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Archive for the ‘redemption’ Category

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NASB)

Let me list some qualities and you put a name in the blank space following it: Generosity ________, Kindness _________, Genius _________, Mean _______, Love _______, Evil ________, Selfless ________, Bitter _______, Laughter _______, Sacrifice ________.

Let’s do the reverse, I throw out a name and you attach the quality that first comes to your mind as you read each one: Mom ________, Dad ________, Fidel Castro ________, George Washington ________, Mother Theresa ________, Dog the Bounty Hunter ________, Miley Cyrus ________, Adlof Hitler _________, Rosa Parks _______, Jesus Christ ________.

The point of this little exercise is that qualities can and are embodied by people and people embody qualities, although we might not necessarily agree with each other’s assessments and sentiments.

John the Apostle, who knew Jesus Christ personally, when writing his Gospel made sure that anyone who would ever read his Gospel would be absolutely clear about who Jesus Christ is: The very embodiment of God himself, the Incarnation of God, the very essence of self-existing life becoming flesh and dwelling among us. This is the reality of Christmas, the inexplicable humility and compassion of God, the Son of God stepping into space and time, which he created, in order to save sinful humanity, sinners like you and I.

John was keenly aware that the very people Jesus came to save would in their sinfulness declare Jesus merely one among many admirable people who embodied goodness of some kind at an extraordinary high level. He was aware that the opinions and valuations regarding Jesus Christ would be deeply divided. Thus he penned his Gospel so that when we read it we would be left with only one conclusion: The unmuddled and unassailable truth is that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, God incarnate.

This is incredible good news for sinners like you and me who are both in bondage to sin, continually perpetuate sin, who cannot escape the consequences of their sin, and who have no hope of surviving God’s judgment of their sin. It is great news because it is God showing up at the front door of your and my life in order to save us from and out of that which you will never be able to extricate and save ourselves from. “Behold, I (Jesus Christ) stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me” Revelation 3:20 (ESV).

Run to open your door to Jesus Christ.

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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You and I are headed for either victory or defeat, the resurrection of the righteous or the resurrection of the wicked, heaven or hell. “…  there shall certainly be a resurrection of both the righteous (just) and the wicked (unjust)” Acts 24:15 (NASB, parenthesis mine). “And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” Matthew 25:46 (ESV). “The last enemy to be destroyed is death” 1 Corinthians 15:26 (ESV). “And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment” Hebrews 9:27 (ESV).

Maybe that’s not what you want hear, but it is what you need to know. Maybe you have a semi or full-blown allergic reaction to being called wicked; you just don’t see yourself in the same boat with those who you think are really wicked. But this is not about how we look at ourselves, or how others rate us. No, it this is about hearing God, about how things really are. The fact is that all of the scriptures you read above are true and apply directly to you.

Luke records two of Jesus’ parables that ought to make us cautious about declaring ourselves okay. In one Jesus tells of guy who obviously worked hard, was successful enough to retire early, and for all we know was a decent person. Yet all of his life calculations were off, he died on the front end of his retirement, and God’s warning about him was, “’You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God” Luke 12:20-21 (NIV). The second one wasn’t poor either, he liked to party, the indulgent life, the “it’s mostly about me life,” ignoring what he knew God had said and wanted. He too died, as will we, and he, like us, faced all you read in the scriptures cited above. Jesus describes his reality after death, In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up (too late) …” Luke 16:23 (NIV, parenthesis mine). I am willing to bet that neither of these men, nor their friends would have considered himself “wicked.” Both vividly illustrate that you and I on our own are headed for certain defeat, death and God’s judgment will catch up with us.

This is why you and I need Jesus Christ. What you believe about him and do with him will determine God’s judgment over your life, it will decide which resurrection you will participate in, he is the difference between heaven and hell. Christ defeated that which we cannot: sin, wickedness, the devil, and death. He is able to save, to forgive, and to give eternal life. He, by his own power and righteousness stepped out of the grave victoriously (What are your and my chances of doing that?). But don’t just take my word for it, here is what God’s word says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” John 3:16 (ESV). “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life” 1 John 5:11-13 (ESV).

You and I are headed for certain defeat unless we decide to put ourselves into the victor’s, Jesus Christ’s hands. Do so today.*

Happy Easter, Pastor Hans

* If you are unsure of how to make a beginning with Christ, find a Bible and read Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:9, 10:9-10 &13. Or contact me 209-852-2029, dergermanshepherd@gmail.com, or visit our church.

