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Archive for the ‘fear’ Category

“Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?” Matthew 6:26-27 (NLT)

They were blocking the road, five tom turkeys strutting their stuff with all their might, oblivious to the world around them. My very noisy Dodge diesel pickup had absolutely no effect on them. They were dragging their wings, spreading their tail feathers, inflating their necks, and executed fancy dance patterns. I looked around to see what all the fuss was about, and there in the dry weeds on the side of the road was the scraggliest turkey hen I had ever seen. Obviously those five males were bunch of frustrated jakes (young males) who had lost out on the whole spring mating thing but had spotted themselves a lonely jenny, which compelled them to pull out all of the stops.

I don’t know if any of them inspired the homely hen enough to win the prize because after about five minutes they decided to move off the road and danced their way into the bushes. However, it seems to me those five boys were clearly worried that they were going to be this year’s mating season losers. And since gobblers are not native to Palestine Jesus must not have been talking about turkeys.

Jesus, however, did specifically talk about ravens and sparrows (Matthew 10:29). We only have the occasional raven around our place, but we do have a resident pack of their cousins, crows. They really are gang, they love to harass other birds, fly around with their souped-up sound systems cranked up, doing all kinds of aerial acrobatics, looking for mischief, and when they have found it they fly off laughing away. They, unlike those strutting jakes, have carefreeness stamped all over them. “Turning to his disciples, Jesus said, ‘That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?’ … ‘Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need’” Luke 12:22-26, 31 (NLT).

Freedom from worry, freedom from fear are some of the great benefits that come with trusting God, walking with Jesus, concerning ourselves with the kingdom of God – the eternally valuable and important instead of mere survival. So, how are you doing with fear and worry? Are you more likely to resemble a desperate tom turkey afraid of losing out on life, franticly strutting your stuff, oblivious to the world around you, unaware of the goodness of God, the power of God, and the calling of God to higher things?

Those carefree crows look rather plain; they can’t compete with the dazzling plumage of a dressed up tom turkey. But watch them fly, hear them laugh, see the sparkle in their eyes. The more we are about stuff and strutting the less carefree we will be, the more we will be tied to the fleeting, the less we live by faith, and we will we spend more time on the ground worrying than in the air worshipping.

Consider the birds.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. If you have children, go to our church’s website and sign them up for VBS (Vacation Bible School) and/or camp.

 

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Give thanks in everything (in all circumstances), for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (HCSB, parenthesis mine)

Don’t worry (be anxious) about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:6-8 (HCSB, parentheses, mine)

Some things are easy to be glad about, be grateful for. For instance:

  • I am grateful for, and indebted to, American Veterans, who liberated Germany from Hitler and his version of hell on earth, who safeguarded West Germany from the scourge of communism, who have valued and stood for liberty with more than just words.
  • I got to vote because I am privileged to live in a democratic country, where religious liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and democratic principles have struggled and survived for over 200 years.
  • Every time I open our refrigerator I am greeted by an abundance many can only dream about.
  • This morning like most every morning I sat down and opened my Bible, my very own copy of God’s written revelation, the living word of God that is able to instruct me, grow me, impart truth, wisdom, strength, and discernment to me.
  • I woke up, and there next to me was this beautiful face, my gift from God, my love, my wife, my best friend and companion.

When it comes to things that are easy to be grateful for I could on for pages and I suspect you could to. But the “give thanks in everything,” the being worried, being anxious, being so desperate you reaching and crying out to God and do it “with thanksgiving” is quite another thing. How difficult is it to be grateful:

  • When your political candidate and party lost the election.
  • When you are in constant pain.
  • When you lost your job.
  • When your children (regardless of their age) or parents make lousy decisions.
  • When tragedy strikes.
  • When you or someone you love has an addiction.
  • When you are mourning and grieving.
  • When you are broke and can’t make ends meet.
  • When you are being taken advantage of.
  • When you are treated unfairly, unjustly.
  • When the work-stress is overwhelming.

I am sure we could continue for pages in that vein as well.

Is it as puzzling to you as it is to me that “giving thanks in everything” is “God’s will for you and me? That God expects me/us to learn to give thanks in the midst of worry and stress? That gratefulness and thanksgiving is meant to be a way of life, of dealing with life, of staying anchored in life, to the point that not practicing it puts us squarely outside of God’s will?

The good news is that regardless of our temperament, personality, background, wounds, and fears, this can be learned. Everyone of us can learn to “give thanks in everything,” to live a lifestyle of gratefulness, to not abandon thanksgivings in worry and stress, to stay focused on the right things in the midst of the grind of life. The amazing thing is that when we do so we end up being better people, with a peace we can’t explain, looking and sounding more like Jesus, which is always a really, really good thing.

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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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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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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Some things don’t mix well, fire and gasoline , coffee and pickle juice, ants and a kitchen, war and peace, lies and a clear conscience, wisdom and foolishness, love and fear, There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love 1 John 4:18 (NIV). That’s why violence, abuse, uncontrolled anger, alcohol and drugs, cheating, lying, deceit, manipulation, selfishness, bitterness, and foolishness do not mix with romance, marriage, family, community, and a life with God.

