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Archive for the ‘witness’ Category

Go ahead, click on the picture icon on your built in computer, called your mind. Then click on the folder “Favorite People.” I am willing to bet that the faces in this file bring a smile to your face, that they cause your heart to feel good, that you are grateful these people are part of life, are stuck in your memory.

You probably have different reasons for filing these people in this file. Maybe you put them there because they made you laugh a lot, or maybe because they helped you, or because they influenced you in a positive way. Maybe they stuck with you when you were struggling, messed up, or were an outright jerk. Maybe it was their generosity, their kindness, or their goodness. Maybe it was their quirkiness, their spunk, their imagination, their courage, or their humility that made you decide to stick them in your “Favorite People” folder. Maybe you didn’t even make a conscious choice to stick them there and they just somehow invaded, somehow just showed up in this most precious file. But no matter how or why they got there you are grateful that they are there.

Every time we think of you, we thank God for you. Day and night you’re in our prayers,” is what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (1:2 MSG). That lets you know where Paul filed these folks in his heart and mind, doesn’t it, because there are two groups of people we think about and pray about more than anyone else: 1. Those dearest to us, and 2. Those we dread and struggle with the most. Clearly the Apostle counted the Thessalonians in the first group and lucky for us he tells us how they ended up in his “Favorite” folder. He highlighted:

  • Their “work of faith” (1:3), their faith in action, that they didn’t just sit around talking spiritual but acted like Jesus would act. People like that are real.
  • Their “labor of love” (1:3), which implies both the right actions and the right motivation. People like that are like a breath of fresh air.
  • Their “endurance inspired by hope” (1:3 NIV), which lets us know that they weren’t quitters, they knew how to grind it out and stay positive and hopeful at the same time. People like that are inspiring.
  • Their willingness to change and grow (1:6 & 9), they didn’t adapt God to their wants, customs, values, and comfort level but let God shape them through the Holy Spirit, the message of God’s word, and the example of Paul. People like that are rare.
  • Their willingness to take on responsibility to be both godly/Christlike examples and to be messengers of the Gospel of Christ (1:7-8). They laid things on the line in word and deed. People like that are encouraging.

It’s no wonder why they ended up being among Paul’s “Favorites.”

What remains for you and me is to figure out why the Holy Spirit/God had Paul record this, why this was preserved for us to read? May you and I become “Favorites,” reasons for joyful remembrance, the content of thankful prayers, and inspirations to follow Jesus for all the right reasons.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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You know you can grow it, and the more you do the more you have to share, to give away.

If you have tried your hand at growing a vegetable garden you are probably familiar with both a radish and zucchini surplus. Somehow those two just love to grow faster than you can eat them. The problem is that people who love to do the vegetable garden thing usually hang out with other such people and collectively they have planted too much and thus sharing becomes a moot point. Next thing you know you see zucchinis the size of a weightlifter’s arm appear in large boxes in the foyer of the church with a desperate handwritten sign, “Free, take all you want,” but no return address.

We are meant to grow them: faith, hope, and love. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love” 1 Corinthians 13:13 (ESV). For four reasons: 1. They are absolutely essential to being like Christ; 2. It is impossible to please God without them; 3. They make us strong; 4. They enable us, force us to set out our boxes of surplus, because they are a lot more valuable and needed than zucchini and radishes, and should never go to waste.

We are also meant to grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ, in the midst of a godless, struggling, dark and often hostile world, But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” 2 Peter 3:18 (ESV). I am pretty sure we are meant to export that too.

Can you imagine your life, your (our) church, your (our) community, your (our) country with an overabundance of faith, hope, love, grace, and life in Christ? Daily packing a box full, considering ourselves to be the sign that reads, “Free, take all you need,” and then taking our overflowing box to where it is most needed, to where or to whom you might not want to go but the Holy Spirit compels you to go.

Faith, Hope, Love, Grace, Christ seek engagement, want to flow like water, want to light up the dark, bind up the brokenhearted, comfort the weeping, feed the poor, heal the sick, liberate the captives, awaken justice, ennoble politics, replace hatred, battle evil, and save the lost.

