The Battle Rages

There is more to this following Jesus business the just singing happy songs and hearing motivational speeches.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.   2 Cor 10:3

battle meme

The battle is real, we see it all around us, manifest in the physical realm as evil influences use the people of this world to affect the enemies single most desire, and that is to destroy all those whom God loves, to destroy his bride—the church.

Our challenge as the bride of Christ–those who have seen through the lies and looked into the eyes of truth, into the eyes of the Savior in our spirits, felt his love and know his grace, favor and forgiveness–is to remember who our enemy really is. 12 For (as Ephesians 6 says) we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

Our enemy is not a troll on Facebook or a politician in Washington, they are only pawns and proxy’s being used by the enemy to distract us from seeing and engaging him.

The enemy is real, the battle is real, very real, and we can either ignore it and by default become victims, blown along by the winds and whims of those fighting those battles around us, or we can choose to be warriors, to be victorious, “that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” (As Ephesians 6 also says)

But why? Why would we want to be actively engaged in this fight, I mean, can’t I just go to church, sing some songs, get prayed for and go home feeling good? Well, yes you can, but you are missing a big part of why you were radically saved, why you were given the gift of the Holy Spirit, why you were washed in the blood of the Lamb of God—so that you could pull down strongholds and cast down arguments.

Not just for you, but for those God loves—for those you love. If you are not concerned about tearing down strongholds—the things that ensnare, endanger and threaten to destroy others both physically, spiritually and emotionally, then perhaps you don’t really love them after all. And I don’t believe that. So if you are not engaged in the fight I can only believe it is because you do not recognize that the fight is real and that you really can make a difference. If you are not engaged in the fight, then you are simply a refugee—seeking cover while others fight the battles.

warrior victim meme

I have come to see more and more, especially in this past year of life and ministry, that if you are not offensively engaged in the battle, you are or will soon be, a victim. The enemy is not allowing anyone to just be a passive bystander anymore–nor is the Lord. The day of the Lord is at hand. Refugees must take a side and engaged or be cut down. I’m sorry if that’s not a feel good message but that’s truth and apathy is the enemy’s smoke screen.

Here are some clues; as to whether you are a warrior or a refugee. If you seek out prayer more than you offer it, constantly seeking healing but never offering healing prayers. If you criticize fellow servants of the Lord more than you encourage them. If you are always a disciple and never a disciple maker, taking and never giving, praying but never hearing. If you are always receiving words of prophecy and blessing but never offering them, in other words; if you are first— me, me, me—you will finish last because you are not engaged in the fight.

You are just a camp follower and you will always be in the rear—a refugee, where you are venerable to the enemies attackers and recruiters.

You may be a refugee who believes yourself superior to everyone else, above the fray—’you are just lucky to have me in your congregation—how are you going to bless me today? I’ve seen it all and heard it all so it better be good.’ —Excuse me, move to the back of the bus please, we are called to serve, not be served, and you are taking up valuable space.

And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first. Mat 19:29—30

Are you offended yet? Good, that’s what an effective drill sergeant does, shoves people out of their comfort zones so they can grow stronger. Drill sergeants and prophets have a lot in common. They tell people things they don’t want to hear but in the end may save their lives and the lives of those around them.

Jesus didn’t save you, heal you and equip you to hang back, except to regroup or recharge now and then. There is no reason to live in the refugee camp fearful of the enemy breaching the wall and carrying off your stuff, Jesus wants you storming walls!

Yes, the battle involves sacrifice, sacrificing our own wants, our own comfort, putting others first, seeking first his kingdom and his righteousness—and discovering that when we put others first, when we trust that his ways are better than our ways, that if we so desire, that we really can make a difference. Strongholds will fall before us and all arguments that would exalt themselves above our God will be cast down—at our command.

Because we are Holy Warriors and the battle is real, but so are our weapons.

“For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God.”

Be Holy Meme

God is calling us to be Holy, in him is our strength,–our victory!

Barbarians in the Kingdom

Barbarians ad copy axe

Advertisements

Blown It?

Have I lost my salvation?

Depression

You ever feel like you’ve blown it so bad with Jesus that surely He must be done forgiving you and you might as well just give up and give in? “I might as well eat drink and be merry because surely I’ve lost my reward and will be lucky if I even make it into heaven. ‘Lord, how can you love a sinner like me?’” Time marches on, the years go by and it seems like the struggle never ends, the temptations keep coming and the flesh keeps falling for the same old tricks and the heart still struggles to hold on to hope.

It doesn’t always happen, some days we feel pretty good about ourselves and feel we might be winning the battle, our anchor is holding fast, but then we stumble again “Oh Lord, how can you love a wretch like me?” And then we read something like Hebrews chapter 6 and we really get worried.

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. Heb 6

Encouraging isn’t it?—um, not really… I’d be willing to bet that as you read this it caused you a little sense of panic; “Have I lost my salvation, is this me, is this my wife, my husband, my child?”

