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Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

Who would you trust with to cut on you with a scalpel? Would you trust me with operating on you? If you did, it would be utter foolishness, since I have had zero medical training, I have never been taught how to yield a scalpel, nor have I ever practice the use of one. Chances are high that if you let me lose on you, you will be severely injured, you will end up scarred, maimed, and handicapped, with a very high probability of you dying.

If something needs to be sewed around the Frei household, it will be Susie doing the sowing. Why? Because she’s acquired sowing skills. Anything I’d sow you would either quietly smile at or outright burst into laughter. On the other hand, when it comes to working on our cars I have more skill and practice than she does. If she started wrenching she might make things worse.

Paul reminded the young preacher Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” 2 Timothy 2:15 (NASB). The word “accurately” can also translated correctly or skillfully, as in cutting something straight, building something plumb, plowing in straight lines. The Apostle Paul was keenly aware that mishandling the word of God, the scriptures, the Bible, can greatly injure people or make the truth laughable. He understood the scriptures to be sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17), cognizant that, “the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” Hebrews 4:12 (NIV). He wanted Timothy to not forget that the Bible is designed to work deeply within the human heart, mind, and soul and therefore needs to be handle with skill, with care, and with precision, none of which are acquired by just inspiration but by diligence, study, and practice.

Traveling over the three continents the past three weeks I was deeply grieved over how much careless, lazy, manipulative, and crooked preaching and teaching I encountered. I was struck again how little discernment listeners in churches showed; how many mistake charisma, hype, slogans, emotional engagement and personal agreement, with truth, sound teaching and preaching, and the presence of the Holy Spirit. My heart weeps for those who are being used, abused, wounded, misled, and made dependent by careless, deceptive, and unskilled handling of God’s word by those, preachers and teachers, who have been tasked to bless, correct, equip, strengthen, and liberate people with God’s word. And as God would have it I found myself reading the pastoral epistles (1&2 Timothy, Titus) while traveling, being reminded of my own responsibility to accurately, diligently, carefully, skillfully, and faithfully preach and teach the written word of God.

How good are you in discerning good biblical preaching and teaching from lousy, shallow, manipulative, and outright deceptive preaching and teaching? How do you learn to discern the difference? You have to read things for yourself, you need to learn basic principles of solid biblical interpretation (biblical hermeneutics) yourself. I encourage you to be more careful as to whom you give permission to yield the scalpel of the word of God than you are picking the surgeon operating on your body, because the consequences are greater.

To finish this pastor’s note let me tell you about Ray, Hans, and Tom and operating a chainsaw. I loved Ray, but I didn’t come anywhere near him when was operating a chainsaw, he was downright dangerous to himself and anyone around with a chainsaw in his hand. I was aware of the dangers because I have learned to operate a chainsaw correctly, in fact I have gained some decent chainsaw skills. However, my chainsaw skills are nowhere near Tom’s. So, there have been times I called on him to help me because I knew I needed his skills or else endanger myself and others. Right now, you might be a Ray when it comes to accurately handling the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, and you might never become as skilled as Tom, but you can acquire enough skill to be like Hans enabling you to discern dangerous preaching and teaching from trustworthy and outstanding preaching and teaching; what to stay away from and what to embrace; whom to dismiss and whom to trust.

To God be all glory, 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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But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ”
1 Corinthians 15:57 (NIV).

Yesterday was a great day, my grandsons came up (well, Mom drove them). The one month old mostly slept and holding him that’s pretty much all I wanted to do too. The twenty-month old came with a to do list on his mind: Feed the chickens, put up the swing and try to wear it out, play guitar, get into the truck, and help Opa any way he can. He wore me out.

All week long I have been thinking about victory, it is what I want for my grandsons, it is what their parents hope and pray for, it is what I hope and pray for both you and myself. But I have lived long enough to know that defeat lurks around every corner, even in victory defeat doesn’t surrender. Don’t misunderstand, I am not advocating for being paranoid, that is a form of living defeated (sometimes also mental illness). But I have looked into defeated little faces in kindergarten, in fancy houses, on the other side of the world, in hospitals, churches, food-lines, and in the mirror. I have seen some of the vast arsenal defeat has as its disposal, words that wound and maim, violence that shatters, poverty that chokes, injustice that demoralizes, foolishness that wrecks, hate, bitterness, betrayal, pain, suffering, disappointment, regret, helplessness, seeing those who you love self-destruct, ruts too deep to get out of, evil, the evil one, wickedness, sin and its inherent twistedness and self-deception.

I wish there was a shot to inoculate my precious grandsons from all of the above, because I know they will be assaulted, defeat will try to bust through their doors throughout their lives. They will come to plenty of forks in the road where they will be forced to choose between the road to victory and the path to defeat. So I want to be a contributor to victory in their lives, after all the joy is in victory not in defeat.

