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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To God be all glory. Love You, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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Without question it is good to have God on your side, actually it is the very best life scenario for each one of us individually, for our families, for us and any people. The ancient Israelites would remind themselves of that great truth as they made their way up to the temple to worship, What if the LORD had not been on our side? Let all Israel repeat: What if the LORD had not been on our side when people attacked us? They would have swallowed us alive in their burning anger
Psalm 124:1-3 (NLT).

However, simply claiming that God is on your side does not put him there. The Israelites fooled themselves into thinking that God was automatically on their side because of their claim to be God’s “chosen people.” Jeremiah the prophet reminded them, “You have left Me. This is the LORD’s declaration. You have turned your back, so I have stretched out My hand against you and destroyed you. I am tired of showing compassionJeremiah 15:6 (HCSB); See, I am against you, O arrogant one, declares the Lord, the LORD Almighty, for your day has come, the time for you to be punished’” Jeremiah 50:31 (NIV). God is not automatically on the side of the United States just because we consider ourselves champions of freedom, have a long list of proud accomplishments, or simply lay claim to be good. God is not automatically on the side of any political party, group, or individual. In fact, God might be adamantly opposed. As good as it is to have God on your side it is absolutely terrible when God is “against you.”

God had the Apostle Paul pen,First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good, and it pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (HCSB). Notice:

  • “Everyone” – God wants everyone to prayed for, even those we do not want to pray for, those we disagree with, those who make life difficult for us, those who are outright enemies. “Everyone” is so darn encompassing.
  • “Everyone” – Includes “kings and all who are in authority.” God expects us to pry concerning politics, politicians, government leaders and officials, heads of state. (Paul most likely wrote 1 Timothy when Nero ruled in Rome.) Political praying is not so much concerned with pulling God to your side, to get more of God’s blessing than the other side, than it is about good and wise governing that effects “everyone,” that creates peace, justice, and stability, enabling people to live quiet, dignified lives.
  • “Everyone”- God wants everyone to come to be saved to understand the absolute necessity and reality of Jesus Christ. God’s agenda of redemption encompasses, everyone, all peoples, all nations. For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and humanity—the man Christ Jesus. He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone. This is the message God gave to the world at just the right time1 Timothy 2:5-6 (NLT).

Ultimately no one can be on God’s side apart from Jesus Christ. The very best thing politicians and government leaders can do is to be committed to Jesus Christ personally, not for getting votes during an election cycle, but for their own salvation, and then govern and exercise authority out of that relationship with God through Christ. Actually, this is the best thing “everyone” could and should do, because we are better when we are on God’s side.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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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.

 

 

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Praying Like Jesus

Christians, believers in and followers of Jesus Christ, are meant to be people of prayer. We are to pray in private, all the time, and together (Matthew 6:6, 1 Thessalonians 5:17, 1 Timothy 2:8). We are to pray for each other, the sick and the hurting, government leaders, church leaders, peace, the spiritually lost, for more to engage in God’s redemptive work, for personal and spiritual growth, against evil and for our enemies. We are to pray in the face of worry and anxiety, in times of need, in making decisions, and where discernment, forgiveness, and mercy is needed.

All of this praying is rooted in and worthwhile because of who God is and trusting the facts about God, “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him” Hebrews 11:6 (NLT). Jesus in responding to his disciples’ request to teach them how to pray reminded them when praying they should remember the following facts about God:

  • God exists (Luke 11:1)
  • God is approachable (Luke 11:1)
  • God is able (Luke 11:3-8, 13)
  • God is aware (Luke 12:6-7, 30)
  • God cares (Luke 11:2, 13)
  • God hears (Luke 11:9-10)
  • God is good (Luke 11:13)
  • God is dependable (Luke 11:2, 13)
  • God responds (Luke 11:13)

The reason the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray was because they observed a difference between their praying and his. Not all praying is equal, some praying is meaningless (Matthew 6:5, Luke 18:9-14), some is ignorant (Matthew 6:7-8), and some is a form of disobedience (Isaiah 1:15-17). The disciples obviously recognized that there was a connection between who Jesus was and did and his prayer-life.

Jesus, in response to his disciples’’ request to be taught how to pray, emphasized four things:

  • Frequency. – Luke 11:2. “When you pray,” actually praying is a must if you want to learn how to pray, as is the frequency, the more occasionally the slower the learning.
  • Content. – Luke 11:3-4, Matthew 6:6-13, Philippians 4:6-8. It is possible to fill our praying with fluff, “meaningless repetition” (Matthew 6:7), self-righteousness, platitudes, formulas, etc. But God is looking for “real,” for substance.
  • Confidence. – Luke 11:9-10. Prayer is an opportunity to exercise confidence in who God is (see list above) and how he acts. He is the good Heavenly Father, unlimited in power, wisdom, knowledge, compassion, and goodness.
  • Persistence. – Luke 11:5-10. This is not about having to get God’s attention but continuing in prayer until God answers. Strong, mature, praying has a tenaciousness, an unwillingness to settle for anything less than that which God has in mind.

To God be all Glory. Pray on, 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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One suitcase of our two piece luggage allowance was dedicated to transporting materials, video equipment, printed materials, seminar supplies, children’s ministry resources, and a guitar. All of it we planned to use and leave behind with our Tanzanian ministry partners.

We didn’t return with less. We simply shared that of which God has given us an abundance but in return God, through our Tanzanian ministry partners, packed bags for us we did not even have to carry. We were part of what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian believers a long time ago, “At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need 2 Corinthians 8:14 (NIV). And we experienced the dynamics Paul described, “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.
Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the sur
passing grace God has given you” 2 Corinthians 9:12-14 (NIV).

It will take us some time to unpack all God has sent us home with. As we do the blessing will be multiplied and shared with all of you who gave, helped, and prayed to fill the bags we went with. Now we get to unpack together and rejoice in all that God has sent home with us, the experiences, the encouragement, faith that has blossomed and grown, the awe of what God can do with what little we have when we are willing to surrender it for his use and to his glory.

In the end we end up at the foot of the cross, looking up, in awe, filled with praise, wanting to worship, “Giving thanks to God for his indescribable gift! 2 Corinthians 9:15 (NIV).

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

 

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“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Matthew 5:43-45 (NIV)

Who do you consider the enemy? Who are your enemies? Who do you treat like, talk about, and emotionally react to like they are the enemy, your enemy? Is it the terrorists, the jihadists, Muslims in general, illegal immigrants, gays, LBGTQs (Lesbians, Gays, Transgender, Queer), the politically conservative, the politically liberals, the religious, the atheist and humanists, the theologically conservatives, the theologically liberal, the rich, the poor, those that hurt you, cheated you, abused you, mistreated you?

Can’t we hate them, dehumanize them, ridicule them, belittle them, seek their demise and destruction? Can’t we just join the choir that loves singing imprecatory psalms like: “Let death take my enemies by surprise; let them go down alive to the grave”(Psalm 55:15). “O God, break the teeth in their mouths”(Psalm 58:6).“May they be blotted out of the book of life and not be listed with the righteous” (Psalm 69:28).“May his children be fatherless and his wife a widow”(Psalm 109:9). “How blessed will be the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks” (Psalm 137:9). Can’t we at least not care to what happens to our enemies?

Whomever we regard as our enemy, whomever we talk about, treat, and emotionally react to like they are an enemy, there is a Christlike standard that applies. If our attitudes, words, and action do not reflect love, mercy, doing good, and prayers that seek more than vengeance and demise, then we are still far from Christlikeness.

You have to figure it out, that “love your enemy” mandate, it is not easy, it puts responsibilities on us that we don’t really want. It just might make us struggle more than our enemy. Hatred does not care about restraint but love does. Hatred does not care about its object, love does.

So how lax are our attitudes, how lose are our lips, how missing are our actions, how empty are our prayers, and how cold are our hearts when it comes to our enemies or those who talk about, treat like, and emotionally respond to like our enemies? Are we sticking with the “You have heard that it was said,” with what’s the norm, with what is accepted and practiced the world over, or are we fully embracing the teaching of Christ and dare to walk in his footsteps?

“But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful Luke 6:27-36 (NIV).

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

 

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