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Archive for the ‘God’ Category

Prudence

Wisdom

Faith

Fear

 

Stupidity

Foolishness

Presumption

Panic

 

Crises have the potential to bring out both the best and worst in us, they also reveal who we really are and what we really believe.

Our world is filled with three kinds of evil, natural evil like the COVID-19 virus and other diseases or earthquakes and other natural disasters, moral (human) evil we perpetrate on others and our world, and spiritual, demonic, satanic evil, which is ever busy inciting people to do evil. Often the first is made much worse by the second. One thing is certain, evil is never theoretical, it is real, brings hardship, causes stress, kindles fears, inflicts pain, and kills.

Jesus encouraged us to pray: “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil (or the evil one). [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]” Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB, parenthesis mine). It is foolishness to ignore evil of any kind, including the evil within us, it is unwise to think we do not need God’s help when it comes dealing with evil, and it is faith that will help us to deal better with evil, with our fears, and keep us from panicking.

Christians are called to a life of faith that applies to the real world, actual circumstances, to life’s unpredictabilities, dangers, and worries. In all of these our anchor, our starting point, our compass is God himself, his presence, his Spirit, his wisdom, his strength, his word (Scripture/the Bible).

Christians are called to pursue knowledge, prudence and wisdom, they give us discernment, navigation skills, and help us to not be led by fear and panic. Wisdom is never in opposition to faith. Often, I have had a fellow believer gush about the fact that their doctor was a Christian and prayed with them. I think that is fantastic, but I want my doctor also to be competent, I want her to wash her hands,  put on a fresh pair of gloves, and be up to speed on the most current medical knowledge, skills, and wisdom. I want her not just to be confident, I want her to be confident for the right reasons. This is true for you and me as well, it is one thing to have a faith that talks confidence but is ignorant, lacks wisdom, and is presumptuous, it is quite another thing to have a faith that is informed, pursues and practices wisdom, and knows how to be both controlled by the Holy Spirit and sound interpretation of the Bible.

Christians never have reason to panic, we are called to live out of the peace of God that even disaster, suffering, and death cannot rattle. This peace is not an invitation to stupidity and foolishness, to denying or foolishly responding to real and healthy fears. But this peace does enable us not to be consumed by our anxieties, our worries, and our fears, and act with Christlikeness in the midst of evil and the storms of life. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers (sisters), whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

To God be all Glory. Peace to you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Before you read this Pastor’s Note, find a Bible and read 1 John 4:7-21.)

 

Love – Like! Like it a lot!

Falling in love – Like! Awesome!

“Love each other” – Like! Yeah!

“God is love” – Like It! Like it a lot!

For as much as we love love we sure struggle with it. Human history, every family, the majority of marriages, and almost all lovers testify to this fact. Love should be easier than our collective testimony certifies it to be. By the way, Happy Valentines!

Few things give clearer evidence to our fallenness, our depravity, our sinfulness than our struggles with love. It should be the easiest thing in the world, but somehow we manage it to louse it up, mess it up, twist it, pervert it, cheapen it, manipulate with it, so much so that we don’t trust love, at least not all the way. Too many are our bad experiences, our disappointments, our scars, our hurts. By the way, Happy Valentines!

“There is no fear in love,” right! At least not until the first time Dad or Mom loses their temper, breaks a promise, or until you discover your lover’s bad habits, his or her not so amazing side. Truth be told, by the time you turn my age, and usually, much earlier, we are much more prone to adjust our loving to our fears rather than adjusting our fears to our love. That’s because we get our hopes up, “maybe this time it will be different,” only to have them smacked down again. Of course, this reveals that at least in some small way we loved with some payoff in mind. By the way, Happy Valentines!

Few people have a problem with the truth that “God is love,” actually most of us love this truth. Of course, here too our depravity is revealed because we interpret it to mean, “I can do whatever I want and he will be okay with it because he loves me.” Do you hear the twistedness in this? The presumption? The depraved narcissism? No wonder we are so good at messing up love. By the way, Happy Valentines!

“There is no fear in love, perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). So why are multitudes of spouses dancing on eggshells around each other, afraid to …? Of all we could fear in this life nothing should fill us with greater fear than God. Think about it, he knows our every last little dirty secret and could embarrass us more than anyone. He knows every single transgression of ours and could haul us into his court anytime. He has infinite power and can not only inflict us with punishment for every misdeed or snuff out our life, but he can also cast our soul into eternal hell. By the way, Happy Valentines!

If we are going to get love right, if we are going to learn to love perfectly, if we are going to love without fear, we are not going to find it in our sentimental but depraved notions of love or our selective (mis)interpretations of love in scripture. We will have to learn it from Almighty God through his Son, Jesus Christ, who in all his fearsomeness loved us first and loved us completely through the suffering and sacrifice Jesus. It is only at the foot of the cross of Jesus that lovers, spouses, and each one of us can learn to love without fear, to love like God and Jesus. By the way, Happy Valentines!

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” …  going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:1-2 & 11 (ESV, italics mine)

“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Deuteronomy 5:7-10 (NASB)

We are all worshippers; it is what God created us to be. This means we all worship someone or something. It is not a matter of if, but of who or what you worship. Maybe you’re already strongly objecting, “Not me, I’m not even religious!”

Worshippers bow down, prostrate themselves, pay homage to someone or something. They honor, respect, and submit to a reality greater than themselves. Their hearts embrace, ‘kiss’ (literally in ancient times), and acknowledge a superior power. You don’t have to be religious to that, you can even worship yourself, but that would be a serious delusion.

The Eastern Wise Men who sought to worship the infant Jesus were not atheists, few people in the ancient world were, most likely they were polytheists (believing in many gods). What we know for sure is that they were intelligent enough to know that it makes no sense to worship just anything. They understood enough to know that whatever they worshipped had to be greater than the stars and universe they were observing. They followed the evidence the universe and all of nature presents, namely, that before and behind all we can see and observe must be something or someone much greater, much older, and much more powerful. They also understood that we don’t get to choose who or what that is because he/it already was, and all of the universe, including you and me, is subject to him/it. And, these wise men knew that the universe testifies to more than a lifeless beginning, it does not declare an it but a HIM, because it drips with wisdom, with design, with creativity, with imagination, and, especially for us to see here on earth, with life. The most natural response to these truths and realities is to worship at the feet of the one who made all of that.

Modern man likes to think of him/herself as more advanced but in truth, we are not far removed from the those who worshipped and still worship rocks, fetishes, ancestors, handmade idols, nature, or gods who resemble narcissistic flawed human beings more than the divine, all of them part of this physical world and mere human imagination. We moderns have built different altars but of the same kind and with the same limitations, altars of scientific knowledge, academia (please note I am not against either), personal spiritual truth, or general godlessness that allows to us worship whatever we want. None of these can transcend this creation but are merely part of it.

When those wise men worshipped Jesus, they worshipped him “who was and is and is to come” (Revelation 4:8), the one true beginning from whose heart, mind, and power everything we see and perceive with our senses has originated, who will judge the living and the dead, and who alone is worthy to be worshipped, “whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne (of eternity), who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. They cast their crowns before the throne, saying, ‘Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created’” Revelation 4:9-11 (ESV).

Christmas is and always has been a call to forsake idolatry, personal spiritual preferences, and ideas and instead worship Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, God with us, God Almighty, God alone.

Merry Christmas. 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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God has spoken plainly, and I have heard it many times: Power, O God, belongs to you; unfailing love, O Lord, is yours. Surely you repay all people according to what they have done. Psalm 62:11-12 (NLT2)

 With a big, audible click the power went off. PG&E (our power company) pulled the plug and no one knows for how long. Safety blackout, it is fallout from the huge and devasting fires that have ravaged our state (California) the past couple of years, and it is a first for us.

Susie and I live in a house where, except for the woodstove and water, everything depends on electricity, the lights, water heater, cookstove, fridges, freezer, other appliances, computers, and modems, … So, with the power out we are having to improvise, make do in other ways. We are now depending on our little 1,600 (2,000 peak) watt camping generator. As I type this pastor’s note, it is purring away outside feeding a power cord connected to an outlet strip I borrowed from the garage. The outlet strip feeds other power cords we keep switching around between lights, coffee maker, chargers, and refrigerators and freezer because 1,600 watts don’t power all that much. The water heater, dishwasher, washing machine, cookstove, and oven will lay dormant until the power is restored.

With a limited power supply comes a different way of doing things, that’s for sure. If we run out of gasoline then we will be down to no power at all, the food in the freezer and fridges will spoil, computers and phones won’t get recharged, the battery lanterns will grow dim and dark. Hopefully, the blackout will be over before any of that happens.

God is the ultimate source of power, whatever power there is in the universe has its origin in him. Think about that for a minute, let it sink in. Every little watt of electricity you and I have used traces back to God himself. Think about the consequences of being disconnected from God, how much it complicates life, increases how much time and effort we have to spend on even basic tasks. Consider, how much in your life and our world spoils because of not being connected to the one true and living and almighty God.

I have already thought about getting another generator I can run in tandem to power the house in future power outages. I have, even before this blackout, already begun to save up to go solar. Foolishly, we bring the same mentality to God. Foolish, because there is no substitute for God, living disconnected from him guarantees a more complicated, burdensome, cord-dragging, life with way too much spoilage. Foolish, because being disconnected from God is not like PG&E pulling the plug but is entirely self-inflicted. Ask yourself, “In what ways and what areas of my life am I living disconnected from God?”

Finally, what do you do when you find yourself disconnected from God? You reconnect, that is what you do. How?

  • Be honest and admit it that it is entirely your own fault.
  • Be willing to abandon your disconnected-from-God lifestyle.
  • Take up God’s offer to reconnect you through his Son Jesus Christ, who is the reconciler, the reconnector (Romans 5:10, 2 Corinthians 5:20), and ask him to do so.
  • Start, or start over, living a life that stays as close to Christ every single day.
  • Watch your life begin to light up.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Imagine you gave me a brand new, four-wheel drive, Toyota Tundra truck (feel free to actually do that), and the first thing I did was to punch a couple of holes in the fuel tank, and for good measure do the same to the radiator. What would you think about me? And, if I told, “It’s much better that way,” after you asked me what in the hesch I was doing, then what would you think? I know what I would think of you if the roles were reversed. I might even take you in right there and then to have your head examined!

“My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” Jeremiah 2:13 (NIV), was God’s word to the people in Jeremiah’s day.

How many water faucets are in your house? We have eight inside and seven outside. There are people all over the world who would love to have just one running water spigot putting out clean drinking water. What would you think Susie would tell me if I told her we will abandon using all those faucets and from now on will go down the hill on the backside of our property to get all of our water from the muddy waterhole down there? What are the chances of her agreeing with me that this was a vastly better way of getting water? “But Babe, we would be independent of the water company! No more monthly water bills! We’ll rely just rely on Mother Nature (As everyone knows, she is really dependable in Central California when it comes to water)!

This is the problem of godlessness, deciding that you don’t need God, that you can be free of God and live. As long as we reject God and Christ, abandon God for philosophies, theologies, and ideologies of our own we leak, are condemned to our own foolishness, and quickly run out of life. It is amazing we can spot stupidity and absurdity so easily except when it comes to God, Christ, and spiritual reality, there we give ourselves a pass, are even proud of what is obviously ridiculous.

So, how long are you going to drive with holes in the tank and radiator, constantly having to stop and refill, often finding yourself stranded, but stubbornly refusing to fix the obvious?

How long will you insist on hauling and living on muddy water when living water could be flowing in your life? Jesus declared for anyone to hear, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him” John 7:37-39 (NIV).

Today is a great day to fix the two core sins, evils, problems of your life, but you will need Jesus Christ for that.

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“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

 

 

 

 

 

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