Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘liberty’ Category

“And they cast lots for them …” Acts 1:26 (ESV)

They set some criteria, prayed, and drew straws. If you are a church-going person, I imagine, you would be fairly familiar and comfortable with the first two in making a decision or appointing the right person for a leadership position. But then to wrap it up and make it official by drawing a name out of a hat?

Maybe you need a little more information on what happened there at the First Church of Jerusalem? Jesus had chosen twelve Apostles. One of them, Judas Iscariot, turned on him, betrayed him, and killed himself. This left a vacancy and they needed a replacement. Peter, himself being an Apostle, brought up the issue to the whole church (a congregation of about 120 faithful believers). The replacement candidate needed to meet certain criteria which qualified two people. So, who should they pick? That’s when they prayed, asking God to make his will clear to them, and then drew lots to decide between the two.

Do you think it would’ve been better for them to have a vote? Maybe not. Think about it, drawing names took all the politics out of the decision, no personal preferences or connections coming into play, no election winners and losers, and no blaming if the person made mistakes afterward.

What is equally interesting is that they only asked who qualified. They didn’t say, “All who qualify and want to, please raise your hand.” Whoever qualified, their names went into the hat. Keep in mind that this appointment would radically alter the life of the one chosen, they were conferring major and life-long responsibility. It seems, they considered the will of God and the need of the body of Christ (the church) as vastly more important than the personal implications for those who qualified. I dare say this is neither lukewarm Jesus-following nor casual church-membership. Makes me think of what Winfield S. Weeden penned, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to him I freely give.”

“And the lot fell to Matthias, …” We are not told how he felt about it. For us, in our culture, in our day how we feel about it is important, so important that it is major criteria in our decision making, in what we are willing or unwilling to do. Maybe, this is why we struggle so often with our lot in life. How do we have to feel about the will of God before it is right? Before we are willing to embrace it? Matthias obviously thought the will of God and the need of Jesus love (the church, Ephesians 5:24) were much more important than his feelings, his fears, his reservations, his preferences, and his plans.

“Joseph, called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus …” the other qualified candidate wasn’t chosen. He had three names; seems like he was better known, maybe more popular. The lot didn’t ask about his feelings either. No word on how he took it, how he felt about it, but we do not hear about any stink following Matthias’ appointment, no jealousy, no bitterness, no complaining. What we do know is that he was willing, that the will of God and Jesus’ church were so important to him that he did not shrink back from what God wanted and the church needed.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:36 (NIV)

It is tough to be merciful with a hard heart and it is impossible to be godly and Christlike with a hard heart.

It is a lot easier to accuse everyone else of wrong, of hardness of heart than to address our own heart condition.

At the Sabbath (church) service they were hoping Jesus would do something they could nail him on (sad). You can be sure your heart is hard when you’re waiting for people to mess up. What would he do for the man with the crippled hand? Would he break the man-made Sabbath interpretations and regulations? If he did, they were ready to pounce, to accuse, to raise a stink – something hard hearts love to do.

Jesus didn’t disappoint, in fact, he called the disabled man up front, had him stretch out his crippled hand (the thing he was hiding) for all to see, and healed him. However, before doing so he asked a question, “Is it lawful on Sabbath to do good or to harm, to save life or to kill?” (Mark 3:4). That’s an easy question with an easy answer, but they didn’t want to answer, hard hearts hate to be exposed to be cornered, to answer questions that prove them wrong.

Their hardness of heart made Jesus angry and it grieved him. They were willing to let a man stay crippled for the sake of their man-made rules, their authority to enforce them, and their way of life. You know your heart is hard when there is an opportunity to do good and show compassion and you bypass it not because God’s law is hindering you, but because you love your own way, rules, opinions, and politics more.

Jesus healed the crippled man. The Synagogue should’ve exploded with cheers and praise, but hard hearts have a hard time cheering for those who expose them, even when they do incredible good. Instead, there is an eerie silence in the synagogue following the healing. I have to believe there were some who wanted to cheer and clap, but, to their shame, they let themselves be held in check by the hard hearts of their leaders. They were waiting to see what their leaders, their group would do and then, regrettably, fell in line with the silence when “Hallelujahs” were in order. Silence produced by hardness of heart is never good.

