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Archive for the ‘stewardship’ Category

God Bless America

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!
Psalm 67:1-7 (ESV)

It is a good thing to seek God’s blessing. We are much better off when God’s “good hand” is on us individually and collectively, and conversely, we are never in greater trouble than when God stretches out his hand against us. Which means God’s blessing is not automatic and he gets to decide the whom, what, when, and how of his blessings.

There is no problem with God’s blessing; the problems are in how we handle God’s blessings. We are not superior to the ancient Israelites who excelled at squandering God’s blessings, who didn’t use their liberty to liberate others, who didn’t use their prosperity to bless others, who when they received justice were not compelled to seek justice for others. God’s blessing did not inspire them to be more generous, more compassionate, more selfless, more forward looking, and more devoted to each other and to God. God’s blessing did not compel them to check their greed, their pride, their lusts, and their bend towards idolatry. In the end they fooled themselves into thinking that God was going to bless them because they were more special, “chosen,” “children of Abraham,” or in our case citizens of “the land of the free and the brave.”

Have you ever thought about how much more blessed we could be if we would only orient ourselves more on God, who as you read above, “judges the peoples with equity.” How much blessing have we squandered because we have not paid attention to just this one characteristic of God? There was no blessing in the treatment and genocide of Native Americans, prosperity, yes, but blessing no (remember the wicked do know how to prosper, Psalm 73:3, Job 21:7). Slavery held no blessing, but much profit. Segregation was not a snapshot of heaven. The wholesale legalization of abortion was not a victory but devalued and an entire segment of humanity among us and stripped it them of the most basic right, the right to life. There is no blessing in our staggering accumulation of debt, but it does expose our corruption, our greed, our inability to live within our means, and trusting our own wisdom more than God’s.  The need for affordable health care is not a problem for the rich, but it is for the poor, working families, and millions elderly, there is no blessing in not fixing this inequity. We squander blessing for both ourselves and the generations that follow us when we do not act towards the orphan, the widow, the poor, the alien (the foreigners among us), the weak, the oppressed, and the mistreated the way God does. We cannot with sincerity ask for God’s blessing and not desire that blessing for our “neighbor” (Luke 10:25-36).  We cannot with sincerity ask for God’s blessing and exclude him from public life, mock him in our culture, and reduce him to one among many gods. We are not immune to both burning through the inheritance left to us and adding to the list of things that are devoid of God’s blessing.

We should seek God’s blessing, it is unequivocally the right thing to do for us, for others, for the future, and before God. You and I should with all of hearts seek God’s blessing for America, so we will bless him, so He will receive the praise and honor he deserves, so we will “leave an inheritance” of blessing to our children’s children (Proverbs 13:22), an inheritance that is about more than prosperity, more than self, but instead perpetuates, “equal,” “the pursuit of happiness,” and “liberty and justice for all” (all truly meaning all, including all people and peoples).” Only then can we legitimately be called good and godly, only then can we sing, “God bless America,” and it be more than a patriotic sentiment but a sincere request of Almighty God. O that “all the ends of the earth would fear him,” know him, praise him, and worship him.

May God bless the United States of America. Love you Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Parts that do their part – beautiful

At the end of a movie do you linger and watch the credits? I usually don’t, but the few times that I have I was amazed at how many people it takes to make a movie. You need a lot more than just actors, directors, and writers. You need cameramen, makeup artists, bookkeepers, sound people, boom operators, special effects experts, stuntmen, wardrobe designers, set designers, logistics personnel, grunts, lot’s of grunts, electricians, carpenters, caterers, production people, and … No wonder movie making is expensive.

Take a look around, yup, right there wherever you are reading this, and think about all the things you see and how many people had to work together to make them and how many people it took for them to get to you. How many designers, engineers, entrepreneurs, craftsmen, workers, sales people, and … were involved?

Have you ever been wheeled into an operating room and managed to look around before the anesthesiologist told you to count backward from ten, and in my case knocked me out before I got to seven. From what I remember, it is a like beehive in there. Long before my doctor and his team ever got there someone had to get everything clean and ready. He wouldn’t do much operating if he had to do all the cleaning and prepping himself.

Every Christian is meant to serve on Christ’s ministry team from first the day s/he committed her/his life to Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body— Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” 1 Corinthians 12:13 (ESV); it doesn’t matter who you are, where you have come from, or how gifted, educated or skilled you are, from the day a person is born again (John 3:1-21) by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ s/he is a part of the body of Christ, and thus has a function. Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically” Romans 12:4-11 (NLT).

