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Archive for the ‘mercy’ Category

Salvation without transformation is misinformation that results in damnation.

If your house has termites how many of them do want to be gone, for how many do you pay the exterminator to get rid off? How much of the termite damage do you want your contractor to fix? I imagine your answers were, “All of the termites and all of the damage.”

If you were to get sprayed by a skunk (and I have), how much of that foul smell does your spouse want you to wash off before coming to bed? I imagine your answer would be, “All of it, and make sure you put on a hefty dose of cologne.”

How much of our sin, our depravity, our moral and spiritual rot and filth do you think God’s grace is trying to address? How deep do you think the grace of God is trying to sink into our hearts and lives? How much does God’s grace want to change in us and about us? The answers to these questions are, “All of it, to my very core, and more than I imagine.”

The grace of God aims to be transforming. There is no way to drink from the cup of God’s grace and be unchanged. If you remain unchanged you haven’t swallowed. As James puts it, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17), meaning: you can’t believe in the love, grace, and mercy of God (salvation) and live unchanged.” If the love of Christ has touched us it compels us to love. If our sins are forgiven we should be forgiving. If we have received mercy it should make us merciful. If the joy of God and his salvation has filled us we should be joyful and positive. If the goodness of God is real it should cause us to desire to do good. If the peace of God keeps our hearts and minds we should pursue peace. If we have benefited from the patience of God we should be patient with others. If the selflessness, the obedience, the faithfulness, the kindness, and humility of Jesus has in any way worked in our favor then we ought to embrace the same.

Somehow we are very comfortable with saving grace, who doesn’t want to go heaven? We love the everyday grace of God, the grace that makes the sun rise, the rains fall, puts bread on our tables, and gives us opportunities in life (Matthew 5:45). We don’t complain about delivering grace, healing grace, God-helping-me out grace, that would be foolish. But how quickly we begin to resist transforming grace, when God wants to replace more than a few roof shingles, when he starts scraping off old paint, lays bare the rot, starts messing with our values, our outlooks, our attitudes, the way we react and interact, and puts our motives, our pursuits, and lifestyles on the table.

After following Jesus for almost forty years I still find surrendering to God’s transforming grace most challenging. I am amazed and ashamed how resistant I can be, how many self-deceptive excuses I can conjure up, how quickly I can deflect, and how disobedient I can be. I pray to be like the Apostle Paul, after having an opportunity to tell king Agrippa of his conversion, of the time when the saving grace of Christ met him, quickly added, “So … I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19 NASB). What a statement of surrender to transforming grace.

When it comes to transforming grace we face a triple threat:

  • All of our old scripts, the defaults of our sinful self. O how good they are in pulling us back, helping us to revert, to revel in saving grace while resisting transforming grace.
  • Declaring ourselves changed enough, holy enough. Resting on past progress and viewing ourselves in comparison to others has a way of making us resistant to present obedience.
  • Thinking of grace only in passive terms, God saves me by his grace, God will change me by his grace, and finally God will glorify me his grace. That however is not the whole truth; God’s saving grace compels us to believe, to repent, to confess, God’s glorifying grace is preceded by perseverance, and God’s transforming grace requires our cooperation and obedience.

Read the first sentence again. None of us needs just a little bit of Jesus, a little bit grace, we need all of Christ and all of God’s grace, anything less is self-deception, will make us pull up short of God’s marvelous grace (Hebrews 12:15). On the flipside, there is nothing like being transformed by God’s grace, We all … are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (HCSB).

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

 

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Can you picture two lovers without them having all kinds of hopes and dreams? I can’t. Hope thrives on love because real love is intrinsically hopeful, it wants to hope, it can’t help it. Love has the fragrance of hope, and in my case the scent of Wild Musk, at least when it comes to Susie. You spray a little Wild Musk into the air anywhere and anytime and immediately I will think of and look for Susie, it will instantly awaken my lover’s heart for her.

