“I was weary of holding it back”

…surely by now you’ve realized, Lord, how unqualified and what a miserable excuse for a Christian I am.

Following Jesus, pursuing your passions, moving in your anointing does not make your life easier, but it makes it worshipworthwhile. And that is what the human heart truly desires in the end.

I so relate to Jeremiah as God has had to bug me over and over again, urging me to keep pursuing my call, to keep using my gifts, to stop trying to rearrange my life and pursue the things my flesh thinks it wants to do like there is no eternity and this is all there is.

Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not. Jeremiah 20:9

About this time of year 17 years ago I was driving back and forth from the Ranch on Blue Creek, south of Billings, where we lived, and Clark WY. Fisher, whom I work for, was rebuilding a house that had burned down just north of Clark. The reason I remember the drive so well is because the Holy Spirit pestered me all the way there and all the way back, every day, an hour and a half there and an hour and a half back.

I know it was him because there was no other reason why I should be thinking so much about something I had no desire to do, something I had declared to my whole family just that past Easter, that I was not going to do, and that was to sign up for classes at the newly created Yellowstone Valley Bible Institute at my home church, in Billings—Faith Chapel.

It wasn’t that I was so opposed to taking classes, although the thought of sitting in a class, reading theology books and writing papers certainly didn’t appeal to me, I was a carpenter and a rancher, the only scholarly book I wanted to read was  the repair manuals for our old haying equipment. The reason I was so adamant and resisting the urge to sign up for these classes was because I knew why the Lord, and everyone else who knew me well, wanted me to take them—to prepare me for being a pastor.

The Lord had given me a gift of teaching, and I had been teaching kid’s Sunday school, jail ministry, bible studies… I had already discovered, when I took a year off from teaching Sunday school, that if I wasn’t teaching I was miserable, but Pastoring? That’s a different story. Problem is, the Lord had told me 15 years earlier that I was supposed to be a pastor. ‘Surely by now that ship had sailed, surely by now you’ve realized, Lord, how unqualified and what a miserable excuse for a Christian I am.’

‘I’m getting kids saved at church, isn’t that enough? And at home I’m building a herd—of kids and cows—and trying to move into my dream of being a full time rancher, I aint got no time for preaching’ Besides that, I’ve been around enough preachers now to know that you would have to be crazy to want to do that—write a sermon —every single week, deal with people’s issues, heartaches and hang ups? Who would sign up for that?’

‘But—there are so many people out there who need to hear the gospel, who need to know the love of Jesus, so many messed up lives—but why is it my problem?’ —That was my summer, that was the dialogue in my head that just wouldn’t go away. It was time to answer the call. At one time I wanted to answer, tried to answer, but no one and nothing was cooperating, I couldn’t just take off across the country and go to school, the staff at my home church wasn’t helping me in my desire to climb in the church ranks—but that was years ago, ‘now I’m 40 years old with a farm and a family!’

The only thing I can figure out is that the Lord was just waiting for me to decide I didn’t want to be a pastor after all, and now he wasn’t going to let me have peace until I obeyed.

Well, guess who won the argument. In late August I filled out all the paper work, answered all the ‘when was the last time you drank, smoked, looked at pornography, what is your church background’ questions, got the character references, a copy of my GED and in September this cowboy carpenter was sitting in Collage level classes in the evening after working all day and remembering why I always hated school.

But I stuck it out and after three years of torture I graduated and soon after got licensed while serving as a Children’s/associate pastor in a church I helped plant.

And you know what? Everything I ever imagined about how hard it would be to be a Pastor —was true, all the reasons I didn’t want to do it were valid. But now, having been licensed as a Foursquare Pastor for 14 years, half of that time as the Senior Pastor of Hope Chapel Red Lodge, and having been neck deep in two church plants— I can think of nothing else I would rather do. Teaching is my passion, writing is my passion, whatever I can do to get the word of God, to get his message for his church, to those who need it, I will do it no matter the cost, and it has costs —in every respect. And the enemy spends way too much time targeting me.