But we have to look at it in light of what he said just before this and in the previous chapter–five–that we shouldn’t have to keep laying the foundations again and again, those foundational principles that we are saved by repentance and faith, turning away from sin and to Jesus. We shouldn’t have to keep hounding on the basics of the faith, the resurrection of the dead, the importance of baptism, the power in the laying on of hands and the finality of God’s coming judgement—things which were even basic principles in the Jewish faith before the once for all sacrifice of the Son of God.

He’s saying that it doesn’t do any good to keep hounding people who already know all these things, who have experienced them and understood them, yet have rejected and turned away from them—from God—to hear them again because it will no longer do them any good. They have fallen away and no longer care; they can’t be resaved, when they have rejected what they had. The anchor rope has been cut and left on the bottom with the anchor.

The grace on which our hope is based is a gift. And a gift returned to Jesus because we didn’t like it is a gift no longer ours and may never be offered again. That may all sound a bit unnerving but that’s what it says here. But stay with me here, he’s not talking about misled or foolish believers who make some bad choices, he’s talking about being truly apostate, renouncing faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Those who have received the gift of grace, been reborn by God’s Holy Spirit and even experienced the miraculous transformative power of that Spirit and moved in the Kingdom’s power, only to one day say ‘God is not real, his word no longer satisfies my soul’, They are rejecting the truth and forfeiting the grace they were so freely given.

When they turn back to the sin and bondages that Jesus died to free them from, whether it is turning back to the law—trusting in religious works and ceremony instead of Jesus for salvation, or rejecting the word of God out of hand and living just for the flesh as though Jesus was nothing more than a myth used by the foolish to keep people down—they are basically thumbing their noses at Jesus. Just as those who crucified him did.

The Mob

Jesus Cross

The screaming mob who stood before Pilate and shouted “crucify him” were many of the same people who had witnessed his miracles of healing, heard his words of power and authority proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God and offering peace and forgiveness to all who believed. They had heard of and even seen Lazarus who was raised from the dead, heard the shouts of praise from the blind men and the lepers, the crippled and bleeding women who were healed.

They had seen and heard demons flee in terror from those they had tormented, at just a word from Jesus—and then, because they were led astray by the words of a handful of men in fancy robes who claimed to be too smart to be swayed by such foolishness, they demanded his death.

Why would they do that? Perhaps because they wanted something now that that they weren’t getting. They wanted their Messiah to give them free bread everyday just like Moses had called down for their ancestors or like Caesar was doing in Rome. They wanted their deliverer to charge in on a white stallion leading an army like David and Solomon did in the glory days of old, their swords dripping with the blood of their enemies.

They wanted all their wishes and desires pandered to and they wanted vengeance on their enemies—and they wanted all this today. But it wasn’t happening so they were now an angry mob, and once that mentality takes hold, it’s no longer anchored in hope, it’s anchored in hate.

They hated the Romans, they hated the Samaritans, they hated their puppet king and the corrupt priests. But all Jesus wanted to talk about was love and faith, forgiveness and mercy—heart issues and selflessness—’we don’t need that, we need action, displays of power that will put the fear into the Romans and restore the greatness of Israel, and we need it now. ‘So off with his head!’, the Queen of Hearts is back on the throne, and Jesus is no longer relevant to us.’

That’s what the writer here is talking about when he says it’s impossible for those who once knew, saw and tasted that God is good, who experienced real forgiveness and felt the power of grace, who throw it all away, who renounce their faith and chase after the things of the flesh once again, to be restored to life. They have thrown away their grace, traded life for death, love for hate, mercy for judgement. Just as surely as those who stood on the hill at the foot of the cross and mocked him—the Nazarene who bled there.

They are committing the worst of sins in their mocking and jeers, that are blaspheming, cursing God himself.  Jesus put it this way;

against me

Still a citizen

So the writer of Hebrews here is not talking about just making mistakes and doing on occasion what we know we shouldn’t oughta do—he’s talking about purposely disregarding Christ and no longer caring or being grateful for his grace. Like the young woman from Alabama who basically renounced her U.S. citizenship to join Isis in Syria who now wants to come back to America. That renounce America and swear allegiance to her enemy thing is not working out so well for her—turns out the enemy’s promises of glory and purpose are not all they’re cracked up to be and now she will have a tough row to hoe proving that she truly warrants another chance to come home to the land she openly mocked and scorned.

In the case of one “fallen away” they just do not want to come home.

Better things

better things

The writer of Hebrews, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as all of scripture is, is convinced that we are not those who have denied our faith and jumped headlong into the pit of doom. Just the fact that one would take the time to read these words is proof enough that the heart is still seeking the Lord, still open to his Spirit and receptive to his grace.

I used to have men ask me back when I was doing bible studies at the jail, men who acknowledged that they have made bad choices—done horrible things and stumbled and fallen in their walk with the Lord— they would ask me, desperate and forlorn, “Have I lost my salvation, can God still forgive me?” And I would always tell them the same thing, the same answer I would give to many others since then, “Just the fact that you are asking me that question, that you are worried about it, means that you haven’t.”

An apostate, someone who has denied Jesus as Lord, blasphemed the Holy Spirit whom it is that bears witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, does not care any longer what God thinks, they are not worried about losing their salvation or being forgiven because they no longer acknowledge that they are accountable to him. A heart that has rejected Jesus Christ as Lord is a hard heart with no room for remorse.

anchored meme

If one reads on in Hebrews 6 you’ll discover that God has given us his word, His solemn oath, that our souls are anchored in him, anchored by hope and that hope is found in his word, trusting his word, believing his word, our hope is his word, in his word we find Jesus, his only Son, creator, redeemer, the word of God, God himself, incarnate.

And hope never disappoints us. —Romans 5:4

So no, you have not blown it.

Be blessed my friends;  Dan–the barbarian Pastor

IMG_3945

Download Barbarians in the Kingdom today!

Barbarian man ad

 

Suffer? No Thanks…

suffer meme

Are we setting up the next generation of church leaders to fail?

“…in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.” Heb 5:7—8

‘Whoa, wait a minute, I didn’t sign on for this! I came to Christ because I was promised that everything would be wonderful. I would have joy, peace—all my troubles would be over and Jesus would take care of all my problems. Pass me that bowl would ya?— The one with the cherries in it. Thanks, you were saying? Oh, can I get a glass of milk also?’

bowl cherries cherry close up
Photo by Porapak Apichodilok on Pexels.com

Well, I’m sorry junior, but if that’s what you were led to believe then you were not told the whole story and if it hasn’t happened already, you will be sorely disappointed and disillusioned. And if that ‘walking with Jesus is a bowl of cherries’ mentality is what you want to cling to then you will be subsisting on a diet of milk and the meat will be reserved for those who are ready to accept it.

This notion of pain free cross bearing has caused a lack of leadership and the advancement of the Kingdom has suffered as a result. Think about the oxy-moronism of that statement, pain free cross bearing, but that’s exactly what this idea is. This notion that we can be followers of Christ and not have to be inconvenienced let alone suffer has caused many to ignore their call to go and do what they were created and purposed by God to do.

Jesus said if you would come after me you must take up your cross daily, he didn’t say ‘hitch your wagon to mine and I’ll wake you when we get there.’

 “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. Luke 9:23

In the minds of everyone who heard Jesus say this, a cross represented nothing but suffering, so. . . where’s the gilded sanctuaries, Armani suits and life of ease in this Jesus following business?

Cross carry meme

Really?

Suffering is a complicated issue to be sure and the reasons are many and varied. All we can say for sure is that there will be, and is, suffering. And it is a major cause for people to question God and his existence. Ironic that God gets blamed for the suffering he has spent all of human history trying to first prevent and then rescue us from. Even to suffering himself for us.

No doubt the writer of Hebrews has that agonizing night of prayer in the garden of Gethsemane in mind when he wrote this. Jesus suffered to the point of sweating blood on this night knowing that his arrest was imminent and that the cup of God’s wrath was about to be poured out on him.

So who do we think we are when we whine about our sufferings to God? Even Jesus suffered in order to learn perfect obedience. Jesus fervently prayed to be delivered from his suffering but it was with a healthy dose of fear, knowing that He should not be disrespectful in his petitions to the one who had led him to this place of danger. Jesus didn’t pray to his Father as though God didn’t know what he was doing or had messed up, and Jesus ended his prayer with not my will but thine be done.

Jesus trusted his Father implicitly and was obedient even to the cross which he knew full well was coming.

There are many still today who have given all in their obedience to Christ, to go where he sends them and do what he asks for his glory and his people. But there are too many who are called who have not answered because they are holding out for something better or are afraid of suffering—it just doesn’t fit their idea of ministry.

I think the church has done a real disservice to the Kingdom of God in the megachurch movement which has created a myriad of full time ministry positions where people can come to work every day in comfortable casual clothes, looking hip and stylish, have an office in a building surrounded by nothing but other Christians who all run down to the coffee shop in the foyer at break time and strategize together about how they can get more people into the building to see the show. 

Of course they don’t call it a show but if you look at the effort time, talent and money poured into the stage and the auditorium, the lighting, the sound, the message, the music, the drama presentations—it truly is theater. I know, I’ve been involved in all of that to some extent. And yeah, there’s some value to that and people are getting saved, I think, but they are being set up to fail.

lightstock_178538_medium_user_43213847

Those watching the show are given the notion that church is what it’s all about and you had better make me feel good and delight me or I will find another—’I hear that church on the other side of town has an amazing drama team.’

And those who feel called to minister and serve believe that they need to be one of those pretty people up front, or one of the professional organizers behind the scenes, all of whom get to come to work each day in the ivory tower called a church. So everyone from the new person in the back row with a new found zeal to see other’s come to know Jesus, to the college student who grew up in the church and feels compelled by God to devote their life to full time ministry, has the notion that ministry is for the professionals and getting that office and that salary equals success.

