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Salvation without transformation is misinformation that results in damnation.

If your house has termites how many of them do want to be gone, for how many do you pay the exterminator to get rid off? How much of the termite damage do you want your contractor to fix? I imagine your answers were, “All of the termites and all of the damage.”

If you were to get sprayed by a skunk (and I have), how much of that foul smell does your spouse want you to wash off before coming to bed? I imagine your answer would be, “All of it, and make sure you put on a hefty dose of cologne.”

How much of our sin, our depravity, our moral and spiritual rot and filth do you think God’s grace is trying to address? How deep do you think the grace of God is trying to sink into our hearts and lives? How much does God’s grace want to change in us and about us? The answers to these questions are, “All of it, to my very core, and more than I imagine.”

The grace of God aims to be transforming. There is no way to drink from the cup of God’s grace and be unchanged. If you remain unchanged you haven’t swallowed. As James puts it, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17), meaning: you can’t believe in the love, grace, and mercy of God (salvation) and live unchanged.” If the love of Christ has touched us it compels us to love. If our sins are forgiven we should be forgiving. If we have received mercy it should make us merciful. If the joy of God and his salvation has filled us we should be joyful and positive. If the goodness of God is real it should cause us to desire to do good. If the peace of God keeps our hearts and minds we should pursue peace. If we have benefited from the patience of God we should be patient with others. If the selflessness, the obedience, the faithfulness, the kindness, and humility of Jesus has in any way worked in our favor then we ought to embrace the same.

Somehow we are very comfortable with saving grace, who doesn’t want to go heaven? We love the everyday grace of God, the grace that makes the sun rise, the rains fall, puts bread on our tables, and gives us opportunities in life (Matthew 5:45). We don’t complain about delivering grace, healing grace, God-helping-me out grace, that would be foolish. But how quickly we begin to resist transforming grace, when God wants to replace more than a few roof shingles, when he starts scraping off old paint, lays bare the rot, starts messing with our values, our outlooks, our attitudes, the way we react and interact, and puts our motives, our pursuits, and lifestyles on the table.

After following Jesus for almost forty years I still find surrendering to God’s transforming grace most challenging. I am amazed and ashamed how resistant I can be, how many self-deceptive excuses I can conjure up, how quickly I can deflect, and how disobedient I can be. I pray to be like the Apostle Paul, after having an opportunity to tell king Agrippa of his conversion, of the time when the saving grace of Christ met him, quickly added, “So … I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19 NASB). What a statement of surrender to transforming grace.

When it comes to transforming grace we face a triple threat:

  • All of our old scripts, the defaults of our sinful self. O how good they are in pulling us back, helping us to revert, to revel in saving grace while resisting transforming grace.
  • Declaring ourselves changed enough, holy enough. Resting on past progress and viewing ourselves in comparison to others has a way of making us resistant to present obedience.
  • Thinking of grace only in passive terms, God saves me by his grace, God will change me by his grace, and finally God will glorify me his grace. That however is not the whole truth; God’s saving grace compels us to believe, to repent, to confess, God’s glorifying grace is preceded by perseverance, and God’s transforming grace requires our cooperation and obedience.

Read the first sentence again. None of us needs just a little bit of Jesus, a little bit grace, we need all of Christ and all of God’s grace, anything less is self-deception, will make us pull up short of God’s marvelous grace (Hebrews 12:15). On the flipside, there is nothing like being transformed by God’s grace, We all … are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (HCSB).

To God be all glory,. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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I didn’t think I needed sunscreen, after all it was kind of hazy and we were not going to be outside for very long, but man did I get sunburned.

For 45 years I didn’t think I need glasses, my older brothers did but not me. Then the food on my dinner plate was no longer in focus, and on my first visit to the optometrist I was told that I needed glasses.

Somebody at NASA during the Gemini program thought it was a good idea to stick a roll of duct tape on board of the space capsules and so, although it never did get used, they carried a roll on every mission during the Apollo program as well. Until the Apollo 13 mission got into trouble and, you guessed it, the duct tape was a big part of what saved the crew. I wonder how often it was suggested to no longer bother carrying the extra weight of the duct tape, that it was no longer needed?

The travel nurse made sure I had all my vaccinations in order before going on a trip to Africa, she told me to also pick up a prescription for a malaria preventative and Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic. “Do I really need that?” I asked. “I highly recommend taking it with you,” she said. Boy, o boy, was I glad that I listened to her when I was hit by some kind of intestinal inferno.

