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God’s Servant for Life. Sustaining Servanthood.

“… my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house” Numbers 12:7 (NIV)

A person should consider us in this way: as servants of Christ …” 1 Corinthians 4:1 (HCSB)

Long after the last rains, when all the ponds, streams, and even rivers have dried up, when dust devil swirl across the landscape, and when you can’t imagine anything aquatic living there, the African Lungfish is waiting for the next downpour, maybe right under your feet. In a dried out mud burrow and cocoon that only leaves the mouth exposed it can survive for years in a hibernation known as aestivation (state of suspended animation) – amazing.

Obviously you and I are not lungfish, a happy fact I might add. But that doesn’t mean we have no need to learn how to sustain important things. The African Lungfish sustains its life by going underground, slowing every bodily function down to slow crawl, not moving, and living of its tail. I don’t find any of that appealing either, do you? So how do servants of God sustain themselves, make it through droughts in life, survive in unbearable heat, pressures, and circumstances? How do we maintain a servant’s heart, attitude, devotion, and involvement in spite of people? How do we keep from burrowing under the surface, disappearing out of sight, shutting down to the barest minimum, being content with mere survival until the day Jesus returns?

We can learn much from Moses, whom God called, “his servant,” when it comes to sustaining ourselves as servants of God. Moses actually tried the lungfish disappearing act for a long time, until God reminded him, that he belonged to him and that he was born, built, and beckoned to serve God’s purposes (Exodus 3-4). After Moses surrendered himself to serve God we find him being a faithful, committed servant down to his last breath. So what sustained him as servant of God?

  • Moses was faithful to the word of God.

He spoke what God wanted him to say, he carried out what God told him to do, and he did so (with one recorded exception, Numbers 20:8-13) for 40 straight years. He took every communication from God serious and dared to practice it. God told Joshua, Moses’ successor and the one who observed Moses closer than anyone, “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go” Joshua 1:7 (NIV)

 

  • Moses was faithful to the people of God.

He was committed to the community of God (read church in today’s context). Even when people hurt him, complained about him, made life miserable for him, bitterly disappointed him he stayed committed to them. He didn’t check out, leave, or went off to do his own private thing. Even when God offered to completely start over with him he declined, Exodus 32:10. He lived and died with God’s people.

 

  • Moses was faithful to the presence of God.

He sought communion with God. Prayer, worship, sacrifice, singing to God, spending time with God, hearing the voice of God was important to him. He even pitched a tent outside of Israelite camp for the sole purpose to seek the presence of God, and invited anyone to join him there, Exodus 33:7 (too few took him up on the invite)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. But don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. Instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love. Galatians 5:13 (NLT)

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 (NLT)

Its Tuesday morning and as I am driving the 63 Volkwagen Bug into the church parking lot my mind is on the Serve component of making disciples (all real and growing followers of Jesus are active servants). As I pull in Erwin Crocker and his wife Barbara are pulling out. He obviously got here way before me and already vacuumed, swept, and took out the trash. From where I park the car I can see that Paul Baker has already mowed the bank between the highway and the church. Walking inside I find Nellie Sperry, Helen Kimball, and Janett Sturtevant (our church secretary, aka glue of the crew) in the church office counting the offering.

Yesterday it was no different, when I arrived Darrill Coffman was busy loading up his big truck with the luggage of all the kids going to camp (Centrikids). Inside Joy Miller, Nellie, and Janett were getting all the paperwork and financials for camp in order. Several of the drivers, including Jerry Criswell and Kim Martin were already there along with Counselors, Wendy Garcia, Davidmark Grabowski, Caleb Garcia, and Deseree Martin. When I opened my email Karin Souza had already sent out the B.A.T.T. update, including a link to a great song for 4th of July.

Two Days ago, Sunday afternoon, Randy Cogley, Troy and Ivonne Holt, Casey Hiett, Kristan Robinson, Dennis Kluding, Russ Warren, Grant Thompson, Savannah Garcia, along with three volunteers from our community, Emery Ross and his wife and Lynn Green spent six plus hours helping youth raise funds for youth camp (Centrifuge) by helping to park cars for the 4th of July Weekend fireworks on Don Pedro Lake. Many of them already spent their morning serving in some kind of capacity at the church.