In the meantime no one is planting churches, all around me in in neighboring towns of Montana churches are shutting down for lack of leaders, other churches cling to life waiting years for a new pastor to step up, beautiful paid off buildings sit empty, small churches everywhere have to forego youth ministry, discipleship and evangelism. Homeless people on the streets and the down and out in the shelters and in the jails never hear the good news, people pine away in despair in retirement homes and hospitals—all because the called do not want to suffer for the call. Thus there is no victory for them or Jesus in their lives.

architecture building catholicism church
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Jesus asks us to bear fruit, not make money. “What does it pay?” I have heard this question way too many times over the last couple decades when I have offered people opportunities to minister, to use their gifts, in a meaningful way. Young and old, people on fire for Jesus, people who claim they want to serve, refusing to step out and get dirty. Not all, but many. Like I said, we have done the next generation a real disservice, actually it’s been affecting a couple of generations now—suffering is no longer a given let alone a component of serving Jesus. Because the media savvy, seeker friendly, everything must be polished and perfect church, has made it look too easy.

It’s not, but it rewarding and it is what we were created and called to do. Grab your sword, put on your work pants and get to work. Victory awaits you—warrior.

3-3-19 meme

 Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner, but join with me in suffering for the gospel, relying on the power of God, who saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works but according to his own purpose and grace. 2 Tim 1:8—9

book coverBarbarians in the Kingdom

 

 

 

 

Fence Crawling

“The answer is always the word of God—it’s really that simple—live it and live, or ignore it and die.”

The Double Edged Sword

Last week we talked about the rest that is offered by God, the rest from our striving and anxieties caused by having to try and earn our way into the Kingdom of God and by facing this life’s challenges alone. We discovered by studying chapter three that our rest is a result of trusting in God’s grace through Jesus Christ and his righteousness rather than in our own. It is also rest from our fears and worries knowing that we do not have to face this life alone and that his grace is power and freedom.

In other words—stop trying to do everything yourself and let God be God, cling to his promises and live in the joy and the hope that that confidence brings. Faith is freedom—faith is rest.

Faith in what? That’s the million dollar question. We find the answer in God’s word, and the answer is God’s word. We must trust God’s word, we must know God’s word and we must live God’s word. I can say without hesitation that every evil perpetrated on mankind, every fear, every malady, every grief—every struggle we face and issue we fear—has it’s roots in sin somewhere, the failure by someone, somewhere, to live according to God’s word.

It really is that simple. Whether it was a decision you made five minutes ago to do something contrary to God’s word, or as a result of the original sin back in the garden of Eden that opened the floodgates of death and decay on God’s perfect world, it could have all been avoided by resting in God’s word and not having to try the boundaries just to see what will happen. “It seems right to me, what can it hurt?”

—Everything.

That’s why the first few verses of Hebrews four warns us, as did chapter three for that matter, not to harden our hearts, not to walk in rebellion and disobedience—to what? To God’s voice, to God’s word.

Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, (His rest) and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.

Heb 4:6-8

IMG_2403

Thinking about this, ‘trying the boundaries and hardening our hearts to God’s voice’ I was reminded of back when we were ranching and we still had a good part of one of our summer pastures fenced off with electric wire. Parts of the original ranch had been subdivided so Donna’s dad had just put up electric fence to keep the cows off the sold parts.

The fence was pretty remote so he had a solar charger hooked to a 12 volt battery powering the fence, which worked great—most of the time. One summer the cows all decided they really wanted to get through that fence and into the neighbors pasture, you know the old saying; “The grass is always greener on the other side”—A cow first said that, and it is one of the primary cow rules of thumb.

Up there with; Never go graze when there’s a hay yard to stand next to all day while we wait for food. Never start calving until it’s storming and cold and; Make sure you do most of your pooping in the barn so the rancher has something to do in the spring. Important lessons that cows pass from generation to generation.

So, after finding the cows in the neighbors’ field a couple times and the electric wire down I started keeping a closer eye on them. I would go up the hill to find them all standing along that fence a few feet back making sure they didn’t touch it because cows really do hate being zapped, as does anyone, but their calves—well they didn’t know better.

So, cow’s aren’t as dumb as they pretend to be, they would let their curious calves get between them and the wire and about the time they were sticking their noses out to sniff at this strange little wire their momma’s all seemed so intrigued by, the cows would nudge the calf from behind pushing it through the wire, or at least causing the calf to jump and maybe snag the wire pulling it down or breaking it. As soon as the wire hit the ground it would short out and voilaParty time—’let’s go girls!’

No more boundaries, they didn’t even care if I was watching them, rebellious ungrateful cows. Ranchers call these kind of critters “fence crawlers”

They had a 150 acres behind them  and they had to obsess over the 20 acres next door.

The problem I ran into was the more the wire got knocked down, the more charge it would take out of the battery and it would take the solar charger a few days to charge it up well enough to put the fear back into them. So after a while it was, hey, this zap ain’t so bad—let’s just do it. They wouldn’t even bother pushing the kids through first anymore.

Seek first meme

Thots

Sounds like us. ‘Rules schmules’, I been beyond those boundaries many times, I don’t even feel a twinge anymore. And we’re off where we shouldn’t ought to be and then wondering why we are being chased by a frazzled shepherd and we’re not being blessed in our wanderings—we have stopped even realizing that we are wandering. ‘Oh, that fence has been down for a long time—nobody pays attention to that!’ Abstinence till marriage? Pshaw! Closing down the bars and shaking my bootie for all to see? Don’t body shame me!

Watching porn and shows that glorify sexual pursuits, fantasizing? So what? Ignoring God’s call to use my time, talents and money to glorify him? That’s old school, I have a career and a dream to pursue—I need to take care of me right?

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Mat 6:33

Those fences have been down for a long time—nobody pays attention to that!’— God does.

His ways never change, his word is eternal. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” And what is Jesus? The word of God, the one who also wields the sword of judgement. We need to wake up church and look at where we’re at. Are we even close to the right pasture anymore or are we in the neighbors hay field bloating on alfalfa because it just tastes so good.

A cow loves green alfalfa—but it will make a cow bloat up until it can’t even breath—and then it dies. That’s not in the cow rule of thumb hand book and that’s why the rancher builds fences. I replaced that electric fence with barbed wire by the way. God won’t do that, we are not livestock, we are his children, created in his image with the understanding of what is right and wrong—because he puts it in our hearts and teaches us with his word—but he leaves it to us to obey or not to obey. A caged child is an abomination and God loves us too much to do that to us.

The question is, do we love him enough to obey and stay in the pasture he has prepared for us knowing that he will always lead us beside the still waters? One thing I noticed about wandering cows, they usually come back when they get thirsty enough. There are only so many watering holes in cow country Montana, as there is in life. God always puts us where we can be taken care of, we just need to stay there.

How do we know where that is? Again, the answer is, the word of God. The answer is always the word of God—it’s really that simple—live it and live, or ignore it and die

Sorry if that’s not a feel good sentiment but the church has had too many feel good sentiments fed to her as a steady diet of; platitudes and catchy sayings that fit well in a song posing as the word of God and we are about ready to bloat and suffocate as a result. It is already too late for many.

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. Heb 4:1

If you are reading this, it is not too late for you.

Grace meme

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb 4:15—16

BAR COVER

Barbarians in The Kingdom

Be blessed my friends!

DanIMG_3945

Rest in Grace

“After what seemed like forever of the guard just staring at us like he was trying to decide if he should break out his shotgun, I was suddenly remembering the bag of weed and the bottle of whiskey we had in the back seat.”

10 Therefore I was angry with that generation,
And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,
And they have not known My ways.’
11 So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”

12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, 15 while it is said:

“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Heb 3:12—15

rest meme

Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts? What does that mean?

God was angry with the Israelites he led out of Egypt because they failed to believe his promise of a better life where they would find rest from their life of pain and hardship as they had in their days of slavery. Today, the rest being offered is a rest from the wanderings and striving of a people with no sense of purpose or direction and the strivings of a people who feel they must earn their way home—us. We have to know that we no longer have to strive and seek our grace, our salvation, we can find our rest in Christ.

If you can learn that lesson, I mean fully understand that we no longer have to work and strive to earn our salvation, our favor with God—we have accomplished something. Today our rest is in Christ, our salvation, our power, our freedom—grace, grace is our rest.

Preparing a sermon on this topic for Sunday I was really struggling to come up with a story to illustrate the idea of what it means to enter into God’s rest. I kept thinking, Ultimately our rest is in grace, so what is grace?  Grace is not getting what we deserve, so the rest we find in that grace is in not feeling we have to deserve the grace we get.

This brought to mind a time when I was very grateful not to get what I deserved, there are many times like that but in this instance it could have meant some serious jail time.

Rancho No Go

rancho deluxe

As my followers know, I was in Job Corps as a young man. While I was there I was in the Heavy Equipment program and one of the projects we did was to build a reservoir on the Montana State Prison Ranch just out of Deer Lodge. It was a big project that we worked on for months, moving massive amounts of dirt. Every day we would load up on the big green bus and drive into the very large ranch like we owned the place, using one of the gates on the back side to get to the work sight.

Fast forward a couple of years. Me and some buddies are partying and one of them has just gotten a new car—“Hey, let’s take a road trip!” So, about midnight four of us get into the car with an ample supply of beer whiskey and weed and off we go, west.” We drive all night and 250 miles later we end up watching the sun rise over the beautiful Pintlar Mountains just out of Anaconda MT, not far from where me and one of the guys who was with us were in Job Corps together.

This got me and my buddy reminiscing about our days in the Job Corps heavy equipment program so on a whim, and with no other  destination in mind anyway, we decided we would head over towards Deer Lodge and show the others, one of whom happened to be a girl we thought we should impress, the reservoir we built—never mind that it happened to be on State Prison property.

Apparently when you’ve been drinking and smoking for 16 or so hours straight your judgement is off a bit. So off we go. Just before the town of Deer Lodge we cut off on a dirt road heading straight for the mountains that butt up against the ranch and we get to the familiar gate—the one that says; “Montana State Prison Ranch, Authorized Vehicles Only.”

Montana_state_prison_sign_2_50

Whatever, no one will ever see us, we’re in the middle of nowhere. My buddie is driving at this point so I get out and open the unlocked barbed wire gate, the kind you find on any ranch, and drive on in. We get in a ways, maybe a half mile or so, and we see an approaching dust cloud. An official looking pickup truck with the seal of the great state of Montana emblazoned on the door is barreling down on us from the other direction.

