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Archive for the ‘politics’ 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

 

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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

 

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“Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will,” (Mark 14:36).

What I think is in my best interest might not be in your best interest, and what you think is in your best interest might not be in everybody else’s best interest. Today will not be much different from yesterday in the fact that the world over people will clash, siblings will have it out, husbands and wives will disagree, political factions will dispute, countries will be in turmoil internally and at war with each other.

We need very little training in exerting our wills, in claiming the high ground, in the kind of pride that asserts to know what is best. It is the beast within us trying to survive and thrive and have it easy that worships at the altar of self, that ignores morality, that breathes hubris. The mountain lion gives no thought whether it hunts deer to extinction. But we are not mere beasts, we are living souls created in God’s own image, capable of insight, foresight, moral contemplation, and acting out of more than self-interest and mere survival, of behaving honorably and godly. We are also fallen images of God, sinful souls from the moment we were conceived, under the reality of death. In the reality of death, the fear of losing out and survival become paramount, the interests of others are secondary, morality becomes a hindrance, the elevation of self is justified. In the end, however, we consume ourselves, we kill the tree that gives us life like mistletoe does to its host.

The greatest battles we fight are the ones were our wills clash with the interests of others, were our wills clash with the will of him who alone knows what is truly best for all, God. Our greatest battles are those where we must choose between acting like images of God or mere beasts, between trusting God’s will over our own.

Can we trust God’s will? Even if it includes losing out, suffering, death? And, hasn’t that kind of reasoning been used to lure people into evil religious radicalism and senseless martyrdom? The answer is, “Yes!” In our sinfulness and self-centeredness, we know how to pervert the good and right, to hijack the noble, to trample the godly. But it is also true that it was Jesus, the sinless one, who had not robed, harmed, abused, cheated, discarded, or lied to anyone, who prayed, “Nevertheless, not my will but yours, Father (God),” when he had to decide between escaping suffering and death and what was in the best interest of all of mankind according to God’s omniscience, purposes, and will. When he had to decide between his fears and the resurrection power of God.

It was a struggle; clashes of wills usually are. Three times, in deepest turmoil of soul, Jesus wrestled the temptation to run, to settle for what would spare him. And so much hung in the balance. We too will struggle, we will have to sort it out, and much hangs in the balance.

 “Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, On earth as it is in heaven. ‘Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen” Matthew 6:9-13 (NASB).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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Christmas – Jesus, the Great and Most Needed Interruption

I remember the look in my kid’s eyes saying it all, “Somebody please stop him!” when I was on a parental roll, taking charge of the situation (usually without consulting Susie), laying down new rules, unleashing a fresh wind in the Frei household.

Have you ever wished for someone to stop you, interrupt you? Like when your mouth just wouldn’t shut up? When you were throwing a fit? When you were making a complete fool of yourself? When you were making lousy choices, spending too much, eating too much, texting while driving, …? When you were mean, petty, arrogant, unkind, or plain dumb or acting stupid?

Of course, there are much weightier things that need interrupting, like addictions, dysfunctional habits, violence, injustice, exploitation, oppression, tyranny, hatred, ignorance, poverty, excuses, lies, unforgiveness, hypocrisy, evil. However, just because something needs interrupting does not mean the interruption is welcome, darkness will fight the light to the bitter end, wrong and evil have no tolerance for interrupters.

“There was no room …” (Luke 2:7) for Jesus Christ in ordinary life, in political life, religious life, and in most people’s personal life. There was no room for the personified Word and will of God no matter how much it was, and still is, needed. Jesus Christ, Son of God, Creator, Source of all life and light came into this world, stepped into history, but he was not understood, human darkness recoiled at his light, and his own did not want him. The “grace and truth”, the innocence, goodness, righteousness, and hope interruption our world so desperately needs still finds few takers, few who will make room for it, welcome it, Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” John 1:12 (NIV).

It’s striking, unless we outright reject it, how much we dress up Christmas, the incarnation of God, in sentimentality, quaintness, and feel good. Let’s make it a superficial, fleeting interruption. But Christmas, Jesus is about God interrupting us at our core, our worst, in our deepest depravity, in our evil, at our most sinful, our total helplessness, our utter hopelessness, and in the darkest reality of ourselves and all humanity. Will we welcome him there? Will we make room for Christ there? Will we praise God for interrupting us through Christ and proclaim the excellencies of him who called (interrupted) you out of darkness into his marvelous light” 1 Peter 2:9 (ESV, parenthesis mine).

Merry Christmas! Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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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

 

 

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Springtime, wake up time for rodents, ants, spiders, wasps, mosquitoes, flies and bugs. I know, spring doesn’t officially begin until March 20th, 9:15 am to be exact. But the above-mentioned critters don’t give a hoot about official anything, nor do they respect boundaries, comfort, property rights, or someone else’s hard work. They do pretty much whatever they want, wherever they want, and whenever they want.  They come by stealth, mass invasion, through the air, underground, at high noon, twilight, and under the cover of night. Relentless I tell you, destructive, unapologetic, and even dangerous.

I want them gone, out of my yard, away from my home, gone. If you want them, if your heart has a soft-spot for them, you can have them, the whole lot. A spider on my bedroom ceiling is not going to get the chance to play cat burglar and lower its multi-eyed self down on my bed in the middle of the night; it is going to get “splat!” The ground squirrels, wood-rats, mice, gophers, moles, voles will not encounter kind mercy; they will be trapped, shot, and poisoned when possible. The wasp eying my steak in its shifty flight will be permanently uninvited. The ants trying to homestead around 10417 Blanchard Road will meet the full brunt of available extermination methods. Not a single mosquito, kissing bug, beg bug, or termite will be tolerated, be invited to take a little sip or take a small bite, nor be merely trapped and released. Flies will be met by swatters, fly-papers, scented traps, and available chemicals; they will never receive permission for fly or stopovers.

Striking, isn’t it, how the first paragraph above could easily describe wicked men and women, mankind in unrestrained sinfulness, and how the second paragraph could easily portray the harsh and merciless measures and attitudes mankind has used against each other.  Is it right to hate wickedness, to yearn for and work toward a world without it? Absolutely, but we have to be careful not to act wicked our own self. Keeping critters and pests out of my house is different from stomping on them when I go on a hike. I can put up screens and seal cracks before getting out the swatter or setting deadly traps.

Of course, there is also the matter of worth. There is no question that even the life of the ground squirrel living under our playhouse and undermining the old trees in my backyard is amazing, regardless of it shamelessly mocking me this morning. However, there is a difference between all men being created equal and in the image of God, and all life being created equal. The first is true the second is unsustainable. So who gets to assign worth? God does, and has, Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:26 (NIV). I hope you notice that different worth does not mean God doesn’t care about all of his creation, in fact not a single sparrow falls from the sky apart from God or is forgotten by God (Matthew 20:29; Luke 12:6-7). Obviously, for God, there is no tension counting a person as more valuable than a bird. For us, however, there is great tension in managing God’s creation responsibly, daily living and survival, and our own sinfulness.

I imagine that God is vastly more disturbed about the wickedness of mankind, one person treating another, valuing another like a rodent, like a pest than you and I are about actual rodents and pests. God could have responded to our wickedness without mercy but instead, he both reaffirmed our value and his great love for every man and every woman in the cross of Christ. Because of his great mercy and love he “is not slow in keeping his promise (of final judgment and justice on all wickedness), as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9 (NIV, parenthesis mine). We, the church, followers of Christ, worshippers of the one living God should do no less, at home, in our communities, our countries, our politics, our policies, and our attitudes.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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 “… 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

 

 

 

 

 

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