Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for June, 2016

Ah to be free! To call your own shots, make your own decisions, to be unrestrained. Being able to say what you want, believe what you want, and do what you want. To have no interference, no guilt, no fears, completely unencumbered, and have no taxes without representation.

None of the countries I have visited or lived in has a greater and more openly expressed love for liberty than the USA. There is more talk of, pride in, and public homage to freedom here in the US than anywhere I am aware of. On the 4th of July the entire nation stops to celebrate national freedom. In a two year cycle the walk to the ballot box is also a celebration of political freedom. Turn on your television, your radio, your computer and you find a continual celebration of the freedom of speech, of expression, and of the press. Google religious institutions in your area and you are looking at a poster of religious freedom. The fierce public debates over gun control, abortion, gender issues, etc. highlight freedom in the sense that they are both possible and permitted. On Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Marin Luther King Day, and Labor Day we contemplate the cost of freedom. Yes, this is a freedom loving nation which has had tremendous impact regarding liberty around the world. I am grateful that God has allowed me to live here, to raise my family here, to call this my home.

I am also concerned. About dismally low election turnouts, about people being more informed about the Kardashians, Lady Gaga, or their favorite sports teams than being politically informed and engaged, about declining civic involvement, the almost total secularization of education, and most of all the popular notion that real freedom can only be found in the absence of God, Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying,
‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’ He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision”
Psalm 2:1-4 (ESV).

Freedom is above anything else a spiritual issue, and understanding “real” liberty as something that lies outside of an inseparable relationship with the divine (“Endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, …”) is both our greatest fallacy and demise regarding it. A mistake our founding Fathers did not make.

The command, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) deals with both liberty, responsibility, and accountability. Liberty, because genuine love for my neighbor will cause me to restrict my liberty, will define my liberty not only in terms of what I will and can do but also in terms of what I will not and cannot do. Responsibility, because I can love my neighbor as myself and am not merely admonished but commanded to take responsibility for my neighbor’s welfare. Accountability, because both my liberty and my ability to love and care are divine endowments and as such God has right to judge my exercise, my use or abuse of them.

This command to love our neighbor exists in conjunction to, is not meant to be separated from, the greatest commandments of them all, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” Mark 12:30 (ESV). Together these two commandments provide both the best instruction and greatest check and balance on freedom. Divorce one from the other and human depravity will guarantee the perversion of, suppression of, and abuse of liberty. Liberty centered around “me” and “us” will guarantee its descent and demise. Liberty centered around Almighty God and others will guarantee its ascent to incredible heights of blessing.

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord (Jesus Christ) is, there is freedom” 2 Corinthians 3:17 (ESV, parenthesis mine).

To God be all glory. Happy 4th of July, Pastor Hans

 

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.” 2 Timothy 1:12 (ESV)

It all looked like a big fat failure. After years of giving his all, so very little to show for, friends failing him, and people he had high hopes for checking out, quitting. The legal system offering little hope, the outcome all but rigged. The mighty Apostle Paul, whose name was known not only around the world but even among demons (Acts 19:15), reduced to lowly prisoner with a number, reduced to insignificance, rotting away in a Roman prison cell expecting to be executed in the near future.

What had become of him? What had become of his cause? What would remain? What good had he done? What now? All of the marvelous, miraculous, extraordinary, unbelievable things Paul had experienced and done what did it accomplish? On one hand what Paul writing from his prison cell to his spiritual son, Timothy, is rather depressing. There is loneliness, disappointment, even a sense of tiredness and resignation, “I fought the good fight,” and mundane worries about being cold in the upcoming winter. On the other hand there is a remarkable amount of thinking about and preparing for the future for both himself and Timothy, there is no quit, no doubt, no regret as to his devotion to Christ and his kingdom.

It is a tremendous statement, “I am not ashamed,” no hanging of the head, no avoiding someone’s look, no dreading someone’s evaluation of his life and circumstances. So why isn’t he ashamed? Why is he keeping his head high? Would you if you were in his shoes?

Paul doesn’t make the mistake people made in his day and still do so today, maybe even moreso. He doesn’t confuse “what” with “whom”. He doesn’t say, “I know what I believed,” although Paul certainly knew what he believed. No, he says, “I know whom I believed.” In life it makes a big difference what you believe in but it makes an even bigger difference who you believe in.

It is inevitable, all of us will be reduced, and not just when we are old and our bodies and faculties are failing. But the greatest reducer and humiliator is still death. Death has sting – sin 1 Corinthians 15:55-56). Sin elevates the “what” and confuses the importance of the “who.” There is just one whom death cannot reduce and sin has no power over, the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul reminds you and me that believing in him and entrusting our entire life, our hope, and our confidence to him is the only way to not lose it all.

I challenge you to get out a Bible, or access a copy online, find 2 Timothy and read all four chapters contemplating where you are with the “whom” and the “what”.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 1:24-25 (ESV)

 I hate to admit it, but I am not as sure footed as I was when I was 25. I was reminded of that last time I went trout fishing on the South Fork of the Tuolumne river. I used to be able to rock hop and leap all over. Now I am much more prone to stumble and fall. In fact, I hit the deck twice a few weeks ago just navigating around my yard. I blame it on my current back struggles and how they affect my left leg.

I watch my grandson trying to gain stability on his young legs. He too, spills regularly, but he doesn’t fall as far and his bones are softer than mine. Yet, if he fails to gain stability on his legs his life will be much tougher, much more bruised, and much more limited.

