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 Her children respect and bless her; her husband joins in with words of praise:
“Many women have done wonderful things, but you’ve outclassed them all!”
Proverbs 31:28-29 (MSG)

 She, my Mama, must have read them in the bathroom; not the restroom, which was a separate little room, and anyway, she wasn’t into porcelain throne scholarship like some in our family were. The bathroom was the bathroom and laundry room. A bathtub (no shower) under the high up window where we got a weekly bath, next to the tub a sink with a mirrored cabinet you didn’t mess with, a washing machine to the right of the sink, two hanging cabinets filled with towels and washrags on the opposite wall, and two cloth hampers under those cabinets, one just for my dad’s clothes and the other for everyone else. You never wanted to open Dad’s hamper because the mixture of cigarette smoke and the stink of his socks was downright toxic. Anyway, my Mama spent a lot of time in that bathroom, not fixing herself up, but taking care of us.

I didn’t find out that she also read in the bathroom, most likely while doing laundry, until I got tall enough to reach the towel cabinets. I thought I had discovered a secret stash of forbidden literature hidden under the stack of towels on the top shelf inside. But they turned out to be boring magazines and pamphlets about parenting. I have no idea where she got them from, but they were worn from multiple readings.

I also know that Mama prayed in that bathroom, long after I had left home she told me so. I don’t think it was just ordinary prayer that happened in there, I think she languished in prayer while the washing machine went through its cycles. She knew we wouldn’t bother her while washing clothes because if you did you most likely got stuck having to help her hanging them up to dry. And we needed prayer, all five of us, and Dad as well. So, our dirty boys’ bodies got washed in there, our clothes got washed, and our souls and lives were taken before the one who could keep us and cleanse us from sin. And we could not have cared less about all three of these, except latter two when we started liking girls and clean bodies and clothes somehow became a lot more important.

I don’t know why I ended up with a great and godly Mama? I do know she was one of God’s greatest gifts in my life. But I also know she wasn’t just an accidental great and godly Mama. Great and godly rarely if ever just happen. Mama loved us in the little bathroom maybe more than anywhere else. Love, Learning, Languishing Prayer still spills out of the memory of my Mama in that bathroom, her commitment to these three shaped both her and us, her boys. How I thank God for her, and how I thank her.

Happy Mother’s Day, 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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“A man/woman must examine him/herself” 1 Corinthians 11:28.

Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith” 2 Corinthians 13:5 (NLT).

Do you know someone who is good at dishing it out but is terrible at receiving it? Who is great at making fun of others but without humor and super sensitive when s/he is made fun of? Are you quick to criticize others but overly sensitive when you are put under the lens? Well, this pastor’s note meant to turn the spotlight right on you; not by me, however, but by your very own self.

In both his letters to the Corinthian believers/church the Apostle Paul told them to take a close look, to examine, to test, to judge themselves and the genuineness of their faith.

  • The first time was in regard to the observance of the Lord’s Supper or Communion. They had made it something that it was not, more of church potluck than a remembrance of Jesus’ death. And some were acting snobbish on top of that, lavishly indulging themselves with a select few while others went hungry. Paul reminded them that the Lord’s Supper has nothing to do with filling your stomach, but that is everything to do with a serious and genuine relationship with Christ. You don’t prepare for Communion in the kitchen but rather by examining yourself, checking on how it is between you and Christ, between you and the other members of Christ’s body, between you and your neighbor. You have to look into your own heart, at your recent behavior and decisions, your commitments, your spiritual flavor (saltiness – Matthew 5:13), your spiritual temperature (Revelation 3:15-22). The goal of this kind of self-examination is to set right whatever isn’t because Christ who died for us, the love he has shown, the mercy and grace he poured out deserves nothing less.

Obviously a good number of the Corinthian Christians were not in the habit of examining themselves like that, having a party with those they                  liked was much more important them. God didn’t let them slide; to him the death of his Son Jesus Christ and Christ-honoring behavior are very            serious matters and he promptly and severely disciplined a number of them including with sickness and even death. Wow! That kind of                            seriousness might empty a church – literally.

