Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘hope’ Category

I am working on a car, again, the a/c (air-conditioning) is out. The car is drivable but on 104 (40 Celsius) or hotter days, Susie might want to make it to work without having to take another shower.

Our dishwasher rack is missing some prongs, but it is still washing dishes as well as it was when we bought it 25 years ago (Isn’t fun when God makes our things last?!).

Walking around our property I continually find vulture feathers, and sometimes when those magnificent flying creatures zoom low over our heads you can see where some of those feathers are missing, obviously, this does not rob them of their ability to fly. Of course, it would be a lot different if a vulture lost all its feathers at once, it would ground them for sure. The dishwasher and Susie’s car would be worthless if their water pumps gave out, or some other vital part failed.

It is no different with the Christian life, there are minor issues which might make things more uncomfortable, make things harder, or force you to make adjustments, and then there are major things that bring you to a screeching halt, keep you from soaring, and need immediate attention and repair. This is something the Corinthian Christians lost sight of; they were busy fixing the a/c when their engine had major problems. They argued and divided over minor things and forgot about the most important. As a result, they started looking and acting more and more ridiculous. Christians can employ the full Christian lingo and yet look like a vulture without feathers.

The Apostle Paul told the Corinthians that if they got things right their Faith, Hope, and Love would be in top mechanical condition, be the main feathers of their plumage, would leave their dishes sparkling. And of these three, he said, Love was the most indispensable. Without it the individual believer and the Christian community/church is broken, without substance, going nowhere, accomplishing nothing.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends (fails)” 1 Corinthians 13:1-8 (ESV, parenthesis NASB).

So, now that you have read the scripture above, I want to challenge you to do a little exercise with me. Think through this passage with the heading:

If I don’t have love (the kind God wants you to have and practice)

How does that affect your life, the life of your church, and the lives of those around you? Here are the first four things I wrote down:

  • Without out love, I sound wrong, verse 1.
  • Without love, I think wrong (“I am nothing”), verse 2.
  • Without love, I go wrong (“I gain nothing”), verse 3.
  • Without love, I am not as patient as I can and should be, verse 4.

And Now you finish it up:

  • Without love,  __________________________________________________
  • Without love,  __________________________________________________
  • Without love,  __________________________________________________
  • Keep going! ….

Now ask yourself, “Who is at the brunt end of my lack of love?” This might be an individual, several people, or entire group or groups of people.

Finally, what is the first right loving action you need to initiate towards him, her, and/or them? ______________________________________________________ (It might include having to apologize and ask for forgiveness.)

Maybe you’re not feeling it. Maybe you think someone else needs to make the first move. If you are waiting on those two to change you might be waiting a long, too long of a time to become the loving person Christ wants you to be. Start fixing the most important things today.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”
They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”
And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Mark 10:2-12 (ESV)

 

Sklerokardia, hardness of heart was the reason Moses acquiesced to write a soft divorce law into the legal code of ancient Israel. Of all the tough and strange laws Moses proposed this is the only objection mentioned and, according to Jesus, it was a straight argument against God’s design.

 

The disciples give us a clue as to what went on in their ancestors’ hearts when they responded to Jesus’ answer on divorce with, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” Matthew 19:10 (ESV). “Too hard,” they cried, “What if s/he turns out to a bum/ette? Or a nag? Or worse?” “That’s just not realistic!” Contrary to Moses, Jesus didn’t budge. Keep in mind that marriages in Jesus time were arranged marriages.

 

The difference between a hard and tender heart is amazing. One will keep track of every offense the other won’t even remember. One will be stuck on self while other serves. One will build bulwarks of defenses and excuses the other keeps trying. One will refuse to be merciful and tender the other refuses to give up on faith, hope, and love. One will cry, “Too hard!” the other will dare to move mountains. No wonder the wisdom book of the Bible  tells us to, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life (and marriage)” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT2, parenthesis mine), and Jesus described “… from the (unguarded, hard) heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander” Matthew 15:19 (NLT2, parenthesis mine).

“S/he won’t change!” “What’s the use?” “Believe me, I tried.” “I don’t love him/her anymore.” “There are no feelings left.” “I don’t know if we were ever really meant to be together.” Words spoken on the way out, words that originate from a hard heart. Words that say more about the person saying them than the one s/he is talking about, words that reveal much about their faith and their heart.

Isn’t it interesting that God is so inflexible about permitting us to walk out of a marriage? The most intimate of human relationships is meant to last, to reflect Christlikeness like no other relationship (Ephesians 5:22-33), to shape our hearts, our love to be like Christ’s.

Hard hearts don’t have to stay hard, although they surely want to be. A good place to start is to pray, “O God, please change my hard heart,” and follow that with the most loving action towards whom your heart has grown heart without expecting a particular response, and then do it again, and again, and …

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

“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

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36 (NIV)

I have been intertwined in a long-term love affair. We have been carrying on for almost forty years and have no intention of breaking it off anytime soon. Early on, like most hopelessly in love lovers, and regardless of what anyone thought, we decided that we wanted this to last, and amazingly it has.

It would be great if all it takes is being smitten and wanting things to last. But our love hasn’t sailed this far and for this long on mere passion. Passion doesn’t know how to handle the storms, fix the leaks, bail the water, and recalibrate the route when blown off course, for that, among other things we have needed compassion, grit, teamwork, and mercy.

She did tell me what would sink the boat, burst the bubble, flush the dream. No second chance for cheating, no tolerance for violence and abuse, and no license to let myself go and turn into a slob, “You’ll get the hook!” she said. I have always loved her strength and self-respect.

Forty years is a lot of life, a lot of challenges, struggles, disappointments, frustrations, mess-ups, and unexpected. All that initial madly-in-loveness did not eradicate my bad habits, iron out my flaws, and cure my weaknesses. All that startup passion did not produce instant maturity, reliability, and the ability to handle things right. Hesch! I couldn’t even say “I’m sorry” (I’m still not very good at it – ask her). Without mercy, all this relationship tinder would have ignited a long time ago and burned everything into a smoldering heap of ashes. It was the practice of mercy, the being merciful that checked hurts, granted forgiveness, allowed for trying again. It was mercy that checked the anger, prevented the bitterness from spreading, and reigned in self-righteousness. These forty years of love she has blessed me with mercy, with being merciful without being an enabler, without compromising herself.

The crucified Christ, the greatest expression of God’s love, reminds us that great, real, and enduring love stories are never written without mercy. So, it is no wonder he counsels and commands us to be merciful in all of life, and especially as lovers.

Happy Valentines. Pastor Hans

 

 

Read Full Post »

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36 (NIV)

Some things are easier to be than others. It is easier to be ignorant than to be informed, to be thoughtless than to be thoughtful, to be foolish than to be wise, to be undisciplined than to be disciplined, to be nasty than to be kind, to be stingy than to be generous, to be unforgiving than to be forgiving, to be critical than to be caring, to be watching than to be involved, to be cynical than to be doing good, to be merciless than to be merciful. But Christ never told his followers to settle for what comes easier but he was persistent in commanding and encouraging them to pursue that which better, to reach for the best, to emulate God the Father, to model their lives after himself.

It is easier to practice a little mercy here and there, to be generous every now and then, to be kind sometimes … than it is to be merciful … in our very being, in our core, as part of our character, like the Father.

So, what do we know about the mercy of the Father, and how can we become and be merciful like him?

God’s mercy is vast, like an immense deep sea. Scripture speaks of his mercies being great, extending over all his works (Psalm 119:156, 145:9), and King David chose to be judged by God rather than men because he was certain of God’s vast mercy (2 Samuel 24:14).

God’s mercy is also multifaceted. Jeremiah the prophet found comfort and hope in the midst of carnage and destruction because he remembered that The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23,ESV), and the Apostle Paul concurred when he encouraged the Corinthians that to bless God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our affliction (2 Corinthians 1:3, ESV).

God’s mercy is indiscriminate, 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).

God’s mercy is continual, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23,ESV). Every sunrise and every rainstorm (Matthew 5:45) remind us that God’s mercy is both inexhaustible and that it gets up every morning.

God’s mercy finds its ultimate expression in Jesus Christ, All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay (1 Peter 1:3-4 (NLT2).

And just like that, I have run out of space for this pastor’s note, I guess you will have to wait till next week for some thoughts on, “How can we merciful like the Father?” But, I suspect that even before you get that p-note will have occasions and opportunities to be merciful. So, how can what you just learned about God’s mercy help you with that?

To God be all glory. Love you, pastor Hans

Read Full Post »

Christmas – Jesus, the Great and Most Needed Interruption

I remember the look in my kid’s eyes saying it all, “Somebody please stop him!” when I was on a parental roll, taking charge of the situation (usually without consulting Susie), laying down new rules, unleashing a fresh wind in the Frei household.

Have you ever wished for someone to stop you, interrupt you? Like when your mouth just wouldn’t shut up? When you were throwing a fit? When you were making a complete fool of yourself? When you were making lousy choices, spending too much, eating too much, texting while driving, …? When you were mean, petty, arrogant, unkind, or plain dumb or acting stupid?

