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Archive for the ‘sanctification’ Category

The superintendent informed the gathering of parents, family, and friends that Don Pedro high School’s graduating class of 2017, all nine of them, had satisfied all the requirements and could move their tassels from the right to the left, signifying that they were now graduated. They won’t have to do High School ever again. Let the celebration begin.

A proud Dad sitting in front of remarked, “Nineteen years ago he was just a tiny little bundle I held in my arms.” He doesn’t fit into those arms anymore. It would be comical to see that graduate hop into his Dad’s arms. It would be tragic if had not grown out of his diapers, or never learned to walk, talk, laugh and cry, and … – if he had not grown up. Of course, at 17, 18, 19 there is still a lot of growing that lies ahead. Just because a person is as tall as they are ever going to get does not mean their heart, their mind, their character, their courage, their stamina, and … are fully developed. You haven’t learned it all by the end of High School, or college, or grad school, or at 50, 60, 70, 80, although our pride may tell us so. I pray that both the graduates and all of us in attendance will remember the principal’s encouragement to be lifelong learners, question-askers, wonderers.

Some people love school, some hate it, many could care less about graduations, but we are all headed for the ultimate graduation. The requirements for High School graduation are not sufficient for it, none of us has completed the coursework, we still have a lot of growing and learning ahead of us. In light the ultimate examination, the return of Christ, the judgment of God, and the one graduation ceremony no one can escape the Apostle encourages each one of us, “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity” 2 Peter 3:18 (ESV).

Last night’s graduates did not get to decide on the content of the curricula, they were the students, not the teachers. Regarding the curricula of eternal life, concerning what is required for the ultimate graduation God is the one who is the teacher and we are the learners. There are lot of assignments that make us groan, that have as wondering as to the usefulness of having to learn this, but one thing God never does is give unnecessary assignments, mere busywork, fluff. All he assigns to us, challenges us to learn, confounds us with, is designed to grow us in grace, in the knowledge of Christ, to make us better, wiser, stronger, and softer.

So, what is God assigning you right now? What is he trying to grow and develop in you through that assignment? What is he wanting to accomplish through you? Are you bringing all that he has taught up to this point to bear in handling the current assignment? Do you seek God for office hours and help when you are stumped? Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it” James 1:2-5 (MSG).

Before any High school graduation there are parents who are worried that that their son’s or daughter’s attitude, laziness, outlook, and procrastination will keep him or her from graduating. Likewise, the Apostle Paul was concerned that anyone would “receive the grace of God in vain” 2 Corinthians 6:1 (NASB), and the writer of Hebrews (12:15) warned not to “come up short of the grace of God.” The only way to do neither is to be committed to God teaching us throughout life and be relentless when it comes to “growing in grace and the knowledge of Christ.”

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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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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Here in Central California we’re not used to days and days of rain, bundles of sunshine – yes, buckets of rain – no. Of course, if you just get sunshine you will soon live in a desert, get too much rain and the collective power of little raindrops spells disaster. Go too far in either direction, be exposed to the extremes of both sunshine and rain and our existence becomes increasingly marginal, more and more precarious.

After years of drought we needed to be inundated with rain, we needed to be doused with precipitation far above the normal. We were on the very precipice of disaster, all our wealth, ingenuity, and technology none withstanding. We had to change our ways and conserve. Things that were a luxury, like green grass and decorative shrubbery, no longer got water. We showered less, flushed less, and continually thought of how to use less. We didn’t like our shrinking margin of existence, we were frightened by this continual inching towards disaster. So, we watched with joy when the rains came, when dormant streams were resurrected back to life, when the rivers swelled, and when our lakes rose and filled.

We wanted things to get back to normal, normal being that which we were used to; being able to turn on the hose without thinking, without worry, without the threat of being penalized. And now that we have had enough rain to expand our margins, to relax the conservation rules, to not having to worry for a few years, we want our sunshine back, we want the rain to accommodate our schedules again.

We find it hard to adjust ourselves to new normals. We much rather have everything around us work in a way that sustains or returns our normal. This way we do not have to change our habits, our routines, our expectations, our dreams, our comfort level. This is true spiritually as well and is one of the major challenges of the Christian life, adjusting ourselves to a new normal, adjusting ourselves to God, to Christ, to a life with the Holy Spirit, to an existence ordered by faith, scripture, and community (church/the body of Christ).

An unwillingness to adjust ourselves to the new realities of a life with and in Christ causes us to yearn for the old normal, which in reality never has been normal, but sinful, depraved, self-absorbed. It leads us to diminishing God, a Christ without a cross, syncretism, and religious pluralism. It sets Christ up for failure (although he cannot and will never fail) because Jesus Christ did not come to submit himself and support our normal. Without our submitting to the normal as Christ defines it, we will be sooner than later be disappointed by his lack of support, by the lack of water, by too many rainy days, and move on to someone or something that acquiesces more readily to our normal, to a life that requires little faith, fewer adjustments, and less obedience.

The crucified, risen, and exalted Christ still calls, “Follow Me,” (Mark 1:17, 10:21) and if we do we cannot remain in that which was normal before we followed. It means making many changes in our hearts, minds, outlooks, desires, dreams, values, actions, and reactions. It means giving up all desire to ever return to anything that was and felt normal without Christ. “Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NLT). “You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24 (NIV).

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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Have you ever kinked a water hose that someone was using without them knowing that you were there? It’s really great when they end up pointing the hose at their face to see what has caused the water from coming out, because that’s when you release the kink and “whoosh.”

The Apostle John reports that Jesus on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, that included an elaborate water ceremony, stood up and shouted, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water'” John 7:37-38 (NASB), and John adds the following explanation, “This He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive” John 7:39 (NASB).

The Holy Spirit is what Jesus was referring to and that the Holy Spirit is the life-giving and sustaining source in a believer’s life. Have you ever noticed that wherever there is water things grow, things are green, full of life? Now the Holy Spirit in every believer’s life unequivocally and continually works towards holiness, godliness, and Christlikeness to abound in a Christian’s life so that s/he pours out, gushes holiness, godliness, Christ-likeness like an artesian well, like a fire hose at full blast, like a mighty flowing river.

What keeps us from gushing forth mighty rivers? What causes us to be more like an old leaky garden hose that produces but a dribble of holiness, and sometimes none at all? What reduces us to people who proclaim Christ but have little of the life of Jesus flow through us? Kinks for one, but these kinks are no joke.

You can’t blame the kinks on the devil, although he tries very hard to prevent anything coming out of our hose. You can’t blame your dribbling hose on lousy circumstances, bad health, pain, evil people, injustice, and lack of opportunity or lucky breaks. Jesus and a host of saints have gushed living water in spite of all of these.

No, in my experience my hose kinks when I drag it around corners I shouldn’t, when I respond to the things mentioned above like the old Hans, contrary to what the Spirit of God compels me to, contrary to the scriptures he inspired. When he says “judge not,” “forgive,” “watch what you say,” “be generous,” “love your enemies,” “be merciful” etc. and I don’t – kink.

When I refuse to drag my hose to where the Spirit wants me to water, stay away from those he wants me to engage with, love, nurture and care for – kink.

When I give myself permission to maintain attitudes, opinions, and values that are contrary to the heart of God, the will of God, and the word of God – kink.

When I excuse behaviors that are ungodly, unholy, unworthy of Christ (remember every Christian is part of his body) – kink.

When I decide on the timing of my obedience to the Spirit of God – kink.

When I hold onto what the Spirit compels me to let go and vice versa don’t embrace what he wants me to embrace – kink.

When I make the practice of important spiritual habits such as prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship/church, servanthood, giving, worship, etc. optional – kink.

When my heart lacks passion for the kingdom of God, the will of God, the things of God, the Son of God, and the glory of God – kink.

When at my core I am motivated by anything less than love for God and love for people – kink.

The only way for the end of a hose to produce continual maximum flow you have to make sure you have it connected to the right source, fix all the leaks, deal with all the kinks, and turn the faucet on all the way. Jesus does not want us to be dribblers but gushers, so much so that we will ask for a bigger hose, and we might end up being a river.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:1-2 (NLT)

Getting married is easy, declare your love, pop the question, set the date, get the license, plan the party, and say, “I Do.” But what comes after is a lifetime of being married, of being a spouse. Making a baby is easy and fun (If you are wondering how? Have your Dad, Mom, Grandpa, or Grandma explain it to you). But what comes after is a lifetime of being a parent. Getting saved, being reconciled to God, and having your sins forgiven is easy. You simply have to put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ as the one who can save you, reconcile you, and forgive you. But what comes after is a lifetime of being a believer.

Once you get married, once you put a baby into this world, and once you become a Christian the question is, “And so what kind of spouse and lover, what kind of Mom or Dad, what kind of follower of Jesus are going to be?” Of course that doesn’t depend on what has already transpired but on what you do, what you value, how you think, and how you live in the present. And the present is continual, ongoing.

What are the chances of having a great marriage after a beautiful wedding if you don’t spend any time together, if you are disengaged, if you don’t maintain trust, if you don’t share values, and if you make lousy decisions? What kind of parent are you if the words sporadic, inconsistent, immature, and self-centered describe you? What kind of believer, disciple of Christ are you going to be if what happened when you were mercifully, graciously, and gloriously saved does not show itself in the ongoing present of the rest of your life?

In the letter to the Romans the Apostle Paul spends 11 chapters (I would love for you to get out Bible and read those chapters) explaining salvation: That all have sinned, that all have a need to be saved, that sinner can be forgiven and be saved from the judgment of God and the ultimate penalty of sin, death and hell through the atoning work and power of Jesus Christ. But once you have believed in and have called on Christ to save you, once you are saved, what then? That is what the rest of the Paul’s letter is about.

“And so” now that you are professing believer (brother and sister is a way believers see each other and often refer to each other, because through Christ they have become members of God’s family, John 1:12-13) this is how you become a good one, a life-long one, one worth emulating. There are two absolute essentials:

  1. You daily, continually offer yourself to God out of sheer gratitude. You see everything you involve yourself in as an opportunity to please, glorify, and worship God. Bringing yourself day after day as an “acceptable” sacrifice is above all an act of worship.
  2. You let God change the way you think by learning what he thinks, what he values, and what he loves. You let him teach you through his word (the Bible) how he looks at things and the ways he does things. And as you do you incorporate that back into point #1.

Here is an incredible reality, anyone who dares to live out his/her salvation in Christ based on the two core principles found in Romans 12:1-2 will end up being a better husband, better wife, better Mom, better Dad, better son, better daughter, better friend, better neighbor, and better human being. Oh I am for that!

And so, by all means make sure you are saved, and then live like you are saved.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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