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Archive for the ‘pastor/preacher’ Category

Amazing Grace and Ray Coffee,

I was his pastor for 33 years, in fact he, along with the others who voted in early August of 1984 to call me as the interim pastor of the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church, is responsible that I am your pastor today. He was about the age I am now when he cast that vote and I wonder how many times he wondered whether it was a smart move to entrust a stubborn German with the pastoral responsibilities of this flock. And, if I am honest there were times I wondered why in the world I signed on to be Ray’s pastor. Nevertheless, we ended up with 33 years of relationship and friendship, of sharing in God’s amazing grace.

From what Ray told me he was a rough, mean, hard-drinking, short-tempered man before God got a hold of him and he called on Christ to save him. He never did figure out why a girl named Barbara decided to love him and try to tame him, although she wondered a lot about how successful she actually was. Between Christ and Barbara, Ray did change, but growing spiritually was a struggle for him for as long as I knew him, “the old man dies hard,” the flesh wars against the spirit (Galatians 5:16-25). This struggle did make Ray more keenly aware that God’s grace in Christ was his only hope. He was saved by and died (“fell asleep” -1 Thessalonians 4:13-18), in amazing grace.

God assembled a small group of men and women in their late working and early retirement life to start a church here in Don Pedro. Everything that has happened in and through this local church body, this church family (that’s what it was for him) Ray has had a part in it, through serving, helping, building, giving, inviting, investing and showing up. This too is a result of amazing grace.

For Ray, like most of us, his greatest assets were also the source of his weaknesses. Ray had the gift of gab, the ability to communicate with complete strangers, to build relationships quickly, but his mouth also spoke when it should have kept silent, said things that were inappropriate, were ill-timed, and many times hurtful. His patriotism, service to the country, work-ethic, and dependability, were unquestionable, but they also could make him judgmental. His zest for life made him a person of action, but it also could make him selfish. So, it was more than just words when he sang about coming “to the garden alone” to walk and talk with God, to meet with living and eternal “Amazing Grace.”

I miss him, how could I not, 33-year relationships don’t happen all the time, 33- year friendships are a gift, 33 years of serving Christ together is precious. In this relationship, I got to graduate from the “kid” to “You are alright’’ to “my pastor,” I count that as a great honor, and as amazing grace.

To God be all glory. Pastor Hans

 

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Pastor Paul,

Starting this Saturday, April 1, 2017, Pastor Paul is retiring from being the Associate Pastor. He will miss the pay, $ 0, that’s for sure. Diana will miss him down at the church all the time. She’ll will no longer be able to say, “Don’t you have something to down at the church,” when she wants him out of the house. And she won’t have to fret over what else he committed himself to when she wasn’t paying attention.

All kidding aside, Paul and Diana are real gift to our church. In all of my years here few have involved themselves so readily, so deeply, and so faithfully. As Associate Pastor Paul lead and oversaw the Ministry Leadership Team, the Facilities Team, Amazing Grays, Advertising and Promotion, Majesty Adventures, Kitchen Team, and the Website, besides visiting, counseling, and leading an Adult small group. His energy and commitment to do it right amaze me. But more than that it is his heart to please God, to seek and do what is best for us as a church that has so enriched and blessed us. The good news is that Paul and Diana are neither moving nor leaving (you know how much I hate for people do either), but will continue to be involved in some of the above but without the pastoral responsibility. This gives opportunity for you and others to step up.

My favorite thing about Paul is that I can trust him, completely. He cares about you and me and us as a church as deeply as anyone. Even when I frustrated him, consternated him, disagreed with him, or disappointed him Paul has continued to serve, invest himself, and love deeply. I think he well deserves to be a little bit more retired and be a little bit less tied down. I think Diana, his kids, and grandkids will love that.

Three scriptures come to mind as a write this note:

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you” Philippians 1:3 (NASB). 

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is For brothers to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious oil upon the head, Coming down upon the beard, Even Aaron’s beard, Coming down upon the edge of his robes. It is like the dew of Hermon Coming down upon the mountains of Zion; For there the LORD commanded the blessing—life forever” Psalm 133:1-3 (NASB).

“What then is Apollos (Hans)? And what is Paul (Baker)? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building” 1 Corinthians 3:5-9 (NASB, parenthesis mine).

Thank You Paul and Diana.

With deep gratitude and praise, Pastor Hans

 

 

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When Governor Felix heard the preacher he kept under arrest talk about resurrection he was interested to hear more, as was his wife. It doesn’t matter who you are, how low or high your position is in life, most people want to have some hope for what comes after death.

Felix had another motive as well. He thought since Paul was an influential leader of a religious group that they would want to bail him out, or more precisely bribe him out. As interested as he was in the afterlife he was even more interested in this life.

“A few days later (after hearing Paul for the first time) Felix and his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish, sent for Paul and listened to him talk about a life of believing in Jesus Christ. As Paul continued to insist on right relations with God and his people (righteousness), about a life of moral discipline (self-control) and the coming Judgment, Felix felt things getting a little too close for comfort (became afraid) and dismissed him. ‘That’s enough for today. I’ll call you back when it’s convenient.’ At the same time he was secretly hoping that Paul would offer him a substantial bribe. These conversations were repeated frequently (often)” Acts 24:24-26 (MSG, parentheses mine).

What Felix wanted to hear and what Paul told him were two different things. Felix liked the thought of going to heaven but he didn’t care for having to think about right and wrong, morality, and especially judgment. He was part of the Roman elite, the powerful who had tremendous leeway when it came to their actions, their morality, and accountability, as long as they did not conflict with the interests of the emperor. This preacher was making him feel guilty, didn’t not grant him the luxury of appeasing his conscience as to his deeds, his standing before God. This preacher left him no wiggle room as to what would be overlooked and what wouldn’t be. This preacher highlighted his responsibility to exercise morality beyond what was acceptable in Rome, but would stand up in the judgment of God. On top of all that this preacher was making sense, this wasn’t irrational religious nonsense.

Felix was smart enough to realize the implications of the truths this preacher was laying out before him. If was going to have real hope beyond death and the judgment of God he would have to face his accountability to God for his actions, for his past, now and in the future. He would have to seek forgiveness. He would have to humble himself. He would have to believe in and follow Jesus Christ, who alone can atone for, propitiate for a person’s sins, bring him/her safely through the judgment of God, raise the dead, and grant eternal life.

Felix did what many do at that point of understanding, the point where God, where Christ gets too close for comfort, where you have to repent and believe. He sent the preacher away, “I’ll call you back when it is convenient,” He kept it on his terms, not God’s.

Felix did have the preacher back, “often” we are told. He knew what he was hearing was the truth, but as far as we can tell he kept checking out when it got “to close for comfort.” Two years later he was transferred, we do not know what became of him. What we do know is real hope, resurrection hope is only found in Jesus Christ.

Maybe this pastor’s note is a little too close for comfort? Will you check out or will you believe?

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

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I think designating October as Clergy/Pastor Appreciation Month was the idea of H.B. London when he led the pastoral care division of Focus on the Family. Without a doubt that emphasis has blessed a lot of pastors and preachers, myself included. H.B, who himself was a pastor for many years, knew that although pastoring is in many ways like any other job it is also very unique, with pressures and challenges of its own. Churches, life, and the spiritual battle have a way of chewing up preachers almost as quickly as the NFL does football players. Too many pastors don’t last very long at a particular church and in ministry itself.

I am a blessed pastor because your appreciation goes far beyond some special emphasis, you have made it part of our church’s life year round. I am a blessed pastor because I have so much to appreciate when it comes to you, my church family, this flock Jesus has entrusted to me, my brothers and sisters of the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church. I am constantly amazed at all the loving, caring, kindness, serving, and generosity I get to witness and be part of.

Let me highlight some things and people I am especially appreciative of this year.

  • I am deeply grateful for all the slack you have given me over the past 16 month. It has been one of the most emotionally trying and draining periods of Susie’s and my life. You have been gracious and supporting even when I was reeling and less than my best. I especially thank Paul, Davidmark, Marilyn, and the deacons for their support and filling the gap.
  • Our facilities needed a whole lot of care and repair this past year and can’t imagine what we would have done without the dedication and hard work of Russ, Tom, Bud, Ty, Christie, Robert, and many others. Thank you, thank you.
  • Every ministry needs good leadership, dedication, and people willing to work or it won’t function well or even exist. This means that everything that is going well in our church is a reflection of many serving faithfully and cheerfully. It means people stepping up, filling in, taking on more responsibility, and being dedicated. Russ and Cindy took over the Clothes Closet, John now leads the Food Basket, Troy has taken on the sound and multi media. How blessed I am/we are to have them be part of the Ministry Team.
  • The water pipes that were springing one leak after another got replaced this week – can I get a Hallelujah! Praise the Lord! In that process Russ and the plumbers discovered some pipes and valves no one knew what they were for. They were remnants of the past, things that served their purpose in their time. They were paid for and put there by people of our church’s past who served God’s purposes in their time. Someday we will be part of that group. It thrills me to see you being dedicated to leave behind blessing that will enable others in the future to serve God’s kingdom here in Don Pedro.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.
3 John 1:4 (NIV)

I appreciate you and thank God for you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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When the preacher gets tired

 

Since I am always encouraging others to not hide behind generalities, and because I can’t speak for every other preacher it is better if I let you know about when this preacher, when pastor Hans gets tired.

 

I know this much, when I am tired I am not as efficient, I am more critical, am more negative, have less patience, prayer becomes a struggle, I let myself get sidetracked, procrastinate, and wonder if all effort, all that preaching, teaching, shepherding is making all that much of difference.

 

When I am tired I am tempted to holler more from the pulpit, which is kind of like a frustrated parent yelling at their kids. But since I have been at this for a while I know that doesn’t do a whole lot of good, you end up having to holler more and more.

 

There are different aspects to my tiredness but they are intertwined like night crawlers at the bottom of a worm can. Some of it is my own fault, too little rest, doing too much, my ministry habits and patterns. Susie and I were dirt poor when we got into this ministry thing. When you are dirt poor you fix things yourself, cut your own firewood, do your own pest control, and save wherever you can. When you pastor a small church start in a tiny community you work several jobs, are the janitor, service planner, youth director, and end up plugging the dam a lot. That has shaped me, maybe scarred me, and certainly has worn me out more than once over the years.

 

Some of my tiredness stems from what I am tired of. I am tired of hearing someone who claims to be have been a believer for 25 years still claiming that they don’t know how to share the Gospel with their family, neighbors, and friends, or being afraid to pray out loud or for someone right on the spot. I am tired of watching brothers and sisters scale back or drop out all together, I don’t get it. I am tired of pussy footing, anonymity, outright gossip, and too many careless and trivial words. But I am hollering, ain’t I.

 

I am tired of having to motivate those who profess faith in Christ to follow Christ, to be faithful, to commit themselves to growth, to service, to think missional. I wonder if that is my own fault? Am I preaching Jesus incorrectly, if people are not internally compelled to follow, to change? If there is not a heart constrained by the love of Christ, continually overwhelmed and grateful for the mercy poured out and received?

 

I am tired of Christians talking Bible and flushing it as soon as there is conflict, hardship, change, or something they don’t like. Talking scripture without living it when it really counts is hollow, bridle, lifeless.

 

I am tired of the level of conformity that is required in my own denomination and other denominations. There are too many Christian circles all requiring conformity, be it some form of patriotism, liberalism, activism, or some particular theological ism. So you have to watch what you say and do or you are outrageous, outdated, or simply out.

 

There is a relentlessness to ministry, to being a pastor that is tiring to me. One sermon done another one coming (and it should be good, boring preaching is inexcusable). People don’t transform easily. The needs never stop. The spiritual battle never has a cease fire. There are always things weighing on my heart and mind.

 

Some of my tiredness comes from the fact that a good deal of what I do I am neither gifted for nor passionate about. I know that’s like any other job, which means you know exactly what I am talking about.

 

I am tired, shamed even, by my own slow progress, by the wide gap I still see after so many years between what is the present reality of my Christian life and what Christ, what scripture, calls me to be.

 

Now, I haven’t penned this note to elicit your pity. You could write your own. Teachers, plumbers, police officers, doctors, parents, … all get tired. I wrote this pastors note because I want to live with you in real and transparent fellowship. I hate having to pretend, so I don’t want you or me to do so, not in regard to tiredness or anything else.

 

Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them? Hebrews 13:17 (MSG)

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. I will use next week’s pastor’s note to let you know what this preacher never gets tired of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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