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Archive for the ‘giving’ Category

Have you ever had a question to which you already knew the answer, but you didn’t like the answer?

“Yes, stop smoking, exercise, and change your diet,” was the doctor’s reply to his smoking, overweight patient asking, “Hey Doc, is there anything I can do to improve my health?”

 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Luke 10:25-28 (NIV)

This Jesus/God testing lawyer knew the answer to his question, but he didn’t like the answer. It’s even worse when the answer comes out of your own mouth, isn’t it? When you know you are and hear yourself being a living discrepancy. So, this lawyer did what you and I usually do, try to justify ourselves, tell ourselves why we can’t, why it is too difficult, fish for something simpler, a way out, find an excuse to not change. But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29 (NIV)

He was asking for a pill that would spare him having to act, not have to give up anything, change nothing. He was trying to excuse his not-neighbor-loving passivity by raising a philosophical/theological inner dilemma. He was fishing for a minimum standard, like love is in the habit of functioning by minimum standards. He wanted to remain in control instead of his love for God and people controlling him. He was looking for some legitimacy for selective loving or loving not at all.

Jesus never does answer the “who is my neighbor?” question, instead, he tells maybe his most famous story and asks a question in return, makes the God-tester say the answer out loud for the second time. In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise”
Luke 10:30-37 (NIV).

The question is not, “Who is my neighbor?” it is, “Are you a neighbor?” Because when you are a neighbor you see like a neighbor, you empathize like a neighbor, you have compassion like a neighbor, you engage like a neighbor. You no longer are trying to complete a checklist of love before taking off to eternal life/heaven but see life, people, circumstances through the eyes of love and react accordingly.

Maybe it is time to drop the excuses, the action-paralyzing mind-games, the magic pill search that will remedy our selectively loving or outright loveless hearts and begin to “love your neighbor as ourselves.”

May you and I, long before we go to heaven, be known as the kind of neighbors the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” envisions.

To God be all Glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Christmas and the Revelation and the Knowledge of God

The revelation of God, the knowledge of God comes to us in four ways: The Cosmos, Scripture, Experience, and Jesus Christ:

  • Creation, the cosmos, the physical world

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him,” the wise men asked Matthew 2:2 (NLT2, italics mine). The entire cosmos, from what is seen through the most advanced telescope to what is revealed under the most powerful microscope or super-collider, reveals God, “… ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God” Romans 1:20 (NLT2). Every sunset picture you snapped, every night sky you looked up into, every facet of the natural sciences is an invitation to discover God, to search for this amazing Creator and life-giver until you find him.

  • Scripture, the Bible, is God’s written revelation.

King Herod called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, ‘Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?’
‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they said, ‘for this is what the prophet wrote: And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
Matthew 2:4-6 (NLT2, italics mine). Scripture, the Bible, gives an understanding of God, his nature, his ways, and his plans we cannot get from observing our physical world alone. You can’t learn God’s name from reading DNA, nor can you learn from astronomy God’s workings in human history. Among many things, apart from scripture we wouldn’t know the depth of our depravity and sinfulness or its consequences, we wouldn’t know our true identity of being image-bearers of God himself, and we wouldn’t know of God’s great love for us and his provision to save us from our sins.

  • Faith Experience

“We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”…
“When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!  They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh”
Matthew 2:2&10-11 (NLT2). There is a knowledge of God that only comes through faith, through trusting what he says, following his directions, doing what he tells us to do and be (as opposed to what not to do and be). The Eastern wise men didn’t travel for hundreds of miles to merely have someone tell them about Jesus, they wanted to see him, worship him, and honor him with their gifts. They experienced Jesus by putting together what the night sky declared, what scripture confirmed, and then responding to that revelation and knowledge through faith. They experienced the reality of the living God and Jesus Christ by believing what they saw and heard enough to saddle up their camels and beginning a whole new life of faith.

  • Jesus Christ

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows” Matthew 1:18 (NASB). Jesus Christ is more than a mere man, more than a prophet, more than the leader of one of the world’s great religions, he is God incarnate, God in human flesh, Immanuel – “God with us” (Matthew 1:23); it is what Christmas is all about. There is no greater and more personal revelation of God than Jesus, that is why you can’t claim to follow God and bypass Jesus Christ, they are inseparable, “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body” Colossians 2:9 (NLT2). No king has ever been announced and predicted like Jesus, that is because there is and never will be a king like him, he is Jesus Christ is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God … On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” Revelation 19:16 (NIV); “… at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW … and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Philippians 2:10-11 (NASB).

How have you responded to God’s revelation of himself? Be a wise man, a wise woman today!

Merry Christmas! Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Interruption of Me, My, Mine

It is an amazing thing to watch the acquisition of the words me, my, and mine.  If you happen to attend a Christmas gathering inhabited with a number of kids below the age of five you will have a front row seat to watching, me, my, and mine.  I guarantee, sooner than later there will be a ruckus because one child will play with a toy given to another child. Then the owner child will inform the taker child that the toy s/he playing with belongs to him/her, “That’s mine!” or simply, “Mine!” will be followed by a determined grab. But the rightful owner is unaware that the usurper is claiming the unofficial rule, or even natural law, that anything left unattended long enough to be taken and played with constitutes a transfer of ownership. Thus the determined grab by the rightful owner will be met by a jerk in the opposite direction and a claim, “No, mine!” And before you know it there will be a physical altercation accompanied with tears and screaming. At this point, the inattentive adults, who were happy that the children were  “playing so nicely together,” are alerted and jump in to correct the situation with various, although often ineffective, strategies.

Of course, these little people have been working on the concept of these words since birth, long before they can articulate it into words. They figure out very quickly who is “my Mommy,” which Mommy might interpret as her being super special (which she is, really), but it really is about that little cutie making sure about “me,” that s/he gets taking care of, is being fed, burped, changed, and cuddled. If you think I am being too cynical just watch what happens when someone comes along and does a better job of the things that are important to that little “me (first).”

Now check out the child who was jealous as she saw her sibling or cousin unwrap a present she really wanted. She is looking for an opportunity, the moment her cousin lays down the coveted toy, she looks around, sees that no one is watching, and swoops in. Meanwhile, the owner child is engaged in playing with something else, happy as can be, until she spots cousin with the toy she wasn’t caring about at the moment. Did you see her mood change? The different look in her eyes? The indignation? Me, My, Mine taking over? She glares with disgust at the intervening adults who are trying to encourage her to share. “Hypocrites,” she thinks, although she doesn’t know that word yet, “Let me see you do that when someone uses your toys without asking! It’s my toy and I get to use it when I want to use it.”

While addressing the child owner the adults are also trying to persuade or sidetrack the jealous taker child, who instinctively has tightened his grip. She’s not giving it up without a fight, logic and property rights be damned, in spite of not knowing those words either.

Human history, our personal history is marked and marred by the Me, My, Mine cycle and all the ills that accompany it. Many, if not most, of our laws mean to curtail it, rain it in, yet none have been able to eradicate it. Even the youngest, most untarnished members of our society are unable to be happy and generous in the midst of abundance.

Christmas – Jesus interrupts this Me, My, Mine cycle. It is one of the major reasons we struggle with Jesus (the real Jesus, not the one we have reshaped). He prayed, “Your (God the Father’s) will not mine.” He cared about God’s glory and honor not his own. He gave his life so sinners could live. He exhausted himself by helping, healing, caring. He lived a life that wasn’t about me and calls us to do the same. He didn’t hang onto what most of us wouldn’t dream of letting go. At no time in his life did he succumb to the Me, My, Mine cycle, nor did he excuse us to continue in it, instead he died trying to deliver us from it. “You are familiar with the generosity of our Master, Jesus Christ. Rich as he was, he gave it all away for us—in one stroke he became poor and we became rich” 2 Corinthians 8:9 (MSG).

Merry Christmas. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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It is telling that Thanksgiving Thursday is followed by Black Friday, gratefulness followed by a grabbing shopping frenzy’s first giant wave for shoppers to serve on, followed by Cyber Monday and an incredible surf for consumerism all the way into Christmas.

“A leech has twin daughters named ‘Gimme’ and ‘Gimme more.’ Three things are never satisfied, no, there are four that never say, ‘That’s enough, thank you!’— hell, a barren womb, a parched land, a forest fire” Proverbs 30:15-16 (MSG).

Greed is never satisfied either, it boldly declares, “More is better!” But Jesus warned, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot” Luke 12:15 (MSG).

Spiritually speaking, Thanksgiving Thursday should be followed by Frivolous Friday where people stand in line in the wee hours of the morning to get in on being generous, followed by Max Monday when online donations go through the roof, followed by an unleashing of the most enormous wave of generosity and giving all the way into Christmas and the New Year. “Tell those rich in this world’s wealth to quit being so full of themselves and so obsessed with money, which is here today and gone tomorrow. Tell them to go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage—to do good, to be rich in helping others, to be extravagantly generous” 1 Timothy 6:17-18 (MSG).

We never have to oil our “Getter,” it is one of those pre-greased, permanently lubricated gears right out of the box. It loves to get more, doesn’t blink at over-spending and charging credit cards to the max, and entices us to make fellow “Gimme”-disciples out of infants in diapers. The only way to put the “Getter” in its place is to develop our “Giver.” We all have one, it’s just that the “Getter” likes to dominate and is never happy for very long. In order for our “Giver” to be what God wants it to be we have to do three things:

  1. Daily grease our hearts and attitudes with contentment, But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that” 1 Timothy 6:8 (NIV); “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, …” Hebrews 13:5 (NIV).
  2. Continually applying contentment, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” Philippians 4:11 (NIV).
  3. Actually giving until we enjoy giving, until we not just give but have become givers at our core. “God loves a cheerful, happy giver” 2 Corinthians 9:7, (Notice, that the “giver” here is something God means for us to be).

There is nothing wrong in giving even an extravagant gift to someone we love. But God wants to grow us into givers who excel in giving to needs to accomplish his will and carry out his purposes, and who reflect Christlikeness.

 “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, emphasis mine).

This Christmas season; let’s excel in generosity God loves.

Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Be merciful, even as your Father (God) is merciful.” Luke 6:36 (ESV, parenthesis mine)

You may not give a rat’s behind about God, you may be might be totally anti-God, you might have nothing but scorn and cynicism when it comes to God and religion, you might be angry and mad at God, you might wonder “What has God ever done for me?”, you might be completely frustrated or confused regarding God, but there has never been a morning God’s mercy did not greet you, there has never been a day God has not been merciful toward you, there has never been a night God shut off his mercy towards you and me.

I wonder how many in the crowd Jesus was speaking to shook their heads in response to what he was teaching here, what he was laying out as not being optional. The local and national politics were merciless, life for many felt merciless, the rumor mill was merciless. That crowd was made up rich and poor, sick and healthy, comfortable and desperate, mean and kind, perpetrators and victimized, violent and peaceful people. “You are all meant to be merciful, you are expected to be merciful,” is what he told them all. At the end of the sermon Jesus made it clear that treating people right, being merciful is integral to having a solid life-foundation. A life lacking in compassion, goodness, and mercy is a life built on sand no matter how impressive it looks like (Luke 6:46-49).

Be merciful, even as your Father (God) is merciful” Luke 6:36 (ESV, parenthesis mine), declares that we are capable of being merciful, demands that we act merciful, and defines to what extent we are to be merciful. In the larger context, Jesus makes it clear that being merciful entails more than being nice to those who love us because that is what God does every day (verse 35). Jesus also highlights 6 specifics when it comes to being merciful like God:

  • Loving your enemies (those we don’t like).
  • Doing good to ungrateful, even evil people.
  • Lending to help instead of gaining.
  • Refraining from judging and condemning.
  • Pardoning – forgiving.
  • Giving – being generous.

Which of these do you struggle with the most? Who do you struggle with the most in terms of being merciful to him, her, them in terms of these specifics?

In his mercy, God does all of the above and more and we are called to follow suit. I’ll be honest with you, it is super challenging, but it is not optional for all who are serious about following Jesus, who are looking for a better life, who are dreaming of a better world.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans.

 

 

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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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