You, me, and my son need insulin if we want to live. When I get up in the morning I don’t think about insulin, my body takes care of all of my insulin calculations and needs. My son, a diabetic, thinks about insulin all of the time. He has to make sure he has insulin, syringes, needles, test strips, etc. on hand; he can’t afford to run out. He has to monitor, calculate, and administer continually. But the truth is we both need insulin if we want to live, however, our awareness of that need is vastly different.

So just because we don’t think we need something, or because we thought we’d never need it, or because we seemingly have not needed it yet, or because we don’t have to think about something we need, does not mean we don’t need it.

It is Easter, and Easter is about what we need most, I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures (the written Word of God) said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT, parenthesis mine). There are three inescapable facts regarding you, me, and everyone else:

  1. We are sinners (Romans 3:23)
  2. We will die (Romans 6:23, Ezekiel 18:4).
  3. We will have to face God’s judgment (Hebrews (9:27-28).

This is why we need Jesus Christ, to be forgiven of our sins, to not be defeated by death but instead receive eternal life, and to escape the judgment of God. There is no one else but the crucified, buried, and risen Jesus Christ, who can help you and me with these. “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12 (NLT). Let me ask you, “How wise is it to ignore what God thinks you need most?”

It is only If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved” Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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Palm Sunday Revisited

(Before you read the pastor’s note that follows I highly recommend taking out a Bible and read Matthew 21:1-46)

The drycleaners and Laundromats were busy after Jesus rode into town. All those coats and blankets needed cleaning and washing after being used for an impromptu welcoming mat, an unofficial red carpet. Of course it is easy to lay down your coat, to get all caught up in the spirit and hype of the moment, it is quite another thing to lay down your life and follow Jesus.

It went downhill quickly; the crowd’s expectations and Jesus’ expectations were miles apart. They missed the first clue. Jesus came riding a donkey, not a stallion, not a chariot, not a limousine, not a pope-mobile, no police motorcade, no demonstrations of power, military parades, fly-bys, and choreographed pageantries, no speeches, no press conference, just quietness and humility. But it is easy to overlook ‘minor’ details when seemingly big things are on the line.

They wanted their particular “Hosanna” (save now!) Jesus (Savior), who would represent and implement their particular brand of politics regarding personal and national interests. They wanted change without having to change. They wanted the foreigners, those who didn’t belong, out. They wanted times of former glory without repentance.

Jesus had entirely different expectations, his first act after parking the donkey was confronting what everyone had accepted, using God, using religion for our own ends. He walked into the temple and acted like a madman, flipping tables, kicking down booths where pilgrims and worshippers were exploited. Coming into God’s presence is supposed to be free of exploitation. God is not a racket. They had gotten so used to the perversion and misuse of the holy, of the spiritual, of God that they thought it was normal. It wasn’t just those who ran the temple, but also the common worshipper who thought all it takes is a coat in the street, the appropriate offering, a monetary contribution, followed by a prayer to get God onto your side, have him working for you, have blessed odds for your desired outcomes.

The next day, on his way back into Jerusalem, Jesus curses a fig tree that has leaves but no fruit. It, like the expectations of the people and the reality in the temple, was not how God has meant for it to be. Outward appearance is not enough, God has both public and private expectations of us, namely, to bear the fruit we are capable of bearing. He is expecting more than coats in the road, cheap religious pageantry and fancy liturgy, more than green leaves. What they wanted flipped and cursed is not what Jesus flipped and cursed.

We still do it, try to make Jesus conform to our particular brand of politics; it is so much easier than conforming our politics to Jesus. It is easier to pick a crowd to march and scream with than to deal with the tables that need to be flipped and the fruit that is missing. On the flipside it is easy to make following Jesus something that is merely personal, to claim a private relationship with Jesus that has no connection to the public and political. Don’t be fooled, it has its own “money changers” who convert the Christian life into a spiritual form of self-indulgence, a personal spiritual retreat where justice, poverty, sacrifice, suffering, involved compassion rarely make it into our prayers unless we ourselves need help, where there is lots of green but little or no of kingdom passion and fruit.

