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Archive for the ‘redemption’ Category

We were having the time of our lives playing in the sandbox. But it seems inevitable that playing hard will lead to some kind of accident, especially when you are surrounded by a fleet of Tonka heavy equipment and with shovels furiously digging. Sure enough, one of my grandsons lost control over the bulldozer he was operating bonked himself a good one. He cried and I yelled, “Stupid dozer!”

Immediately he shifted gears, quit crying, walked over to me, looked me straight into the eyes, and with a most serious voice scolded me, “We don’t say that Opa!”

“Say what?” I asked.

“You know. It’s a bad word Opa!”

“What word?” I wanted to know.

“I’m not going to say it, but you know, OPA!”

Indeed, I did know, and clearly, I was trying to corrupt my grandson. You have to be careful what you fill little hearts and minds with, because what you fill them with will be what comes out. This is not just true of little hearts and minds but yours and mine as well. Our mouths, our actions, our reactions are an indication of what fills us, “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, … For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” Matthew 15:18-19 (NIV).

It is easier to fill an empty cup than it is to fill one that is already full, that’s why wise parents from the get-go pay careful attention to what goes into their kids’ hearts and minds. A heart and mind that has been filled with bad words, habits, attitudes, ways of thinking and behaving can’t be filled with goodness and godliness until you first pour all that out. Before the Spirit of God can fill you and me with “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control,” we have to pour out what the Holy Spirit wants to replace, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified (poured out and continue to pour out) the sinful nature with its passions and desires,” because the reality of a holy and godly life is only possible by God’s Spirit and making room for all he desires to fill us with, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” Galatians 5:22-25 (NIV).

That pouring out, letting God have complete control of the filling and directing our hearts, minds, wills, plans, desires, attitudes, and habits, is difficult. In our sinfulness, we love to hang on to the sinful, selfish, spoiled, soiled, and same. And, in our perverseness others’ spilling over with what shouldn’t fill us makes us feel a little better. This, our brokenness and sinfulness, is why Christ came and is necessary, only he can help cleanse our hearts and minds and fill us with the Holy Spirit.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” Psalm 51:10 (ESV)

“God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life” Psalm 51:10 (MSG)

            

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Eight glasses of water? Four cups of coffee? A pot of tea? Several energy drinks? A two-liter bottle of Coke? A six-pack of beer? It doesn’t matter how much you drank yesterday, you will be thirsty again today.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a few snacks. Cereal, sandwiches, wraps, burritos, burgers and fries, TV-dinners, salads, steak and potatoes, barbeque, gourmet creations? It doesn’t matter how much you ate yesterday, you will be hungry today.

Yesterday’s peace-offerings, compromises, political arrangements, concessions, sacrifices, wise arrangements, handouts, freebies, none of them will satisfy for long. The cry for more, for change, for “my/our” way now, will return.

It reveals our brokenness, this insatiability, this inability to sustain life, happiness, justice, and peace for any length of time. It reveals our sinfulness, our constant complaining and bickering even when things are going great and we have more than enough, our willingness to mistreat, rob, roll over, treat others unjustly in the pursuit of our needs, appetites, wants, and dreams, our short-lived gratitude or outright ungratefulness.

We are always running out, constantly having to refill, never having enough, unable to lay hold of what is lasting. We can’t make anything last, much less make it eternal, beginning with satisfying our most basic needs and those of our neighbor.

“Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified” Mark 15:15 (ESV). It worked for less day, then they were back asking for more (Matthew 27:62-65)

Solomon in his pursuit of pleasure, status, and empire-building amassed for himself what might have been the largest harem in history (1 Kings 11:3) and yet, he advised his sons, Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love” Proverbs 5:18-19 (ESV).

Haman had a thriving career, wealth, influence, and power, but his anti-Semitism, his hatred left him continually dissatisfied,  “All this is worth nothing to me, so long as I see Mordecai the Jew sitting at the king’s gate” Esther 5:13 (ESV).

Achan, rummaging through the rubble after the victory at Jericho, took what God had declared as belonging to him,  when I saw among the spoil a beautiful cloak from Shinar, and 200 shekels of silver, and a bar of gold weighing 50 shekels, then I coveted them and took them. And see, they are hidden in the earth inside my tent, with the silver underneath” Joshua 7:21 (ESV). It didn’t matter that he was on his way to receive his portion in the land God had promised them. His greed and covetousness, a bottomless pit, became a snare to him and his family.

Jesus warned the rich, fat, happy, and-self-sufficient Christians of Laodicea, “You say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see” Revelation 3:17-18 (ESV). They were so deceived by their prosperity and self-sufficiency that they were blind and oblivious to any reality outside their own happiness, that none of it would last, their spiritual needs, and that they lived like they didn’t need God. Jesus said, “You’re leaving a bad taste in my mouth, I am ready to spit you out!” – Ouch!

The only one who can satisfy the thirsts of our souls both now and for eternity. Jesus told a Samaritan woman who had come to get water from the local well, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” John 4:13-14 (NIV). You and I are no different from her, from the crowd Pilate tried to appease, from Solomon and his sexual desires, or Haman and his hate, Achan and his covetousness and greed, or the spoiled and oblivious Laodiceans. Our greatest need is God, the life that is found only in Christ, the forgiveness poured out in Jesus death, the wholeness of our souls brought about by the water offered from Jesus’ hands.

So, reach out your cup, let Christ fill it.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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“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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