Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘future’ Category

“And they cast lots for them …” Acts 1:26 (ESV)

They set some criteria, prayed, and drew straws. If you are a church-going person, I imagine, you would be fairly familiar and comfortable with the first two in making a decision or appointing the right person for a leadership position. But then to wrap it up and make it official by drawing a name out of a hat?

Maybe you need a little more information on what happened there at the First Church of Jerusalem? Jesus had chosen twelve Apostles. One of them, Judas Iscariot, turned on him, betrayed him, and killed himself. This left a vacancy and they needed a replacement. Peter, himself being an Apostle, brought up the issue to the whole church (a congregation of about 120 faithful believers). The replacement candidate needed to meet certain criteria which qualified two people. So, who should they pick? That’s when they prayed, asking God to make his will clear to them, and then drew lots to decide between the two.

Do you think it would’ve been better for them to have a vote? Maybe not. Think about it, drawing names took all the politics out of the decision, no personal preferences or connections coming into play, no election winners and losers, and no blaming if the person made mistakes afterward.

What is equally interesting is that they only asked who qualified. They didn’t say, “All who qualify and want to, please raise your hand.” Whoever qualified, their names went into the hat. Keep in mind that this appointment would radically alter the life of the one chosen, they were conferring major and life-long responsibility. It seems, they considered the will of God and the need of the body of Christ (the church) as vastly more important than the personal implications for those who qualified. I dare say this is neither lukewarm Jesus-following nor casual church-membership. Makes me think of what Winfield S. Weeden penned, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give.”

“And the lot fell to Matthias, …” We are not told how he felt about it. For us, in our culture, in our day how we feel about it is important, so important that it is major criteria in our decision making, in what we are willing or unwilling to do. Maybe, this is why we struggle so often with our lot in life. How do we have to feel about the will of God before it is right? Before we are willing to embrace it? Matthias obviously thought the will of God and the need of Jesus love (the church, Ephesians 5:24) were much more important than his feelings, his fears, his reservations, his preferences, and his plans.

“Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus …” the other qualified candidate wasn’t chosen. He had three names; seems like he was better known, maybe more popular. The lot didn’t ask about his feelings either. No word on how he took it, how he felt about it, but we do not hear about any stink following Matthias’ appointment, no jealousy, no bitterness, no complaining. What we do know is that he was willing, that the will of God and Jesus’ church were so important to him that he did not shrink back from what God wanted and the church needed.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” (Edward Mote)

Coming back from a week of camping we drove past the heliport on the Lake Don Pedro dam. The Medi-Flight chopper, ambulance, and fire truck were all there. I found out later they were airlifting out a young person in dire condition. I am sure that for her family the day turned out nothing like they thought it would.

I made three visits (pastoral calls) on Tuesday. The first, to see a man who lost his wife of many years. The second, to see a lady who is dying and her husband who is taking care of her. The third, to see a man who’d just come back from a stint in the hospital. Things have not turned out like they hoped they would. All their plans and hopes have been interrupted, changed, permanently, and uninvited.

We know life is fragile, that it can turn on a dime, be completely altered in a split second, tear our hearts out, pay no attention to our plans, demolish our dreams, assign us paths we do not want to travel, and dish us up with more sorrow grief than we can bear. We long for permanence, for unchanging ground, but our reality is we live on the ever-shifting sand of a beach constantly moving in the daily ebb and flow, subject to sunshine and rain, gentle breezes and hurricane winds.

Susie and I pay for health insurance, home insurance, car insurance, life insurance (Which is really death insurance since it doesn’t kick in unless you die. But I suppose calling it that is not good for marketing), and maybe soon long-term care insurance. The hope is that we will not have to file claims, but the reality is that except for the life insurance we have had to use them all and were glad and grateful that we were insured because otherwise, things would have been even worse, and we would be flat broke. But none of these insurance policies have protected us from tragedy, from chaos, having to change our plans, from having to adapt and cope.

