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Archive for January, 2015

If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small. Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die; save them as they stagger to their death. Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.” For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve. Proverbs 24:10-12 (NLT)

70 years ago, on January 27, Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp was liberated. 1.1 million people were murdered there, not because they had been convicted of some crime deserving death but because they did not fit Nazi ideology, and most of them because they were Jews. In order to pull of mass murder on that scale the Nazi leadership had brainwash, intimidate , and silence most all of Germany. Think about it, how else do you slaughter millions of human beings without any large scale opposition? How do you keep it out of the media? How do you manage to keep an entire country from crying out against it? It really is an old play book, cooked up in hell a long time ago.

You have to have great slogans, “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” (work liberates) hung at the entrance of concentration camps. A little hard work never has harmed anybody, has it? “For God and country.” “Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest). “A woman’s right to choose.” What fool would challenge God and patriotism? Who can deny that God is the greatest? Who doesn’t endorse the freedom to choose? Great slogans ease the conscience; mollify the urge to think for yourself. You want people to love the slogans regardless of the truth.

You have to intimidate, sow fear to point that people are glad that what happens to others does not happen to them. You have to exploit what every kid learns on the school playground – to be afraid of being laughed at, being ostracized, to be called names, to be bullied, of being hurt. Terror works, fear is powerful. You have to be willing to belittle, shout down, embarrass, defame, lie, betray, hurt, and kill in the name of the cause. Sowing fear can’t worry about being clean, getting dirty, embracing violence, a “few” dispensable lives.

You have to be good at stripping real people of their humanity. You want people to think that Jews are categorically bad, the infidels are bad, an unwanted unplanned baby is bad, as are liberals, conservatives, environmentalists, homosexuals and all of the LBGTQ crowd, fundamentalists, Christians, Muslims, atheists they are all bad. And it is okay to dislike bad, to hate bad. Getting rid of bad is not that bad of a thing, in fact it might even be good. The less bad people there are the better; you have to be completely out of touch to disagree with that. Bad also doesn’t deserve the same rights as good, does it? Bad and bad people are really more of an issue to be dealt with, personalizing only complicates things. It is much easier to deal with an issue like the issue of slavery, the issue of the Jews, the issue of abortion, the issue of the Middle East Conflict, the issue of Aids, of Ebola, hunger, injustice. Issues are far easier to deal with, they don’t stare you in the eye, issues don’t have beating hearts.

On January 22, 1973 the US Supreme Court legalized abortion, since then 55,000,000 (55 million!) human beings have lost their lives through abortion in the United States alone. They have fallen victim to pills, solutions, suction machines, dismemberment, and the like. Where is the outrage, the disgust, the shame? There has not been one, not a single aborted child that was less than 100% human. There has not been one aborted child guilty or even accused of a crime. The reason they have been so easily and mercilessly killed is that they have been stripped of their humanity (How conditioned have we become to zygote, embryo, fetus as meaning something less than human). They have been called “mistakes,” “inconveniences,” “bad timing,” “accidents,” everything but what they really are – persons, human beings, living images of God. They have been deemed dispensable, we are better off without them than with them. They have been stripped of the most basic human rights and legal protection under the smoke screen of a woman’s right to choose. They have been made into issue to debate rather than people to love.

O that there would be “liberty and justice for all.”

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

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Impact, “… the LORD was with him …” Genesis 39:3 (NIV)

Impact, we all have it. Our footprint might be small or large, hardly visible or impossible to ignore, but everyone has one. That little girl or boy still in her or his mother’s womb has one. When my son and daughter-in-law announced that she was pregnant I couldln’t help but smile, “They have no idea how much that child will impact their lives,” I thought. And, o boy, how that baby has impacted their lives.

So what is your impact? How do you impact those around you? Does your impact cause gladness or grief, blessing or bad, hope or hell? What is found on the trail of your impact? What will be your legacy? A story of evil, lies, corruption, violence, hatred, betrayal? A mixed bag? Or one that leaves no doubt in the mind of others that “God was with you?”