After they welcomed Jesus they picked up their coats, but “(Jesus) said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” Luke 9:23 (ESV, parenthesis mine).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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 “The time has come,” he (Jesus) said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15 (NIV, parenthesis mine)

“… unless you repent, you too will all perish. Luke 13:3 (NIV)

It didn’t look like it was all that bad, but actually it is worse and getting worser. I am talking about the 1963 Aristocrat LoLiner camp trailer Susie and I are trying to fix up. One corner in the front showed some water damage, but now, that all the siding is off, it is evident that all four corners have water damage. At this point I am wondering if I will ever get the whole thing back together. I am tempted to just make the whole thing a flatbed trailer. I asked Susie if I could simply mount a portable toilet, a barbeque, a couple of outdoor chairs, and leave enough room to pitch a tent. However, I have learned a few things about rot:

  • Rot doesn’t look so bad as long as it is covered up.
  • Just getting to the rot is a lot of work, exhausting.
  • Seeing the full extent of the rot is discouraging.
  • Seeing the rot all exposed makes you wonder if the whole thing is worth it.
  • Figuring out how to fix the rot is overwhelming.
  • Fixing all the rot will take a lot of time, effort, and much more money than it seemed at first.

Of course we are just talking about a 14-foot camping trailer. There is the option to just scrap it or as mentioned turn into a flatbed utility trailer or go with the hillbilly camper option. That, however, isn’t an option when comes to rot in our lives, our families, even the rot in our culture and country. The temptation always is to cover it over, to come up with a quick-fix that doesn’t solve the real problem. A case in point is the left upper corner of the Aristocrat sitting exposed in our driveway. Some time back it rotted to the point it would no longer hold the staples that hold the roofing. The temporary fix was to screw some peg-board like material over the edge and then triple staple to that with longer staples. It obviously held for a good while, but it also allowed the rot to progress. More and longer staples, more screws, and lots more caulking may hold us together for a while longer but it never stops the rot and the eventual collapse.

All of the prophets of God down to Jesus himself preached repentance, “You must deal with the rot!” Not just some of it, but all of it. It is one of the major reasons many don’t care for God, about taking up life with Jesus. To have everything exposed that you have worked so hard to cover up and hold together feels incredible humbling and scary. To give Jesus a shot at rebuilding you and restoring you is long term commitment that goes much deeper than you think at first.

Why give Jesus/God a shot at your rot?

  • No one but Jesus can fix what is at core of all human rot – sin.
  • Jesus was a carpenter; he is very good at doing it right.
  • Jesus is the Son of God; he is able to fix the worst.
  • He cares for and loves you and me more deeply than anyone. He died for our sins, to deliver us from our depravity, to address all that is rotten with and within us.

Now you can pretend that none of this applies to you, go on and staple and caulk some more. But the truth is that you need to repent, to address the rot and sin of your life by letting Jesus Christ in and allowing him to go work.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Fill in the blanks (find possible answers at the bottom):

  • When you get yourself a puppy you will have to ________________________________________________________
  • When you get drunk you will ________________________________________________________
  • After you buy a car you will ________________________________________________________
  • If you leave the windows down on that car and it rains overnight, you will ________________________________________________________
  • If you grab a strange man or woman’s butt thinking it is your wife/husband you will _______________________________________________________

Now you don’t have to get a puppy, get drunk, buy a car, marry, or grab things, but if you do inevitable things will happen. This is not only true about things we can choose it is also true about things we don’t chose.

Wouldn’t it be nice if life were as benign as inadvertent grabs or windows not rolled up? Wouldn’t life be awesome if it were as cute as puppy? Yes, it would be, but it isn’t. As a son of an alcoholic I can’t tell you how quickly funny went out of being drunk. Having clocked my fair share of miles on the road there is nothing funny about losing your cool, road rage, endangering others.

Why did Jesus teach his disciples to pray, And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” Matthew 6:13 (NASB)? Because we will encounter evil, we will be enticed to choose evil, we will be both the object and the source of evil. We will encounter evil that poses as cute and funny. We will be tempted to buy things we shouldn’t, to anger that excuses itself, to words that are bitter, wrong, and wound. Evil and the temptation to do and be evil is inevitable, inescapable in the world we live in. It is never just someone else’s problem it always is also our own.

Evil always tries to start a chain reaction, even as it inflicts it tempts, it suggests that the best way to get back at evil is with evil, to answer anger with anger, hate with hate, wounds with wounds, bitter with bitter, always in kind. But the will of God is absolutely clear whenever and however evil touches us, be it small superficial scratches or having been keyed from head to tail and down to the metal, to the bone, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone” Romans 12:17 (NASB); “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people” 1 Thessalonians 5:15 (NASB),Avoid every kind of evil” 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (NIV).

If we need to pray, “Deliver us from evil,” then it is obvious that we need God’s help for evil to be defeated, for us to respond correctly to it, and to not be a contributor to and perpetuator of it.

Now that you have made it the end of this pastor’s note take a minute and reflect, take responsibility for yourself, and reach out and take God’s hand to help you deal with, cope with, evil in and around you, and pray, “Heavenly Father, God, please forgive me my sins, as I forgive those who have sinned against me.  And don’t let me yield to temptation, but deliver me from evil” Matthew 6:12-13

To God Be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. This weekend go and worship at a nearby church with others who seek to live out the above.

Puppy: Clean up messes, find things chewed up, be bitten, have that tongue put slobber on you in laces that ought not to be slobbered.

Drunk: lose control, say stupid things, do stupid things, be stupid, hurt someone sooner than later.

Car: See lots of other cars like it on the road, buy gas, get a scratch on it, run into numerous idiots who should never be allowed on the road, be one of those idiots.

Windows down: Pronounce yourself an idiot, drive sitting on several towels and still get your posterior wet (so bring an extra pair of pants), drill drain-holes because obviously you can’t trust yourself (maybe not).

Butt grab: (could also the sneak up from behind kiss): For answers ask my wife she has experience with this, get laughed at for a very looong time – basically for the rest of your life, get slapped, turn very red.

 

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When Governor Felix heard the preacher he kept under arrest talk about resurrection he was interested to hear more, as was his wife. It doesn’t matter who you are, how low or high your position is in life, most people want to have some hope for what comes after death.

Felix had another motive as well. He thought since Paul was an influential leader of a religious group that they would want to bail him out, or more precisely bribe him out. As interested as he was in the afterlife he was even more interested in this life.

“A few days later (after hearing Paul for the first time) Felix and his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish, sent for Paul and listened to him talk about a life of believing in Jesus Christ. As Paul continued to insist on right relations with God and his people (righteousness), about a life of moral discipline (self-control) and the coming Judgment, Felix felt things getting a little too close for comfort (became afraid) and dismissed him. ‘That’s enough for today. I’ll call you back when it’s convenient.’ At the same time he was secretly hoping that Paul would offer him a substantial bribe. These conversations were repeated frequently (often)” Acts 24:24-26 (MSG, parentheses mine).

What Felix wanted to hear and what Paul told him were two different things. Felix liked the thought of going to heaven but he didn’t care for having to think about right and wrong, morality, and especially judgment. He was part of the Roman elite, the powerful who had tremendous leeway when it came to their actions, their morality, and accountability, as long as they did not conflict with the interests of the emperor. This preacher was making him feel guilty, didn’t not grant him the luxury of appeasing his conscience as to his deeds, his standing before God. This preacher left him no wiggle room as to what would be overlooked and what wouldn’t be. This preacher highlighted his responsibility to exercise morality beyond what was acceptable in Rome, but would stand up in the judgment of God. On top of all that this preacher was making sense, this wasn’t irrational religious nonsense.

Felix was smart enough to realize the implications of the truths this preacher was laying out before him. If was going to have real hope beyond death and the judgment of God he would have to face his accountability to God for his actions, for his past, now and in the future. He would have to seek forgiveness. He would have to humble himself. He would have to believe in and follow Jesus Christ, who alone can atone for, propitiate for a person’s sins, bring him/her safely through the judgment of God, raise the dead, and grant eternal life.

Felix did what many do at that point of understanding, the point where God, where Christ gets too close for comfort, where you have to repent and believe. He sent the preacher away, “I’ll call you back when it is convenient,” He kept it on his terms, not God’s.

Felix did have the preacher back, “often” we are told. He knew what he was hearing was the truth, but as far as we can tell he kept checking out when it got “to close for comfort.” Two years later he was transferred, we do not know what became of him. What we do know is real hope, resurrection hope is only found in Jesus Christ.

Maybe this pastor’s note is a little too close for comfort? Will you check out or will you believe?

To God be all glory, 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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