  • The second time Paul told the Corinthian Christians to examine, to test themselves was in regard to the genuineness of their faith; notice, not the sincerity of their faith but the genuineness, because you can sincerely believe something and yet be dead wrong, and what and who you believe will direct your life.

The issue here was that there have always been those who want to use God for their own ends, change the heart of the Gospel, highjack the                       church, and use scripture as means to support their own preferences, desires, and agendas. In order for them to be successful they have to                       discredit genuine leaders and examples of the faith, in this case Paul, who founded the Corinthian church, and apostolic doctrine.

It seems these usurpers were having a measure of success and were leading people astray. Interestingly Paul not only defends his apostleship and          the genuineness of his own faith, but he also asks the Corinthians (whom loves and deeply cares about) to examine their own faith. In a sense he            asked them to do a faith quality control. The goal of this kind of self-examination is about maintaining a high standard, living and discerning out            of our core beliefs, and continuing in and excelling with what is right and good.

The kind of continuing self-examination the Apostle Paul encourages every believer in Christ to practice has real benefits:

  1. It keeps our relationship with Jesus on track and real.
  2. It helps us to relate to in harmony and unity with other believers and treat all people with Christlikeness.
  3. It enables us to grow spiritually and as a person by being brutally honest with ourselves and dealing with stuff we need to deal with.
  4. It helps us to maintain our core beliefs (the faith) in the middle of the pressures of life, spiritual attacks, evil, and constant changes.

Ready to turn that spotlight on yourself?

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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 Yes, each of us will give a personal account to God. Romans 14:12 (NLT)

“… 22, 23, 24, 25 – Ready or not here I come!”

“No fair! You counted too fast. You have to start over, and no cheating this time!”

It would be nice if the beginning of each new year would be more than an arbitrary line, if it would be a real do-over, a fresh start. But it usually comes, “ready or not.” Life seems to count at its own pace, and things we were not ready for last year have a way of continuing into the next.

There are so many twists, turns, temptations, events, circumstances, consequences, and reactions we are not ready for. It seems, it feels unfair. We should get more time to get ready, life shouldn’t be allowed to come at us “ready or not,” and why are we accountable for what we are not ready?

They were some of the greatest days of my life, and in my ignorance, I thought I was ready the day I got married, the moments my children were born. I really wasn’t, I had no idea how much was involved in being married for life, in raising incredible, fragile little people, and yet I was fully responsible, fully accountable, “ready or not.”

I wasn’t ready for the most terrible days either, all the dying, tragedy, craziness, unfairness, and …, I didn’t wish for and often prayed against. But they came, often in bunches, certainly regardless of whether I was ready.  Accountability didn’t take a break or give me a break there either, it holds me responsible for how I handle, how I respond to all.

Most of us would like to postpone old age and prolong other life stages, but they too come and go “ready or not,” and we are fully accountable how we handle and live through each one of them, no excuses, no mitigating circumstances.

It’s humbling, sometimes humiliating, often disturbing, the “ready or not” aspect of life, and it is daunting that I am, we are, fully responsible, completely accountable for it. This has caused me to pray more, to seek, worship, and thank God in everything. He is the only one whom life doesn’t catch unprepared, not ready. He knows how to navigate, how to help me, how to get it right even when I am not ready. I also read God’s word, the Bible, constantly in search of eternal wisdom and daily habits that will help me with what I am responsible for. I have also looked for models, for godly women and men who navigate life with Christlikeness. I have found it beneficial to be involved in selfless engagement of some kind, some way of serving God, of serving others, to be engaged with others’ “ready or not.”

To God be all glory, “Ready or not.” Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Who would you trust with to cut on you with a scalpel? Would you trust me with operating on you? If you did, it would be utter foolishness, since I have had zero medical training, I have never been taught how to yield a scalpel, nor have I ever practice the use of one. Chances are high that if you let me lose on you, you will be severely injured, you will end up scarred, maimed, and handicapped, with a very high probability of you dying.

If something needs to be sewed around the Frei household, it will be Susie doing the sowing. Why? Because she’s acquired sowing skills. Anything I’d sow you would either quietly smile at or outright burst into laughter. On the other hand, when it comes to working on our cars I have more skill and practice than she does. If she started wrenching she might make things worse.

