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Sanctity of All Human Life

God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” Genesis 1:27 (NLT2).

“The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground. He breathed the breath of life into the man’s nostrils, and the man became a living person”
Genesis 2:7 (NLT2).

Sadly, we have to remind ourselves that human life is sacred and that a single soul is worth more than the sum total of the world’s treasure (Mark 8:36). Human history testifies to the exact opposite: Life is cheap, only some are valuable, and too many are deemed expendable.

It is a great evil to consider another human being as a second-class human, or a sub-human, or a non-human, to think that someone else is worth less than you. It is a very small step from worth less to worthless.

Our world is better when we acknowledge the sanctity of human life, when we recognize that others have the same value as me. We are better when women are not treated as second-class. We got better when we no longer called Native Americans, Blacks, Chinese, and others subhuman. We will be better when we no longer deprive the preborn of their humanity. We are always better when we acknowledge the humanity and worth of others, when we turn from evil.

The sanctity, the sacredness of our lives begins with God, the source and creator of all life. Every person, from the moment of conception, gets their life and breath from God. Each one of us is a living creation of God and bears the image of God. This is not true of the fish swimming in Lake Don Pedro, or the bald eagle who landed on the power pole by my house, or of Walter our dog whom everybody loves. But it is true of you and me, of those who don’t like or even hate me, the old woman in the wheelchair staring into space as I walked past her at the convalescent home, the strange souls in front of me in the checkout line at Walmart, the illegal alien who thanked me for a cup of coffee but I couldn’t converse with because I don’t speak Spanish, the pregnant woman and the baby inside of her shopping at Dollar General, our governor whose politics I am not a fan of, the young man behind the counter who moved here from India a year ago handing me my gas receipt, the homeless guy at the entrance of Costco who lives a life I know nothing about. All of them are God’s image bearers, all of them recipients of life from God’s good hands, just like you and me.

If we are serious about the sanctity of human life we have to call evil evil, pray to be delivered from evil Matthew 6:13), and make sure we don’t participate in and contribute to evil. Dehumanizing, devaluing, considering someone dispensable is evil. Two more mass shootings in the last two days – evil. Even considering leaving a baby that survived an abortion to die on a hospital table – evil. Denying someone the justice and care I want for myself – evil. Mistreating, abusing, taking advantage of, defrauding, cheating, maligning, or murdering another human being –  evil. However, the problem with calling evil evil is who gets to define evil. The powerful? The majority? Both of them have terrible track records. The wisest thing is to defer the definition of good and evil, of right and wrong, to God, who alone is untouched by evil and eternally wise (Proverbs 15:3, 24:11-12, Ecclesiastes 12:14, Isaiah 5:20, John 5:28-29, 1 peter 3:8-12, Romans 16:27)

Finally, in the debate on the sanctity of human life, the acknowledgment of God and calling evil evil is not enough. We, individually and collectively, have to actually treat each other right, with the dignity, respect, goodness, and compassion that sacred life deserves and demands, and we have to come to the aid of those who are mistreated. If loving God and hating evil were enough there would not have been a need for God and Christ to command us to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31), to love each other like Christ loves us (John 13:34-35), and to even love our enemy (Luke 6:35). We can’t get abortion right if don’t love both (not one or the other) the mother and the baby growing in her first. We won’t get immigration right if we don’t love “those” illegal aliens first. We won’t get justice right if we can’t love the poor (Proverbs 29:7), the wronged, and the weak. We won’t get much of anything right if don’t love each other like Jesus. But when we do, evil is defeated, and the world is a better place.

Why put Jesus in the middle of the sanctity of human life? Because that is where God rightfully belongs and no one knows more about life and making right and righteous choices than Jesus, “I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance” John 10:10b (HCSB).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

What we do in the present both affects and determines our future. What we do with what we have, especially if have more than enough, says a lot about us, our faith, and what we think life is all about.

Billionaire J.P. Getty was infamous for being a tightwad, he even installed a pay phone in his house for guests to use. He also was world famous for his vast collection of art and his failures when it came to marriage and family. “Getty was quoted as saying ‘A lasting relationship with a woman is only possible if you are a business failure,’ and, ‘I hate to be a failure. I hate and regret the failure of my marriages. I would gladly give all my millions for just one lasting marital success.’” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._Paul_Getty). He obviously had a grasp on the economy of money, but he had no understanding of the economy of God and true and eternal riches.

In God’s economy, love is the highest value, so the two supreme commands are to totally love God and to love our neighbor, “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” Mark 12:29-31 (NLT2). Jesus raises the standard of the second commandment “as yourself,” when He tells His disciples to “love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34). This, of course, has real-world implications regarding everything we have and how we use it.

  1. If I want to keep the commandment of totally loving God then I have to manage everything in a way that pleases Him, it has to accomplish His will. John 14:15 and 1 Timothy 6:17-19 are very clear statements in this regard, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”  “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed” (NASB).
  • If I want to keep the commandments of loving my neighbor, people, like Jesus, then I have to embrace a completely different lifestyle, where generosity and sharing are not just occasional but the norm. I will need a mentality that thinks of giving as better than keeping, that believes making others’ lives better is a greater aesthetic than the world’s finest art. “You know the generous grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty he could make you rich” 2 Corinthians 8:9 (NLT2).

Having settled the above I need to learn and grow in:

  • Godliness and Christlikeness (1 Timothy 6:3-16). They are acquired through obedience exhibited in concrete actions, dos and don’ts. Godliness and Christlikeness refuse to manipulate God and instead live in continual surrender to God, the leading of the Holy Spirit, and the truth of the Word of God (the Bible).
  • Contentment. “Yet 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”
    1 Timothy 6:6-8 (NLT2). Discontentment has a tremendous appetite, it is never satisfied, it continually hungers for more, better, and newer. It has little regard for sharing, others, and the future, not to speak of eternity. The good news is that I can learn contentment (Philippians 4:11).
  • Faith. I have to trust God that living the Jesus lifestyle is the best way to live. I need to be convinced of and believe that living by His commands is both better and blessed. That giving and sharing, that doing with less in order to bless, that converting earthly treasure into heavenly riches is the right and superior way to live. I need to live in the confidence that God will supply all my needs and will enable me to do what He commanded, what He deems right, good, and best. 

So, share away. Be generous to the extent you’ll be in danger of being accused of being like Jesus.

            Love you, Pastor Hans

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NASB)

33, that’s the number of chocolate chip cookies I baked early this morning. Before backing this latest batch the number of chocolate chip cookies in our house was 0. Zero cookies meant there was none for me and none for me to share. Now, I no longer have a zero-cookie problem, but I do have to decide what to do with the thirty-three. Actually, the number is down to thirty-two because I already ate a taster, a quality control sacrifice.

No one needs 33 cookies for themselves, although, they do keep rather nicely in the freezer. So, what to do? I could call you, make another pot of coffee and we could shoot the breeze while we dunk a cookie or two in our coffee. This would leave me with 28, which is still too many for just one person, especially one who is trying to get back in shape and lose a few pounds.

“Hmm?”

Well, since you didn’t come over, I bagged up 18 in three Ziplock bags to share with three people I have on my mind. You’re right, that still leaves 10, which in my mind, is a legitimate number for an emergency chocolate chip cookie fund, and, I don’t want to be unprepared in case you do stop by.

“What’s my point? You sound hangry. Are you down to zero cookies too?”

The point. You can only share what you have. You can’t share what you don’t have but what you do have you can share, if you want to. God’s opinion/will on the subject is clear, share, generously share what you have. Especially if you are rich because when you are rich you have more than enough, more cookies than you need. And, share now, because cookies get stale, “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”1 Timothy 6:7-8 (NLT2).

“Is God really going to check on what we did with our cookies?” Check out Matthew 25:14-46 for the answer.

