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But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them. In this way, they will bring sudden destruction on themselves.  Many will follow their evil teaching and shameful immorality. And because of these teachers, the way of truth will be slandered. 2 Peter 2:1-2 (NLT2)

Coronavirus, Coronavirus, Coronavirus, … COVID-19, COVID-19, COVID-19, …

Social distancing, shelter-in-place, wash your hands, sanitize, …

Respirators, masks, PPE, hospital beds, shortages, …

Infection totals, death tolls, …

Shutdown, …

Crisis

Daily we are bombarded with Coronavirus news, facts, statistics, changing predictions, revised timelines, official guidelines and orders. Mix that with our own worries, fears, anxieties, economic and existential threats, and it leaves you feeling confused, unsure, powerless, and vulnerable.

Christians should be uniquely equipped to navigate in, even thrive trying times and circumstances. Not because we, in ourselves, are somehow better than everyone else, but because the life of Christ and the Spirit of God indwells us, and because true and well-taught followers of Jesus have a theology that incorporates and embraces suffering.

Satan also thrives in chaos and crisis, he is the master of instigating and using them for his godless, evil, and destructive purposes (John 10:10). It should come as no surprise that he will fan the flames of the current massive fire, not only in the world at large but also within the church. Much of the New Testament is devoted to warning believers against devil’s attack on the Body of Christ, the church, specifically against:

Gutting the Gospel – faulty theology (Galatians, 1 Corinthians 15, Romans 1-11)

Behaving badly – faulty ethics (1 Corinthians, Galatians 5-6, Romans 12-16)

False teachers – faulty discernment (2 Peter 2, Jude)

It should not surprise us that with the current crisis and chaos there will be a spike in false teachers, conspiracy pundits, and eschatology (end times) wizards raising their voices, claiming new prophetic insight, personal expertise, miracle cures, proposing unbiblical means of harnessing and unleashing the power of God, contradicting sound science, dressing forms of presumption in so-called faith teachings, twisting the scriptures while trying to sound like theological experts.

Now, with our world, including the church, almost exclusively relying on electronic media false preachers and teachers have a platform as never before. Here in the United States the purveyors of the prosperity gospel, health and wealth pundits, word of faith charlatans already dominate the airwaves. Sadly, too many believers are tuning in to them, give them a hearing, lack the discernment skills, and don’t take time to check out both their life and teaching.

Satan knows that a gutted, watered down, twisted, added-onto Gospel leaves the church without a message, perverts the church’s mission, and rips the Messiah/Christ out of its center.

Satan loves for Christians to behave badly, unholy, hypocritically, loud, proud, fearfully, cowardly, selfishly, soft, and spoiled, indistinguishable from the world around them. Christians behaving badly discredit the beauty of the Christ-life and the changing power of the Gospel. Christians behaving badly may talk a big game but bring shame to Jesus’ name. Christians behaving badly are vulnerable to all kinds of theological cockamamie and extremes.

Satan is not ignorant of the word of God (Luke 4:9-11), he knows how to quote it, misquote it, divorce it from its context, twist its intentions, selectively apply it, and rearrange it to make the weird and perverted seem plausible. False teachers may be using the “Good Book” (the Bible) but they use it according to the devil’s playbook. If he/they can get you to accept faulty theology, it will sooner than later affect your behavior, conversely, if he/they can get you to legitimize bad behavior it will affect your theology,  both will rob you of the ability to discern.

Time for a self-check:

  • How theologically sound are you? Are you making an effort to be so?
  • How Christ-like is your behavior? What needs to change?
  • Who do you watch, listen to, read? Should you? Why or why not?

 

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

“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)

Jesus was directly speaking to his disciples when he spoke these words, but there was also a large crowd listening in, and clearly, he wanted them to hear what he had to say as well. At the end of his sermon, he spelled out why he was preaching what he was preaching.  “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows (practices, acts on) it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and ignores it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash” Matthew 7:24-27 (NLT2, parenthesis mine).

Jesus, God is interested in you and me living lives of stability amidst the instability, even torrents, and disasters of our world. He wants you and me to be people of purpose, who make a difference, whose light keeps shining no matter how dark it gets, whose actions make people want to sing praises to God. But for this to actually happen, we need to hear Jesus’ words and trust them enough to act on them, that’s called faith. This is why I read some portion of God’s word (the Bible) every day, think about it, take some notes, and try to make “act-on-it” connections to what is going on in my life around me.

The last two mornings I read Luke 11 and 12 (We are in Luke in our church’s Bible-reading plan) and found some things to help my life keep shining brightly and keep me stable in our current crisis, and, since this is a pastor’s note, I am convinced these will benefit you to:

  1. Pray – Luke 11:1-13
  • Not if but “when” you pray.
  • Pray with persistence, keep knocking, seeking, asking.
  • Pray with a focus on God’s goodness.
  • Pray seeking God’s very best.
  1. Help – Luke 12:13-21
  • Don’t hoard.
  • Don’t act on the fear of not getting your fair share.
  • Look out for more than yourself.
  • However little or much you have enables you to share.
  1. Invest – Luke 12:21, 31-34
  • In more than yourself.
  • In more than the stock market and your financial portfolio.
  • In more than what will keep you comfortable to the end of your life.
  • In the goodness of your heart.

Jesus didn’t just teach the above as a means of crisis management, he wants you and me to practice them, and much more keep-your-light-burning stuff, whether the sun is shining, or the torrents are raging. He wants you and me to build foundations that don’t crumble even under the greatest stresses and challenges.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Fox News, Tony Spell, pastor of Life Tabernacle Church in Baton Rouge, said no “dictator law” could keep people from worshipping God, according to the local news… “The virus, we believe, is politically motivated,” Spell told WAFB. “We hold our religious rights dear and we are going to assemble no matter what someone says.” … Spell said his church, which normally has more than 1,000 attendees on Sunday across five locations, will be distributing “anointed handkerchiefs” to provide members with “healing virtues.” (https://www.foxnews.com/us/coronavirus-police-church-defy-state-order)

Foolishness dressed up as faith is particularly disturbing because it hurts people, gives Christians a bad name, keeps people from believing and following Jesus, and distorts the truth and greatness of God.

Christians are by very definition people of faith and are called to live by faith in Christ and the Word of God (the Bible), but we are also called to be wise, to be sober-minded, to be discerning, and to function according to knowledge and truth.

The Galatian believers got an earful from the Apostle Paul regarding theological foolishness, “You foolish Galatians,” (Galatians 3:1&3) he tore into them. Of course, Christians are not the only ones capable of theological foolishness, the atheist’s entire worldview rests theological fallacy, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’ (Psalm 14:1).”

Jesus refused to act according to theological foolishness when Satan tempted him to jump off the top of the temple at Jerusalem because God had promised that the Messiah wouldn’t break a bone (Luke 4:1-13). Maybe the devil should have also offered him a prophylactic hanky. Jesus didn’t jump because he was theologically sound, he both knew and did not twist the scriptures. “You don’t put God to the test,” he informed Satan, or put another way, you don’t force God’s hand, you let God test you, not the other way around, God’s promises are not an invitation to presumption.

Theological foolishness also is prone to be selective about science or dismiss science altogether. Can God do the impossible? Absolutely! Is there such a thing as the miraculous? Very much so! But it is also true that for the most part and most of the time God is running this universe according to the way he designed it. Miracles are the exception, not the norm, it is what makes them miracles. Yesterday evening I hooked up an electric dryer. Let’s assume I had one of Reverend Spell’s anointed handkerchiefs in my pants pocket, would you believe that it would protect me from electric shock? Why not? I didn’t because I know the basics of science when it comes to the electrical outlets in my house, especially 220 volts. Faith and science are not enemies or mutually exclusive, don’t buy into that kind of foolishness.

You cannot grow in faith without growing in wisdom and knowledge. But don’t just take my word for it:

My child, listen to what I say, and treasure my commands.
Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding.
Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding.
Search for them as you would for silver; seek them like hidden treasures.
Then you will understand what it means to fear the LORD, and you will gain knowledge of God.
For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.
He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him.
Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go.
For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will fill you with joy.
Wise choices will watch over you. Understanding will keep you safe.
Proverbs 2:1-11 (NLT2)

Let’s not be fooled by some “anointed handkerchiefs” or other nonsense, let’s not act godless, but let’s be wise, love our neighbor and bring glory to God in all we are going through right now.

Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

Prudence

Wisdom

Faith

Fear

 

Stupidity

Foolishness

Presumption

Panic

 

Crises have the potential to bring out both the best and worst in us, they also reveal who we really are and what we really believe.

Our world is filled with three kinds of evil, natural evil like the COVID-19 virus and other diseases or earthquakes and other natural disasters, moral (human) evil we perpetrate on others and our world, and spiritual, demonic, satanic evil, which is ever busy inciting people to do evil. Often the first is made much worse by the second. One thing is certain, evil is never theoretical, it is real, brings hardship, causes stress, kindles fears, inflicts pain, and kills.

Jesus encouraged us to pray: “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil (or the evil one). [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]” Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB, parenthesis mine). It is foolishness to ignore evil of any kind, including the evil within us, it is unwise to think we do not need God’s help when it comes dealing with evil, and it is faith that will help us to deal better with evil, with our fears, and keep us from panicking.

Christians are called to a life of faith that applies to the real world, actual circumstances, to life’s unpredictabilities, dangers, and worries. In all of these our anchor, our starting point, our compass is God himself, his presence, his Spirit, his wisdom, his strength, his word (Scripture/the Bible).

Christians are called to pursue knowledge, prudence and wisdom, they give us discernment, navigation skills, and help us to not be led by fear and panic. Wisdom is never in opposition to faith. Often, I have had a fellow believer gush about the fact that their doctor was a Christian and prayed with them. I think that is fantastic, but I want my doctor also to be competent, I want her to wash her hands,  put on a fresh pair of gloves, and be up to speed on the most current medical knowledge, skills, and wisdom. I want her not just to be confident, I want her to be confident for the right reasons. This is true for you and me as well, it is one thing to have a faith that talks confidence but is ignorant, lacks wisdom, and is presumptuous, it is quite another thing to have a faith that is informed, pursues and practices wisdom, and knows how to be both controlled by the Holy Spirit and sound interpretation of the Bible.

Christians never have reason to panic, we are called to live out of the peace of God that even disaster, suffering, and death cannot rattle. This peace is not an invitation to stupidity and foolishness, to denying or foolishly responding to real and healthy fears. But this peace does enable us not to be consumed by our anxieties, our worries, and our fears, and act with Christlikeness in the midst of evil and the storms of life. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers (sisters), whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.  Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” Philippians 4:4-9 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

To God be all Glory. Peace to you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

COVID-19

In a matter of no time at all, and seemingly out of nowhere, COVID-19 (Corona Virus) has spread around the globe, infecting, killing, spreading fears. Governments panicking, health officials scrambling, stock markets tumbling, tourism collapsing, people wearing masks.

Church Mutual Insurance (our church’s provider) send out the following information:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most people in the United States have little immediate risk of exposure to this virus. The virus is not currently spreading widely in the United States. However, it is likely that person-to-person spread will continue to occur and that, at some point, widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the United States will occur.

Action Steps

  1. Stay informed – the situation with the coronavirus is fluid and the CDCis updating its website daily with the latest information and advice for the public.
  2. Remember to take everyday preventive actions that are always recommended to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses:
    • Avoid close contact with sick people.
    • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible. Stay home if you are sick.
    • Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
    • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub with at least 60% alcohol.
  3. The CDC and State Department have issued advisories asking people to avoid all nonessential travel to China and South Korea at this time. Travel alerts have also been issued for Japan, Italy and Iran.

I would add that, besides following the advice above, we ought to also pray for those infected, the officials in charge of public health, the medical people caring for the sick, and the researchers working on a cure.

Finally, there is also a spiritual dimension. We reminded how fragile life and our way of life are, sickness and death are ever-present and inescapable realities. With the COVID-19 virus and any other disease, we will rejoice over finding just one cure. While we are searching and praying for that cure, there already exists a cure for death – Jesus Christ, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” John 11:25 (NIV).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

Your “Erbe”

A good man, a good woman will leave an inheritance tho his/her children’s children – Proverbs 13:22.

Heiningen Cemetery, members of both sides of my family have been buried there for I don’t know how long, brothers, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and who knows how many greats, great greats, … To me, it feels like a sacred burial ground in other cultures, deep roots, deep ties.

The two Memorials for WWI and WWII have, for as small as the town was then, many names on them. Frei, Eitle, Aigner, all direct relations to my family are chiseled on it. A number of families have three, four names inscribed, entire generations decimated. “To Remember Them, To Warn Us,“ the World War II Memorial reads.

Right in front of the WWII Memorial, I noticed an older gravestone, it seems to have survived the 25-year policy. I am not sure when they decided to limit someone’s stay in the Heiningen Cemetery to 25 years, but I seem to recall my brother telling me that they were both running out of space and that after 25 years no one shows up anymore to take care of the graves. So, after 25 years the plots are dug up, the remains are cremated, and the burial plot is recycled. Sometimes even the gravestone, it will have the current occupant on the front and a former on the back.

However, this one grave in front of the WWII memorial was left untouched, it remains even though the couple buried there died more than 50 years ago. It is the grave of Lutheran Pastor Erbe and his wife. They were part of the resistance, they trafficked Jews and other people to safety through the parsonage, right under the nose of the towns Nazi leader. I cannot tell you what impact this couple had on our town, my Mom, my Dad, my Aunt, my family and scores of others. They never forgot them, always spoke of them in ways that if you could meet anyone in Heiningen’s past, in their past, it would be this pastor couple.

What is most uncanny about Pastor and Mrs. Erbe’s grave in front of the WWII war memorial is the meaning of their last name – “Erbe” means inheritance in German. These two died neither rich nor famous, but they left a tremendous inheritance behind, an “Erbe” that by now is impacting the third and fourth generation past their own.

Walk with me for a minute to the Heinigen cemetery. We step through the wrought iron main gate and down at the end of the main path we already see the World War II Memorial. Two thirds the way down on the left we pass by the grave of my Mom and Dad with my brother Friederich buried between them. Just a few steps further on the right the fresh grave of my oldest brother. A few more steps on the right the Erbe grave marked by an overgrown, weathered sandstone slab, and right past them, across the path turning right and left the WWII Memorial testifying to utter senselessness and waste. All of my family members we walked passed were impacted by what is at the end of this cemetery path, two memorials, two inheritances, one that will forever regret, weep and warn and one that knows no regret, turns tears to joy, and still blesses.

You and I will not stay here today, we will most likely not be buried here. The iron gate will fall shut behind us as we leave to still live some and determine our “Erbe.”

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV)

I have watched my share of “How to …” YouTube videos, many of them were super helpful, saving me time, frustration, and money. Some were ridiculous and worthless, like the guy recommending the using a cutting torch and Sawzall (reciprocating saw) to fix the heater core under the dash, or the fellow who took out the stove in his camper with just a hammer.

Of course, all of us have been learning “How to …” by watching long before YouTube. But simply because we learned something one way does not make it the best way or even a good way. Think about what we have learned about expressing anger, frustration, using words, values, caring for others, kindness, generosity, and love, by observing, watching from our earliest days, and how much good and bad gets passed on and is perpetuated this way.

When it comes to love some of us got to watch outstanding examples of it, others got to view a whole lot of trash, and most of us got a mixed program. Of course, how you and love today is not just determined by what we observed in the past. Some simply perpetuate, some go from good to bad, others go from bad to great, and all of us can learn to be and do better. One thing is for sure, we shoot and publish new videos every day, the question is whether they are helpful or hurtful, high quality or harmful? Is how we love worth emulating, something you want others to perpetuate?

We are born sinners, which, among other things, means we bend the wrong way, especially when it comes to God and love. Selfish love comes natural to us but selfless love we have to learn. Keeping score love we know but forgiving love we have to discover. Using love as a weapon is familiar to us, de-weaponized love we have to choose.

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, the roses, if they have not already wilted, will be in the trash soon, and most of us, although we do not have to, will revert back even if it is not working, not worth perpetuating. Strange and broken creatures we are. It is in this brokenness, this world full of awful love YouTubes, that God in Christ demonstrated a love of a different kind, a love we are wise to receive and learn. This same Jesus is still ready and willing to step into your and my every-day to transform us by his love and teach us to live his love, and that is something worth living, something worth watching, something worth passing on.

To God be all glory. Love you Pastor Hans

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