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“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27 (NLT)

They were blocking the road, five tom turkeys strutting their stuff with all their might, oblivious to the world around them. My very noisy Dodge diesel pickup had absolutely no effect on them. They were dragging their wings, spreading their tail feathers, inflating their necks, and executed fancy dance patterns. I looked around to see what all the fuss was about, and there in the dry weeds on the side of the road was the scraggliest turkey hen I had ever seen. Obviously those five males were bunch of frustrated jakes (young males) who had lost out on the whole spring mating thing but had spotted themselves a lonely jenny, which compelled them to pull out all of the stops.

I don’t know if any of them inspired the homely hen enough to win the prize because after about five minutes they decided to move off the road and danced their way into the bushes. However, it seems to me those five boys were clearly worried that they were going to be this year’s mating season losers. And since gobblers are not native to Palestine Jesus must not have been talking about turkeys.

Jesus, however, did specifically talk about ravens and sparrows (Matthew 10:29). We only have the occasional raven around our place, but we do have a resident pack of their cousins, crows. They really are gang, they love to harass other birds, fly around with their souped-up sound systems cranked up, doing all kinds of aerial acrobatics, looking for mischief, and when they have found it they fly off laughing away. They, unlike those strutting jakes, have carefreeness stamped all over them. “Turning to his disciples, Jesus said, ‘That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?’ … ‘Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need’” Luke 12:22-26, 31 (NLT).

Freedom from worry, freedom from fear are some of the great benefits that come with trusting God, walking with Jesus, concerning ourselves with the kingdom of God – the eternally valuable and important instead of mere survival. So, how are you doing with fear and worry? Are you more likely to resemble a desperate tom turkey afraid of losing out on life, franticly strutting your stuff, oblivious to the world around you, unaware of the goodness of God, the power of God, and the calling of God to higher things?

Those carefree crows look rather plain; they can’t compete with the dazzling plumage of a dressed up tom turkey. But watch them fly, hear them laugh, see the sparkle in their eyes. The more we are about stuff and strutting the less carefree we will be, the more we will be tied to the fleeting, the less we live by faith, and we will we spend more time on the ground worrying than in the air worshipping.

Consider the birds.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. If you have children, go to our church’s website and sign them up for VBS (Vacation Bible School) and/or camp.

 

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“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NIV).

It was not what he was hoping to hear, “My grace is sufficient for you.” He wanted the fix-it grace, the grace that makes it go away, the grace that makes weakness, pain, and suffering disappear.

“Why others and not me?” The healing, delivering, restoring power of Christ had worked through Paul countless times, “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them” Acts 19:11-12 (NIV).

If you had to choose between deliverance from pain and strength to cope with pain, which would you prefer? If you have physical limitations or handicaps would want restoration or grace to bear it? If as a parent (since it is Mothers’ Day) are both at the end of your wit and your rope what would you ask for, sufficient grace or fix-it grace? Dumb questions.

Paul did ask for fix-it grace, because there is nothing wrong with asking for healing, deliverance, restoration, and permanent change. Our Heavenly Father has given us the green light to ask away (Matthew 7:7-11, James 1:2-6). Paul didn’t just ask once, but twice, and again. Then he got a clear word, a definite answer from God, “Your thorn in the flesh will stay, your weakness will not be taken away, your pain, struggle, and frustration will not just dissipate, but you will receive sufficient grace, for today, and tomorrow, and every day after that.”

It can knock you for loop, when God grants you sufficient grace when you asked for fix-it grace, when God hears your request but responds to it differently. We see little purpose in pain, suffering, sickness, limitations, handicaps, frustrations, trials that last, and … It is easy to get confused when the God of love for whom nothing is impossible doesn’t fix it and instead hands us the cup filed with sufficient grace. It is tough drinking water while others are sipping champagne.

Many criticized God and Christ and walked away at this intersection of receiving sufficient grace while asking for fix-it grace. But Paul didn’t, after hearing, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” he adjusted himself to Christ’s answer, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV). We’d much prefer for God to adjust himself and acquiesce to our requests than the other way around.

Sufficient grace is never cheap grace; it is not lesser than fix-it grace. When God gives us the cup of sufficient grace it is because that is exactly what we need. Paul recognized that this sufficient grace kept him humble, it kept him much closer to Christ, it made him depend on power far greater than his own, and realized that Christ shines through women and men who embrace and live out of his sufficient grace.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)

 I hate to admit it, but I am not as sure footed as I was when I was 25. I was reminded of that last time I went trout fishing on the South Fork of the Tuolumne river. I used to be able to rock hop and leap all over. Now I am much more prone to stumble and fall. In fact, I hit the deck twice a few weeks ago just navigating around my yard. I blame it on my current back struggles and how they affect my left leg.

I watch my grandson trying to gain stability on his young legs. He too, spills regularly, but he doesn’t fall as far and his bones are softer than mine. Yet, if he fails to gain stability on his legs his life will be much tougher, much more bruised, and much more limited.

Of course we don’t just stumble with our legs. Ever stumbled with your mouth? Didn’t find the right words? Made a mess with the words you did manage? Wish you could somehow take them words back?

We stumble with our emotions. For many, their temper and anger (how they express and manage it) trip them up time after time. They continually make them stumble. For others it is depression, or anxiety, or paralyzing fear.

For some it is money, the making of it, the managing (actually mismanaging) of it, the spending of it, the love of it, that time after time causes them to stumble, to upset their lives, to add enormous stress and worry.

James is right when he writes, we all stumble in many ways” James 3:2 (ESV). People have stumbled over their ambitions, jealousy, because of their friends, relatives, how people have treated them, injustice, and ….

Jude’s main concern in his short letter next to the last book of the Bible is far too many people stumbling spiritually. I can attest to that after pastoring for 32 years. Heck, all I have to do is look in the mirror and get a glimpse of a stumbler.

Stumbling is a special concern to me as a Dad and now Granddad. I want to model and contribute to the stability of my children and grandchildren, and that is tough to do if I stumble too much, especially spiritually. There is absolutely no one better at helping me/us when it comes to stumbling, gaining balance, acquiring stability in life with all of its challenges and twist and turns, than God and his Son Jesus Christ. There is no resource better than the Bible (God’s written revelation) when it comes to building the strength of mind, heart, faith, and habits needed to avoid stumbling. There are few foundational habits as important as gathering weekly with other stumblers to encourage each other and worship the one who daily offers his almighty hand to keep us from stumbling.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:10-11 (NASB)

Chances are high that you have a Christmas list, if not on paper then at least in your head, of people you intend to give a gift or send a card. It might be a very long list or one that is very short. The card list is fairly easy, the only challenges are to get the cards and get them out on time. The gift list, on the other hand, can be quite challenging. Some people are notoriously difficult to find gifts for, they either have most everything already or are simply not easy to please. Some folks have very high expectations which add significant pressure. Others we feel obligated to have on our list but if we are honest our motivation level toward them is not very high. There are of course those to whom we want to give nothing but the best, pull out all the stops, stretch ourselves financially beyond what is prudent. But no matter who is on your list chances are high you will need only one sheet of paper to note all of their names, maybe even the fingers of your hands will suffice to count them all up.

Go back and read the scripture at the top again and check out God’s Christmas list, “Good News” “Great Joy” “A Savior” – “for all the people.” No one left out, no one overlooked, no one in the obligatory category, no one designated for “card only.” Everyone on the major, lavish (Ephesians 1:3-8a), all out gift list. It is astounding that anyone would end up on that list. None of us is deserving. For each one of us God (who knows us completely) has many and convincing reasons to leave us off the list, to take out a pen and cross out our names. But somehow, graciously, gloriously God has put your and my name, along with everyone else’s on his Christmas giving list.

Answer honestly. Have you ever gotten a Christmas gift you didn’t really care about, for which you were not all that grateful? Does that include what God gave at Christmas, his Son Jesus Christ, the Savior you and I need? Has it ever struck you how much God cares about you, and how much you and I need what he has given? And what hope can we have if we disregard God’s ultimate gift, that which we need most?

And one more call to Christmas honesty. We struggle with God’s Christmas list because it includes those we don’t like, our enemies, evil doers, haters, ingrates, brats, the lazy, the unjust, the …. It includes those we’d leave off, those whom we label as “undeserving.” It is a list we would have never compiled on our own. How compatible is God’s Christmas list with your and my worldview, our politics, our level of compassion, our willingness to be “lavish” when it comes to mercy, grace, love, and giving?

Merry Christmas. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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In the long-haul walls built by fear don’t work. The Great Wall of China in spite of being one of the Seven Wonders of the World never did do its job. The walls of Jericho offered no real protection. The wall Nehemiah rebuilt around Jerusalem boosted morale but did nothing to stop the tug of war carried out the great world powers in that territory. The Maginot line of defense didn’t stop Hitler for even a moment, he simply Blitzkrieged around it. The Berlin wall and the border fence separating East from West Germany failed to quench East Germans’ thirst for freedom, so they tore it down at the first real opportunity. Walls build by fear don’t work and it doesn’t matter whether or not they are made of concrete, or words of fear and hate, or usually both.

I am surprised how many Christians are answering the siren call for more walls, be it more prison walls, border fences, or rhetoric that keeps repeating the refrain of “let’s keep them out so we can be safe within.” But how much Concertina wire do we want, how high and thick do the walls need to be, and at what point do we end up imprisoned ourselves, both actually and in our mentality?

Christmas is just weeks away. Maybe we need to remember that God himself took on flesh to break down walls. Wall-building is the very antithesis of the reality of Christmas. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to liberate, to tear down walls that separate, to not be ruled by fear but by faith rooted in love, to help us escape from the inescapable walls our sins create, and to help us across the wall no one can leap over, death. Jesus came to reconcile and has entrusted us with the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). As stewards of the Good News he has called us to concern ourselves not with how many we can keep out, but about how many we can bring in through the door of the cross.

Do we as Christians have to be afraid that our Heavenly Father is no longer capable of feeding us, the immigrants (both legal and illegal), and the refugees (for whose plight we are partially responsible) knocking at our door? Have we forgotten that, “God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT); that, “This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19 (NLT); and that, Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me” Matthew 25:40 (HCSB)?

Before we give credence to the rhetoric of the those who constantly cry for more walls, before we attach ourselves to the political bandwagon of anyone who thinks wall building is a good idea, and before we repeat carefully crafted arguments for wall building rooted in patriotism or any other human rationale I am asking you to thoroughly examine the scriptures and let the word of God (the Bible, and specifically the New Testament) inform your opinions, your conversations, and your actions. “For he himself (Christ) is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” Ephesians 2:14-19 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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Ideally, before you read this pastor’s note you should a Bible and an empty bottle. Fill the empty bottle with water and then read John 2:1-11. Did you do it? Great, now read on.

“They have no wine.” John 2:3 (NASB)

This wedding started great but it was about to fizzle, what everyone had been talking about was not going to be the same as what everyone was going to talk about, what was planned to be a success was going to end in embarrassment and disgrace, all that had been invested was going to be overshadowed by what ended up lacking. How many marriages, how many lives does that describe?

“Why did it have to be such a hot day?” “Can you believe how much these people are drinking?” “We are going to run out!” When did the headwaiter, the person in charge of this wedding let the happy couple know that they were going to run out? But obviously the word was already spreading. How long before the first one would work up the gumption to leave and start the exodus?

Every marriage, every life, will inevitably encounter the unexpected, the point where dreams, plans, the unpredictable, the unreal becoming real, and nightmares collide. Life and marriage offers plenty opportunity at finger-pointing. Maybe it was a lack of planning, inviting more people than what was wise and affordable, a case of naively just wishing for the best.

It is far easier to get more water then to get more wine, especially when it is late, too late to get 700 more bottles of wine. What you do and who you turn to when you run out makes a big difference in life in general, but very much so at weddings and in the marriages that follow them.