It is true, “the Lord was with Joseph,” but it is also true that Joseph was with God. How do we know that? We know because of his statements, attitude, and actions. When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him Joseph’s refusal was based on two things: 1. His integrity, he wouldn’t betray his master’s trust (he was a slave), 2. His belief in God, he would not sin against God (Genesis 39:9). When Pharaoh summoned him to interpret dreams Joseph acknowledged God from the very outset (Genesis 41:16). Enslaved through the betrayal of his brothers, imprisoned on a false allegation of rape, forgotten promises by the kings cup bearer, it could have made Joseph bitter, cynical, negative, corrupt, or resigned. But he did not lose hope, kindness, caring, honesty, faith, nor the drive to be and do his best. No matter where he ended up those around him trusted him with responsibility, were able to depend on the quality of his work, didn’t have to worry about him when no one was looking. Invariably people benefited from having Joseph in their lives. They ended up being better off because of him. Things improved with Joseph around. There was no mistaking that “the Lord was with him,” his impact proved it.

Joseph was 17 when his brothers sold him into slavery, after that he was a salve and a prisoner for 13 years, and he served under Pharaoh for decades. Time passed, his circumstances changed, responsibilities grew, but his impact stayed constant, his legacy is untarnished, “the Lord was with him.”

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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Six days of ordinary and way day of fancy, that’s how I grew up. From Monday through Saturday we ate simple meals, nothing fancy, but on Sunday we had soup, salad, roast, or tongue, or rotisserie chicken, or something else of my Mama’s kitchen wizardry, all followed by desert. In the late afternoon that was complimented with Kaffee (coffee) und Kuchen (cakes and other various baked delicacies). Which one of the meals during any given week was the most important? Which one was one was unimportant? I can tell you to my four brothers and I the vote for most important would have been for Sunday, hands down, no contest. However, invariably we needed food on Monday, on Tuesday, on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. There wasn’t a day when food was not important, when we did not get hungry. In fact most everything in our house was eaten, leftovers did not last, and almost nothing was thrown out. Every meal fed us, helped us to grow, enabled us to function, gave us energy, sustained us.

We were lucky enough, blessed, to never go hungry; we always had something to eat. I do not remember a day without food, my parents made sure of it. My Dad worked his tail off; my Mom was frugal, grew a garden, canned, juiced, baked and cooked. I don’t remember ever worrying about food.

So what is this pastor’s note about? It’s about spiritual food, reading, hearing, studying, and meditating on the word of God. Jesus said People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” Matthew 4:4 (NLT). You and I privileged to live without any shortage of God’s word. It is available to us, in print, audio, electronic forms, and at churches everywhere. Now when is the word of God more important, on Monday, or Tuesday, Wednesday, …, or on Sunday? Of course it is important every day if we want to be strong, if we want to grow, if we want to be wise, mature, godly, Christlike, all that God means for us to be. Sunday might be the day for the fancy meal the preacher had time to cook up all week, it might be the highlight, soup, salad, main course, desert, Kaffee und Kuchen, but come Monday the spirit, soul, and mind will need to be fed as much as the stomach and body.

My grandson cannot feed himself yet, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to eat every day. He can’t even open the refrigerator, but the day will come when you can’t keep him out of it. On his way from having to be fed to becoming a fridge raider he will make messes, spill things, look awkward handling eating utensils, but he will get there. He will get there not because he has just one fancy meal on Sundays, but because he is eating daily, because he pays attention to the needs of his stomach and body, because he will have had lots of practice. How many of the meals will he remember? Very, very few, but he will be a product of all that he has eaten. We are a product of all that we have eaten, all that we eat.

So what is this pastor’s note about? It is about encouraging you to daily read, study, and meditate on the word of God, the Bible. It is about Monday through Saturday and the fancy meal on Sunday (or some other day you regularly attend church). It is about paying attention to what Jesus said is absolutely important. It is about being strong in spirit, soul, mind, and body. It is about growing, become mature, being godly. It is about being able to feed yourself. It is about starting and being committed to daily read, think upon, and living the word of God. O, I hope you do.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

P.S. If you need help getting started please contact me.

 

 

 

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It means you’re it whether or not you wanted to be it or not, you’re stuck with it regardless of whether or not you wanted or deserved it. The short end of the stick feels like being shafted, getting a lousy deal. Maybe you remember drawing straws once or twice, I sure do, and nothing good ever came from drawing the shortest straw, it got me stuck with dirty chores, bad dares, and worse.

You can saw off your won stick, that is called stupidity, but even then the outcomes vary wildly. Some seem to get more than their fair share of breaks, of second and third chances, and of mercy, while others just knick their stick and it all comes crumbling down. But what if you just ended up with the short end of the stick, if life just hands it to you? When your health is not good, anything but perfect? When you are not the most beautiful, the smartest, the talented one, or even the funny one? What if your family is lousy or you don’t even have one? What if you are suffering because of someone else messing up? What if nice, kind, and safe is the exact opposite of your surroundings and circumstances? What if your short end is one of pain or abuse, or one of poverty and little opportunity? What if that short end is mean, ugly, dysfunctional, violent?

You don’t have to live long before you become afraid of the short end of the stick. Just a little taste of it lets you know that it bitter, that it stinks. Just a pinch of it is enough to know that it feels unfair, unjust. Just one glimpse of it is enough to sense that it unkind and cruel. So we spend much of our time and energy avoiding the short end of the stick, “Let somebody else have it! Yes sir’ee!”

Hagar was Sarai’s maid, very possibly her slave. She didn’t necessarily pick to be a maid. If you had to pick between mistress or maid/slave what would you choose? I thought so. When Sarai couldn’t have kids and asked Hagar to became Abram’s wife and bear him offspring it was her opportunity to kiss the short end of the stick goodbye. Once she conceived she could not help but rub it in on Sarai who although she was the mistress held the short end of the stick when it came to having children. You can imagine that that these two women did not get along, but when it came to power Hagar still was on the short end of the stick. It got so bad that pregnant Hagar finally just took off because she couldn’t take it anymore. However, God caught up with her and told her something that is tough to swallow, “Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority. I will give you more descendants than you can count. You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the LORD has heard your cry of distress” Genesis 16:9-11 (adapted from NLT). God asked her to willingly stick with the short end of the stick. The good news was that she wasn’t lost to God, none of us is, he knew her, he cared about her, he knew the child within her, he had plans for her and her child. The challenge was that he asked her to continue holding the short end of the stick. How much trust does that take? I find it encouraging that God uses people at the short end of the stick for his great and glorious purposes.

“If you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you” 1 Peter 4:19 (NLT).

To God be all glory, love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. Please do not misunderstand me to say to submit to mistreatment, abuse, and injustice in every situation and circumstance. Rather we should seek to know, submit to , and do God’s will in every situation and circumstance, which does mean we will not run from all suffering and hardship, nor will we use being at the short end of the stick as an excuse not to act godly, or without faith and love.

 

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I am neither at the beginning nor am I at the end, somewhere past the middle I suppose, I hope. Our little grandson is at the beginning, hopefully a long way from the end, but this past year I was reminded that we might be closer to end regardless of far we think we are from the end.

We just ended another year and find ourselves at the beginning of a new one. I, like you, had no idea what last year would hold, that’s true again for this year. We do know it will bring us 365 days closer to end, if the end does not arrive sooner. This year might also bring us closer to grief, to loss, or our dreams coming true, to success we have labored for, to love, to betrayal, to challenges we did not imagine, to incredible opportunities, we just don’t know. We do know the days of this year will pass no matter what, what will matter again is how you and I will fill those days, how you and I will react to what those days will bring, to what life throws at us.

As the Bible, God’s written revelation, tells us about the beginning of humanity it lists men who lived for an incredibly long time but it singles out two, they did more than just live, Enoch an Noah walked with God (Genesis 5:22, 6:9). Life is more about how we live it than for how long we live it. We don’t know much about Enoch except that he walked with God and then one day God just took him from this temporal into the eternal. We get some more detail about Noah, “Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his time (generation); Noah walked with God” (Genesis 6:9 NASB, parenthesis mine). That’s how God characterized him long before he told him to build the ark. What is even more astounding is that the generation Noah lived in is described as wicked to point of every thought and imagination being evil (Genesis 6:5).

So as you and I are walking into a new year I hope we don’t spend too much time worrying how close we are to the end, that we won’t just settle for mere living, but that we are determined to walk with God in this year regardless of what happens or what we might face. I hope we walk so closely with God that if he needs an ark to be build he can call on us, that in the midst of evil and wickedness he can use us for purposes of salvation. I hope we will live in the present for matters in the end.

To God be all glory, love you Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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