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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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I wonder how many sermons have been preached on Numbers 5:11-31? That’s the passage the outlines the procedure of a jealous husband bringing his wife to the priest because he suspects her of adultery. She has to drink water mixed with some dirt from the sanctuary and the ink with which the curses were wrote down. If she is innocent no harm no foul, if she is guilty she’ll end up childless with swollen belly and shriveled thighs. If you are grinning I don’t blame you, because so was I on reading Numbers 5 again. I also felt this tremendous sense of relief that my pastoral duties do not include administering this procedure; I don’t want to have anything to do with women’s shriveled thighs and swollen bellies. I do however have some questions:

  • How often was this actually practiced? Because what husband with even an ounce of smarts will subject his wife to this kind of humiliation. If she passes the test and emerges unshriveled I venture to guess that all kinds of things shriveled in her heart concerning what she feels about her husband.
  • Why are there no repercussions for the husband falsely accusing his wife? I take that back, he will have repercussions. “Babe, can’t you just let it go? I only did it because I love you so much.”
  • Why is there no equivalent procedure for the wife to put her husband through, to shrivel some of his parts? He probably will grow the gut all on his own.
  • How would this fly in my own life? “Susie, you’d better not mess with me or else it’s some bitter water for you.” Nah, I don’t think she’d ever think that was funny. Can you feel the ice?

There probably were some good reasons for this section of the Old Testament Law. Jealous husbands can be impossible to deal with and this allowed an innocent wife to establish her innocence, “If you don’t believe me then take me to the priest.” More importantly, no matter how strange this ritual may seem to us, is the fact that God sees and God knows the truth about each one of us. He knows what we are innocent of and what we are guilty of. A jealous husband might make his wife’s life miserable for something she has not done, but God never does that to us. We can rely on God for truth, fairness, and justice.

The complete truth about each one of us is that we are guilty, that we all have sinned (Romans 3:23), that we are all slowly shriveling up. That’s why we need more than truth, fairness, and justice, they cannot erase our guilt or deliver us from its consequences and penalty, for that we need mercy, grace, and forgiveness that only God can give, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7).

That dumb jealous husband dragging his wife before the priest has a dilemma. If she is found guilty he has to decide whether to forgive her or not. If she is found innocent he will need her forgiveness. The truth exposed will shrivel something, something that only mercy, grace and forgiveness can restore. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32, NASB).
To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Some things don’t mix well, fire and gasoline , coffee and pickle juice, ants and a kitchen, war and peace, lies and a clear conscience, wisdom and foolishness, love and fear, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love 1 John 4:18 (NIV). That’s why violence, abuse, uncontrolled anger, alcohol and drugs, cheating, lying, deceit, manipulation, selfishness, bitterness, and foolishness do not mix with romance, marriage, family, community, and a life with God.

When you are constantly in fear of the other shoe dropping, when you are constantly walking on eggshells, when you are always ducking outwardly and inwardly, when you are in constant dread of embarrassment, when words no longer hold water, when it all can blow up any second, when things are constantly out of control, when you are way past the first time, when the not normal becomes normal, when trust is a foreign word, when deceit not surprising, when disappointment is expected, when addiction and abuse have moved in, then you will find imperfect, twisted, perverted, and sick love.

Love is meant to beautiful, without fear, free of constant worry of it turning ugly. In the scripture quoted above the New King James Version uses the word “torment” instead of the “punishment.” Real love does not feel like torment, does not live in dread of torment, does not dish out torment. In fact where real love is growing, where real love is pursued fears are growing smaller and fewer, and torment is never a fit description.

Our problem is that so many of us are all too familiar with the tormented, sick, twisted, manipulative, and hurtful ways masquerading as love. The sad thing is that we are prone to settle for and repeat that which we know. It is easy to be in and get caught up in this web of love gone wrong, sometimes of no fault of our own, sometimes because of our own decisions, often because of both.

The good news is that God did not have the Apostles John and Paul (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) write about love in terms of mere definition or diagnosis. No, God had them write of what is possible, not just of what should or shouldn’t be, but of what can be. What may not be possible on our own is possible with God, “What is impossible for people is possible with God” Luke 18:27 (NLT). It is possible to walk with God and escape cycles and chains of the past. It is possible to walk with God and get out of darkness. It is possible to walk with God and learn from him how to love. It is possible to walk with God and grow in our capacity to love. It is possible!

When it comes to loving perfectly I am far from what I want to be, but God has been helping me to grow, especially when it comes to love. I am committed to real love because I don’t like the alternatives, because it is and feels right, and because God “renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake Psalm 23:3 (HCSB).

This Valentines weekend, if nothing else, make a start, be broken and repent of your wrongs, especially in regard to love and those you should love. Address that which is broken and twisted, pour out the full measure of your fears, and then take the loving hand of God to learn love without fear.

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)

Obviously the writer of this proverb was a lot smarter than me, because there are a lot more than three things that amaze me and so very much I don’t understand. Just the other day I saw an eagle gliding through the sky, and yes it is amazing, flight is amazing. Snakes are different; they are sort of a creepy amazing. I think I could learn to navigate a ship right after I get over my sea sickness. But that man loving a woman thing – I have been at it for 35 years and am still free falling into the abyss of loving Susie. It is a wonderful, awesome, exhilarating, challenging, mysterious, “you’ve got to be kidding,” head scratching, heart mushing, “what the hesh!”, “I don’t want to live without her,” “why is she crying,” “no one makes me feel this good,” “no one can make me feel this miserable,” “twitterpated, “she is something else,” “there is nobody like her,” “Thank you God!” kind of life experience.

She can me feel like an HBoM (Hunking Block of Manliness), but also like a complete doofus who has not a shred of intelligence. She plays the most amazing compositions on the strings of my heart, but she is also able to tear out my gut. Her beauty is dazzling, her cuteness is disarming, her wit is adorable, her wisdom is rare, her laughter is a show, her spiciness is just perfect, her intelligence is formidable, her strength is deceptive, her devotion is a gift, and her love, oh that love – wow! Forget the eagles, snakes, and ships on the ocean, a loving woman is much more puzzling than all three of them combined.

Falling in love is not very difficult, staying in love and growing in love is, but it is possible. I think so, even more importantly God thinks so. He encourages lovers to learn ever more about love, to never let go of love, to excel in love, to grow deeper in love, to be ever amazed by love. Oh the love between a man and woman.

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 13:3-8 (ESV, parenthesis mine)

To God be all glory. Happy Valentines, Pastor Hans

 

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