“How many cookies did I bake this morning?” and, “How many do I have left?” I see you have kept track of my chocolate chip cookie inventory. But what about your sharing inventory? The truth is you didn’t wake up empty-handed this morning, with nothing to share. Broke, maybe. Out of cookies, possibly. But not empty-handed. This is especially true for every Christian because God “has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” Ephesians 1:3 (ESV).

So, do a sharing inventory. Make a list of everything God has given you, everything you have right now that you can share. Start with yourself – your presence, hands, time, … Include your stuff – your things, money, property, … Don’t forget about your abilities – your skills, talents, education, know-how, giftedness, … Make sure you don’t miss your capabilities – to love, care, encourage, being kind and merciful, bless, … Don’t leave out faith treasures – the Gospel, the Bible, Prayer, life-with-Jesus stories, …

Now that you peeked into your cookie jar, share, generously share, and keep on sharing, there will be more in it tomorrow.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

“Did it just get darker in here?”

“It did.”

“Dad, I think a bunch of your Christmas Tree lights went out.”

“NOooo! Don’t tell me that.”

“It just did it again.”

And that’s what you call the Christmas Tree gut punch. Two days before I had spent an hour and a half fixing those *#&#^@*! lights. Do you know how hard it is to fix the lights on a fully decorated Christmas Tree, especially down at the bottom? And since this is an older model the sockets on each of the lights are different from newer strands, which means you can’t just raid a strand of lights. No, you have to take the tree’s burned-out bulbs out of each socket, take the donor strand’s lights out of their sockets, and then put each one of them back into a socket that fits the tree. Never mind the fused bulbs which are dispersed throughout the tree. It is also impossible to take a strand out of this tree because each one is carefully woven into the darn thing.

Someone suggested forgetting about the burned-out lights and adding a whole new strand. Really! How do think this brilliant idea sounded in the mind of someone who was born in the land (Germany, where things are supposed to be done right or not at all) that produced the Christmas carol “O Tannenbaum” (O Christmas Tree)? “Not so well.” I am glad you understand.

I started to get work, but my fingers were still too sore from the last fix. Thus, our Christmas tree with its missing lights finished the season early. I took it down, put it in its cardboard box, and determined to postpone fixing it till next Christmas, oh joy. Maybe what I really need is a tree with LED lights.

That’s a lot of fuss about a Christmas tree, which is a nice and even meaningful tradition but isn’t even in the Bible. What we do find in the Bible is the Church, the Ecclesia, the special assembly and community Jesus loves and brought to life by giving His life, “Jesus loved the church and gave His life for her” Ephesians 5:25. In many ways each church is like the lights on a Christmas Tree, many individual lights designed and made to shine together.

One light on my tree decided one day, “There are 250 lights on that tree, so if I no longer participate it won’t make a difference. No one will even notice.” Dark s/he went. Little did s/he realize that now all the other lights had to carry more of the power load, each one had to burn a little brighter than it was designed for, became more vulnerable to burning out.

After a while, five more bulbs decided to ditch their strand as well. Before checking out they made sure to let the rest know that they still believed in Jesus, still prayed, and still read their Bibles. They kind of smiled and shrugged when another light pointed out that the Bible actually says,“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of Jesus’ return is drawing near” Hebrews 10:24-25 (NLT2, italics mine).

Then there was a fuss with the lights that faced the wall who only wanted to shine with those who agreed with their politics. However, the outage at bottom of my tree was caused because the lower lights felt like it was time for them to get a spot at the top. I wish all of them had remembered, “We have all been baptized into one body (Jesus’ church) by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit.” “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body (the church). We are many parts (lights) of one body (tree), and we all belong to each other.” 1 Corinthians 12:13b, Romans 12:4-5 (NLT2, parentheses mine).

Just in case you are tempted to think I have gone too far with this Christmas Tree light analogy listen to Jesus instructing His disciples collectively, “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father” Matthew 5:14-16 (NLT2).

The Christian life is a communal life. We are meant to shine together, to worship together, to pray together, to learn and grow together, to serve together, to hurt and laugh together, to share the Jesus-life and the presence and power of the Holy Spirit together, to be Jesus’ fellowship of lights together.

Join, reengage with, recommit to, celebrate, Jesus’ Church, Jesus’ community of lights.

            Let’s shine together to the glory of God. Love you, Pastor Hans

SHARE

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed. 1 Timothy 6:17-19 (NASB)

They, my son and two grandsons, were panning for gold down at the creek behind our house. When I checked on how things were going, the six-year-old was busy marking his claim, which had already produced, “Six flakes, Opa.” Yes, a rock boundary was going up around his 4×4 foot spot, along with clear, loud, and repeated instructions, “EVERYBODY! No one is allowed to step on and dig in this spot. UNDERSTAND!” I understood alright, but I also didn’t have the heart or courage to inform him that he was prospecting on MY property, and it’s just not wise for a sixty-year-old to argue with a six-year-old. I think that boy needs to start memorizing the scripture above.

Raise your hand if you are rich or if you wouldn’t mind being rich, finding the motherlode next to my grandson’s claim. If your hand went up, or if it was twitching but you kept it down because you’re trying to be humble, then you might want to memorize and learn to practice 1 Timothy 6:17-19 as well. Of course, it is never enough to merely memorize some of God’s instructions and commands for living, we also need to grasp and do them. Did you notice:

  1. The dangers of riches/wealth.
  • It can make you conceited, proud, arrogant, haughty. All of these impact generosity and sharing negatively.
  • It tends to make you self-reliant instead of relying on God.
  • It can make you forget to give God both credit and thanks.

2. The possibilities of riches/wealth.

  • It creates opportunities to do good to others.
  • It enables generosity, a lifestyle of sharing
  • It can be converted and invested into an eternal portfolio.

So, how do God’s instructions and commands figure into your wealth management and investment strategy? What I am hoping is that you will sign up with me for a yearlong pursuit of living out 1 Timothy 6:17-19, a 365-day challenge of growing in doing good, growing richer in good works, expanding our generosity, and developing daily sharing readiness.

Let’s begin with two daily practices:

  1.  Every morning recite 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed (NASB).

2. Every morning pray 1 Timothy 6:17-19.

Father in Heaven, please help me not cave to the temptations that come with wealth: pride, arrogance, conceit, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, forgetting to give you credit and thanks, and that my security and hope are found only in you.

Please help me recognize and engage with today’s opportunities to do good, to use my riches to be rich in good works. I asked for Your help Lord to maintain an attitude of generosity all day long, to be in the grip of a ready-to-share-what-I-have spirit.

Father, I want to be a wise investor of all you have given and entrusted to me: my money, possessions, time, skills, know-how, knowledge, experience, gifts, and spiritual wisdom. Please help me to finish today with some heavenly profit, with You being pleased with my growth in generosity and sharing. (Feel free to write your own 1 Timothy 6:17-19 prayer)

Amen.

To God be all glory throughout 2023. Love you, Pastor Hans

The Declaration of Independence, The Emancipation Proclamation, the announcements of the passing of the 15th and 19th Amendments (securing voting rights for blacks and women), the Indian Citizen Act of 1924, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, mark some most important events in our nation’s history.

In my personal history, and I am assuming in yours as well, there are some important pronouncements, declarations, proclamations, and announcements. Some of mine are, “I now pronounce you husband and wife,” my children’s birth announcements, the day I declared my love for Susie, the occasion of my baptism when I proclaimed my faith in and devotion to Christ, the time the head deacon of the Lake Don Pedro Baptist Church stood and announced that the church had voted to call me as their pastor, and the moment the government official, looking out over a crowd of 600 immigrants, pronounced us citizens of the United States.

But of all the pronouncements, announcements, declarations, and proclamations throughout mankind’s history none is more important, grand, and startling than the one made in the dark fields outside Bethlehem a little over 2000 years ago.

“While they, Mary and Joseph, were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased”
Luke 2:6-14 (NASB, italics mine).

Maybe you’ve already found me guilty of typical preacher hyperbole, but I hope you’ll hear me out. The Bethlehem Christmas announcement – declaration is at a minimum most startling, singular, and spectacular.

  • Startling. It is startling in its obscurity, no press, no cameras, no crowds, and yet the news of it has made it into the headlines for 2000 years. Startling because of the audience, a handful of nameless shepherds who were on no one’s A-list. You just don’t make announcements and declarations of this magnitude and significance to a bunch of nondescripts. It is startling because God himself (“the glory of the Lord”), His press secretary angel, and not just the joint chiefs of staff but the entire Angel army of heaven joined to make this official announcement, declaration, pronouncement, and proclamation.
  • Singular. There has never been a proclamation and announcement of this kind and magnitude in both the Biblical record and human history. There have been rare moments when God’s glory touched down, a few more occasions an angel of the Lord was dispatched to make an announcement, and just one other instance of two people getting to see some of the heavenly host, but not the multitude of God’s angel army. On this occasion, however, all three showed up to declare, proclaim, and announce the Christ, the eternal King, the Savior for all people, and the true Lord of all.
  • Spectacular. We know how to pull off spectacular and grand events, expertly choreographed, carefully sound-engineered, spectacularly lighted, filled with stunning special effects, jets zooming overhead, swarms of drones dancing in unison. None of it comes close to God the Father announcing the birth of His Son, while at the same time declaring Him King, Savior, Christ (Messiah), and Lord. Can you even imagine the sound of the entire heavenly host lifting their voices to proclaim, “Glory to God in the highest!”

Of course, this was not to be a show to watch, applaud, and then go to bed. This was meant for us to pay attention, to hear, to focus on what God had to say, to go on a walk to Bethlehem ourselves in order to see and worship Jesus, the Christ, the eternal King, the only Savior, and Lord of all. Have you responded to the Christmas declaration?

Have a most blessed and Christ-centered Christmas. Glory to God in the highest! Pastor Hans

It was an awesome day when Susie told me that she was pregnant with our first child, our second child, third child, and fourth child. The miracle of life x4. But I have to confess to being clueless (still the prevailing verdict of Susie and my children.)

We know very little about a child before s/he is born. When we told our first two that a third was on the way, Betsie, our second child, requested that it would be a black baby. “Nothing wrong with that,” I told her, “Except, that Susie would have to do some serious explaining since neither of us is black. Some years later she told us that she would only have two kids because now she knew how the third one turns out (they are best friends now, but so far, she only has two kids). When the nurse drops that living bundle in your arms you have no clue what that little creature turns out to be, what s/he will become and do, whether foolishness or wisdom will carry the day, or how much grief or joy you’re holding.

Jesus’ birth was different on many counts. First off, He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and virgin born (Matthew 2:1-18-25), talk about some difficult explaining. Then he came into this world in a barn and his first bed was a feeding trough for animals (Luke 2:1-19). But most importantly his parents were not in the dark about who he was and what He would do. They were given a lot of information about their firstborn child, information that is important to you and me as well.

