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Archive for the ‘servanthood’ Category

Have you ever had a question to which you already knew the answer, but you didn’t like the answer?

“Yes, stop smoking, exercise, and change your diet,” was the doctor’s reply to his smoking, overweight patient asking, “Hey Doc, is there anything I can do to improve my health?”

 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Luke 10:25-28 (NIV)

This Jesus/God testing lawyer knew the answer to his question, but he didn’t like the answer. It’s even worse when the answer comes out of your own mouth, isn’t it? When you know you are and hear yourself being a living discrepancy. So, this lawyer did what you and I usually do, try to justify ourselves, tell ourselves why we can’t, why it is too difficult, fish for something simpler, a way out, find an excuse to not change. But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” Luke 10:29 (NIV)

He was asking for a pill that would spare him having to act, not have to give up anything, change nothing. He was trying to excuse his not-neighbor-loving passivity by raising a philosophical/theological inner dilemma. He was fishing for a minimum standard, like love is in the habit of functioning by minimum standards. He wanted to remain in control instead of his love for God and people controlling him. He was looking for some legitimacy for selective loving or loving not at all.

Jesus never does answer the “who is my neighbor?” question, instead, he tells maybe his most famous story and asks a question in return, makes the God-tester say the answer out loud for the second time. In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise”
Luke 10:30-37 (NIV).

The question is not, “Who is my neighbor?” it is, “Are you a neighbor?” Because when you are a neighbor you see like a neighbor, you empathize like a neighbor, you have compassion like a neighbor, you engage like a neighbor. You no longer are trying to complete a checklist of love before taking off to eternal life/heaven but see life, people, circumstances through the eyes of love and react accordingly.

Maybe it is time to drop the excuses, the action-paralyzing mind-games, the magic pill search that will remedy our selectively loving or outright loveless hearts and begin to “love your neighbor as ourselves.”

May you and I, long before we go to heaven, be known as the kind of neighbors the second greatest commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” envisions.

To God be all Glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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How much time of your life have you spent waiting? On the phone being on hold? In a car stuck in traffic? In a doctor’s office or hospital waiting room? In a checkout line? For a reply to an email, text, an application, or test? For someone to show up?

How good are you at waiting? Are you the patient or impatient kind? Do you progress from irritated, to grumpy, to nasty rather quickly? Let’s face it, we live in a most impatient culture, time is money, waiting wastes the most precious resource of them all – life itself. We want it now, not later! We want things to be in stock or qualify for free same or next day delivery. Heck, we get irritated if the confirmation text or email takes longer than 30 seconds.

Have you ever considered how much waiting God has woven into the fabric of life? How much waiting there is in the Bible? You have to wait nine months to see and hold your baby. Almost everything we eat didn’t grow overnight, needed time to grow and ripen. You can’t speed up the seasons, you have to wait for each one to arrive and take its turn. The earth turns and circles at its own steady pace, it will take 364 from Christmas to Christmas, from New year to New Year. The ancient Israelites yearned for deliverance and freedom for hundreds of years, the Jews were looking for the Messiah for over a thousand years before Jesus appeared. The martyred saints, who have been crying for justice under the altar of God for who knows how long (Revelation 6:9-11), were told to wait a little longer.

From as far back as can remember an Advent Calendar (it counts down the 24 days before Christmas) is part of my Christmas memories. At first, it had just pictures in it, until someone had the bright idea to put a piece of chocolate behind each calendar window – needless to say, some days were raided prematurely, we couldn’t wait. But, Advent still takes 24 days, even though Christmas shopping has sped up, Black Friday shopping now starts early in the week and Cyber Monday will try to catch up.

Waiting slows us down but it does not necessarily mean doing nothing, especially when you are walking through life with God. Since patience is a fruit of the indwelling Spirit of God (Galatians 5:22-23) whenever and for whatever God makes us wait is not without purpose. It is a great paradox that in a world were everything seems to speed up God slows us down, that in a culture that hates to wait, God refuses to speed things up, for people who want things now, God has not opened a convenience store nor offers same-day shipping to expedite answers to prayers.

We are no longer waiting for the first appearance of the Christ (Messiah), we merely remember it, but we are waiting for the return of Christ, the consummation of the ages, the completion of salvation, the execution of complete justice. In that waiting impatience is a dangerous thing, it sidetracks us, gets us out ahead of God, has us running through life at a crazy pace like the rest of our world, with little time for prayer, for worship, for anticipation, reflection, and dependence. Our impatience wants to cram our lives full of what we want. In having us wait, God is trying to create room in our lives for what and how he wants it. We want life to take place at our pace, God is continually inviting us to slow down to his.

How we wait tells a lot about whose agenda we are on, who and what we are most concerned about. How we respond to being slowed down says a lot about what is going on inside of us. What are you waiting on God for this Christmas season? Whose pace are you on during this Advent?

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV)

To God be all glory, even when waiting. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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There was a wedding celebration in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also invited to the celebration. The wine supply ran out during the festivities, so Jesus’ mother told him, “They have no more wine.”
“Dear woman, that’s not our problem,” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.”
But his mother told the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Standing nearby were six stone water jars, used for Jewish ceremonial washing. Each could hold twenty to thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” When the jars had been filled, he said, “Now dip some out, and take it to the master of ceremonies.” So the servants followed his instructions.
When the master of ceremonies tasted the water that was now wine, not knowing where it had come from (though, of course, the servants knew), he called the bridegroom over. “A host always serves the best wine first,” he said. “Then, when everyone has had a lot to drink, he brings out the less expensive wine. But you have kept the best until now!”
This miraculous sign at Cana in Galilee was the first time Jesus revealed his glory. And his disciples believed in him.
John 2:1-11 (NLT2)

You are probably familiar with the experience of running out of something, I sure am. I have run out of gasoline, money, food, water, cookies, whipped cream (Oh No!), prescription medicine, fishing bait, nails, and various other building materials, know-how, wisdom, options, excuses (probably a good thing) patience, tears, laughter, strength, kindness, time, and …

They’d served it all up, all the amphoras (think cases of bottles) were empty, not a drop of wine to be found. Even the water had run out. This party was going to end quickly. Funny how important food and drink are to keep a party going.

If you are familiar with running out of something, you are most likely also acquainted with the stress of running out. It is stressful to see your gas gauge flirting with “E” (for empty) and the next filling station miles away. It is even more stressful to actually run out and be stranded by the road with your little kids, who have already drained their bottles and Sippy-cups.

Since you are familiar with running out, you know it is also embarrassing. It is humiliating to be at the grocery checkout and what is in your wallet won’t cover what you have in your cart forcing you to take stuff out in front of your kids and the other folks in line. This under-planned and under-funded wedding was going to be the talk and laughter of the town and the horror story for all future weddings in Cana to avoid.

Jesus’ Mom caught it, while others were sipping the last of the wine she noticed the stress of the wedding planner, his forced smile, his whispers to the parents of the bride and groom. Some are much better at noticing people who have or are running out. Notice, she also didn’t snap a picture and pushed “send” to start the gossip. Instead, she turned to and inconvenienced Jesus for help. She knew he cares about people who are stressed, who are embarrassed, who are panicking, who are at their wit’s end, who have run out.

If you’ve run out, bring your empty to Jesus and follow his instructions, today.

If you see someone who’s run out and only God can fill this, take him, take her, with his or her empty to Jesus, today.

If you run into someone who has an empty and you can help fill it, be an extension of Jesus and follow his example and instructions, today.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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On the second Sunday of August 1984, the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church, called me to be the interim pastor. Susie and I had no idea that this would become a 35-year love story of a pastor and his flock. We didn’t know that this would be only church our children would know growing up. We didn’t know how many people would come alongside us to encourage us, bless us, and love Jesus with us. We didn’t know much, period. But we did rejoice and were grateful. We still rejoice and are even more grateful.