You, me, and my grandsons can learn a lot about victory from history, from examining people who overcame, who triumphed, who refused to give in, cave in, or to give up. History will also expose us to people who did great things, won tremendous victories and ended in utter defeat – the final verdict on victory comes after we cross the finish line. But hands down, the greatest, the best source for victory is God and his written word (the Bible). Anyone who lets the Bible shape their character, determine his/her decisions, heeds its wisdom, relies on its power, submits to its authority, and takes the hand of the God and of the ultimate victor, Jesus Christ, will live victoriously, will overcome, will even overcome the onslaught of death. I pray these grandsons of mine will have an Opa who will serve as a life-long example of living out God’s word and they themselves will embrace it with all of their hearts, because if they do, they will be victorious – and so will you.

“My hands have made both heaven and earth; they and everything in them are mine. I, the LORD, have spoken! “I will bless those who have humble and contrite hearts, who tremble at my word” Isaiah 66:2 (NLT).

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

 

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Personality cults, immoral behavior and its acceptance, civil lawsuits, wild church services, making a mess out of communion, not grasping what church is, spiritual gifts misunderstanding and abuse, reliance on human wisdom above Gods’ word, a me first mentality, and major doctrinal confusion is what you would have found in the church of Corinth. The Apostle Paul wrote a lengthy letter to address and correct this collective ball of worms of Christian error and misbehavior eating holes all through the fabric of the Corinthian church, and continues to do so to the body of Christ even today.

There are four root causes to church messes:

#1. Sign seeking (1 Cor. 1:22-25) – Every church has sign seekers, those who think a powerful and hopefully miraculous experience will bring about strong and devotion to Christ, and at the same time prove their spiritual superiority. It’s a dead end. It has never worked, if it had then the Israelites who walked through the parted Red Sea would have been one of the most devoted and spiritual people who ever lived. But just week’s later the thrill had worn off and they danced and partied away from the God of the ten plagues, of the parted sea, of marvelous provision, and of fearsome glory, and exchanged him for a molten calf crafted from their own earrings.

#2. Human wisdom enthusiasm (1 Cor. 1:22, 30, 2:1-13) – Every church has them as well, those who overestimate our immense capacity for reason, for science, for rationality. Unchecked this capacity coupled with human depravity leads to the kind of pride that dismisses the supernatural, doubts the wisdom and promises of God’s word, and dares to dismantle God himself. There is no less pride to be found here than in sign seeking, it simply exchanges pride in a portfolio of experiences for walls lined with books. Ultimate, eternal, and saving wisdom cannot be found even in the best and most brilliant efforts of the depraved human mind and spirit but only through God revealing himself, supremely through Christ, and our submission to his revelation.

#3. Living according what is “Natural,” according to the “Flesh” (1 Cor. 2:14-16) – This is a temptation to all believers; it assumes that one can believe in Christ and not change. It believes that Christ is good for salvation but we are sufficient for Christian ethics, Christian morality, and Christian behavior in and of ourselves. This discounts the depth of human depravity, overestimates our capacity for goodness, orients itself too much on what we are accustomed to and what our culture deems right, and leads to constant conflict because everyone needs to agree with me or else they are wrong.

#4. Spiritual Immaturity (1 Cor. 3:1-20) – In some ways this is an outgrowth of #1, 2, and 3, but it is root of its own. Maturity is never automatic, if it was then parenting is a waste of time, as would be books about character building, seminars on values, and the study of history. Maturity is acquired, learned, and practiced, it doesn’t show up overnight. Maturity submits itself to wisdom, knowledge, values, habits, thinking, and ways that are mature. Christian maturity does not form itself through extraordinary experience, or through great human wisdom and intelligence, or through innate humanness or cultural superiority, no Christian maturity is based on a faith submission to the written revelation of God, the Scriptures, the Bible. In doing so the spiritual maturity Paul speaks of does not discount the power of God to do the miraculous,  neither does it put the mind out of gear, nor does it diminish our capacity to find wisdom, but it does not trust any on their own and so submits all of them to the eternal counsel of God’s word.

However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”– 1 Corinthians 2:9 (NIV)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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The kitchen faucet was leaking. It shouldn’t do that after only 10 years, don’t you agree. After several short-lived attempts of fixing the problem I faintly recalled that said faucet had a life-time warranty. So I looked in the file drawer where we keep manuals and warranties and sure enough there it was, a life-time warranty with the original receipt, and that’s when the fun began.