When they put Jesus and his Mama on the guest-list? Why did they invite him and her? Not because they were famous, that came later. Who did they consider the most important guests? Sometimes we don’t realize how important God is until we run out, until the stores are closed, until the even the experts, the headwaiter, are at their wits end, are left scratching his head and worrying. Too often we make the VIP mistake, especially when we are in love.

It makes no sense to try to fix a running out of wine problem with filling the empty bottles with water. Funny, marriage, especially in our culture, is a step of faith, “I’ll love you forever, for better and worse, to the end of my days,” that’s stepping out in faith, all the variables, statistics, and complete uncertainties be damned. But why not trust the Son of God with not just our weddings, but our marriages, all of our endeavors, our lives? When all we can do is fetch more water wouldn’t it be the very epitome of wisdom to turn to the one who knows how to turn water into wine?

The headwaiter was confused, you’re supposed to start with the good stuff and serve the cheap stuff when everyone is well schnuckered and can no longer tell the difference. I am sure that’s what happened at this wedding until Jesus did what he can do and turned what is normal upside down, confused the headwaiter, helped the party to continue, kept a wedding of an unknown couple from becoming a disaster, and made things turn out better than planned.

We can just keep sipping whatever we are sipping and when it runs out cry, complain, blame, bemoan, or make excuses as we sit among empty bottles, or we could can take our cue from Jesus Mama, she said, “Whatever He says to you, do it” John 2:5 (NASB), and find ourselves experience God’s incredible and miraculous best.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

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The kitchen faucet was leaking. It shouldn’t do that after only 10 years, don’t you agree. After several short-lived attempts of fixing the problem I faintly recalled that said faucet had a life-time warranty. So I looked in the file drawer where we keep manuals and warranties and sure enough there it was, a life-time warranty with the original receipt, and that’s when the fun began.

Actually fun is entirely the wrong word, more like run-around, frustration, “you’ve got to be kidding me.” The first live person, after navigating the automated menu which supposedly is to make things easier, informed me that there was no such thing as a life-time warranty. I read her what was printed on my life-time warranty, only to be accused of making it up. I figured this would be a good time to ask for someone with more authority and tact. This request got me thrown back into the automated menu which ultimately disconnected me.

The next live customer service representative did take down my personal information but didn’t think that she could help me. She was, however, willing to connect me to someone who might be able to help. This put me on hold where I was forced to listen to some really bad music, until I got disconnected.

The next customer service rep did confirm that my personal information was in the system and managed to connect me to said person with higher authority. The higher authority informed me that they did indeed did not have life-time warranties on my faucet, so I read from my printed warranty. He was unwilling to take my word and but would consider my claim if I would send in the original warranty and receipt. I informed him that I would not send in the originals because I wanted to hang on to my warranty for the future and that I would gladly fax him copies. He wouldn’t budge, so I thought that this would be a good time to ask to speak to someone with more authority than him. He didn’t like that idea, and I found myself on hold listening to more bad music. After a while he came back on to inform me that copies were okay but to not get my hopes up. I told him that my hopes were not anywhere near being up but that I thought life-time should mean just that. He thought that at 10 years I pretty much got my money’s worth. I obviously disagreed. A few weeks later I installed a new faucet.

My garden hose reel broke, having learned from the past, I checked whether it had a warranty, it did, and life-time at that. I called the phone number, “no longer in service.” Took it to the store where I bought it and found out that the company went out of business and that my warranty was worthless. (To that store’s credit they did give me a new reel because they wanted me to know that they stood behind what they sold).

I know of only one whose guarantees are hassle free and eternal (which is a significant upgrade from life-time). God’s word, God’s principles, and God’s promises are rock solid, they are as good and trustworthy today as they will be 100 or 10,000 years from now. And they cover things much more significant than faucets, roofs, power-trains, and such. They cover matters of the soul, of destiny, of salvation, of blessing, of conscience, of happiness, and of success.

Warranties are great when things break but God’s word and promises hold guarantees that are not only good when things brake but keep things from braking in first place. But don’t take my word on it, read and rely on the Bible (God’s written word) for yourself His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ… Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall” 2 Peter 1:3-8, 10 (NIV).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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