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Archive for the ‘godliness’ Category

Of Wind, Fear, Ignorance, and Hard-hearted Christians

And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.  And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them,  but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out,  for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”  And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Mark 6:47-52 (ESV)

Jesus’ followers, his disciples, Christians are supposed to have growing, tender, compassionate, merciful, and visionary hearts and minds, but the disciples’ hearts “were hardened,” their understanding was lacking. Why?

  1. The winds were contrary – Giving in

It is frustrating when you are rowing for hours and aren’t getting anywhere, when you get blown backwards the second you relax. We live in times of   contrary winds, in constant gusts of fear, terror, senselessness, corruption, and violence. It is easy to have your heart grow hard there, to simply give   yourself over to the direction of the winds of our times, to be swept up by nationalism, racism, extremism, or escapism and apathy.

  1. They saw a “ghost” – Returning to old scripts and ways

They went right back to thinking and reacting like they would have before they met Jesus, to who they were and believed before they responded to   Jesus’ call to follow him. They returned to their version of syncretism, their preferred spiritual drink made up of the religion they were raised in, their       cultural superstitions, and their personal fears. Just like us, they chucked all they knew about Jesus, all he had taught them, all the experiences they had with him, the moment something looked and felt frightening. I am amazed at how many of my brothers and sisters and Christ are falling headlong to         the frightening things of our day, to the rhetoric of fear, to the thinking we have to old onto all that is dear to us before we lose it all and in the process have no vision and hunger for Christ’s kingdom, which is marked by love, justice, life, and all things of eternal value. Jesus first words to his tired,             frustrated, and frightened disciples was, “It’s me! Don’t be afraid.”

  1. They did not understand – they had not learned from the past

They failed to connect what Jesus had just demonstrated to them earlier in the day to their present situation, to their fears, and to override their old    ways of seeing and responding to things. They really did not understand, but Jesus thought they should have. Christians should know by now that    the results are disastrous, bloody, cruel, and outright evil when nationalism, racism, atheism, and extremism is let out of the box, even, or especially, if it is mixed with a little Bible. They should have known that     Jesus could and would take care of them that they had nothing to fear, that he who sent them to go across the lake would also get them there regardless of the winds, regardless of their fears, and regardless of how difficult things were.

So how are the winds of our time affecting you my brothers and sisters in Christ? How filled with fear, trepidation, and negativity are you? Which voices are you listening to, who has your ear? Are you applying the lessons Jesus has taught you in both life and the scriptures to the present, to your fears, to the current issues, to your politics, to your engagement with our world as a servant of Jesus? Or are you adjusting scripture to accommodate your easier sailing, to give your fears free reign, to excuse your negativity, to settle for something less than Christ’s kingdom, to justify the unjust, to mix the drink you like and have always liked? Is your understanding of Christ and his kingdom (rule) growing, is your heart growing softer?

Regardless of the frightening winds of our time Jesus still says to us, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Go ahead, click on the picture icon on your built in computer, called your mind. Then click on the folder “Favorite People.” I am willing to bet that the faces in this file bring a smile to your face, that they cause your heart to feel good, that you are grateful these people are part of life, are stuck in your memory.

You probably have different reasons for filing these people in this file. Maybe you put them there because they made you laugh a lot, or maybe because they helped you, or because they influenced you in a positive way. Maybe they stuck with you when you were struggling, messed up, or were an outright jerk. Maybe it was their generosity, their kindness, or their goodness. Maybe it was their quirkiness, their spunk, their imagination, their courage, or their humility that made you decide to stick them in your “Favorite People” folder. Maybe you didn’t even make a conscious choice to stick them there and they just somehow invaded, somehow just showed up in this most precious file. But no matter how or why they got there you are grateful that they are there.

Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers,” is what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (1:2 MSG). That lets you know where Paul filed these folks in his heart and mind, doesn’t it, because there are two groups of people we think about and pray about more than anyone else: 1. Those dearest to us, and 2. Those we dread and struggle with the most. Clearly the Apostle counted the Thessalonians in the first group and lucky for us he tells us how they ended up in his “Favorite” folder. He highlighted:

  • Their “work of faith” (1:3), their faith in action, that they didn’t just sit around talking spiritual but acted like Jesus would act. People like that are real.
  • Their “labor of love” (1:3), which implies both the right actions and the right motivation. People like that are like a breath of fresh air.
  • Their “endurance inspired by hope” (1:3 NIV), which lets us know that they weren’t quitters, they knew how to grind it out and stay positive and hopeful at the same time. People like that are inspiring.
  • Their willingness to change and grow (1:6 & 9), they didn’t adapt God to their wants, customs, values, and comfort level but let God shape them through the Holy Spirit, the message of God’s word, and the example of Paul. People like that are rare.
  • Their willingness to take on responsibility to be both godly/Christlike examples and to be messengers of the Gospel of Christ (1:7-8). They laid things on the line in word and deed. People like that are encouraging.

