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Archive for the ‘normal’ Category

We all have them and we are all on them – people lists. Our genealogy/family list, friend list, favorite people list, not my favorite people list, enemy list, contact list, … You can find them in the Bible as well, and, the last one listed is the most important of them all, “The Lamb’s (Jesus Christ’s, God’s) Book of Life” (Revelation 21:27, 20:12&15, parenthesis mine). Although many have tried and are still trying to write their name into this book, on that list, only Jesus can put your name there. If your name is not on that list, you remain on the list of death and hell. We have to be erased from the latter in order to be on the former, no one will be on both, and, only Christ can transfer you from one to other, from death to life, from certain judgment to complete forgiveness.

Are you in the “Lamb’s Book of Life?” Many have said, “Nobody can be certain that they are.” The Apostle John didn’t think so, he wrote, Whoever has the Son (Jesus) has life; whoever does not have God’s Son does not have life. I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life” 1 John 5:12-13 (NLT2, parenthesis mine). You can’t be in God’s book of life without believing in and following Jesus,  “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” John 3:36 (ESV). That, of course, raises another objection, “So somebody can just profess belief in Jesus and live like hell, be a most selfish bugger, be downright evil and be in the book of life?” If that is your qualm or your reality, please, take a minute and read Revelation 20:11-15. You will notice that in God’s final judgment not only the “Lamb’s” list is reviewed but also the record of each one of our lives. Even though no one can be saved without completely relying on the saving mercy and grace of God in Christ, how we live matters, and everyone will be held accountable. Those who are on the “Lamb’s” list should live like it. I think that’s why the Apostle Paul exhorts us, “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” Philippians 2:12 (ESV), even when no one is looking.

Keeping the above in mind, our believing in and following Jesus should change and impact the people lists we are on. We should be moving off the pain in the butt, dishonest, cheap talk, lazy, immoral, unkind, unreliable, no good, miserable, foul-mouthed, prejudiced, stingy, self-absorbed, stuck-up, arrogant, undisciplined, heart and headache, hypocrite, … list, and be transferred to the blessing, integrity, godly, kind, generous, just, Christlike list. We should be on the list of those who hated Jesus for who he was and what he did and we should be on the list for all that Jesus stood for and was loved for. From the day Jesus saved you and me and transferred our names from the book of judgment and death into his book of life, we should be living in such way that our names are erased from all the wrong lists and be transferred to all the good and right lists. So, besides asking yourself if your name is in the “Lamb’s book of life,” ask yourself how your name appears on people’s lists? And, are you on the move on those lists? Everyone in Jesus’ book of life should be.

To God be all Glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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“Follow me …” (Matthew 4:19, 9:9)

“His disciples gathered around him, and he began to teach them.”  Matthew 5:1b-2 (NLT2)

Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT2)

Are you an old dog who doesn’t want to learn anything new or are you young dog with an attention span measured in milliseconds? Most likely, you fall somewhere in-between, vacillating between motivated and disinterested.

Did you know that our whole planet, the entire universe is an invitation to learn, to discover things about God, wisdom, life, causes, beauty, color, how to, and so, so much more. And, God did not only issue the invitation to learn and discover, but he also gave us the capacities to acquire knowledge and wisdom. One thing we should remember though is, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” Proverbs 9:10 (NASB).

So, it should not surprise us when Jesus, God’s son, spent much time teaching those who answered his call to follow him. One of the essential expectations Jesus has of his followers it that they will be learners, that they allow him to teach them, regardless if they are an old tired hound dog, an over-energized puppy, a dog trained to listen to only German commands, or an untrained pooch spoiled to do whatever it wants.

Salvation is free, a single marvelous moment when the saving grace of God is poured out on a sinner simply for the asking. But that moment is to be followed by a life of following. And, if I want to be a serious follower I have great need to learn all that that Jesus thinks I need to learn, because holiness, godliness, God’s wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and Christlike habits, attitudes, and ways are all acquired, learned.