You won’t be in the movie credits, you won’t be part of any manufacturing team for long, and you won’t stay on the operating room staff if you don’t show up faithfully and if you don’t do what you are responsible for. You will be a mess if your body parts are mere volunteers and not committed members who delight in doing what they are supposed to do for the benefit of all the others. Serving in the body of Christ is much more than volunteering, it is about each part doing what the head, Jesus (Colossians 1:18), wants his body to do, and when Jesus’ body moves as one, doing what he wants, it is a beautiful thing.

So show up, be committed, be dependable, do your part.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Getting a room ready to observe the Passover, borrowing/renting an economy car/donkey, organizing a mass feeding, taking care of the money and the books, delivering letters, taking care of the needs of widows and orphans, using their homes for ministry, hosting guests, helping the needy, cleaning up and dressing a healed lunatic, instructing others in the word of God, help start a church, rowing Jesus around in a boat, participating in church leadership, helping with the worship services, greeting visitors, encouraging others, visiting the sick and imprisoned, organizing and engaging in relief ministries, organizing, music, prayer, … That’s what we find Christians, followers of Jesus doing in the New Testament.

Did you notice what I left out of that list? Yup, the spectacular, the miraculous, the extraordinary things Christians are recorded as doing as well, not that those are unimportant. My point is that all of the above is service and that service is central to the Christian life, the Christian community, the Church and its mission. In Acts 19:11 God was using the Apostle Paul in extraordinary ways (“extraordinary miracles” – I thought miracles were already extraordinary), but in Acts 18:1-4 the same Apostle Paul works for a tent making outfit to support himself for ministry on the weekend. Paul understood something that every believer needs to understand.

  • God had saved him and his life was no longer his own, I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” Galatians 2:20 (NIV).
  • We are saved from sin to serve, But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved… through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God– not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:8-10 (NIV).
  • Every believer is assigned and empowered for service by the Holy Spirit, The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with 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.”
    1 Corinthians 12:12-13 (NLT)
    “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other. In his grace, God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well. So if God has given you the ability to prophesy, speak out with as much faith as God has given you. If your gift is serving others, serve them well. If you are a teacher, teach well. If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically”
    Romans 12:4-11 (NLT).

At some point, and hopefully sooner than later, every believer has to go from just showing up regularly (hopefully you have that down) to committing to service, going from consumer to contributor, from flapping your wings at the edge of the nest to jumping off and flying. So this week talk to your pastor and volunteer yourself to service of some kind, either for the first time or because you need to get back into it. There is no glorifying God, no being like Jesus without serving. “For even the Son of Man (Jesus) did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” Mark 10:45 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Among the realities of the Christian are:

  • Abundance“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Ephesians 1:3, HCSB), “May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:2-3, HCSB).
  • SufficiencyEach person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8,(HCSB), “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, ESV), “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33, NLT).
  • Liberty Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17, (NASB), “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, NASB), “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13,NIV), “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16,NIV)
  • Fearlessness For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, (NLT), “Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:14-17, ESV), “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6, NASB).

All of the above enable believers to be people of hope, to overflow with hope. Our temptation, however, is to amass and hoard the very things God has intended to enable us to overflow with hope. We are tempted to get another bucket to store the overflow rather than seeking out another person who needs it. We are tempted to build or buy a bigger home rather than offer up the spare room we already have. We are tempted to wall up, lock out, and keep out all those who would make our lives messy rather than open our arms and hearts as wide as the joy, peace, and hope of God enables us to. We are tempted to view freedom as something that mainly enables “me”, gives us opportunity to indulge rather than seeing it as an opportunity to engage and serve. We love to hoard, if not money, then stuff, if not stuff then experiences, because more is better, even it means others will have to wait, will have to do without, will have to be kicked out. Falling to these temptations results in Christian sluggishness, in justifying what is unjustifiable in terms of the values and realities of the kingdom of God, in public pronouncements of our love for God while in private we love another.

We are meant to overflow, which means there is a point we have more than what we need, when our buckets are as full as God made them to be and all of the overflow is meant for someone else. At some point in our spiritual growth, in our transformation to Christlikeness, the overflow should become more important than what is in our bucket because we are absolutely confident that our bucket is in good hands with God and the Christian life is meant to be all wrapped up in the overflow. At that point we start dreaming of having a smaller bucket because that means more overflow, it is the point where less becomes more, and oh how God loves to fill the buckets of those who hunger and thirst for overflow.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Did you ever not really want do it, the right thing, the pressing thing, the needed thing that is? That for which you were born, for which the sovereignty and providence of God had placed you there and then (and here and now)? That which makes you have to decide between what is good for you and what is good for others, between playing it safe and risky, between comfortable and suffering, between carefree and weighty responsibility, between your will and God’s will?

Often we talk about politics and politicians in ways that depicts the whole thing as them versus us. We freely express our disapproval, our disappointment, our frustration with “them,” the Washington establishment, the president, Congress, the courts, the EPA, FDA, DHS, …, and often very justifiably so. We bemoan the partisanship, the corruption, the fiscal irresponsibility and waste, the disconnectedness, the shortsightedness, double speak, the lack of morality, and … We want more honesty, more integrity, more selflessness, more restraint, and more wisdom from those politicians, judges, and officials. We wish for more caring for what is good for all for the long term rather than what is good for just some, and worse, what is merely good to staying in power. We want treasured values to be upheld, not undermined, or for sale to the highest bidder, or prostituted to garner ratings and votes. Those people in Washington D.C. and Sacramento need to get it together!

Like many of you I received my absentee ballot this past week, it is reminder that you and I have political responsibility beyond opining and complaining. We have a responsibility to participate, to embrace our part, to practice the very integrity, selflessness, discipline, foresight, caring, and wisdom we have judged our politicians and leaders lack.

Politics, power, and influence always walk together. You combine the power of a large group if small, seemingly insignificant, people and their influence grows as well. They might even become a movement that changes the political landscape. One person embracing God’s will, taking up the responsibility the power and influence granted to him/her can make a huge difference in a family, community, a nation, in this world (e.g. Joseph, Genesis 37-50). The fact that the two candidates, one of whom will most likely be the next US president, are deeply flawed, rate low on the truth telling index, do not have a track record that inspires trust, and are dogged by corruption and scandal is also a reflection and indictment of the politicians at the most grassroots level, the voters, you and me. In the 2012 presidential election less than 55% of the total electorate voted, more than half of evangelical Christians abdicated their responsibility to vote. These are staggering statistics testifying of political and spiritual irresponsibility and disengagement.

The two highest values in the universe are loving God and loving people, caring about cares about and caring for others like we care about ourselves (Mark 12:29-31). Both of these values will lead you and me to service, serving God, serving others, serving our nation, serving the world. Those values will call us to do things we don’t really want to do, things that stand in the way of self-serving, self-indulgence, self-seeking, and the like. Those values will compel us to be engaged, to embrace every responsibility, every opportunity to influence our world to the glory of God.

Mordecai posed a rhetorical question to his niece Esther, the queen of Persia, who hesitated to become politically involved, “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 (NIV). Of course she was! Just like God has placed you and me into this time with power and influence to affect lives and politics for the glory of God. And so we must chose both at the ballot box and in the daily voting of our lives.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Susie and I started our life together like many others with basically nothing in regard to money and possessions. Married halfway through college our major goal was to finish college without being in debt. So after two years of marriage all we owned fit into our tiny Datsun F-10 alongside our baby son and lone piece of furniture, a rocking chair.

Things didn’t get any better financially the next few years. I ended up out of work and we were poor, really poor. When I finally got a job it was minimum wage. I don’t know how Susie managed to feed us the way she did. And somehow, by God’s goodness, we paid our bills.

Well that baby who traveled with us in the Datsun F-10 turned out to be a very smart little fellow. Turns out he has like an almost photographic memory, which meant he beat me at Memory at age three, right after he figured out that for the past six months Daddy only won by following his eyes. When he started looking in other directions I was toast.

That little rascal wasn’t just good at Memory, he was also good at money, saving it, managing it, keeping track of it. I don’t remember exactly when it started, but I remember why. I needed some money for gas and we lived an hour from or bank, and we really didn’t have anything in the bank. In my need I borrowed from the smart little fellow. He was more than willing, but I think he already had memorized Proverbs 22:7, The rich rules over the poor, And the borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (NASB). So now he could not only beat me in Memory but he could also call in my loan. “Hey Daddy, you might really want think about that spanking because your current balance is minus $30.00.” Good thing he was not the kind of conniving kid his Daddy was as a kid.

Once, as I was trying to settle my current account with him (I think he was twelve by then) we disagreed on the figure. I could have sworn I had made a previous payment, but whose memory was more reliable? Whose figures did we eventually go by? You probably guessed it.

That little guy is now a grown man with his own family. I so hope his sons will have photographic memories and whoop their Daddy’s behind in memory and who knows what. But they won’t end up loaning him money because he is still good at managing it, saving it, keeping track of it, and even more importantly, being generous with it.

It is much easier to be generous when you are not in debt. That little “loan shark” of ours figured that out too. He delighted in figuring out his tithe (10% you honor God with) of whatever money he was blessed with. He loved buying his sisters treats. He enjoyed giving extravagant gifts. That’s much easier to do when you are in the black and not in the red. In the red the first obligation is to the one you owe, and depending on how much you owe there might not be anything left to be generous with. It is tough to experience “It is more blessed to give than to receive” Acts 20:35 (NASB), when you are in debt.

One more thing, it is amazing what can happen to us financially and materially when four things come together: 1. Working hard, 2. Managing well, 3. Honoring God, and 4. Generosity.

“I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” Acts 20:35 (NLT).

 “Honor the LORD with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce” Proverbs 3:9 (NLT).

 “Again, the Kingdom of Heaven can be illustrated by the story of a man going on a long trip. He called together his servants and entrusted his money to them while he was gone. He gave five bags of silver to one, two bags of silver to another, and one bag of silver to the last—dividing it in proportion to their abilities. He then left on his trip. The servant who received the five bags of silver began to invest the money and earned five more …” Matthew 25:14-16 (NLT).

 “… God loves a cheerful giver” 2 Corinthians 9:7 (ESV).

Wouldn’t it be great if we’d figure all of this out before the age of five? But even if we didn’t, today would be a great day to start.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. If you live in or around Don Pedro and you wonder how to make a start on the above why not sign up for an upcoming Biblical Financial Seminar in the month of May. Contact the church office ldpbaptistchurch@gmail.com, (209) 852-2040. If you do not live around here check out http://www.daveramsey.com/fpu/ or http://www.crown.org/ .

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When Better Gets Us into Trouble, or A Better Better

We have it even if never really thought about it; in fact, the less we have thought about it the greater its grip on us and our behavior. I am talking about our definition of better. More money – better. Bigger house – better. More free time – better. Bigger TV, smarter smart phone, fancier car, kitchen, BBQ, furniture, … – all better. Notice how much better depends on more money.

How many of the following would you mark as better for you and us as a society? Greater devotion to God, to Christ, and his church. More generosity. More communal involvement. More sacrificial love. More commitment to marriage and family. Less stuff. More time to serve each other. Notice that all of them require time, money, but less for yourself.

Proverbs, the most extensive wisdom book of God’s word (the Bible), recognizes how easy it is to work out of a flawed definition of “better” and the need we have to check and adjust our definition of “better” against true wisdom. “Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil. Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf (T-bone steak) with hatred” Proverbs 15:16-17 (NIV, parenthesis mine). “Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice” Proverbs 16:8 (NASB).

The wrong working definition of “better” will breed discontent, greed, debt, ungratefulness, and all sorts of evil. A good definition of “better” recognizes the truth that “… true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money (and all the things money can buy) is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NLT, parenthesis mine).

It doesn’t come natural to us to work with, to live out of, a better definition of “better”. The Apostle Paul wrote that he had to learn contentment, continually gratefulness, and the joy of depending on God, “…I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT).

Two brothers were fighting over their inheritance. Clearly both of them thought more was better. Neither was content, happy, or grateful. Their definition of “better” was of no help, in fact their definition of better was more than willing to be unloving, unkind, use harsh words, and take each other to court. Court wasn’t going so well for one of the brothers so he turned to Jesus to help him arbitrate. Jesus refused, but he did challenge the one on the short end of the dispute to examine his definition of “better” and how it affected his heart, his attitude, his love, his relationships, and his life. Someone out of the crowd said, “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.” …  

Jesus replied, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods,  and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” …

“Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.  Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself. Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being” Luke 12:13-21, 31-34 (MSG).

“Where has your “Better” taken you? Where will your “Better” take you? Is it time to adopt a better “better”? Is it time to Make sure that your character is free from the love of money (and all it can buy), being content with what you have; for He (God) Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU” Hebrews 13:5 (NASB, parentheses mine).

To God be all glory. Love you, pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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