Of course, there are much weightier things that need interrupting, like addictions, dysfunctional habits, violence, injustice, exploitation, oppression, tyranny, hatred, ignorance, poverty, excuses, lies, unforgiveness, hypocrisy, evil. However, just because something needs interrupting does not mean the interruption is welcome, darkness will fight the light to the bitter end, wrong and evil have no tolerance for interrupters.

“There was no room …” (Luke 2:7) for Jesus Christ in ordinary life, in political life, religious life, and in most people’s personal life. There was no room for the personified Word and will of God no matter how much it was, and still is, needed. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Creator, Source of all life and light came into this world, stepped into history, but he was not understood, human darkness recoiled at his light, and his own did not want him. The “grace and truth”, the innocence, goodness, righteousness, and hope interruption our world so desperately needs still finds few takers, few who will make room for it, welcome it, Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” John 1:12 (NIV).

It’s striking, unless we outright reject it, how much we dress up Christmas, the incarnation of God, in sentimentality, quaintness, and feel good. Let’s make it a superficial, fleeting interruption. But Christmas, Jesus is about God interrupting us at our core, our worst, in our deepest depravity, in our evil, at our most sinful, our total helplessness, our utter hopelessness, and in the darkest reality of ourselves and all humanity. Will we welcome him there? Will we make room for Christ there? Will we praise God for interrupting us through Christ and proclaim the excellencies of him who called (interrupted) you out of darkness into his marvelous light” 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV, parenthesis mine).

Merry Christmas! Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

 

In two decades of substitute teaching, I developed a morning introduction, “Good Morning class, I am Mr. Frei. I am not Ms…, I don’t look like her, I don’t walk like her, I don’t talk like her, I don’t smell like her, I don’t do my hair like her (I am bald), in fact I am nothing like her, so don’t be surprised that I don’t do things like her! Today, please don’t tell me, ‘But Ms… doesn’t do it that way. But Ms… always does it like this. Ms… lets us do that.’” But after this preemptive introductory speech, I would try hard follow as many of the routines the regular teacher had implemented in her/his classroom because the fewer routines I violated the better things usually went. We are creatures of habit, not just from K-12th grade but throughout life, and when our routines are interrupted we become somewhat disoriented.

Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth were good at the religious routines. In fact, their religious routines shaped all the other routines of their lives (a good thing), and their observances of religious routines sprang from sincere hearts, “they were both righteous in God’s sight …” (Luke 1:6). As a priest, Zacharias was in the middle of rotation of tending to the Altar of Incense, an assignment that was all about very specific routines, and it was then that God spoke to him. He clearly had no expectation for a personal God moment to occur, even though he was in the Holy Place of the temple (Luke 1:12). As helpful as routines can be, they can also be a hindrance, they can confine us, especially when it comes to God, and they can make us reluctant to and even reject the very voice of God.

Zacharias and Elizabeth did not only have their routine interrupted but also their resignation. They were childless, which was considered a blemish in their time. His response to the angel’s announcements that within the next year they would have a child was, “I am old and so is my wife” Luke 1:18. They were resigned to childlessness, to old age, to the stigma. God interrupted that too. Makes me think back to my substitute teacher days, one of saddest things to see is a young child already resigned to limitations real or imagined. Zacharias, who as a priest should’ve known better, got a stern nine-month rebuke for letting his resignation to childlessness diminish his faith in what God could do in his and Elizabeth’s life.

If we are honest, we don’t like our times of rest, of relaxation, of recreation be interrupted. We can get very grumpy, unkind, short, and irritated when that happens (probably not you), after all, that’s kind of “our time.” The night Jesus was born there were shepherds outside of Bethlehem watching their sheep (Luke 2:8). Sheep corralled and settled down it was time to get off the feet, sit by a fire, get out the harmonica, eat a snack, share some stories. The folks in Bethlehem were fast asleep, shops closed down, shutters closed, doors locked, comfy cozy under the covers in bed (Luke 2:17-20). Then the midnight ruckus of angels, the glory of God, and hollering shepherds in the streets. Goodbye sleep, adios relaxing, sayonara “my time.”

Christmas – Jesus is the great interruption, including our routines, our resignation, and our rest. The question is, “How do we handle it when God interrupts them?” Do we quickly return to what we are comfortable with? Temper God to our limitations? Try to get back as fast as possible to whatever we were doing? Grumpily crawl back under the warm covers? Or are we embracing God’s Jesus interruption and in the middle of the night are found responsive to his voice, adjusting to his will, and shouting his praises?

Merry Christmas! Love you, Pastor Hans

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: