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Archive for the ‘going to heaven’ 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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You can believe the earth is flat but that doesn’t make it so, your belief, however sincerely or fervently held, will not somehow deflate and flatten the globe. Personal belief does not change or invalidate truth, empirical or spiritual.

Martha, in a conversation with Jesus, professed her belief in a future resurrection of the dead, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day” John 11:24-25 (ESV).

The intellectual elite of ancient Athens had a divided response when the Apostle Paul declared to them the resurrected Christ and the judgment of all people, which necessitates the resurrection of the dead, “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, ‘We will hear you again about this’” Acts 17:32 (ESV).

Festus, the Roman Governor, interrupted with a shout, “Paul, you are insane. Too much study has made you crazy!” Acts 26:24 (NLT2), when Paul told his story of how he turned from being anti-Christian to be a devoted follower of Jesus and declared that the entire Old Testament predicted that One, the Messiah (the Christ) must die; two, raised from the dead, he would be the first rays of God’s daylight shining on people far and near, people both godless and God-fearing” Acts 26:23 (MSG, parenthesis mine).

The Jewish factions of the Sadducees and Pharisees were on completely opposite ends when it came to the resurrection of the dead, the Sadducees say there is no resurrection or angels or spirits, but the Pharisees believe in all of these”
Acts 23:8 (NLT2).

 You too are found somewhere on this spectrum of responses regarding the resurrection of the dead in general and the resurrection of Jesus Christ in specific. But the truth is whatever you and I declare to believe on this most important subject, none of us has any real authority to claim. What we say doesn’t make it so, doesn’t affect the truth of the matter one bit. We’d be unwise, dare I say dumb, to ignore empirical facts discovered by authorities in various fields of the study of our universe, planet, our bodies, medicine, … Because of the far greater consequences, we are even more unwise, foolish, to ignore the only true authority, Jesus Christ, on eternity, life, and judgment/justice, and settle for our own opinion, preference,  tradition, or human authority. What matters here is not what you decide to believe, you cannot shape spiritual truth any more than you can believe the earth into being flat, you have to believe, trust the revelation of God in the person of Jesus Christ and the spoken and recorded word of God, the Bible:

There will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the wicked. Acts 24:15 (NIV)

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. John 5:25-29 (ESV)

 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
 “Yes,” Martha said, “he will rise when everyone else rises, at the last day.”
Jesus told her, “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. Do you believe this, Martha?”
“Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” John 11:23-27 (NLT2)

 The unchanging Easter and eternally most significant question is, Do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Resurrection and the Life?

             To God and the risen Christ be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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“Follow me!” Jesus told Peter, Andrew, John, James, Levi, Matthew, … right down to you and me.  Did you notice? They never asked, “Where do we follow you to?” “How long do we follow you?” And, Jesus didn’t say, because the answers to these questions are implied, “Follow me, everywhere I go,” “Follow me, all the way into eternity.” That is a much further and a lot longer than we can imagine, but there is only one way to get there – following Jesus one day at a time, right down to our last day. Following Jesus is about following him today with the determination that, when we finally fall asleep tonight, we will get up and follow him tomorrow. Following Jesus daily requires at least three things:

  1. Letting go

“If you wish to be complete, … (let go of everything) and come, follow Me” Matthew 19:21 (NASB, parenthesis mine). It is foolishness to follow anyone or anything you can’t trust, and when it comes to eternity God/Christ is the only one we can trust. But we struggle with letting go, every bit as much as the young man Jesus was speaking to in the verse above. In order to follow Jesus today what do you need to let go of?

  1. Denying yourself

            “And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me’” Luke 9:23 (NASB). If letting is hard, denying yourself is even harder. Sunday will be Palm Sunday; the day Jesus rode into Jerusalem for the last time. The crowds wanted to install him as king, but he knew they would sing a different tune in just a few days. He knew he would be dead, crucified before the week was up. What would you do if you had only a short time to live? Jesus didn’t get out his bucket list and book some flights, not because he didn’t want to, but because he was more concerned with living out the will of his Father/God. For that to happen he had to deny himself, walk past his fears, and embrace his cross. In order to follow Jesus today what cross do you need to carry?

  1. Hearing Jesus’ voice

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” John 10:27 (NASB). Have you ever had a conversation with your GPS on your car dash? Nah, not you! Have you ever ignored that voice because you knew a shortcut, a better route, only to have to pull over to recalibrate because you got yourself completely turned around? There are no shortcuts to eternity, to holiness, to godliness, to Christlikeness, you have to follow the only one who knows and is the way, you have to stay close enough to recognize and hear his voice, and you have to do what he says. It is the only way to “get there.” In order to follow Jesus today what is he clearly saying to you that you need to obey?

I have found that the less willing I am to let go, the more I refuse to deny myself, the more selective I become about following what Jesus is saying to me, and soon become a confused and tired sheep living by my own strength and wisdom and will, which bring me nowhere near eternity. Make this Easter a surrender, a renewal, a recommitment to follow Jesus all the way into eternity.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:35-36 (ESV)

Mercy does give second chances but it does not abolish judgment or pervert justice, nor does mercy ignore what is wise and prudent. If you are familiar with the Bible (God’s written revelation) you know that God pushed the reset button on the human race once. Before he flooded the earth in the days of Noah people lived incredibly long lives, but, The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil… I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence’” Genesis 6:5, 13 (NLT2). However, the judgment God announced to Noah did not come for many years, years which God gave to Noah and his family to construct an ark (ship) and to preach to everyone the impending judgment and how to escape it (2 Peter 2:5). God in his mercy gave time for people to hear the truth and to repent, he “patiently waited” (1 Peter 3:20), but he also stayed true his word. Then, after the flood, God limited the human life-span to around 70 to 120 years (Genesis 6:3, Psalm 90:10); and, history has proven that we are capable of doing plenty of evil and violence in that time frame. There is a line when mercy becomes merciless. Giving a wicked man or woman a chance to repent and change is mercy, allowing him or her to go on and on enables him or her and is anything but being merciful to the victims. In fact, there are many instances when 70 to 120 years seems far too long to us.