Rather than change those religious hard hearts “went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus” Mark 3:6 (NIV). Hard hearts find each and encourage each other (as do tender hearts). Can you see Jesus at any border hiding behind man-made rules? Would Christ applaud Captain Carola Rackete who steered Sea-Watch 3 filled with refugees into an Italian harbor although she was ordered not to and was promptly arrested? Who have you been criticizing, deploring, so much so that you can longer see any good they do? Are you staying silent both in the face of wrong and good because that is not what your group, your party, opposes and does not cheer? Towards whom do you have a hard heart?

Porosis is the Greek word used here by Mark. They had porosis of the heart, “moral ossification” (Robertson), the hardening of muscle tissue, meaning that which was meant to be soft became hard. The other word used in the New Testament for hardness of heart is sklerokardia. Maybe you have heard of osteoporosis – bones becoming brittle or arteriosclerosis – hardening/thickening of the arteries. You can go to the doctor for these conditions, although they are not necessarily easy to treat. Who do you go to with hardness of heart? God. You and I can trust him when he says, “And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart” Ezekiel 36:26 (NLT2).

Don’t live another week with hardness of heart.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

Read Full Post »

Mercy needs time. Being merciful requires, besides compassion and action, time. Those who need mercy today need both someone who will show mercy and time. All who are crying out for mercy around the world, the aliens, refugees, oppressed, mistreated, those deprived of justice, those who’ve made mistakes, and those who are repenting of wickedness and evil, are also hoping for time. Enough time for things to change, time for life to be better, time to have another chance to be better. The dilemma is that the very time those crying out for mercy need also gives evil, evildoers, corruption, and sin more time.

When it comes to mercy, Jesus left no doubt as to how he, God, wants us to function in time. He commands us to be merciful, expects us to be merciful, and blesses us when we are merciful, “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” Luke 6:36 (NIV); Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” Matthew 5:7 (NIV). He wants you and me to become answers to those crying for mercy. He wants us to be the men and women who understand and live James’ point, Speak and act as those who will be judged by the law of freedom. For judgment is without mercy to the one who hasn’t shown mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment” James 2:12-13 (HCSB).

It would be a grave mistake to conclude that since mercy triumphs over judgment that judgment has been rendered obsolete and is abolished. Mercy is not mercy if leads to a perversion of justice, the abolishment of judgment, “… it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” Hebrews 9:27-28 (ESV). The cross of Christ is both the most merciful and the most just act in all of history. It did not bypass the justice of God but rather satisfied it completely and doing so it enables the mercy of God to save even the worst sinner.

However, mercy does not buy evil, wickedness, and sin unlimited time. It does grant a sinner time to repent and in doing so give him or her a chance to do even more evil, but it will also not ignore the cries of those suffer that evil. The evil doers and merciless who died comfortably in their plush beds will not escape justice, “God has warned us that he’ll hold us to account and make us pay. He was quite explicit: ‘Vengeance is mine, and I won’t overlook a thing,’ and, ‘God will judge his people.’ Nobody’s getting by with anything, believe me”
Hebrews 10:30-31 (MSG); “… the day of the Lord (the day of God’s judgment, of Christ’s return) will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  … “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled”
1 Thessalonians 5:6 (NIV, parenthesis mine).

Today is a day of mercy, a great day to respond to God’s mercy, a terrific day to be merciful. Today is also a day God in his mercy has said to many, “Your time is up, time for judgment.” Only believing in and following Christ will prepare you for that day.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

Read Full Post »

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.
Luke 6:35-36 (ESV)

Mercy does give second chances but it does not abolish judgment or pervert justice, nor does mercy ignore what is wise and prudent. If you are familiar with the Bible (God’s written revelation) you know that God pushed the reset button on the human race once. Before he flooded the earth in the days of Noah people lived incredibly long lives, but, The LORD observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil… I have decided to destroy all living creatures, for they have filled the earth with violence’” Genesis 6:5, 13 (NLT2). However, the judgment God announced to Noah did not come for many years, years which God gave to Noah and his family to construct an ark (ship) and to preach to everyone the impending judgment and how to escape it (2 Peter 2:5). God in his mercy gave time for people to hear the truth and to repent, he “patiently waited” (1 Peter 3:20), but he also stayed true his word. Then, after the flood, God limited the human life-span to around 70 to 120 years (Genesis 6:3, Psalm 90:10); and, history has proven that we are capable of doing plenty of evil and violence in that time frame. There is a line when mercy becomes merciless. Giving a wicked man or woman a chance to repent and change is mercy, allowing him or her to go on and on enables him or her and is anything but being merciful to the victims. In fact, there are many instances when 70 to 120 years seems far too long to us.

God has set a cutoff time for each one of us, “And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment” Hebrews 9:27 (HCSB). And, God has set a final cutoff point for all of humanity and evil (2 Peter 3:3-18, Revelation 20:7-15). In the meantime God is amazingly merciful and confusingly merciful, seemingly giving evil and violence far too long a leash, far too much opportunity, giving people too much time to do unspeakable wrong. But, O how glad and grateful I am for every chance, for every opportunity his mercy has afforded me.

How are you responding to the mercy of God giving you time and opportunity? Are you taking that time and opportunity to enable you in your selfishness, your sinfulness, and wickedness? Or, are you the time and opportunity God’s mercy gives you to repent, to do good, to honor God, and to be prepared for the judgment? Your clock is running.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

Read Full Post »

Christians at the Ballot Box – Voting with Your Ballot, Voting with Your Life

Christians throughout history have gotten into hot water because being a Christian means being a citizen of heaven, of the kingdom of God, with Christ as king, “… our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ …” Philippians 3:20 (ESV). We value this citizenship above all others and our allegiance to Christ and his kingdom supersedes all other allegiances we might have. This is why Christians have been accused of treason and being disloyal to their country and earthly citizenship(s). This is why Christians have disobeyed laws that violated the laws and values of the kingdom of God and Christ the King. This is why the followers of Jesus have refused to blindly hitch their wagon to particular political movements, and never feel fully comfortable and at home until the return of our king. This is why true followers of Jesus seek his approval and the implementation of his will in all and above all else and are willing to pay the price this allegiance exacts in its interactions with the kingdoms and authorities of this world.

I am privileged to hold two earthly citizenships (United States and German); both of them are coveted by people around the world. It says something when people want to come to our land and neighborhoods. It means we are privileged and blessed to have abundance, opportunity, liberty, and a measure of peace, otherwise they would not want to come. According to the values of our heavenly citizenship that gives both the opportunity do good and the responsibility to share (1 Timothy 6:17-19).

The Apostle Paul also held two earthly citizenships (Jewish and Roman). The one that was coveted in his day was Roman Citizenship. The Bible records a conversation between Paul and a Roman Commander who was about to treat and punish him like Non-Roman, “The commander went to Paul and asked, ‘Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?’ ‘Yes, I am,’ he answered. Then the commander said, ‘I had to pay a big price for my citizenship.’ ‘But I was born a citizen,’ Paul replied (Acts 22:27-28 (NIV). Obviously, his Roman citizenship was advantageous to Paul and he did not hesitate to make use of what it afforded him, it was a privilege that he was born into, he was blessed with, and one which he did not abuse but instead used for the purposes of God. Neither his Jewish heritage and citizenship nor his Roman citizenship were his highest allegiance, his heavenly citizenship was. In fact, he didn’t think that they even came close to comparing (Read all of Philippians 3). In the end, it was his allegiance to Christ and his heavenly citizenship that brought him into conflict and cost him his life. He rightly thought it was worth it.

Hopefully, you will take your earthly/US citizenship seriously enough fulfill the responsibility of your right to vote come November 6th, but when you fill out your ballot, do so as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven, reflecting the will and honor of Christ and his kingdom.

To God be all glory. Vote! Pastor Hans

 

 

Read Full Post »

What is your definition of blessing, your mental picture of a blessed life? A lot depends on it. It plays a significant part in determining what we value. It will impact how we evaluate our circumstances. It will shape our fears. It shapes the core of our faith. It will drive our actions.

Have you ever examined the prayer requests in y/our church and churches you have visited? The vast (and I mean vast) majority are about health, followed by requests for protection and provision. It reveals our spiritual priorities as much as the record of our checking accounts reveals our financial priorities. How do we reconcile this with Jesus’ instruction, “If God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’ These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.  Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” Matthew 6:29-33 (NLT2).

Small wonder that the “prosperity gospel,” health and wealth preachers find easy prey and are exploiting people and believers all over the globe. They tie into both the anxieties and definitions of blessings that are common to all people but should not be to followers of Christ. Small wonder the politics of nationalism, exclusion, and hate have always found vast audiences even among Christians. If our definition of blessing is at its core about health, wealth, prosperity, liberty, comfort and security we will be overcome by fear anytime they are threatened, and we will do whatever is necessary to maintain, protect, and restore those blessings. And when that happens, according to Jesus, we act no different than those who do not believe.

It is not wrong to seek the blessing(s) of God. Actually, the Bible (the written word of God) continually encourages living according to the commands, principles, and ways God blesses, for example, “Bring your full tithe to the Temple treasury so there will be ample provisions in my Temple. Test me in this and see if I don’t open up heaven itself to you and pour out blessings beyond your wildest dreams” Malachi 3:10 (MSG). Who wouldn’t want for God to pour out blessings beyond what we even asked and hoped for over him or her, over our families, over us as a people? Imagine with me getting it all (much like Solomon mentioned above), health wealth, peace, comfort, safety, not just for you but also for your family and nation. (Are you feeling blessed just imagining it?). Are you aware that this the point most people forget about God, quit depending on God, no longer have a need for God (including Solomon)? That this definition of blessing is also our greatest stumbling block, intoxicating to our sin-nature?

A Christian definition of blessing is much broader than health, prosperity, liberty, comfort, and safety; it has to be because it has to encompass earthly reality and the kingdom of God, it has to concern itself with more than own needs and include the needs of all of mankind, it has to be about more than the here and now and fully embrace the eternal, it needs to take us beyond our own dreams and completely embrace the plans and purposes of God. So, how confused do you think was Jesus’ audience when they heard him declare, “Blessed are the poor in spirit …, those who mourn …, the gentle …, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness …, the merciful …, the pure in heart …, the peacemakers …, and then top it off with the following, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me (Jesus Christ). Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you” Matthew 5:10-12 (NIV, parenthesis mine)?

As followers of Jesus, we dare not live by an incomplete definition of blessing because in short order it will cause us to think, worry, speak, vote, cheer, and fight like unbelievers. And, it will render us a people with much passion for the things of this world (1 John 2:15-16) but little thought and even less fire for the Jesus’ kingdom.

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

 

Read Full Post »

 “… Why then will you sin against innocent blood by killing David without cause?’” (1 Samuel 19:5 ESV) is what Jonathan asked as he stood up against his Dad, King Saul, who was out to kill David, who was also Jonathan’s best friend. In the long term this didn’t benefit Jonathan, it wasn’t beneficial to his career, soured the relationship with his father, and complicated his life. Standing up for what is right is usually costly, yet in doing so Jonathan not only protected his friend’s life but also drew a line in the sand against one of the seven things God hates, “Arrogant eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, …” (Proverbs 6:17 HCSB).

They journey together, form a wicked triumvirate, the shedding of innocent blood, arrogance, and lying; where you find one you do not have to look far to find the other. Shedding of innocent blood requires the arrogance of your life being more valuable than the one you are willing to depose off, it necessitates lying to both to yourself and those to whom you justify the act. And God absolutely abhors and hates all three. It is a terrible thing to find ourselves doing what God hates, what is completely unlike him.

One of the consequences of leaving, disavowing, turning your back on the only true and living God and substitute manmade religion or godless philosophies and ideologies, is that we end up playing God, and in doing so we both feed our pride and lie to ourselves. Listen to the ancient indictment of God’s own people, “They did not destroy the peoples as the LORD had commanded them but mingled with the nations and adopted their ways. They served their idols, which became a snare to them. They sacrificed their sons and daughters to demons. They shed innocent blood— the blood of their sons and daughters whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan; so the land became polluted with blood. They defiled themselves by their actions and prostituted themselves by their deeds.
Therefore the LORD’s anger burned against His people, and He abhorred His own inheritance”
(Psalm 106:34-40 HCSB).

How much innocent blood has been spilled across this land since 1776? Justified on the altars of greed, Westward expansion, racism, political expediency, progress, personal freedom, and the worship of self? And we are continuing the bloodshed, arrogance, and lies. But the numbers of the most innocent, the unborn, the ones whose cries we cannot hear, are  staggering: More than 59,000,000, yes, fifty-nine million since 1973 (Roe vs. Wade); 926,000 in 2014 (touted as a record low).

We are foolish to think that God’s anger will not “burn against” us when we embrace that which he hates. We too will reap what we sow, personally and collectively. Calls for God to “bless America” will be hollow if we do not dare to stand with Jonathan wherever and whenever innocent blood is spilled.

May we humble ourselves and repent this Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, January 21, 2018.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: