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Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”                                                                                            Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.”
Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.”
John 11:38-42 (ESV)

Have you ever given thanks to God for not answering your prayer, for ignoring your request, for making you wait?

Jesus didn’t come when they wanted him to, instead he waited, delayed. He ignored their implied request to heal Lazarus, one of his best friends, he let him suffer and die. Nor did Jesus book a redeye flight to be there as soon as possible for Lazarus’ distraught and grieving sisters. It took him four whole days to show up, which meant he missed even the funeral.

When Jesus finally got there Lazarus’ two sisters said aloud what everyone else thought, “If you would have been there our brother would not have died” Luke 1:22&32). Ouch, no gratitude here, only accusation, confusion, and silently screaming “Why?” The Son of God who could have intervened didn’t; the Omnipotent who can, didn’t; what he did for others he didn’t do for his friends. Why in the world would he refuse to do what was obviously needed, use his power to heal, and instead responded with inactivity that said, “No?”

“Open the tomb! You’ve got to be kidding! Martha is right, there will be a stench. In fact, this whole situation stinks. He could have and should have done something, but he didn’t. And now he stands there and is thanking God! – this guy is unbelievable.”

Out of all the times in life when we are told, “No,” being told, “No,” by God is the most confusing, especially when our requests feel legitimate,  unselfish,  about good outcomes, and are out of deep desperation. We expect God to at least care as much as we do.

What if Jesus would have acquiesced, had come in a hurry, had healed Lazarus, had kept him out of the grave, had said, “Yes,” to their requests and did things the way they had wanted him to. They would have known him less. They would have been condemned to a life of desperate calls for Jesus (God) to hurry, to fix, to bail out. They would have been stuck with an “Ambulance Jesus.” They would have continued in the same old fears. They would have been deprived of a glimpse of who he really is, “The resurrection and the life” (John 11:25-26).

It is a great scene, isn’t it, when Jesus tells four-days-dead-and-decomposing Lazarus to “Come forth!” and then instructs them to take the burial clothes off him (John 11:44-45). Can you imagine the amazement, the joy, the awe? It would not have happened without Jesus waiving their initial request, without Jesus willing Lazarus to die, without Jesus waiting for days before showing up.

We think the best thing is when God answers our prayers the way we think is best, but it infinitely better when God responds to our petitions and requests, no matter how desperately we feel, the way he thinks is best, including him saying, “No, child.” How thankful I am that he not only knows what is best but also does what is best, undaunted by our expectations, frustration, desperation, pain, and confusion.

To God be all glory. Love you Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Human history a tale of conflict, strife, enmity, violence, and war. The Bible reflects this reality from the 3rd chapter of Genesis to the 20th chapter of Revelation. All the advancements of science, all the modern advancements of technology, all the study of history, all of the religious practices and rejections of the one true God by mankind have not changed that reality. In fact, we just have gotten better at it. At the battle of Cannae it took Hannibal and his army a day to slaughter 80,000 Romans, today we can level a city of millions in a flash. We can’t even imagine peace without strong armies standing guard and willing to fight.

The threats are not only external, nations and peoples pitted against each other, but also internal. Try to name a nation that is without strife, without conflict, without violence, without corruption, without various groups pitted against each other and willing to fight, clashing over ideologies, policies, liberties, rights, wealth, and … Just think about how much blood has been spilled between the East and West coasts of the United States from long before the Europeans settled here down to the present day.

Even the history of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, incarnate for 30 odd years is marked at its very beginning by Herod’s regional infanticide, serval attempt on his life, and eventually his crucifixion.  The words of Isaiah the prophet are as true today as when he first wrote them and when Jesus walked the earth, “The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace.  So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows” Isaiah 59:8-9 (NIV. Take a few minutes, get out a copy of the Bible or find one online, and read Isaiah 58-59 and let it sink in).

Both presently and ultimately it takes the intervention of the prince of peace, a Savior, the one who can change both the human heart and history to interrupt the cycles of depravity we cannot escape on our own, to regenerate what sin has killed, to redeem what has been lost, to reconcile us to God and his will, and to make us merciful as he is merciful (Luke 6:36).

Things are so much cleaner on paper, neater on a page filled with words. The hard part is translating what is right, what is good, what is just, and what pleases God into our lives, our private life, community life, political life, national life, our “neighbor’s” life, our enemy’s life. How do you that?

