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Archive for the ‘promises’ Category

Springtime, wake up time for rodents, ants, spiders, wasps, mosquitoes, flies and bugs. I know, spring doesn’t officially begin until March 20th, 9:15 am to be exact. But the above-mentioned critters don’t give a hoot about official anything, nor do they respect boundaries, comfort, property rights, or someone else’s hard work. They do pretty much whatever they want, wherever they want, and whenever they want.  They come by stealth, mass invasion, through the air, underground, at high noon, twilight, and under the cover of night. Relentless I tell you, destructive, unapologetic, and even dangerous.

I want them gone, out of my yard, away from my home, gone. If you want them, if your heart has a soft-spot for them, you can have them, the whole lot. A spider on my bedroom ceiling is not going to get the chance to play cat burglar and lower its multi-eyed self down on my bed in the middle of the night; it is going to get “splat!” The ground squirrels, wood-rats, mice, gophers, moles, voles will not encounter kind mercy; they will be trapped, shot, and poisoned when possible. The wasp eying my steak in its shifty flight will be permanently uninvited. The ants trying to homestead around 10417 Blanchard Road will meet the full brunt of available extermination methods. Not a single mosquito, kissing bug, beg bug, or termite will be tolerated, be invited to take a little sip or take a small bite, nor be merely trapped and released. Flies will be met by swatters, fly-papers, scented traps, and available chemicals; they will never receive permission for fly or stopovers.

Striking, isn’t it, how the first paragraph above could easily describe wicked men and women, mankind in unrestrained sinfulness, and how the second paragraph could easily portray the harsh and merciless measures and attitudes mankind has used against each other.  Is it right to hate wickedness, to yearn for and work toward a world without it? Absolutely, but we have to be careful not to act wicked our own self. Keeping critters and pests out of my house is different from stomping on them when I go on a hike. I can put up screens and seal cracks before getting out the swatter or setting deadly traps.

Of course, there is also the matter of worth. There is no question that even the life of the ground squirrel living under our playhouse and undermining the old trees in my backyard is amazing, regardless of it shamelessly mocking me this morning. However, there is a difference between all men being created equal and in the image of God, and all life being created equal. The first is true the second is unsustainable. So who gets to assign worth? God does, and has, Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26 (NIV). I hope you notice that different worth does not mean God doesn’t care about all of his creation, in fact not a single sparrow falls from the sky apart from God or is forgotten by God (Matthew 20:29; Luke 12:6-7). Obviously, for God, there is no tension counting a person as more valuable than a bird. For us, however, there is great tension in managing God’s creation responsibly, daily living and survival, and our own sinfulness.

I imagine that God is vastly more disturbed about the wickedness of mankind, one person treating another, valuing another like a rodent, like a pest than you and I are about actual rodents and pests. God could have responded to our wickedness without mercy but instead, he both reaffirmed our value and his great love for every man and every woman in the cross of Christ. Because of his great mercy and love he “is not slow in keeping his promise (of final judgment and justice on all wickedness), as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV, parenthesis mine). We, the church, followers of Christ, worshippers of the one living God should do no less, at home, in our communities, our countries, our politics, our policies, and our attitudes.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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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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