You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions
by anointing you with the oil of joy.” Heb 1:9

 

But the grace of God is always sufficient and the pay-off is beyond words. I have been anointed with the oil of Joy, I have a passion and I get to do something about it, I get to use the gifts he has given me, my dreams have become his dreams and his dreams have become my dreams and no matter the cost, no matter how hard, no matter how messed up everything around me seems to be, no matter how much hurt I see in those around me, I get to have a peace in my heart because I know, that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing, what I am anointed to do, and that makes a difference in this messed up world. I get to deliver a message of hope to the hurting. And if that doesn’t make a heart glad—glad to be where God had put it—then you are not in the place God wants you.

Our greatest joy often comes from doing the things we think we least want to do. Passion driven purpose is never easy.

Passion driven purpose is never—by its very nature—easy.  A passion to change something, especially a passion that is anointed by God, drives us to work hard, to do things we might fear doing, but we never regret and we never surrender.

All of us have a place where God wants us to be, a place where everything is not sunshine and roses, but a place where you can bring light into the darkness, hope where there is none to be found, joy—where there is only sorrow, you just need to follow the Lord, answer the call on your heart, and receive the anointing with the oil of gladness.

Find your true joy in your calling, in doing something about what you are passionate about, your anointing and calling—whatever that may be in your life— in light of the Joy that we are supposed to be experiencing in your service to the Lord.

Don’t wait for others to point you—follow Jesus and him alone, please church— the world depends on you.

The Passionate Anointed

Many people want to see the power of God unleashed in their midst, especially those in leadership Man with bright lightspositions in the church. We’ve talked about it here frequently and recently, seeing, believing and praying for a fresh move of the Holy Spirit. I have heard it prophesied that the church would see the glory of the Lord this year. I don’t know exactly what that looks like but I know when it happens we will know it. And indeed we who love the Lord always seek to see God glorified in our gatherings–but we can always use more can’t we? So long as there are people that need healed, delivered and saved, we must always seek and earnestly pray for more of the glory of the Lord to be revealed—status quo mode or ‘church as usual’ is not a Kingdom principle, God is always seeking new opportunities and people to bless and heal.

And God always chooses to use his people to do his work, to be the vessels and the conduits of his love and power, his healing and his grace. Those he uses consistently and powerfully are those who are what the scriptures and the church calls anointed. A word that derives from the Old testament where people literally were anointed with a special mix of olive oil and spices that signified a cleansing and an empowering, really an outward sign of the Holy Spirit choosing and empowering an individual for a special purpose whether it was as a King, a prophet, a priest or what have you.

Even items in the Tabernacle and later the Temple were anointed with oil, the implements, the altar, the bread—everything that was to be Holy unto the Lord was anointed.

 Also Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle and all that was in it, and consecrated them.  He sprinkled some of it on the altar seven times, anointed the altar and all its utensils, and the laver and its base, to consecrate them.  And he poured some of the anointing oil on Aaron’s head and anointed him, to consecrate him. Lev 8:10-12

The new covenant church still sometimes uses oil to signify an appointment, for instance, I was anointed with oil when I was ordained as a Foursquare Pastor by those who were anointed and given authority to do so. I believe that anointing was significant and honored by the Lord, but the real anointing, the one that matters and really makes a difference, is the anointing that accompanies that, or can come exclusively from the Lord independent of man and his oil, as His Holy Spirit comes upon you for a special purpose.

In fact, all who have called upon the Lord for salvation are anointed by his Spirit, set apart for salvation, now holy unto him.

 Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. 2 Cor 1:21,22

It is subsequent anointings—empowerments—that I am focusing on here, the ones we should all be seeking for different areas of our life in him depending on your passion and call. I know I was anointed to preach at my church, Hope Chapel specifically by God for as long as He chooses to use me as their pastor, but I also pray every Sunday morning for my message to be anointed and for the Lord to anoint me afresh with power for the message he has given me to give to them, and subsequently, to you.

I truly believe that without that it is just words on a page, and in the air, that will be nothing more than noise and at best a few moments of entertainment. I want to speak to you in his power, to pray for you in his power, to see you with his eyes, hear you with his ears and touch you with his hands. And I want you to hear and receive all that he wants to give you, only the Spirit can speak to the spirit.

But I know I, and all of us, fall woefully short of reaching our potential, of being empty vessels with room only for him so that he can fill us to overflowing to the point where he spills out and fills the house with his power, thus recreating everything in those present around and before us, that needs to be recreated—sick bodies regenerated, wounded hearts healed, broken spirits revived, lost passions rekindled.