The truck pulls up alongside of us flashing his headlights and waving for us to stop. The driver, decked out in a cowboy hat and a prison guard uniform, looking very stern and perturbed asks; “Who are you?” My buddie says, “Oh we were in Job Corps and just came in to show our friends the dam we built.”

The guard just looks at us like, “Are you kidding me?” After what seemed like forever of the guard just staring at us like he was trying to decide if he should break out his shotgun I was suddenly remembering the bag of weed and the bottle of whiskey we had in the back seat. I was sitting in the passenger seat trying to look innocent and harmless wishing my buddy wasn’t looking so defiant while wondering what the penalty was for smuggling drugs and alcohol into a prison and how we could have been so stupid.

OMSP_5_b1bfd020-d6f0-491b-bb2b-7a97a02f1fdc_1024x1024

Finally the guard just says—“You can’t be in here, turn around and go out the way you came.” My buddy just says, okay and I quickly followed up with “Yes sir, thank you sir!” And off we went. Back to the gate no one watches with a prison truck right on our tail.

That was a sobering experience in many ways.

That was grace—not getting what we deserved, not even close. When we got past that gate, after waving at the trustee in the road grater who was looking at us like “what the heck?” and down the road a ways I was finally able to breathe again. I was resting in the knowledge that I was not going to be spending a lot more time in Deer Lodge than I had planned.

I would do many more stupid things after that, maybe none quite so stupid as that, and I usually somehow managed to stay out of serious trouble—Grace. If I got pulled over today as many times as I did back in the 80’s for driving while wasted I would still be in the system, back then I just got lectured and sent home.

Many of us have stories like that where we just go along not worrying so much about whether what we are doing is right or wrong and then we concede that maybe someone is looking out for us and we turn our hearts to Him. We find freedom and grace, strength and joy, in knowing the truth, in having a purpose. But then we get more bound up by guilt and stress then we ever were because we suddenly care and we realize that we do not deserve to be forgiven for our foolishness.

No rest there. That’s not the way it is supposed to work. Recognizing our grace should not cause us to fear that it will fail us. Yes, I still do some stupid things, nothing near as stupid as I used to because I have God’s word to guide me, and more than that I want God’s word to guide me so I avoid a lot of the situations where I had to worry about getting in big trouble, but I still make mistakes and sometimes bad choices, but God’s grace is still sufficient and He is still looking out for me.

I no longer have to worry about getting a DUI or being busted for possession—or smuggling contraband—but I now have to learn not to stress about not being worthy of God’s grace. Jesus makes me worthy and in that I can rest—I can rest in His promises.

Like I said; Grace is not getting what we deserve, and the rest we find in that grace is in not feeling we have to deserve the grace we get.

That prison guard would have had every right to call for back up, drag us out of the car and search it. We had no right or reason to be there, but we were allowed to go on our way unscathed. That’s grace.

551097488_750x422 (1)

The difference between the grace I received that day from that guard and the grace we get from God through Christ? We can depend on God’s grace, we don’t have to sweat it our hoping we don’t get thrown on the ground and cuffed.

God’s grace is our salvation and that we can rest in.

I am what I am

 

Jesus- One of us?

“Why is it all so hard? –Because we fear God and we believe the lies that we are not worthy and that God does not care about us.”

Secure

Last week we looked at who Jesus is in light of Hebrews chapter one. Hebrews starts out by making it clear that Jesus is God, God the Son, creator and redeemer. The second chapter then explains how Jesus became on of us–and why.

17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. Heb 2:17—18

Bottom line, Jesus became one of us to destroy death for those who are willing to accept the life that he offers. And that is of course huge!

But there was another reason. He also became one of us because we just were not listening before. (Heb 1:1) God had sent prophet after prophet, even angels to speak for him. He appeared as a burning bush, a pillar of fire and smoke, He even gave us stone tablets that he wrote on himself, but we just weren’t getting it. We kept turning his living word, meant to turn our hearts to him and each other into just a set of rules and demands. We even used them to lord over, control and condemn one another.

So Jesus came as one of us, a common man with a ready smile, eyes to look into ours, hands to hold and ears to hear, and explained to us what it was all about, what his Father had intended all along and how we could be restored to the life that was lost so long ago, he revealed the love in the word and showed us his Father’s heart.

Jesus came to show us the way.

The One Calf

brown and black cattle
Photo by Brett Sayles on Pexels.com

Back when we were big time ranchers—not really, we had about thirty pair—I learned a lesson one day about how cows think. Or,  should I say, don’t think. They just do what they do and if you want them to do otherwise you are a lot better off if you can make them think it’s their idea.

It was spring, calving was done, the calves were branded and we needed to move them off the hay fields around the house and into the hills—their summer range. So I enlisted the help of my nephew Mike on his dirt bike and I got on my trusty cow pony Randy, and we gathered up the cows and calves and headed them for the gate at the upper end of the pasture to push them out, across the neighbors field, across the county road and through another gate from there they could be pushed up into what we called “the hills”.

All was going well, we got the cows and calves rounded up fairly easy and headed to the gate, most of them knew what time of the year it was and where they were headed. Cows might be dumb but they have great memories. We got them through the gate, all except for one calf—there’s always one—who just couldn’t figure out the concept of there suddenly being an opening where there had not been in all her many weeks of life before. She peeled off and ran the other way.

I doubled back to cut her off but she just kept getting around me in spite of Randy’s enthusiasm for cutting. I finally had to just let her go because the rest of the herd were on the move and out the gate and we needed to make sure they went where they were supposed to. Mike and I got the herd where they were going easy enough, once they got through the gate across the road they took off up over the big hill towards the sheltered ravines, green grass and water they knew was up there.

Once the cows were out of site and well away from the gate we headed back for the errant calve, Mike on his bike and I on my horse. We chased that calf around on that forty acres for way too long, up and down hills, through coulees and brush—all to no avail, she was not about to go through that gate. “Just let me stay here where I’ve always been, I’ll be fine.” I suppose if I was a real cowboy I would have just roped her and dragged her over. I’m lucky if I can rope a fence post with both my feet on the ground.

filtner+cowboy

Give me a break, I grew up in Minnesota, on the water, not a horse. I had a good horse though; Randy had a great instinct for herding cows and cutting, but this calf was determined. It’s amazing how they can suddenly find the steepest hills and the thorniest bushes when they don’t want to be pushed.

Well, after  a long frustrating exercise in futility Mike’s bike was running out of gas and so was Randy. I finally said, “We’ll have to just leave her for now, maybe she’ll have a change of heart when she gets hungry.”

I thanked Mike and went back to the house. Later that afternoon I went out to see where my renegade calf was hanging out and I heard a distant mooing being answered by a much closer bawling calf. I realized that the cow who belonged to this calf had come all the way back from over the hill and was standing at the gate across the road mooing for her calve who was now standing at the gate she had refused to go through all day, mooing back. All I had to do was open both the gates and the cow came, retrieved her calf and led her back across the road, up the long trail over the hill and rejoined the herd. Huh, that was easy.

‘’Why couldn’t I do that?’ I had tried all morning to get her through that gate, persuasion, force, trickery—“It’s wide open, just go!—Trust me!” What was the difference? I knew what was best for this calf, all I wanted to do was get her back home with her herd, back where she belonged, but she just wasn’t getting it. I was that big scary guy whooping and hollering on top of that much bigger snorting beast. And then there was the other guy on that roaring metal beast kicking up dust and making a stink.

“I’m not going that way, it can’t be safe!” Then along comes a cow, a lumbering lowly bovine, calling her name, beckoning her come, in her own language, flesh of her flesh and bone of her bone—just like her in every way.Oh, okay, now I get it, just follow you and I’ll be okay.”

close up photography of cows
Photo by Kat Jayne on Pexels.com

I just had to get out of the way and let her go where she was led.

Thots

That’s what Jesus did. The Father had tried time after frustrating time to get us to go the right way, to push us, lead us, entice us but we failed to listen to the shepherds, the prophets and the angels who came to show and teach us the way. The Father even came himself but the people were afraid—”we cannot bear to be in his presence, go up and speak for us!” That’s why we got the written law, because the people were afraid of God when he came down on the mountain to be with them so they sent Moses up to bring back a message. Because of our own ignorance and sinfulness people hid from God—Adam, Adam, where are you?

And then came the promised one, Jesus. He came to us speaking our language, flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, a strong, hardworking yet gentle man with a ready smile and a heart for the hurting who said simply, ‘This is the way, walk in it. Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life. Follow me.’

narrow path

Why is that? Why is it so hard? Because we fear God, we fear our own sinfulness and we believe the lies that we are not worthy and that God does not care about us. Jesus is still calling out your name and he has opened wide the gates and the way is clear. Stay on the path, stay in him, he will never let you go, you are secure.

27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. 28 And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. 30 I and My Father are one.” John 10

Jesus does not plan on failing. He was sent by the Father to round up all his ch

ildren, his lost sheep, and he is bringing them home where he will present us to his Father with a smile proclaiming to all the heavens:

“Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.” Heb 1:13

Our hearts are safe in his care so long as we just keep following him up that hill. On the other side are green pastures, clear pools of water and the rest of the family who awaits us.

 

 

Just who is this Jesus? (Crazy Love)

Jesus God Meme

“. . .because we have been to hell and back together. . . and because we have always had one another’s backs . . . we (my wife and I) do not have to fear that we will one day wake up to discover that we are no longer in love and tear each other apart.”

Today begins a journey through the New Testament book of Hebrews. I hope you’ll join me my friends.

Hebrews

The first chapter of Hebrews lays out succinctly and plainly just who Jesus is. This is of utmost importance as this is what makes a Christian a Christian; knowing, believing and accepting who Jesus, not just was, but is. So the writer, gets that point across right out of the chute. And like that 8 second ride that saying brings to mind, you have to pay attention to every twist and turn, buck and snort, because it will be over before you know it and if you weren’t paying attention you’ll wonder what the big deal is and walk away thinking it was all about the clowns.

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1:1—4

All of that in the opening sentence of this amazing book.

The Only Way

Jesus is salvation, not a component of salvation. Jesus is the way, not one of the ways. He is the creator, not created like an angel. He is exalted because he was exalted. He is a Son of God yet he is God. All that gives his death on the cross it’s power. Without that basis, without knowing and believing who Jesus is, the cross is emptied of power and we are indeed left to earn our salvation by adhering to the Law; by being good enough to get into heaven.

The Jesus described here in Hebrews in great theological clarity is put forth as many things as Jesus’ true being is many faceted. But all this is somewhat cerebral. It’s one thing to know who Jesus is, it’s another to know him. One without the other can be a ‘lose lose’ for both you and Jesus. If you have a head knowledge of who Jesus is but do not know him, you are lost because, as John also said in his gospel, we have to believe and receive.

 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, John 1:12

lightstock_520823_medium_user_43213847

But you can also know Jesus, invite him into your heart and be cleansed of your sins, without really knowing on what your faith is based. If you don’t have the word to back up your faith you can potentially be talked out of it, and perhaps end up lost to Jesus.

Crazy Love

I was thinking about a young woman in our church family the other day, how she just seems to get more and more excited and plugged into Jesus as time goes by, and the thought hit me, “Man, that girl is just crazy in love with Jesus!” And I thought, “You know, that’s really what it takes to get us through this life.” We can know all the scriptures, even grow up in church, look and act like good little Christian boys and girls and never really have a deep down love and appreciation for Jesus, and the enemy can come along and steal our joy, our passion—our lives in him.

It’s like my wife Donna and I. We have been married for nearly thirty one years. We have been through some really hard times, we have not always seen eye to eye and we have tested and stretched one another, but we are crazy in love with one another. We started out our marriage in love, and we have always been in love. There were times when we might not have felt it so much or maybe wondered about the whole thing; but we were, and always have been, committed to our marriage.

And today as we look around near and far and see marriages fall apart, people living selfishly or refusing to do things God’s way and then struggling to understand why they are not happy and blessed we find ourselves looking at one another more and more and saying ‘thank you Jesus for us.’

silhouettes of couple kissing against sunset
Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

I know that we are in a relationship that will endure. I can know that because we know one another, better than we ever have, better than anyone else in the world, because we have been to hell and back together.  And, because we have always had one another’s backs and afford one another complete and total trust and honesty, we do not have to fear that we will one day wake up to discover that we are no longer in love—and tear each other apart.

I can say that because we have a crazy love for one another that is based on and modeled after a crazy love for Jesus who promises he will never leave us nor forsake us, and we made that promise to, and before him, to each other. And we are blessed. You know what that blessing is? Love, love is the blessing, love that cannot die, that cannot be taken away, that is ours to keep and live and breathe and sleep in, for as long as we chose to do so because it is a love that comes from Jesus, a love that is Jesus.

Above all else, Jesus is love. This chapter 1 from Hebrews goes to great lengths to explain to us from several different angles and scriptural proofs that Jesus is God, and what is God? God is love.

So if you are going to know Jesus, if you are going to be in Christ, live in Christ, build a life, build a marriage, build a family, on the rock, on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Son of Man, ‘who was and is and is to come’, you are going to have a love that cannot be destroyed and that ‘overcomes all things’. And if that is all I have, if that is the sum total of my life when I breath my last—I had love. And because I had love, I had everything. I am in love, I am in Christ—and because I recognize and embrace that, I am and will die a blessed, happy and content man.

Everything else the Lord entrusts me with is just icing on the cake. Everything the world and the enemy throws at me is just a nuisance and a temporary heartache. I know who my Jesus is, I know my Jesus and he knows me.

If you fall madly in love with Jesus, you are in Jesus because Jesus is love. Thus you now know who Jesus is.

Just crazy

That head and heart understanding of who Jesus is has carried me through and beyond challenge after challenge, trial after trial, grief after grief, temptation after temptation, failure after failure—for 34 years now. 34 years this last week in fact. I know I would be a mess otherwise.

I have a mind that is always rebelling against my heart and a flesh that is constantly fighting with my spirit. And I know if I were not crazy in love with the real Jesus, the Jesus who is Lord, Lord of my life, I would just be crazy.

Instead of crazy in love, I would just be crazy and I would have to turn to something else, things that would ensnare me, and I would probably be someone I didn’t like very much. But because I have a God who believes in me, who loves me and always sees the best in me and encourages it, I can love myself. And because of that and my love for him, I desire to be the best that I can be and I have a reason bigger then myself to do so.

grayscale photo of couple holding frame while kissing
Photo by Murilo Folgosi on Pexels.com

That carries over into my marriage also, because I love, and am loved, by a Lord who upholds all things by the word of his power:

“and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”  Heb 1

Because of that I can love others sacrificially and unconditionally as well, just as I am loved.

And just as the trials and challenges that Donna and I have faced together have served to make our love and respect for one another only grow stronger over time, so the many trials and tribulations that I have faced, and face, only serve to make my love for Jesus stronger and my relationship with him ever more precious and appreciated.

You can take away all that I have, but you can never take away my love and knowledge of Jesus Christ, my Lord and King—my God.

But to the Son He says:

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. Heb 1

Slide2