  • You have to care “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” Galatians 6:2 (NIV).Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” Philippians 2:4 (NIV).
  • You have dream of something better Jesus cried out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings …!” Luke 13:34 (NIV). ‘‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” Matthew 5:6 (NIV).  “(Abraham) was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” Hebrews 11:10 (NIV).
  • You have to be willing to weep for others and over the brokenness you see –“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” Matthew 5:4&9 (NIV). “…, weep with those who weep” Romans 12:15 (NASB).
  • You have to orient yourself on God and his Son Jesus Christ –“(Father God) Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10 (NIV, parenthesis mine).  “…, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” 1 Corinthians 1:24 (NIV).  “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” James 3:17-18 (ESV).
  • You have engage and don’t quit – “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, …” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV).  “Be doers of the word (of God, the Bible) …” James 1:22 (ESV, parenthesis mine). I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish. Don’t drag your feet. Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them” Hebrews 6:11-12 (MSG).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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This is the written account of Adam’s line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “man” (human). Genesis 5:1-2 (NIV)

 

Men can’t have babies, God blessed women with that ability. Now I have heard women wish that men would have to go through pregnancy and childbirth because it would change them, humble them, look at life and the world a little different, and I suppose it surely would. The mere ability to sire and conceive a child does not make one good parent, a good Mom or Dad, that takes embracing the ability and responsibilities of motherhood and fatherhood. Too many children are born every day to men and women who like part A (the conceiving activity) and have no interest in part B (the Mom/Dad responsibility). But God has always meant for A and B to be inseparable, it is our selfishness and the brokenness of our world that far too often separates the two.

 

Children are blessed when someone takes on the responsibility of mothering and fathering them, conversely their lives are much more difficult without either, in fact far too many children never see the light of day wherever and whenever A is divorced from B. B (a Mother’s and a Father’s heart) seeks life, abundant life for their children and children in general. Did you notice in the scripture above that God made people male and female, with the ability to reproduce, to be Fathers/Dads and Mothers/Moms and that God blessed them as such. I can’t help but think that God meant for that blessing of his to continue, for them to be blessed together, for their family to be blessed, their children to be blessed, for their grandchildren to be blessed, for generations they would never see to be blessed. Ask yourself, “How important is mothering and fathering the way God has intended it for blessing to flow from generation to generation?”

 

Having a baby changes a woman’s body, being a Mom changes her heart. Pregnancy will leave stretchmarks on the body, parenting will leave stretchmarks on the heart, the mind, and the soul of both Mom and Dad. Having a baby is a nine-month process, being a Mom or Dad is lifelong. From what I am told and what I have observed, pregnancy and birth is challenging, uncomfortable, and painful. From my own experience I know that being a parent is challenging, uncomfortable, and often painful far longer. How many tears wept for their children will run down the faces of Moms and Dads and drip to the ground around the world today? How many oceans could be filled with the tears of Moms and Dads shed throughout the ages? On the flipside, how much goodness, how much joy, how much blessing will be dished out today by good Moms and Dads? How much blessing has the world seen and experienced because of women and men who have been willing to be Moms and Dads, who care enough to fully engage, who dare to dream blessing for their children, their children’s children, the children of our world. I challenge you to never divorce A from B, to make up your mind to be all that God has enabled you to be in regard to children, to be someone who funnels life and unloads boatloads of the blessing of God.

 

Happy Mothers’ Day. To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Some things don’t mix well, fire and gasoline , coffee and pickle juice, ants and a kitchen, war and peace, lies and a clear conscience, wisdom and foolishness, love and fear, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love 1 John 4:18 (NIV). That’s why violence, abuse, uncontrolled anger, alcohol and drugs, cheating, lying, deceit, manipulation, selfishness, bitterness, and foolishness do not mix with romance, marriage, family, community, and a life with God.

When you are constantly in fear of the other shoe dropping, when you are constantly walking on eggshells, when you are always ducking outwardly and inwardly, when you are in constant dread of embarrassment, when words no longer hold water, when it all can blow up any second, when things are constantly out of control, when you are way past the first time, when the not normal becomes normal, when trust is a foreign word, when deceit not surprising, when disappointment is expected, when addiction and abuse have moved in, then you will find imperfect, twisted, perverted, and sick love.

Love is meant to beautiful, without fear, free of constant worry of it turning ugly. In the scripture quoted above the New King James Version uses the word “torment” instead of the “punishment.” Real love does not feel like torment, does not live in dread of torment, does not dish out torment. In fact where real love is growing, where real love is pursued fears are growing smaller and fewer, and torment is never a fit description.

Our problem is that so many of us are all too familiar with the tormented, sick, twisted, manipulative, and hurtful ways masquerading as love. The sad thing is that we are prone to settle for and repeat that which we know. It is easy to be in and get caught up in this web of love gone wrong, sometimes of no fault of our own, sometimes because of our own decisions, often because of both.

The good news is that God did not have the Apostles John and Paul (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) write about love in terms of mere definition or diagnosis. No, God had them write of what is possible, not just of what should or shouldn’t be, but of what can be. What may not be possible on our own is possible with God, “What is impossible for people is possible with God” Luke 18:27 (NLT). It is possible to walk with God and escape cycles and chains of the past. It is possible to walk with God and get out of darkness. It is possible to walk with God and learn from him how to love. It is possible to walk with God and grow in our capacity to love. It is possible!

When it comes to loving perfectly I am far from what I want to be, but God has been helping me to grow, especially when it comes to love. I am committed to real love because I don’t like the alternatives, because it is and feels right, and because God “renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake Psalm 23:3 (HCSB).

This Valentines weekend, if nothing else, make a start, be broken and repent of your wrongs, especially in regard to love and those you should love. Address that which is broken and twisted, pour out the full measure of your fears, and then take the loving hand of God to learn love without fear.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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“Come to me, all of you who are tired and have heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Accept my teachings and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit, and you will find rest for your lives (souls). The teaching that I ask you to accept is easy; the load I give you to carry is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NCV, parenthesis mine)

It happened that while Jesus was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1 (NASB)

How open are you to change? If you want rest for your soul, if you want to be a man/woman of prayer, if you want to be wise, if you want your finances not to be a mess, if you want to be a better husband/wife or a better father/mother, if you want to please God, be used by God, and be blessed by God then you have to be willing to learn and to be taught, which also means you have to be willing to change.

Change is hard, in part because it involves giving something up, learning something new, doing things different, acquiring knowledge, wisdom, habits, and skills we do not have. Change is hard because we are already doing or not doing something that needs to be changed. Generally we would rather have someone, especially God, bail us out rather than do engage in the hard work, diligence, frustration, and effort of change. We much prefer to just shed some tears and then have someone else, preferably God, respond to those tears without us having to change.

Repentance, living in the Holy Spirit, holiness, love, godliness, spiritual growth, living by faith, renewing your mind, submitting to one another, seeking first God’s kingdom, storing up treasure in heaven are all part of the Christian experience and they all involve change, a willingness to change, to be taught, to learn. Not just once but throughout our lives.

Want rest? Want rest for your soul? Want to be great at praying? Want God to bless you? Want your life to bless God and others? Want your life to count and make an eternal difference? Then you have to change, first of all by coming to God/Christ who is both able to change the unchangeable (make sinner clean and acceptable to him through the blood of Christ) and help us change; secondly you have to be willing to learn new ways, adopt new attitudes, develop better habits, acquire new skills, seek wisdom from above and knowledge, and let God use you as he sees fit.

How open we are to change will determine how much we will actually change. How open do you think God wants you to be changed, to be taught, to learn?

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

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My Little Big Brother

I have two older brothers. One is my big big brother, Michael, and the other is my little big brother, Andreas Paul. Andi, is the little big one, little because size-wise he was the smallest of us five, big because other than his size there really wasn’t anything little about him. He was big in his influence, certainly on me. He was big in faith, big in heart, big in generosity, big in smarts, skill, energy, people skills, and huge in will power and tenacity. He was big enough for someone to model their life after him, big in true friendship, big as Dad, big as a husband, big as doctor. Like I said, he is my little big brother.

 

In my opinion everyone should have a little big brother like that because you if you have one your life is so much better, so much richer. A LBB (Little Big Brother) is great to have if you want someone to ditch Kindergarten with for the very first time. A LBB is an excellent companion to sneak out of the house with in the middle of the night to do stuff you shouldn’t do. But an LBB is not just good for doing stupid stuff when you’re young, you learn of his real value as you go through life you can talk with him, pray with him, worship with him, and lean on him. A LBB gives you all kinds of reasons to be proud of him, you can brag on him and it is not really bragging because it is true (mostly, except when you get carried away – but no one will blame you).

My LBB is down to his last few breaths, too soon, much too soon. Soon he will be buried; fortunately he began digging a long time ago and buried things in my heart, in my mind, in my memory. It is treasures he buried there, it’s what LBB’s do, they make you rich, they leave inspiration, they leave life, they never leave things empty. But have to warn you, it’s hard, very hard, to say goodbye to your LBB. I think it is because they are so precious, so irreplaceable, so darn easy to love, but that too is typical of my LBB.

Faith, faith in Christ changed him, challenged him, keeps him. You would have a completely false picture of my Little Big Brother without his faith. When he surrendered his skepticism he also surrendered himself. When he drank from the cup of God’s grace he didn’t just sip and so he anchored it all in Jesus, his soul, his marriage, his family, his giftedness, his work, his passions, his days. When towering flood waves overran the shoreline of his life and swept out to sea his health, his career, his speech, and so much more, that faith remained. In the struggle to reclaim, to rebuild, and in the relentless pounding surf of “Why? Why? Why?” that faith remained. And so my LBB is not just leaving behind precious memories but real hope, the hope that comes when you can call Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the one who lived, and died, and rose again, your brother, “So now Jesus and the ones he makes holy have the same Father. That is why Jesus is not ashamed to call them his brothers and sisters” Hebrews 2:11 (NLT).

My Little Big Bother’s last words to me were, “Liebe dich sehr” (love you so).

To God be the glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Stuck

Stuck

I was dropping something off at Dennis’ house and made the mistake off backing up onto some soft ground. Slick highway tires, nothing in the back of my truck, and soft ground, you guessed it, equals getting stuck. They flew passed us as Susie and I drove slowly through Yosemite to take pictures of the valley in the snow. As we came around the next corner, you guessed it, there they were stuck in a snow bank on the side of the road (we did help them to get un-stuck).

It is so easy to get stuck, to get stuck in life, to get stuck in a mindset, a bad attitude, in grief, bad habits, an addiction, a bad relationship, a reputation, in a boring or lousy marriage, in lies, in something that ends with …holic, and so much more. People are stuck in hospital beds, nursing homes, prisons, gangs, jobs, war zones, party lines, violence, abuse, oppression, cultural norms, religions, and so much more. And don’t forget being stuck in what ifs, in guilt, regret, pain, hopelessness, consequences of bad decisions, debt, and sin.

When you read through the Bible (God’s word/written revelation) you constantly encounter people, groups, and even entire nations being stuck. By the time you get to the book called Lamentations you are ready to weep with the prophet Jeremiah, the stuckness is staggering, as it is today.

There is a common denominator running through all of this stuckness: Human stubbornness, human sinfulness, human failure, an unwillingness to listen to God, to regard the wisdom of God, to follow the ways of God, to embrace the will of God, and to respond to the word of God with faith and obedience. When Jeremiah pens his lament, his cry, the measure of the consequences of all this unwillingness towards God has piled up. The Israelites personally and collectively find themselves stuck deeper than would have ever imagined.

They were stuck in the anger and judgment of God, stubbornness and unwillingness to listen to God will lead you there, guaranteed. Amazingly, even the living hell they were experiencing was not enough to soften their hearts. It is a terrible thing to have a stuck heart, an angry heart, a bitter heart, a vengeful heart, an unforgiving heart, a merciless heart, a self-centered heart, a greedy heart, a lustful heart, a faithless heart, an unloving heart , an unyielding heart towards God.

Jeremiah finally cries out and states the obvious, “I/we are stuck beyond hope – except forYou God.” Maybe that’s your cry, if it is, then turn or return to God.

I have been deprived of peace; I have forgotten what prosperity (happiness) is.
So I say, “My splendor is gone and all that I had hoped from the LORD.”
I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.
I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Lamentations 3:17-24 (NIV, parenthesis mine)

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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