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“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27 (NLT)

They were blocking the road, five tom turkeys strutting their stuff with all their might, oblivious to the world around them. My very noisy Dodge diesel pickup had absolutely no effect on them. They were dragging their wings, spreading their tail feathers, inflating their necks, and executed fancy dance patterns. I looked around to see what all the fuss was about, and there in the dry weeds on the side of the road was the scraggliest turkey hen I had ever seen. Obviously those five males were bunch of frustrated jakes (young males) who had lost out on the whole spring mating thing but had spotted themselves a lonely jenny, which compelled them to pull out all of the stops.

I don’t know if any of them inspired the homely hen enough to win the prize because after about five minutes they decided to move off the road and danced their way into the bushes. However, it seems to me those five boys were clearly worried that they were going to be this year’s mating season losers. And since gobblers are not native to Palestine Jesus must not have been talking about turkeys.

Jesus, however, did specifically talk about ravens and sparrows (Matthew 10:29). We only have the occasional raven around our place, but we do have a resident pack of their cousins, crows. They really are gang, they love to harass other birds, fly around with their souped-up sound systems cranked up, doing all kinds of aerial acrobatics, looking for mischief, and when they have found it they fly off laughing away. They, unlike those strutting jakes, have carefreeness stamped all over them. “Turning to his disciples, Jesus said, ‘That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?’ … ‘Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need’” Luke 12:22-26, 31 (NLT).

Freedom from worry, freedom from fear are some of the great benefits that come with trusting God, walking with Jesus, concerning ourselves with the kingdom of God – the eternally valuable and important instead of mere survival. So, how are you doing with fear and worry? Are you more likely to resemble a desperate tom turkey afraid of losing out on life, franticly strutting your stuff, oblivious to the world around you, unaware of the goodness of God, the power of God, and the calling of God to higher things?

Those carefree crows look rather plain; they can’t compete with the dazzling plumage of a dressed up tom turkey. But watch them fly, hear them laugh, see the sparkle in their eyes. The more we are about stuff and strutting the less carefree we will be, the more we will be tied to the fleeting, the less we live by faith, and we will we spend more time on the ground worrying than in the air worshipping.

Consider the birds.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. If you have children, go to our church’s website and sign them up for VBS (Vacation Bible School) and/or camp.

 

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Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)

 I hate to admit it, but I am not as sure footed as I was when I was 25. I was reminded of that last time I went trout fishing on the South Fork of the Tuolumne river. I used to be able to rock hop and leap all over. Now I am much more prone to stumble and fall. In fact, I hit the deck twice a few weeks ago just navigating around my yard. I blame it on my current back struggles and how they affect my left leg.

I watch my grandson trying to gain stability on his young legs. He too, spills regularly, but he doesn’t fall as far and his bones are softer than mine. Yet, if he fails to gain stability on his legs his life will be much tougher, much more bruised, and much more limited.

Of course we don’t just stumble with our legs. Ever stumbled with your mouth? Didn’t find the right words? Made a mess with the words you did manage? Wish you could somehow take them words back?

We stumble with our emotions. For many, their temper and anger (how they express and manage it) trip them up time after time. They continually make them stumble. For others it is depression, or anxiety, or paralyzing fear.

For some it is money, the making of it, the managing (actually mismanaging) of it, the spending of it, the love of it, that time after time causes them to stumble, to upset their lives, to add enormous stress and worry.

James is right when he writes, we all stumble in many ways” James 3:2 (ESV). People have stumbled over their ambitions, jealousy, because of their friends, relatives, how people have treated them, injustice, and ….

Jude’s main concern in his short letter next to the last book of the Bible is far too many people stumbling spiritually. I can attest to that after pastoring for 32 years. Heck, all I have to do is look in the mirror and get a glimpse of a stumbler.

Stumbling is a special concern to me as a Dad and now Granddad. I want to model and contribute to the stability of my children and grandchildren, and that is tough to do if I stumble too much, especially spiritually. There is absolutely no one better at helping me/us when it comes to stumbling, gaining balance, acquiring stability in life with all of its challenges and twist and turns, than God and his Son Jesus Christ. There is no resource better than the Bible (God’s written revelation) when it comes to building the strength of mind, heart, faith, and habits needed to avoid stumbling. There are few foundational habits as important as gathering weekly with other stumblers to encourage each other and worship the one who daily offers his almighty hand to keep us from stumbling.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.  He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. Romans 4:20-21 (NLT)

How good we are at keeping our promises says a lot about us, our character, our trustworthiness. You break enough promises (“enough” is a surprisingly small number) and soon others will count your promises worthless. The value of a promise is only as good as the promise keeper. We and God admire those who keep their promises at great cost and personal sacrifice, there is something inspiring about such promise makers and such promise keeping. King David asked, “Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?” Psalm 15:1 (NLT), and part of the answer is, “He swears (promises) to his own hurt and does not change” Psalm 15:4 (NASB, parenthesis mine).

Have you ever been at the receiving end of a careless, unkept promises? You find shatteredness there, shattered trust, lost respect, dead dreams, deteriorated relationships, dissipated honor. Our challenge is not only to be careful about making promises but also discerning about whose promises you can trust. Experience enough worthless promises and it won’t be long before you become distrustful and cynical about promises in general, even God’s.

The truth is that none of our promises, even our most carefully made promises, are completely trustworthy. Our most sincere intentions, sterling character, fine track record, and great self-discipline cannot fully guarantee any promise we make. There are just too many variables out of our control, most notably our mortality, we might simply not live long enough to keep a promise. We can keep promises only to the best of our ability, and we should. And, like with all things in life, we are completely dependent on God in our promise keeping. He alone is capable of making a promise and completely guarantee it. His promises are completely trustworthy, in fact, every promise of God is good as reality.

Abraham realized and became ever more convinced that the best way to live life is to fully trust in the promises of God, in the certain promise keeper – God. God promised him a son and Abraham and Sarah’s age was not an obstacle. God asked him to sacrifice that precious son and Abraham knew and believed that even death was not problem for God. Abraham would absolutely and without hesitation encourage us live by God’s promises. He would concur with what the Apostle Peter penned, “… because of his glory and excellence, he (God) has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises” 2 Peter 1:4-5 (NLT).

The best place to discover God’s promises is the Bible, God’s written word, it is chock-full of “magnificent and precious” promises, each one of them completely trustworthy. Without a doubt you and I are much better off if when we live by God’s promises.

To God be all glory, 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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The reason I called a timeout was we were playing horribly, tensions were rising, focus – what focus? “What’s going on out there?” I demanded to know in the huddle.

“Coach, you didn’t see the way #30 is looking at me,”

“Yeah, she is giving us the look,” another confirmed.

“You mean to tell me we are playing like dog barf because # 30 is looking at you wrong!” I shouted in complete consternation and exasperation.

“Yes coach, it’s bad,” the entire huddle confirmed.

“We might as well pack it up because we don’t stand a chance. If one player can make us play this bad with just the way she looks at us, we have no business being out here.”

I would love to tell you that somehow we rallied, tied it up in regulation, and then won it in double overtime, but we never overcame “that look” and went home with our butts handed to us. The only good thing was no fights broke out.

It is tough to take responsibility, so much easier to blame someone, something other than yourself. It is a major way of us excusing ourselves when we cave in to temptation. “She made me do it,” Adam told God in the huddle (I do empathize with Adam, it is very tough to say no to the woman you are totally in love and infatuated with); “The serpent/devil made me do it” was Eve’s contribution to the huddle conversation (Genesis 3:12-13). The truth is, “The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust” James 1:14 (MSG).

Temptation is a head game for the heart and life. Others, the devil, situations, circumstances may tempt us, might knock on our door, look at as wrong, do us wrong, devise ways to trip us up, try to mislead us, even hurt us deeply, but we are in charge of the response. We decide how much influence they get on the home-court of our minds and subsequently our hearts and lives.

Speaking of basketball, “March Madness” (the annual final tournament of the America’s best college teams) is in full swing. The pressure to win is enormous, and how many coaches, players, and schools cave to the temptations that come with that kind of pressure, the insane amounts of money involved, and the rewards of winning it all. Temptation knows how to give all kinds of looks to gain access to our minds, our hearts, and our decisions.

The same can be said of the election cycle we are in, so many temptations, not just for the candidates but also for the voters, and with it so many excuses to embrace things displeasing to God and hurtful to our “neighbor”.

The only sure way to deal with the “looks” of temptation is to stay focused on God and living with him in a growing, intimate relationship made possible through Jesus Christ. Ultimately the goal of every temptation is to disrupt, to injure, to distract from a life-giving, pure, liberating relationship with God.The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure (help you through it)” 1 Corinthians 10:13 (NLT, parenthesis MSG).

To God be all glory. Love You, Pastor Hans

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Take a minute and go to the nearest bath or restroom and look in a mirror and open your mouth and examine that wiggly, moist muscle living behind your teeth. – (Did you do it? Or have you decided to just sit there and read on?) –  In many ways it is stronger than all of the rest of your muscles combined, With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so” James 3:9-10 (ESV).

Family is another place where the power to bless or curse reside. In fact there are few things that affect us more deeply and profoundly than the blessings and/or curses of our families. Family can and should be like a sweet slice of heaven, a haven of happiness, but all too often it is like a putrid plate of hell, a hall of horrors. Often it is a mixture of, somewhere between the two, but how much doo-doo baked into a brownie makes it unpalatable?

Everyone reading this p-note is someone’s daughter or son, but not everyone is glad to be someone’s daughter or son. Many reading this are someone’s Mom or Dad and not at all happy how things are working/have worked out. All the members of a family have the power to bless or curse. Children can love and honor their parents and make them glad. Parents can love, bless, and raise the children right. But neither can do it without love, our power to bless diminishes with every choice that is contrary to love.

Both blessings and curses have the power to perpetuate. Love births love, generosity inspires generosity, kindness fuels kindness, hate conceives hate, violence begets violence, injustice cries for revenge, pain likes to bite. But it is our choosing that can both break the chain of blessing or end the cycle of sin and its curses.

It is not difficult to figure out which side God is on. The cross of Christ is about redemption, about reconciliation, and about forgiveness, regarding our individual relationship with God and being part of his family, but it is also about the redemption and restoration of the human condition and relationships. God in Christ is able to break the strongest curse, heal the deepest wounds, loosen the heaviest chains.

The book of Genesis ends with a family that is broken, dysfunctional, painful, fake, full of bad blood, secrets, and rotten history. It was meant to enjoy God’s promises, fulfill God’s purposes, and experience God’s blessing, but they settled for jealousy, betrayal, lies, and superficiality. They were much better at cursing than blessing. They were flushing both their own potential as well as God’s wisdom and help. That family was self-destructing. Except that one of them, Joseph, realized that he had both the power to bless and the power to curse and he chose the former over the latter. He decided to bless where he was cursed. He chose to orient himself on and rely on God who knows how to redeem, restore, reconcile, and forgive. He decided to love. And guess who was on his side helping him? “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” Genesis 50:20 (ESV)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” 2 Corinthians 5:17-19 (NIV).

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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