Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘liberty’ Category

God Bless America

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you!
The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!
Psalm 67:1-7 (ESV)

It is a good thing to seek God’s blessing. We are much better off when God’s “good hand” is on us individually and collectively, and conversely, we are never in greater trouble than when God stretches out his hand against us. Which means God’s blessing is not automatic and he gets to decide the whom, what, when, and how of his blessings.

There is no problem with God’s blessing; the problems are in how we handle God’s blessings. We are not superior to the ancient Israelites who excelled at squandering God’s blessings, who didn’t use their liberty to liberate others, who didn’t use their prosperity to bless others, who when they received justice were not compelled to seek justice for others. God’s blessing did not inspire them to be more generous, more compassionate, more selfless, more forward looking, and more devoted to each other and to God. God’s blessing did not compel them to check their greed, their pride, their lusts, and their bend towards idolatry. In the end they fooled themselves into thinking that God was going to bless them because they were more special, “chosen,” “children of Abraham,” or in our case citizens of “the land of the free and the brave.”

Have you ever thought about how much more blessed we could be if we would only orient ourselves more on God, who as you read above, “judges the peoples with equity.” How much blessing have we squandered because we have not paid attention to just this one characteristic of God? There was no blessing in the treatment and genocide of Native Americans, prosperity, yes, but blessing no (remember the wicked do know how to prosper, Psalm 73:3, Job 21:7). Slavery held no blessing, but much profit. Segregation was not a snapshot of heaven. The wholesale legalization of abortion was not a victory but devalued and an entire segment of humanity among us and stripped it them of the most basic right, the right to life. There is no blessing in our staggering accumulation of debt, but it does expose our corruption, our greed, our inability to live within our means, and trusting our own wisdom more than God’s.  The need for affordable health care is not a problem for the rich, but it is for the poor, working families, and millions elderly, there is no blessing in not fixing this inequity. We squander blessing for both ourselves and the generations that follow us when we do not act towards the orphan, the widow, the poor, the alien (the foreigners among us), the weak, the oppressed, and the mistreated the way God does. We cannot with sincerity ask for God’s blessing and not desire that blessing for our “neighbor” (Luke 10:25-36).  We cannot with sincerity ask for God’s blessing and exclude him from public life, mock him in our culture, and reduce him to one among many gods. We are not immune to both burning through the inheritance left to us and adding to the list of things that are devoid of God’s blessing.

We should seek God’s blessing, it is unequivocally the right thing to do for us, for others, for the future, and before God. You and I should with all of hearts seek God’s blessing for America, so we will bless him, so He will receive the praise and honor he deserves, so we will “leave an inheritance” of blessing to our children’s children (Proverbs 13:22), an inheritance that is about more than prosperity, more than self, but instead perpetuates, “equal,” “the pursuit of happiness,” and “liberty and justice for all” (all truly meaning all, including all people and peoples).” Only then can we legitimately be called good and godly, only then can we sing, “God bless America,” and it be more than a patriotic sentiment but a sincere request of Almighty God. O that “all the ends of the earth would fear him,” know him, praise him, and worship him.

May God bless the United States of America. Love you Pastor Hans

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Greatness

They were rebuilding the temple, the capital, their country. They celebrated, shouted, danced, and had a great ceremony when they dedicated the new temple foundation. It was the right thing to do, this was a great day, things were going upward. Some however, a small crowd of old people, wept (Ezra 3:12). They remembered the old temple, the one Solomon had built, the time when silver was counted as nothing because of the abundance of gold (2 Chronicles 9:20). Haggai the prophet told Zerubbabel to ask those old survivors, Who of you is left who saw this house in its former glory? How does it look to you now? Does it not seem to you like nothing?” Haggai 2:3 (NIV).

Great, Greatness looks different to different people. The CEO might be celebrated by the shareholders because the stock price went through the roof, but the workforce might be cursing his name because their work conditions and meager wages. There all kinds of halls of fame, awards ceremonies, and prestigious prizes (especially here in America), all of them highlighting and celebrating greatness in some field, but while some cheer others weep, what looks good on the stage might me misery at home.

Of course I am bringing all this up because the words “greatness,” “being great again,” is echoing across the land, primarily in terms of patriotism, protectionism, power, and prosperity. We will be great when we are first, when we win, when we prosper.

In some ways there is nothing wrong with that. I don’t just want to be mediocre, no good citizen wants their country to be so-so, and certainly not be a mess. There are noble aspirations. But just what and who defines noble aspirations for a person and a people? Not you and me, not the cheers of the masses, not the memories of the aged, not the evaluations of the experts, not who has the most, not who is the most eloquent, accomplished, or educated. God alone is able to define true greatness, for the simple and most obvious reason, there is no one greater. His greatness has never faded, it bears no flaw, it is unchallenged and glorious beyond compare. The greatness of God also informs us that true greatness and morality are never separated; we cannot be truly great and be unholy.

When God the Son, Jesus Christ, walked among us in human flesh he confronted his followers, his disciples on the issue of greatness. Their aspirations were unholy, they were jockeying for cabinet posts, they thought it was mainly about national politics and to simply make Israel great again. Scheming behind the scenes – acceptable. No transparency – acceptable. Not caring about some – acceptable. Making it all about power – acceptable. So “He (Jesus Christ) asked them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest. And he sat down and called the twelve. And he said to them, ‘If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all’” Mark 9:33-35 (ESV).

“But Jesus called them together and said, ‘You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many’” Matthew 20:25-28 (NLT).

We are called to flesh out this kind of greatness. We are not at liberty to reduce Jesus’ clear instruction and command (“must”) to merely our private sphere. We must take on the challenge to realize Christlike greatness in all personal, public, political, and pressing realities of our day. We will never be really great unless our definition of greatness matches God’s. We will never be really great if our aspirations for greatness do not inspire what is good and right and holy, right where we live and for all people/s.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Did you ever not really want do it, the right thing, the pressing thing, the needed thing that is? That for which you were born, for which the sovereignty and providence of God had placed you there and then (and here and now)? That which makes you have to decide between what is good for you and what is good for others, between playing it safe and risky, between comfortable and suffering, between carefree and weighty responsibility, between your will and God’s will?

Often we talk about politics and politicians in ways that depicts the whole thing as them versus us. We freely express our disapproval, our disappointment, our frustration with “them,” the Washington establishment, the president, Congress, the courts, the EPA, FDA, DHS, …, and often very justifiably so. We bemoan the partisanship, the corruption, the fiscal irresponsibility and waste, the disconnectedness, the shortsightedness, double speak, the lack of morality, and … We want more honesty, more integrity, more selflessness, more restraint, and more wisdom from those politicians, judges, and officials. We wish for more caring for what is good for all for the long term rather than what is good for just some, and worse, what is merely good to staying in power. We want treasured values to be upheld, not undermined, or for sale to the highest bidder, or prostituted to garner ratings and votes. Those people in Washington D.C. and Sacramento need to get it together!

Like many of you I received my absentee ballot this past week, it is reminder that you and I have political responsibility beyond opining and complaining. We have a responsibility to participate, to embrace our part, to practice the very integrity, selflessness, discipline, foresight, caring, and wisdom we have judged our politicians and leaders lack.

Politics, power, and influence always walk together. You combine the power of a large group if small, seemingly insignificant, people and their influence grows as well. They might even become a movement that changes the political landscape. One person embracing God’s will, taking up the responsibility the power and influence granted to him/her can make a huge difference in a family, community, a nation, in this world (e.g. Joseph, Genesis 37-50). The fact that the two candidates, one of whom will most likely be the next US president, are deeply flawed, rate low on the truth telling index, do not have a track record that inspires trust, and are dogged by corruption and scandal is also a reflection and indictment of the politicians at the most grassroots level, the voters, you and me. In the 2012 presidential election less than 55% of the total electorate voted, more than half of evangelical Christians abdicated their responsibility to vote. These are staggering statistics testifying of political and spiritual irresponsibility and disengagement.

The two highest values in the universe are loving God and loving people, caring about cares about and caring for others like we care about ourselves (Mark 12:29-31). Both of these values will lead you and me to service, serving God, serving others, serving our nation, serving the world. Those values will call us to do things we don’t really want to do, things that stand in the way of self-serving, self-indulgence, self-seeking, and the like. Those values will compel us to be engaged, to embrace every responsibility, every opportunity to influence our world to the glory of God.

Mordecai posed a rhetorical question to his niece Esther, the queen of Persia, who hesitated to become politically involved, “Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?” Esther 4:14 (NIV). Of course she was! Just like God has placed you and me into this time with power and influence to affect lives and politics for the glory of God. And so we must chose both at the ballot box and in the daily voting of our lives.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

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

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

So how are Christians supposed to engage in politics?

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

To God be all glory. Love you Pastor Hans.

 

 

Read Full Post »

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

 

 

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: