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Archive for October, 2013

Susie and I just spend a week in Boston visiting our daughter Betsie who lives and works there. Is there anything better than seeing God bless your children, granting them success in life? Does anything make a parent more grateful?

We spent a good deal of time exploring Boston, a city filled with history. People first came there for freedom, religious freedom above all, and for opportunity. 383 years after the founding of Boston and 237 after the founding of the United States freedom and opportunity are still hallmarks of this society we are privileged to live in.

On Sunday morning we went to church at the historic Park Street Church were we heard an incredible testimony given by Tom Gerendas, who grew up in Budapest, Hungary, survived the Nazi holocaust as a twelve year old Jewish boy, found salvation through Christ, later escaped communism, and found his way to the United States (you can find his testimony on the Park Street Church website, www.parkstreet.org), where lives to serve God and Christ.

Park Street Church is also where the Hymn written by Samuel Francis Smith “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee” was first sung in 1831. Verses one and four read:

My country, ’tis of thee,

Sweet land of liberty,

Of thee I sing;

Land where my fathers died,

Land of the pilgrims’ pride,

From ev’ry mountainside

Let freedom ring!

 

Our fathers’ God to Thee,

Author of liberty,

To Thee we sing.

Long may our land be bright,

With freedom’s holy light,

Protect us by Thy might,

Great God our King.

 

Interestingly it is written to the tune of “God Save the Queen/King.”

 

Boston and the greater Boston area is also home to over 100 universities and colleges with a combined enrollment of several hundred thousand students. It has been referred to as the “Athens of America.” Of course colleges and universities are all about opportunity. At the Walgreens next to where we stayed the clerk was a retired Colonel of the Bangladesh Air Force. He moved his family to Boston so his children could go to “the best schools in the world.” He wanted them to have opportunity.

 

Close to where our daughter lives we drove by a church that has been turned into an apartment complex, that means the church that met there died. Not because there are not enough people in that neighborhood but rather because people stopped going there. It illustrates a shift. The founders of Boston were looking for a place to freely worship God, today we increasingly are looking for a freedom from God. We no longer consider freedom as a call to worship, “Our fathers’ God to Thee, Author of liberty, To Thee we sing,” but are much more inclined to see it as a call to self-expression, self-indulgence, and self-fulfillment.

 

Maybe that’s enough rambling for one p-note. Let me leave you with some words of the Apostle Paul, “It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows” Galatians 5:13 (MSG).

To God be all glory, love you Pastor Hans

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“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Matthew 7:7-8 (NIV)

We prayed and prayed some more when my brilliant and kind younger brother Friederich became mentally ill and suicidal, and then we had to bury him. Two years later my Mama stayed with us for the birth of our daughter Emily. One evening I followed her out on the porch after she said she wasn’t feeling well, she was having some kind of heart episode but refused to go to the hospital. I prayed for her, she went back home, three months later we buried her. My older brother Andreas had a massive heart attack, we prayed for him, he recovered amazingly and returned to work. Two years later he had massive stroke, we prayed for him and he has made huge strides in his recovery, but he is still disabled. This past June, Junior, our little grandson suffered cardiac arrest and massive brain damage, we prayed and prayed some more, somehow he still alive, but still so broken he seems unaware. Our daughter Emily’s spine is deformed by scoliosis and she suffers from debilitating migraines, all of our praying has not straightened her back or cured her headaches. Our son Hansi, our niece Ashley, and our nephew Luke all have type 1 diabetes, and although we praise God for insulin that allows them to live He has not restored the pancreases. And I could go on, as I am sure you could too about members of your own family and maybe even yourself.

You can’t read very far into the New Testament without coming to the conclusion that God both has the power to heal and has healed people, and not just from “easy” stuff but from things like blindness, paralysis, even from death itself. Instantly he made lame men walk, freed lepers from disease, made chronic bleeding stop, fevers disappear, and so much more. Was all that just authenticate that Jesus was really the Son of God? Does God still heal today, and who, and when, and under what conditions? Is it just a crapshoot, some get lucky and some don’t? Are the critics right that all this randomness is just another reason to discount the existence of God? And why does God not unleash more of that power, where it is really needed?

By now you might have guessed that I have not figured this all out, nobody really has. Here is what I do know:

  1. God’s ways are unfathomable, inscrutable, and good.
  2. Suffering puzzles us, and erasing God out of the picture is of no help, but reduces everything, and especially suffering, to mere randomness and meaninglessness.
  3. God does not abandon us in our suffering, even when we feel like he is not responding to our pleas as we think He should.
  4. God knows how to redeem suffering for his purposes and glory.
  5. God invites us to call on Him in our suffering and pain, and we can be confident that He hears and responds to our needs out of His perfect wisdom, His complete knowledge, His immeasurable power, His full justice, His sovereign will, His flawless goodness, and His bottomless love.
  6. God knows how and when to heal us, how and when to sustain us, and how and when to keep us in this life or call us home to Himself.
  7. We can trust Him regardless of what life, others, evil, and even hell itself throws at us and rest in the assurance of that trust. The faith we place in Him, is not misplaced, not empty, or filled with disappointment. Instead it is sure, real, full of hope, overflowing with mercy, grace, and life.

What will I do next the next time sickness, or tragedy, or suffering and pain comes my way, or strikes someone in my family, my church, my neighborhood, or my community? I will go straight to God, my Heavenly Father, who has loved me and claimed me in Christ. I will hold on tight to his good Hand, I will ask Him for healing, for help, for strength, for faith, for peace, for the ability to cope, for His all-sufficient grace to keep me in my weakness, and to be able to accept His will over mine. And I hope I will meet you there.

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

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