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“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit” Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT).

When I turned off the engine in the parking lot of Mission San Miguel Arcangel, off Highway 101, the thermometer in my truck read 109 degrees (42.8 Celsius). The heat sucked out the air-conditioned coolness of the cab as soon as we opened the doors. It was only a few steps to the entrance of the mission but the sun still managed to give us a good hard slap before we made it into the shade of the long covered porch. Inside we were greeted not only by very nice lady but by an incredible coolness. 200 years ago, long before the power grid and air-conditioning, or triple pane gas-filled windows they obviously know something about how to build dwellings that stayed cool in the heat.

Even for a construction layman like me a few things were obvious: The several feet thick walls keep cool in and heat out. The porches surrounding the outside and the inside courtyard prevent the sun from directly hitting the walls. The windows are small and few. (I wonder how many people got yelled at for leaving a door open). And of course you can’t build something like that overnight, this is more costly and labor and time intensive than nailing a few sticks of lumber together and covering them with siding and sheetrock.

We also wondered about the criteria for picking the spots of these Missions. One of them was distance between one Mission and the next, but the most crucial criteria was a source of water that could sustain people, livestock, and crops, even scorching and prolonged heat.

Living in Central California we know that the heat will come, the rainfalls will cease for months, rivers will shrivel into trickles or dry out all together, North-winds will blow and bring unbearable heat waves. Life is like that, filled with dry-spells, the unbearable, and that for which we must prepare (if we are wise). God continually tries to direct and equip us so we can not only survive, but thrive, prosper, and stay cool in the heat of life. Central California is an illustration of that too. What looks so dry, scorched, and barren is also home to one of the greatest agricultural marvels when you combine it water, foresight, knowledge, work, and the discipline good farming requires.

In a very real sense every believer in Jesus is called to be a Mission, an outpost, an oasis, but we do not become one unless:

  • We draw a clear line between the godly and the wicked (Psalm 1:1, Jeremiah 17:5-6).
  • Trust and hope in God completely and exclusively (Jeremiah 17:7)
  • Love, know, and implement the word of God (the Bible), the wisdom of God, and the ways and principles of God (Psalm 1:2).
  • Acquire the skills, habits, and strength required to build what lasts and bears fruit (2 Peter 1:1-8)

One last Mission observation, they were large complexes, built for more than just one person but for entire community. They provided shelter, cool, and life for more than “me.”

Stay cool. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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Parts that do their part – beautiful

At the end of a movie do you linger and watch the credits? I usually don’t, but the few times that I have I was amazed at how many people it takes to make a movie. You need a lot more than just actors, directors, and writers. You need cameramen, makeup artists, bookkeepers, sound people, boom operators, special effects experts, stuntmen, wardrobe designers, set designers, logistics personnel, grunts, lot’s of grunts, electricians, carpenters, caterers, production people, and … No wonder movie making is expensive.

Take a look around, yup, right there wherever you are reading this, and think about all the things you see and how many people had to work together to make them and how many people it took for them to get to you. How many designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, craftsmen, workers, sales people, and … were involved?

Have you ever been wheeled into an operating room and managed to look around before the anesthesiologist told you to count backward from ten, and in my case knocked me out before I got to seven. From what I remember, it is a like beehive in there. Long before my doctor and his team ever got there someone had to get everything clean and ready. He wouldn’t do much operating if he had to do all the cleaning and prepping himself.

Every Christian is meant to serve on Christ’s ministry team from first the day s/he committed her/his life to Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” 1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV); it doesn’t matter who you are, where you have come from, or how gifted, educated or skilled you are, from the day a person is born again (John 3:1-21) by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ s/he is a part of the body of Christ, and thus has a function. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically” Romans 12:4-11 (NLT).

You won’t be in the movie credits, you won’t be part of any manufacturing team for long, and you won’t stay on the operating room staff if you don’t show up faithfully and if you don’t do what you are responsible for. You will be a mess if your body parts are mere volunteers and not committed members who delight in doing what they are supposed to do for the benefit of all the others. Serving in the body of Christ is much more than volunteering, it is about each part doing what the head, Jesus (Colossians 1:18), wants his body to do, and when Jesus’ body moves as one, doing what he wants, it is a beautiful thing.

So show up, be committed, be dependable, do your part.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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You know you can grow it, and the more you do the more you have to share, to give away.

If you have tried your hand at growing a vegetable garden you are probably familiar with both a radish and zucchini surplus. Somehow those two just love to grow faster than you can eat them. The problem is that people who love to do the vegetable garden thing usually hang out with other such people and collectively they have planted too much and thus sharing becomes a moot point. Next thing you know you see zucchinis the size of a weightlifter’s arm appear in large boxes in the foyer of the church with a desperate handwritten sign, “Free, take all you want,” but no return address.

We are meant to grow them: faith, hope, and love. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV). For four reasons: 1. They are absolutely essential to being like Christ; 2. It is impossible to please God without them; 3. They make us strong; 4. They enable us, force us to set out our boxes of surplus, because they are a lot more valuable and needed than zucchini and radishes, and should never go to waste.

We are also meant to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ, in the midst of a godless, struggling, dark and often hostile world, But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 3:18 (ESV). I am pretty sure we are meant to export that too.

Can you imagine your life, your (our) church, your (our) community, your (our) country with an overabundance of faith, hope, love, grace, and life in Christ? Daily packing a box full, considering ourselves to be the sign that reads, “Free, take all you need,” and then taking our overflowing box to where it is most needed, to where or to whom you might not want to go but the Holy Spirit compels you to go.

Faith, Hope, Love, Grace, Christ seek engagement, want to flow like water, want to light up the dark, bind up the brokenhearted, comfort the weeping, feed the poor, heal the sick, liberate the captives, awaken justice, ennoble politics, replace hatred, battle evil, and save the lost.

So grow, grow, grow and go, go, go – in Jesus’ name.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Heavenly Father, God of Hope,

As 2017 lays before us like a vast unexplored expanse we turn to you to lead, guide, and direct us. We seek more than to merely survive the next 365 days, than to just make it through. We want to be people of overflowing hope, people empowered by the Holy Spirit with uncommon hope, extraordinary hope.

Father, Christ taught us to pray to not be led into temptation and to be delivered from evil, and we do ask for both. Deliver us from the temptation to be spiritually uninvolved where you have placed us. Deliver us from the temptation to hope little, from just hoping for a little health and little good fortune for a few dear to our hearts and ourselves. Deliver us from the kind of hoping that requires little faith, little prayer, and little engagement. Instead lead us to people and into situations where there is little or even no hope. Lead us where there is confusion, sentimentality, and lots of wishful thinking, but no real hope. Throw us into circumstances, places, and lives where we have to depend on you, where what only you can do matters, where your kingdom and the kingdoms of this world clash. Put us where overflowing hope, real hope, eternal hope is needed. Put us where our hearts brake and weep because of the brokenness, sinfulness, and hopelessness we encounter there, where we are forced to be more than consumers of hope but to be sowers of hope, agents of hope, givers of hope, where we have to seek you to refill us again and again with the hope only found in you.

How we thank you God that you have called us to a life with you the God of hope, the God whose compassions do not fail, whose mercies never come to an end. 2017 will not lack evil, but none of us will have to be overcome by it, you have more than enough strength to give us to overcome evil with good, you do know how work all things together for good for those who love you and are called by you. Lord we ask that the Apostle Paul’s prayer for our Roman brothers and sisters long ago may be realized in us, 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).

Hear our Prayer. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

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Is it good for people to get close to you or should they stay away from you or does it not make a difference? Of course people want to be close to others for all kinds of reasons, “The poor is disliked even by his neighbor, but the rich has many friends” Proverbs 14:20 (ESV). Who you get close to can open doors, get dates, and has the potential to profoundly influence your life, “Bad company ruins good morals” 1 Corinthians 15:33 (ESV) ; “Iron sharpens iron, and one person sharpens another” Proverbs 27:17. So how does hanging around you influence others? Does it sharpen them or corrupt them? Does it build their character or compromise it? Does it bless them or end up being a curse? Does it encourage them to seek God or ignore him?

People wanted to get close to Jesus, many simply for what he could do for them, “She (a woman hemorrhaging for twelve years) said, ‘If I touch even his garments, I will be made well’” Mark 5:28 (ESV, parenthesis mine), “He had healed many people, and now everyone who had something wrong was pushing and shoving to get near and touch him” Mark 3:10 (MSG). You can’t blame them; we would do the same if we are desperate enough. But don’t miss the fact that they thought Jesus cared about them, that he invited people to get close, that he enjoyed healing, blessing, telling the truth, changing lives, and bringing people back to a life with God. He was easy to get close to; he didn’t object to being touched, being in his company was and still is good, his influence is worthwhile to hang onto. We are called to emulate him, “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you” John 20:21 (ESV).

The Apostles followed in Jesus’ footsteps pursuing Christlike character, living by biblical wisdom, yielding spiritual power. The result, people wanted to get a hold of them; people were drawn to God, to believe in and follow Christ, “Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them” Acts 5:12-15 (ESV). Don’t miss the picture here. Early Christians met in outer corridor of the Jewish temple, “Solomon’s Portico”.  As Jews came to temple they wanted to hang out with those Jesus followers, but many were too scared to. They feared the repercussions of being associated with Christ and his followers. But deep down they wanted to and thankfully many finally did dare to reach out and grasp Jesus. Does this describe you?

Finally, God had the prophet Zechariah foretell many things about Jesus Christ and he also had him declare, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, “In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew (believer), saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” Zechariah 8:23 (NASB, parenthesis mine). It is hard to miss, isn’t it, we are meant to live lives of such spiritual vitality, such clarity about God, that others would want to grasp us, get a hold of us, come with us, in order to know God.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37 (NLT)

We enter 2016 with one. We were born into one. We are never without one. We often wish we had a different one. Many of our complaints and hopes are about it. Most of us have tried to escape it a time or two or more. From the moment we are conceived we contribute to it. Even after die we still affect it – CONTEXT.

The truth that “nothing is impossible for God’ stands on its own; it is an eternal and constant reality. This is terrific news, not just at the beginning of a new year but at the beginning of and throughout every day, and in any context. There is an accompanying truth to God’s omnipotence: we are not. Many things, most things are impossible for us. We cannot turn water into wine any more than we can walk on water. We cannot speak an entire cosmos into existence anymore than we can sustain the universe. We cannot transcend the laws of nature or escape death. We do not know all the questions much less the right answers. 2016 will confront us with more of our “can’ts” than we’d like.

Although For nothing is impossible with God” stands on its own it is quoted out of context. It was part of the angel’s answer to Mary wondering how she could end up being pregnant without having sex. It was meant to encourage her to trust God and take up his invitation to participate in his eternal plan and redemptive work. Mary’s context wasn’t godless or without faith, she believed in God, she was a very decent person, but this was an invitation to trust in and walk with God at a completely different level. This wasn’t about merely believing that God did some incredible things in the past, or listening to someone else’s experience, this was about her adjusting her life to the will of God on the basis of his omnipotence instead of her own capacity to believe. Her response, “God I have no idea how you will do this, but I know and trust that you can. So Lord, I am yours to do as you please” (Luke 1:38, my paraphrase).

Mary’s surrender to the reality and will of God completely changed her context, and in the long view of history even ours, but on God’s terms and not hers. That’s our struggle, in the face of our can’ts and our life’s impossibles we would love to harness the power of God to change our and others’ contexts, and when he won’t bend to us we become angry, dismissive, cynical, defiant. It is sinful arrogance to think the Omnipotent should bow to the impotent, that the powerless can harness the Almighty. The finite, us, has just one proper response to infinite power – SURRENDER, to adjust ourselves to reality and will of God.

God’s 2016 invitation is to walk with him, on his terms, to live out his will, to let his omnipotence define and direct our lives, to live our lives in the context of him and his Son Jesus Christ. And when we do our experience, our understanding, our context and even our prayers will change.

“Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” Isaiah 55:6-9 (NLT).

“Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence! As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil, your coming would make the nations tremble. Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame! When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations. And oh, how the mountains quaked! For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! You welcome those who gladly do good, who follow godly ways.” Isaiah 64:1-5a (NLT).

What will your 2016 context look like? Will God figure into it to his extent? Oh, how I hope so.

Happy New Year! Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Our dogs have it made, at the productivity level of around 0%, they still get full benefits, tenure, unlimited time off, plus free food, free rent, free just about everything, all for occasionally looking cute, doing something dogish we can laugh about, going for an occasional walk, and welcoming/harassing the UPS man or whoever happens to drive up. They even get a free burial at the end of their days. I have to hand it to them though, they do know how not to mess up a good thing.

What’s cute and acceptable among dogs does not, and should not translate to people. We are meant to grow up, to contribute, to take on responsibilities, to be productive. Being a baby when you are baby is very cute, but being a baby at 15, 25, 35, 45 is anything but cute. A toddler is supposed to be a toddler and it is okay for them to do toddlerish things and have a productivity level of around 0%, but it is ridiculous for an adult. You expect for kids to do the kind of things where you say, “What in the world were you thinking?” to which they will reply, “I don’t know,” and it will be true because they were absolutely not thinking (and many times you have to keep yourself from busting up laughing). This, however, does not fly for an adult, not thinking is inexcusable, as is being stupid and doing stupid things. For a young teenager to continually test the limits and to come up with half-baked excuses is halfway normal, but if he or she doesn’t grow out of it, it is anything but normal, but growing up is, becoming responsible is. There is a time to be baby, to be a toddler, to be a kid, to be a teenager, but then there is a time to be grown up, to be mature.

I admit, being grown up is not all it is cracked up to be, it entails a whole lot of hard work, it has just about 0% of room to live a dog’s life or any other kind of life. But if you have kids they will appreciate it, so will your coworkers, your bosses, your neighbors, your parents, your friends, and your community.

God’s word, the Bible, never encourages immaturity, irresponsibility, and laziness, no matter how it tries to excuse itself or how cute and funny it tries to present itself. Even to the church, the family of God, which has a responsibility to love and care for the needy, God through the Apostle wrote, “Even while we were with you, we gave you this command: ‘Those unwilling to work will not get to eat. Yet we hear that some of you are living idle lives, refusing to work and meddling in other people’s business. We command such people and urge them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ to settle down and work to earn their own living. As for the rest of you, dear brothers and sisters, never get tired of doing good

2 Thessalonians 3:10-13 (NLT). To the Ephesians church he wrote, God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything. We take our lead from Christ, who is the source of everything we do. He keeps us in step with each other. His very breath and blood flow through us, nourishing us so that we will grow up healthy in God, robust in love Ephesians 4:15-16 (MSG).

Can you be mature, responsible, productive, and be young at heart, not lose your sense of humor, not act old and grumpy, be full of love, and be a source of delight to others? The answer is, absolutely, just imitate God.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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