God has set a cutoff time for each one of us, “And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment” Hebrews 9:27 (HCSB). And, God has set a final cutoff point for all of humanity and evil (2 Peter 3:3-18, Revelation 20:7-15). In the meantime God is amazingly merciful and confusingly merciful, seemingly giving evil and violence far too long a leash, far too much opportunity, giving people too much time to do unspeakable wrong. But, O how glad and grateful I am for every chance, for every opportunity his mercy has afforded me.

How are you responding to the mercy of God giving you time and opportunity? Are you taking that time and opportunity to enable you in your selfishness, your sinfulness, and wickedness? Or, are you the time and opportunity God’s mercy gives you to repent, to do good, to honor God, and to be prepared for the judgment? Your clock is running.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Jesus Christ), and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross— whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:19-20 (HCSB, parenthesis mine)

 

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14 (NLT2)

 As a kid I saw my fair share of castles. Three things trumped everything else, the armory with all the swords, lances, fighting clubs, and other weapons, the dungeon way down in the bowels of the castle mount, and, usually not far from the dungeon, the torture chambers with its diabolical instruments. We were too young to imagine the real horror that went on in these places, although at times I would have liked to put one of my brothers in the iron maiden or on the stretching rack.

We can’t imagine the reality of ancient crosses any more than young boys chasing around the horrible places of old castles. We know of gallows, shooting squads, guillotines, electric chairs, lethal injections, all which are meant to execute and kill quickly. Crucifixion, on the other hand, was designed to prolong, to inflict pain, to publicly humiliate, to be terrible and violent, and only eventually snuff out life. Terrible what we are capable of.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh died on a Roman cross after sham trials, being beaten to a pulp and publicly mocked. He was substituted for a convicted criminal and terrorist. He did not summon his followers to violent counter strikes, he refused to unleash the armies of heaven, instead, the most innocent of all who ever lived submitted himself to the will of God, the treachery of evil men, and death on a cross, which was a cursed ending among the Jews.

He died there for you and me, to reconcile sinners like us to God. It’s ironic, isn’t it, total innocence suffering and dying on one of mankind’s cruelest inventions. The giver of life laying down his life for the dying. The sinless one paying for the sins of others. That’s what happened on the cross Jesus died on. The symbol of death, of fear, unforgiveness, and of mankind’s evil became the symbol of life, hope, forgiveness, and God’s love. “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.  As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”  So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish” 1 Corinthians 1:18-20 (NLT2).

 You and I cannot be reconciled and have peace with God apart from the crucified Christ. We must decide whether we trust the message of the cross or ourselves. Choose the cross!

 

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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Tomorrow

Today was yesterday’s tomorrow and tomorrow will only come after today is done. Sometimes we can’t wait for tomorrow to come and then there are times we hope tomorrow will take its sweet time, but tomorrow will come at the steady pace it has always come, paying no mind to how we feel about it.

I suppose the way we feel about tomorrow depends a lot on how today goes and yesterday went; one thing is for sure though, it won’t be exactly like today or yesterday. It might look an awful lot like yesterday, or it might be worse, and hopefully, it will be better.

Few things impact our tomorrows more than what we do today, what we do with today. For Mary and Martha, the past week or more had been terrible. Their brother, the one they depended on got sick and died. The doctors couldn’t help, their prayers didn’t help, and Jesus the healer didn’t show up until today (a case of, “Where was God when we needed him?”), four long days too late. So, today was another day of grief, actually, worse grief, because Jesus showed up and it brought up bitter questions about last week. “Why didn’t you come sooner?” “If only you would have showed up this wouldn’t have happened!” were the first words out of Martha and Mary’s mouths. It’s bad when yesterday leaves you with gnawing questions and doubts, when yesterday buries today’s hope. Death just wreaks havoc with tomorrow; it is an enemy we cannot defeat.

To us, death seems and feels like the end of all tomorrows, but it isn’t. It can destroy the body but not the soul, only God has the power over both (Matthew 10:28). Jesus didn’t blame Martha and Mary for feeling the way they did, but he also pointed out that they still did not understand who he is. It is possible to have good theology (and certainly bad theology) without understanding, “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” John 11:21-27 (NIV).

You didn’t enter today and you are not reading this today without believing something, and whatever your beliefs are will impact not only your immediate tomorrow but also your eternal tomorrows. It is neither our beliefs in themselves nor the sincerity with which we might hold them that can defeat our reality of death and empower us to cling to life. It is not just a matter what we believe but more importantly who we believe in. Only Jesus Christ is “the resurrection and the life,” and only those who “believe in him will never die.”

The objections to the truth of Christ have been many: Too narrow, too simplistic, too unreal, too difficult to believe for a rational mind, too … They always will be just that, objections, unable to change the truth of Christ any more than the truth that tomorrow will come. The only way to be truly prepared for tomorrow is to believe in and follow Jesus Christ because we do not know what tomorrow holds, Look, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation” 2 Corinthians 6:2 (HCSB). The Easter question is whether you will believe in and follow Jesus Christ, crucified, buried, and resurrected today and not put him off until tomorrow or too late? How I hope you will.

Have a glorious Easter. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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