run over, misplaced, has traveled with me all over the world, and I still use most every day. Great gift.
  • Our Friend Robert gave us a Ford Ranger Pickup truck, which ended up paying for one of our daughter’s extensive orthodontic work. What a great gift at just the right time.
  • A lady in our church who encouraged me to continue my education committed herself to help foot the bill if I put in the work, and by doing so not only blessed me but gave the gift of better educated pastor to the whole church.
  • My brothers Michael, Andi, Friederich, und Peter, are among my bestest gifts ever. I can’t tell you much I have learned from them, how much I have received from them, the many things they have modeled for me to emulate, how much richer my life is because of them. Michael taking care of our parents and aunt/second Mom all the way to their last breath, caring for the people in his neighborhood, and his town. What an example. Little things like Andi teaching me about buying flowers, bringing home “prizes” for my love, my wife. Peter persevering through difficulties and dark, discouraging valleys where most would have given up. Friederich seeing the world with an uncommon empathy and his challenge to me not to err on the side of legalism.
  • You know how there is fashion jewelry, real jewelry, and the “’spensive” kind of jewelry that almost no one can afford. I once window-shopped in Zermatt, Switzerland, and there in the window of a jeweler were watches priced at over $500,000, which is slightly out of my price range. The other day the news reported that a 9.5 carat pink diamond was auctioned for over 17,000,000 dollars. When God blessed me with Susie as my wife, and then us with our children, he reached into his pink diamond jewelry box and somehow put some of those rare gems into my life. Wow.
  • There is so much I have not mentioned yet, the gifts of relatives and friends, opportunities, church family, the Bible, jobs, and ….
  • And then there is the “indescribable gift” of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, wrapping himself in human flesh, paying for my sin, rescuing me from the power of sin and death, granting me forgiveness, trading with me his righteousness for my unrighteousness, saving me from the judgment of God, giving me eternal life, imparting to me the Holy Spirit, and committing himself to me with eternal love. I respond with the Apostle Paul, Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NASB).

Happy Thanksgiving! To God be all glory!

Always remember, you are both loved and prayed for.

Pastor Hans

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Have ever had to call tech-support because you couldn’t figure something out on your computer? Maybe you tried to figure out your problem on your own and actually exacerbated the problem. Personally I like it when the tech on the phone just does that remote access thing and figures it all out. The other way is for him or her to walk you through it. For that to work you have do what you are told, “open settings, click on ‘the dummy messed it up rest button, …’” I wonder how much these techs laugh in the lunch room, “I just talked to this guy with a German accent, who deleted all of his emails permanently (which I did once) and expected me to work some miracle. Heck, he should have taken his computer to church for that and have the preacher lay hands on it and anoint it with oil.” I think I will call after lunch next time.

Anyway, the thing is that I don’t need to know as much as the computer tech but I have to trust what she says as she walks me through the fix it procedure. It is a step by step thing. I either trust the tech and follow the instructions even if I don’t understand them or the logic for and the reasons behind them. It is that way with life and God, with following Christ. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” Luke 6:34-38 (ESV).

You just read an excerpt of life instructions straight from God’s/Jesus’ lips. Let me ask you, did all of that make total sense to you? Did you fully understand all of the logic behind all of that? Did you immediately have several questions come to your mind? Frankly, I’d be surprised if you didn’t. Jesus lays out some very broad boundaries here, it is easy to get lost and confused there. How do you flesh this out? Where are the limits?

Jesus sums up the larger instructions (Luke 6:20-49), that include the above, with these words, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great”
Luke 6:46-49 (ESV).

I am sure you don’t need to call “pastor’s note support” to get the point. If you trust the tech, your doctor, your mechanic, your financial advisor, your …., then you follow their instructions. Now they all might be very good, even excellent, and you are better off because you trust them. But they are not near as expert and trustworthy as God/Jesus Christ. Will you and I trust his word and wisdom enough to do it, even when we do not understand it. We will live better lives if we do.

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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