If I am honest, I have too much old, puppy, and spoiled dog in me. I am also a slow learner, and too often I go back to what I knew before I met Jesus, ignoring all he taught me. Maybe this describes you as well. The danger with that is, though this may be an accurate self-assessment, it is also a convenient way to let ourselves of the hook, to use it as an excuse for being a poor, lazy, stubborn student. Jesus doesn’t put up with that (Matthew 8:26, 16:8; Luke 12:28), he expects you and me to learn, to apply what he teaches, to let an ever increasing knowledge of him, of God, his word (the Bible), and our world to change us into his image and to conform us to his will. We are commanded to love God “with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37), and that requires us to be life-long learners at the feet of Jesus.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Join the Army, and you will be doing Army things. Join Weight-Watchers, and you will be doing Weight-Watcher things. Join a book club, and you will be reading books. Join bad company, and you will be doing immoral things (1 Corinthians 15:33). Join Jesus, and you will be doing Jesus things. The decision to follow Jesus, to trust him as the Lord (Director) of your life and Savior of your sinful soul, also means you will get involved in what he is doing. “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” (Mark 4:19), Jesus told the two Galilean fishermen Peter and Andrew.

  • Jesus didn’t spend a lot of time doing nothing. He didn’t waste any time. He modeled and called his followers to a life completely surrendered to God’s will and activity. “Jesus explained, ‘I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does’” John 5:19 (NLT2).“We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us. The night is coming, and then no one can work” John 9:4 (NLT2).

 

  • Jesus told the disciples what he wanted them to be and do. So, we see them preaching, teaching, praying, casting out demons, healing, feeding the hungry, washing and clothing people, taking care of widows and orphans, being generous, serving Christ and each other, caring for and going into the whole world, … “If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him” John 12:26 (NASB). Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” John 20:21 (NIV).

 

  • There is not enough time to do all we want to do and what Jesus tells us to do, one or the other has to give. When Jesus calls you to fish for people you can’t keep fishing for fish. When Jesus sends you to town to get a donkey you can’t put it off until after your favorite TV show (Matthew 21:1-3&6). When Jesus sends you to preach to people you don’t like you can’t go on vacation to Spain instead (Jonah 1). “… I want your will to be done, not mine” Matthew 26:39 (NLT2).“… the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” Luke 12:42-43 (ESV).

Where is your life, are your activities in conflict with what Jesus is doing, with what he is asking you to be and do? What adjustments do you need to make?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Somehow, by God’s wisdom and humor, I become Mel’s pastor at the ripe old age of twenty-four. I loved Mel, but it took him some time to love me. He was of the WWII generation and didn’t care much about Krauts. When his wife Aggie-Lou got sick I started to drive him to see her. One day he handed me the keys to pristine 69 Pontiac. He said he didn’t want to use my gas, but the moment we took off in his car for the first time it became clear I was no longer in charge. Mel told me where to go, where to turn, where to park, how fast to go, when to turn on the heater or a/c, what gas station to use, which pump to pull up to, and to make sure to stop pumping at the first click. Good thing I am somewhat patient, and me driving his “baby” meant that he had let this Kraut into his heart. He gave me the wheel, but not the pink-slip.

You can’t seriously follow Jesus and be the leader. The very act of following recognizes that someone else is the leader, is in charge. It is the leader, the one in charge who gets to determine the direction, the route, the stops, the agenda, the timing, and the activity. Jesus left no doubt about who’s the leader, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him” John 12:26 (ESV). Even if he gives us the keys to the car, he’s still the leader.

With my hands on the steering wheel of Mel’s Pontiac, I had all kinds of thoughts running through my mind, “Let’s see what this four-barreled V-8 under the hood can do?” “Let’s lay down some rubber!” When Mel gave directions I would often think, “That’s the long way!” or, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” When he asked me to turn off the a/c on 105-degree day because he was afraid that the car might overheat, I was flat out flabbergasted, but I turned it off, it was his car I was driving. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body” 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV), the Apostle Paul reminded us followers of Jesus even while we have our hands on the steering wheel of our sexuality. Serious followers of Jesus continually acknowledge the Lord and Leadership of Jesus, the Sovereignty of God over their lives, and constantly bear in mind that, The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it; …” Psalm 24:1 (NIV), even while we are steering this vehicle, called our life, registered in Jesus’ name.

What do you need to change after reading this pastor’s note?

