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Archive for the ‘truth’ Category

Little Big Things – Words – How We Say What We Say

“And whatever you do or say, do it as a representative of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through him to God the Father.” Colossians 3:17 (NLT2)

As a lousy speller, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate “spell check” and “Grammarly,” without them these p-notes of mine would be unreadable, although I am sure many of still cringe at my use of the English language. However, spell-checking by itself is not enough, it won’t pick up using a rightly spelled wrong word, it won’t reign in my twisted grammar. My words need multiple checks, yours probably do too. It is like that with all of our words, all our communications, because it is not just what we say that is important but also how we say it. Love and kindness, and humility are not optional to the serious Christian life, to a Holy Spirit filled and directed life. You can say, “I love you,” and not really mean it. Were you ever told to apologize right now and say, “I’m sorry,” but you really didn’t mean it and although you said the words you weren’t sorry one bit?

Can you be too loving, too kind, too humble, too meek? Maybe, but judging by my own self and most people I have met we are not even close to the too loving, too kind, too humble line, so we might as well hide behind it.

We are capable, you know, to speak words and even say difficult things wrapped in love. We can decide to propagate our speech with kindness. We are able to check our pride, to edit our tendency to self-promote, to look at things from more than our own viewpoints, to use our words to benefit the listeners.

Just because we want to say it does not mean we should, especially if we are mad, disgusted, frustrated, bitter, disappointed, hurt, rushed, exhausted, betrayed, unappreciated, under-valued, treated wrongly, or are suffering an injustice. “Well it needed to be said and I’m glad I said it!” sounds good, but still is no excuse to leave love, kindness, and humility behind. We are so good at defending ourselves even when we are wrong, aren’t we?

Scripture tells us to:

  • “Speak the truth in love.”Ephesians 4:1
  • “What is desirable in a man is his kindness, And it is better to be a poor man than a liar. Proverbs 19:22 (NASB)
  • A woman of excellence,“She opens her mouth in wisdom, And the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” Proverbs 31:26 (NASB)
  • “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:12-17 (NIV)

 What happens when we divorce our words from the right attitudes, a godly tone, a Christlike heart? It becomes easy to speak (and type) harsh, self-righteous, divisive, manipulative, destructive, hateful, two-faced, deceptive, proud and arrogant words. Good words are robbed of their ability to bless, to heal, to encourage, to produce good. An “I love you,” becomes twisted. An “I am so sorry,” drives a deeper wedge. A good word or praise breeds distrust, “What does he really want.” Listeners are not better off for having heard them.

Right words are almost impossible without a right heart, but oh how refreshing it is to be on the listening end of right words from a good heart. The two of us, let’s keep praying and practicing the scripture below and both of us will be better off be. May the words of my mouth (all my words) and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NIV, parenthesis mine)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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We were hiking Half Dome (a 17-mile adventure) on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year. Although we brought what seemed to be way to much water, and remember water is heavy, we were going through our supply way to fast. I was hoping our water would last us to the top and back down to a little spring that flowed into a basin about the size of a small sink, big enough to submerge our bottles and refill. When we got there others were already filling up and we had to wait our turn when a group of four come drugging through stepping right into the precious reservoir turning it into a muddy mess. Yes, no one was amused, and yes, everyone was ticked off and even more so when the rude spring stompers showed absolutely no remorse.

It doesn’t take much to pollute clean water, but it sure takes time and effort to clean it up. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) is dealing with thousands of toxic waste sites in need of expensive cleanup. They got to be toxic waste sites because someone carelessly dumped enough toxic stuff to contaminate everything there.

Our words, our tongues, our communications have the potential to be like precious fresh water, refreshing the hearer, encouraging and blessing the recipients. But they also have the potential to be toxic, be destructive, contaminating hearts and minds, often for a very long time. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body” Proverbs 18:8 (ESV). “With it (our tongue, mouth, communications) we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?”James 3:9-11 (ESV, parenthesis mine).

