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Archive for the ‘giving’ Category

“They Presented Gifts” (Matthew2:11)

There are all kinds of gifts, like:

  • The “just because I can” gift.
  • The surprise gift.
  • The “You are worth it!” gift.
  • The “I want to spoil you” gift.
  • The “I want to honor you” gift.
  • The reciprocal gift.
  • The obligatory, “can’t leave him/her out” gift.
  • The gift for the occasion, like birthdays, weddings, graduations, etc.
  • The gift that totally helps.
  • The gift at the perfect time.
  • The “stupid” gift that makes you laugh.
  • The creative gift.
  • The “love you” gift.
  • The monetary gift.
  • The thoughtful gift.
  • The gift given at the perfect time.
  • The sacrificial gift.
  • The practical gift.
  • The re-gifted gift.
  • The inspiring gift.
  • The gift of time, skills, help – of self.
  • The gift of listening, caring.
  • The “WOW!” gift.
  • The “No Way! You’ve got to be kidding” gift.
  • The perfect gift.

Christmas, the celebration of God giving himself through the incarnation of his Son, Jesus Christ, is the “indescribable gift” (2 Cor 9:15). Then of course there is young Mary giving her entire life to God to use it as He sees fit (Luke 1:38). The Motel manager usually gets a bad rap, but somehow he just didn’t have the heart to turn away a highly pregnant woman, even though he had zero vacancies, and quickly made a spot in the storage shed out back so they would have at least a dry roof over their heads (Luke 2:7, a very liberal paraphrase). We certainly know about the wise men’s gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These were extravagant gifts for a carpenter’s family, but then they were gifts meant to honor a king. No, these wise men did not go cheap, but maybe they should have listened to their wives on the practicality. Gold is okay, because it is like cash, and cash can be very practical. But myrrh for a baby king? That wise fellow should have listened to his wife and bought that two-year supply of diapers along with a weekly massage for the mom. Frankincense certainly hit the nail on the head in terms of Jesus being God and worthy of worship, but maybe he too should have gotten some baby king gift ideas, like maybe gold plated Tonka trucks. Finally, those shepherds (Luke 2:1-17) who came to the storage shed behind the motel. As far as we know no gifts were exchanged, except that they showed up in the middle of the night to rejoice with a lonely, worried, and exhausted young couple who just had their first child.

We are capable of giving terrific, extraordinary, and even extravagant gifts that have an impact and make a difference. Especially when we engage our minds, our hearts, and strive to emulate the greatest giver of all, God, who in Christ wrapped up the most perfect, most holy, most loving, and most needed gift and gave him to us for a Savior.

Merry Christmas. 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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You can date your kids by the Disney movie that was popular when they were little. Our youngest is of the “Mulan” generation. I can still her high-pitched, breathy rendition of “When will my reflection show, who I am inside?”

So what does your reflection show? If you look in a mirror you get an accurate look at your outward appearance, but your mind’s eye might see something very different. After his visual inspection my dentist took some x-rays, they showed that although the outside was looking fine the story under a large old filling is heading for a dreaded root-canal (Yikes!). If you want to get an accurate reflection of yourself spiritually, of your character and motives dare to look at yourself through the mirror of the word of God (the Bible), For if you listen to the word (of God) and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror.  You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.  But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it” James 1:23-25 (NLT, parenthesis mine); For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account” Hebrews 4:12-13 (ESV).

Have you ever overheard somebody (or wanted to yourself) tell someone, “Hey, you look like hell!” If you’re told that it usually means you are you’re not looking too good, that you partied too hard, or abused your body, or are not taking care of yourself, or are letting yourself go, or all of the above. Jesus told the religious leaders of his time that they although they passed their own mirror examination they looked like hell on scripture x-rays (Matthew 23:13-26, Luke 11:37-54). “Your sons of the Devil” (John 8:31-47), he told a group of people who didn’t like what he had to say, who didn’t care for what they saw in the mirror Christ held up.

There are other things you can look at and see reflection of yourself:

  • Your money trail (checkbook/account). It reflects your spending habits and your financial priorities. It will tell you if you are financially wise or foolish, if you are spender, saver, or giver. How important God is to you.
  • Your music play list. It will reflect more than your musical tastes and preferences. It will also reflect how important spiritual songs, praise, and worship are in your everyday.
  • Your social media interactions say a lot about you, give a reflection of you, tell something about your life in general and your spiritual focus.
  • Your calendar or absence of one, will reveal what fills your time, what your plans are, what is important to you. It will also reflect your engagement in the work of Christ’s kingdom.
  • What comes out your of your mouth, what dominates your conversations, your casual conversations, your serious discussions, and your angry interactions, your talking about others and your opinionating.
  • Your political persuasions, affiliations, and leanings reflect a lot about you personally and spiritually.

Maybe I stepped on too many of you toes already, but how clear a picture do You want of yourself? Who are you really? Are you really as spiritual and Christlike as you think yourself  to be? What do your reflections show? How do you look in front of the mirror that hides nothing, misses nothing, that takes off all the makeup, all the pretending, removes all of the facades, strips you of any kind of self-defense and excuse?

We don’t have ask, “When will my reflection show, who I am inside?” It is already showing it. It is merely whether or not you and I are willing to look at it, how we respond to it, and whether or not God would be pleased with our response.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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Susie and I started our life together like many others with basically nothing in regard to money and possessions. Married halfway through college our major goal was to finish college without being in debt. So after two years of marriage all we owned fit into our tiny Datsun F-10 alongside our baby son and lone piece of furniture, a rocking chair.

Things didn’t get any better financially the next few years. I ended up out of work and we were poor, really poor. When I finally got a job it was minimum wage. I don’t know how Susie managed to feed us the way she did. And somehow, by God’s goodness, we paid our bills.

Well that baby who traveled with us in the Datsun F-10 turned out to be a very smart little fellow. Turns out he has like an almost photographic memory, which meant he beat me at Memory at age three, right after he figured out that for the past six months Daddy only won by following his eyes. When he started looking in other directions I was toast.

That little rascal wasn’t just good at Memory, he was also good at money, saving it, managing it, keeping track of it. I don’t remember exactly when it started, but I remember why. I needed some money for gas and we lived an hour from or bank, and we really didn’t have anything in the bank. In my need I borrowed from the smart little fellow. He was more than willing, but I think he already had memorized Proverbs 22:7, The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (NASB). So now he could not only beat me in Memory but he could also call in my loan. “Hey Daddy, you might really want think about that spanking because your current balance is minus $30.00.” Good thing he was not the kind of conniving kid his Daddy was as a kid.

Once, as I was trying to settle my current account with him (I think he was twelve by then) we disagreed on the figure. I could have sworn I had made a previous payment, but whose memory was more reliable? Whose figures did we eventually go by? You probably guessed it.

That little guy is now a grown man with his own family. I so hope his sons will have photographic memories and whoop their Daddy’s behind in memory and who knows what. But they won’t end up loaning him money because he is still good at managing it, saving it, keeping track of it, and even more importantly, being generous with it.

It is much easier to be generous when you are not in debt. That little “loan shark” of ours figured that out too. He delighted in figuring out his tithe (10% you honor God with) of whatever money he was blessed with. He loved buying his sisters treats. He enjoyed giving extravagant gifts. That’s much easier to do when you are in the black and not in the red. In the red the first obligation is to the one you owe, and depending on how much you owe there might not be anything left to be generous with. It is tough to experience “It is more blessed to give than to receive” Acts 20:35 (NASB), when you are in debt.

One more thing, it is amazing what can happen to us financially and materially when four things come together: 1. Working hard, 2. Managing well, 3. Honoring God, and 4. Generosity.