Paul reminded the young preacher Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB). The word “accurately” can also translated correctly or skillfully, as in cutting something straight, building something plumb, plowing in straight lines. The Apostle Paul was keenly aware that mishandling the word of God, the scriptures, the Bible, can greatly injure people or make the truth laughable. He understood the scriptures to be sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), cognizant that, “the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV). He wanted Timothy to not forget that the Bible is designed to work deeply within the human heart, mind, and soul and therefore needs to be handle with skill, with care, and with precision, none of which are acquired by just inspiration but by diligence, study, and practice.

Traveling over the three continents the past three weeks I was deeply grieved over how much careless, lazy, manipulative, and crooked preaching and teaching I encountered. I was struck again how little discernment listeners in churches showed; how many mistake charisma, hype, slogans, emotional engagement and personal agreement, with truth, sound teaching and preaching, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. My heart weeps for those who are being used, abused, wounded, misled, and made dependent by careless, deceptive, and unskilled handling of God’s word by those, preachers and teachers, who have been tasked to bless, correct, equip, strengthen, and liberate people with God’s word. And as God would have it I found myself reading the pastoral epistles (1&2 Timothy, Titus) while traveling, being reminded of my own responsibility to accurately, diligently, carefully, skillfully, and faithfully preach and teach the written word of God.

How good are you in discerning good biblical preaching and teaching from lousy, shallow, manipulative, and outright deceptive preaching and teaching? How do you learn to discern the difference? You have to read things for yourself, you need to learn basic principles of solid biblical interpretation (biblical hermeneutics) yourself. I encourage you to be more careful as to whom you give permission to yield the scalpel of the word of God than you are picking the surgeon operating on your body, because the consequences are greater.

To finish this pastor’s note let me tell you about Ray, Hans, and Tom and operating a chainsaw. I loved Ray, but I didn’t come anywhere near him when was operating a chainsaw, he was downright dangerous to himself and anyone around with a chainsaw in his hand. I was aware of the dangers because I have learned to operate a chainsaw correctly, in fact I have gained some decent chainsaw skills. However, my chainsaw skills are nowhere near Tom’s. So, there have been times I called on him to help me because I knew I needed his skills or else endanger myself and others. Right now, you might be a Ray when it comes to accurately handling the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, and you might never become as skilled as Tom, but you can acquire enough skill to be like Hans enabling you to discern dangerous preaching and teaching from trustworthy and outstanding preaching and teaching; what to stay away from and what to embrace; whom to dismiss and whom to trust.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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How rich would you want your children to be? I imagine you’d prefer them not to be poor. Susie, my wife, and I have worked really hard so our children would not have to ever be as poor as we once were, maybe you have done the same. Maybe you bought a lottery ticket or two for the slim chance of winning big so you can put the financial tightrope behind you and have your kids and grandkids be all set.

Of course, Susie and I didn’t just work hard on the money thing in regard to our kids, we wanted them to have opportunities as well. But with little money, opportunities are also harder to come by. I can’t tell you how many tamales got manufactured in our kitchen in order to raise money for an exchange student year and other opportunities we wanted our children to have.

But there is still more to life than money and opportunities, you can have lots of both and be poor in character. In fact, if we would have had to choose between money, opportunities, and character Susie and I would have asked for our children to grow up and be rich in character, for them to be honest, hard-working, kind, generous, dependable, thoughtful, wise, gritty, frugal, confident, ever- learning, courageous, caring, optimistic, daring, creative, fun-loving, and selfless people.

We also did not want them to have poor minds; a mind is terrible thing to waste. So, we read to them, filled our house with books, took them to the library mobile, limited the TV and other electronic mindlessness, challenged them to think, to figure things out, to love discovering and learning, and develop discipline and tenaciousness of mind. No, we did not want them to have poor minds, because poor minds think small and are easily deceived. I have to admit that there were times when we almost regretted working hard to enrich their minds, usually when they outsmarted us, blew holes into our parental arguments, or exposed our own mental poverty or duplicity.