Before Sunday afternoon rolled around there was Sunday morning. I am usually the first one here but Genevieve Aldrin was already waiting in the parking lot to drop off food for the fellowship time even though she didn’t feel well. After a while and long before everything starts servants are arriving. Troy Holt fires up the sound and multimedia equipment and deals with last minute things, making sure everyone can hear and that the words to songs and scriptures are right. He is usually followed by the musicians who come early to warm up and go over things one more time. They are followed by members of the kitchen crew, small group leaders and Sunday school teacher, who already spent time throughout the week preparing.

Sometime later today or this week Cristi Lewis will sneak in and clean the restrooms and anything else she sees still needing attention. David Redds truck will be down in front of the food basket building and he will be inside, often with a volunteer or two, working away preparing to serve hundreds of people with food.

I thank all of you for setting an example, for being faithful, for caring about the work of the kingdom, each other, and our community, and I thank you for sowing joy in my heart just watching you.

If you are new to our church and want to join in all of that serving ask yourself:

  • What do am I good at, what skills, abilities, and gifts do I have? – You can contribute that.
  • What or who do I have a heart for? – You will find joy and satisfaction serving there.
  • What needs stick out me, where do I sense I am needed? – Your help will be appreciated and make a difference there.
  • How much time do I have to commit?- Even an hour or two a week will be valuable and spread the load.
  • Who do I talk to find out more? – Of course you can talk with me the pastor, but you can also directly call our ministry leaders (they are listed on the back of the bulletin or you can call the church office and to get connect with them 852-2029)

To God be all glory. Keep it up, Join in. Love You, Pastor Hans

 

P.S. If you read this p-note and do not live in Don Pedro, get involved in a church where you live. If you live in Don Pedro God has placed you here for a purpose, join in here.

 

 

 

 

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Salvation without transformation is misinformation that results in damnation.

If your house has termites how many of them do want to be gone, for how many do you pay the exterminator to get rid off? How much of the termite damage do you want your contractor to fix? I imagine your answers were, “All of the termites and all of the damage.”

If you were to get sprayed by a skunk (and I have), how much of that foul smell does your spouse want you to wash off before coming to bed? I imagine your answer would be, “All of it, and make sure you put on a hefty dose of cologne.”

How much of our sin, our depravity, our moral and spiritual rot and filth do you think God’s grace is trying to address? How deep do you think the grace of God is trying to sink into our hearts and lives? How much does God’s grace want to change in us and about us? The answers to these questions are, “All of it, to my very core, and more than I imagine.”

The grace of God aims to be transforming. There is no way to drink from the cup of God’s grace and be unchanged. If you remain unchanged you haven’t swallowed. As James puts it, “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:17), meaning: you can’t believe in the love, grace, and mercy of God (salvation) and live unchanged.” If the love of Christ has touched us it compels us to love. If our sins are forgiven we should be forgiving. If we have received mercy it should make us merciful. If the joy of God and his salvation has filled us we should be joyful and positive. If the goodness of God is real it should cause us to desire to do good. If the peace of God keeps our hearts and minds we should pursue peace. If we have benefited from the patience of God we should be patient with others. If the selflessness, the obedience, the faithfulness, the kindness, and humility of Jesus has in any way worked in our favor then we ought to embrace the same.

Somehow we are very comfortable with saving grace, who doesn’t want to go heaven? We love the everyday grace of God, the grace that makes the sun rise, the rains fall, puts bread on our tables, and gives us opportunities in life (Matthew 5:45). We don’t complain about delivering grace, healing grace, God-helping-me out grace, that would be foolish. But how quickly we begin to resist transforming grace, when God wants to replace more than a few roof shingles, when he starts scraping off old paint, lays bare the rot, starts messing with our values, our outlooks, our attitudes, the way we react and interact, and puts our motives, our pursuits, and lifestyles on the table.