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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

Who should we be merciful to? Before telling his disciples to be merciful he gave them and us a list (Luke 6:27-35) that includes our enemies, those who hate, curse, mistreat, abuse and hurt us, those who take from us, ask of us and want to borrow from us. If you ask me, those are the people who make me less merciful, who make me think twice about being compassionate, or not think of it at all. Depending on what they have done to me, inflicted on me, or how they have taken advantage of me, the last thing I want to be is merciful. Chances are, that if you can read this, you have been hurt, burnt, and used. Being told to be merciful to those who did that to us feels like being told to be a sucker, an enabler, to be someone who doesn’t learn from experience. And yet, against all our possible objections, apprehensions, fears and feelings Jesus commands us to be merciful like God the Father. How do we do that?

1. Ruminate on the Father’s mercy. Contemplate how vast, how multifaceted, how indiscriminate, how continual, constant and eternal God’s mercies are. Consider the ultimate expression of God the Father’s mercy in and through his Son Jesus Christ (for more detail read part 1 to this pastor’s note). Ruminating on, contemplating God’s mercy is like looking at an inspiring picture that makes you go, “Wow,” and wish you were there. Pictures like that are good to have on the walls of our heart and mind.

2. Remember when you needed mercy. Everyone has needed mercy sometime during their lifetime, and most likely many many times. Remember a time when you had to ask for help, for assistance, for forgiveness, for another chance, or maybe you were merely hoping that someone would see and respond to your need. We are much humbler when we need mercy and we will be much more empathetic when we remember the times we were in those shoes. The Apostle Paul, for whom mercy wasn’t always a strength, remembered and wrote, “This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all (how I needed mercy). But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life” 1 Timothy 1:15-16 (NLT2, parenthesis mine).

3. Recall when you received mercy. It is one thing to ask, hope, and wish for mercy but it’s quite another to actually receive it, Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, but a sudden good break can turn life around” Proverbs 13:12 (MSG). Recall the joy, the relief, the gratitude you felt when you were on the receiving end of mercy.

4. Recognize and seize opportunities you have to be merciful. God doesn’t tell us to merciful and then not give us opportunities to be merciful. Before Jesus said “be merciful,” he already had told his disciples, Do to others as you would have them do to you,” or as Eugene Peterson paraphrases it, Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you; then grab the initiative and do it for them!” Luke 6:31 NIV &MSG. Think about how many “little” opportunities to be merciful daily come your way. I suspect, the better we become at seizing the small mercy moments the better we will be at the larger and more challenging ones.

Let’s go practice.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

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613 – 10 – 2 – 1

Six hundred thirteen Old Testament Laws, 10 Commandments etched by the finger of God in tablets of stone, two “foremost” laws of God that are the heart and basis for all the others, and one new one Jesus explicitly gave to his disciples.

I am willing to go on a limb and bet that law school students wished there were only 614 laws to learn, that accountants can only dream of 614 tax laws spelling out the entire tax code, that employers would love it if there were only 614 workplace laws and regulations. However, for a guy like me, who, starting from my earliest memory, have never liked rules, 614 are still way too many, feels too restrictive. Of course, that has never hindered me from fully embracing rules and laws working to my advantage. And, you are right, it takes a lot of hubris and arrogance to make one’s self the final arbiter of which rules are worthwhile and good, and which are not.

I wonder, how many laws govern our universe, make life possible, keep everything from total chaos and collapse? Probably more than 614, don’t you think? And how glad are you that I am not the one who created the laws of the universe and of life? I’m certainly grateful it wasn’t you.

Maybe, you are from the tribe of the rule keepers, just shaking your head at folks like me. I thank God for you because without you our world would be a much greater mess than it already is, and the rule critics and breakers would lack an indispensable check. Of course, meticulous law abiding also lends itself to self-righteousness and a lack of compassion.

Why did Jesus feel compelled to add one more?  “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:34-35 (ESV); after all, he better than anyone else knew that even the best rule keeper among us struggles with the two most important ones (Love the only true God with all your heart … and love your neighbor as yourself … Mark 12:28-34), never mind the ten or six hundred and thirteen. Why give us, who are already failing with God’s laws, and many of us who don’t like or even despise many of God’s laws, one more to struggle with, another one to flop at? I am certain Jesus wasn’t trying to frustrate and exasperate his disciples or you and me. (After all, God’s instructions to parents, especially fathers, was to avoid doing that exact thing, Ephesians 6:4 & Colossians 3:21.)

