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Archive for the ‘generosity’ Category

The man being interviewed on NPR (National Public Radio) told about a social worker who made both impression and a difference in his life. What he remembered all these later was a simple smile, no words, no particular action, just a genuine, hopeful, affirming smile.

Let me ask you, “Are you capable of a smile?” I know I am.

A lady, a complete stranger, after reading about my younger brother’s suicide in the paper penned a note and sent it to my Mama bringing immense comfort to her.

Let me ask you, “Are you capable of writing a note?” I know I am.

A handful of young teenage boys decided to not spend all of their allowances and earnings on themselves and instead contribute a few dollars each month to fund a poor teenager on a different continent so he could have food an education.

Let me ask you, “Are you capable of spending a few less dollars on yourself each month?” I know I am.

“Are you capable of doing good? I know I am.

“Do you have some skill, some ability, resources, or experiences with which you could bless someone else? I know I do.

Could you make some time, change your plans in order to help someone, encourage someone, or comfort someone? I know I could.

There are few things we need to continually remind ourselves when it comes to doing good.

  • Doing good is not optional if I am serious about following God/Christ.

Dear friend, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does evil has not seen God. 3 John 1:11 (HCSB)

“Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech. He must turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it.” 1 Peter 3:10-11 (NIV)

  • I am much more selective in doing good than Christ wants me to be.

“But I (Jesus) say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,” Luke 6:27 (ESV, parenthesis mine)

  •  I can learn to do good like God wants me to.

You (God) are good and do good; teach me your statutes.
Psalm 119:68 (ESV, parenthesis mine)

  •  Doing good and procrastination don’t go together, nor do I have any good excuses not to do good.

Don’t neglect to do what is good and to share, for God is pleased with such sacrifices. Hebrews 13:16 (HCSB)

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. Galatians 6:9-10 (NIV)

  • Doing good can be very tiring, exhausting even, but it is always right and Christlike to do good.

As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired (grow weary) of doing good. 2 Thessalonians 3:13 (NLT2, parenthesis mine)

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Changed wireless plan to unlimited for just five dollars more a month – a little thing.
  • Standing in line at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) for a ridiculously long time – a little thing.
  • Finished restoring the old 65 Aristocrat travel trailer – a little thing.
  • Our first granddaughter born healthy and her Mama is okay – a very big thing.
  • A lost, sinful soul found and restored – a very big thing in heaven (Luke 15)
  • Money management – a very little very big thing

            Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’
The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg– I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ ‘Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.’ Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ “‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. “He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’
The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.  I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?  And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.  He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” 
Luke 16:15 (NIV)

In our perspective, and certainly in the Pharisees’ mindset, Jesus turned a lot of things upside down in just a few sentences. We are prone to managing God and worshipping money, but we should be doing the exact opposite. Did you also notice how the dishonest manager needed a change of perspective: from “now” to “long-term,” from focusing on making his life better to using his influence and power to make life easier for others, from misuse to right use of money, from hedonism to spiritual and eternal significance. (You might want to read on in Luke 16 and let Jesus confront you with the second parable/story in this chapter as well).

According to Jesus/God, there is a difference between being rich and being truly rich, but, truth be told, many (if not most) of us would settle for the former and give little thought to the latter. And so, we end up making a little (literally a smaller than microscopic thing) a big thing, which ends up making a huge impact on our hearts, our perspective, our priorities, our relationships, our character, and most importantly our eternal destiny.

The rich man in the second parable of Luke 16 implores Moses to send a poor, paralyzed man back from the dead to warn his brothers, to shake them up, so they would manage their wealth and lifestyle differently, with eternity and accountability to God in mind. Moses refuses the plea, telling him that they already have enough information in the Word of God (the Bible) to know what they should do and how to do it. Which means we do as well, and thus it is merely a question of whether or not we will.

To God Be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What can I give? What can I do?

Supplies and man/woman power are needed to accomplish most anything. These two determine in a large measure what gets done and how it gets done.

