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Archive for the ‘Belief’ Category

“We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus” Acts 15:11 (NLT). But that wasn’t what everybody in the room where the Apostle Peter spoke those words believed. It was their disagreement on this very point why they had this meeting in first place. It is still a point of contention today. So what do you believe when it comes to being saved?

Of course you have to first settle what is meant by “saved”? Saved from what? The short answer is, saved from sin, death, and the judgment of God. All three of these are universal afflictions, problems, and dilemmas for all of mankind, including you and me. They are as inescapable and as they are real.

Maybe your response is, “Hogwash, typical religious speak,” maybe the above merely elicits a benevolent but dismissive smile, maybe you agree but you have different solution from “the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.” One thing is clear; we all believe something or another. However, mere belief does not make you right, or me for that matter, it simply puts us into different corners in the room of beliefs.

Some things are more important than others, and then some things are crucial. Of course it is difficult to agree on what those are as well. When Peter spoke the words you read above, he wasn’t suggesting that this was matter where everyone gets decide what works for him or her, that this was what he and some others believed but that someone else could believe something entirely different and be right. Peter wasn’t propagating the notion that what is most critical in regard to God, our sin, our accountability to God, and our eternal destiny is that we feel comfortable with it. No! Peter was declaring a fact, a universal truth, an inescapable reality, “We are all saved the same way, by the underserved grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are either saved by Jesus Christ or not at all, There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12 (NLT), “Anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment” John 3:36 (NLT).

You can insist on your opinion, shout as long as you want to from your corner of the room on how much you disagree, but it will not change your need salvation, for forgiveness, for eternal life. You can declare and embrace alternatives that sound good, seem reasonable, and feel right, but they will not eliminate your absolute need for Jesus Christ, There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death” Proverbs 14:12 (HCSB).

I don’t trust myself to know enough on eternal matters, when it comes to God, concerning my sins, and how God will judge; neither should you. Doing so would be both foolishness and arrogance (both are an outgrowth of sin), the most tragic self-deception. No, on salvation we are wise to believe what God has declared, what God has revealed through his written word, the Bible, and most importantly his Son Jesus Christ. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation” Romans 10:9-10 (HCSB).

The question God wanted everyone in the room to ask was not, “How to be saved?” He had already spoken plainly on that, what everyone in the room with Peter should have asked him or herself is what you and I should ask ourselves, “Am I saved the way God says I need to be saved?”

Be saved today.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. If you have questions, need to talk, need more clarity regarding salvation, being right with and be at peace with God, please call me (209) 852-2029, or contact me at dergermanshepherd@gmail.com

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I didn’t think I needed sunscreen, after all it was kind of hazy and we were not going to be outside for very long, but man did I get sunburned.

For 45 years I didn’t think I need glasses, my older brothers did but not me. Then the food on my dinner plate was no longer in focus, and on my first visit to the optometrist I was told that I needed glasses.

Somebody at NASA during the Gemini program thought it was a good idea to stick a roll of duct tape on board of the space capsules and so, although it never did get used, they carried a roll on every mission during the Apollo program as well. Until the Apollo 13 mission got into trouble and, you guessed it, the duct tape was a big part of what saved the crew. I wonder how often it was suggested to no longer bother carrying the extra weight of the duct tape, that it was no longer needed?

The travel nurse made sure I had all my vaccinations in order before going on a trip to Africa, she told me to also pick up a prescription for a malaria preventative and Ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic. “Do I really need that?” I asked. “I highly recommend taking it with you,” she said. Boy, o boy, was I glad that I listened to her when I was hit by some kind of intestinal inferno.

You, me, and my son need insulin if we want to live. When I get up in the morning I don’t think about insulin, my body takes care of all of my insulin calculations and needs. My son, a diabetic, thinks about insulin all of the time. He has to make sure he has insulin, syringes, needles, test strips, etc. on hand; he can’t afford to run out. He has to monitor, calculate, and administer continually. But the truth is we both need insulin if we want to live, however, our awareness of that need is vastly different.

So just because we don’t think we need something, or because we thought we’d never need it, or because we seemingly have not needed it yet, or because we don’t have to think about something we need, does not mean we don’t need it.

It is Easter, and Easter is about what we need most, I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures (the written Word of God) said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said” 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 (NLT, parenthesis mine). There are three inescapable facts regarding you, me, and everyone else:

  1. We are sinners (Romans 3:23)
  2. We will die (Romans 6:23, Ezekiel 18:4).
  3. We will have to face God’s judgment (Hebrews (9:27-28).

This is why we need Jesus Christ, to be forgiven of our sins, to not be defeated by death but instead receive eternal life, and to escape the judgment of God. There is no one else but the crucified, buried, and risen Jesus Christ, who can help you and me with these. “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved” Acts 4:12 (NLT). Let me ask you, “How wise is it to ignore what God thinks you need most?”

It is only If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved” Romans 10:9-10 (NLT)

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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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

 

 

 

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Hope Your Horses

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But desire fulfilled is a tree of life.
Proverbs 13:12 (NASB)

Everyone of us knows something about hope and disappointment. The more our hopes come true the more hopeful we become, the less our hopes are realized the more negativity, cynicism, and other sicknesses of the heart gain a grip on us.

It is good to be hopeful, to be a person of hope. Hope is beautiful like the blossoms of spring, it is full of life like green grass or leaves on a tree, it has a freshness to it like the air after a rain. One of the things that will endure forever is hope, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love …”  1 Corinthians 13:13 (NLT). Heaven will be a place filled with unending hope, but we do not have to wait until we get there to live out of the hope that is part of what makes heaven glorious. There is hope for today and tomorrow; there is hope in grief and sorrow; there is hope in loss and pain; there is hope amidst confusion and questions; there always is hope for those who love and know Jesus Christ and who know how to dwell in the presence of the Almighty, “By the word of the LORD the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host. He gathers the waters of the sea as a heap; he puts the deeps in storehouses. Let all the earth fear the LORD; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! … The LORD looks down from heaven; he sees all the children of man; from where he sits enthroned he looks out on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all and observes all their deeds. The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its great might it cannot rescue. Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.  Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you” Psalm 33:6-8, 13-22 (ESV).

It does make a difference what we hope for and who or what we look to anchor that hope in, what “horse” you’re betting on. The truth is, when it comes to hope there is just one “horse” that is able to carry our hopes today, tomorrow, and for all of eternity. Hope needs someone who is strong, someone who can, who is able, who is merciful, gracious, and compassionate, and there is no one who has all of these in greater abundance than the one who can even raise the dead, Jesus Christ.

I challenge you to go check on your hopes today, on the horses in the in your “hope corral”. Who or what are the horses you hope in? Can any of them carry your hopes better than Christ, God can? Who are you waiting on to carry your hopes?

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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For nothing is impossible with God.” Luke 1:37 (NLT)

We enter 2016 with one. We were born into one. We are never without one. We often wish we had a different one. Many of our complaints and hopes are about it. Most of us have tried to escape it a time or two or more. From the moment we are conceived we contribute to it. Even after die we still affect it – CONTEXT.

The truth that “nothing is impossible for God’ stands on its own; it is an eternal and constant reality. This is terrific news, not just at the beginning of a new year but at the beginning of and throughout every day, and in any context. There is an accompanying truth to God’s omnipotence: we are not. Many things, most things are impossible for us. We cannot turn water into wine any more than we can walk on water. We cannot speak an entire cosmos into existence anymore than we can sustain the universe. We cannot transcend the laws of nature or escape death. We do not know all the questions much less the right answers. 2016 will confront us with more of our “can’ts” than we’d like.

Although For nothing is impossible with God” stands on its own it is quoted out of context. It was part of the angel’s answer to Mary wondering how she could end up being pregnant without having sex. It was meant to encourage her to trust God and take up his invitation to participate in his eternal plan and redemptive work. Mary’s context wasn’t godless or without faith, she believed in God, she was a very decent person, but this was an invitation to trust in and walk with God at a completely different level. This wasn’t about merely believing that God did some incredible things in the past, or listening to someone else’s experience, this was about her adjusting her life to the will of God on the basis of his omnipotence instead of her own capacity to believe. Her response, “God I have no idea how you will do this, but I know and trust that you can. So Lord, I am yours to do as you please” (Luke 1:38, my paraphrase).

Mary’s surrender to the reality and will of God completely changed her context, and in the long view of history even ours, but on God’s terms and not hers. That’s our struggle, in the face of our can’ts and our life’s impossibles we would love to harness the power of God to change our and others’ contexts, and when he won’t bend to us we become angry, dismissive, cynical, defiant. It is sinful arrogance to think the Omnipotent should bow to the impotent, that the powerless can harness the Almighty. The finite, us, has just one proper response to infinite power – SURRENDER, to adjust ourselves to reality and will of God.

God’s 2016 invitation is to walk with him, on his terms, to live out his will, to let his omnipotence define and direct our lives, to live our lives in the context of him and his Son Jesus Christ. And when we do our experience, our understanding, our context and even our prayers will change.

“Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the LORD that he may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for he will forgive generously. “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” Isaiah 55:6-9 (NLT).

“Oh, that you would burst from the heavens and come down! How the mountains would quake in your presence! As fire causes wood to burn and water to boil, your coming would make the nations tremble. Then your enemies would learn the reason for your fame! When you came down long ago, you did awesome deeds beyond our highest expectations. And oh, how the mountains quaked! For since the world began, no ear has heard, and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him! You welcome those who gladly do good, who follow godly ways.” Isaiah 64:1-5a (NLT).

What will your 2016 context look like? Will God figure into it to his extent? Oh, how I hope so.

Happy New Year! Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, his mother, and they stayed there until Herod’s death. This fulfilled what the Lord had spoken through the prophet: “I called my Son out of Egypt.” Herod was furious when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him. He sent soldiers to kill all the boys in and around Bethlehem who were two years old and under, based on the wise men’s report of the star’s first appearance.
Matthew 2:13-16 (NLT)

Jesus, Mary, and Joseph were political refugees. They had to pack up in the middle of the night and flee a violent madman named Herod, who had no regard for human rights. Among those he slaughtered were an untold number of babies in children in order to hang on power. What they needed was to be out of harm’s way, safety, protection, a place where the threat and violence could not reach them, a place where they no longer had to run. Luckily for Jesus and his parents Egypt did not have a closed door attitude and policy regarding Jewish refugees.

From the Roman perspective the Jews were a strange lot, with strange beliefs, odd practices, folks who created their own enclaves, who stuck together, and who didn’t integrate well. The place they called their homeland was a region of continual unrest, terrorism, and instability. And of course they were easy to blame for all kinds of things, it was easy to marginalize them, to reduce them to one lot, to make them an impersonal issue.

I wonder how Jesus, Mary, and Joseph thought and felt about refugees after they had been refugees themselves? When the topic came up in their home, in the carpenter shop, at the well, in the market, or on Saturday in the synagogue, what was their tone? What opinions did they hold and defend? What did they wish for, advocate for, and pray for regarding refugees? Because the things that we go through ourselves do shape us, do affect how we think and feel about them, and often make us more empathetic.

How many people helped Jesus, Mary, and Joseph along the way, during the time they were exiled in Egypt, the time they could not go back home? I am sure what the Wise Men gave them came in handy. But from my own experience of being an immigrant I know how much it means for people to reach out to you, to engage with you, to care about you, to help you, to be generous to you, to include you, to pray for you, to give you a chance. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all who have treated me that way, and I can’t help but think that Jesus and his parents felt the same.

How should the church, the organization Jesus started, the group of people he calls his body, think, feel, and act regarding refugees? What would he have us advocate, stand up for? How would he have us engage with those who are on the run, who can’t go back home, who are displaced by violence, politics, disasters, and economics? And where does the church get its cues to discern Jesus’, God’s (Jesus is God incarnate), opinion, heart, and directives? I believe the answer to that last question is: Through the Holy Spirit, through God’s written word (the Bible), through the example of Christ, and both through a willingness to follow where these lead us and to radically love.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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