Of course we don’t just stumble with our legs. Ever stumbled with your mouth? Didn’t find the right words? Made a mess with the words you did manage? Wish you could somehow take them words back?

We stumble with our emotions. For many, their temper and anger (how they express and manage it) trip them up time after time. They continually make them stumble. For others it is depression, or anxiety, or paralyzing fear.

For some it is money, the making of it, the managing (actually mismanaging) of it, the spending of it, the love of it, that time after time causes them to stumble, to upset their lives, to add enormous stress and worry.

James is right when he writes, we all stumble in many ways” James 3:2 (ESV). People have stumbled over their ambitions, jealousy, because of their friends, relatives, how people have treated them, injustice, and ….

Jude’s main concern in his short letter next to the last book of the Bible is far too many people stumbling spiritually. I can attest to that after pastoring for 32 years. Heck, all I have to do is look in the mirror and get a glimpse of a stumbler.

Stumbling is a special concern to me as a Dad and now Granddad. I want to model and contribute to the stability of my children and grandchildren, and that is tough to do if I stumble too much, especially spiritually. There is absolutely no one better at helping me/us when it comes to stumbling, gaining balance, acquiring stability in life with all of its challenges and twist and turns, than God and his Son Jesus Christ. There is no resource better than the Bible (God’s written revelation) when it comes to building the strength of mind, heart, faith, and habits needed to avoid stumbling. There are few foundational habits as important as gathering weekly with other stumblers to encourage each other and worship the one who daily offers his almighty hand to keep us from stumbling.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.  He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. Romans 4:20-21 (NLT)

How good we are at keeping our promises says a lot about us, our character, our trustworthiness. You break enough promises (“enough” is a surprisingly small number) and soon others will count your promises worthless. The value of a promise is only as good as the promise keeper. We and God admire those who keep their promises at great cost and personal sacrifice, there is something inspiring about such promise makers and such promise keeping. King David asked, “Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?” Psalm 15:1 (NLT), and part of the answer is, “He swears (promises) to his own hurt and does not change” Psalm 15:4 (NASB, parenthesis mine).

Have you ever been at the receiving end of a careless, unkept promises? You find shatteredness there, shattered trust, lost respect, dead dreams, deteriorated relationships, dissipated honor. Our challenge is not only to be careful about making promises but also discerning about whose promises you can trust. Experience enough worthless promises and it won’t be long before you become distrustful and cynical about promises in general, even God’s.

The truth is that none of our promises, even our most carefully made promises, are completely trustworthy. Our most sincere intentions, sterling character, fine track record, and great self-discipline cannot fully guarantee any promise we make. There are just too many variables out of our control, most notably our mortality, we might simply not live long enough to keep a promise. We can keep promises only to the best of our ability, and we should. And, like with all things in life, we are completely dependent on God in our promise keeping. He alone is capable of making a promise and completely guarantee it. His promises are completely trustworthy, in fact, every promise of God is good as reality.

Abraham realized and became ever more convinced that the best way to live life is to fully trust in the promises of God, in the certain promise keeper – God. God promised him a son and Abraham and Sarah’s age was not an obstacle. God asked him to sacrifice that precious son and Abraham knew and believed that even death was not problem for God. Abraham would absolutely and without hesitation encourage us live by God’s promises. He would concur with what the Apostle Peter penned, “… because of his glory and excellence, he (God) has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises” 2 Peter 1:4-5 (NLT).

The best place to discover God’s promises is the Bible, God’s written word, it is chock-full of “magnificent and precious” promises, each one of them completely trustworthy. Without a doubt you and I are much better off if when we live by God’s promises.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV)

Our asking depends on our thinking, and our thinking is influenced by all kinds of factors. But generally we don’t ask beyond what our minds conceive is possible, legitimate, necessary, or even impossible. Maybe you are blessed with a mind that thinks audaciously big, but even it has a limit. Sometimes desperation makes us cry out for and wish for what our minds deem impossible, and still our minds paint a picture of what that looks like.

All too often we are beset with smallness of mind, so we don’t bother to even ask, “You do not have, because you do not ask God” James 4:2b (NIV). Of course some have no room for any notion of the reality of God, this too is a smallness of mind that shuts the door on all kinds of possibilities, and certainly to ask him for anything.

The harnessing of power has been an ongoing pursuit of mankind; we are much better at it than we are submitting to power. Yet, in spite of many incredible advances the gap between God’s power and ours has not narrowed, God still “is able to far more abundantly than all we ask or think.” All the additions to our knowledge, skills, and abilities has not negated our need for God, for what he knows, what he is capable of. Our minds cannot even conceive his eternal power, knowledge, and wisdom, “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV). “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’”— 1 Corinthians 2:9 (ESV).

Have you ever thought that God is not doing enough, both in general and for you specifically? This too is evidence of our smallness of thinking, as well as a considerable amount of hubris. It implies that God somehow is delinquent, that he somehow is misusing his power, that he fails to use his knowledge, his wisdom, and his power appropriately and timely. When we do so we forget that we owe our very existence to the application of God’s greatness, goodness, and power.

The verses that began this pastor’s note are part of prayer the Apostle Paul prayed for believers at Ephesus and Asia Minor. He wanted them and us to know God more, to love him more, to experience his greatness ever more, to grow beyond the smallness of ourselves and our thinking and to rely on him who is so great, so incomprehensible, so magnificent that he truly is worthy of all glory for all generations.

May God grant Paul’s request in regard to you and me, to live beyond what we can ask or think, ever thirsty for God to reveal more of himself and Christ.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: