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How rich would you want your children to be? I imagine you’d prefer them not to be poor. Susie, my wife, and I have worked really hard so our children would not have to ever be as poor as we once were, maybe you have done the same. Maybe you bought a lottery ticket or two for the slim chance of winning big so you can put the financial tightrope behind you and have your kids and grandkids be all set.

Of course, Susie and I didn’t just work hard on the money thing in regard to our kids, we wanted them to have opportunities as well. But with little money, opportunities are also harder to come by. I can’t tell you how many tamales got manufactured in our kitchen in order to raise money for an exchange student year and other opportunities we wanted our children to have.

But there is still more to life than money and opportunities, you can have lots of both and be poor in character. In fact, if we would have had to choose between money, opportunities, and character Susie and I would have asked for our children to grow up and be rich in character, for them to be honest, hard-working, kind, generous, dependable, thoughtful, wise, gritty, frugal, confident, ever- learning, courageous, caring, optimistic, daring, creative, fun-loving, and selfless people.

We also did not want them to have poor minds; a mind is terrible thing to waste. So, we read to them, filled our house with books, took them to the library mobile, limited the TV and other electronic mindlessness, challenged them to think, to figure things out, to love discovering and learning, and develop discipline and tenaciousness of mind. No, we did not want them to have poor minds, because poor minds think small and are easily deceived. I have to admit that there were times when we almost regretted working hard to enrich their minds, usually when they outsmarted us, blew holes into our parental arguments, or exposed our own mental poverty or duplicity.

There are so many ways to be poor and our constant prayer was we would succeed in raising our kids to be anything but poor. We don’t want them to have poor manner, poor social skills, poor foresight, poor judgment, a poor sense of justice, poor morals, poor vocabularies, poor habits, poor skills, poor money and time management, poor civic involvement, and so much more. Man, parenting to make your kids rich is tough, because you don’t just have to pay attention to so many things but you also have to model all that stuff.

Suppose you and Susie and I succeed in doing a really good job at all of the above helping them to grow up in a “rich” environment, a “rich” home filled with real love, fun, opportunities, values, security, and all the things that help them become rich in every way. We can succeed in all of the above and our children could still be utterly poor of soul if God is nowhere to be found in all of that riches. Jesus, in describing a hardworking man who is living the American dream, but with God nowhere in the picture, calls him both a fool and poor when it came to God (Luke 12:1-40).

There is not much good in poverty of any kind, but none is more far-reaching than poor towards God, leaving God and Christ out of life’s most important decisions, having a mind that is not curious and seeking after God, having a heart that does not love God, having values and morals that offend God, living and dying without trusting in, following, and obeying the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Fellow parents, how I pray that you give yourself to God through his Son Jesus Christ, that you build your family around your relationship with God and the word of God (the Bible), that you dedicate yourself to make your children really rich in what matters most, both now and for eternity.

If you are wondering where to start, get back on track, and stay on course for the long-haul I encourage you to do the following three things beginning today.

  • Every week for the next six months go to a church where the Bible is taught and lived.
  • Read the Bible in your home, start in Mark. Be prepared for your children to ask questions you can’t answer (that will have you come back to church for answers).
  • Pray in the name of Jesus with your spouse and your family.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy (trustworthy, reliable) people who will be able to pass them on to others. 2 Timothy 2:2 (NLT, parenthesis mine)

I remember exactly where I stood, next to the sound-booth in the back of the sanctuary. We, Davidmark and I, were talking about youth ministry. Actually I did the talking, because I had been leading the church’s youth program (again), after a disastrous departure of the previous youth-pastor. I expressed the need for someone else to step in now that the dust had settled and asked Davidmark to pray with me on this matter. That’s when he let out that he had been considering stepping into this roll, “Really?” I said.

He, Cindy, and his children did indeed step into that role and gave it their all for the past eight years. They built their lives around that ministry, rearranged things, opened their home and hearts to scores of teenagers, teaching them, praying for them, and helping to carry their burdens. They learned on the fly and experienced both the joys and heartaches of ministry. They proved themselves to be a gift from God to us as a church, our community, and to me as the pastor.

God always looks first at the heart, and we do well to do the same. God is also good at knitting hearts together to carry out his purposes and the work of Christ’s kingdom. Whatever Davidmark and Cindy lacked in the beginning their hearts as servants of Jesus were exactly as they should be, and still are. In fact the challenge was often to help them focus on doing less rather than volunteering for more (especially Davidmark). So God paired a Polish mailman and a German preacher to serve him here in Don Pedro.

