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Archive for the ‘resurrection’ Category

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Easter, Pastor Hans

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

 

 

 

 

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The tickets were booked a long time ago but today is the last day before the trip, that means last minute stuff. I am always glad when I am finally in my seat and the plane is accelerating down the runway, I feel like I can relax at that point. Well, the relaxation point is still some hours out, which brings me back to last minute stuff. Obviously this pastor’s note is one of those things to get done before hopping in the car to drive to airport.

There is something about time running out, invariably some things don’t get done because they have to be done, they’re just not that important. The level of important things that needed to be done and actually got done depends on how little you procrastinated and how well you prepared. The last minute stress level depends on how much last minute stuff you let pile up in relation to how little time is left. It also depends on how many people are depending on you. And it depends on how many unexpected things crop up at the last minute. A pig pile of last minute stuff drenched in a downpour of the unexpected will make your eyes twitch.

All of our tickets have been booked, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be Psalm 139:16 (NIV). With each passing day everyone of is getting closer to our departure. Our upcoming trip has both a first stop and a final destination, that’s how it is with everyone’s final trip. The first stop, “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”  Hebrews 9:27 (NIV). The final destination depends on who you booked with, but it will either be heaven or hell, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal lifeMatthew 25:46 (NASB).

I have been a preacher for over thirty years and it has been my experience that in general people do not prepare for the final trip. They leave messes their children and family have to sort out, they life lives with little or no thought of God’s judgment, they book trips into eternity depending on themselves, trusting in human philosophy, scientific enlightenment, and man-made religion to either avoid or prepare them for a complete accounting before God, believing good thoughts and sentimentality can both keep them out of hell and propel them into heaven. There is no peace, no assurance, no hope in any of that. The reality of being unprepared is that all piles up until it is too late, until not only the unimportant is left undone but also the essential. The truth is that anyone who books his or her journey into eternity through anyone but Christ is unprepared.

Now Matthew 25 Jesus makes it abundantly clear that there are those who smugly and glibly claim Christ but their attitudes and actions reveal who they really have booked with. They fool themselves into thinking they are going to one place but will end up in another.

I stood by the bedside of a dying man. He hadn’t expected for his final trip to come this soon. He’d gone church off and on. He could claim a religious episode, but he knew he was unprepared just hours before takeoff. He had wasted life on himself. Is there hope for someone like him? The answer is, YES! All of us will be found wanting at the first stop of the final journey, none of us has enough merit to stay out of hell, not a single one of us can pay for the ticket on the jet bound for heaven, Jesus Christ graciously and mercifully has paid for that. Book with him and live for him now, not later.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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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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Easter Questions

How long can you live without breathing? – Minutes.

How many days can you live without water? – Days.

How long could you live without eating anything? – Weeks.

How long can you live without Jesus? – Both milliseconds and years.

You and I exist from moment to moment only because the entire universe, every atom and particle, is sustained by the power of Christ, “For everything was created by Him (Christ), in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together” Colossians 1:16-17 (HCSB, parenthesis mine). On the other hand you and I can ignore, deny, or be against Jesus our entire lives, till our very last breath.

What has been the most important day of your life? – The day of your birth? Some other significant day? The day you became a believer in Christ?

What has been the most significant event all of human history? – Easter, Jesus Christ, incarnate God, conquering sin and death on a Roman cross, his corpse sealed into a tomb, and risen from the dead three days later. God, through the life of his Son, loving you and me at an unimaginable depth and offering forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption, a place in his family, and eternal life to sinners like you and me. There is no more incredible and significant event in all of history.

If you are scratching your head saying, “I don’t know?” or if you profoundly disagree consider the words of the Apostle Paul, “The message of the cross (Easter) 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. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God” 1 Corinthians 1:18-24 (NLT, parenthesis mine).

My son is a diabetic. He needs insulin to live. He can complain, wail against the unfairness of it, summon his philosophical and theological objections, but that will not change a thing about his condition. No one is making him take his insulin, watch his diet, and adopt the lifestyle of a diabetic, but if he wants to live, if he wants to be well, he will. He can ignore his doctor, play Yoyo with his blood sugar, and drink or bathe in sugar, but he will not be able to escape the consequences that come with that. He can be offended, he can deceive himself into thinking it is all a bunch of …, but none of that diminishes his need for insulin.

You and I are sinners; sinners need the cross of Christ, the power of Christ to save them. The cross of Christ is not meant to offend, it is not foolishness, it spells hope and life. None of us will escape the consequences of our sins, none of us can conquer death, no one will survive the scrutiny of God’s judgment, and no one will live in the presence of Almighty and Holy God except through Jesus Christ.

“Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 (NASB)

Happy Easter, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Gophers and ground squirrels committing acts of subterranean terror, wood peckers in senseless destruction drilling holes into my house or by my office, ants trying to take over our home like Russia annexing Crimea, and termites like the NSA in cloaked secrecy chewing away on what is precious to me – my animosity, my loathing, my outcry over these is no secret.