Have you ever driven by or walked through an orange or lemon orchard when it is in bloom? If you have, you know what overpowering fragrance is like. Even the few citrus trees in front of my house spread out a blanket of sweet perfume in the springtime – glorious. The weeds surrounding those trees don’t do that and so I treat them differently, I spray them with Round-Up (weed killer) while I fertilize the orange, grapefruit, lime, lemon, and mandarin trees. I have no hopes and dreams for the weeds other than to eradicate them, but I smile at just the thought of those trees blooming, I can picture the beauty of the bright colors of the fruit against the dark green leaves, and I am hoping that this year we will get to harvest more sweet fruit than ever, enough for us and to share.

Hope is fueled by love and love is never without hope, but they are also not without hate. Neither of them have any affection for evil, for that which is unloving, which is incompatible with love and hope, which erodes them, destroys them. It is that very reality which makes all of this so difficult, and often makes us unloving, destroyers of hope. After all, how do we decide what and who to legitimately love or hate? What should we hope for in terms of what should be and what should be eradicated?  “I (Jesu Christ) say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you… 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 6:27-28, 35-36 (ESV, parenthesis mine).

It is one of, if not the great challenge of lovers, dealing with that in ourselves and the other which isn’t so lovely, which is more weed than delicious fruit, which threatens and attacks the love we feel and the hopes and dreams we have, even the things that are legitimate to hate. For example, “Here are six things GOD hates, and one more that he loathes with a passion: eyes that are arrogant, a tongue that lies, hands that murder the innocent, a heart that hatches evil plots, feet that race down a wicked track, a mouth that lies under oath, a troublemaker in the family” Proverbs 6:16-19 (MSG).

I want to love, I want to hope, in fact I am certain God wants me and you to be committed to both. It is one of the reasons I try to stick as close to God as I can, I need his help, I need him to guide me and teach me on this. He is the greatest lover and hoper there is. I on the other hand am prone to be narrow in my love, depraved in my hopes, selective in my mercy. I easily love what I should hate and hate what I should love. I have even hurt those whom I profess to love, squelched legitimate hopes and dreams, acted more like a stink weed than an orange blossom. Oh to get love and hope right.

To God be all glory. Happy Valentines. Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Have ever had to call tech-support because you couldn’t figure something out on your computer? Maybe you tried to figure out your problem on your own and actually exacerbated the problem. Personally I like it when the tech on the phone just does that remote access thing and figures it all out. The other way is for him or her to walk you through it. For that to work you have do what you are told, “open settings, click on ‘the dummy messed it up rest button, …’” I wonder how much these techs laugh in the lunch room, “I just talked to this guy with a German accent, who deleted all of his emails permanently (which I did once) and expected me to work some miracle. Heck, he should have taken his computer to church for that and have the preacher lay hands on it and anoint it with oil.” I think I will call after lunch next time.

Anyway, the thing is that I don’t need to know as much as the computer tech but I have to trust what she says as she walks me through the fix it procedure. It is a step by step thing. I either trust the tech and follow the instructions even if I don’t understand them or the logic for and the reasons behind them. It is that way with life and God, with following Christ. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. 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. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” Luke 6:34-38 (ESV).

You just read an excerpt of life instructions straight from God’s/Jesus’ lips. Let me ask you, did all of that make total sense to you? Did you fully understand all of the logic behind all of that? Did you immediately have several questions come to your mind? Frankly, I’d be surprised if you didn’t. Jesus lays out some very broad boundaries here, it is easy to get lost and confused there. How do you flesh this out? Where are the limits?

Jesus sums up the larger instructions (Luke 6:20-49), that include the above, with these words, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great”
Luke 6:46-49 (ESV).

I am sure you don’t need to call “pastor’s note support” to get the point. If you trust the tech, your doctor, your mechanic, your financial advisor, your …., then you follow their instructions. Now they all might be very good, even excellent, and you are better off because you trust them. But they are not near as expert and trustworthy as God/Jesus Christ. Will you and I trust his word and wisdom enough to do it, even when we do not understand it. We will live better lives if we do.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Human history a tale of conflict, strife, enmity, violence, and war. The Bible reflects this reality from the 3rd chapter of Genesis to the 20th chapter of Revelation. All the advancements of science, all the modern advancements of technology, all the study of history, all of the religious practices and rejections of the one true God by mankind have not changed that reality. In fact, we just have gotten better at it. At the battle of Cannae it took Hannibal and his army a day to slaughter 80,000 Romans, today we can level a city of millions in a flash. We can’t even imagine peace without strong armies standing guard and willing to fight.