“I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” Acts 20:35 (NLT).

 “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce” Proverbs 3:9 (NLT).

 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more …” Matthew 25:14-16 (NLT).

 “… God loves a cheerful giver” 2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV).

Wouldn’t it be great if we’d figure all of this out before the age of five? But even if we didn’t, today would be a great day to start.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. If you live in or around Don Pedro and you wonder how to make a start on the above why not sign up for an upcoming Biblical Financial Seminar in the month of May. Contact the church office ldpbaptistchurch@gmail.com, (209) 852-2040. If you do not live around here check out http://www.daveramsey.com/fpu/ or http://www.crown.org/ .

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Better Gets Us into Trouble, or A Better Better

We have it even if never really thought about it; in fact, the less we have thought about it the greater its grip on us and our behavior. I am talking about our definition of better. More money – better. Bigger house – better. More free time – better. Bigger TV, smarter smart phone, fancier car, kitchen, BBQ, furniture, … – all better. Notice how much better depends on more money.

How many of the following would you mark as better for you and us as a society? Greater devotion to God, to Christ, and his church. More generosity. More communal involvement. More sacrificial love. More commitment to marriage and family. Less stuff. More time to serve each other. Notice that all of them require time, money, but less for yourself.

Proverbs, the most extensive wisdom book of God’s word (the Bible), recognizes how easy it is to work out of a flawed definition of “better” and the need we have to check and adjust our definition of “better” against true wisdom. “Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil. Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf (T-bone steak) with hatred” Proverbs 15:16-17 (NIV, parenthesis mine). “Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice” Proverbs 16:8 (NASB).

The wrong working definition of “better” will breed discontent, greed, debt, ungratefulness, and all sorts of evil. A good definition of “better” recognizes the truth that “… true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money (and all the things money can buy) is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NLT, parenthesis mine).

It doesn’t come natural to us to work with, to live out of, a better definition of “better”. The Apostle Paul wrote that he had to learn contentment, continually gratefulness, and the joy of depending on God, “…I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT).

Two brothers were fighting over their inheritance. Clearly both of them thought more was better. Neither was content, happy, or grateful. Their definition of “better” was of no help, in fact their definition of better was more than willing to be unloving, unkind, use harsh words, and take each other to court. Court wasn’t going so well for one of the brothers so he turned to Jesus to help him arbitrate. Jesus refused, but he did challenge the one on the short end of the dispute to examine his definition of “better” and how it affected his heart, his attitude, his love, his relationships, and his life. Someone out of the crowd said, “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.” …  

Jesus replied, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods,  and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” …

“Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.  Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself. Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being” Luke 12:13-21, 31-34 (MSG).

“Where has your “Better” taken you? Where will your “Better” take you? Is it time to adopt a better “better”? Is it time to Make sure that your character is free from the love of money (and all it can buy), being content with what you have; for He (God) Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU” Hebrews 13:5 (NASB, parentheses mine).

To God be all glory. Love you, pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There are three things that amaze me— no, four things that I don’t understand:
how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.
Proverbs 30:18-19 (NLT)

 This is Solomon’s song of songs, more wonderful than any other. Kiss me and kiss me again, for your love is sweeter than wine. Song of Songs 1:1-2 (NLT)

Love really messes with you, but it feels wonderful. I remember when it happened to my brother Andi. It was at a “Fasching” (like carnival) dance at the gym in my hometown. You could see how it was messing with him, hooking him, and how the wonderful of it was intoxicating him. In one evening all of his plans changed, our plans changed, she was in and his friends and I were out. Other than God/Christ captivating his heart this was the best night of his life, for the first time he got to sip from the cup of true love, a love that held him captive for the rest of his life.

I remember the moment when my heart went from friendship to “in love.” It was when I opened another letter from Susie and out fell her High School senior picture, all I remember is “WOW!” I recall my heart jumping for joy when I spotted her with my former exchange student family picking me up from the airport when I returned to the US. And how the moment of her placing her hand into mine is etched into my very soul. To this day I feel something wonderful when her beautiful, slender hand rests in mine. Loving and being loved by this incredible, tantalizing, and beautiful woman is nothing but an extension of the amazing grace of God, “Find a good spouse, you find a good life— and even more: the favor of GOD!” Proverbs 18:22 (MSG).

Wherever and whenever two people get to drink of true love they get to experience something that originates from, is part of the very essence of God, even if they reject the very notion of God. And of course the first sip yearns for more, for greater intimacy, for something that lasts. This is so because real love has nature like God’s, who “is love” (1 John 4:8,16), and thus is willing to commit, to hang in there, to keep on dreaming of and working towards a beautiful future, to give yourself for the benefit of the other, “Long ago the LORD said to Israel: ‘I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself’” Jeremiah 31:3 (NLT).  “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).  “For God so loved … that he gave …” John 3:16 (NIV).

How good is it to know that God is 100% for true love, for falling in love, for that love to blossom into something marvelously beautiful and lasting down to our very last breath? How good is it know that true love does seek commitment, to be married, to be exclusive, to be intimate, to be faithful, to dream? How awesome is to wake up and look at the love of your life and know that God is on your side? How good is to know that that sweet love is a constant invitation to discover more about God and Jesus Christ, to grow in our ability to love, to emulate the One who “is love.”

Happy Valentine’s Day, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Four Dollars of Hope

(If you have access to a Bible read John 5:1-15 and then proceed to the rest of this p-note)

My $4.00’s worth of hope of winning the $1,500,000,000.00 evaporated the moment I read that the only winning ticket in California was sold in Chico. No 1.5 billion of high living, generous giving, and doing good for me. My $4.00’s worth of hope ended up in someone else’s pocket. Dang!

I probably shouldn’t have even bought those tickets being a preacher, after all gambling is gambling, isn’t it? And had I had the winning ticket could I have given glory to God for this gambling windfall? How much criticism would winning the thing have garnered me? And would I have cared if I did? Probably not.

It was no wonder that scores of crippled, lame, blind, and paralyzed people were hanging around the pool of Bethesda. Every now and then there was a mysterious stirring of the water and whoever got in first – Bam! Healed! Didn’t even need a $4.00 ticket. But that was actually worse because you couldn’t leave, getting something to eat, going to the restroom became the gamble, it decreased your odds to no chance. It was a constant race, incessant pushing and shoving for a spot right by the water. And if you had to give up your spot, how long before you made it back to the front? How much kindness and civility do you think would we have found among all of that desperation, among these cramped hands clutching the tiniest sliver of hope for a normal, healthy, better life?

Was it worth it? This brutal wait, this hope that would come at someone else’s expense, that could only come to pass if it is “me and not you?” The answer of course depends on who you interview. I am willing to bet those healed, those able to escape the shackles and miseries of their disabilities would give it both thumbs up, “Worth it? Are you kidding me!” On the flipside, the man crippled for 38 years, who had camped out by that pool for who knows how long had a different answer. He had come up short so many times his response to the question, “Do you want to get well?” was no longer, “Yes!” What kind of dumb question is this?” All that came across his tired lips was resignation, “Someone always beats me to it,” and more painful still, “No one helps me, no one cares about me.” He sat hopeless by the oasis of hope.

And then Jesus comes by. He does heal him, hallelujah! But before he does he notices him, he talks to him, he listens to him, he cares about him, he has hope for him. These are all things I can do, even if I never win that big jackpot, my $4.00 and me are enough for me to engage, to care, to be generous, to bring hope. But I always have more than myself and my $4.00, I do know how to introduce people to the same Jesus who changed the life of that hopeless man by the pool of Bethesda. What do you think, maybe it is even greater if someone wins it all with my $4.00 tickets?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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