 

When this, our church (it makes a big difference whether you think of a church as this church or our church) called us I was deeply struggling with church and becoming a minister because over the span of a year and a half I witnessed firsthand church dysfunction and preacher misconduct in four different churches. In spite of being a Bible college graduate and a call to ministry, I wasn’t sure I wanted any more of church – until I read Romans 14:12 in my personal morning Bible study, “So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God” (NASB). It didn’t matter what everyone else did, how they behaved or misbehaved, I am responsible to God for how I follow him, even if everything and everyone around me goes crazy. It was a watershed moment for me, and a few weeks later I was leading the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church.

35 years is a lot of time to make mistakes and I have made my fair share of them. The bad thing is that church and pastor mistakes usually hurt people (Remember, the church is a fellowship, a spiritual family of people). If you read this pastor’s note and are one of those I have hurt, disappointed, or let down I ask for your forgiveness if I have not already done so. And, I thank God for all who confronted me, were gracious to me, had patience with me, and forgave me.

I praise God for all who have served with me over these years, for those sharing the same love for Christ, his church, and his kingdom. Besides the goodness and faithfulness of God, you’ve helped make 35 years possible. Like the apostle Paul, I can say, “I thank God for every remembrance of you.”

Our church officially called me to be the pastor but it also meant Susie was going to be the pastor’s wife and our children were going to be the pastor’s kids. All I can say that they, and especially Susie, have been awesome. They have shared the load and have made quiet sacrifices few know about. They have blessed me and our church.

The real reason I became a preacher was that Susie, before we ever dated, told me in a letter that she was going to marry a preacher one day. So, I figured the only way I was going to have a chance with her was to become a preacher. Not really! But at my birth, the midwife/nurse who delivered my two older brothers as well handed me to my mom and said, “This one will be a preacher.” Really!

Finally, to God be all glory. Thanks, your Pastor

 

 

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And Pharisees came up and in order to test him asked, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”
He answered them, “What did Moses command you?”
They said, “Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of divorce and to send her away.”
And Jesus said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart he wrote you this commandment. But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.”
And in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”
Mark 10:2-12 (ESV)

 

Sklerokardia, hardness of heart was the reason Moses acquiesced to write a soft divorce law into the legal code of ancient Israel. Of all the tough and strange laws Moses proposed this is the only objection mentioned and, according to Jesus, it was a straight argument against God’s design.

 

The disciples give us a clue as to what went on in their ancestors’ hearts when they responded to Jesus’ answer on divorce with, “If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry” Matthew 19:10 (ESV). “Too hard,” they cried, “What if s/he turns out to a bum/ette? Or a nag? Or worse?” “That’s just not realistic!” Contrary to Moses, Jesus didn’t budge. Keep in mind that marriages in Jesus time were arranged marriages.

 

The difference between a hard and tender heart is amazing. One will keep track of every offense the other won’t even remember. One will be stuck on self while other serves. One will build bulwarks of defenses and excuses the other keeps trying. One will refuse to be merciful and tender the other refuses to give up on faith, hope, and love. One will cry, “Too hard!” the other will dare to move mountains. No wonder the wisdom book of the Bible  tells us to, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life (and marriage)” Proverbs 4:23 (NLT2, parenthesis mine), and Jesus described “… from the (unguarded, hard) heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander” Matthew 15:19 (NLT2, parenthesis mine).

“S/he won’t change!” “What’s the use?” “Believe me, I tried.” “I don’t love him/her anymore.” “There are no feelings left.” “I don’t know if we were ever really meant to be together.” Words spoken on the way out, words that originate from a hard heart. Words that say more about the person saying them than the one s/he is talking about, words that reveal much about their faith and their heart.

Isn’t it interesting that God is so inflexible about permitting us to walk out of a marriage? The most intimate of human relationships is meant to last, to reflect Christlikeness like no other relationship (Ephesians 5:22-33), to shape our hearts, our love to be like Christ’s.

Hard hearts don’t have to stay hard, although they surely want to be. A good place to start is to pray, “O God, please change my hard heart,” and follow that with the most loving action towards whom your heart has grown heart without expecting a particular response, and then do it again, and again, and …

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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“And they cast lots for them …” Acts 1:26 (ESV)

They set some criteria, prayed, and drew straws. If you are a church-going person, I imagine, you would be fairly familiar and comfortable with the first two in making a decision or appointing the right person for a leadership position. But then to wrap it up and make it official by drawing a name out of a hat?

Maybe you need a little more information on what happened there at the First Church of Jerusalem? Jesus had chosen twelve Apostles. One of them, Judas Iscariot, turned on him, betrayed him, and killed himself. This left a vacancy and they needed a replacement. Peter, himself being an Apostle, brought up the issue to the whole church (a congregation of about 120 faithful believers). The replacement candidate needed to meet certain criteria which qualified two people. So, who should they pick? That’s when they prayed, asking God to make his will clear to them, and then drew lots to decide between the two.

Do you think it would’ve been better for them to have a vote? Maybe not. Think about it, drawing names took all the politics out of the decision, no personal preferences or connections coming into play, no election winners and losers, and no blaming if the person made mistakes afterward.

What is equally interesting is that they only asked who qualified. They didn’t say, “All who qualify and want to, please raise your hand.” Whoever qualified, their names went into the hat. Keep in mind that this appointment would radically alter the life of the one chosen, they were conferring major and life-long responsibility. It seems, they considered the will of God and the need of the body of Christ (the church) as vastly more important than the personal implications for those who qualified. I dare say this is neither lukewarm Jesus-following nor casual church-membership. Makes me think of what Winfield S. Weeden penned, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give.”

“And the lot fell to Matthias, …” We are not told how he felt about it. For us, in our culture, in our day how we feel about it is important, so important that it is major criteria in our decision making, in what we are willing or unwilling to do. Maybe, this is why we struggle so often with our lot in life. How do we have to feel about the will of God before it is right? Before we are willing to embrace it? Matthias obviously thought the will of God and the need of Jesus love (the church, Ephesians 5:24) were much more important than his feelings, his fears, his reservations, his preferences, and his plans.

“Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus …” the other qualified candidate wasn’t chosen. He had three names; seems like he was better known, maybe more popular. The lot didn’t ask about his feelings either. No word on how he took it, how he felt about it, but we do not hear about any stink following Matthias’ appointment, no jealousy, no bitterness, no complaining. What we do know is that he was willing, that the will of God and Jesus’ church were so important to him that he did not shrink back from what God wanted and the church needed.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will. Mark 14:36 (HCSB)

We like it when things go according to our own way, plans, and desires, and when they don’t, we wish they would, complain, grow resentful, even bitter. Underlying this is the notion that the epitome of success is to have both the freedom and resources to do whatever we want to, to be able to grant our hearts desires free reign.

Interestingly, James in his letter, is especially hard on exactly those who have the means, the power, and the freedom to plan and do as they wish, “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. James 4:13-17 (ESV). This kind of freedom, affluence, and opportunity is what we consider success and often call blessing, but it is also riddled with temptation:

  • The temptation to hold onto a wrong perspective of life.
  • The temptation to operate apart from, independently of God.
  • The temptation to be unconcerned about God’s will.
  • The temptation to be proud and arrogant, to overestimate ourselves.
  • The temptation to give ourselves too much credit.
  • The temptation to elevate doing our own thing over the right thing.

When we give in to these temptations, we forget that:

  • Life is about more than making a profit.
  • We do not control the future.
  • The importance of God and the doing of his will.
  • The very limited time we have to do what is right.
  • That we are prone to do evil.
  • Sin consists of both commission and omission.

The Apostle Paul cautioned the Galatian Christians, It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. Galatians 5:13 (MSG)  

Heavenly Father,

Hallowed be your name. Your will be done. Forgive us when we are consumed with our own honor, our own plans, our own comfort, that which both profits and pleases us most. Forgive us when we concern ourselves with your honor and will last and not first, when we treat you like an insurance or an emergency call station. Help us to commit our work and plans to you, to rely on you to establish us, to anchor ourselves, our plans, and all we do in your purposes (Proverbs 16:3, 9:21). Strengthen us when we are conflicted between what we want and what we know your will is, to, in that moment, be able to deny ourselves and trust you fully. Because we know only your kingdom will endure, you alone hold all power, and only you are fully deserving of all glory. Amen

Love you, Pastor Hans

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