  • His names: Jesus, Immanuel, Son of God. Jesus means “Yahweh/God saves.” Immanuel means “God with us.” Jesus is the most extraordinary of all people who have ever lived, He is the God-child who grew up to be the God-man, fully God and fully human, God manifested in the flesh. Not a single human argument will ever make Jesus anything less or other than who He is. Your Christmas question is, when will you acknowledge Him for who He is?
  • His titles: Messiah/Christ, King of the Jews, Ruler, and Lord. Messiah means “the Anointed one,” the one chosen and approved by God to be the ultimate deliverer. As to being the King of the Jews, He is not just one of the kings of the Jews but the promised eternal King of the Jews who will rule over all people for all time, and eventually, everyone will acknowledge Him as Lord. Jesus’ titles inform us of His authority. Your Christmas question is, when will you submit to His authority?
  • His purposes: Savior, Shepherd, to reveal God to all people. Jesus alone can save sinners from their sin and its consequences. Jesus alone is appointed to be the Shepherd of God’s people, to be the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 peter 2:25). Jesus alone is the full manifestation of God, no one and nothing else reveals God more fully and clearly (Hebrews 1, John 1:18). God sent Christ to you and me to save us, to claim us, to bring us back to God. Your Christmas questions are, is Jesus my Savior, my Shepherd, is Jesus the one I worship?

Now you met the Christ, the Jesus, the baby in the manger of Christmas. What will you do with Him?

            Merry Christmas. To God and Christ be all glory, Pastor Hans

P.S. If you want to check out the Christmas accounts scriptures the above is based on, look up Matthew 1:1, 16, 18-25, 2:1-6, 14-15, 23; Luke 1:17, 32-35, 69, 76, 2:6-11, 21, 25-38

 Rejoice always;
 pray without ceasing;
 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)

There’s a spiritual bacon, eggs, and biscuits breakfast for you. In fact, the Apostle Paul is prescribing this spiritual diet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as for morning, afternoon, and late-night snacks.

How many times in your life have you been told to stop something because it supposedly wasn’t good for you? How many times were they right? And how many times did you actually listen?

Stopping to do something can be really tough, especially if it is a habit, an addiction, something we enjoy, or what our social circle practices. On the other hand, starting something can be equally tough, even when you know you should, when you agree it’s the right thing and good for you.

But back to the spiritual doughnut shop above. I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked about figuring out God’s will. Well, there are many things we already know to be God’s will, being a rejoicer, prayer, and thanksgiver are among them. It is God’s will for rejoicing, prayer, and gratefulness to be our mindset, practice, and habit. Can you hear the Holy Spirit serving you from behind the countertop of the Rejoice – Pray – Give Thanks Doughnut Shop? “Don’t just take one, take all three, and come back tomorrow for more!”

“How much?” you might ask.

“Today, no charge.”

“What’s the catch?”

“Two things. If you eat them, they will change you. You’ll want more.”

Rejoice, pray, give thanks. These three are meant to keep us in God’s presence by rejoicing before God, praying to God, thanking God. They help us with keeping God in the center, and when God is the center, we got the first steps of knowing, being, and doing God’s will figured out. They also insulate us against negativity, self-reliance, discontent, and ungratefulness, none of which are helpful with knowing and doing God’s will.

If you and I are going to, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in everything,” we will have to get started in the morning, right when we get going, because if we start it later then the “always” has already gone out of the window. And we can’t take a break or quit early because then the “always” has … (You’re catching on).

One more thing, we have been programmed to only rejoice and give thanks when things are going great, when life is not working out the way we think it should, when good things are happening to us. Rarely do we think about rejoicing before and giving thanks to God when His will is being worked in and through our lives. The Apostles had been arrested, threatened, and beaten for following and preaching Jesus, for doing God’s will. When they were released, they left “rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus” Acts 5:41 (NLT2). I think it is safe to say that they had stopped by the Rejoice – Pray – Give Thanks Doughnut Shop, that morning.

 Rejoice always;
 pray without ceasing;
 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NASB)

            Have a most meaningful Thanksgiving. Love you, Pastor Hans

It is a humbling and solemn experience to walk through the war memorials at the Washington Mall, the silent Korean war patrol, weeping men with one hand on one of the thousands of names of the Vietnam memorial. It is a strange reality, isn’t it, that we constantly have to fight for peace, for what is right, for liberties, and for justice.

Our list of wars is too long, really, made up of major wars, forgotten wars, covert wars, and cold war. All of them were fought by a staggering number of real men and women. Many did not survive, others did but with broken broken bodies, wounded minds, tormented dreams, and haunted consciences. The cost of war, even in times of peace, is always high in both human and economic terms.

This Veterans Day, my hope and prayer are that it would give rise for us to collectively pause and reflect. The Veterans of both the past and those with us in the present remind me that they didn’t fight each other but against a common enemy. We are suffering from a lack of unity, cohesion, discipline, and a sense of civic duty, all of which we could learn a thing or two from our veterans. I am reminded of the wisdom of Jesus, “Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and no city or house divided against itself will stand”
Matthew 12:25 (HCSB).

USA begins with the word united, and if you take the first two letters it spells “US,” that might be a good place for us to start regrouping and to ask ourselves what united us in the first place? A desire to be free from tyranny and totalitarianism (you will find it on both the political right and left). A spiritual and moral compass rooted in the word of God, the Bible (being careful to avoid interpreting it politically, and instead submitting our politics to it). Rule of law equally applied, a just society. Shared liberties, together worth fighting for. Making sacrifices for the common goal and good.

When I was young all the veterans I knew were old, since then I have seen boys and girls grow up (a number of them I coached in High School, baptized, camped with, …) join the military and go off to war. I especially think of them this Veterans Day, and I want to thank them, along with those who served before them, for both their service and their contribution to what unites us.

May God be merciful to, and bless us as a people united. Pastor Hans

Usually, we ask or cry, “How long?” when think or feel like it has been too long. This is especially true when the ‘too long’ has been marked by hardship, suffering, pain, injustice, or confusion.

“How long?” pops up often in life as well as in the Bible (God’s written word, which is the best and most important guide when it comes to life, wisdom, salvation, and God).

There are different kinds of “How long?” (Feel free to add your own examples)

  1. The information seeking “How long?”
  2. “How long has this been going on?”
  3. “How long has it been since you ….?”
  4. “How long before the next flight?”
  5.  
  • The impatient “How long?”
  • “How long before we get there?”
  • “How long before we stop and eat?”
  • “How long before it is my turn?
  •  
  • The desperate, agonized “How long?”
  • “How long before this gets better?
  • “How long will this pain last?”
  • “How long do I have to wait for you to help me, God?
  •  
  • The exasperated “How long?”
  • “How long before you quit making stupid decisions?”
  • “How long before you grow up?”
  • “How long will you keep making excuses?”
  • “How long before you will listen, learn, change?
  •  

In Mark 9:14-29 (I encourage you to take the time to look up Bible references someone gives you, and always read the context surrounding a reference) we encounter a number of “How long(s)?” What happened was a desperate dad bringing his son, who had been ill/possessed/self-destructive since he has been little, to Jesus. When dad and son arrived Jesus is not there, so some of his disciples tried to help/heal/deliver the child from what ailed him. But they failed to do so. By the time Jesus arrives a whole crowd has gathered. Dad tells Jesus the problem, which now was twofold: 1. The boy’s unchanged condition; 2. The disciples’ inability/failure to help him. Which one do you think Jesus dealt with first? If you guessed #2 then you are right. And what kind of “How come?” do you think He unleashed? If you guessed the “exasperated” kind, then you were right again. Jesus had already authorized, trained, and sent these men out to do this very thing. They had done this before and in Jesus’ mind, they should have been able to handle the case of this poor boy, even if it was difficult. “How come you are going backward instead of forward in your faith?” Jesus wanted to know, rebuked, “How long do I have to put up with this from you?” “How long are you going to be like the rest of the world around you?”

We are so prone to be stuck in our own “How come …?” Expressing our own ignorance, impatience, pain, and exasperation – often with God, that we fail to consider and respond to the “How long(s)?” God asks of us. So, when was the last time you heard God asking you, “How long …?” What were the specifics of it? Did you respond to it the way God wanted you to? If you didn’t, how come? and, when will you?

            To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. If you are wondering what happened with the boy, how come you haven’t already picked up a Bible or googled Mark 9:14-29 to find out?

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