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Grady in January – Sanctity of Human Life, Human Rights, and Justice

grady-in-january-2

Did you know that you are precious, deeply loved, and incredibly valuable? But not just you, every other person is as well. It is an indisputable fact, from conception to the grave every human being is precious to God, loved by God, and has intrinsic value and dignity given to him/her by God.

Our children were home for this Christmas, when they arrived it was hugs and kisses and whenever my arms are wrapped around them I still feel like I am holding the most precious and valuable God will ever put into my arms. That’s also the thing making the good-byes so hard. For a number of years now one of the Christmas gifts Susie, my wife, has given to each family member is a calendar with pictures from our yearly family gathering at the beach. This year’s January is graced with a picture of Grady, the youngest grandson. It is beyond cute, off the precious scale. It’s not hard to spot the incredible value of that little boy, it is easy to fall in love with him, one look and you know he is a gift from God.

But what if Grady had been born with a handicap, if he wouldn’t be the perfect looking little baby boy? What if his conception was at an altogether bad time? What if his arrival spelled a serious inconvenience, even hardship? What if his life expectancy was very short? Would it alter his value? Would he be less precious? Would he be less lovable? Would he be less deserving of dignity? Would his life somehow lack sanctity? Of course not.

We struggle with human rights, with the sanctity of human life, with justice. Somehow while rallying for the right to choose we rationalize trampling on the right to live. Somehow we campaign for lives that truly matter while endorsing the slaughter of the most innocent. We are good at claiming rights for our ourselves but are much more reluctant to grant them to others, especially when and where they impact us, our freedoms, our opportunities, our happiness, and our prosperity and posterity. We are good at framing our arguments, catering to the like-minded, and vilifying, devaluing, stupidifying, and marginalizing those who oppose us. We are for liberty and justice for all who are like us, but then of course there are exceptions. We are prone to forget that preciousness and sanctity of every human life, human rights, and justice for all from conception to the grave is not just an issue, or a cause, a political platform item, an argument to be fought over, a debate about morals and ethics; it is about real people, pre-born, newborn, children, tweens and teens, young people, adults, and old people; friends, neighbors, classmates, coworkers, citizens, illegals, criminals, and enemies; poor, rich educated, illiterate, healthy, and sick people of all colors; all of them created in the image of God. Their pictures, even if it is an ultrasound, and existence are as real as Grady in January.

It is up to you and me, not just to law and policy (as important as they are) to stand for justice, for the right to life, to treat each other with dignity and respect, to acknowledge the sanctity of every human life. It takes both a personal and collective commitment to make liberty and justice for all work in real life.

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy (kindness) and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8 (NIV)

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

 

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This is the written account of Adam’s line. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and blessed them. And when they were created, he called them “man” (human). Genesis 5:1-2 (NIV)

 

Men can’t have babies, God blessed women with that ability. Now I have heard women wish that men would have to go through pregnancy and childbirth because it would change them, humble them, look at life and the world a little different, and I suppose it surely would. The mere ability to sire and conceive a child does not make one good parent, a good Mom or Dad, that takes embracing the ability and responsibilities of motherhood and fatherhood. Too many children are born every day to men and women who like part A (the conceiving activity) and have no interest in part B (the Mom/Dad responsibility). But God has always meant for A and B to be inseparable, it is our selfishness and the brokenness of our world that far too often separates the two.

 

Children are blessed when someone takes on the responsibility of mothering and fathering them, conversely their lives are much more difficult without either, in fact far too many children never see the light of day wherever and whenever A is divorced from B. B (a Mother’s and a Father’s heart) seeks life, abundant life for their children and children in general. Did you notice in the scripture above that God made people male and female, with the ability to reproduce, to be Fathers/Dads and Mothers/Moms and that God blessed them as such. I can’t help but think that God meant for that blessing of his to continue, for them to be blessed together, for their family to be blessed, their children to be blessed, for their grandchildren to be blessed, for generations they would never see to be blessed. Ask yourself, “How important is mothering and fathering the way God has intended it for blessing to flow from generation to generation?”

 

Having a baby changes a woman’s body, being a Mom changes her heart. Pregnancy will leave stretchmarks on the body, parenting will leave stretchmarks on the heart, the mind, and the soul of both Mom and Dad. Having a baby is a nine-month process, being a Mom or Dad is lifelong. From what I am told and what I have observed, pregnancy and birth is challenging, uncomfortable, and painful. From my own experience I know that being a parent is challenging, uncomfortable, and often painful far longer. How many tears wept for their children will run down the faces of Moms and Dads and drip to the ground around the world today? How many oceans could be filled with the tears of Moms and Dads shed throughout the ages? On the flipside, how much goodness, how much joy, how much blessing will be dished out today by good Moms and Dads? How much blessing has the world seen and experienced because of women and men who have been willing to be Moms and Dads, who care enough to fully engage, who dare to dream blessing for their children, their children’s children, the children of our world. I challenge you to never divorce A from B, to make up your mind to be all that God has enabled you to be in regard to children, to be someone who funnels life and unloads boatloads of the blessing of God.

 

Happy Mothers’ Day. To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

 

 

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 Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31 (NLT)

 I learned something this week (no snide comments needed): Don’t delay Granny when she is wanting to see her newborn grandson. I am telling you this is serious business. Who knew? And why wasn’t I told?

There is something incredibly amazing about holding a newborn baby. That totally helpless, completely dependent little person has already expanded history. He has grown the love of his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and nephew. We, his family, have been entrusted with him, we bear lifelong responsibility towards him. It would be unthinkable to discard him, it would wrong not to love him, take care of him, meet his needs, have noble dreams for his future.

His little amazingness didn’t start at 5:30 AM on Monday morning. The Biologist, the theologian, modern medicine, and his parents all know when little Grady’s life began – the very instant he was conceived. He, like us, didn’t begin his life subhuman with a need to acquire humanness and personhood somewhere along the way. From the moment he was conceived, we, his parents, his family, his doctor, his community, his country never have had any legitimate freedom to see him and treat him as anything but a human being, a full member of the human race. We bear individual and collective responsibility to love him. The second greatest commandment of God has applied to Grady, and every other human being, from the moment his DNA fingerprint existed.

Someone challenged Jesus Christ on this demand of God for us to love our neighbor as ourselves. “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29), he asked in order “to justify himself.” Jesus’ reply was what is now known as the story of the “Good Samaritan.” Jesus made it plain that the man, a lawyer, was asking the wrong question. Wrong questions lead to wrong answers. Wrong questions are convenient when you want to skirt the real issues. According to God, to Jesus, “Am I a loving neighbor?” “Am I responding to people placed in front of me with compassion, with care, with mercy, with a willingness to take time, to meet their needs?” When you ask those questions the issues of inconvenience, disruption, bad timing, etc. go right out of the window. The command to “love your neighbor as yourself” does not exclude pregnancy. In fact, no one will ever encounter a more vulnerable, dependent person than a child in the womb. That little girl’s or boy’s life depends on the mother keeping the second most important commandment, on his mother to love her/him as herself. It depends on us as a people to apply the same commandment to every human being, to ask the right questions, and to encourage and support every woman who choses love.

To God be all glory. Love you, Pastor Hans

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If you fail under pressure, your strength is too small. Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to die; save them as they stagger to their death. Don’t excuse yourself by saying, “Look, we didn’t know.” For God understands all hearts, and he sees you. He who guards your soul knows you knew. He will repay all people as their actions deserve. Proverbs 24:10-12 (NLT)

70 years ago, on January 27, Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration and extermination camp was liberated. 1.1 million people were murdered there, not because they had been convicted of some crime deserving death but because they did not fit Nazi ideology, and most of them because they were Jews. In order to pull of mass murder on that scale the Nazi leadership had brainwash, intimidate , and silence most all of Germany. Think about it, how else do you slaughter millions of human beings without any large scale opposition? How do you keep it out of the media? How do you manage to keep an entire country from crying out against it? It really is an old play book, cooked up in hell a long time ago.

You have to have great slogans, “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” (work liberates) hung at the entrance of concentration camps. A little hard work never has harmed anybody, has it? “For God and country.” “Allahu Akbar” (God is the greatest). “A woman’s right to choose.” What fool would challenge God and patriotism? Who can deny that God is the greatest? Who doesn’t endorse the freedom to choose? Great slogans ease the conscience; mollify the urge to think for yourself. You want people to love the slogans regardless of the truth.

You have to intimidate, sow fear to point that people are glad that what happens to others does not happen to them. You have to exploit what every kid learns on the school playground – to be afraid of being laughed at, being ostracized, to be called names, to be bullied, of being hurt. Terror works, fear is powerful. You have to be willing to belittle, shout down, embarrass, defame, lie, betray, hurt, and kill in the name of the cause. Sowing fear can’t worry about being clean, getting dirty, embracing violence, a “few” dispensable lives.

You have to be good at stripping real people of their humanity. You want people to think that Jews are categorically bad, the infidels are bad, an unwanted unplanned baby is bad, as are liberals, conservatives, environmentalists, homosexuals and all of the LBGTQ crowd, fundamentalists, Christians, Muslims, atheists they are all bad. And it is okay to dislike bad, to hate bad. Getting rid of bad is not that bad of a thing, in fact it might even be good. The less bad people there are the better; you have to be completely out of touch to disagree with that. Bad also doesn’t deserve the same rights as good, does it? Bad and bad people are really more of an issue to be dealt with, personalizing only complicates things. It is much easier to deal with an issue like the issue of slavery, the issue of the Jews, the issue of abortion, the issue of the Middle East Conflict, the issue of Aids, of Ebola, hunger, injustice. Issues are far easier to deal with, they don’t stare you in the eye, issues don’t have beating hearts.

On January 22, 1973 the US Supreme Court legalized abortion, since then 55,000,000 (55 million!) human beings have lost their lives through abortion in the United States alone. They have fallen victim to pills, solutions, suction machines, dismemberment, and the like. Where is the outrage, the disgust, the shame? There has not been one, not a single aborted child that was less than 100% human. There has not been one aborted child guilty or even accused of a crime. The reason they have been so easily and mercilessly killed is that they have been stripped of their humanity (How conditioned have we become to zygote, embryo, fetus as meaning something less than human). They have been called “mistakes,” “inconveniences,” “bad timing,” “accidents,” everything but what they really are – persons, human beings, living images of God. They have been deemed dispensable, we are better off without them than with them. They have been stripped of the most basic human rights and legal protection under the smoke screen of a woman’s right to choose. They have been made into issue to debate rather than people to love.

O that there would be “liberty and justice for all.”

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

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Children are a gift from the LORD; they are a reward from him.”Psalm 127:3 (NLT)

Cooper Stanley Frei was born on Wednesday June 18, 2014, at 4:10 PM, all 20 ½ inches and 7lbs 10 oz of him. Is there anything as soft as a new-born? Is there anything as precious as that first cry?

Cooper Stanley entered this world as a gift of God. For the rest of his life his parents get to unwrap him. Susie and I talked about it, you get that precious bundle of life handed to you but you have no idea what that little life holds, and there are times when you ask God if it is too late to exchange that gift, or get some store credit. But they come without a receipt (except for the hospital bill) and so the exchange idea usually doesn’t fly.

Cooper Stanley came into this world blessed. He was wanted, not dreaded. He is a dream come true, not an interruption or inconvenience. He had grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousin, and friends show up to cheer his arrival; and they are already fighting over babysitting rights and holiday privileges. His parents have been preparing the “nest” for months. He wasn’t born into poverty but in into plenty as well as into freedom and opportunity. He has a Mom and Dad who follow Christ, worship, pray, and strive to please God. Yes, little “Mini-Cooper” is blessed.

Cooper Stanley doesn’t know it, but he was born into responsibility, “to whom much is given much is required” (Luke 12:48). All this love, all this privilege, all this opportunity, all of the freedoms that greeted him when he popped out can be taken for granted or even be claimed as a birthright, or they can be recognized as precious gifts that call for giving thanks to God. They can be used for indulging self or an enabling to be a servant; they can be used for the pursuit of good or bad.

Cooper Stanley was born a as a creation of God, as a son, as a grandson, as a nephew, cousin. He already has roles assigned to him. Hopefully he will have lots more of them, and hopefully he will embrace the roles assigned to him. Hopefully he will choose to use his roles to glorify God and bring joy, blessing, goodness, and positive influence as a son, grandson, nephew, cousin, friend, ….

Cooper Stanley came into this world exposed (quite literally). He, like all of us, came into this world that is filled with brokenness, corruption, disease, pain, injustice, violence, accidents, disasters, and death. He too is exposed to the decisions and the sinfulness of others, the workings of history, the machinations of evil, and above all the sovereignty of God. These will shape him. These can break him. But may they cause him to rely on, to lean on, and to trust in God.

Cooper Stanley, 1000 times cute as he is, was born a little sinner. His Mom and Dad will not have to teach him how to sin or to embrace sin. No, in fact they will spend much of their parenting to keep that little sin nature from running amuck. God in his greatness and wisdom not only gave this little boy life and breath but in his mercy has already provided for him a Savior, Jesus Christ, who is able to forgive him, liberate him from sin, and give him eternal life. May he above all else come to know, love , and follow Christ, God’s Son.

To God be all glory, one proud Grandpa/Opa, Pastor Hans

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“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Luke 2:14 (NKJV)

Long before the first Goodwill Thrift store opened its doors God has been in the not for profit business of goodwill. Sometimes we forget just how vast the goodwill of God is. But when the voices of a multitude of angels shook the countryside they were proclaiming the ultimate expression of God’s goodwill towards all of mankind, Jesus Christ.

I learned something new (please hold your snide comments and show me some goodwill), in accounting goodwill is a business’s value beyond its tangible assets. That’s being worth more than you’re worth because someone assigns you that worth, and that is exactly what God has done to us in and through Christ. In fact our spiritual assets are not just zero but in the red. All of us, all of mankind, every last one is spiritually bankrupt, we are all sinners, we are creatures of not just goodwill but also of ill-will. God sent Christ not because our balance sheets neatly balanced out our good and bad, rather God in his love and goodwill through Christ assigned to as unfathomable and undeserved value. No wonder the angels started with, “Glory to God in the highest!”

It baffles me how often God gets a bad rap, is accused of ill-will. Why are we so prone to begin anywhere but ourselves? I don’t think I am exaggerating in assessing our collective human ill-will as staggering, and that without including the neglect of goodwill. “I am not as bad as ___________,” is a poor excuse for not being as good as I should be. And how often do we devalue others, are unwilling to account them some goodwill but rather insists on only seeing and talking about their lack of assets.

The lack of peace on earth illustrates this further. Why is there a lack of peace? Just this past week a Chinese and an American warships engaged in a game of chicken – why? You cannot ascribe the lack of peace on earth to any failure of God; he has given us a capacity for peace and peacemaking. It is us who chose otherwise. History is a long indictment when it comes to our lack of peace with each other and with God, it is a long record of both ill-will and a lack of goodwill.

I suppose if it were up to us we would have pulled the plug on the humanity a long time ago, at least we would have withdrawn our goodwill. This is how we operate if we cannot see some results to our goodwill, we move on. Fortunately you and I are not in charge. Fortunately God did the exact opposite, rather than withdrawing from our brokenness and abandoning us to our bankruptcy, he simply poured out more goodwill. Actually in Christ he opened the floodgates of goodwill, he flooded eternity with goodwill so eventually all ill-will will be drowned. No wonder the angels shouted over the fields, “Glory to God in the highest.”

It is because of the goodwill of God you and I received the gift of today. It is in the goodwill of God human worth and dignity are rooted. It is in the goodwill of God forgiveness and salvation has come to us through Christ. It is in the goodwill of God hope and mercy are offered to sinners whose balance sheets are wanting.

Intuitively the shepherds, who heard the angels’ praise, understood that this wasn’t about just hearing some words, but an invitation. An invitation to discover God, to find peace, to experience the goodwill of God – “Let’s go,” … “Let’s see,” was their Christmas response. What is yours?

Merry Christmas, to God be all glory, Pastor Hans

 

 

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Have you ever been told something you didn’t want to hear but you needed to? Those are the conversation we don’t really want to be part of. So if you don’t want to hear something we all need to hear, if you don’t want to engage into a conversation that really needs to happen, don’t read on.

Last week, in the wake of Detroit’s homicide numbers for 2012, Mayor Dave Bing said, “We’ve just lost respect for each other; we’ve lost respect for life.” The number he was lamenting was 411 up from 377 the previous year.  What a sad statistic, Mayor Bing had every reason to lament it. However, it pales in light of the fact that in 2012 approximately 1,200,000 (1.2 Million) pre-born little boys and girls had their lives snuffed out through abortion. Indeed we have lost respect for human life.

It is even sadder because we can no longer claim ignorance. One no longer can argue about when human life begins, modern science can now identify human being from its first cell on. Following conception are merely stages in the life of a human being both in and outside the womb. It is even sadder because these killings are legal through all nine months of pregnancy, even right before a child slips through the birth canal. It is even sadder because we build an entire money making industry around the taking, the destruction of little human beings. And it is sadder still that we don’t want to hear about it, we don’t want to be exposed to the ugly truth that since the Roe vs. Wade decision rendered by the highest court of the land, which has a responsibility to uphold justice and liberty for all, well over 50, 000,000 (fifty million) pre-born babies have died. We have acquiesced to stripping an entire group, the pre-born, of the rights each American holds dear: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. We do not want to hear of morality (although the taking of innocent life is an immoral act). We do not want to hear of responsibility past a condom regarding sexual behavior. We don’t want to think about having to take responsibility for acts of unbridled (and unprotected) acts of passion and lust.

Mayor Bing is right, “We have lost respect for life,” and I wonder if he included all those little boys and girls who lost their lives via an abortion pill or the hands of an abortionist in the city of Detroit. We cannot devalue human life anywhere along its entire life span and hope to maintain respect for human life. We cannot engage in a conversation about respect for human life while stripping an entire class of all its fundamental rights. We cannot maintain respect for human life if we do not want to talk about responsibility regarding our capacity to create life. We cannot hold on to respect for human life if do not reckon with the reality that we will answer to our Creator, God Almighty, for all of our decisions and acts.

Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness are indeed a great endowment and great values as long as we choose them for all.

To God be all glory, Pastor Hans

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