So, how is it with your mouth, the words that come from your lips or your fingertips? Are they careless, mean, destructive, negative, hurtful, rude, vile, incendiary, gossipy, toxic, sarcastic, prideful, bitter, malicious, rash, thoughtless, manipulative, untruthful, misinformed, meddling, aggressive, attacking, impolite and lacking in what they could be and should be? And how often do you justify your toxic tongue by claiming justified anger, superior information, better understanding, the wrong of others, your own pain and woundedness? As loose as we might play with our words and lips, as much as we might justify ourselves, God is crystal clear when it comes to our mouths, the way we should use our words. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken” Matthew 12:36 (NIV).

“Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be “ James 3:10 (NIV).

 “Reckless (rash, cutting) words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing” Proverbs 12:18 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

“But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy (abusive, obscene) language from your lips. Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices” Colossians 3:8-9 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen”Ephesians 4:29 (NIV).

How do we do it? Clean up our words? Detoxify all communications, turn our speaking lips and typing fingertips and even our silences into a source of blessing?

  1. Stop the toxic flow. The stream of our words will stay muddy and polluted until we do. However, in order to turn it off we will have to travel upstream to our hearts and minds, all the way to where our words a generated and address our own pollution there. But while we make this journey we can stop the words before they come out. It is a wise thing to do. “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise” Proverbs 10:19 (NIV).
  2. Filter what you let out. Careless words are also unfiltered words. Of course there are toxic words that run through a filter of a different kind. Before you speak, before you type, before you communicate, ask yourself, “Does this pass the love test, the kindness test, the truth test, the benefitting the hearer test, the pleasing God test?” “Is what is about to come out clean, edifying, and able to bless?” “A word spoken at the right time is like gold apples on a silver tray” Proverbs 25:11 (HCSB).
  3. Drink pure water, listen to clean words. Words don’t just go out they also go in. Who do you give permission to plant their words into your hearing, into your mind and heart? Who gets to put their morsels (Proverbs 18:8) into your ears? It will have an effect on your filter (see above). It is difficult to clean up your words while allowing others to dump their toxic waste. “Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals (and our words)” 1 Corinthians 15:33 (NASB).

If this pastor’s note has hit a nerve with you pray the following with me and then start implementing the three steps above, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer” Psalm 19:14 (NASB)

             To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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Tomorrow

Today was yesterday’s tomorrow and tomorrow will only come after today is done. Sometimes we can’t wait for tomorrow to come and then there are times we hope tomorrow will take its sweet time, but tomorrow will come at the steady pace it has always come, paying no mind to how we feel about it.

I suppose the way we feel about tomorrow depends a lot on how today goes and yesterday went; one thing is for sure though, it won’t be exactly like today or yesterday. It might look an awful lot like yesterday, or it might be worse, and hopefully, it will be better.

Few things impact our tomorrows more than what we do today, what we do with today. For Mary and Martha, the past week or more had been terrible. Their brother, the one they depended on got sick and died. The doctors couldn’t help, their prayers didn’t help, and Jesus the healer didn’t show up until today (a case of, “Where was God when we needed him?”), four long days too late. So, today was another day of grief, actually, worse grief, because Jesus showed up and it brought up bitter questions about last week. “Why didn’t you come sooner?” “If only you would have showed up this wouldn’t have happened!” were the first words out of Martha and Mary’s mouths. It’s bad when yesterday leaves you with gnawing questions and doubts, when yesterday buries today’s hope. Death just wreaks havoc with tomorrow; it is an enemy we cannot defeat.

To us, death seems and feels like the end of all tomorrows, but it isn’t. It can destroy the body but not the soul, only God has the power over both (Matthew 10:28). Jesus didn’t blame Martha and Mary for feeling the way they did, but he also pointed out that they still did not understand who he is. It is possible to have good theology (and certainly bad theology) without understanding, “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”

Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

“Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world” John 11:21-27 (NIV).