After following Jesus for almost forty years I still find surrendering to God’s transforming grace most challenging. I am amazed and ashamed how resistant I can be, how many self-deceptive excuses I can conjure up, how quickly I can deflect, and how disobedient I can be. I pray to be like the Apostle Paul, after having an opportunity to tell king Agrippa of his conversion, of the time when the saving grace of Christ met him, quickly added, “So … I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19 NASB). What a statement of surrender to transforming grace.

When it comes to transforming grace we face a triple threat:

  • All of our old scripts, the defaults of our sinful self. O how good they are in pulling us back, helping us to revert, to revel in saving grace while resisting transforming grace.
  • Declaring ourselves changed enough, holy enough. Resting on past progress and viewing ourselves in comparison to others has a way of making us resistant to present obedience.
  • Thinking of grace only in passive terms, God saves me by his grace, God will change me by his grace, and finally God will glorify me his grace. That however is not the whole truth; God’s saving grace compels us to believe, to repent, to confess, God’s glorifying grace is preceded by perseverance, and God’s transforming grace requires our cooperation and obedience.

Read the first sentence again. None of us needs just a little bit of Jesus, a little bit grace, we need all of Christ and all of God’s grace, anything less is self-deception, will make us pull up short of God’s marvelous grace (Hebrews 12:15). On the flipside, there is nothing like being transformed by God’s grace, We all … are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit” 2 Corinthians 3:18 (HCSB).

To God be all glory,. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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“To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9 (NIV).

It was not what he was hoping to hear, “My grace is sufficient for you.” He wanted the fix-it grace, the grace that makes it go away, the grace that makes weakness, pain, and suffering disappear.

“Why others and not me?” The healing, delivering, restoring power of Christ had worked through Paul countless times, “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them” Acts 19:11-12 (NIV).

If you had to choose between deliverance from pain and strength to cope with pain, which would you prefer? If you have physical limitations or handicaps would want restoration or grace to bear it? If as a parent (since it is Mothers’ Day) are both at the end of your wit and your rope what would you ask for, sufficient grace or fix-it grace? Dumb questions.

Paul did ask for fix-it grace, because there is nothing wrong with asking for healing, deliverance, restoration, and permanent change. Our Heavenly Father has given us the green light to ask away (Matthew 7:7-11, James 1:2-6). Paul didn’t just ask once, but twice, and again. Then he got a clear word, a definite answer from God, “Your thorn in the flesh will stay, your weakness will not be taken away, your pain, struggle, and frustration will not just dissipate, but you will receive sufficient grace, for today, and tomorrow, and every day after that.”

It can knock you for loop, when God grants you sufficient grace when you asked for fix-it grace, when God hears your request but responds to it differently. We see little purpose in pain, suffering, sickness, limitations, handicaps, frustrations, trials that last, and … It is easy to get confused when the God of love for whom nothing is impossible doesn’t fix it and instead hands us the cup filed with sufficient grace. It is tough drinking water while others are sipping champagne.

Many criticized God and Christ and walked away at this intersection of receiving sufficient grace while asking for fix-it grace. But Paul didn’t, after hearing, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness,” he adjusted himself to Christ’s answer, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 (NIV). We’d much prefer for God to adjust himself and acquiesce to our requests than the other way around.

Sufficient grace is never cheap grace; it is not lesser than fix-it grace. When God gives us the cup of sufficient grace it is because that is exactly what we need. Paul recognized that this sufficient grace kept him humble, it kept him much closer to Christ, it made him depend on power far greater than his own, and realized that Christ shines through women and men who embrace and live out of his sufficient grace.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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I didn’t think I needed sunscreen, after all it was kind of hazy and we were not going to be outside for very long, but man did I get sunburned.

For 45 years I didn’t think I need glasses, my older brothers did but not me. Then the food on my dinner plate was no longer in focus, and on my first visit to the optometrist I was told that I needed glasses.

Somebody at NASA during the Gemini program thought it was a good idea to stick a roll of duct tape on board of the space capsules and so, although it never did get used, they carried a roll on every mission during the Apollo program as well. Until the Apollo 13 mission got into trouble and, you guessed it, the duct tape was a big part of what saved the crew. I wonder how often it was suggested to no longer bother carrying the extra weight of the duct tape, that it was no longer needed?

The travel nurse made sure I had all my vaccinations in order before going on a trip to Africa, she told me to also pick up a prescription for a malaria preventative and Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic. “Do I really need that?” I asked. “I highly recommend taking it with you,” she said. Boy, o boy, was I glad that I listened to her when I was hit by some kind of intestinal inferno.

You, me, and my son need insulin if we want to live. When I get up in the morning I don’t think about insulin, my body takes care of all of my insulin calculations and needs. My son, a diabetic, thinks about insulin all of the time. He has to make sure he has insulin, syringes, needles, test strips, etc. on hand; he can’t afford to run out. He has to monitor, calculate, and administer continually. But the truth is we both need insulin if we want to live, however, our awareness of that need is vastly different.

So just because we don’t think we need something, or because we thought we’d never need it, or because we seemingly have not needed it yet, or because we don’t have to think about something we need, does not mean we don’t need it.

It is Easter, and Easter is about what we need most, I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures (the written Word of God) said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT, parenthesis mine). There are three inescapable facts regarding you, me, and everyone else:

  1. We are sinners (Romans 3:23)
  2. We will die (Romans 6:23, Ezekiel 18:4).
  3. We will have to face God’s judgment (Hebrews (9:27-28).

This is why we need Jesus Christ, to be forgiven of our sins, to not be defeated by death but instead receive eternal life, and to escape the judgment of God. There is no one else but the crucified, buried, and risen Jesus Christ, who can help you and me with these. “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12 (NLT). Let me ask you, “How wise is it to ignore what God thinks you need most?”

It is only If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved” Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37 (NLT)

We enter 2016 with one. We were born into one. We are never without one. We often wish we had a different one. Many of our complaints and hopes are about it. Most of us have tried to escape it a time or two or more. From the moment we are conceived we contribute to it. Even after die we still affect it – CONTEXT.

The truth that “nothing is impossible for God’ stands on its own; it is an eternal and constant reality. This is terrific news, not just at the beginning of a new year but at the beginning of and throughout every day, and in any context. There is an accompanying truth to God’s omnipotence: we are not. Many things, most things are impossible for us. We cannot turn water into wine any more than we can walk on water. We cannot speak an entire cosmos into existence anymore than we can sustain the universe. We cannot transcend the laws of nature or escape death. We do not know all the questions much less the right answers. 2016 will confront us with more of our “can’ts” than we’d like.

Although For nothing is impossible with God” stands on its own it is quoted out of context. It was part of the angel’s answer to Mary wondering how she could end up being pregnant without having sex. It was meant to encourage her to trust God and take up his invitation to participate in his eternal plan and redemptive work. Mary’s context wasn’t godless or without faith, she believed in God, she was a very decent person, but this was an invitation to trust in and walk with God at a completely different level. This wasn’t about merely believing that God did some incredible things in the past, or listening to someone else’s experience, this was about her adjusting her life to the will of God on the basis of his omnipotence instead of her own capacity to believe. Her response, “God I have no idea how you will do this, but I know and trust that you can. So Lord, I am yours to do as you please” (Luke 1:38, my paraphrase).

Mary’s surrender to the reality and will of God completely changed her context, and in the long view of history even ours, but on God’s terms and not hers. That’s our struggle, in the face of our can’ts and our life’s impossibles we would love to harness the power of God to change our and others’ contexts, and when he won’t bend to us we become angry, dismissive, cynical, defiant. It is sinful arrogance to think the Omnipotent should bow to the impotent, that the powerless can harness the Almighty. The finite, us, has just one proper response to infinite power – SURRENDER, to adjust ourselves to reality and will of God.

God’s 2016 invitation is to walk with him, on his terms, to live out his will, to let his omnipotence define and direct our lives, to live our lives in the context of him and his Son Jesus Christ. And when we do our experience, our understanding, our context and even our prayers will change.

“Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” Isaiah 55:6-9 (NLT).

“Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence! As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil, your coming would make the nations tremble. Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame! When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations. And oh, how the mountains quaked! For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! You welcome those who gladly do good, who follow godly ways.” Isaiah 64:1-5a (NLT).

What will your 2016 context look like? Will God figure into it to his extent? Oh, how I hope so.

Happy New Year! Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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