Actually fun is entirely the wrong word, more like run-around, frustration, “you’ve got to be kidding me.” The first live person, after navigating the automated menu which supposedly is to make things easier, informed me that there was no such thing as a life-time warranty. I read her what was printed on my life-time warranty, only to be accused of making it up. I figured this would be a good time to ask for someone with more authority and tact. This request got me thrown back into the automated menu which ultimately disconnected me.

The next live customer service representative did take down my personal information but didn’t think that she could help me. She was, however, willing to connect me to someone who might be able to help. This put me on hold where I was forced to listen to some really bad music, until I got disconnected.

The next customer service rep did confirm that my personal information was in the system and managed to connect me to said person with higher authority. The higher authority informed me that they did indeed did not have life-time warranties on my faucet, so I read from my printed warranty. He was unwilling to take my word and but would consider my claim if I would send in the original warranty and receipt. I informed him that I would not send in the originals because I wanted to hang on to my warranty for the future and that I would gladly fax him copies. He wouldn’t budge, so I thought that this would be a good time to ask to speak to someone with more authority than him. He didn’t like that idea, and I found myself on hold listening to more bad music. After a while he came back on to inform me that copies were okay but to not get my hopes up. I told him that my hopes were not anywhere near being up but that I thought life-time should mean just that. He thought that at 10 years I pretty much got my money’s worth. I obviously disagreed. A few weeks later I installed a new faucet.

My garden hose reel broke, having learned from the past, I checked whether it had a warranty, it did, and life-time at that. I called the phone number, “no longer in service.” Took it to the store where I bought it and found out that the company went out of business and that my warranty was worthless. (To that store’s credit they did give me a new reel because they wanted me to know that they stood behind what they sold).

I know of only one whose guarantees are hassle free and eternal (which is a significant upgrade from life-time). God’s word, God’s principles, and God’s promises are rock solid, they are as good and trustworthy today as they will be 100 or 10,000 years from now. And they cover things much more significant than faucets, roofs, power-trains, and such. They cover matters of the soul, of destiny, of salvation, of blessing, of conscience, of happiness, and of success.

Warranties are great when things break but God’s word and promises hold guarantees that are not only good when things brake but keep things from braking in first place. But don’t take my word on it, read and rely on the Bible (God’s written word) for yourself His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ… Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall” 2 Peter 1:3-8, 10 (NIV).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Do you like salad bars? Smorgasbords? How about a good old-fashioned potluck? As a preacher I can do potlucks blindfolded, salad bars don’t get me too excited, and I don’t remember the last time I was at a smorgasbord, although I loved them when I was younger. You know the drill, get a plate, survey the offerings, and fill your plate with everything you love while bypassing the things you don’t like.

Growing up my oldest brother loved it when my Mama asked him to dish everybody up. He knew exactly what each one of us didn’t like, so, accompanied with a stupid grin, he would heap our plates with the stuff we didn’t like while quoting the rule, “Was auf dah Tisch kommt wird gessa!” (What’s put on the table will be eaten).

How do you approach God? Jesus Christ? Church? The Bible, God’s word? Are all three of them something you loved when you were younger but now you have developed a more discerning palate, a more selective taste when it comes to spiritual things? Do you get out your plate and fill it with all that you love while bypassing what’s not to your liking? Have you shifted to a different cuisine altogether?

How do like God? Cuddly and warm? Spicy or just a tiny hint? Loving or just? As the main dish, or side dish, as a dip, or as “but hold the …?”

Jesus Christ, do you consider him as a “got to have it,” or “I have to be in the mood,” or “yuck”?

What about church? Only if you have to, when it gets scooped onto your plate whether you like or not, but preferably not? Are you the food critic every time you show up?

“Oh the Bible, please only the sweet things in it?” “No, just the low calorie stuff, I hate that bloated feeling, some things take forever to digest.” “I have several food allergies, so I have to be very careful what I eat.”

The truth is the living God cannot be dished out in portions to our liking, religion can be but God and Jesus Christ cannot. The truth is that my Mama was more like God than my oldest brother (sorry Michael). He delighted in making our lives miserable (he’s changed), she delighted in keeping us alive, in us being well fed, and seeing us grow. She didn’t just give us what we liked (although she often did), she gave us what we needed. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” Matthew 4:4 (ESV, emphasis mine). The truth is when you treat God, Jesus Christ, the church, and the Bible like a salad bar, smorgasbord, or potluck you end up with eclectic and empty spirituality, or with a flabby Christianity with plates full of what we like, yet far from what God and Christ would have us to be; or you become a mere critic of God, and of his Son Jesus Christ, and of his church, and of his word.

Allow me to put something on your plate from the Bible, something not all that tasty, but something we need as we try to cope with barbarism, terrorism, evil, enemies, and hate, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV). “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice” Proverbs 24:17 (NIV). “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” Romans 12:21 (NIV).

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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