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Archive for the ‘freedom’ Category

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Romans 15:13 (NIV)

Among the realities of the Christian are:

  • Abundance“Praise the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavens” (Ephesians 1:3, HCSB), “May grace and peace be multiplied to you through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything required for life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness” (2 Peter 1:2-3, HCSB).
  • SufficiencyEach person should do as he has decided in his heart—not reluctantly or out of necessity, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make every grace overflow to you, so that in every way, always having everything you need, you may excel in every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:7-8,(HCSB), “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8, ESV), “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (Matthew 6:33, NLT).
  • Liberty Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty” (2 Corinthians 3:17, (NASB), “So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36, NASB), “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love” (Galatians 5:13,NIV), “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God” (1 Peter 2:16,NIV)
  • Fearlessness For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7, (NLT), “Even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” (1 Peter 3:14-17, ESV), “The LORD is for me; I will not fear; What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6, NASB).

All of the above enable believers to be people of hope, to overflow with hope. Our temptation, however, is to amass and hoard the very things God has intended to enable us to overflow with hope. We are tempted to get another bucket to store the overflow rather than seeking out another person who needs it. We are tempted to build or buy a bigger home rather than offer up the spare room we already have. We are tempted to wall up, lock out, and keep out all those who would make our lives messy rather than open our arms and hearts as wide as the joy, peace, and hope of God enables us to. We are tempted to view freedom as something that mainly enables “me”, gives us opportunity to indulge rather than seeing it as an opportunity to engage and serve. We love to hoard, if not money, then stuff, if not stuff then experiences, because more is better, even it means others will have to wait, will have to do without, will have to be kicked out. Falling to these temptations results in Christian sluggishness, in justifying what is unjustifiable in terms of the values and realities of the kingdom of God, in public pronouncements of our love for God while in private we love another.

We are meant to overflow, which means there is a point we have more than what we need, when our buckets are as full as God made them to be and all of the overflow is meant for someone else. At some point in our spiritual growth, in our transformation to Christlikeness, the overflow should become more important than what is in our bucket because we are absolutely confident that our bucket is in good hands with God and the Christian life is meant to be all wrapped up in the overflow. At that point we start dreaming of having a smaller bucket because that means more overflow, it is the point where less becomes more, and oh how God loves to fill the buckets of those who hunger and thirst for overflow.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Human history a tale of conflict, strife, enmity, violence, and war. The Bible reflects this reality from the 3rd chapter of Genesis to the 20th chapter of Revelation. All the advancements of science, all the modern advancements of technology, all the study of history, all of the religious practices and rejections of the one true God by mankind have not changed that reality. In fact, we just have gotten better at it. At the battle of Cannae it took Hannibal and his army a day to slaughter 80,000 Romans, today we can level a city of millions in a flash. We can’t even imagine peace without strong armies standing guard and willing to fight.

The threats are not only external, nations and peoples pitted against each other, but also internal. Try to name a nation that is without strife, without conflict, without violence, without corruption, without various groups pitted against each other and willing to fight, clashing over ideologies, policies, liberties, rights, wealth, and … Just think about how much blood has been spilled between the East and West coasts of the United States from long before the Europeans settled here down to the present day.

Even the history of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, incarnate for 30 odd years is marked at its very beginning by Herod’s regional infanticide, serval attempt on his life, and eventually his crucifixion.  The words of Isaiah the prophet are as true today as when he first wrote them and when Jesus walked the earth, “The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace.  So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows” Isaiah 59:8-9 (NIV. Take a few minutes, get out a copy of the Bible or find one online, and read Isaiah 58-59 and let it sink in).

Both presently and ultimately it takes the intervention of the prince of peace, a Savior, the one who can change both the human heart and history to interrupt the cycles of depravity we cannot escape on our own, to regenerate what sin has killed, to redeem what has been lost, to reconcile us to God and his will, and to make us merciful as he is merciful (Luke 6:36).

Things are so much cleaner on paper, neater on a page filled with words. The hard part is translating what is right, what is good, what is just, and what pleases God into our lives, our private life, community life, political life, national life, our “neighbor’s” life, our enemy’s life. How do you that?

  • You have to care “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” Galatians 6:2 (NIV).Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” Philippians 2:4 (NIV).
  • You have dream of something better Jesus cried out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings …!” Luke 13:34 (NIV). ‘‘Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled” Matthew 5:6 (NIV).  “(Abraham) was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” Hebrews 11:10 (NIV).
  • You have to be willing to weep for others and over the brokenness you see –“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” Matthew 5:4&9 (NIV). “…, weep with those who weep” Romans 12:15 (NASB).
  • You have to orient yourself on God and his Son Jesus Christ –“(Father God) Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” Matthew 6:10 (NIV, parenthesis mine).  “…, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” 1 Corinthians 1:24 (NIV).  “The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” James 3:17-18 (ESV).
  • You have engage and don’t quit – “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you, …” Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV).  “Be doers of the word (of God, the Bible) …” James 1:22 (ESV, parenthesis mine). I want each of you to extend that same intensity toward a full-bodied hope, and keep at it till the finish. Don’t drag your feet. Be like those who stay the course with committed faith and then get everything promised to them” Hebrews 6:11-12 (MSG).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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When Better Gets Us into Trouble, or A Better Better

We have it even if never really thought about it; in fact, the less we have thought about it the greater its grip on us and our behavior. I am talking about our definition of better. More money – better. Bigger house – better. More free time – better. Bigger TV, smarter smart phone, fancier car, kitchen, BBQ, furniture, … – all better. Notice how much better depends on more money.

How many of the following would you mark as better for you and us as a society? Greater devotion to God, to Christ, and his church. More generosity. More communal involvement. More sacrificial love. More commitment to marriage and family. Less stuff. More time to serve each other. Notice that all of them require time, money, but less for yourself.

Proverbs, the most extensive wisdom book of God’s word (the Bible), recognizes how easy it is to work out of a flawed definition of “better” and the need we have to check and adjust our definition of “better” against true wisdom. “Better a little with the fear of the LORD than great wealth with turmoil. Better a meal of vegetables where there is love than a fattened calf (T-bone steak) with hatred” Proverbs 15:16-17 (NIV, parenthesis mine). “Better is a little with righteousness than great income with injustice” Proverbs 16:8 (NASB).

The wrong working definition of “better” will breed discontent, greed, debt, ungratefulness, and all sorts of evil. A good definition of “better” recognizes the truth that “… true godliness with contentment is itself great wealth. After all, we brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can’t take anything with us when we leave it. So if we have enough food and clothing, let us be content. But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. For the love of money (and all the things money can buy) is the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows” 1 Timothy 6:6-10 (NLT, parenthesis mine).

It doesn’t come natural to us to work with, to live out of, a better definition of “better”. The Apostle Paul wrote that he had to learn contentment, continually gratefulness, and the joy of depending on God, “…I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength” Philippians 4:11-13 (NLT).

Two brothers were fighting over their inheritance. Clearly both of them thought more was better. Neither was content, happy, or grateful. Their definition of “better” was of no help, in fact their definition of better was more than willing to be unloving, unkind, use harsh words, and take each other to court. Court wasn’t going so well for one of the brothers so he turned to Jesus to help him arbitrate. Jesus refused, but he did challenge the one on the short end of the dispute to examine his definition of “better” and how it affected his heart, his attitude, his love, his relationships, and his life. Someone out of the crowd said, “Teacher, order my brother to give me a fair share of the family inheritance.” …  

Jesus replied, “Take care! Protect yourself against the least bit of greed. Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot.” Then he told them this story: “The farm of a certain rich man produced a terrific crop. He talked to himself: ‘What can I do? My barn isn’t big enough for this harvest.’ Then he said, ‘Here’s what I’ll do: I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll gather in all my grain and goods,  and I’ll say to myself, Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy and have the time of your life!’ Just then God showed up and said, ‘Fool! Tonight you die. And your barnful of goods—who gets it?’ That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God.” …

“Steep yourself in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.  Don’t be afraid of missing out. You’re my dearest friends! The Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself. Be generous. Give to the poor. Get yourselves a bank that can’t go bankrupt, a bank in heaven far from bankrobbers, safe from embezzlers, a bank you can bank on. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being” Luke 12:13-21, 31-34 (MSG).

“Where has your “Better” taken you? Where will your “Better” take you? Is it time to adopt a better “better”? Is it time to Make sure that your character is free from the love of money (and all it can buy), being content with what you have; for He (God) Himself has said, “I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU” Hebrews 13:5 (NASB, parentheses mine).

To God be all glory. Love you, pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How rich is God? “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him” Psalm 24:1 (NLT). “’The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,’ declares the LORD of hosts” Haggai 2:8 (NASB).

Let the reality of what you just read about God’s unfathomable riches sink in for a minute. It means:

  • He is able to supply for all of our needs.
  • He will never run out, be in debt, go bankrupt, or worry about tomorrow.
  • He is completely unfamiliar with not having enough.
  • He knows how to manage for the long-haul. He has been doing an outstanding job with the entire universe for as long as it has existed.
  • He has better financial wisdom than all those wealthy people listed in Forbes Magazine combined (which doesn’t mean we cannot learn from those who manage well).
  • He owns everything you and I and everyone else has. Which means we are accountable to him for how we manage what we have.
  • The ultimate purpose of wealth is to please and honor its owner – God.

How in the world has the wealthiest nation on earth got itself into an over $19 trillion and counting national debt hole? Take a minute and go to http://www.usdebtclock.org , it will make your head spin. Even more staggering is the over $64,000,000,000,000 (64 trillion) total debt in the USA. That means it’s not just the government, the states, counties, and municipalities that are lousy in managing money, it is also the average citizen (the total personal debt is over $17 trillion). Somewhere along the lines we have forgotten an important truth about managing money, “The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender” Proverbs 22:7 (ESV). When it comes to money and managing wealth we are collectively ignoring God’s wisdom and as a result are missing out on God’s blessing and ability to supply. God is not in the slavery business, but somehow our entire culture thinks that debt and the slavery that comes with it is a good thing.

If you are continually scraping by, never have enough, always borrowing, straining under a load of debt, forever worried, then maybe it’s time to tap into God’s wisdom, learn God’s ways, and seek God’s blessing.

The ancient Israelites needed to get back to God’s financial wisdom, they were limping from one financial crisis to the next. God told them, Bring the full tenth into the storehouse so that there may be food in My house. Test Me in this way,” says the LORD of Hosts. “See if I will not open the floodgates of heaven and pour out a blessing for you without measure” Malachi 3:10 (HCSB). They needed to go back and learn what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians who weren’t following God’s financial wisdom either, “And 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).

If what you have read so far in this pastor’s note is hitting a nerve, if the last two scriptures you read is something you want then here is what you do:

  • Establish or reestablish a real connection with God. It is always about more than money. You get into a right relationship with God trough faith in Christ. Call me, email me, or come to the next church service if you have questions on that (209 852-2029, dergermanshepherd@gmail.com, http://www.ldpbaptistchurch.com ).
  • Come to all of the April church services because God’s ability to provide and his financial wisdom is this month’s topic.
  • Sign up for the seminar that will follow the sermon series, so you can learn the practical application of God’s wisdom. Call or email to get on the seminar sign-up list. (If you don’t live in Don Pedro check out http://www.daveramsey.com/fpu/ , or http://www.crown.org/ ).
  • Take a moment right now and ask for God to help you, tell him you need him and his financial wisdom, ask him to forgive you for where you have mismanaged both finances and life, tell him you are interested in his ways and blessing.

The best time to get started is right now. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Fill in the blanks (find possible answers at the bottom):

  • When you get yourself a puppy you will have to ________________________________________________________
  • When you get drunk you will ________________________________________________________
  • After you buy a car you will ________________________________________________________
  • If you leave the windows down on that car and it rains overnight, you will ________________________________________________________
  • If you grab a strange man or woman’s butt thinking it is your wife/husband you will _______________________________________________________

Now you don’t have to get a puppy, get drunk, buy a car, marry, or grab things, but if you do inevitable things will happen. This is not only true about things we can choose it is also true about things we don’t chose.

Wouldn’t it be nice if life were as benign as inadvertent grabs or windows not rolled up? Wouldn’t life be awesome if it were as cute as puppy? Yes, it would be, but it isn’t. As a son of an alcoholic I can’t tell you how quickly funny went out of being drunk. Having clocked my fair share of miles on the road there is nothing funny about losing your cool, road rage, endangering others.

Why did Jesus teach his disciples to pray, And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil” Matthew 6:13 (NASB)? Because we will encounter evil, we will be enticed to choose evil, we will be both the object and the source of evil. We will encounter evil that poses as cute and funny. We will be tempted to buy things we shouldn’t, to anger that excuses itself, to words that are bitter, wrong, and wound. Evil and the temptation to do and be evil is inevitable, inescapable in the world we live in. It is never just someone else’s problem it always is also our own.

Evil always tries to start a chain reaction, even as it inflicts it tempts, it suggests that the best way to get back at evil is with evil, to answer anger with anger, hate with hate, wounds with wounds, bitter with bitter, always in kind. But the will of God is absolutely clear whenever and however evil touches us, be it small superficial scratches or having been keyed from head to tail and down to the metal, to the bone, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone” Romans 12:17 (NASB); “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people” 1 Thessalonians 5:15 (NASB),Avoid every kind of evil” 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (NIV).

If we need to pray, “Deliver us from evil,” then it is obvious that we need God’s help for evil to be defeated, for us to respond correctly to it, and to not be a contributor to and perpetuator of it.

Now that you have made it the end of this pastor’s note take a minute and reflect, take responsibility for yourself, and reach out and take God’s hand to help you deal with, cope with, evil in and around you, and pray, “Heavenly Father, God, please forgive me my sins, as I forgive those who have sinned against me.  And don’t let me yield to temptation, but deliver me from evil” Matthew 6:12-13

To God Be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

P.S. This weekend go and worship at a nearby church with others who seek to live out the above.

Puppy: Clean up messes, find things chewed up, be bitten, have that tongue put slobber on you in laces that ought not to be slobbered.

Drunk: lose control, say stupid things, do stupid things, be stupid, hurt someone sooner than later.

Car: See lots of other cars like it on the road, buy gas, get a scratch on it, run into numerous idiots who should never be allowed on the road, be one of those idiots.

Windows down: Pronounce yourself an idiot, drive sitting on several towels and still get your posterior wet (so bring an extra pair of pants), drill drain-holes because obviously you can’t trust yourself (maybe not).

Butt grab: (could also the sneak up from behind kiss): For answers ask my wife she has experience with this, get laughed at for a very looong time – basically for the rest of your life, get slapped, turn very red.

 

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Why are the nations so angry? Why do they waste their time with futile plans?
The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the LORD and against his anointed one. “Let us break their chains,” they cry, “and free ourselves from slavery to God.” But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them.
Psalm 2:1-4 (NLT)

Independence, freedom from tyranny, liberty, free to do as you please, free to believe what you want to believe, free to be who you want to be, free to go where you want to go, and do what you want to do. The anarchist wants no laws, the atheist wants no gods, the capitalist wants no restraints, the communist wants no inequalities, the fundamentalist wants conformity, the activist wants change, the _____ wants _____. No shortage of wants, and the more people want what I want the greater the chance that I will get what I want to get at someone else’s expense. Freedom and independence is wrought with conflict.

Everyone who loves independence, liberty, and freedom should be in awe of God. He alone knows true independence, complete liberty, and uncorrupted freedom. We can learn more about liberty from him than from anyone else, and yet by and large and throughout human history he has been thought of as the greatest obstacle to true freedom, “Let us break the chains of God and his anointed, Jesus Christ.” Or God is highjacked for some religious tyranny, for someone’s particular definition of freedom, to bring about what someone wants. Neither is interested in learning from God.

Don’t bring God into school or to the university, he’ll adversely affect academic freedom. Don’t bring God into politics he’ll infringe on all kinds of liberties. Don’t bring God into art and literature he will stifle artistic expression. Don’t mix God with business that will mess with the bottom line. Don’t bring God into discussion of morality that will introduce limitations and absolutes. Don’t let God into your free time, night life, and high life, he will hurt the fun. Don’t include God in your plans you might have to change them. Keep God out of your conscience he’ll make you feel guilt. What we need most is God off our backs, out of our minds; we are better freed from God. Right?

Striving for freedom from God, declaring independence from God, denying the existence of God does not bring us into the promised land of ultimate freedom, it accomplishes the exact opposite, it propels us into the wastelands of human depravity. The notion of liberating yourself from God is both the greatest form of self-deception and the ultimate expression of hubris. Real liberty is not about the escape from reality but the opportunity to live better in reality. Real liberty is not about freedom from responsibility and accountability but the awareness that our lives count. Real independence is not about indulgence but about service to my neighbor, my country, the world, and above all God. You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law (of God) is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself” Galatians 5:13-14 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

If we are to get independence, liberty, and freedom right we cannot define it and pursue it in a way God laughs at. No, we must do so in a way that acknowledges him as the author, protector, authority, perfect example of independence, liberty, and freedom.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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