Close your eyes for a moment and picture with me a world in compliance with the Ten Commandments. What kind of world would that be? It would be fantastic! No religious confusion and exploitation, healthy rhythms and rest, honor in each home, no murder, sex as it is meant to be and in its proper context, respect for people and property, honesty, and contentment. I think that is still a vision to live by and for. Now close your eyes again and think of world functioning by two basic laws, “’The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’  The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these’” Mark 12:29-31 (ESV).  I maintain this too would be a beautiful world because we would be in affectionate harmony with both our Creator and each other. Would you dare ask yourself, “Is that true of me?”

Did you notice? Jesus commands a standard beyond loving our neighbor as ourselves. He commands us to love each other how he (God himself) loves us. I might muster up the self-discipline to love others like I love myself, but loving them like Jesus, the Son of God who left heaven’s glory, confined himself to a human existence, and suffered and died for a sinner like me (Philippians 2:5-11), seems impossible. And it is as impossible as it not optional. Jesus was serious, he did not suggest but commanded us to love each other as he loves us. With this command, he calls us to live a life dominated by and centered in his nature. And, in this command, he established the criteria for what it truly means to know and reflect him. But we, both those who love and those dislike rules, cannot love like that on our own. The only way we can is to profess our impotence and at the same time open ourselves up to Jesus putting his very life and heart into us, today, tomorrow, and for the rest of our days.

Close your eyes one more time and picture your world with you loving others like Jesus. How beautiful is that! Settle for nothing less.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. Hebrews 11:23 (ESV)

They couldn’t d it because they were normal. It didn’t matter that they had no legal standing, they were part of a minority living in constant fear, and that chances of them being found out were sky high. They knew the law, they knew they were putting their other children and family at risk, but they also knew what was clearly right and obviously wrong. So Moses’ parents, Amram and Jochebed, did not throw their newborn infant son into the Nile but instead hid him, cared for him, fed and cleaned him, and most importantly loved him. Loving a baby, especially yours is normal, parents making sacrifices for their children is normal; it not only feels right but is right.

Then Pharaoh’s daughter went down to the Nile to bathe, and her attendants were walking along the river bank. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her slave girl to get it. She opened it and saw the baby. He was crying, and she felt sorry (compassion) for him. “This is one of the Hebrew babies,” she said. Exodus 2:5-6 (NIV, parenthesis mine)

Ironically, the daughter of the Pharaoh who issued the infanticide law regarding Hebrew males couldn’t do it either. She stumbled upon the basket Moses’ parents had made for him when it became impossible to hide him any longer. A soon as Pharaoh’s daughter realized that this was a Hebrew baby she could have instructed one of her servants to take little Moses out of his basket and toss him into the current of the river. But she didn’t because it is normal to comfort and love on a crying baby.

It is normal for parents to love their children and it is equally normal for children to love their parents, we are capable of both. Yet, every day we see children thrown into the “Nile.” Few topics carry with it as much brokenness, neglect, manipulation, disappointment, twistedness and outright evil than parent-child relationships. But can you think of a better illustration of the difference love makes than a loving home and family?

No one knows more and has more experience as to love in the parent/child relationship than God. The love Jesus shows to you and me and even his enemies is no accident, he said, “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love” John 15:9 (NIV).

For all the things God will hold us accountable what we do with our capacity to love might be at the very top, and our very first relationship in life is meant to get us started on love, grow and become strong in love. In a real relationship with God through Christ it is his love that seeks to shape us to become ever better, to be men and women, Moms and Dads, sons and daughters, neighbors and friends who continue to grow in holiness and love, who are known for love that is fearless, committed, strong, selfless, and real. For the LORD corrects those he loves, just as a father corrects a child in whom he delights” Proverbs 3:12 (NLT).

I believe the love, faith, and courage of Jochebed and Amram impacted Moses for the rest of his life in the most positive way. What he experienced at home had an impact on his own character, his dedication to God, his family, his people, his desire to form a society that is just, caring, and God-honoring.

It is never too late to start down the road of being a loving parent, of being a loving child. It might mean having to learn a lot, asking for much forgiveness, granting much forgiveness, and making profound changes. But I am convinced that God will help you and me to unleash our capacity to love.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

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