So grow, grow, grow and go, go, go – in Jesus’ name.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” John 3:16-17 (NASB)

God loved, God gave, God send his Son to save – that is the reality of Christmas, it is the essence of the Good News, the Gospel. Out of all the messages you and I get throughout our lifetimes that’s the most important one.

Maybe you are the kind of texter whose thumbs move as fast as the wings of a hummingbird, but I am dismally slow, keep hitting the wrong keys, and frequently manage to send my texts before I am ready. Ready or not, once the send button is pushed there is no stopping it, it is unleashed. Christmas is about God pressing the “send” key.

Love made God do it, his love recognized the need, his love compelled him to give, his love pushed the “send” key. Real love is not blind, God’s love is not blind, it recognized that we are indeed perishing. Our mortality, our finiteness, our imperfection, and our sinfulness all testify to the reality that we are perishing. We are completely powerless, utterly impotent to change any of them. God could have sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to judge the world, you and me, but he send him to save us. The judgment we deserve the saving we need, his love made that decision.

Maybe you are among those who think that you do not need Christ, that you have no need to be saved. Maybe you have decided that all of this is just a bunch of hogwash, religious baloney, or outright #^@#*! If so, that puts you at odds with no one else but God himself; it has you defining spiritual reality in complete opposition to God. It is vastly more probable that you are wrong and God is right. What is amazing that, in spite of our arrogance, denials, and outright rejection of truth and God himself, he still pressed the “sent” key; he still addressed our need, our helplessness, our perishing, by giving his Son.

How many Decembers have you lived through? 10, 20, 30, 50, 90, or more? Did December ever have just 28 days, or 30? In my 54 Decembers it has always been 31 days? And nothing has changed about both our need to be saved and God’s love willing and able to save us through Christ. He pressed the “send” key, not accidently, but deliberately, and out his unfathomless love. All that remains is for you and me to receive the message and believe in his Son. That’s the wonder of Christmas. “But as many as received Him (Jesus Christ), to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name” John 1:12 (NASB, parenthesis mine).

Merry Christmas, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Dogs and Watchmen/women

Our dogs are napping more. Doing so means they are neglecting one of their two responsibilities they have. They are still doing a fine job greeting people, everyone is greeted with one dog squeaking like a toy and the other giving a hearty lick. But it’s the second task they’re slacking on. I can tell, the deer are chomping on stuff and in places they never have before, while our two well fed canines are snoozing their lives away. If it is true that one human year equals seven dog years then a two hour nap by my watch is a fourteen hour dog nap. Wow, I had no idea how bad that slacking thing has actually become until I just did the above math. These dogs are not just slacking a bit they are taking total advantage of the situation. The way this is going pretty soon they will install a bell so they can ring for us to feed them in bed.

Don’t you wish you only had two responsibilities, you only had to watch over two things? Sometimes it seems like too much, all the things to watch over, to take care of, to be responsible for. I wonder if Ezekiel felt like that? When his wife got sick and died God told him to refrain from any outward, public acts of mourning (chapter 24). I bet he had to watch himself on that. Then God told him to be careful because God had appointed him, assigned him as a spiritual watchman for his countrymen, and that God would hold him responsible if he failed to warn people regarding their accountability to God, that they needed to change their ways while there was time or else suffer the judgment of God.

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, speak to the sons of your people and say to them, ‘If I bring a sword upon a land, and the people of the land take one man from among them and make him their watchman,
and he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows on the trumpet and warns the people, then he who hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, and a sword comes and takes him away, his blood will be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet but did not take warning; his blood will be on himself. But had he taken warning, he would have delivered his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet and the people are not warned, and a sword comes and takes a person from them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I will require from the watchman’s hand.’
Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life”
Ezekiel 33:1-9 (NASB).

Now Ezekiel’s contemporaries could have cared less, his warnings went in one ear and out the other (read the end of the chapter). His warnings fell on deaf ears. At what point do you begin to be tempted to slack off when no one’s paying attention? But regardless of the responses of those around him they needed to be warned, as do the people around us, our family members, our neighbors, friends, class mates, coworkers, employees, and acquaintances. Those we love, those we don’t care for, and even our enemies need to know that now is the time to repent, not later, the judgment of God is on its way. This is what Jesus told people everywhere, “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15 (NIV), and it is what he told his followers to do, “So the disciples went out, telling everyone they met to repent of their sins and turn to God” Mark 6:12 (NLT).

Followers of Jesus Christ are watchmen and women, may those who he has assigned us to find us faithfully “blowing the trumpet.”

To God be all glory, love you Pastor Hans

 

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 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16 (NIV)

“ As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” John 20:21 (NIV)

It is astounding, all the different pursuits and hobbies there are. Each one is its own world consisting of subcategories, lingo, knowhow, magazines, and industries supplying everything you could possible need. Take fishing, the world of bass angling is different from ocean fishing, which is different from trout fishing, which is different from commercial fishing. Or cars, you can be into muscle cars, or old timers, or new cars, or trucks, or racing street or oval, NASCAR, Indy, or Formula 1, or a specific Brand, or who knows what. Horses are no different, as are motorcycles, RVs, surfing, hiking, diving, running, cooking, barbequing, wood working, pottery making, painting, video games, antiques, photography, civil war reenactment, Celtic enthusiasts, sports and collecting of every kind.

 

I once took a wrong turn at a conference center and after passing through the lecture hall where the nano engineers had gathered I wound up in the middle of the quilting convention. Now I have spent a few hours of my life waiting in various fabric stores, have  even been sent there once or twice for an errand or two, but none of that prepared me for the this excursion into the world of quilting. I had no idea, the quilts were amazing works of art, craftsmanship, and creativity, but there were also dozens of vendors selling quilting supplies, lecture schedules, and workshops. I listened in on one group as they were discussing stitching techniques, they might as well have spoken ancient Babylonian. It was a beehive of activity; they loved being there, paid money to be there. It was another world with not another man in sight.

 

So what turns your crank, what makes your heart beat faster, what gets you talking, rearrange your calendar, and open your wallet. Maybe it is gardening, traveling, golfing, hunting, or cooking? Maybe it is bird watching, star gazing, theater, music, movies, or car audio? Maybe it is football games, sewing, guns, crafts, dogs, cats, or history? Whatever it is I would love for you to drop me a email and tell me what it is for you and why (dergermanshepherd@gmail.com).

 

What is God’s passion, pursuit (I am not sure about hobbies)? What makes his heart beat faster? The answer is people, you and me, your neighbor, the person working next to you, your boss, your teacher, your classmate, your family members, your doctor, your mechanic, your friends, and even your enemy. God’s heart beats for the poor, the oppressed, the neglected, the suffering, the hungry, and the forgotten. God’s heart beats for the lost, for sinners on their way to hell.

 

“How can we know that?” you ask. Because he held nothing back. God put his treasure where his heart is and offered up his Son, Jesus Christ, because of his love for people, for you and me.

 

One of the challenges of the Christian life is acquiring the heart of God, to be passionate about what He is passionate about, to pursue what He pursues, to use our time, treasure, everything as God would.

 

Let me ask a few questions and throw out a challenge, “Are we using what we are passionate about, even our hobbies, the way God would? Are our pursuits, loves, and hobbies mere self-gratification or are we redeeming them to accomplish what is on God’s heart? Are our hobbies and pursuits a reflection of Christian boredom or do we have a vision for using them to reflect the heart of God?

 

I challenge you to use what you love, to take your hobbies, to engage your passions in the work of God’s kingdom, to love, reach, and grow people in Christ.

 

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

P.S. Two additional thoughts: There are sinful pursuits, passions, and hobbies. I am not suggesting they are somehow redeemable, they must be let go. Secondly, if our core passion is different from God’s passion much of our lives, no matter how much fun or gratifying, will in the end be an empty pursuit and wasted opportunity.

 

 

 

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For the Son of Man (Jesus Christ) has come to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10 (HCSB, parenthesis mine)

Hansel and Gretel would not have gotten lost in the woods if they would have had one (By the way that’s really a sad and gruesome story. No wonder those of us who grew up on that kind of literary fare are somewhat twisted).

We, Mabel Tubbs, Joanna Allen, Mary Fleming, and I, could have used one as well. We were lost in San Jose, going to a funeral no less. And since this episode took place before cell phones were common, and since I had obviously read our map incorrectly, and being the secure male that I am, I finally caved to the collective pressure and asked for redirections at a gas station. I told the ladies, “The good thing is that they won’t start without the preacher.”

Recently Susie and I were lost. We were trying to go to Saint Francis Hospital in San Francisco, but one wrong turn had rendered our Google Maps directions worthless. We tried to get back within the loop of the instructions, but to no avail. Finally, and desperately, we pulled over by an intersection and called our daughter Emily to help us. When we told her where we were she blurted, “What the heck, you’re almost in South San Francisco!” (I was tempted to tell her that it was her parents who had blessed her with that fancy GPS (Global Positioning System) device. But among other things, getting lost has a way of making you very humble). That wonderful child of ours, with the aid of her GPS, did get us to the Hospital in no time flat. And this past Christmas my children blessed me with my very own TomTom GPS – hello no more getting lost.

In the 15th chapter of his Gospel (would you get a Bible and read it) Luke records three parables Jesus told in response to those who criticized him for spending time with sinners (spiritually lost people) and tax-collectors (I guess they have never been popular). Jesus tells of a lost sheep, which in likelihood, just wondered off. He tells of a lost coin that got misplaced by the woman who owned it. And He tells of two sons, one who got lost in his rebellion and foolish choices, the other who got lost in the wrong values and his self-righteousness.

It could be that Jesus is describing you. When you are lost it doesn’t matter much how you got lost. What counts is that you are found. The reality is that if you are a sinner (and we all are, Romans 3:23) you are lost. You can be stubborn and tell yourself that you’re not, but that won’t change the facts. The only one that can save a lost sinner is Jesus Christ. Why? Because He came from God and knows the way back. He is the guide, the rescuer, and the restorer – Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to (God) the Father except through Me” John 14:6.  

One more thing, there is joy and celebration when what has been lost is found, when a sinner comes to God through Christ (Just for the heck of it, read Luke 19:1-10).

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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Choose – Choosing God = choosing to learn how to love like Christ

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:15 (NASB)

You really don’t know what you’re getting into when you get married, and the same can be said for having kids. You can tell yourself that you do, but you’re only kidding yourself, there are way too many variables and unknowns. What is for sure is that you have to learn how to love to be any good at either one. After having taken a go at both marriage and parenting I do know this much:  They are two of the best choices I have made, and I am still learning about love.

You really don’t know what you’re getting into when make a decision to live with God, when you respond to Jesus’ invitation to follow Him. If a wife and children can blow your mind, think of what living with God will can do to you. There is no one who will challenge you more, stretch you more, and shape you more than God, than Christ. What is for sure is that you will have to learn how to love. You cannot really live with God without it.

Jesus made no bones about it; all followers of His must learn how to love. Choosing Him meant choosing a life of love: “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other. And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.” Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God” Mark 12:29-34 (NLT).

“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you must also love one another. By this all people will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:34-35 (HCSB).

“If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing. If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 (MSG).

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love…. We love, because He first loved us” 1 John 4:7-8, 19 (NASB).

“… I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.
If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect”
Matthew 5:44-48 (NLT).

When Joshua challenged the people in his day to choose God they responded with a, “Yup, we’re in. We choose God.” Joshua told them, “You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy and jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins” Joshua 24:19 (NLT). Why did he tell them that? Because they needed to learn how to love and what to love, because he knew that we struggle with love and that God gives us a pass when it comes to love, because he knew that at the root of all human failure and sin you find a lack of love.

I am challenged by God’s call for me to love, and I pray you are as well. If we are serious about following Christ we will make learning to love like Him our greatest pursuit.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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