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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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The tickets were booked a long time ago but today is the last day before the trip, that means last minute stuff. I am always glad when I am finally in my seat and the plane is accelerating down the runway, I feel like I can relax at that point. Well, the relaxation point is still some hours out, which brings me back to last minute stuff. Obviously this pastor’s note is one of those things to get done before hopping in the car to drive to airport.

There is something about time running out, invariably some things don’t get done because they have to be done, they’re just not that important. The level of important things that needed to be done and actually got done depends on how little you procrastinated and how well you prepared. The last minute stress level depends on how much last minute stuff you let pile up in relation to how little time is left. It also depends on how many people are depending on you. And it depends on how many unexpected things crop up at the last minute. A pig pile of last minute stuff drenched in a downpour of the unexpected will make your eyes twitch.

All of our tickets have been booked, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be Psalm 139:16 (NIV). With each passing day everyone of is getting closer to our departure. Our upcoming trip has both a first stop and a final destination, that’s how it is with everyone’s final trip. The first stop, “Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment”  Hebrews 9:27 (NIV). The final destination depends on who you booked with, but it will either be heaven or hell, “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal lifeMatthew 25:46 (NASB).

I have been a preacher for over thirty years and it has been my experience that in general people do not prepare for the final trip. They leave messes their children and family have to sort out, they life lives with little or no thought of God’s judgment, they book trips into eternity depending on themselves, trusting in human philosophy, scientific enlightenment, and man-made religion to either avoid or prepare them for a complete accounting before God, believing good thoughts and sentimentality can both keep them out of hell and propel them into heaven. There is no peace, no assurance, no hope in any of that. The reality of being unprepared is that all piles up until it is too late, until not only the unimportant is left undone but also the essential. The truth is that anyone who books his or her journey into eternity through anyone but Christ is unprepared.

Now Matthew 25 Jesus makes it abundantly clear that there are those who smugly and glibly claim Christ but their attitudes and actions reveal who they really have booked with. They fool themselves into thinking they are going to one place but will end up in another.

I stood by the bedside of a dying man. He hadn’t expected for his final trip to come this soon. He’d gone church off and on. He could claim a religious episode, but he knew he was unprepared just hours before takeoff. He had wasted life on himself. Is there hope for someone like him? The answer is, YES! All of us will be found wanting at the first stop of the final journey, none of us has enough merit to stay out of hell, not a single one of us can pay for the ticket on the jet bound for heaven, Jesus Christ graciously and mercifully has paid for that. Book with him and live for him now, not later.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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The super blood moon has come and gone, and with it more self-declared prophets and so-called prophecy experts were exposed as frauds. Of course they are not the first and won’t be last who have claimed inside information and special revelation into the timing of the end of the world. I suppose the present culprits are busy adjusting their faulty predictions, fine-tuning their calculations, although it will be futile because only the Creator himself, Almighty God, the Father of all things knows the times and epochs, the beginning and the end.

Jesus said, But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” Mark 13:32 (NASB, also see Matt. 24:36),  “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority Acts 1:7 (NASB), and the revelation the Apostle Paul received was, “The day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night 1 Thessalonians 5:2 (NASB). These Scriptures should make it plain that anyone who claims to have special and specific insight into God’s timing when it comes to the end of the world, the return of Christ, and the final judgment is guaranteed to be wrong and is not worth listening to for a minute.

They do great harm, these so-called prophecy experts. They take advantage and exploit the simple-minded, they teach folks lousy hermeneutics (Bible interpretation), they cause the unbelieving to dismiss what the Scriptures really say about the last things (eschatology), the things God did say about the end, the warnings everyone should heed.

Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to put our hopes in and orient ourselves on a calendar date. But we are to put our hopes in and are to orient ourselves on the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and live in the present so it doesn’t matter when he returns, when the world ends, and when are we are summoned to God’s judgment.

The Bible, the word of God, is unequivocal that there will be end to all as we know it, that Jesus Christ will return, that no one escapes the judgment of God. When Jesus and the Apostles speak of these things they always caution us to preparedness, to live today in such a godly, Christlike, loving way that we are always ready for Christ to come, for tings to end, but be completely unafraid and at peace.

The way to be prepared for the ultimate end is to consider our personal end. We do not know our personal end either; it too will come like a thief, not according to our timing and it will rob us of everything if we are unprepared. We do well to listen to the apostle Peter, But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction” 2 Peter 3:8-17 (NIV).

Maranatha! Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Did you change your clocks to Daylight Saving Time? Or are you among those who keep their clocks and various timepieces unchanged, only to have to continually add an hour till November? I know, Arizona and Hawaii don’t change their clocks, but most of the US does. And regardless my point is that wherever you live you have to adjust your watch to that time if you want to function. Besides DST you also have to make time-zone adjustments if you want to keep your job, make it to appointments, go shopping, and keep people from getting mad at you.

Since the switch to DST currently is made on a weekend (2nd Sunday in March), at 0200 hours (2:00 AM) to be exact, and since I am a preacher I get to perennially see people who forgot to set their clocks forward show up late for church (and see people show up early in November). And there are some who think you have to do the actual changing at exactly 2:00 AM, but it is ok to do that before you go to bed. I have tried both and I like the second option much better.

Your and my opinion really doesn’t matter much in this, whatever the official time is you need to adjust to it. Your doctor won’t care that you have chosen to go by a different time, neither will the airlines, the courts, schools, restaurants, libraries, retailers, TV schedulers, your wife or husband, or boyfriend or girlfriend. And against all your objections I am fairly certain if you need life-saving surgery you will adjust your time to whenever your surgery is scheduled. If not, then you are just not very bright.

Funny how we can adjust our watches (cell phones adjust automatically) and lives around things that are not very important, a television show, sports event, hunting or fishing season, … and forget to adjust to eternity. We can be meticulous about our clocks and careless about our souls.

Funerals are the place and time when we are most aware that we should make adjustments regarding eternity, regarding the creator and giver of time – God, Jesus Christ. A funeral marks that someone’s time has run out, someone who can longer adjust their time and life to live for what God calls important. Someone who has entered eternity either well prepared or arrives embarrassed like those who will be late this Sunday.  The wisdom literature of God’s word instructs us, Better to spend your time at funerals than at parties. After all, everyone dies— so the living should take this to heart” Ecclesiastes 7:2 (NLT).

My hope and prayer is that you will adjust your life to eternity, to God, which in turn will impact your time and how you spend it. What counts in the end is that God thinks you spent it wisely, glorifying Him and His Son Jesus Christ.

Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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