Wise women and men work hard at finding and embracing the truths, laws, principles, and ways that create the most stability, promote peace, and bring blessing. They also live without any illusions of being exempt from mortality and the unpredictability of life. And, they embrace God, who is permanent – eternal, unchanging – immutable, and perfect – holy. He alone can make eternal guarantees and sure promises. Only he can change the impermanent and mortal into the everlasting. No one else can save us from our human dilemmas, satisfy our thirst for permanence, and anchor our souls now and forever. Hear and respond to the words of Jesus, the Son of God, the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:30):

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 (NLT2)

I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth… And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT2)

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. John 11:25-26 (NLT2)           

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

“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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Mercy needs time. Being merciful requires, besides compassion and action, time. Those who need mercy today need both someone who will show mercy and time. All who are crying out for mercy around the world, the aliens, refugees, oppressed, mistreated, those deprived of justice, those who’ve made mistakes, and those who are repenting of wickedness and evil, are also hoping for time. Enough time for things to change, time for life to be better, time to have another chance to be better. The dilemma is that the very time those crying out for mercy need also gives evil, evildoers, corruption, and sin more time.

When it comes to mercy, Jesus left no doubt as to how he, God, wants us to function in time. He commands us to be merciful, expects us to be merciful, and blesses us when we are merciful, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” Luke 6:36 (NIV); Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” Matthew 5:7 (NIV). He wants you and me to become answers to those crying for mercy. He wants us to be the men and women who understand and live James’ point, Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom. For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” James 2:12-13 (HCSB).

It would be a grave mistake to conclude that since mercy triumphs over judgment that judgment has been rendered obsolete and is abolished. Mercy is not mercy if leads to a perversion of justice, the abolishment of judgment, “… it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” Hebrews 9:27-28 (ESV). The cross of Christ is both the most merciful and the most just act in all of history. It did not bypass the justice of God but rather satisfied it completely and doing so it enables the mercy of God to save even the worst sinner.

However, mercy does not buy evil, wickedness, and sin unlimited time. It does grant a sinner time to repent and in doing so give him or her a chance to do even more evil, but it will also not ignore the cries of those suffer that evil. The evil doers and merciless who died comfortably in their plush beds will not escape justice, “God has warned us that he’ll hold us to account and make us pay. He was quite explicit: ‘Vengeance is mine, and I won’t overlook a thing,’ and, ‘God will judge his people.’ Nobody’s getting by with anything, believe me”
Hebrews 10:30-31 (MSG); “… the day of the Lord (the day of God’s judgment, of Christ’s return) will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  … “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled”
1 Thessalonians 5:6 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

Today is a day of mercy, a great day to respond to God’s mercy, a terrific day to be merciful. Today is also a day God in his mercy has said to many, “Your time is up, time for judgment.” Only believing in and following Christ will prepare you for that day.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

Read Full Post »

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.
Luke 6:35-36 (ESV)

Mercy does give second chances but it does not abolish judgment or pervert justice, nor does mercy ignore what is wise and prudent. If you are familiar with the Bible (God’s written revelation) you know that God pushed the reset button on the human race once. Before he flooded the earth in the days of Noah people lived incredibly long lives, but, The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil… I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence’” Genesis 6:5, 13 (NLT2). However, the judgment God announced to Noah did not come for many years, years which God gave to Noah and his family to construct an ark (ship) and to preach to everyone the impending judgment and how to escape it (2 Peter 2:5). God in his mercy gave time for people to hear the truth and to repent, he “patiently waited” (1 Peter 3:20), but he also stayed true his word. Then, after the flood, God limited the human life-span to around 70 to 120 years (Genesis 6:3, Psalm 90:10); and, history has proven that we are capable of doing plenty of evil and violence in that time frame. There is a line when mercy becomes merciless. Giving a wicked man or woman a chance to repent and change is mercy, allowing him or her to go on and on enables him or her and is anything but being merciful to the victims. In fact, there are many instances when 70 to 120 years seems far too long to us.

God has set a cutoff time for each one of us, “And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment” Hebrews 9:27 (HCSB). And, God has set a final cutoff point for all of humanity and evil (2 Peter 3:3-18, Revelation 20:7-15). In the meantime God is amazingly merciful and confusingly merciful, seemingly giving evil and violence far too long a leash, far too much opportunity, giving people too much time to do unspeakable wrong. But, O how glad and grateful I am for every chance, for every opportunity his mercy has afforded me.

How are you responding to the mercy of God giving you time and opportunity? Are you taking that time and opportunity to enable you in your selfishness, your sinfulness, and wickedness? Or, are you the time and opportunity God’s mercy gives you to repent, to do good, to honor God, and to be prepared for the judgment? Your clock is running.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

Read Full Post »

Christians at the Ballot Box – Voting with Your Ballot, Voting with Your Life

Christians throughout history have gotten into hot water because being a Christian means being a citizen of heaven, of the kingdom of God, with Christ as king, “… our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ …” Philippians 3:20 (ESV). We value this citizenship above all others and our allegiance to Christ and his kingdom supersedes all other allegiances we might have. This is why Christians have been accused of treason and being disloyal to their country and earthly citizenship(s). This is why Christians have disobeyed laws that violated the laws and values of the kingdom of God and Christ the King. This is why the followers of Jesus have refused to blindly hitch their wagon to particular political movements, and never feel fully comfortable and at home until the return of our king. This is why true followers of Jesus seek his approval and the implementation of his will in all and above all else and are willing to pay the price this allegiance exacts in its interactions with the kingdoms and authorities of this world.

I am privileged to hold two earthly citizenships (United States and German); both of them are coveted by people around the world. It says something when people want to come to our land and neighborhoods. It means we are privileged and blessed to have abundance, opportunity, liberty, and a measure of peace, otherwise they would not want to come. According to the values of our heavenly citizenship that gives both the opportunity do good and the responsibility to share (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

The Apostle Paul also held two earthly citizenships (Jewish and Roman). The one that was coveted in his day was Roman Citizenship. The Bible records a conversation between Paul and a Roman Commander who was about to treat and punish him like Non-Roman, “The commander went to Paul and asked, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?’ ‘Yes, I am,’ he answered. Then the commander said, ‘I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.’ ‘But I was born a citizen,’ Paul replied (Acts 22:27-28 (NIV). Obviously, his Roman citizenship was advantageous to Paul and he did not hesitate to make use of what it afforded him, it was a privilege that he was born into, he was blessed with, and one which he did not abuse but instead used for the purposes of God. Neither his Jewish heritage and citizenship nor his Roman citizenship were his highest allegiance, his heavenly citizenship was. In fact, he didn’t think that they even came close to comparing (Read all of Philippians 3). In the end, it was his allegiance to Christ and his heavenly citizenship that brought him into conflict and cost him his life. He rightly thought it was worth it.

Hopefully, you will take your earthly/US citizenship seriously enough fulfill the responsibility of your right to vote come November 6th, but when you fill out your ballot, do so as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, reflecting the will and honor of Christ and his kingdom.

To God be all glory. Vote! Pastor Hans

 

 

Read Full Post »

“The manifold grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10)

We know infinitely less about God than we know about him, so, it is not surprising for us to be puzzled and perplexed by him, to often have more questions than answers. But what little we do know is amazing, glorious, and sometimes flat-out frightening. We could say the same thing about the universe, but we would make a mistake to let that lead us to equate the universe with God, as some do. God is infinitely greater than the entire universe and all of our current knowledge combined. This reality makes the fact of God caring about you and me, thinking about you and me, seeking an eternally loving relationship with you and me, all the more amazing.

John Newton the vile slave trader turned pastor got it right when he penned the words to the now famous song “Amazing Grace.” We do not understand the scope of the grace of God but we do know that it is manifold, multi-faceted, more amazing than we can comprehend. Without it John Newton could not have escaped his human wretchedness, could never have found forgiveness for his sins, had no chance to escape the judgment of God and hell, had not an ounce of hope for eternity and heaven, but neither could you and I.

God was gracious to John Newton, and to us, long before he realized it. However, after he experienced God’s saving grace he recognized the grace of God in his past, his present, and future. He learned that he could depend on the grace of God to work for good in this life, that it protected him, kept him, and was transforming him. (This might be a good time to look up “Amazing Grace” on your computer and read it for yourself or listen to it).

Let me end this pastor’s note by quoting Ephesians 2:1-10 (MSG, parenthesis mine):

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah. Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work (you are saved by grace through faith in Christ). All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: