Archive for January, 2012

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Every day people across this nation proudly recite these words, including our leaders. The phrase “under God” has received a lot of attention in the recent past, but it doesn’t matter all that much since as a nation we don’t believe the words anyway – especially “with liberty and justice for all.”

Unless we decide to mean what we say today, tomorrow, this year, next year, and the years after that we will continue to teach the words to kindergarteners but we will also train them not to mean them, to accept the hypocrisy, if not defend it. Actually they are the lucky ones, they were allowed to live long enough to learn the pledge. They were not stripped of their liberty, they were not denied their humanity, they were included when it comes to “liberty and justice for all.” Before they were born their mothers chose to let them live, to recognize them for what they are, humans, people, persons, even though our laws say otherwise. Laws which Pledge-reciting officials wrote and enacted and Pledge-reciting judges upheld, against all truth and scientific evidence to the contrary.

If there really is “justice for all,” how do we justify taking the lives of growing babies, simply because they are still in their mothers’ wombs? How do we justify denying the most basic human right, the right to live, to an entire group of human beings? How do we justify deeming some stages of human existence as not deserving liberty and justice? How do we justify that a mother’s right of making choices about her life includes being able to take the life of another human being because it is unplanned, unwanted, inconvenient, the wrong gender, less than perfect, or will face less than ideal circumstances?

There was a time when African American men, women, and children weren’t deserving of liberty and justice simply because they were called slaves. There was a time when Native American men, women, and children weren’t deserving of liberty and justice simply because they were called savages, and because they were inconvenient politically, economically, and personally. All the reasoning and rhetoric employed then was as flawed and dishonest as the reasoning and rhetoric employed against granting the pre-born the fundamental right to personhood, life, liberty, and justice.

As “One nation under God” we should care what God thinks on matters as important and fundamental as these, He (God) created them male and female, and he blessed them and called them “human.” Genesis 5:2 (NLT, parenthesis mine). We should choose to do no less for all people.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. There are God and Life-honoring alternatives to abortion. The first step is to choose not to have one and instead be someone who believes in liberty and justice for that new person. If you can’t find help feel free to contact me, thegermanshepherd@juno.com, 209 852-2029.


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Church membership – knowing what it means to belong to the people of God

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

It was an excellent gift; two egg laying chickens, proudly presented to Susie and me on the front steps of the home our daughter Betsie had been living in as a Peace Corps worker in Benin. I was glad I knew something about how to handle live chickens and gratefully grabbed the birds dangling upside down from the outstretched arms of the beaming giver. Since an egg layer is too valuable to fry up I wasn’t sure what do with the hens, so after the crowd who had witnessed the event dispersed I handed them over to the man of Betsie’s compound.

My question was how he would get those chickens to stay in their new home? I had not seen a single chicken pen anywhere in the village, just chickens running loose everywhere. So I watched the man tie a string around one leg of each hen and fasten it to the coop the chickens belonging to the compound returned to every evening. He explained that after a few days they became assimilated into his compound’s flock, they would think that this where they now belonged, then he would take the string off.

I have thought about employing this method when it comes to teaching people to belong to and be a faithful member of a church, of Jesus’ flock. There are way too many people who profess to be followers of Christ who do not yet understand that they are meant to belong. They are in a sense running around like loose chickens. They have not understood that choosing God also means that God has chosen us to belong to, to be assimilated into, to be counted among His people, His assembly, His congregation, His church. So much so that we do not have to be tethered or even be reminded of it, but that naturally, eagerly, and habitually we would build our lives around a local Christian community, a church.

When Joshua confronted the entire assembly of the Israelites about the choice they had to make in regard to God, they also had to decide who they would identify themselves with, who they would belong to, and what it means to be a people of God.

So what about you? Is your life as Christian fully integrated into a local church? If not, why not? Do you understand what it means to belong to the people of God? Are you running loose, or are you fully integrated into a flock? If he could, would your pastor tether you for a while, or can he enjoy seeing you run free because you know what it means to belong to the body of Christ?

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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Choose – Living a life of making good and godly decisions

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

We all make decisions. We all avail ourselves of our God-given ability to make choices. In fact we can’t live without making choices, conscious living requires it. We usually do not make decisions out of thin air, we all have some decision making grid, some internal mechanism that influences the choices we make. Our personality, culture, values, circumstances, experiences, beliefs, ideals, fears, and other factors all contribute to our decision making, to what we do with the choices we have.

Most of us have a mixed record in regard to the choices we have made. The spectrum ranges from great, occasionally brilliant, to outright stupidity, even evil. It is not difficult to figure out in which direction God wants us to go when we make choices. Now there certainly are people who are not Christians who have a record of making good choices and vice versa the history of Christianity is filled with people who have made dumb and too often outright evil decisions.

The most fundamental decision every one of us will ever make is the choice we make about God, not about the religion we were raised in, not our personal opinion concerning spiritual things, but the One true and living God. The Creator God  through whom we live and breathe, who gives us the freedom to make choices, and who will hold us accountable for each and every decision we make (all decisions have consequences). This is what Joshua confronted the ancient Hebrews with, and this is what every generation is confronted with by God himself.

Serving God always begins with a choice. That initial choice must then be followed by life of decision making that is marked by a desire to serve, to please, to honor, to glorify God. For that to become a reality we have to acquire a decision making grid, a choosing mechanism, a heart and mind that consistently makes good and goodly decisions. And since we are ever capable of being stupid and egocentric, as well as sinful and evil, we should not expect godly decision making to be automatic but rather an acquired skill and habit.

I have found the following to be essential in my pursuit of wanting to be someone who consistently and habitually makes good and goodly decisions:

  • Acknowledging God before and in everything – Joshua 5:13-15; Proverbs 1:7, 9:10
  • Affirming decisions through true prayer – Joshua 7:7-10; Matthew 6:9-10; Philippians 4:6-7; James 1:5-8
  • Adhering to God’s Word (the Bible) – Joshua 1:7-8; Psalm 119-105
  • Acquiring wisdom (habitual wisdom) – Deuteronomy 34:9; Proverbs 4:7; 2:1-22
  • Awareness/being aware of God’s activity – Joshua 2:8-11; 1 Chronicles 12:32, John 5:17, 19
  • Accessing wise and godly counsel – 1Kings 12:8; Proverbs 1:5, 15:22
  • Applying faith (what I know to be true; trust) – Joshua 1:8-9; 6:1-5; 2 Timothy 4:8
  • Adding to faith – three lists: 2 Peter 1:5-11; Galatians 5:19-25; James 3:13-18
  • Avoiding  – pride, anger/bitterness, self/I, impatience, impulsiveness, foolishness/stupidity, greed, sin, temper, cultural/group pressures, worldliness, prayerlessness, temptation, indecision, … Joshua 7:19-26,
  • Affection change (what  I love, cherish, and value) – Joshua 7:21, 1 John 2:15-17, Mark 12:28-34; Matthew 5:1-16, 6:19-21
  • Admitting and repenting (quickly) – Joshua 7:1-12,19-26; Isaiah 1:18-20
  • Acting in obedience – Joshua 1:7-9, Matthew 7:24-27; Romans 16:19

George Mueller’s outline of how he discerned God’s will and made decisions also has been very helpful to me, for many years I have carried a copy with me:

1. I seek at the beginning to get my heart into such a state that it has no will of its own in regard to a given matter. Nine-tenths of the trouble with people generally is just here. Nine-tenths of the difficulties are overcome when our hearts are ready to do the knowledge of what His will is.

2. Having done this, I do not leave the result to feeling or simple impression. If I do so I make myself liable to great elusions.

3. I seek the will of the Spirit of God through, or in connection with, the Word of God. The Spirit and the Word must be combined. If I look to the Spirit alone without the Word, I lay myself open to great delusions also. If the Holy Ghost guides me at all, He will do it according to the Scriptures and never contrary to them.

4. Next I take into account providential circumstances. These often plainly indicate God’s Will in connection with His Word and Spirit.

5. I ask God in prayer to reveal His Will to me aright.

6. Thus, (1) through prayer to God, (2) the study of His Word, and (3) reflection, I come to a deliberate judgment according to the best of my ability and knowledge, and if my mind is thus at peace, and continues so after two or three more petitions, I proceed accordingly. [1]

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

[1] As quoted in “Experiencing God,” by Henry Blackaby & Claude King; workbook p.34, LifeWay Press 1990

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Choose – What $2.00 more a week will do!

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

My daughter was asking her Grandpa, my Father-in-law, about his life. One of the things he shared struck me; it illustrates the far-reaching impact of even one decision. When Bill was 19 he had a choice to go to work for either Pac Bell or PG&E. He chose the telephone company because they were paying $2.00 (yup, two dollars) more a week back in 1955. “Ten years later,” he said, “Guys at PG&E were making nearly twice as much as I was making.”

But it was through his work with Pac Bell that Bill and his family ended up living in Greely Hill (He transferred there from Vallejo) California. It was there he found Christ and attended church with his family, and in 1976 it was Greeley Hill where I ended up as a foreign exchange student. If it had not been for those two dollars a week our paths might never have crossed, I might never have married the best girl ever, Emily might never existed, and that late evening conversation might never have taken place.

Bill chose, and it impacted the course of his life, his children’s lives, and in time my life, my children’s lives, and who knows how many others’ lives. I do not know how many people in Bill’s family were God-fearing, praying kind of folks, but I do know that way before I was born, even before Bill was born there have been praying men and women in my family. I have no doubt that their prayers influenced the choices of others, they certainly did mine.

Maybe you’re saying, “Come on Hans, that’s just how life works. Anyone can look back and speculate. You don’t need to get all spiritual to explain it all. In fact you don’t even need God for it.”

I suppose it depends how big you think God is. “You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand [generations] of those who love me and keep my commandments” Exodus 20:4-6 (NIV). I believe God is big enough to hear the prayers of someone living on one continent and make one job pay two dollars more on another continent to shape lives that are yet to be born and accomplish His purposes. I also believe that the choices we make today have far reaching consequences tomorrow and beyond. That’s why I want God to be involved in the choices I make, only He knows what tomorrow and beyond holds, and I surely desire his lovingkindness and blessing to be unleashed there. I pray that is your heart’s desire as well.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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