You didn’t enter today and you are not reading this today without believing something, and whatever your beliefs are will impact not only your immediate tomorrow but also your eternal tomorrows. It is neither our beliefs in themselves nor the sincerity with which we might hold them that can defeat our reality of death and empower us to cling to life. It is not just a matter what we believe but more importantly who we believe in. Only Jesus Christ is “the resurrection and the life,” and only those who “believe in him will never die.”

The objections to the truth of Christ have been many: Too narrow, too simplistic, too unreal, too difficult to believe for a rational mind, too … They always will be just that, objections, unable to change the truth of Christ any more than the truth that tomorrow will come. The only way to be truly prepared for tomorrow is to believe in and follow Jesus Christ because we do not know what tomorrow holds, Look, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation” 2 Corinthians 6:2 (HCSB). The Easter question is whether you will believe in and follow Jesus Christ, crucified, buried, and resurrected today and not put him off until tomorrow or too late? How I hope you will.

Have a glorious Easter. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Springtime, wake up time for rodents, ants, spiders, wasps, mosquitoes, flies and bugs. I know, spring doesn’t officially begin until March 20th, 9:15 am to be exact. But the above-mentioned critters don’t give a hoot about official anything, nor do they respect boundaries, comfort, property rights, or someone else’s hard work. They do pretty much whatever they want, wherever they want, and whenever they want.  They come by stealth, mass invasion, through the air, underground, at high noon, twilight, and under the cover of night. Relentless I tell you, destructive, unapologetic, and even dangerous.

I want them gone, out of my yard, away from my home, gone. If you want them, if your heart has a soft-spot for them, you can have them, the whole lot. A spider on my bedroom ceiling is not going to get the chance to play cat burglar and lower its multi-eyed self down on my bed in the middle of the night; it is going to get “splat!” The ground squirrels, wood-rats, mice, gophers, moles, voles will not encounter kind mercy; they will be trapped, shot, and poisoned when possible. The wasp eying my steak in its shifty flight will be permanently uninvited. The ants trying to homestead around 10417 Blanchard Road will meet the full brunt of available extermination methods. Not a single mosquito, kissing bug, beg bug, or termite will be tolerated, be invited to take a little sip or take a small bite, nor be merely trapped and released. Flies will be met by swatters, fly-papers, scented traps, and available chemicals; they will never receive permission for fly or stopovers.

Striking, isn’t it, how the first paragraph above could easily describe wicked men and women, mankind in unrestrained sinfulness, and how the second paragraph could easily portray the harsh and merciless measures and attitudes mankind has used against each other.  Is it right to hate wickedness, to yearn for and work toward a world without it? Absolutely, but we have to be careful not to act wicked our own self. Keeping critters and pests out of my house is different from stomping on them when I go on a hike. I can put up screens and seal cracks before getting out the swatter or setting deadly traps.

Of course, there is also the matter of worth. There is no question that even the life of the ground squirrel living under our playhouse and undermining the old trees in my backyard is amazing, regardless of it shamelessly mocking me this morning. However, there is a difference between all men being created equal and in the image of God, and all life being created equal. The first is true the second is unsustainable. So who gets to assign worth? God does, and has, Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26 (NIV). I hope you notice that different worth does not mean God doesn’t care about all of his creation, in fact not a single sparrow falls from the sky apart from God or is forgotten by God (Matthew 20:29; Luke 12:6-7). Obviously, for God, there is no tension counting a person as more valuable than a bird. For us, however, there is great tension in managing God’s creation responsibly, daily living and survival, and our own sinfulness.

I imagine that God is vastly more disturbed about the wickedness of mankind, one person treating another, valuing another like a rodent, like a pest than you and I are about actual rodents and pests. God could have responded to our wickedness without mercy but instead, he both reaffirmed our value and his great love for every man and every woman in the cross of Christ. Because of his great mercy and love he “is not slow in keeping his promise (of final judgment and justice on all wickedness), as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV, parenthesis mine). We, the church, followers of Christ, worshippers of the one living God should do no less, at home, in our communities, our countries, our politics, our policies, and our attitudes.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking,
“Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.”
Matthew 2:1-2 (NLT)

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12 (NLT)

For sure I would’ve flunked the Ancient Eastern Astrological Society’s entrance exam, because my knowledge of the night sky does not extend past the Big Dipper and North Star. I would have completely missed Jesus’ cosmic birth announcement, and would have been a no-show. There would not have been any presents for Jesus if those wise men seeking to worship the King of the Jews would have had to rely on my astronomical skills.

I don’t think the shepherds living out with the sheep saw what the wise men saw either, even though they did spend a lot of time looking at the night sky. They too, just walking distance of Bethlehem, would have missed the birth of Christ.

I wonder how many Magi from the East didn’t make the journey? They saw the same star as the those traveled, maybe they were even consulted, maybe they thought their colleagues had strayed too far from astronomy to astrology? It’s one thing to observe and study the stars, it is quite another to read a divine message, a heavenly invitation out of the stars.

Do you, like me, wonder why God in his infinite wisdom thought it important to inform those shepherds and deliver a grand invitation to them? In fact, they were given the honor to be the first witnesses of the God incarnate, of God in the flesh.

What a contrast between those shepherds and the Magi from the East. Think about it: uneducated shepherds – learned wise men, men spending their nights outside with sheep – scholars sleeping on soft beds in fine houses, simple men who most likely never travelled more than fifty miles from home – men who had both the time and money to travel far, Jews – gentiles, subsistence sheep-herders – wealthy men with gifts fit for a king, men who wouldn’t be allowed to come close enough to smell the inside of a palace – emissaries who got an audience with king Herod on the spot. Yet both were invited to come and have a look, to see, in the flesh, the very Son of God. Neither would have anticipated receiving an invitation from God himself to come, see, know, and worship Jesus the Christ.

God is still inviting people, you, your family members, your friends, co-workers, neighbors, even your enemies, to come and see his Son, Jesus Christ, and follow him, believe in him, acknowledge him, worship him. It doesn’t matter if you have calloused or soft hands, smell like sheep or Hugo for Men™, if you are wealthy or dirt poor, educated or illiterate, rough or refined, important or obscure, religiously engaged or not. God, through the Holy Spirit and the Church (the body and bride of Christ) is still sending out Christmas invitation, The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say (respond), ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost” Revelation 22:17 (NASB, parenthesis mine). And sometimes and invitation to follow, believe in, and worship Jesus looks a lot like a pastor’s note.

Consider yourself officially invited.

Merry Christmas, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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I have double confession to make: 1. I am not good at giving gifts. I love to help, be generous, but gift-giving is not my spiritual gift. 2. I am not very good at receiving gifts either, a weakness for sure. I am way too German/Schwaebisch, which means I am terrible with “Kitsch,” useless, knick-knack, cheap stuff. When it comes to gifts the running joke and question in my family is whether I am going to take things back and exchange them. I am slowly improving, thanks to intensive tutoring by Susie (my wife, who is super good at the gift and receiving of gifts thing), but progress has been very slow.

Christmas is about giving and receiving, specifically God giving and us receiving. Above anything else, this Christmas would you think about, contemplate God giving us the ultimate gift (2 Corinthians 9:15) and your response to this gift of Jesus Christ.

However, before reflecting on God’s “indescribable gift,” Jesus Christ, think about everything else you have received from God. Let’s start from the very beginning. Your life, your first heartbeat, your first breath, all the way to this present moment is a gift from God. Your ability to laugh, cry, feel, do good, think, and chose, are all things God gave to you and me. The characteristics that make you you and me me, whether it is our tenacity, courage, boldness, tenderness, kindness, intelligence, handiness, …, are from God as well. The “lucky breaks,” the opportunities, the things you survived, can also be traced back to the giving heart of God. The fact is you and I have received from God all our lives, from the very beginning until now. It makes no difference whether you acknowledge this fact or sneer at it, it still stands as the truth; the only difference is that acknowledging it will make you grateful and not doing so will render you ungrateful, acknowledging it will cause you to have an increasing sense of responsibility towards God, disavowing it will cause you to be blind in your responsibility towards God. It is not a matter of whether you have received from God all your life but whether your life expresses your gratitude towards God.

