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Archive for November, 2015

In the long-haul walls built by fear don’t work. The Great Wall of China in spite of being one of the Seven Wonders of the World never did do its job. The walls of Jericho offered no real protection. The wall Nehemiah rebuilt around Jerusalem boosted morale but did nothing to stop the tug of war carried out the great world powers in that territory. The Maginot line of defense didn’t stop Hitler for even a moment, he simply Blitzkrieged around it. The Berlin wall and the border fence separating East from West Germany failed to quench East Germans’ thirst for freedom, so they tore it down at the first real opportunity. Walls build by fear don’t work and it doesn’t matter whether or not they are made of concrete, or words of fear and hate, or usually both.

I am surprised how many Christians are answering the siren call for more walls, be it more prison walls, border fences, or rhetoric that keeps repeating the refrain of “let’s keep them out so we can be safe within.” But how much Concertina wire do we want, how high and thick do the walls need to be, and at what point do we end up imprisoned ourselves, both actually and in our mentality?

Christmas is just weeks away. Maybe we need to remember that God himself took on flesh to break down walls. Wall-building is the very antithesis of the reality of Christmas. God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to liberate, to tear down walls that separate, to not be ruled by fear but by faith rooted in love, to help us escape from the inescapable walls our sins create, and to help us across the wall no one can leap over, death. Jesus came to reconcile and has entrusted us with the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-21). As stewards of the Good News he has called us to concern ourselves not with how many we can keep out, but about how many we can bring in through the door of the cross.

Do we as Christians have to be afraid that our Heavenly Father is no longer capable of feeding us, the immigrants (both legal and illegal), and the refugees (for whose plight we are partially responsible) knocking at our door? Have we forgotten that, “God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others” 2 Corinthians 9:8 (NLT); that, “This same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:19 (NLT); and that, Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me” Matthew 25:40 (HCSB)?

Before we give credence to the rhetoric of the those who constantly cry for more walls, before we attach ourselves to the political bandwagon of anyone who thinks wall building is a good idea, and before we repeat carefully crafted arguments for wall building rooted in patriotism or any other human rationale I am asking you to thoroughly examine the scriptures and let the word of God (the Bible, and specifically the New Testament) inform your opinions, your conversations, and your actions. “For he himself (Christ) is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household” Ephesians 2:14-19 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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One suitcase of our two piece luggage allowance was dedicated to transporting materials, video equipment, printed materials, seminar supplies, children’s ministry resources, and a guitar. All of it we planned to use and leave behind with our Tanzanian ministry partners.

We didn’t return with less. We simply shared that of which God has given us an abundance but in return God, through our Tanzanian ministry partners, packed bags for us we did not even have to carry. We were part of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers a long time ago, “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need 2 Corinthians 8:14 (NIV). And we experienced the dynamics Paul described, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the sur
passing grace God has given you” 2 Corinthians 9:12-14 (NIV).

It will take us some time to unpack all God has sent us home with. As we do the blessing will be multiplied and shared with all of you who gave, helped, and prayed to fill the bags we went with. Now we get to unpack together and rejoice in all that God has sent home with us, the experiences, the encouragement, faith that has blossomed and grown, the awe of what God can do with what little we have when we are willing to surrender it for his use and to his glory.

In the end we end up at the foot of the cross, looking up, in awe, filled with praise, wanting to worship, “Giving thanks to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV).

To God be all glory. Love you and miss you, Pastor Hans.

 

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From Tanzania

A thumb-sized cockroach scurried between my feet as I was eating breakfast. That was after we almost hit one of two giraffes who floated ghostlike across the road on our late drive back from somewhere out in the “bush” near Katesh. That was after we spent two days, during which more things seemed to go wrong than right, together with a small church and a group of local pastors in a makeshift sanctuary made out of sticks and bramble, which the big bad wolf could have blown down with less than half of a huff and a puff. That was after nine hours of driving, a good part of it with less than a perfect attitude caused by the things changing in spite diligent preparation.

Leaving, they didn’t want us to, even though the box of materials somehow didn’t get there with us, even though what I taught were just the remnants I could recall off my head, even though I completely loused up a second showing of the Jesus film. Somehow they were gracious to us, genuinely grateful for us merely showing up, worshipping together, praying together, being together. So we were summoned back out of the car to eat a late night meal and sip hot tea, and were showered with a second (the first was back in the stick sanctuary) cloudburst of thanksgivings, blessings, prayers, and finally, after another hour or so, we departed dressed in gifts.

Singing, it started at the end of the day, at the end of teaching my first seminar first seminar, 26 pastors lifting up their voices, echoing of concrete blocks and bare walls, followed by an explosion of prayer that ended in praying for one another. Beautiful things stand out more in humble places, Christ exalted in simplicity.

Dead tired, poured out, spent, and yet feeling good, and grateful. There is deep satisfaction in being involved in divine, holy, and redemptive purposes; and to watch God take smallness, insignificance, frailty, and turn it into something more, something that affects more lives than seems possible from such insufficiency. There is something overwhelming in watching the power and presence of God take what we have and what we are and unfold himself in and through it.

Together, not just being together, but working together, worshipping together, serving together. Not just with those who ride in the car with you, but with those who intercede, with those who supplied, those who cheer and can’t wait to hear, with those who share the joy of Christ and whose joy is to exalt God.

To God be all glory. With love from Tanzania, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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