The threats are not only external, nations and peoples pitted against each other, but also internal. Try to name a nation that is without strife, without conflict, without violence, without corruption, without various groups pitted against each other and willing to fight, clashing over ideologies, policies, liberties, rights, wealth, and … Just think about how much blood has been spilled between the East and West coasts of the United States from long before the Europeans settled here down to the present day.

Even the history of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, incarnate for 30 odd years is marked at its very beginning by Herod’s regional infanticide, serval attempt on his life, and eventually his crucifixion.  The words of Isaiah the prophet are as true today as when he first wrote them and when Jesus walked the earth, “The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace.  So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows” Isaiah 59:8-9 (NIV. Take a few minutes, get out a copy of the Bible or find one online, and read Isaiah 58-59 and let it sink in).

Both presently and ultimately it takes the intervention of the prince of peace, a Savior, the one who can change both the human heart and history to interrupt the cycles of depravity we cannot escape on our own, to regenerate what sin has killed, to redeem what has been lost, to reconcile us to God and his will, and to make us merciful as he is merciful (Luke 6:36).

Things are so much cleaner on paper, neater on a page filled with words. The hard part is translating what is right, what is good, what is just, and what pleases God into our lives, our private life, community life, political life, national life, our “neighbor’s” life, our enemy’s life. How do you that?

  • You have to care “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” Galatians 6:2 (NIV).Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” Philippians 2:4 (NIV).
  • You have dream of something better Jesus cried out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings …!” Luke 13:34 (NIV). ‘‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” Matthew 5:6 (NIV).  “(Abraham) was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” Hebrews 11:10 (NIV).
  • You have to be willing to weep for others and over the brokenness you see –“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” Matthew 5:4&9 (NIV). “…, weep with those who weep” Romans 12:15 (NASB).
  • You have to orient yourself on God and his Son Jesus Christ –“(Father God) Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10 (NIV, parenthesis mine).  “…, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” 1 Corinthians 1:24 (NIV).  “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” James 3:17-18 (ESV).
  • You have engage and don’t quit – “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, …” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV).  “Be doers of the word (of God, the Bible) …” James 1:22 (ESV, parenthesis mine). I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish. Don’t drag your feet. Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them” Hebrews 6:11-12 (MSG).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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Fill in the blanks (find possible answers at the bottom):

  • When you get yourself a puppy you will have to ________________________________________________________
  • When you get drunk you will ________________________________________________________
  • After you buy a car you will ________________________________________________________
  • If you leave the windows down on that car and it rains overnight, you will ________________________________________________________
  • If you grab a strange man or woman’s butt thinking it is your wife/husband you will _______________________________________________________

Now you don’t have to get a puppy, get drunk, buy a car, marry, or grab things, but if you do inevitable things will happen. This is not only true about things we can choose it is also true about things we don’t chose.

Wouldn’t it be nice if life were as benign as inadvertent grabs or windows not rolled up? Wouldn’t life be awesome if it were as cute as puppy? Yes, it would be, but it isn’t. As a son of an alcoholic I can’t tell you how quickly funny went out of being drunk. Having clocked my fair share of miles on the road there is nothing funny about losing your cool, road rage, endangering others.

Why did Jesus teach his disciples to pray, And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” Matthew 6:13 (NASB)? Because we will encounter evil, we will be enticed to choose evil, we will be both the object and the source of evil. We will encounter evil that poses as cute and funny. We will be tempted to buy things we shouldn’t, to anger that excuses itself, to words that are bitter, wrong, and wound. Evil and the temptation to do and be evil is inevitable, inescapable in the world we live in. It is never just someone else’s problem it always is also our own.

Evil always tries to start a chain reaction, even as it inflicts it tempts, it suggests that the best way to get back at evil is with evil, to answer anger with anger, hate with hate, wounds with wounds, bitter with bitter, always in kind. But the will of God is absolutely clear whenever and however evil touches us, be it small superficial scratches or having been keyed from head to tail and down to the metal, to the bone, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone” Romans 12:17 (NASB); “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people” 1 Thessalonians 5:15 (NASB),Avoid every kind of evil” 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (NIV).

If we need to pray, “Deliver us from evil,” then it is obvious that we need God’s help for evil to be defeated, for us to respond correctly to it, and to not be a contributor to and perpetuator of it.

Now that you have made it the end of this pastor’s note take a minute and reflect, take responsibility for yourself, and reach out and take God’s hand to help you deal with, cope with, evil in and around you, and pray, “Heavenly Father, God, please forgive me my sins, as I forgive those who have sinned against me.  And don’t let me yield to temptation, but deliver me from evil” Matthew 6:12-13

To God Be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. This weekend go and worship at a nearby church with others who seek to live out the above.

Puppy: Clean up messes, find things chewed up, be bitten, have that tongue put slobber on you in laces that ought not to be slobbered.

Drunk: lose control, say stupid things, do stupid things, be stupid, hurt someone sooner than later.

Car: See lots of other cars like it on the road, buy gas, get a scratch on it, run into numerous idiots who should never be allowed on the road, be one of those idiots.

Windows down: Pronounce yourself an idiot, drive sitting on several towels and still get your posterior wet (so bring an extra pair of pants), drill drain-holes because obviously you can’t trust yourself (maybe not).

Butt grab: (could also the sneak up from behind kiss): For answers ask my wife she has experience with this, get laughed at for a very looong time – basically for the rest of your life, get slapped, turn very red.

 

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After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance.
Matthew 2:13-16 (NLT)

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were political refugees. They had to pack up in the middle of the night and flee a violent madman named Herod, who had no regard for human rights. Among those he slaughtered were an untold number of babies in children in order to hang on power. What they needed was to be out of harm’s way, safety, protection, a place where the threat and violence could not reach them, a place where they no longer had to run. Luckily for Jesus and his parents Egypt did not have a closed door attitude and policy regarding Jewish refugees.

From the Roman perspective the Jews were a strange lot, with strange beliefs, odd practices, folks who created their own enclaves, who stuck together, and who didn’t integrate well. The place they called their homeland was a region of continual unrest, terrorism, and instability. And of course they were easy to blame for all kinds of things, it was easy to marginalize them, to reduce them to one lot, to make them an impersonal issue.

I wonder how Jesus, Mary, and Joseph thought and felt about refugees after they had been refugees themselves? When the topic came up in their home, in the carpenter shop, at the well, in the market, or on Saturday in the synagogue, what was their tone? What opinions did they hold and defend? What did they wish for, advocate for, and pray for regarding refugees? Because the things that we go through ourselves do shape us, do affect how we think and feel about them, and often make us more empathetic.

How many people helped Jesus, Mary, and Joseph along the way, during the time they were exiled in Egypt, the time they could not go back home? I am sure what the Wise Men gave them came in handy. But from my own experience of being an immigrant I know how much it means for people to reach out to you, to engage with you, to care about you, to help you, to be generous to you, to include you, to pray for you, to give you a chance. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all who have treated me that way, and I can’t help but think that Jesus and his parents felt the same.

How should the church, the organization Jesus started, the group of people he calls his body, think, feel, and act regarding refugees? What would he have us advocate, stand up for? How would he have us engage with those who are on the run, who can’t go back home, who are displaced by violence, politics, disasters, and economics? And where does the church get its cues to discern Jesus’, God’s (Jesus is God incarnate), opinion, heart, and directives? I believe the answer to that last question is: Through the Holy Spirit, through God’s written word (the Bible), through the example of Christ, and both through a willingness to follow where these lead us and to radically love.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Christmas. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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