It’s no wonder why they ended up being among Paul’s “Favorites.”

What remains for you and me is to figure out why the Holy Spirit/God had Paul record this, why this was preserved for us to read? May you and I become “Favorites,” reasons for joyful remembrance, the content of thankful prayers, and inspirations to follow Jesus for all the right reasons.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Salvation without transformation is misinformation that results in damnation.

If your house has termites how many of them do want to be gone, for how many do you pay the exterminator to get rid off? How much of the termite damage do you want your contractor to fix? I imagine your answers were, “All of the termites and all of the damage.”

If you were to get sprayed by a skunk (and I have), how much of that foul smell does your spouse want you to wash off before coming to bed? I imagine your answer would be, “All of it, and make sure you put on a hefty dose of cologne.”

How much of our sin, our depravity, our moral and spiritual rot and filth do you think God’s grace is trying to address? How deep do you think the grace of God is trying to sink into our hearts and lives? How much does God’s grace want to change in us and about us? The answers to these questions are, “All of it, to my very core, and more than I imagine.”

The grace of God aims to be transforming. There is no way to drink from the cup of God’s grace and be unchanged. If you remain unchanged you haven’t swallowed. As James puts it, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17), meaning: you can’t believe in the love, grace, and mercy of God (salvation) and live unchanged.” If the love of Christ has touched us it compels us to love. If our sins are forgiven we should be forgiving. If we have received mercy it should make us merciful. If the joy of God and his salvation has filled us we should be joyful and positive. If the goodness of God is real it should cause us to desire to do good. If the peace of God keeps our hearts and minds we should pursue peace. If we have benefited from the patience of God we should be patient with others. If the selflessness, the obedience, the faithfulness, the kindness, and humility of Jesus has in any way worked in our favor then we ought to embrace the same.

Somehow we are very comfortable with saving grace, who doesn’t want to go heaven? We love the everyday grace of God, the grace that makes the sun rise, the rains fall, puts bread on our tables, and gives us opportunities in life (Matthew 5:45). We don’t complain about delivering grace, healing grace, God-helping-me out grace, that would be foolish. But how quickly we begin to resist transforming grace, when God wants to replace more than a few roof shingles, when he starts scraping off old paint, lays bare the rot, starts messing with our values, our outlooks, our attitudes, the way we react and interact, and puts our motives, our pursuits, and lifestyles on the table.

After following Jesus for almost forty years I still find surrendering to God’s transforming grace most challenging. I am amazed and ashamed how resistant I can be, how many self-deceptive excuses I can conjure up, how quickly I can deflect, and how disobedient I can be. I pray to be like the Apostle Paul, after having an opportunity to tell king Agrippa of his conversion, of the time when the saving grace of Christ met him, quickly added, “So … I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19 NASB). What a statement of surrender to transforming grace.

When it comes to transforming grace we face a triple threat:

  • All of our old scripts, the defaults of our sinful self. O how good they are in pulling us back, helping us to revert, to revel in saving grace while resisting transforming grace.
  • Declaring ourselves changed enough, holy enough. Resting on past progress and viewing ourselves in comparison to others has a way of making us resistant to present obedience.
  • Thinking of grace only in passive terms, God saves me by his grace, God will change me by his grace, and finally God will glorify me his grace. That however is not the whole truth; God’s saving grace compels us to believe, to repent, to confess, God’s glorifying grace is preceded by perseverance, and God’s transforming grace requires our cooperation and obedience.

Read the first sentence again. None of us needs just a little bit of Jesus, a little bit grace, we need all of Christ and all of God’s grace, anything less is self-deception, will make us pull up short of God’s marvelous grace (Hebrews 12:15). On the flipside, there is nothing like being transformed by God’s grace, We all … are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (HCSB).

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

 

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You know you can grow it, and the more you do the more you have to share, to give away.

If you have tried your hand at growing a vegetable garden you are probably familiar with both a radish and zucchini surplus. Somehow those two just love to grow faster than you can eat them. The problem is that people who love to do the vegetable garden thing usually hang out with other such people and collectively they have planted too much and thus sharing becomes a moot point. Next thing you know you see zucchinis the size of a weightlifter’s arm appear in large boxes in the foyer of the church with a desperate handwritten sign, “Free, take all you want,” but no return address.

We are meant to grow them: faith, hope, and love. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV). For four reasons: 1. They are absolutely essential to being like Christ; 2. It is impossible to please God without them; 3. They make us strong; 4. They enable us, force us to set out our boxes of surplus, because they are a lot more valuable and needed than zucchini and radishes, and should never go to waste.

We are also meant to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ, in the midst of a godless, struggling, dark and often hostile world, But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 3:18 (ESV). I am pretty sure we are meant to export that too.

Can you imagine your life, your (our) church, your (our) community, your (our) country with an overabundance of faith, hope, love, grace, and life in Christ? Daily packing a box full, considering ourselves to be the sign that reads, “Free, take all you need,” and then taking our overflowing box to where it is most needed, to where or to whom you might not want to go but the Holy Spirit compels you to go.

