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A good man, a good woman will leave an inheritance tho his/her children’s children – Proverbs 13:22.

Heiningen Cemetery, members of both sides of my family have been buried there for I don’t know how long, brothers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and who knows how many greats, great greats, … To me, it feels like a sacred burial ground in other cultures, deep roots, deep ties.

The two Memorials for WWI and WWII have, for as small as the town was then, many names on them. Frei, Eitle, Aigner, all direct relations to my family are chiseled on it. A number of families have three, four names inscribed, entire generations decimated. “To Remember Them, To Warn Us,“ the World War II Memorial reads.

Right in front of the WWII Memorial, I noticed an older gravestone, it seems to have survived the 25-year policy. I am not sure when they decided to limit someone’s stay in the Heiningen Cemetery to 25 years, but I seem to recall my brother telling me that they were both running out of space and that after 25 years no one shows up anymore to take care of the graves. So, after 25 years the plots are dug up, the remains are cremated, and the burial plot is recycled. Sometimes even the gravestone, it will have the current occupant on the front and a former on the back.

However, this one grave in front of the WWII memorial was left untouched, it remains even though the couple buried there died more than 50 years ago. It is the grave of Lutheran Pastor Erbe and his wife. They were part of the resistance, they trafficked Jews and other people to safety through the parsonage, right under the nose of the towns Nazi leader. I cannot tell you what impact this couple had on our town, my Mom, my Dad, my Aunt, my family and scores of others. They never forgot them, always spoke of them in ways that if you could meet anyone in Heiningen’s past, in their past, it would be this pastor couple.

What is most uncanny about Pastor and Mrs. Erbe’s grave in front of the WWII war memorial is the meaning of their last name – “Erbe” means inheritance in German. These two died neither rich nor famous, but they left a tremendous inheritance behind, an “Erbe” that by now is impacting the third and fourth generation past their own.

Walk with me for a minute to the Heinigen cemetery. We step through the wrought iron main gate and down at the end of the main path we already see the World War II Memorial. Two thirds the way down on the left we pass by the grave of my Mom and Dad with my brother Friederich buried between them. Just a few steps further on the right the fresh grave of my oldest brother. A few more steps on the right the Erbe grave marked by an overgrown, weathered sandstone slab, and right past them, across the path turning right and left the WWII Memorial testifying to utter senselessness and waste. All of my family members we walked passed were impacted by what is at the end of this cemetery path, two memorials, two inheritances, one that will forever regret, weep and warn and one that knows no regret, turns tears to joy, and still blesses.

You and I will not stay here today, we will most likely not be buried here. The iron gate will fall shut behind us as we leave to still live some and determine our “Erbe.”

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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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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Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward.
Psalm 127:3 (NASB)

Fathers (parents), do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:4 (NIV, parenthesis mine)

No decent parent wants their child/ren to grow up and be a bum or brat, be lazy, dishonest, out of control, ungrateful, disrespectful, irresponsible, rotten, or foolish. Of course, if you leave character building up to chance or to your cute little offspring themselves you will exponentially increase their chances to be some or all of the above.

I had them, this year’s VBS 5-6th grade boys, set up a tent. They yanked it out of the box, opened the zippered bag and went to work, and like typical males didn’t bother to read the instructions, which, by the way, were sown to the zippered bag so there is no chance of losing them. Finally, one of them, Coty, realized it wasn’t going too well, so he sat down and read the instructions, and together with Swain’s leadership they actually managed to set the thing up. I was proud of them.

Why are we so reluctant to read and follow instructions? And why do babies come without any instructions? And why do those “gifts of God” have such a difficult time following instructions while they’re still in diapers and then only get worse at it?

God knows us all too well, that’s why his instructions to parents are clear: Don’t leave the raising of your kids to chance, to mere crisis management, current cultural trends, or somebody else. Don’t exasperate your kids with being absent, disengaged, inconsistent, and not having a plan. Instead, train and instruct them the way God wants you to train and instruct them. This, of course, requires that we as parents know God ourselves, are familiar with his ways, champion his values, live like he wants us to, love what he loves, and read and practice the manual, the instructions, the Bible.

It is possible to raise very decent kids with great values and leave God out of the picture. But it is impossible to raise godly, God-fearing kids and leave God out of the picture. So, if you are lucky/blessed with having one or more of those gifts from God called children, make sure that above all you raise them with God and his Son Jesus Christ in the center of everything, training them and instructing them in all that is important to God, and be the best example of all of that they will ever see. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. To that end anchor yourself and your family in a local church. I actually know a good one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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“A wise child brings joy to a father; a foolish child brings grief to a mother.”

“The father of godly children has cause for joy. What a pleasure to have children who are wise. So give your father and mother joy! May she who gave you birth be happy.” Proverbs 10:1; 23:24-25 (NLT2)

 My Mama was the mother of five boys. She kept telling us that we were exactly what she wanted, what she’d prayed for. I think she meant it, but I wonder how often she thought, “What in the hesch have I gotten myself into?” Her sister, my second Mama/Aunt, stormed out of our house on more than one occasion, yelling, “This house is nothing but an insane asylum!”

I didn’t think about whether I was bringing joy or grief to her back when she was raising us, but I have done so often since I left home. The verdict is clear, I brought her way too much grief. While she made her life about us, I made my life about me, and in doing so I helped turn her hair gray, added to her wrinkles beyond time, caused her to weep and pray, who knows how often.

Mother’s Day, which was an up and coming kind of thing back then, was a cheap way of easing the conscience. Buy something nice, be nice for a day, go back to the same old the next day. Sounds like cheap religion, doesn’t it? And it is. She was gracious though, acting like she really needed more of the same perfume, although she still had three full bottles on her dresser. But there really isn’t any perfume that can cover the stink we cause in someone’s life, is there? And I, we, stunk up her life, caused her grief instead of being big bottles of joy.

Where we stunk, she was fragrant, where I embraced wrong she chose right, where I pursued sin, she practiced godliness, where I was short-sighted she held on to the long-view.  She didn’t go the cheap route but instead gave us what lasts, what you can’t order on Amazon, what will remain fragrant even when I stink it up. So now, today, the memory of my Mama is a joy to me, a still rushing stream of blessing, although she has been gone for thirty years.

I am still the son of Margarete Frei, the woman who gave birth to me, the Mama who raised me, and it still matters whether or not I conduct myself in ways that are wise, that are selfless, that are godly, that bring her joy, that glorify God and Christ.

“Honor your father and mother” Exodus 20:12, not just for a day but with your life. It is what both pleases God and is rewarded by God.

Happy Mother’s Day. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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I thank my God every time I remember you.  In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)

We got blessed the day Paul and Diana Baker walked into our church. At the time we had no idea just how great a blessing they would turn out to be, but now, years later, we know, and how we thank God.

They had built a beautiful retirement home, presumably to do a lot of bass fishing at Lake McClure and Lake Don Pedro. But I don’t think they ever did all the fishing and retirement stuff they had anticipated. Instead, they became ever more deeply involved in the life and ministry of our church family. The fishing boat got underused and their “free” time got overused in serving Christ and his local church here in Don Pedro. How we have benefited from that selflessness, yet how we thank God for it.

It is kind of surprising they stuck around after the first visit. Two Assemblies of God folks in a Baptist church lead by a German. Talk about being fish out of water. It made us better, this humility, this willingness to give some things up, this lack of insistence for their own comfort zone in order to further the work of and bless the body of Christ here in Don Pedro.  Oh, how we thank for it.

I can’t tell you how many hats they have worn working, serving, and ministering in our midst. I do know this much, there is no way I can juggle as many plates. Maybe it is all Diana’s fault, because, besides all that she did, she unleashed Paul and thus enabled this whirlwind, who became to us and always will be to us, Pastor Paul. How we thank God for that.

God knew what both our church and I personally needed. I sure needed a friend, someone to help carry the load, a brother to I in navigating some of the toughest times in my life and ministry, an encourager to cheer me on when I was far from my best. As such, how I thank God for Paul.

They flew this selling of their house and plan to go traveling under the radar. They knew I, and we would be praying against it with all our might. I think they also knew doing it any other way would be just too hard because this love between us has become a two-way street, or more accurately, a multi-lane major highway. And, how we thank and praise God for that.

To God be all glory. How we love you, Pastor Paul and Diana.

Pastor Hans

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