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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

 

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

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Then the LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper (companion) who is just right for him (comparable to him).” … So the LORD God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep. While the man slept, the LORD God took out one of the man’s ribs and closed up the opening. Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man. “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’” Genesis 2:18, 21-23 (NLT, parenthesis MSG, NKJV)

 Adam was alone, not a single creature in all of creation could was found to be a suitable match for him, could be his equal and partner physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually. God’s solution was to bless him with a woman who matched his flesh and bones, thrilled his mind and heart, and fulfilled his needs like no one else could. No wonder he shouted, “AT LAST, FINALLY!”

I wonder about Eve’s thoughts concerning what else came out of Adam’s mouth? Because it sure doesn’t sound very romantic. He clearly had given no thought to good conversation starters and pick-up lines. Maybe that is why she is called a “helper,”  Adam clearly needed help.

He obviously loved what he saw. In fact, he loved her so much he put her ahead of God (see Genesis chapter 2:16-17, 3:1-6). He might have been the first but certainly not the last man who did unwise and foolish things because of a woman. Agur the oracle listed, “How a man loves a woman (NLT),” among the things he couldn’t figure out, that defied his understanding. It is easy but always unwise and wrong to make your love your idol. It actually leads to brokenness instead of wholeness.

When you find the love of your life it should bring about three things:

  • You want it to last. Even two young teens in puppy-love dream of spending the rest of their lives together in wild bliss. The couple at the wedding altar make promises, “till death do us part.” The best way to make love last it learn to love like Christ, that’s why the Apostle Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her” Ephesians 5:25 (HCSB), and he encouraged spiritually mature women to teach younger women “how to love their husbands” (Titus 2:4).
  • Thanksgiving and praise to God. “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the LORD” Proverbs 18:22 (ESV). “House and wealth are inherited from fathers, but a prudent wife is from the LORD” Proverbs 19:14 (ESV). “An excellent wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels” Proverbs 31:10 (ESV). A really good, prudent, wise, and excellent wife or husband is gift straight from God’s hands, a blessing from heaven.
  • Greater awareness and devotion to God. Few things we experience in life reveal more about God than marriage and family. They are his idea, they reflect things about the eternal love and relationship of the God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit. They reveal to us much of what is on God’s heart for all of mankind and us personally. Jesus considers the church, the redeemed people of God, as his bride, Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church—a love marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty. Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white silk, radiant with holiness” Ephesians 5:25-27 (MSG, also Revelation 21:9).

 To sweet, godly, and enduring love. Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Benefits

“Yes, ‘tis sweet to trust in Jesus,

Just from sin and self to cease;

Just from Jesus simply taking,

Life and rest, and joy and peace.”

(Louisa M. R. Stead)

It makes a difference who you are connected with, the relationships you cultivate. I have been connected with, married to Susie, this incredible person, this most lovely woman, this very best friend, this most amazing love, for over 37 years now. It would take me quite a while to list all of the benefits of this ongoing relationship, and at the end of that list I would be singing, “How sweet it is, to be loved by you” (James Taylor).

Throughout those 37 years of sharing love and life the two of us benefited from many relationships, friendships, and connections. It is awesome to have people in your life who have your best interest in mind, who care about you, support you, cheer for you, help you, and put themselves out on your behalf. But hands down our most important relationship, our most indispensible connection has been with Christ, with God. No one has been as kind, as good, as committed, and as faithful to Susie and as Jesus, has been. We know what it means to exclaim with the psalmist, What shall I render to the LORD For all His benefits toward me?” Psalm 116:12 (NASB).

The ancient king David sang,

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (
Psalm 103:1-5, ESV; why not get out a Bible and read the entire Psalm 103).

God can bless, can do, can help, can work, and can orchestrate things no one else can. The list of his benefits is singular, a fact we often forget. The list of his benefits also includes many for which we never give him credit:

Moses reminded, “But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, …” Deuteronomy 8:18a (NASB).

Proverbs informs, “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord” Proverbs 18:22 (ESV); “… a sensible wife is from the Lord”
Proverbs 19:14 (HCSB).

Wise Solomon remembers, Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him” Psalm 127:3 (NLT).

Have you ever rented a car and decided to pay for the extra insurance? Only to kick yourself latter when you remembered that one of the benefits of the credit card you used to rent said car is car rental insurance? You have to be aware of the benefits you have. It pays to read the fine print when it comes to benefits, failure to do so just might mean you pay for what is free or lose out altogether. This why the best thing Susie and I have ever done is cultivating our relationship with God in Christ, living in the nearness of God, and continually read his written word (the Bible) so we will rely on all of God’s benefits.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There are three things that amaze me— no, four things that I don’t understand:
how an eagle glides through the sky, how a snake slithers on a rock, how a ship navigates the ocean, how a man loves a woman.
Proverbs 30:18-19 (NLT)

 This is Solomon’s song of songs, more wonderful than any other. Kiss me and kiss me again, for your love is sweeter than wine. Song of Songs 1:1-2 (NLT)

Love really messes with you, but it feels wonderful. I remember when it happened to my brother Andi. It was at a “Fasching” (like carnival) dance at the gym in my hometown. You could see how it was messing with him, hooking him, and how the wonderful of it was intoxicating him. In one evening all of his plans changed, our plans changed, she was in and his friends and I were out. Other than God/Christ captivating his heart this was the best night of his life, for the first time he got to sip from the cup of true love, a love that held him captive for the rest of his life.

I remember the moment when my heart went from friendship to “in love.” It was when I opened another letter from Susie and out fell her High School senior picture, all I remember is “WOW!” I recall my heart jumping for joy when I spotted her with my former exchange student family picking me up from the airport when I returned to the US. And how the moment of her placing her hand into mine is etched into my very soul. To this day I feel something wonderful when her beautiful, slender hand rests in mine. Loving and being loved by this incredible, tantalizing, and beautiful woman is nothing but an extension of the amazing grace of God, “Find a good spouse, you find a good life— and even more: the favor of GOD!” Proverbs 18:22 (MSG).

Wherever and whenever two people get to drink of true love they get to experience something that originates from, is part of the very essence of God, even if they reject the very notion of God. And of course the first sip yearns for more, for greater intimacy, for something that lasts. This is so because real love has nature like God’s, who “is love” (1 John 4:8,16), and thus is willing to commit, to hang in there, to keep on dreaming of and working towards a beautiful future, to give yourself for the benefit of the other, “Long ago the LORD said to Israel: ‘I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself’” Jeremiah 31:3 (NLT).  “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV).  “For God so loved … that he gave …” John 3:16 (NIV).

How good is it to know that God is 100% for true love, for falling in love, for that love to blossom into something marvelously beautiful and lasting down to our very last breath? How good is it know that true love does seek commitment, to be married, to be exclusive, to be intimate, to be faithful, to dream? How awesome is to wake up and look at the love of your life and know that God is on your side? How good is to know that that sweet love is a constant invitation to discover more about God and Jesus Christ, to grow in our ability to love, to emulate the One who “is love.”

Happy Valentine’s Day, Pastor Hans

 

 

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And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)

Getting married is easy, declare your love, pop the question, set the date, get the license, plan the party, and say, “I Do.” But what comes after is a lifetime of being married, of being a spouse. Making a baby is easy and fun (If you are wondering how? Have your Dad, Mom, Grandpa, or Grandma explain it to you). But what comes after is a lifetime of being a parent. Getting saved, being reconciled to God, and having your sins forgiven is easy. You simply have to put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the one who can save you, reconcile you, and forgive you. But what comes after is a lifetime of being a believer.

Once you get married, once you put a baby into this world, and once you become a Christian the question is, “And so what kind of spouse and lover, what kind of Mom or Dad, what kind of follower of Jesus are going to be?” Of course that doesn’t depend on what has already transpired but on what you do, what you value, how you think, and how you live in the present. And the present is continual, ongoing.

What are the chances of having a great marriage after a beautiful wedding if you don’t spend any time together, if you are disengaged, if you don’t maintain trust, if you don’t share values, and if you make lousy decisions? What kind of parent are you if the words sporadic, inconsistent, immature, and self-centered describe you? What kind of believer, disciple of Christ are you going to be if what happened when you were mercifully, graciously, and gloriously saved does not show itself in the ongoing present of the rest of your life?

In the letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul spends 11 chapters (I would love for you to get out Bible and read those chapters) explaining salvation: That all have sinned, that all have a need to be saved, that sinner can be forgiven and be saved from the judgment of God and the ultimate penalty of sin, death and hell through the atoning work and power of Jesus Christ. But once you have believed in and have called on Christ to save you, once you are saved, what then? That is what the rest of the Paul’s letter is about.

“And so” now that you are professing believer (brother and sister is a way believers see each other and often refer to each other, because through Christ they have become members of God’s family, John 1:12-13) this is how you become a good one, a life-long one, one worth emulating. There are two absolute essentials:

  1. You daily, continually offer yourself to God out of sheer gratitude. You see everything you involve yourself in as an opportunity to please, glorify, and worship God. Bringing yourself day after day as an “acceptable” sacrifice is above all an act of worship.
  2. You let God change the way you think by learning what he thinks, what he values, and what he loves. You let him teach you through his word (the Bible) how he looks at things and the ways he does things. And as you do you incorporate that back into point #1.

Here is an incredible reality, anyone who dares to live out his/her salvation in Christ based on the two core principles found in Romans 12:1-2 will end up being a better husband, better wife, better Mom, better Dad, better son, better daughter, better friend, better neighbor, and better human being. Oh I am for that!

And so, by all means make sure you are saved, and then live like you are saved.

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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