 

 

 

 

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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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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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“What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought, since Jesus came into my heart,” is what Rufus H. McDaniel penned. He restated what is true of everyone who opens his heart to Jesus Christ and follows him. “Later, as Jesus left the town, he saw a tax collector named Levi sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up, left everything, and followed him. Later, Levi held a banquet in his home with Jesus as the guest of honor. Many of Levi’s fellow tax collectors and other guests also ate with them. But the Pharisees and their teachers of religious law complained bitterly to Jesus’ disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with such scum?” Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent” Luke 5:27-32 (NLT).

Levi had traded one form emptiness for another, he had left the morally bankrupt form of Judaism that he grew up in for the morally, though vastly more lucrative, empty world of tax collecting. And he couldn’t point fingers, although he probably did, it does deceive and ease the conscience when you can indict someone else’s corruption, failure, and sin. I it also leaves empty.

He had his own booth, he wasn’t sitting in someone else’s booth. He was in charge here, we like to be in charge. But how much was he really in charge of? More than some, and not much in the big scheme of things. We are good at forgetting how little we are in charge of.

Wonder what Levi was listening to there in his own tax booth? Conservative talk? Probably not. Liberal talk? Maybe. Religious stations? Nah. Jewish country music? Roman rock? Classical from the time of David? Whatever he listened to it wasn’t along the lines Rufus H. McDaniel penned.

He wanted change, he needed change. Chucking God was not the answer, great money wasn’t either, godlessness and the love of money don’t just leave you empty, they suck you into the darkness of evil. It wasn’t just that others were dishonest, he was too. It wasn’t just others who were self-righteous he was too.

Then Jesus, the one who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), walked by his tax booth. Levi had heard about what he did earlier that that, healing a paralytic, forgiving his sins. Now he was standing at the counter of his tax office, looking him straight into the eye and invited him to follow him.

How long did it take for Levi to make up his mind? Not long. How long is it going to take you reading this p-note to make your mind? Levi got out his keys, put the money in the safe, locked the front door and followed Christ. He was changed right there, in that moment of making up his mind that and stepping out in faith to follow Christ he was changed, though not finished. I wonder if he would have agreed with Rufus H. McDaniel’s words? Undoubtedly.

He couldn’t wait to introduce all of his tax collecting buddies and the people he cared about to Christ. So he invited them and Jesus to his house, they needed him as much as he did? That’s what happens when Jesus changes you; it’s too good to keep to yourself. You can hoard money, you won’t hoard Christ once he looked you in the eye and you took him up on his invitation to follow him, when he has forgiven your sins, when he reconciles you with God, and when he imparts to you new and eternal life. Levi had not been physically ill, but he was spiritually dead, like all of us, and “a wonderful change in his life had been wrought when Jesus cam into his heart!”

I hope this true of you as well.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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How Many Nails in Easter?

The answer is five, Easter has five nails.

On what do hang your hopes? Good luck? Your wealth? Your health? Your family and friends? Your own intelligence? An experimental drug? …?

What nail does your future hang on? Your charisma? Some special ability? …?

I have seen my fair share of rusty, bent, and failed nails – in hospital rooms, hospice beds, at crash sites, in treatment centers, living rooms, jails, prisons, counseling sessions, and at gravesides. I have not only seen them I have experienced failed nails in my own life, the pain, the confusion, the grief, and disappointment that comes with hanging life on the wrong nails.

Those Easter nails are significant because they offer us our only shot at real hope, lasting life, getting it right before God. You hang your hopes and your life on anything else and you will in the end find it all broken on the floor like a picture that has fallen off the wall.

Five nails. Three made sure Jesus really died. They fastened his hands and feet to a cross until every ounce of his life was drained out. On those three nails hang the redemptive purposes of God. God sacrificed his own Son so that by his death we might have life. One nail held Pilate’s sign posted above Jesus’ head, declaring “the King of the Jews.” Pilate made a common mistake. He didn’t think Jesus had any significance for him. He didn’t post his complete title, “King of Kings, and Lord of Lords.” He, like you and I, should have hung his life on Jesus’ identity, but he relegated Jesus to only having significance for the Jews, good for someone else. He stuck with the rusty nails of his own beliefs. And there is the fifth nail, the one that nailed God’s indictment of each one of us to the cross of Christ, the one that lists our personal sins and transgressions, the one that renders each one of us guilty before God. Paul reminded the Colossians who had trusted in Christ, “He made you alive with Him (Christ) and forgave us all our trespasses. He erased the certificate of debt, with its obligations, that was against us and opposed to us, and has taken it out of the way by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14 (HCSB, parenthesis mine). It is the nail that spells hope and life for sinners.

This Easter examine the nails and make sure  your hopes, your future, your life hangs on the Easter nails.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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