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Uncertain, Uninformed, Unconcerned, Unprepared

(Caution, you might not like this pastor’s note very much)

  • You will most likely die.
  • Jesus Christ will return.
  • Everyone, living or dead, will face the judgment of God.
  • Only those found in Christ will go to heaven and live eternally with Christ/God.
  • Most people will be totally unprepared for all of the above.

I am not making this up, the Bible (God’s written word/revelation) states this in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-5-11. And, as always, I encourage you to look this up and read it for yourself, so you will not be uncertain, uninformed, unconcerned, and unprepared.

Throughout my 40 years of life in Christian ministry, I have been asked, “You think we are living in the end times?” Often followed by, “I sure think so.” When I ask, “Why?” the usual answers cite evidence of the country going to pot (no pun intended), signs such as more natural disasters, and Christians losing influence and respect. I am always taken back by this response because it sounds spoiled to me. Just because things are getting more difficult for us does not mean Jesus will come back to bail us out. Strange how we are okay with Jesus waiting a bit when everything is going the way we like it, regardless of the fact that Christian brothers and sisters are suffering terribly around the world.

Few things lend themselves better to mislead people than eschatology (the study of end times). Jesus, speaking of these matters (Mark 13) warned his disciples, who wanted answers as to the when, what signs, and how, not to be misled and deceived. Instead of constantly looking for signs He directed them to be vigilant about daily living holy lives that are about doing God’s will. Of course, it is much easier to speculate about the future and mistake supposed informedness with actual active readiness. The clear fact, stated by Jesus himself (Mark 13:32), is no one knows when except God alone.

Paul writes to the Thessalonians because somebody came along and was teaching them shoddy eschatology. So, Paul reminded them of the facts regarding Jesus return and the end of time:

  • Jesus will return! In Glory, in power, in judgment, and no one will miss it. But no one knows or can predict when. He will come like a “thief in the night,” think unannounced and unexpected. He will come with 100% certainty, like a pregnant woman will give birth, it is not a matter of if but when.
  • To be prepared for Christ’s return one has to be “in Christ,” (think saved, born again, having confessed Christ as Lord and Savior), and daily live like a fully committed follower of Jesus.
  • Tragically, there will be those who dismiss, even mock, the reality of Jesus return and the coming judgment, telling themselves and others that there is nothing to worry about, that believing in and following Jesus is not important, that somehow everyone’s personal beliefs are sufficient preparation, that things are fine and will continue as always. The result will be total unpreparedness for the eternal wrath and judgment of God.
  • Christians need to live in the light of Jesus’ promise to return and be committed to daily “sober,” holy, faithful, living concerned with the will, the ways, and the purposes of God.

Jesus has not returned in 2000 years. You and I do not know if He will return in our lifetime or wait another 2000 years (which would be 2000 years of mercy and opportunity for sinners to repent and follow Him). Chances are high that your and my life will end long before Jesus comes back, our personal end will come all too soon, and we get this one lifetime to prepare for Jesus’s return and the final judgment of God.

If you read this far, you are no longer uninformed, you should not be unconcerned about where you stand with Christ and God’s judgment, you have an opportunity to remove all uncertainty by coming to Christ, you have no excuse to be unprepared.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything. Ephesians 6:21 (ESV)

How are you doing? What are you doing? Those are two good questions to ask yourself, and those who care about us want to know the answers to those two questions.

“Tychicus … will tell you everything.” Full disclosure, real transparency, complete and honest answers. No safe answers, partial admissions, changing topics, hee-hawing around, hiding, or running for the fig leaves.

So, how is it with you? What are you doing these days? If Tychicus had full access to your life, what would he report? What would you want to hide from him? What would you be too embarrassed to tell him? What would you be ashamed of? Would you secretly hope for Tychicus to leave sooner than later before he found how you were really doing, before you had to tell him what you were actually up to? Would Tychicus find an open book, a closed book, or a quickly hidden book?

