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Archive for the ‘peace’ 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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May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Among the realities of the Christian are:

  • Abundance“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Ephesians 1:3, HCSB), “May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:2-3, HCSB).
  • SufficiencyEach person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8,(HCSB), “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, ESV), “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33, NLT).
  • Liberty Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17, (NASB), “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, NASB), “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13,NIV), “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16,NIV)
  • Fearlessness For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, (NLT), “Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:14-17, ESV), “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6, NASB).

All of the above enable believers to be people of hope, to overflow with hope. Our temptation, however, is to amass and hoard the very things God has intended to enable us to overflow with hope. We are tempted to get another bucket to store the overflow rather than seeking out another person who needs it. We are tempted to build or buy a bigger home rather than offer up the spare room we already have. We are tempted to wall up, lock out, and keep out all those who would make our lives messy rather than open our arms and hearts as wide as the joy, peace, and hope of God enables us to. We are tempted to view freedom as something that mainly enables “me”, gives us opportunity to indulge rather than seeing it as an opportunity to engage and serve. We love to hoard, if not money, then stuff, if not stuff then experiences, because more is better, even it means others will have to wait, will have to do without, will have to be kicked out. Falling to these temptations results in Christian sluggishness, in justifying what is unjustifiable in terms of the values and realities of the kingdom of God, in public pronouncements of our love for God while in private we love another.

We are meant to overflow, which means there is a point we have more than what we need, when our buckets are as full as God made them to be and all of the overflow is meant for someone else. At some point in our spiritual growth, in our transformation to Christlikeness, the overflow should become more important than what is in our bucket because we are absolutely confident that our bucket is in good hands with God and the Christian life is meant to be all wrapped up in the overflow. At that point we start dreaming of having a smaller bucket because that means more overflow, it is the point where less becomes more, and oh how God loves to fill the buckets of those who hunger and thirst for overflow.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Next Sunday, December 4, we will have our annual business meeting. Our Agenda entails the usual items of approving the 2017 Church budget and the election of officers, but this year we are also considering permitting women to be deaconesses. That of course has the potential for conflict because opinions and interpretations of scripture vary widely on that subject. I think it is important for me as your pastor to remind us of some things.

The reasons for why we are looking at this matter this time is that the church leadership structure we adopted in 2013, which consisted of an Official Board made up of only ordained Deacons was not working due to deacons moving, dropping out, and prohibitive work schedules. The Board at most meetings had insufficient numbers to make official decisions, and no deacon trainees were in the pipeline; the polity was too ingrown and was not serving the church well. Thus, we as church charged the Board last year to recommend options and changes. This necessitated the discussion of who is eligible to serve on either a single Board model or a two Board model, and only the church body has the authority to make that decision.

This morning in our church Bible reading, God, through the Apostle Paul, reminded the Corinthians and us, “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (NASB, emphasis mine), and, “Let all that you do be done in love” 1 Corinthians 16:14 (NASB). Both scriptures remind me of what I teach at every Membership Seminar:

  • In Essentials (things of first importance) we have Unity.
  • In Non-essentials we have Liberty.
  • In All Things we have Charity.

I have studied the matter in some depth and over the past weeks have asked you to do the same, and invited you to ask questions, talk after the services, call or email me (although few have done so). You can also pick up a small sample of scholarly commentary of 1 Timothy 3:8-13 and Romans 16:1-2 illustrating the point that this is both a non-essential and an issue Christians and Christian scholars have come to differing interpretations and opposing conclusions. Permitting women to hold the office of deaconess is not stepping outside the bounds of scripture or heretical. It is an issue that is within the boundaries of Christian liberty, of our church determining church structure and polity. We already have varying opinions and preferences on this subject in our church family and it has not kept us from functioning in harmony and love. So regardless of what we decide, we need to determine to continue with that same harmony and love.

It is also important to remember that deacons are not elders, bishops/overseers, or shepherds/pastors. All three of these terms describe the same office (1Peter 5:1-4, Acts 20:17&28) and the qualifications for it are set forth in 1 Timothy 3:1-7, Titus 1:6-9. The office of deacon or deaconess and its qualifications are a recognition that in a church, leadership besides pastoral leadership, is needed (Acts 6:1-7), both to aid the pastor/s and keep the church healthy and growing. All leadership in the church is servant leadership. The very word Deacon is translated servant. The entire church is based on a servanthood model, “For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” Galatians 5:13 (NASB). Whatever authority the church entrusts to any member is servant authority, anyone who seeks office in the church simply for authority sake should automatically disqualify him/herself.

So, when meet on December 4th what you and I want, prefer, and are used to is not the issue, hopefully we will all the check that at the door and pray as we enter, “Father, fill my sisters and brothers and I with the Holy Spirit and bless us here and now with wisdom, unity, and peace.” When we cast our votes on this and any other matter let’s keep in mind it is not about winning and defeating but about seeking what is best for the church, discerning the will of God as best as we can, and doing so within the parameters of God’s Word and with the love for one another by which all people can see that we are Jesus’ disciples.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Give thanks in everything (in all circumstances), for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (HCSB, parenthesis mine)

Don’t worry (be anxious) about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:6-8 (HCSB, parentheses, mine)

Some things are easy to be glad about, be grateful for. For instance:

  • I am grateful for, and indebted to, American Veterans, who liberated Germany from Hitler and his version of hell on earth, who safeguarded West Germany from the scourge of communism, who have valued and stood for liberty with more than just words.
  • I got to vote because I am privileged to live in a democratic country, where religious liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and democratic principles have struggled and survived for over 200 years.
  • Every time I open our refrigerator I am greeted by an abundance many can only dream about.
  • This morning like most every morning I sat down and opened my Bible, my very own copy of God’s written revelation, the living word of God that is able to instruct me, grow me, impart truth, wisdom, strength, and discernment to me.
  • I woke up, and there next to me was this beautiful face, my gift from God, my love, my wife, my best friend and companion.

When it comes to things that are easy to be grateful for I could on for pages and I suspect you could to. But the “give thanks in everything,” the being worried, being anxious, being so desperate you reaching and crying out to God and do it “with thanksgiving” is quite another thing. How difficult is it to be grateful:

  • When your political candidate and party lost the election.
  • When you are in constant pain.
  • When you lost your job.
  • When your children (regardless of their age) or parents make lousy decisions.
  • When tragedy strikes.
  • When you or someone you love has an addiction.
  • When you are mourning and grieving.
  • When you are broke and can’t make ends meet.
  • When you are being taken advantage of.
  • When you are treated unfairly, unjustly.
  • When the work-stress is overwhelming.

I am sure we could continue for pages in that vein as well.

Is it as puzzling to you as it is to me that “giving thanks in everything” is “God’s will for you and me? That God expects me/us to learn to give thanks in the midst of worry and stress? That gratefulness and thanksgiving is meant to be a way of life, of dealing with life, of staying anchored in life, to the point that not practicing it puts us squarely outside of God’s will?

The good news is that regardless of our temperament, personality, background, wounds, and fears, this can be learned. Everyone of us can learn to “give thanks in everything,” to live a lifestyle of gratefulness, to not abandon thanksgivings in worry and stress, to stay focused on the right things in the midst of the grind of life. The amazing thing is that when we do so we end up being better people, with a peace we can’t explain, looking and sounding more like Jesus, which is always a really, really good thing.

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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In the long-haul walls built by fear don’t work. The Great Wall of China in spite of being one of the Seven Wonders of the World never did do its job. The walls of Jericho offered no real protection. The wall Nehemiah rebuilt around Jerusalem boosted morale but did nothing to stop the tug of war carried out the great world powers in that territory. The Maginot line of defense didn’t stop Hitler for even a moment, he simply Blitzkrieged around it. The Berlin wall and the border fence separating East from West Germany failed to quench East Germans’ thirst for freedom, so they tore it down at the first real opportunity. Walls build by fear don’t work and it doesn’t matter whether or not they are made of concrete, or words of fear and hate, or usually both.

I am surprised how many Christians are answering the siren call for more walls, be it more prison walls, border fences, or rhetoric that keeps repeating the refrain of “let’s keep them out so we can be safe within.” But how much Concertina wire do we want, how high and thick do the walls need to be, and at what point do we end up imprisoned ourselves, both actually and in our mentality?

Christmas is just weeks away. Maybe we need to remember that God himself took on flesh to break down walls. Wall-building is the very antithesis of the reality of Christmas. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to liberate, to tear down walls that separate, to not be ruled by fear but by faith rooted in love, to help us escape from the inescapable walls our sins create, and to help us across the wall no one can leap over, death. Jesus came to reconcile and has entrusted us with the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). As stewards of the Good News he has called us to concern ourselves not with how many we can keep out, but about how many we can bring in through the door of the cross.

Do we as Christians have to be afraid that our Heavenly Father is no longer capable of feeding us, the immigrants (both legal and illegal), and the refugees (for whose plight we are partially responsible) knocking at our door? Have we forgotten that, “God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT); that, “This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19 (NLT); and that, Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me” Matthew 25:40 (HCSB)?

Before we give credence to the rhetoric of the those who constantly cry for more walls, before we attach ourselves to the political bandwagon of anyone who thinks wall building is a good idea, and before we repeat carefully crafted arguments for wall building rooted in patriotism or any other human rationale I am asking you to thoroughly examine the scriptures and let the word of God (the Bible, and specifically the New Testament) inform your opinions, your conversations, and your actions. “For he himself (Christ) is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” Ephesians 2:14-19 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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The tickets were booked a long time ago but today is the last day before the trip, that means last minute stuff. I am always glad when I am finally in my seat and the plane is accelerating down the runway, I feel like I can relax at that point. Well, the relaxation point is still some hours out, which brings me back to last minute stuff. Obviously this pastor’s note is one of those things to get done before hopping in the car to drive to airport.

There is something about time running out, invariably some things don’t get done because they have to be done, they’re just not that important. The level of important things that needed to be done and actually got done depends on how little you procrastinated and how well you prepared. The last minute stress level depends on how much last minute stuff you let pile up in relation to how little time is left. It also depends on how many people are depending on you. And it depends on how many unexpected things crop up at the last minute. A pig pile of last minute stuff drenched in a downpour of the unexpected will make your eyes twitch.

All of our tickets have been booked, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be Psalm 139:16 (NIV). With each passing day everyone of is getting closer to our departure. Our upcoming trip has both a first stop and a final destination, that’s how it is with everyone’s final trip. The first stop, “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”  Hebrews 9:27 (NIV). The final destination depends on who you booked with, but it will either be heaven or hell, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal lifeMatthew 25:46 (NASB).

I have been a preacher for over thirty years and it has been my experience that in general people do not prepare for the final trip. They leave messes their children and family have to sort out, they life lives with little or no thought of God’s judgment, they book trips into eternity depending on themselves, trusting in human philosophy, scientific enlightenment, and man-made religion to either avoid or prepare them for a complete accounting before God, believing good thoughts and sentimentality can both keep them out of hell and propel them into heaven. There is no peace, no assurance, no hope in any of that. The reality of being unprepared is that all piles up until it is too late, until not only the unimportant is left undone but also the essential. The truth is that anyone who books his or her journey into eternity through anyone but Christ is unprepared.

Now Matthew 25 Jesus makes it abundantly clear that there are those who smugly and glibly claim Christ but their attitudes and actions reveal who they really have booked with. They fool themselves into thinking they are going to one place but will end up in another.

I stood by the bedside of a dying man. He hadn’t expected for his final trip to come this soon. He’d gone church off and on. He could claim a religious episode, but he knew he was unprepared just hours before takeoff. He had wasted life on himself. Is there hope for someone like him? The answer is, YES! All of us will be found wanting at the first stop of the final journey, none of us has enough merit to stay out of hell, not a single one of us can pay for the ticket on the jet bound for heaven, Jesus Christ graciously and mercifully has paid for that. Book with him and live for him now, not later.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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