Faith, Hope, Love, Grace, Christ seek engagement, want to flow like water, want to light up the dark, bind up the brokenhearted, comfort the weeping, feed the poor, heal the sick, liberate the captives, awaken justice, ennoble politics, replace hatred, battle evil, and save the lost.

So grow, grow, grow and go, go, go – in Jesus’ name.

To God be all glory. Love you, 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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Is it good for people to get close to you or should they stay away from you or does it not make a difference? Of course people want to be close to others for all kinds of reasons, “The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends” Proverbs 14:20 (ESV). Who you get close to can open doors, get dates, and has the potential to profoundly influence your life, “Bad company ruins good morals” 1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV) ; “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17. So how does hanging around you influence others? Does it sharpen them or corrupt them? Does it build their character or compromise it? Does it bless them or end up being a curse? Does it encourage them to seek God or ignore him?

People wanted to get close to Jesus, many simply for what he could do for them, “She (a woman hemorrhaging for twelve years) said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I will be made well’” Mark 5:28 (ESV, parenthesis mine), “He had healed many people, and now everyone who had something wrong was pushing and shoving to get near and touch him” Mark 3:10 (MSG). You can’t blame them; we would do the same if we are desperate enough. But don’t miss the fact that they thought Jesus cared about them, that he invited people to get close, that he enjoyed healing, blessing, telling the truth, changing lives, and bringing people back to a life with God. He was easy to get close to; he didn’t object to being touched, being in his company was and still is good, his influence is worthwhile to hang onto. We are called to emulate him, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” John 20:21 (ESV).

The Apostles followed in Jesus’ footsteps pursuing Christlike character, living by biblical wisdom, yielding spiritual power. The result, people wanted to get a hold of them; people were drawn to God, to believe in and follow Christ, “Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them” Acts 5:12-15 (ESV). Don’t miss the picture here. Early Christians met in outer corridor of the Jewish temple, “Solomon’s Portico”.  As Jews came to temple they wanted to hang out with those Jesus followers, but many were too scared to. They feared the repercussions of being associated with Christ and his followers. But deep down they wanted to and thankfully many finally did dare to reach out and grasp Jesus. Does this describe you?

Finally, God had the prophet Zechariah foretell many things about Jesus Christ and he also had him declare, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, “In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew (believer), saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” Zechariah 8:23 (NASB, parenthesis mine). It is hard to miss, isn’t it, we are meant to live lives of such spiritual vitality, such clarity about God, that others would want to grasp us, get a hold of us, come with us, in order to know God.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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“Oh grow up!” Has anyone ever told you that? And have you, are you growing up?

There are a few ups that go with being grown up, like:

  • When to shut up and when not.
  • What to put up with and what not.
  • Who to lift up and who not.
  • What to give up and what not.
  • When to give up and when not.
  • Who to look up to and who not.
  • What to stand up for and what not.
  • Who to stick up for and who not.

He was about to throw a fit, my grandson, because he wanted to watch his favorite TV show NOW! That’s to be expected from an almost two year old who still has a lot of years of growing up to do, of growing out of a world that circles around him. If his parents raise him like grown-ups, they will have no interest in keeping him a cute little Bonsai. They will dream of him developing physically, emotionally, and spiritually. They will want his character to develop and grow. They will not encourage immaturity but foster maturity. They will expect him to grow up. They will rejoice and be glad if does, and they will be troubled and heart-broken if he doesn’t, A wise child brings joy to a father; a foolish child brings grief to a mother” Proverbs 10:1 (NLT).

God, the Heavenly Father, also wants you and me to grow up. He fully delights in us as babies, toddlers, kids, adolescents, and young adults (both physically and spiritually), but his expectation is for us to grow up, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity” 2 Peter 3:18 (ESV).  “Grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” Ephesians 4:15 (ESV). “Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation” 1 Peter 2:2 (NASB).

Real, full maturity, never happens apart from God and his Son Jesus Christ. But we are not automatically mature, spiritually grown-up, just because we claim to be Christians, because we have trusted in Jesus for salvation. Neither Jesus nor the Apostles Peter and Paul believed that. Maturity, spiritual growth, grow-upness doesn’t just happen, it is acquired and learned through practice and right/wise decision making. The “O grow up!” verses you just read highlight three indispensable things for growing up in a way that pleases and delights God:

  • Having and Emulating the right models, beginning and ending with Jesus Christ.
  • Being part of the right family. Ephesians 4:15 above is in the plural, written to the members of the family of God, the church.
  • Learning the right definitions and practices as spelled out in God’s written word, the Bible.

So, how growed up are you? If someone were to emulate you would that help him/her in growing up in a way that pleases not only you but the Heavenly Father? What do you need to change and what do you need to embrace and practice to grow like God would want you to? I pray you and me will be so committed to growing up that God continually has reason to say, “Son/Daughter watching you grow up brings nothing but joy to me.”

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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