There are so many ways to be poor and our constant prayer was we would succeed in raising our kids to be anything but poor. We don’t want them to have poor manner, poor social skills, poor foresight, poor judgment, a poor sense of justice, poor morals, poor vocabularies, poor habits, poor skills, poor money and time management, poor civic involvement, and so much more. Man, parenting to make your kids rich is tough, because you don’t just have to pay attention to so many things but you also have to model all that stuff.

Suppose you and Susie and I succeed in doing a really good job at all of the above helping them to grow up in a “rich” environment, a “rich” home filled with real love, fun, opportunities, values, security, and all the things that help them become rich in every way. We can succeed in all of the above and our children could still be utterly poor of soul if God is nowhere to be found in all of that riches. Jesus, in describing a hardworking man who is living the American dream, but with God nowhere in the picture, calls him both a fool and poor when it came to God (Luke 12:1-40).

There is not much good in poverty of any kind, but none is more far-reaching than poor towards God, leaving God and Christ out of life’s most important decisions, having a mind that is not curious and seeking after God, having a heart that does not love God, having values and morals that offend God, living and dying without trusting in, following, and obeying the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Fellow parents, how I pray that you give yourself to God through his Son Jesus Christ, that you build your family around your relationship with God and the word of God (the Bible), that you dedicate yourself to make your children really rich in what matters most, both now and for eternity.

If you are wondering where to start, get back on track, and stay on course for the long-haul I encourage you to do the following three things beginning today.

  • Every week for the next six months go to a church where the Bible is taught and lived.
  • Read the Bible in your home, start in Mark. Be prepared for your children to ask questions you can’t answer (that will have you come back to church for answers).
  • Pray in the name of Jesus with your spouse and your family.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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“But blessed are those who trust in the LORD and have made the LORD their hope and confidence. They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water. Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought. Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit” Jeremiah 17:7-8 (NLT).

When I turned off the engine in the parking lot of Mission San Miguel Arcangel, off Highway 101, the thermometer in my truck read 109 degrees (42.8 Celsius). The heat sucked out the air-conditioned coolness of the cab as soon as we opened the doors. It was only a few steps to the entrance of the mission but the sun still managed to give us a good hard slap before we made it into the shade of the long covered porch. Inside we were greeted not only by very nice lady but by an incredible coolness. 200 years ago, long before the power grid and air-conditioning, or triple pane gas-filled windows they obviously know something about how to build dwellings that stayed cool in the heat.

Even for a construction layman like me a few things were obvious: The several feet thick walls keep cool in and heat out. The porches surrounding the outside and the inside courtyard prevent the sun from directly hitting the walls. The windows are small and few. (I wonder how many people got yelled at for leaving a door open). And of course you can’t build something like that overnight, this is more costly and labor and time intensive than nailing a few sticks of lumber together and covering them with siding and sheetrock.

We also wondered about the criteria for picking the spots of these Missions. One of them was distance between one Mission and the next, but the most crucial criteria was a source of water that could sustain people, livestock, and crops, even scorching and prolonged heat.

Living in Central California we know that the heat will come, the rainfalls will cease for months, rivers will shrivel into trickles or dry out all together, North-winds will blow and bring unbearable heat waves. Life is like that, filled with dry-spells, the unbearable, and that for which we must prepare (if we are wise). God continually tries to direct and equip us so we can not only survive, but thrive, prosper, and stay cool in the heat of life. Central California is an illustration of that too. What looks so dry, scorched, and barren is also home to one of the greatest agricultural marvels when you combine it water, foresight, knowledge, work, and the discipline good farming requires.

In a very real sense every believer in Jesus is called to be a Mission, an outpost, an oasis, but we do not become one unless:

  • We draw a clear line between the godly and the wicked (Psalm 1:1, Jeremiah 17:5-6).
  • Trust and hope in God completely and exclusively (Jeremiah 17:7)
  • Love, know, and implement the word of God (the Bible), the wisdom of God, and the ways and principles of God (Psalm 1:2).
  • Acquire the skills, habits, and strength required to build what lasts and bears fruit (2 Peter 1:1-8)

One last Mission observation, they were large complexes, built for more than just one person but for entire community. They provided shelter, cool, and life for more than “me.”

Stay cool. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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