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Archive for the ‘redemption’ Category

“On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.” (Edward Mote)

Coming back from a week of camping we drove past the heliport on the Lake Don Pedro dam. The Medi-Flight chopper, ambulance, and fire truck were all there. I found out later they were airlifting out a young person in dire condition. I am sure that for her family the day turned out nothing like they thought it would.

I made three visits (pastoral calls) on Tuesday. The first, to see a man who lost his wife of many years. The second, to see a lady who is dying and her husband who is taking care of her. The third, to see a man who’d just come back from a stint in the hospital. Things have not turned out like they hoped they would. All their plans and hopes have been interrupted, changed, permanently, and uninvited.

We know life is fragile, that it can turn on a dime, be completely altered in a split second, tear our hearts out, pay no attention to our plans, demolish our dreams, assign us paths we do not want to travel, and dish us up with more sorrow grief than we can bear. We long for permanence, for unchanging ground, but our reality is we live on the ever-shifting sand of a beach constantly moving in the daily ebb and flow, subject to sunshine and rain, gentle breezes and hurricane winds.

Susie and I pay for health insurance, home insurance, car insurance, life insurance (Which is really death insurance since it doesn’t kick in unless you die. But I suppose calling it that is not good for marketing), and maybe soon long-term care insurance. The hope is that we will not have to file claims, but the reality is that except for the life insurance we have had to use them all and were glad and grateful that we were insured because otherwise, things would have been even worse, and we would be flat broke. But none of these insurance policies have protected us from tragedy, from chaos, having to change our plans, from having to adapt and cope.

Wise women and men work hard at finding and embracing the truths, laws, principles, and ways that create the most stability, promote peace, and bring blessing. They also live without any illusions of being exempt from mortality and the unpredictability of life. And, they embrace God, who is permanent – eternal, unchanging – immutable, and perfect – holy. He alone can make eternal guarantees and sure promises. Only he can change the impermanent and mortal into the everlasting. No one else can save us from our human dilemmas, satisfy our thirst for permanence, and anchor our souls now and forever. Hear and respond to the words of Jesus, the Son of God, the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:30):

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:28-29 (NLT2)

I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth… And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT2)

I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. John 11:25-26 (NLT2)           

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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“Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will,” (Mark 14:36).

What I think is in my best interest might not be in your best interest, and what you think is in your best interest might not be in everybody else’s best interest. Today will not be much different from yesterday in the fact that the world over people will clash, siblings will have it out, husbands and wives will disagree, political factions will dispute, countries will be in turmoil internally and at war with each other.

We need very little training in exerting our wills, in claiming the high ground, in the kind of pride that asserts to know what is best. It is the beast within us trying to survive and thrive and have it easy that worships at the altar of self, that ignores morality, that breathes hubris. The mountain lion gives no thought whether it hunts deer to extinction. But we are not mere beasts, we are living souls created in God’s own image, capable of insight, foresight, moral contemplation, and acting out of more than self-interest and mere survival, of behaving honorably and godly. We are also fallen images of God, sinful souls from the moment we were conceived, under the reality of death. In the reality of death, the fear of losing out and survival become paramount, the interests of others are secondary, morality becomes a hindrance, the elevation of self is justified. In the end, however, we consume ourselves, we kill the tree that gives us life like mistletoe does to its host.

The greatest battles we fight are the ones were our wills clash with the interests of others, were our wills clash with the will of him who alone knows what is truly best for all, God. Our greatest battles are those where we must choose between acting like images of God or mere beasts, between trusting God’s will over our own.

Can we trust God’s will? Even if it includes losing out, suffering, death? And, hasn’t that kind of reasoning been used to lure people into evil religious radicalism and senseless martyrdom? The answer is, “Yes!” In our sinfulness and self-centeredness, we know how to pervert the good and right, to hijack the noble, to trample the godly. But it is also true that it was Jesus, the sinless one, who had not robed, harmed, abused, cheated, discarded, or lied to anyone, who prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will but yours, Father (God),” when he had to decide between escaping suffering and death and what was in the best interest of all of mankind according to God’s omniscience, purposes, and will. When he had to decide between his fears and the resurrection power of God.

It was a struggle; clashes of wills usually are. Three times, in deepest turmoil of soul, Jesus wrestled the temptation to run, to settle for what would spare him. And so much hung in the balance. We too will struggle, we will have to sort it out, and much hangs in the balance.

 “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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Of all the times, it started Easter weekend, sewer problems. The first sign, a smelly wet-spot behind the house. Digging up said spot revealed a collapsed pipe, which means there will have to be a whole lot more digging before this problem is rectified.

I knew we had a septic system, but I never knew exactly where it was, I do now. It has communicated, visibly and olfactory, saying, “You have used me, but you have not appreciated me. I have served you, but you have neglected me. Quite frankly, I have put up with you stink for decades but the way you have treated me really stinks!”

We, humanity, have always had a waste problem, we still do, moreso than ever. Often, we don’t pay any attention to it until it starts talking to us in our back yard. When the septic pumper guy opened the lids to the septic tank, the stern talking turned to a nauseating scream. Wow! And, Ugh! Close the windows, quick. Whatever Jeremy is getting paid, it isn’t enough.

At least there is a solution to this septic issue, other waste is much tougher to deal with. Some waste takes decades to decompose, some centuries, and radioactive waste like plutonium 239 has a half-life of 24,000 years, I-29 has a half-life of over 15 million years. But the most toxic and long-lasting human waste is produced by our sin, not nuclear power plants. Sin has eternal consequences, even a single careless word (Matthew 12:36), one bite of forbidden fruit (Genesis 2:13).

It would be nice if we could simply drop our sins into the toilet and pull the handle to flush it all down. It would be nice if we could drop it off at the landfill on toxic waste days, even if we had to pay extra. There is no place to take it, there is no one to can take it and render it harmless, transform it into something pristine and see-worthy like Glass Beach.

Actually, there is a place and someone. The place: The cross of Christ. The person: Jesus Christ. Only there and by him can our sin be disposed of, detoxified, disarmed. Only there and through Jesus can we be washed clean of the stench and filth of our sin. Only there and through him can a sinner be transformed into a saint. Only there and through Jesus Christ can the power of sin be broken, and sinners find forgiveness and eternal life.

So, a broken septic system fits perfectly with Easter, when God in Christ addressed our greatest need, our filth, our sin and offers us a chance to be clean. Which makes ignoring Christ and his cross the greatest foolishness, the most consequential decision of them all.

“But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.” Isaiah 64:6 (NKJV)

 “God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT2)

“Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD (Jesus Christ) will be saved.” Romans 10:13 (NLT2, parenthesis mine)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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I have been awake since 2:00 am and now it is 5:00 am, I think it is a combination of jet-lag and malaria pill side-effects. I was just falling asleep again when the Imam at the nearest mosque decided to be the first with the call to prayer, but he was early at 4:40, and soon, but unfortunately too late for me, realized his mistake and powered down his pa-system. He regrouped though at 5:00 and now is going really strong, and I think he is dueling with others I can hear further away. It is quite the early morning audio experience.

Yesterday, as we drove all over the city of Arusha (Tanzania) I noticed that there are walls everywhere and was struck by the contrast of what lies on either side of those walls. Walls to protect, to hide, to keep out, to lock in, to separate, to impress, to …

We had dinner with Pastor Goodluck and his wife Glory. The small apartment they rent is behind compound walls, where, besides a number of other apartments with plumbing, electricity, and satellite tv hookups, there were also five healthy milk cows in a nice stall and a Mercedes parked under a cover. In contrast, right outside their walls were rockpiles trucks had dumped and women sitting on the ground were hammering them all day long into gravel small enough to use for concrete.

We finally found the store we had been looking for to supply us with Bibles and Libraries for pastors. It had relocated to a downtown mall for foreigners, and as you might have guessed it, it was behind a fancy wall. Across the street was a broken-down old wall that served as a backstop to poor people buying and selling.

Tumaini Cottages, where we are lodging, is surrounded by walls. The rugged dirt street leading to it is a walled maze. Inside of our walls, it’s like an oasis, secluded, lush, serene. The scenery outside of our walls is beautiful from a distance, but close up it is raw, dirty, full of contradictions, greed, and need, – overwhelming to my heart and mind.

Walls are a reminder of our brokenness, our sinfulness, individually and collectively. It is no wonder that scripture tells us that Jesus Christ the Savior, Redeemer, and Reconciler of all people is also the one who, “… tore down the (dividing) wall we used to keep each other at a distance” Ephesians 2:14 (MSG). It is, of course, easier, and often cheaper, to build walls. It certainly is less messy. And it is not that the people on one side of the wall are better than those on the other. Isiah 56 speaks of eunuchs and foreigners for whom the dividing wall was built so they would be excluded and kept out from the worship and presence of God, prevented from full participation, condemned to the outside looking in. Christ tore down that wall in keeping with God’s vision and heart for all people. Let’s not make the mistake of putting God’s wall tearing down vision solely into the future, or deceive ourselves into thinking that we ourselves have no wall tearing down responsibilities, or shift Christ’s tearing down of the wall solely into the realm of soteriology (the doctrine of salvation) with no application to all of life at the present. Jesus tore down this wall over 2000 years ago and expected his community, the church to be a visible example of what it looks like to live without walls, to be the dreamers in a broken wall-filled world, to live with changed hearts. It cost Christ his life to tear down that wall, to tear the separating curtain in the temple, to break the wall of sin in each of our hearts. Living in and for a world without walls is not cheap, but Jesus thought it, you and I, were worth it.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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How much do you like being interrupted? In the middle of dinner? During an important conversation? While on vacation? By a phone call when you are up on a ladder? By your dog’s wet tongue while you are pinned under your car holding up a heavy part? By a pesky fly right when you dozed off? With a crisis just when everything is going great? …? By God?

Christmas, the incarnation of God, the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan, the coming of Jesus, was, and still is, the Great Interruption. It interrupted Mary and Joseph’s love story and future plans. It interfered with King Herod’s political ambitions. It shook Zacharias and Elizabeth’s religious routine. It scared the bejeebers out of the shepherds. It stopped the wise men in their stargazing tracks. It interrupted all of their lives, blew their expectations, forced them to make choices, and had eternal implications for each of them.

Jesus Christ is the greatest interruption in all of history, threatening to the powerful, startling to the wise, confusing to the religious, inconvenient to the young, frightening to the tough, too bright for the wicked, inexplicable to the rational, but as real as anything has ever been.

It’s one thing to be interrupted by a call, a fly, a dog’s slobbery tongue, a pushy or loud person, or even a crisis, it is quite another thing to be interrupted by God himself. The implications are bigger, the stakes of our responses are higher, the consequences are eternal. You have to quickly decide whether to dam up the breach, swat at the intrusion, ignore the interruption, or whether you allow Christ to flood into your life, invade your romance, change your plans, impact your understanding, alter your life and destiny, and surrender to God’s will and plans.

There are plenty of interruptions we don’t need, nuisances, pains in the behind – annoying altogether. We rightly swat them and try to minimize or eliminate their occurrences. Then there are the interruptions that are fantastic, like the falling in love interruption and interrupting the happy lovers’ lives with kids. Just those two made my life immeasurably better. But there also the interruptions we need and there is no interruption our world, humanity, and each one of us personally need more than the Jesus interruption. There are not enough decorations, wrapping paper, Christmas lights, and schmaltzy cash-filled Holiday Cards to gloss over the fact of humanity’s brokenness and our personal sinfulness. The week after Christmas the dumpsters will be full, the worries will return, and our need for God and Christ will still be as real as ever, This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’”1 Timothy 1:15 (NLT2)

“For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. … For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT2)

How you and I respond to the Jesus interruption will be the most important and most consequential decision we will ever make.

Merry Christmas. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him (Jesus Christ), and through Him to reconcile everything to Himself by making peace through the blood of His cross— whether things on earth or things in heaven. Colossians 1:19-20 (HCSB, parenthesis mine)

 

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. Colossians 2:13-14 (NLT2)

 As a kid I saw my fair share of castles. Three things trumped everything else, the armory with all the swords, lances, fighting clubs, and other weapons, the dungeon way down in the bowels of the castle mount, and, usually not far from the dungeon, the torture chambers with its diabolical instruments. We were too young to imagine the real horror that went on in these places, although at times I would have liked to put one of my brothers in the iron maiden or on the stretching rack.

We can’t imagine the reality of ancient crosses any more than young boys chasing around the horrible places of old castles. We know of gallows, shooting squads, guillotines, electric chairs, lethal injections, all which are meant to execute and kill quickly. Crucifixion, on the other hand, was designed to prolong, to inflict pain, to publicly humiliate, to be terrible and violent, and only eventually snuff out life. Terrible what we are capable of.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, God in the flesh died on a Roman cross after sham trials, being beaten to a pulp and publicly mocked. He was substituted for a convicted criminal and terrorist. He did not summon his followers to violent counter strikes, he refused to unleash the armies of heaven, instead, the most innocent of all who ever lived submitted himself to the will of God, the treachery of evil men, and death on a cross, which was a cursed ending among the Jews.

He died there for you and me, to reconcile sinners like us to God. It’s ironic, isn’t it, total innocence suffering and dying on one of mankind’s cruelest inventions. The giver of life laying down his life for the dying. The sinless one paying for the sins of others. That’s what happened on the cross Jesus died on. The symbol of death, of fear, unforgiveness, and of mankind’s evil became the symbol of life, hope, forgiveness, and God’s love. “The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.  As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”  So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish” 1 Corinthians 1:18-20 (NLT2).

 You and I cannot be reconciled and have peace with God apart from the crucified Christ. We must decide whether we trust the message of the cross or ourselves. Choose the cross!

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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