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Archive for September, 2016

Did you watch or listen to Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump square off in the first presidential debate of 2016? Of course that is not the only debate, the media supporting either side has been debating all along and so has the politically engaged general public in various forums ranging from social media to personal conversations. Some decide to stay completely out of the fray of politics and in doing so make a political statement in itself. The reality is it is impossible to be apolitical.

The Bible, God’s written word, certainly is not apolitical. The Exodus of the ancient Israelites out of Egypt is not just a spiritual movement; it is also a political one. Joshua and the conquest of Canaan is a political event. The period of the judges is a study in the difficulties of self-governance as well as the how spiritual matters and politics are interlinked. The beginning chapters of Samuel is an object lesson of the rejection of God in politics, abandoning personal responsibility in  politics and entrusting it to someone else, and how disgruntlement in the present can cause a majority to make foolish decisions. The book Esther is all about individual responsibility in current politics and the providence of God being inseparable from the politics of the day and history as a whole. Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah do not just give historical facts and teach spiritual lessons, but they are manuals as to good, godly, and great governmental leadership vs. evil, self-serving, and godless leadership. None of prophets stayed out of politics, in fact it is their involvement that brought them ridicule, abuse, imprisonment, and death. Jesus’ birth brought on political paranoia, his life and teaching threatened the existing powers, and the leaders of his day were utterly confounded by him. The apostles and early church not only propagated the Gospel of personal salvation but also profoundly affected their culture. The Epistles deal not just with doctrine and personal conduct but also how Christians are to function public. Revelation leaves no doubt that not just individuals fall under the sovereignty and judgment of God but also the nations. To pray, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” is a political prayer, it yearns for, seeks the rule of God over all the earth.

So how are Christians supposed to engage in politics?

  • Through prayer (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
  • In accordance with the commands, principles, and values of the Word of God, the Bible. (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Psalm 119:160)
  • By engaging with the world instead of withdrawing from it and merely judging it. (1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 2 Corinthians 2:12; 1 John 4:17)
  • By humbly yielding whatever influence God assigns to each one of us. (Esther 4:14; Acts 13:36; Numbers 12:3)
  • For the good of others. (Galatians 6:9-10; Titus 1:1-2&8)
  • With kindness, compassion, and sacrifice. (Matthew 5:1-16)
  • With restraint, patience, and perseverance. (Galatians 5:22-23; 6:9-10)
  • With Faith, hoping in and relying on the power of God. (1 Corinthians 13:13; Colossians 1:27-28)
  • To the glory of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Peter 4:11)

To God be all glory. Love you Pastor Hans.

 

 

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Have ever had to call tech-support because you couldn’t figure something out on your computer? Maybe you tried to figure out your problem on your own and actually exacerbated the problem. Personally I like it when the tech on the phone just does that remote access thing and figures it all out. The other way is for him or her to walk you through it. For that to work you have do what you are told, “open settings, click on ‘the dummy messed it up rest button, …’” I wonder how much these techs laugh in the lunch room, “I just talked to this guy with a German accent, who deleted all of his emails permanently (which I did once) and expected me to work some miracle. Heck, he should have taken his computer to church for that and have the preacher lay hands on it and anoint it with oil.” I think I will call after lunch next time.

Anyway, the thing is that I don’t need to know as much as the computer tech but I have to trust what she says as she walks me through the fix it procedure. It is a step by step thing. I either trust the tech and follow the instructions even if I don’t understand them or the logic for and the reasons behind them. It is that way with life and God, with following Christ. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you” Luke 6:34-38 (ESV).

You just read an excerpt of life instructions straight from God’s/Jesus’ lips. Let me ask you, did all of that make total sense to you? Did you fully understand all of the logic behind all of that? Did you immediately have several questions come to your mind? Frankly, I’d be surprised if you didn’t. Jesus lays out some very broad boundaries here, it is easy to get lost and confused there. How do you flesh this out? Where are the limits?

Jesus sums up the larger instructions (Luke 6:20-49), that include the above, with these words, “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?
Everyone who comes to me and hears my words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against that house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great”
Luke 6:46-49 (ESV).

I am sure you don’t need to call “pastor’s note support” to get the point. If you trust the tech, your doctor, your mechanic, your financial advisor, your …., then you follow their instructions. Now they all might be very good, even excellent, and you are better off because you trust them. But they are not near as expert and trustworthy as God/Jesus Christ. Will you and I trust his word and wisdom enough to do it, even when we do not understand it. We will live better lives if we do.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Have you ever kinked a water hose that someone was using without them knowing that you were there? It’s really great when they end up pointing the hose at their face to see what has caused the water from coming out, because that’s when you release the kink and “whoosh.”

The Apostle John reports that Jesus on the last day of the Feast of Tabernacles, that included an elaborate water ceremony, stood up and shouted, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water'” John 7:37-38 (NASB), and John adds the following explanation, “This He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive” John 7:39 (NASB).

The Holy Spirit is what Jesus was referring to and that the Holy Spirit is the life-giving and sustaining source in a believer’s life. Have you ever noticed that wherever there is water things grow, things are green, full of life? Now the Holy Spirit in every believer’s life unequivocally and continually works towards holiness, godliness, and Christlikeness to abound in a Christian’s life so that s/he pours out, gushes holiness, godliness, Christ-likeness like an artesian well, like a fire hose at full blast, like a mighty flowing river.

What keeps us from gushing forth mighty rivers? What causes us to be more like an old leaky garden hose that produces but a dribble of holiness, and sometimes none at all? What reduces us to people who proclaim Christ but have little of the life of Jesus flow through us? Kinks for one, but these kinks are no joke.

You can’t blame the kinks on the devil, although he tries very hard to prevent anything coming out of our hose. You can’t blame your dribbling hose on lousy circumstances, bad health, pain, evil people, injustice, and lack of opportunity or lucky breaks. Jesus and a host of saints have gushed living water in spite of all of these.

No, in my experience my hose kinks when I drag it around corners I shouldn’t, when I respond to the things mentioned above like the old Hans, contrary to what the Spirit of God compels me to, contrary to the scriptures he inspired. When he says “judge not,” “forgive,” “watch what you say,” “be generous,” “love your enemies,” “be merciful” etc. and I don’t – kink.

When I refuse to drag my hose to where the Spirit wants me to water, stay away from those he wants me to engage with, love, nurture and care for – kink.

When I give myself permission to maintain attitudes, opinions, and values that are contrary to the heart of God, the will of God, and the word of God – kink.

When I excuse behaviors that are ungodly, unholy, unworthy of Christ (remember every Christian is part of his body) – kink.

When I decide on the timing of my obedience to the Spirit of God – kink.

When I hold onto what the Spirit compels me to let go and vice versa don’t embrace what he wants me to embrace – kink.

When I make the practice of important spiritual habits such as prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship/church, servanthood, giving, worship, etc. optional – kink.

When my heart lacks passion for the kingdom of God, the will of God, the things of God, the Son of God, and the glory of God – kink.

When at my core I am motivated by anything less than love for God and love for people – kink.

The only way for the end of a hose to produce continual maximum flow you have to make sure you have it connected to the right source, fix all the leaks, deal with all the kinks, and turn the faucet on all the way. Jesus does not want us to be dribblers but gushers, so much so that we will ask for a bigger hose, and we might end up being a river.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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Saul of Tarsus, better known as the Apostle Paul, was wrong. It didn’t matter that he was highly educated, deeply religious, multi-lingual, and very intelligent. He was just plain wrong. There is no telling how many hours he spent reading and memorizing the scrolls of the Old Testament, how many days he sat under the tutelage of Gamaliel, one of the preeminent Jewish scholars of his day. Who knows how many seminars, symposiums, debates, and presentation Saul attended or contributed to? But it turned out that he was plain wrong. He was so convinced of the rightness of his theology, of the validity of his Old Testament interpretation that he felt justified to persecute those he deemed heretical in light of it.

Saul did not see the Christ the early church proclaimed in any of the Old Testament scriptures and certainly not in the ones they quoted in support of Jesus Christ. They were wrong, dangerously wrong as far as he was concerned. He was so sure of his rightness and their wrongness that he became the chief persecutor of the church in its infancy. Many have followed in his footsteps, and many more have simply dismissed Jesus as having no intellectual, spiritual, cultural, and personal importance.

Saul would not have denied that Jesus actually lived, that he was a real person – even a miracle working person, and that he was tried and executed for blasphemy, namely, declaring himself divine. However, no way could Jesus be the Christ, the promised Messiah, the fulfillment of prophecy recorded in the scriptures. Certainly Jesus resurrection was nothing but a myth, a clever lie conceived and perpetuated by church leaders. They were just dead wrong.

How did that man, Saul, in the span of a few days, turn into the Apostle Paul, the most ardent defender of Jesus being the Christ, the most preeminent theologian of the early church? He ran into Jesus, literally (Acts 9:1-22), and he had to admit that he was wrong. On his way to advance the rightness of his cause and extend the scope of his persecution of Christians, the living, risen Jesus Christ appeared to him, spoke to him, humbled him, and changed him, his mind, and his heart.

Whenever, and wherever, Jesus Christ is reduced to a figure of the past, someone less than divine, a religious figure, a theological argument, as a myth perpetuated by lying church leaders, or simply as someone who can be intellectually dismissed, you will find someone or entire groups, like Saul of Tarsus, being plain wrong.

You can’t miss the radical change, how much Saul was blinded by his education, association, and persuasion. “Immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ‘He is indeed the Son of God!’ All who heard him were amazed. ‘Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?’ they asked. ‘And didn’t he come here to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?’Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah” Acts 9:20-22 (NLT, emphasis mine).

Reading the Apostle Paul’s conversion story again compels me to ask a few questions, some addressed to you and some to myself. Let’s start with you since that is the polite thing to do: What is your verdict concerning Jesus Christ’s identity and importance? Are you as wrong about him as Saul was? Is God interrupting your life so you will confess Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God?

It was a long time ago when God spoke to me regarding Jesus and I confessed him as the Christ, as Savior. Since then I have done lot of studying, especially of the Bible, trying to be careful in my interpretations, and convinced I am right about a good number of things (Germans are good at that). But am I as right as I think I am? How many scriptures might I have read over and over, even memorized, but my interpretation is far from spot on, even wrong? How much of my interpretation is flawed because of my education, association, and persuasion?

I am certain of this, any education, association, and persuasion that dismisses or even opposes the truth of Jesus Christ, will in the end proof itself to be wrong. He is the living, eternal Son of God, crucified, buried, and risen. He is the only Savior for sinners, able to forgive sin and impart eternal life. He alone will judge the living and the dead. “As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.’ Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect. They have the same Lord, who gives generously to all who call on him. For ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved’” Romans 10:11-13 (NLT).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Colin Kaepernick has caused quite a stir. He made it from “Niner” news on the sports page to the front page, all because he sat during the playing of the National Anthem during pre-game ceremonies. He did so in protest of brutality and injustice by police towards people of color. He used the platform available to him to draw attention to justice issues that he feels strongly about and believes the nation needs to address. Judging by the massive reaction, what he did has been very effective. You have to go back a long way to find another professional athlete using his celebrity status and platform available to him this effectively to bring attention to justice issues and stand up for something vastly more important than wins, loses, and championships.

On August 23rd, along with 679 other immigrants from 48 countries around the world, I took the US citizenship oath, “I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

The ceremony began with “The Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America” being sung by a black veteran in a wheel chair, decorated with two purple hearts and the Medal of Honor. He volunteers for this every month a swearing in ceremony is held. It is obviously important to him. Following the opening remarks and mentioning of all the countries we hailed from we stood and took the oath and listened to a speech by an immigrant from Iran, who nearly 30 years ago sat where we were sitting. Now newly minted US citizens we were welcomed by President Obama via a recorded message, and then were led in the “Pledge of Allegiance” by a member of the military and the wife of soldier serving overseas. Then we got to pick up our official citizenship certificate, citizenship package, and copy of the Constitution. It was one of the proudest moments of my life. Before I went to bed that night I thanked God and filled out my voter registration.

Of course if you are born in this great country you don’t have do any of the above, you’re automatically a citizen. And what does all of this have to do with Colin Kaepernick? Well, he is proving himself to be a citizen, to be more than football player. In an utterly peaceful, legal, and non-threatening way he has stood up and reminded us that symbols only have meaning if they have substance. He is not comparing one injustice to another and thus diminishing them both. We should remember the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The pledge to the flag is to “the republic for which it stands,” and the substance of the republic is to be, “one nation, under God, with liberty and justice for all.”

It was the great mistake of the ancient Israelites that they confused the symbols with the substance. Just carrying the tabernacle was not enough for God and for victory (1 Samuel 2:12-17, 4:1-11). It is possible to fly the flag, wear a badge, and don the uniform and be mean, bigoted, wicked and godless. Look no further than at those who instigated and carried out Jesus’ arrest, trial, and execution. They thought having a temple and its ceremonies were sufficient to gloss over all kinds of injustices, but God did not agree. They made the symbols sacred even while they forgot what it means to be sacred people. God has never been interested in hoopla, but he has commanded holiness (1 Peter 1:14-16). The flag and the National Anthem are no more sacred than a copy of the Bible or a cross. If we elevate them to that status they will become idols of the worst kind, one patriotic the other religious. If we dare to honor God and Christ, who are sacred, and honor what is sacred to them, then our symbols will be proper reminders and not blinders.

To God be all glory. One humble citizen, Pastor Hans

“With what shall I come before the Lord, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:6-8 (ESV)

 

 

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