I will miss coming to church early on Sunday’s only find Davidmark already there making coffee and ready to pray together. I will miss the haggling over who forgot to inform the other. I will miss our exchanges on all kinds of things because our brains are wired so different. I will always give thanks for this faithful man and woman whose love for and faith in Christ has both a fire and tenacity. I pray they will seamlessly engage in God’s work in Modesto.

As for us, I will in the immediate timeframe lead our youth-ministry with those who have been helping Davidmark and Cindy. We will look to expand that team. I ask you, the church, to pray for new leadership, including a search for a permanent youth pastor/leader. I am praying for some of you to fill roles I need to relinquish in order to do a good job leading the youth. I am asking God for someone or more than one to join me on early Sunday mornings to get things ready and to pray.

Today however, I look back and give praise and thanks to God for the Grabowskis – Davidmark, Cindy, Jonathan, Joseph, Joshua, Joy, and Jacob.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

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Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.  He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. Romans 4:20-21 (NLT)

How good we are at keeping our promises says a lot about us, our character, our trustworthiness. You break enough promises (“enough” is a surprisingly small number) and soon others will count your promises worthless. The value of a promise is only as good as the promise keeper. We and God admire those who keep their promises at great cost and personal sacrifice, there is something inspiring about such promise makers and such promise keeping. King David asked, “Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?” Psalm 15:1 (NLT), and part of the answer is, “He swears (promises) to his own hurt and does not change” Psalm 15:4 (NASB, parenthesis mine).

Have you ever been at the receiving end of a careless, unkept promises? You find shatteredness there, shattered trust, lost respect, dead dreams, deteriorated relationships, dissipated honor. Our challenge is not only to be careful about making promises but also discerning about whose promises you can trust. Experience enough worthless promises and it won’t be long before you become distrustful and cynical about promises in general, even God’s.

The truth is that none of our promises, even our most carefully made promises, are completely trustworthy. Our most sincere intentions, sterling character, fine track record, and great self-discipline cannot fully guarantee any promise we make. There are just too many variables out of our control, most notably our mortality, we might simply not live long enough to keep a promise. We can keep promises only to the best of our ability, and we should. And, like with all things in life, we are completely dependent on God in our promise keeping. He alone is capable of making a promise and completely guarantee it. His promises are completely trustworthy, in fact, every promise of God is good as reality.

Abraham realized and became ever more convinced that the best way to live life is to fully trust in the promises of God, in the certain promise keeper – God. God promised him a son and Abraham and Sarah’s age was not an obstacle. God asked him to sacrifice that precious son and Abraham knew and believed that even death was not problem for God. Abraham would absolutely and without hesitation encourage us live by God’s promises. He would concur with what the Apostle Peter penned, “… because of his glory and excellence, he (God) has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises” 2 Peter 1:4-5 (NLT).

The best place to discover God’s promises is the Bible, God’s written word, it is chock-full of “magnificent and precious” promises, each one of them completely trustworthy. Without a doubt you and I are much better off if when we live by God’s promises.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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For as long as have had the awesome, God-given, privilege of being a Dad I have wondered about the best things a Dad can do for his kids. My motivation was that I did not want to screw up, hurt, or negatively impact the lives of the children entrusted to Susie and me, instead I wanted to be a source of blessing, a contributor to my children’s success, a source of joy, and an example of wisdom, integrity, faith, and godliness. Thus I have observed, picked the brains of Dad’s I admired, read books, contemplated, attended seminars, and studied the God’s word (the Bible). Here are a few things I have learned:

Don’t

  • Be stupid. Stupid is never funny, kid’s pay a high price for parental stupidity.
  • Be absent. You can never be a good Dad if you don’t show up.
  • Be drunk, high, or addicted, unless you want to curse your children.
  • Be violent or abusive. A strong and good man does not hurt or abuse his children.
  • Be a jerk, you’ll make your children angry.
  • Think that giving your kids stuff will make anything.
  • Live your dreams through your kids.
  • Chase the American dream, have a kingdom of God dreams instead.
  • Break your word or lie. Let your children be able to trust what you say.
  • Sin, sin is always corrosive and destructive. And if you sin do don’t cover it up but quick to repent.

Do

  • Get involved in your children’s lives, you they will be the richer for it.
  • Show your love in as many ways as you can. There is safety in love.
  • Affirm your kids in who they are, help them to be all that God has made them to be.
  • Laugh, have a great sense of humor. If your kids make fun of us in front of us they’re not afraid of us. This will also help in not making mountains out of mole hills.
  • Have a plan, a clear picture of what you want your kids to be like. Great parents don’t leave things up to chance.
  • Have standards when it comes to conduct, character, courage, commitment, chores, community, charity, quality (working hard and doing things right), compromise, and compassion. Make sure you model them or it will be a tough sell.
  • Love their Mom, openly, constantly, and beautifully. It sets a tone. It exposes your kids to something rare and precious, it will also undermine their efforts to divide and conquer.
  • Earn and require respect. Respecting Mom, siblings, other people (even those who you don’t like or disagree with) is not an option.
  • Make room for expressing anger, but never let anger be expressed in sinful ways. This means you have to be really good at it yourself.
  • Apologize when you messed up. Eat crow when you need to. Model how to take responsibility and not make excuses.
  • Encourage your kids to dream, to try things, to not be afraid of failure.
  • Use your mouth to bless your kids, to sow good things into their hearts and minds, to cheer, to encourage, to be kind, to build up, to be straight forward, to set a beautiful tone in your home and your relationship with them.
  • Love all the things God loves: Jesus Christ, people, the church, the Bible, generosity, justice, compassion, creation, doing good, sinners being found, worship, praise, blessing others.
  • Pray yourself, as a family, with their Mom, with others. Pray constantly, pray bold, pray with your mind and heart engaged. Ask for big and important things regarding your children and family. Pray beyond everything to merely be smooth and effortless in your children’s lives.
  • Strive to be consistent in your conduct, discipline, and behavior.
  • Shoot for being the godliest Dad you could possibly be, for your kid’s to be able to call you a man of God.

 

Ancient King David is near the end of his life. He is busy organizing everything so his son Solomon is set up for success, and then David prays, “Give my son Solomon the wholehearted desire to obey all your commands, laws, and decrees, and to do everything necessary to build this Temple, for which I have made these preparations” 1 Chronicles 29:19 (NLT).

To God be all glory. Happy Fathers’ Day, Pastor Hans

 

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV)

Who do you consider the enemy? Who are your enemies? Who do you treat like, talk about, and emotionally react to like they are the enemy, your enemy? Is it the terrorists, the jihadists, Muslims in general, illegal immigrants, gays, LBGTQs (Lesbians, Gays, Transgender, Queer), the politically conservative, the politically liberals, the religious, the atheist and humanists, the theologically conservatives, the theologically liberal, the rich, the poor, those that hurt you, cheated you, abused you, mistreated you?

Can’t we hate them, dehumanize them, ridicule them, belittle them, seek their demise and destruction? Can’t we just join the choir that loves singing imprecatory psalms like: “Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave”(Psalm 55:15). “O God, break the teeth in their mouths”(Psalm 58:6).“May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous” (Psalm 69:28).“May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow”(Psalm 109:9). “How blessed will be the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks” (Psalm 137:9). Can’t we at least not care to what happens to our enemies?

Whomever we regard as our enemy, whomever we talk about, treat, and emotionally react to like they are an enemy, there is a Christlike standard that applies. If our attitudes, words, and action do not reflect love, mercy, doing good, and prayers that seek more than vengeance and demise, then we are still far from Christlikeness.

You have to figure it out, that “love your enemy” mandate, it is not easy, it puts responsibilities on us that we don’t really want. It just might make us struggle more than our enemy. Hatred does not care about restraint but love does. Hatred does not care about its object, love does.

So how lax are our attitudes, how lose are our lips, how missing are our actions, how empty are our prayers, and how cold are our hearts when it comes to our enemies or those who talk about, treat like, and emotionally respond to like our enemies? Are we sticking with the “You have heard that it was said,” with what’s the norm, with what is accepted and practiced the world over, or are we fully embracing the teaching of Christ and dare to walk in his footsteps?

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful Luke 6:27-36 (NIV).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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Impact, “… the LORD was with him …” Genesis 39:3 (NIV)

Impact, we all have it. Our footprint might be small or large, hardly visible or impossible to ignore, but everyone has one. That little girl or boy still in her or his mother’s womb has one. When my son and daughter-in-law announced that she was pregnant I couldln’t help but smile, “They have no idea how much that child will impact their lives,” I thought. And, o boy, how that baby has impacted their lives.

So what is your impact? How do you impact those around you? Does your impact cause gladness or grief, blessing or bad, hope or hell? What is found on the trail of your impact? What will be your legacy? A story of evil, lies, corruption, violence, hatred, betrayal? A mixed bag? Or one that leaves no doubt in the mind of others that “God was with you?”

It is true, “the Lord was with Joseph,” but it is also true that Joseph was with God. How do we know that? We know because of his statements, attitude, and actions. When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him Joseph’s refusal was based on two things: 1. His integrity, he wouldn’t betray his master’s trust (he was a slave), 2. His belief in God, he would not sin against God (Genesis 39:9). When Pharaoh summoned him to interpret dreams Joseph acknowledged God from the very outset (Genesis 41:16). Enslaved through the betrayal of his brothers, imprisoned on a false allegation of rape, forgotten promises by the kings cup bearer, it could have made Joseph bitter, cynical, negative, corrupt, or resigned. But he did not lose hope, kindness, caring, honesty, faith, nor the drive to be and do his best. No matter where he ended up those around him trusted him with responsibility, were able to depend on the quality of his work, didn’t have to worry about him when no one was looking. Invariably people benefited from having Joseph in their lives. They ended up being better off because of him. Things improved with Joseph around. There was no mistaking that “the Lord was with him,” his impact proved it.

Joseph was 17 when his brothers sold him into slavery, after that he was a salve and a prisoner for 13 years, and he served under Pharaoh for decades. Time passed, his circumstances changed, responsibilities grew, but his impact stayed constant, his legacy is untarnished, “the Lord was with him.”

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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You and I can’t go where the President of the United States can go. Just try strolling into the White House next time you’re in D.C. Or try to go to the nearest military base on your next day off and demand to see the commanding officer right away. You can call me from jail and tell me how it went. We don’t have the position, status, or authority the President has. He has access to people, places, information, and power the ordinary citizen does not have. He doesn’t have to stand in line and wait. I am sure he’ll have a hard time remembering the last time he had take a number. There are things only the president gets to do while he is in office.

Of course the power of the President is limited and most of us are quick to point out whenever we think he overstepped his bounds. Most of us would consider our private lives none of his business. Were we live, how we spend our money, the work we do, our opinions, and our lifestyles, and our love-life are all things most of us would not only consider none of his business but also beyond his Presidential authority.

The President is not the only one who has had his authority questioned. Pretty much everyone who has ever held any authority has had his/her authority questioned, “You can’t do that! You don’t have the authority? Who do you think you are?”

No one has had his authority questioned more than God, than Jesus Christ. When Jesus dared to address and forgive a paralyzed man’s sin people were aghast. He seemingly had overstepped two lines you just don’t cross: 1. the man’s private, personal sphere, and 2. Claiming authority that only belongs to God (Mark 2:1-12).

Does God really have the authority, the right to make judgments regarding our private lives, our personal spheres, our morals, the way we spend our money, our thoughts and desires, our plans, our words, and our decisions? Can he really tell us what is right and what is wrong, what is just and unjust, what is good and what is evil, what is pure and what is impure, what is righteous and what is sinful? Of course you don’t have to like the answer anymore than the authority the president yields, but that does not negate the authority. You can try to get away from the President’s and governmental authority. You can move to another country, fall of the grid, or try a rebellion or revolution. All of these, however, will not work with God. His authority is absolute, infinite, and eternal. Nothing lies outside of his authority. He has rightful access over everything in our lives “… We are the clay, and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand” Isaiah 64:8 (NASB). Nothing in all creation is hidden from God. Everything is naked and exposed before his eyes, and he is the one to whom we are accountable Hebrews 4:13 (NLT). “Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?” Job 40:2 (NLT).

Remember the paralyzed man mentioned above? This is what Jesus said and did to answer those who questioned his authority, “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to (point out, define and to) forgive sins”—He said* to the paralytic, ‘I say to you, get up, pick up your pallet and go home.’ And he got up and immediately picked up the pallet and went out in the sight of everyone, so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this” Mark 2:10-12 (NASB parenthesis mine).

God/Jesus Christ has legitimate authority over your and my life. Thus the question becomes whether or not you and I are submitted to his authority.

To God be all glory, pastor Hans

 

 

 

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