What we don’t want people to see or know about us says a lot about us. The less transparent and accountable our lives are the more we have to fake it, pretend, equivocate, and obfuscate. We will develop a public image (what we want people to see and know) and a hidden/private image (who we really are and what we are actually doing). The more this invades the inner circles of our relationships the lonelier we become and the more we are in trouble.

So, how is it with you? How is it with your soul? What’s going on in your life? What are you doing? The Apostle Paul gave Tychicus full access to his life and gave him permission to give a full report, to tell “everything,” the good, bad, and ugly, the struggles, the challenges, the problems, the worries, the failures, the ….

Jesus is the only person ever who didn’t have to hide anything because there was nothing to hide, not a single sin, no failures, regrets, bad motives – nothing. He was genuine, spotless through and through. He was “tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin” Hebrews 4:15 (NIV). Jesus did that in obedience to God for you and me, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NIV), because He wants you and me to know the joy, liberty, the peace of living without needing to hide anything.

Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with” James 5:16 (MSG), is James’ advice to all followers of Christ, and all who want to live life with freedom of transparency, freed from sins we are trying to hide and which will keep us bound and afraid as long as we hide them.

So, how is it with you? What are doing? Really!

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. Call Tychicus, or his sister.

 

 

 

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil.  For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.  Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Ephesians 6:10-13 (NLT2)

The ubiquitous protection item of our day is the facemask, followed closely by hand-sanitizer. These two are merely the latest protection gear to go mainstream in my sixty years of living.

Our family of seven used to squeeze into the VW Square-Back wagon, with at least one riding in the way back, and seat belts were nowhere to be found, not to mention child-safety seats. When they finally installed seatbelts no one wore them, there were much bigger concerns, like all that ruckus in the back seat. Now I wear my seatbelt religiously, they do save lives.

Playing soccer, shin-guards were for sissies, until I actually tried them, and my shins broke out in the Hallelujah Chorus.

I use earmuffs or earplugs when operating loud equipment because I have seen too many deaf old men who didn’t.

Remember the big fuzz over motorcycle helmets being mandated and how many, in response, started sporting ridiculously tiny and worthless helmets, completely defeating the purpose.

I wear a bicycle helmet, put on long pants, work shoes, and goggles when weed whacking. I don’t mind the airbags in my car, the roll-over bar on my tractor, the fuses in the electrical panel, the GFI plugs in the bathroom, and protection software in my computer.

I am sure bulletproof vest, as uncomfortable as they might be, are a vast improvement over meeting a bullet with just a shirt on.

I think you get the point, protecting ourselves against things that can harm and hurt us is a wise thing to do, even it means some discomfort and takes some serious getting used to.

The apostle Paul, at the end of his letter to the Ephesians (6:10-18) tells them to put on full spiritual protection gear, “the full armor of God,” he calls it. “You need to do everything you can to protect yourself from the onslaught of evil and the evil one,” he tells them and us, “ You don’t want to have your feet knocked out from under you in the struggles of life and the real war going on between the kingdom of God and the kingdoms of this world. And, don’t just put on some of the gear you need, strap on every piece of equipment the heavenly quarter-master and safety-expert, God Himself, hands you, no matter how uncomfortable it might feel and how long it will take for you to get used to it.”  

Before the end of today, would you read Ephesians 6:10-18, and then spent enough time to think over every part of God’s armor mentioned. Are you passing or failing inspection? How and why? What are you leaving most unprotected? What does putting on God’s armor mean practically, how do you do it? When are you going to fully gear up?

             To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

(For more on this go to LDPBaptistchurch.com and listen to the 09/13/20 sermon)

Holiness, Godliness, Christlikeness – A Christian’s Dress Code

You and an I, like everyone else, were born butt naked, without a stitch of clothing, loincloths, or even a fig leaf. We came into this world with life, a mix of our parent’s genes, the image of God, a soul, and a sinful nature. We didn’t know how to dress, didn’t even much care if we were dressed, as long as we were comfortable. Our parents, siblings, aunts, childcare workers, and babysitters dressed us. My personal nightmare was onesies, you know those one-piece things with little snaps or dangerous zippers, you had to wrestle the squirmy little rebels into – makes me break out in a sweat just thinking about it.

Besides getting the challenge of getting the clothes on our kids, there was the art of putting on the right ensembles, think matching, on each child. Many, of what I thought were successful dressing episodes, did not pass inspection by the keeper of the wardrobe – think Susie, and latter my oldest daughter. No plaids and stripes, pink with brown, …

Then, when they were old enough, when they entered the “I can do it all by myself” stage, four things occurred; 1. Hilarious and ill-fitting combinations that were not allowed to leave the house; 2. Major fits when the keeper of the wardrobe issued a redress order; 3. Innumerable clothing changes throughout the day; 4. Me being very happy to abdicate any responsibility in clothing brood.

Most of us living in the United States have more clothes than we need, and very often much more, so much more that mountains of good clothes end up at Goodwill and the dump. There isn’t anything wrong with owning more clothes than needed per se, but it does reveal our obsession with outward appearance.

There is also such a thing as a spiritual wardrobe, and we have to learn to dress ourselves from it. It is as visible as the clothes we wear or don’t wear because it is seen in our behavior, “Like the Holy One (God/Christ) who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior” 1 Peter 1:15 (NASB, parenthesis mine). All the praying in the world will not make you godly or Christlike if you do not choose to act godly/Christlike.

When the keeper of the wardrobe ordered a redress, the first thing, besides the frequent and irrational protestations, was taking of the unacceptable articles of clothing, followed by putting on that which fit, matched, was modest, appropriate, and was right for the season or occasion. Putting on the approved set over the unacceptable set was not an option because it would be ill-fitting, uncomfortable, way too hot, and looking ridiculous, resulting in the right in the clothes coming off sooner than later.  

Every Christian has a spiritual closet full of the right clothing for every occasion and season. Everything in it is timelessly fashionable and the best we could possibly wear. But you can’t wear it without first taking off the old clothes, no matter how comfortable they feel to you. “Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” Ephesians 4:21-24 (NLT2).

“But now is the time to get rid of anger, rage, malicious behavior, slander, and dirty language. Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him” Colossians 3:8-10 (NLT2).

“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you” 1 Peter 5:5-6 (ESV).

 As the world around us is fed up, angry, violent, corrupt, demanding both change and peace, politically pitted against each other, and spiritually lost, it is critically important for Christians to show up dressed in Holiness, Godliness, and Christlikeness in all our behavior, words, interactions, and involvements.

Time to get dressed out of the spiritual wardrobe!

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

Loving Jesus means loving His Church!

He (God) is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything. At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. Ephesians 1:22-23 (MSG, parenthesis mine)

God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord.      Ephesians 3:10-11 (NLT2)

… Christ loved the church. He gave up his life for her to make her holy and clean, washed by the cleansing of God’s word. Ephesians 5:25-26 (NLT2)

“I love Jesus, but I don’t care much about organized religion,” sounds pious, but is a bunch of hogwash. It is like saying, “I love Jesus, but I have no use for the Bible.” God/Jesus is organized, all of creation is organized, but the church, which Jesus founded, died for, loves, and is still building is somehow unorganized? It defies both logic and scripture.

“I love Jesus, and my church is out there in nature.” Your church might be out there on some beautiful mountain top but Jesus’ church, the one He laid down his life for and is constantly interceding for is not there, because Jesus church is made up of people, saved sinners, who congregate, want to grow in their knowledge and application of the word of God, and who minister together.

“I love Jesus, but that doesn’t mean I have to go to church.” Yes, it does (Hebrews 10:24-25), because the Holy Spirit has made you part of Christ’s body, Christ’s church, from the moment you believed in Jesus (1 Corinthians 12:13). A Christian “goes to church” because s/he is part of and belongs to the church, in order to contribute to the life of the church all that God has shaped and the Holy Spirit has gifted him/her for. To merely think of church in terms of “going to church” is being ignorant of the nature, purpose, and importance of the church.

I love Jesus, but I had all the church I’ll ever need as a kid. My parents drug me there every time the doors opened.” Three things: 1. Good for your parents. 2. You are no longer a kid, time to grow up and take responsibility for your spiritual life, and your obedience to Christ. 3. You can’t tank up on church like you fill a gas tank, we need church like one body part needs all the others in order to thrive and live (1 Corinthians 12). Hopefully, if you have children, you will raise them to love Jesus and all that He loves, including His church.

“I love Jesus, but I have been hurt by the church.” That one hurts, because far too often this has been a true statement and because I have experienced it myself. You can get hurt in church, and sooner or later you will get hurt in church. That never excuses any dysfunctionality and sinfulness in the church, but it is the reality of people of all kinds of backgrounds, various levels of spiritual maturity, … sharing life together and daring to become like Jesus. I have been in ministry for over 40 years, 36 of them as a pastor, and during that time I have witnessed plenty of ugliness in the church, enough to the check out on the church many times over. I can only imagine how grieved Jesus, who sees and knows the sum-total of all Christian sinfulness, wickedness, carelessness, and ugliness, must be. And yet, He has not chucked the church but instead continues to love and refine her. So, how can I turn my back on what Jesus loves so much and refuses to give up on?

Jesus and his church are to be central in the Christian life, they are not meant to be mere add-ons. The testimony of the New Testament is that followers of Jesus reorganized their entire lives around Christ, His church, His word, His purposes, and all He loves, and they did it together.

So, have you excused yourself from being part of the church, checked out on the church, defined the church differently than scripture defines it, minimized the importance of the church, been an accuser of instead of a participator in the church, someone who added a little church instead living a life as devoted to the church as Jesus?

It is time to love Jesus and His church! It is time to become a full and life-long participator in the church! Do it!

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

The church mouse has died, and not of natural causes. S/he was not the first church mouse, another drowned a long time ago in the baptistry. That one must have been a Methodist or from some other sprinkling background because, clearly, it did not know anything about baptismal safety. This latest church mouse on the other hand was a dirty rotten scoundrel/ness, a wily thief, an unrepentant sinner, an arrogant trespasser, who would not even stop at my bag of pretzels. Imagine the audacity, taking pretzels from a German preacher, that’s like peeing in holy water, a mortal sin for sure. But that is not all, this mouse taunted the pastor and the head deacon in broad daylight, no shame, no respect, no adhering to proper church mouse conduct.

After deacon Richard left, I turned Kammerjaeger (German for exterminator, literally chamber-hunter). I sealed the bottom of my office door, the only escape route, got out my Maasai stick and went after this unholy intruder. I found its hideout and blocked it off as well, and then we went round and round in my 8’x10’ office. S/he obviously knew my office well, was familiar with every hideout, used computer and telephone wires like Tarzan using vines in the jungle. The only thing that kept me from throwing in the towel was my pretzel indignation. Finally, that demon of a mouse made a mistake, it ran between two stacks of books I had made into a v-shaped funnel on my office floor. When it reached the dead-end I closed the gap and trapped it between the pages of solid theology, and the Maasai stick sent it to its eternal demise. I do have one regret though, in honor and recognition of this epic pastor’s office struggle I should have had its head mounted.

That mouse got me to thinking about little thinks we are wise to watch out for, deal with, and kill if necessary.

  • Catch all the foxes, those little foxes, before they ruin the vineyard of love, for the grapevines are blossoming! Song of Songs 2:15 (NLT2). Lovers, husbands and wives, need to watch out for the little things that ruin love, passion, exclusiveness. It is not just big things that can destroy a marriage, but also little things allowed to run wild.

 

  •  A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough Galatians 5:9 (NASB). Of course, you know that a tiny amount of yeast, given time, will spread through the entire dough. In this context, it speaks of bad teaching, false doctrine, in 1 Corinthians 5:6-8 it speaks of sin and wickedness, and in Luke 12:1 of hypocrisy. You don’t want to introduce any of them into your life. You want to give neither opportunity nor time.

 

  • Dead flies make a perfumer’s oil stink, so a little foolishness is weightier than wisdom and honor Ecclesiastes 10:1 (NASB). How often do we give ourselves permission for a little foolishness? How often do we make excuses for a little foolishness? Follow the stink and deal with it.

 

  • The words of a whisperer (gossip) are like dainty (tasty) morsels, And they go down into the innermost parts of the body Proverbs 18:8 (NASB, parenthesis mine). Whisperers/gossips need listeners, don’t be one of them because what they serve you up will affect you much more deeply than you think, and even worse, you will develop a taste for it.

 

  • So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire! James 3:5 (ESV). Our words, whether they come from our mouth, a pen, or a keyboard are another little/big thing to be careful with, to be in control of, to take seriously. You don’t have to have a flamethrower mouth to be destructive, little sparks will do. Of course, you can also have a healing, encouraging mouth, but only if it doesn’t spark.

 

I am hoping that this week you will be a Kammerjaeger, being as diligent as Jesus in hunting down the little mice, foxes, flies, that don’t benefit your life, giving no opportunity or time for leaven and whisperers to permeate your mind, heart, decisions, and behavior, and not allowing that little tongue of yours to be destructive.

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

I actually had hair at one time. I used to be able to eat an extra-large pizza all by myself. I could run a mile in under 5 ½ minutes a long time ago. I did split wood all day for months on end with a 10-pound splitting maul. I used to drive cars without air conditioning. I did drink five large milkshakes in a row back in college. I was the kid with such a bad reputation at school that when my youngest brother went there five years later teachers fretted, ‘Oh No! Another Frei!”

I am sure, you too have your own list of what you once were and did (Why not send me a sampling – dergermanshepherd@gmail.com), but your present reality is much different. John Newton, the vile slave trader turned preacher, captured the “I once …, but now …” with these famous words:

“Amazing grace! How sweet the sound,

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost, but now am found,

Was blind, but now I see.”

This of course is the scenario God is waiting for, Christ died for, and the church exists for each one of us. That what we were is no longer be who we are, that through God’s grace in Christ each one of us will be brought from death to life, from sin and futility to holiness and good works, Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.
But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago”
Ephesians 2:1-10 (NLT2).

Salvation also means transformation, the church word for that is sanctification, which means being set apart for holy use. Who and what we were is no longer who we are. We are, with God’s help, continually changing for the better, becoming more and more like Jesus.

I understand this with my head, but it sure is easy to act like who I once was rather than in congruence with who I now am in Christ. I am always just one decision, one careless word, one rash response away from acting like the old sinner rather than the new person I am in Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have no business acting and sounding like who we once were, being identified by the sinful behaviors and attitudes of our old life. We are not called to the old nor to go backward, but we should be a living illustration of what Rufus McDaniel wrote, “What a wonderful change in my life has been wrought Since Jesus came into my heart!”

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

Methuselah, 4851 years old, a Great Basin bristlecone pine is still going and growing somewhere in the White Mountains of Inyo County in eastern California. Walking through the bristlecone forest where it is hidden feels like encountering a family of Ents out of Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings.” You are in the presence of something ancient, their needles alone can last up to 40 years. One of these trees could be 1000 years old and be called a mere whippersnapper by the gnarled ancients of the grove.

It’s the resin that helps preserve them. On the short educational walk by the visitor center, the first stop is by a large dead trunk of a long-dead bristlecone. The instructional sign tells you that this tree was over 3200 years old when it died – in 1650. Yup, for over 450 years that tree trunk has been laying there and it is far from being decayed. Someone should make anti-aging skin cream out of this resin.

Like from all things in nature, there is a lot we can learn from these tenacious bristlecones God made to last for millennia in a most inhospitable environment. We are unfamiliar with bristlecone permanence. In fact, most everything in our experience is marked by the exact opposite, impermanence. The bristlecones don’t waste things, they latch onto every drop of water they can get their roots on. We, on the other hand, are professional wasters: water, food, stuff, time, money, opportunities, relationships, …

Deep down, we long for permanence, we want love to last, and peace, and health, and good times, and prosperity, and freedom, and stability, and life. But our resin can’t compare to the bristlecone’s. Living in fleeting impermanence we try to squeeze as much out of our vapor-like lives before they dissipate, and all too often sacrifice the permanent things our hearts yearn for.

The spiritual reality is that the wrong resin is pumping through our veins, sinfulness, depravity, an inherited penchant to rebel against God and his order. The Bible (God’s written revelation) tells us about a time when people lived much, much longer. The oldest recorded individual of that time was Methuselah, he lived 969 years (Genesis 5:27). God cut the human lifespan down to 70 plus-ish years (Psalm 90:10). Why? Because 969 years is way too long to have the resin of sin be at work in a person, for human depravity to have an opportunity. We ought to thank God for putting a restrictor plate on our life expectancy because of our sinfulness; our own evil and evil people still flourish way too much in just 80 years. That’s also more than enough time for each one of us to come to grips with our sinfulness, our spiritual rebellion, and our need for God and Jesus Christ to give us eternal life, to have the resin of the Spirit of God transform us for permanence that will far outlast even the most ancient bristlecone.

Future generations will be able to tell if we were truly transformed from decaying sinners into eternal saints through our faith in Jesus Christ. How? By how quickly there will be no trace of our existence, no witness of our faith in their memories, no tangible impact on their hearts, minds, and lives, no blessing of things permanent left behind for generations far into the future.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

Helpless + Hopeless = Happy

 

A  crazy man, out of his mind, demonically controlled, isolated, abandoned, and feared.

A woman incurably sick, beyond the ability of medicine, robbed of dignity, normalcy, and wealth.

A little girl, with great parents, loved, dead.

 

These three fell into the pit that reeks of helpless and hopeless, an abyss so deep they cannot climb out of it. Their helplessness and hopelessness are not just their own, but their families, those who love and care for them are also engulfed in their powerlessness, pain, frustration, and grief. They, like us, know the equation: helpless + hopeless = hurt, horrific, horrible, harrowing, hellacious.

Mark, like the other Gospel writers, tells us about the reality and truth of Jesus Christ, The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” Mark 1:1 (NIV). Right out of the gate Mark informs you and me that Jesus is not ordinary, not one among many, more than a prophet, more than a holy man, but the very Son of God, divine, sovereign, Creator and Sustainer of all things – good news, the equation changer.

They were real people, that crazy man, that sick and desperate woman, that very dead girl, as real as the people in our lives, in our families, our community, our coworkers, classmates, and friends. They were stuck in the helpless/hopeless equation. People stayed away from them, didn’t touch them, were made uncomfortable by them and their story. “What a shame,” “What do you say?” I wonder, how long it took for people to no longer ask the crazy man’s family about him? How much time passed before folks no longer asked the woman how she was? When do we stop talking with the grieving about their loved ones?

You find all three, the man, the woman, and the girl in Mark, chapter five, helpless and hopeless – until – until – Jesus shows up, and, because of who He is, the Son of God, changes helpless + hopeless to happy. He does not shy away from the lunatic demoniac; He doesn’t mind the unclean, sick, and desperate woman touching Him; He doesn’t stop going to the girl’s house simply because she died. He does so because He wants everyone to know who He is: The Son of God, sovereign over all evil, all of life, all people, death, and all helplessness and hopelessness. He is the eternal Good News.

Most of us have been to Mark, chapter five, if not all, at least in part. I have. Evil, mental illness, chronic sickness, death. Without Jesus, they trap and condemn us to the grave of eternal helplessness and hopelessness. You have to wonder about those three and their families, you just have to. What do you think the crazy man told others about Jesus after Jesus put him in his “right mind?” What did the woman tell others after she was healed? What did the girl, after she was restored to life, think and say about Jesus for the rest of her life? How did these three engage with helpless and hopeless people after their encounter with Jesus?

1 Corinthians 13:13 tells me, as a follower of Jesus, as Christian, to be a person of faith, hope, and love. I believe that means I should not shy away from the helpless and hopeless people and situations, but to show up with the faith, hope, and love I have found in Jesus, to live the Jesus equation.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Father-in-law used to ask me, “Do they have 4th of July in Germany?” The answer is yes and no. Yes, Germans do have July 4th on their calendar. No, there is no celebration of the birth of a new nation, of stripping off the shackles of the British crown.

It was a gutsy move, declaring independence from the superpower known as the British Empire. It has always taken great courage to demand and declare freedom, especially from tyranny. Remember Moses’ words echoing in Pharaoh’s hall, “Let my people go!”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness” the signers of the Declaration of Independence announced to King George III, who like Pharaoh, had no intention to yield to their cry for freedom.

Gaining freedom, securing independence is the first struggle, but it is not the last. What you do with the newfound liberty will determine both who will benefit from it and how long it will last. Bold, idealistic, and good words, “all men are created equal.” But even while the ink was drying on their signatures their present reality did not include Blacks, Native Americans, women, and others in this equal. To this day it has been a very slow and arduous struggle extend the full measure of “inalienable rights” to all.

We must ask ourselves why humanity has struggled with liberty throughout history? The answer is twofold, the first being pragmatic the second spiritual. It is very inconvenient for those in power to grant rights and liberties to all. Power loves power far more than freedom. Freedom of speech, of assembly, of the press, of religion, of bearing arms, of economics doesn’t lend itself to governmental control. Granting personal rights like privacy, due process, owning property, trial by peers, voting, etc. is just too messy and allows for too much opposition, just ask Xi Jinping, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-Un, Nicolas Maduro, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Mohammad Bin Salman, Ali Khamenei, …

The root of humankind’s struggle with liberty, however, is spiritual, the reality of human depravity/sinfulness, and the existence of evil and the Evil One/Satan. Neither one of these realities is popular today, in fact, more often than not they are scoffed at and dismissed as being out of touch. But doing so puts one at odds with our country’s Founding Fathers, who were thoroughly steeped in Protestant theology and did not think that Biblical anthropology was anything to be sneered at. It was these spiritual realities that fueled their distrust of power and influenced them to design a governmental system of divided powers and rights codified in law, striving to protect them from the whims of leaders and the power of the majority.

They didn’t like what Jesus told them, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

They basically replied with, “We are free! We are part of the free and the brave! We don’t need anyone to liberate us – to set us free!”

Jesus didn’t back down, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” John 8:31-36 (NIV).

They didn’t care for that truth at all, because human depravity despises God, looks to free itself from God, “The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one (Jesus Christ). ‘Let us break their chains,’ they cry, ‘and free ourselves from slavery to God’” Psalm 2:2-3 (NLT2, parenthesis mine).

As we find ourselves in very tumultuous times this 4th of July, as we celebrate our incredible gift of liberty, we will do well to remember that to both navigate through these times, and to preserve precious liberties we are wise to draw to God collectively and address our own depravity personally through Jesus Christ, because no one is really free unless “The Son sets you free.”

 

May we thank and glorify God this 4th of July. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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