When you are constantly in fear of the other shoe dropping, when you are constantly walking on eggshells, when you are always ducking outwardly and inwardly, when you are in constant dread of embarrassment, when words no longer hold water, when it all can blow up any second, when things are constantly out of control, when you are way past the first time, when the not normal becomes normal, when trust is a foreign word, when deceit not surprising, when disappointment is expected, when addiction and abuse have moved in, then you will find imperfect, twisted, perverted, and sick love.

Love is meant to beautiful, without fear, free of constant worry of it turning ugly. In the scripture quoted above the New King James Version uses the word “torment” instead of the “punishment.” Real love does not feel like torment, does not live in dread of torment, does not dish out torment. In fact where real love is growing, where real love is pursued fears are growing smaller and fewer, and torment is never a fit description.

Our problem is that so many of us are all too familiar with the tormented, sick, twisted, manipulative, and hurtful ways masquerading as love. The sad thing is that we are prone to settle for and repeat that which we know. It is easy to be in and get caught up in this web of love gone wrong, sometimes of no fault of our own, sometimes because of our own decisions, often because of both.

The good news is that God did not have the Apostles John and Paul (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) write about love in terms of mere definition or diagnosis. No, God had them write of what is possible, not just of what should or shouldn’t be, but of what can be. What may not be possible on our own is possible with God, “What is impossible for people is possible with God” Luke 18:27 (NLT). It is possible to walk with God and escape cycles and chains of the past. It is possible to walk with God and get out of darkness. It is possible to walk with God and learn from him how to love. It is possible to walk with God and grow in our capacity to love. It is possible!

When it comes to loving perfectly I am far from what I want to be, but God has been helping me to grow, especially when it comes to love. I am committed to real love because I don’t like the alternatives, because it is and feels right, and because God “renews my life; He leads me along the right paths for His name’s sake Psalm 23:3 (HCSB).

This Valentines weekend, if nothing else, make a start, be broken and repent of your wrongs, especially in regard to love and those you should love. Address that which is broken and twisted, pour out the full measure of your fears, and then take the loving hand of God to learn love without fear.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

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If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small. Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die; save them as they stagger to their death. Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.” For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve. Proverbs 24:10-12 (NLT)

70 years ago, on January 27, Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp was liberated. 1.1 million people were murdered there, not because they had been convicted of some crime deserving death but because they did not fit Nazi ideology, and most of them because they were Jews. In order to pull of mass murder on that scale the Nazi leadership had brainwash, intimidate , and silence most all of Germany. Think about it, how else do you slaughter millions of human beings without any large scale opposition? How do you keep it out of the media? How do you manage to keep an entire country from crying out against it? It really is an old play book, cooked up in hell a long time ago.

You have to have great slogans, “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” (work liberates) hung at the entrance of concentration camps. A little hard work never has harmed anybody, has it? “For God and country.” “Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest). “A woman’s right to choose.” What fool would challenge God and patriotism? Who can deny that God is the greatest? Who doesn’t endorse the freedom to choose? Great slogans ease the conscience; mollify the urge to think for yourself. You want people to love the slogans regardless of the truth.

You have to intimidate, sow fear to point that people are glad that what happens to others does not happen to them. You have to exploit what every kid learns on the school playground – to be afraid of being laughed at, being ostracized, to be called names, to be bullied, of being hurt. Terror works, fear is powerful. You have to be willing to belittle, shout down, embarrass, defame, lie, betray, hurt, and kill in the name of the cause. Sowing fear can’t worry about being clean, getting dirty, embracing violence, a “few” dispensable lives.

You have to be good at stripping real people of their humanity. You want people to think that Jews are categorically bad, the infidels are bad, an unwanted unplanned baby is bad, as are liberals, conservatives, environmentalists, homosexuals and all of the LBGTQ crowd, fundamentalists, Christians, Muslims, atheists they are all bad. And it is okay to dislike bad, to hate bad. Getting rid of bad is not that bad of a thing, in fact it might even be good. The less bad people there are the better; you have to be completely out of touch to disagree with that. Bad also doesn’t deserve the same rights as good, does it? Bad and bad people are really more of an issue to be dealt with, personalizing only complicates things. It is much easier to deal with an issue like the issue of slavery, the issue of the Jews, the issue of abortion, the issue of the Middle East Conflict, the issue of Aids, of Ebola, hunger, injustice. Issues are far easier to deal with, they don’t stare you in the eye, issues don’t have beating hearts.

On January 22, 1973 the US Supreme Court legalized abortion, since then 55,000,000 (55 million!) human beings have lost their lives through abortion in the United States alone. They have fallen victim to pills, solutions, suction machines, dismemberment, and the like. Where is the outrage, the disgust, the shame? There has not been one, not a single aborted child that was less than 100% human. There has not been one aborted child guilty or even accused of a crime. The reason they have been so easily and mercilessly killed is that they have been stripped of their humanity (How conditioned have we become to zygote, embryo, fetus as meaning something less than human). They have been called “mistakes,” “inconveniences,” “bad timing,” “accidents,” everything but what they really are – persons, human beings, living images of God. They have been deemed dispensable, we are better off without them than with them. They have been stripped of the most basic human rights and legal protection under the smoke screen of a woman’s right to choose. They have been made into issue to debate rather than people to love.

O that there would be “liberty and justice for all.”

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

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