God gave Moses detailed instructions on the sanctuary (Tabernacle, a movable sanctuary) he wanted the Israelites to build. It was not going to be cheap; it would require expensive supplies and excellent craftsmanship. God had provided both, there were men and women among the Israelites who had both natural ability and the training needed to do all the work God wanted done. The Israelites also had the means. Remember, they had plundered the Egyptians of gold, silver, and clothing before they embarked on the Exodus (Exodus12:35-36). However, God did not force them to contribute or work, that was what they came from, slavery. God wanted them to worship him out of their own accord, simply because they had a heart for being in a relationship with him, for what he wanted. Moses asked an offering of “whoever has a willing, generous heart” (Exodus 35:5). Hearing the request, “… the whole community of Israel left Moses and returned to their tents. All whose hearts were stirred and whose spirits were moved came and brought their sacred offerings to the LORD. They brought all the materials needed for the Tabernacle, for the performance of its rituals, and for the sacred garments. Both men and women came, all whose hearts were willing. They brought to the LORD their offerings of gold—brooches, earrings, rings from their fingers, and necklaces. They presented gold objects of every kind as a special offering to the LORD” Exodus 35:20-22 (NLT). And then, every day they kept bring more to the point they actually had to tell everyone to stop (35:6) “for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more” Exodus 36:7 (ESV).

Those materials, however, were not going to assemble themselves into a tabernacle. Could God have built it himself? Absolutely! After all he spoke the entire universe into existence. But he didn’t, he wanted those with a heart for him to build it. “… Moses told the people of Israel, ‘The LORD has specifically chosen Bezalel son of Uri, grandson of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. The LORD has filled Bezalel with the Spirit of God, giving him great wisdom, ability, and expertise in all kinds of crafts. … And the LORD has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach their skills to others.’  … So Moses summoned Bezalel and Oholiab and all the others (men and women) who were specially gifted by the LORD and were eager to get to work” Exodus 35:30-31, 34; 36:2 (NLT, parenthesis mine 35:25).

In our day, God in Christ has called us to a vastly greater building project, “You are coming to Christ, who is the living cornerstone of God’s temple. He was rejected by people, but he was chosen by God for great honor. And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God. As the Scriptures say, ‘I am placing a cornerstone in Jerusalem, chosen for great honor, and anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.’ Yes, you who trust him recognize the honor God has given him. But for those who reject him, ‘The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone.’ And, ‘He is the stone that makes people stumble, the rock that makes them fall.’ They stumble because they do not obey God’s word, and so they meet the fate that was planned for them. But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. ‘Once you had no identity as a people; now you are God’s people. Once you received no mercy; now you have received God’s mercy.’” 1 Peter 2:4-10 (NLT).

Matthew records the following about the work Christ,When he (Jesus) looked out over the crowds, his heart broke. So confused and aimless they were, like sheep with no shepherd. “What a huge harvest!’ he said to his disciples. ‘How few workers! On your knees and pray for harvest hands!’” Matthew 9:36-38 (MSG, parenthesis mine). Of course, it makes little sense to pray for workers and not be willing to work ourselves.

So, what are you willing to give? What are you going to do with what you have?

What are you willing to do? What will you do with your knowledge, abilities, and skills?

And, if everyone professing Christ would follow your example, would there be more than enough to build all God wants us to build?

To God be all glory. Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The ancient people of God, the chosen people of God, were commanded to:

  • Love God, Deuteronomy 6:5, 11:1, 30:6, Joshua 23:11
  • Love their neighbor as themselves, Leviticus 19:18
  • Love the strangers and aliens as themselves, Leviticus 19:34, Deuteronomy 10:19
  • Love good, Amos 5:15
  • Love kindness, Micah 6:8

Jesus, besides reaffirming the above added:

  • Love your enemies, Matthew 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-36
  • “Love one another, as I have loved you,” John 15:12, 17, 1 Peter 2:17

The Apostles reaffirmed all the above and added:

  • “Let all be done in love,” 1 Corinthians 16:14
  • Speak truth in love, Ephesians 4:15
  • Love like Jesus, Ephesians 5:2
  • Love from a pure heart, 1 Timothy 1:5
  • Pursue love, 2 Timothy 2:22
  • Love your wife, husband, and children, Ephesians 5:25, 28, Titus 2;4
  • Add love to your faith, 2 Peter 1:7
  • “Keep yourselves in the love of God,” Jude 1:21 (which includes all the above and more)

What all these commandments assume is that we, you and I, 1. have a God-given capacity to love, 2. that we do not necessarily exercise this capacity, and 3. that in a large measure we will be judged, be held accountable for what we have done with our capacity to love.

Have you ever given God thanks for your ability to love, to love extraordinarily, to love like God, like Jesus? It is hands down one of the greatest gifts God has blessed us with. Exercising that gift makes us more like him than anything else, “When we take up permanent residence in a life of love, we live in God and God lives in us” 1 John 4:16 (MSG).

Wednesday is Valentine’s Day, it too reminds us of our capacity love (maybe we should close the divorce courts on the day celebrating love – just an idea). It reminds us that unleashing our love capabilities is beautiful, exciting, sweet, and feels incredibly right and good. And it and gets even better when the response is just as loving.

Would you take a moment and read over the God’s love commandments, I listed above, one more time? Did you notice that they were exclusive and inclusive at the same time, challenging to us to excel in the exclusive love relationships of life – God, spouse, children, friends; while at the same time not neglecting God’s insistence to engage with all people, neighbors, enemies, foreigners, strangers with love that is as strong, kind, merciful, generous, and continuous as the love we have for ourselves and as the love of Jesus.

Heavenly Father, God of love, help us, help me to grow in love, develop and unleash my capacity for love the way you command it, look for it, and enable it.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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For from his (God’s/Christ’s) fullness we have all received, grace upon grace.
John 1:16 (ESV, parenthesis mine)

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NIV)

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive. Acts 20:35 (NIV)

If you are reading this pastor’s note it is safe to assume you awoke this morning. You also learned how to read sometime back, most likely because someone taught you. This means you have lived long enough to acquire the skill of reading and I am certain a few others as well. It also means you have had some opportunities, maybe many, and you will have more opportunities today. You also could have chosen not to read this p-note, but you didn’t (which makes me glad); no, you decided to read it, to give dergremanshepherd (the German Shepherd) a small voice in your life today. You have made lots of decisions like that throughout your life, and many of vastly more significance, and you will make more today.

The story of your and my life is a story of receiving, from its very inception until now, and it will remain so until the very end. It doesn’t matter whether we think we have received the short end of the stick, gotten the shaft, were born into bad circumstances, have suffered from injustice, are trapped in poverty, had few good breaks in life, … The very fact we are breathing today, that we have opportunities to make choices today, even if they seem limited, verifies that every single day we have opened our eyes we have received. This means that someone gave, someone was gracious to us, and none more so than God, than Jesus Christ, For from his (God’s/Christ’s) fullness we have all received, grace upon grace” John 1:16 (ESV, parenthesis mine).

The truth is there is no one who comes close to having given us as much as God, as Jesus has; there isn’t anybody from whom we have received more. You would think the whole world would line up each day to say, “Thank you,” to brag about the goodness and graciousness of God. So, have you? And have you accepted from God the gift he thinks you need the most, his son, Jesus Christ? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”. John 3:16 (NIV). You and I need Jesus Christ because we not only need daily grace to survive in the temporal, but we need God’s grace even more for the eternal, in fact we are completely dependent on it.

All this receiving equips us and ought to transform us into givers. Many of you reading this p-note went to work today. One of the great things about work is getting paid (Can I get an “Amen!”), and one of the great things of getting paid is that it enables a receiver to be a giver, In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” Acts 20:35 (NIV). Let’s do that today, turn our receiving into giving, turn our receiving into thanksgiving and praise to God and Christ. Let’s not stop with today, let’s turn it into a lifestyle, like God who has been giving to us all our life.

To God be all glory. Merry Christmas, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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The Old Travel Trailer

I had no idea a little camper trailer could be this much work! The good news is that it was free; initially that is, it was given to us. Although by now I have to confess wondering a few times about the motive for this gift.

Initially Susie and I were just going to fix a “little” water damage at the right front corner. That little water damage turned out to be a completely rotted front and back as well as half a side wall. All the skin had to come off, and about half of trailer had to be disassembled and be rebuilt. As of this writing, the frame and skin are back together, but it is far from done.

This 65 Aristocrat Lo-Liner has morphed from free into a significant investment of money, time and sweat, especially time and seat, lot’s of sweaty time indeed. If it ever gets back on the road again it will be a major accomplishment and celebration for us amateur fixer-uppers.

We also have some new problems and dilemmas because by now we are invested, emotionally attached. That’s what happens when you decide to take on a challenge, pour your heart into it, do research, learn new skills, plunk down money, allocate time, sweat a lot, and give yourself cuts and bruises. There is also the point of no return, which was early on, when we still had the option to just let the thing roll down the backside our property and watch it crash at the bottom of the gulley. Too late for that, somewhere along the line we became committed, were all in, had a vision of the end result, and had our pride kick in, “That piece of Canned Ham trailer is not going to whop us!”

Old trailers like the Aristocrat like to talk, sometimes more than you want them to. There are the stories of when it was new, when it was used a lot, when it was filled with life and laughter. There are the stories when it sat empty, when it was forgotten, when it was reduced to an occasional hangout, when it was replaced with a newer bigger model, when it became expendable, when it got old and the rot started to set in. It likes to talk about simpler times, of camping without Satellite TV, microwaves, porcelain toilets, in trailers that transform into mansions on wheels. And it is good at throwing out questions, “Am I worth all this time and effort?” “Are there not more important things you should be doing?” Are you as passionate and dedicated to building God’s kingdom as you are about fixing me?”

“Darn old trailer, sometimes I wish it would just stay quiet.”

Susie and I lived in an old trailer much like this one when we were first married; maybe that’s why we have soft spot for it. Maybe it represents our yearning for simplicity in the midst of life that is continually filling up to the max. Maybe it is an answer to our prayers for contentment, to spend hundreds instead of thousands, to resist the ever thirsty urge for bigger, newer, better, and instead find joy in what God gives us.

Let your conduct (character) be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5 (NKJV, parenthesis mine)

            To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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How much can one story change things?

What comes to your mind when you hear or read the word, “Samaritan?” Chances are high that you associate “Samaritan” with someone who cares, someone who helps people in need, in fact very often you will find the adjective “good” added to Samaritan. This wasn’t always so. Most of the people who listened to Jesus the day he told the story of what we now call the parable of the Good Samaritan thought of the Samaritans in entirely unfavorable terms. Being called a “Samaritan” was a racial slur, a putdown, a declaration of being part of a people who were no good, were untrustworthy, and who had a long history of religious impurity and compromise. Worthless people, people you avoid, people you wished lived far away or not at all. When Jesus took his disciples through Samaria (a route serious Jews avoided) his disciples couldn’t wait to get out of there, so much so they were going to miss the kingdom opportunities staring them in the face (John 4:4-43).

Who are the people you don’t care for? You want to get away from as fast possible? Who represent to you all that wrong with the world? Who couldn’t possibly do much good if any at all? Who have this really lousy reputation? Who are discardable, dispensable, and reprehensible in your social, cultural, political, and religious context? Who couldn’t possible become an example of anything good?

Jesus told just one story (Luke 10:25-37), in the context of being asked about how to inherit eternal life and a subsequent question about whom we should love and whom we are free not to love and care for. Just one story of a right, caring, courageous, and generous act by a Samaritan, of all people, changed the way an untold multitude has thought of Samaritans across centuries all the way till now.

Beyond the larger context Jesus clearly reminded the questioner and all those listening in, including us, that we are constantly living in a story, and how we act our story makes a big difference, identifies who we really are, and what we want our world to be like.

Over the years I have officiated at hundreds of funerals, listened to thousands of stories being told, many, if not most recounting episodes of lives lived in selfish pursuits, of good times, funny incidents, personal successes, and too often of even the questionable dressed up to sound good. On the other hand, rare are the stories that tell of watershed moments, of when God-ordained detours where embraced, when self was denied in favor of doing what is right, and good, and godly. Stories of when new reputations were forged, when evil was defeated, when someone put him or herself in the hand of God and said, “Write away O God! Write what makes a difference, what counts, what epitomizes what caring, loving, and eternal values are all about.”

It is our great struggle, isn’t it, which stories to write and which to bypass, what to engage with and what to ignore, what to open our heart to and what to close it to, how comfortable and safe to be and when where to risk it, how much of God’s most fundamental commands to fully embrace or to justify settling for less. Jesus was unambiguous in his parting words to the one who prompted the story in first place, “Go and do likewise.”

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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