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Archive for the ‘simplicity’ 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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When a doctor gets sick of sick people, that’s a problem. When a pilot begins to loathe flying, that’s a problem. When a cook becomes disgusted by cooking, that’s a problem. When a teacher starts disliking students, that’s a problem. When a preacher/pastor hates church, that’s a problem. And, when Christians are down on the church, that’s a problem.

So, think with about the church for a minute:

It was Jesus’ idea to form the church, “… I will build my church, and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” Matthew 16:18 (NLT2). So to think of the church as something irrelevant and unimportant or worse is to call Jesus’ plan for his church a bad idea.

Jesus is the head of the church, “He is also the head of the body, the church; He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He might come to have first place in everything” Colossians 1:18 (HCSB). So, it makes little sense to proclaim a personal relationship with Jesus but have no connection and submission to his church.

Jesus loves and died for the church, “… Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her” Ephesians 5:25 (NLT2). So, how can I claim to love Jesus and love what he loves and paid the ultimate price for?

The church is the body of Christ, “Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part” 1 Corinthians 12:13-14 (NLT2). So, since the same Holy Spirit who regenerates a sinner at the moment of salvation also places every believer in the body of Christ, I have no business living a life outside of that body.

The church is central to God’s plan and work in our world, “Through Christians like yourselves gathered in churches, this extraordinary plan of God is becoming known and talked about even among the angels!” Ephesians 3:10 (MSG). So being apathetic and disconnected from God’s church also I am not fully participating in God’s plan.

Jesus takes his church very seriously. So, he continually works on it, refines it, confronts it, encourages it, watches out for it, Revelation 2-3, Ephesians 5:26), and should not take it any less serious.

Church, being part of a church, participating in the work of the church is meant to become a habit, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching” Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV). So, I need to learn to be so involved and committed to the church that I no longer have to think about my commitment to it, my participation in it, my showing up for it.

We live in an I-Me-Mine culture, the Christian life is a stark contrast to this, it is about Him-You-Us-We (which is not to say that God does not care for each one of us individually and in Christ saves each one us personally). Switching from one to the other takes some major adjusting, reordering, rescheduling, and a total commitment to personal holiness and full participation in the body of Christ, his Church.

So, did you notice? This preacher is still high on Jesus’ Church, and the local body he has called me to pastor, hoping you will share the same appreciation and enthusiasm.

So, does your Christian life reflect an understanding of Christ’s church? Are you as committed the church, the body of Christ, as God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit would have you?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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VISION 2020: LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR!

All kinds of new laws went into effect today, January 1, 2020, fewer restrictions on marijuana, no hair discrimination in the workplace, the Real ID Security Act, the California Consumers Privacy Act, … Not that they are all bad or not needed, laws do have to keep up with changes, should strive for greater justice, protect freedom, and help us to function as a society.

Romans 13 – is my New Year’s reading recommendation for you. It has everything in it to cheer you up: Governmental authority and leaders, taxes, rendering honor, and to top it all off, not getting drunk and going wild partying. Just exactly what you need to hear on one of the great hangover days of the year.

In the middle of Romans 13, you will find an old law that should never come off the books, “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law. For the commandments say, ‘You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.’ These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law’” Romans 13:8-10 (NLT2).  All of God’s laws in regard to our interactions with others, concerning how to function as people and peoples have as their foundation “love your neighbor as yourself.” According to James, this is the highest, most supreme, “royal” law (James 2:8). The only greater law is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).

Of course, because of our broken, narcissistic, sinful hearts, we read this outstanding law of “love your neighbor as yourself” and immediately make it about us, our need to love ourselves first, think of ourselves first, our own needs, our own limitations… But did you notice? This supreme command is about love lived out in concrete actions, specifically self-denying actions, that benefit our neighbor most of all. According to God’s wisdom, this forms the very bedrock of living together in harmony, peace, kindness, and prosperity.

We are not living in a time when “loving your neighbor as yourself” is all of the sudden more important than it has been at any other time in history, but we are living in a time when loving yourself, your own group, your own people, is what comes first, the mantra drowning out the two most important and beneficial laws of human existence, interaction, and thriving, the most critical rules when it comes being and acting in the image of God (Genesis1:26).

2020 needs you and me to love our neighbor as God intended and like our world and future depend on it.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

P.S. Maybe you are asking a question asked before, “Who is my neighbor?” For an answer read Luke 10:25-37.

 

 

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This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”
When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25 (NIV)

 Joseph’s reaction and actions were determined by him being a “righteous man. What are you known for, identified as? A patient woman will react and act differently than a woman known for her temper. A generous man’s reactions and actions will not be same as the those of a miser or greedy man. A wise person will make different choices than a fool.

Joseph had a reputation of being a “righteous man.” It is one thing to be righteous in your own eyes (Luke 18:9) and quite another to be called righteous by God, your family, and the people in your town. You can’t get a “righteous’ man/woman reputation overnight, it requires acting righteously consistently over time. But you will never have that reputation if don’t start sometime, like today.

When we meet Joseph in the Word of God (the Bible) he already has this reputation of being “a righteous man.” Notice, it did not protect him from bad news and hurt. His fiancé told him she was pregnant and he knew he wasn’t the father, which could only mean one thing, she betrayed him – ouch! How would you handle that? We know Joseph handled it as a “righteous man.” Which meant what?

  • Right Actions – Regardless of how he felt, he didn’t act in inappropriate, vindictive, ugly, kneejerk, foolish, sinful, and regrettable ways.
  • Right Heart – Her betrayal and his hurt didn’t snuff out his compassion, his dislike of public mudslinging, his love of mercy and grace.
  • Right Reaction – He pushed the pause button, he “considered,” his options, what godliness looked like in this situation, and most importantly Mary, the woman who betrayed him.