These critters are relentless, the damages attributable to them are significant, and their consciences don’t seem to be all that bothered. I wonder if there is a rodent hell, a wood pecker purgatory, an eternal lake of fire for termites and ants? If not, there should be. This kind of destruction, havoc, senselessness, disrespect, and lack of caring should not go unaccounted for. There should be some kind of justice, shouldn’t there?

But what is our excuse? We are the creature with the most advanced brain, we are capable of figuring things out peacefully, we are able to empathize more deeply than any living thing. It is possible for us to make good choices that go beyond basic instinct, beyond emotion, beyond rage, beyond hatred, beyond what is just good for us. And yet no creature God has made is more  destructive than us, than mankind. We are politically destructive, ecologically destructive, economically destructive, emotionally destructive, personally destructive, and even spiritually destructive. Yet somehow we are prone to cry foul at the very notion that God would hold us accountable, that he would judge us for our evil, our failure to do good, are unwillingness to live for the highest ends of loving God and loving our neighbor.

Another observance of Easter, the recognition and celebration of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, conquering sin and death and rising from the dead, is approaching. I wish there was a gospel for gophers and the like. However, there is a Gospel for you and for me, for people. Unlike me, who has trouble eliminating a few gophers and ants, God could have exterminated us all, and no one could have faulted him because our collective and personal history indicts us. He could have responded with pure and justified hatred towards all of mankind. Somehow he didn’t and instead of withdrawing personally and emotionally He drew closer, and engaged himself deeper. He chose to love, to offer hope, to provide atonement and forgiveness, to conquer what we cannot – our sin and the reality of death.

I have no desire to become a gopher, to dwell among ground squirrels, to be part of a termite colony. As you well know, I have no love for any of them. But God in Christ chose to dwell among us, that’s incredible. On the one hand it brings incredible hope to our moral, existential, and spiritual dilemma; on the other hand it robs us of our last excuse of having no other option than to be who we are.

Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good.
But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.”
Romans 5:7-10 (NLT)

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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“… the power of Jesus Christ’s resurrection …” (Philippians 3:10)

Sooner than later everyone runs into it.

The elderly gentleman whose path I crossed last week did. You could tell that he used to do most everything by himself. He used to repair his own vehicles. He built the barn behind his house. If the tree that had fallen on the side of house five years ago he would have cut it up himself. But now he could just watch and cheer me on. I thought, “Someday that could very well be me.”

The young woman lying in the hospital bed did. Young and sick just don’t seem to go together, at least they shouldn’t. There she was hooked up to monitors and IV lines, at the mercy of the disease and the doctors and nurses trying to fight it. When I left I thought, “That could very well be me.”

The parents who asked me to come over did. Their daughter is making bad decisions. She is on a straight path of ruining her life, hurting herself and others in the process. Mom and Dad are at their wits’ end. When I started my car I thought, “I have kids. That could very well be Susie and me.”

The faces on the TV screen did. In a way they are almost interchangeable. This was a documentary about refugee camp that has become a place with no way out, but it could just as well have been a documentary of people caught in a deadly drought, or of a crime and drug infested neighborhood, or of victims of a natural disaster. I thought, “I am glad that’s not me,” but it very well could be.

The family gathered around the bed did. The no longer conscious, shrunken shell of their Mom, Grandma, and sister was still breathing, barely. But it was just a matter of time. No one was going to stop the inevitable. We all wished it would come sooner than later. I couldn’t help but think, “One day this will be me.”

The man in the casket suspended over his grave did. The Honor Guard had conducted their ceremony, fired the gun salute, and carefully folded the flag and presented it. I spoke the benediction. Mourners laid flowers on the casket. Then we stepped back and watched it disappear into the ground. As we were walking away the grave diggers started to cover the grave. I thought, “Whatever was left death took it. Took it from everyone laid to rest here, every last bit. It doesn’t matter whose marker I read, or how fancy the grave stone is, all here have been rendered powerless.”

The feeling and the reality of powerlessness is as inescapable as it is dreaded. It diminishes us. It is both humbling and humiliating. Human dignity is lost. Fear and helplessness are its companions. It challenges the slightest glimmer of hope. And it doesn’t matter, in the end each one of us will lose the fight. Whatever power was ours it will not be buried with us under that last shovel of dirt.

There is, however, a grave that has been gloriously empty for the past 2000 years. Not because someone has dug it up, or because tomb raiders invaded it. It is empty because who was laid there walked out. Evil, the brokenness of this world, Satan, sin and death all tried their best to render Jesus Christ powerless. All of them failed. He rose from the dead. He alone can help us escape the condemnation of sin and the curse and power of death. You and I can live and be buried in real hope if we trust in and live with Jesus Christ. Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26 (NASB)

This Easter, if you have never done so, make a beginning with Jesus Christ – believe and follow.

This Easter, remember that power of Jesus’ resurrection calls us more than comfortable holy huddles behind church walls, but to go where evil, sin, injustice, lostness, suffering, disease, fear, worry, darkness, hopelessness, powerlessness, and death prevails.

Jesus is risen! Love you, Pastor Hans

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