Esau (Genesis 25-27, 25:34, 27:38) was born before his twin brother Jacob, which, in his ancient culture, meant he also got the significant firstborn rights and responsibilities. Unfortunately, he could have cared less about these gifts from God (admittedly, it is often hard to think of responsibilities as gifts), so in a careless moment he literally sold his birthright for a pot of stew, for mere pocket change. And he regretted it bitterly when it was too late. How grateful and careful are you for and with all God has given you up to this point in your life?

Esau is not in lonely company when it comes to being ungrateful for what God gave him, being careless with what God entrusted to him, shirking the responsibilities God handed to him. He is not the only sinner, the only one who has blown it, the only one who exchanged God’s gifts for something far less. No, you and are sitting right next to him in this historical boat (Romans 3:23). Which brings us back to Jesus, back to Christmas, back to God’s greatest gift, the gift that can save sinners, the gift that can help ungrateful screwups like you and me find forgiveness, restoration, and salvation. But like all gifts, it won’t benefit you unless you receive it, in this case him, Jesus Christ, God incarnate, God the Son, the Savior of the world.  “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of Go” John 1:12 (NIV).

To God be all glory. Let’s get ready for Christmas, Pastor Hans

 

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The LORD has made the heavens his throne; from there he rules over everything.” Psalm 103:19 (NLT)

How did we end up here, you and I, here in Don Pedro, La Grange, Coulterville, Greeley Hill, in California, in the United States? How did you get here wherever you read this? Born here, moved here, fled here, or immigrated? Had relatives living here, for work, for retirement, to raise a family away from city troubles, because the houses were affordable? Or maybe you are still wondering?

Regardless of the reasons, obviously we did end up here, in this place, this state, and this country. It might have been the result of our own choices or we might have had little or nothing to do with it, and still we are here together. We might not even like each other, although it would be much better if we did. We might have vastly different political views, values, interests, and beliefs, and nevertheless are globbed together here.

If we are not careful we can think that life is merely accidental, or that we are where we are and what we are solely because of our own choices. Thanksgiving is, among other things, a reminder that this not so. The Pilgrims along with many of the founding Fathers of our country believed, and rightly so, in providence, a word largely lost in our present culture, thinking, and discourse. Believing in providence acknowledges the reality of God, his existence, his guidance, his care, his power shaping and sustaining history, and that we play a part in both the receiving and the shaping ends of providence.

Divine providence is a great truth, it helps us to see life and each other differently, it pushes us towards humility, it forces us to live with greater responsibility, and causes us to be thankful and to give God praise. Remember the Thanksgiving story you learned in Kindergarten? It is a story of providence (and maybe explains why some want to purge it from being taught). A brutal, harsh winter, starvation, a kind Native American doing what is right, a bountiful harvest, a feast, and the giving of thanks to God.

Of course you and I can chose to go the opposite direction, to ignore both God and our neighbor, to laugh at the notion of providence, to shirk its responsibilities, to abhor the sacrifices it calls us to make, and instead live mostly for ourselves. It won’t make us better, but poorer. It won’t make us happier, but more cynical and afraid.

So, as you celebrate Thanksgiving this year, look around at the people sitting at your table, next door neighbors, those living in your community, and the people near and far who for some reason have been placed in your life. They are the people God has put you with, they are your responsibility, you have the ability to do what is good and right for them and us together, you can help them, bless them, you can engage with them in such a way that their lives are better because of you, and you can be an instrument in the hands of God to such an extent that it will cause us to thank and praise God together.

Now that you have read this far would you please pause for a moment and either silently or out loud say a prayer thanking God for all the good, all of the blessings you have received and enjoyed this past year, and then ask God to use you for the good and benefit of the people among whom he has placed you, to be an instrument of his providence, to be someone for whom others are grateful and give thanks to God.

To God be all glory. Have a blessed Thanksgiving, Pastor Hans

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