Joseph’s righteous disposition, his righteous habits, his righteous heart enabled him to handle the situation in a righteous way. Because he was and acted righteously, he was;

  • Able to hear God – I don’t think it too far fetched to imagine Joseph praying about what to do, bringing his hurt and confusion before God, asking him to help and direct him.
  • Able to believe God – Accepting that your fiancé’s pregnancy is a result of the Holy Spirit’s action is some serious faith.
  • Able to follow God – which meant he would change his plans, marry Mary instead of divorcing her, raise the child as his own, and put his own dreams and needs on hold.

It is a lot easier to be unrighteous than righteous, but it is a lot better to be righteous than unrighteous. Before Christmas we do a lot of wrapping, Joseph had been wrapping himself with righteousness, and what a difference it made.

Merry Christmas. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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Christmas and the Revelation and the Knowledge of God

The revelation of God, the knowledge of God comes to us in four ways: The Cosmos, Scripture, Experience, and Jesus Christ:

  • Creation, the cosmos, the physical world

“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him,” the wise men asked Matthew 2:2 (NLT2, italics mine). The entire cosmos, from what is seen through the most advanced telescope to what is revealed under the most powerful microscope or super-collider, reveals God, “… ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God” Romans 1:20 (NLT2). Every sunset picture you snapped, every night sky you looked up into, every facet of the natural sciences is an invitation to discover God, to search for this amazing Creator and life-giver until you find him.

  • Scripture, the Bible, is God’s written revelation.

King Herod called a meeting of the leading priests and teachers of religious law and asked, ‘Where is the Messiah supposed to be born?’
‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they said, ‘for this is what the prophet wrote: And you, O Bethlehem in the land of Judah, are not least among the ruling cities of Judah, for a ruler will come from you who will be the shepherd for my people Israel.’”
Matthew 2:4-6 (NLT2, italics mine). Scripture, the Bible, gives an understanding of God, his nature, his ways, and his plans we cannot get from observing our physical world alone. You can’t learn God’s name from reading DNA, nor can you learn from astronomy God’s workings in human history. Among many things, apart from scripture we wouldn’t know the depth of our depravity and sinfulness or its consequences, we wouldn’t know our true identity of being image-bearers of God himself, and we wouldn’t know of God’s great love for us and his provision to save us from our sins.

  • Faith Experience

“We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”…
“When they saw the star, they were filled with joy!  They entered the house and saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure chests and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh”
Matthew 2:2&10-11 (NLT2). There is a knowledge of God that only comes through faith, through trusting what he says, following his directions, doing what he tells us to do and be (as opposed to what not to do and be). The Eastern wise men didn’t travel for hundreds of miles to merely have someone tell them about Jesus, they wanted to see him, worship him, and honor him with their gifts. They experienced Jesus by putting together what the night sky declared, what scripture confirmed, and then responding to that revelation and knowledge through faith. They experienced the reality of the living God and Jesus Christ by believing what they saw and heard enough to saddle up their camels and beginning a whole new life of faith.

  • Jesus Christ

“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows” Matthew 1:18 (NASB). Jesus Christ is more than a mere man, more than a prophet, more than the leader of one of the world’s great religions, he is God incarnate, God in human flesh, Immanuel – “God with us” (Matthew 1:23); it is what Christmas is all about. There is no greater and more personal revelation of God than Jesus, that is why you can’t claim to follow God and bypass Jesus Christ, they are inseparable, “For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in a human body” Colossians 2:9 (NLT2). No king has ever been announced and predicted like Jesus, that is because there is and never will be a king like him, he is Jesus Christ is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God … On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” Revelation 19:16 (NIV); “… at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW … and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Philippians 2:10-11 (NASB).

How have you responded to God’s revelation of himself? Be a wise man, a wise woman today!

Merry Christmas! 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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Look carefully then how you walk (live), not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:15-21 (ESV, parenthesis mine)

“Get out and get me someone competent in here!” the ER doctor yelled after the assisting nurse had contaminated the sterile field while the doctor was sewing up a deep gash that exposed the kneecap. You can’t be too careful when it comes to avoiding infection.

Have you ever been to a classic car show? Talk about paying attention to every last little detail, whipping off every little spot, polishing even nooks and crannies to a full shine.

You can tell when someone is being careful about something. What we should be most careful about is how we live, specifically being a wise person down to small details of our lives, carefully avoiding any contamination of foolish behavior. In the scripture passage above Paul lays out seven marks of a wise person, of a careful follower of Christ:

  1. Wise persons/believers seek wisdom. No one comes by wisdom magically but rather by pursuing it, searching for it, and when finding it applying it.
  1. Wise persons/believers manage their time, don’t waste time, fill and spend their time wisely.
  1. Wise persons/believers not only acknowledge God but actively seek to know God’s will and then radically adjust their lives to God’s will.
  1. Wise persons/believers are careful about what controls them and avoid handing over control over to anyone but the Holy Spirit.
  1. Wise persons/believers are worshippers, not just for an hour on Sunday, but all the time. They keep their worship earbuds in all the time and have a very distinctive song list.
  1. Wise persons/believers practice and express gratitude. They notice even the small beautiful, kind, thoughtful, acts and blessings, and are good at tracing them back to their source – God.
  1. Wise persons/believers live in community, don’t isolate themselves, but acknowledge their need for one another, know the benefit of living life and serving God together.

Isn’t it strange how we can be very careful about some things while at the same time being sloppy, careless, even foolish about other things? You and I don’t have anything more valuable than the life God gave us than the living soul he created us to be. Let’s be most careful about it. Look again at the seven points above and mark the ones that need attention, need changing, need for you to learn to be careful with.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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