I committed our church (and this blog) right from the start, at the direction of the Lord, to be a place where God can move and bring healing, restoration and hope to his church, and to all those that he died for. Under the restoration heading of our mission statement are the words: Restored dreams, callings and Passions. Those who truly love the Lord have dreams of being used by the Lord to make a difference, they are or have felt called to make a difference and there have been things that have weighed heavy on their hearts, things that they were passionate about, but then something happened, life got in the way, or, in too many cases, church got in the way.

I have a passion to change that, I don’t know how exactly, but I don’t have to know exactly how to change that, what I do need is an anointing, so I continue to seek the Lord for the wisdom and the opportunity to use the tools, or weapons if you will, he has given me to accomplish the task he has laid on my heart with a passion. I can never take my anointing for granted and I especially do not want to waste it.

The Lord spoke to me as I sat down to start preparing this message for you, this is what he said: Passion is a tool to be directed and tempered by the wisdom of the Spirit, it is not to be trifled with.

images

What are you anointed to do? -Are you doing it?

Mom Forever

 

“…eternity isMoments meme a moment that never goes away until we choose to let it.”

You may have noticed that God keeps his own clock, much different from ours. The church of Peter’s day, anxious for the return of the Lord, thought ten years was for—ev—er! Try 2000 years! Still just a couple of days to the Lord, I mean, I’m still trying to figure out how he created a 13 billion year old universe in just 6 days, we can’t explain it but we keep trying don’t we, it’s what we do. We just have to shove eternity into our calendars.

With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. 2 Pet 2:8,9

I think kids actually have a much better concept of eternity, they haven’t been bitten in the butt by time near so many times as we adults so they just live in the moment. I think maybe that’s what eternity is, a moment that never goes away until we choose to let it.

That is why the Lord can take care of so many complex issues, be with everyone at—what seems to us like—the same time, and still be in the past and the future as well. He can take what is just a moment to us and make it last just as long as he needs to, until he is fully satisfied that whatever he is doing, creating or fixing is completely finished.

I imagine heaven being a place where I can sit on the front porch of my mountain cabin and visit with someone I love or find interesting for hours, even days, and still have time to visit with the myriad others I would like to spend time with and never miss anyone or anything because I spent too much time with someone else—I know I’m getting into the weeds here, welcome to my brain…

Anyway, what I was trying to get at, is that kids still think eternally, they are eternal souls learning to find their way in a temporal world so they think they do have time to just enjoy whomever or whatever is before them for as long as they wish and still never miss anything important. If you have kids you probably had that fight this morning when trying to get them out the door for school or church—you didn’t know you were fighting against eternity did you.

Kids see life through the “a day is like a thousand years” part of the eternity equation that Peter lays out here. When we are kids a day is like a thousand years; that last week of school just before vacation took forever, ‘I can’t wait!’ And then school is out and it seems like we were able to do such much just in one day, (maybe because when you are a kid your energy level puts you into hyper speed mode and you really can do much more in a day.)

Then we get older and the other side of that equation becomes our reality, ‘I only have one week to get this done, oh my gosh, it’s Thursday already, AHH!’ Our busy weeks go screaming by and then the weekend’s here and what really sounds good is a nap. We are now living in the one thousand years is like a day mode. I can see us all saying that at the end of the millennial reign of Christ; ‘Wow, that thousand years went by quick!’ (I’m already stressing about the end of the millennium and it hasn’t even started yet.)

Maybe that’s the difference, kids don’t stress about the end, the future, they enjoy the present.

Time to Mother?

But, I suppose we ought to get to the subject of mothers, which is really where I am going with all of this, while you are busy trying to get something productive accomplished, like wash your hair or do the laundry, when you really would rather take a nap, your kids are bouncing around in hyper speed, (maybe the theory of relativity comes into play here, they are moving so fast that they really are slowing down time), anyway, they just want to do stuff—“Mom, can we do this, why can’t we do that? Let’s go there, help me build this, take me to the pool, can I have a sleepover, “I’m bored!” this is the worst day ever, this is the best day ever, and all this just in a couple of hours.

And you are exasperated, all your dreams of being the perfect mom, having happy well balanced kids who never argue with each other, or you, who sit politely at the table waiting for you to flit in with your apron on, your hair and makeup done, and a tray full of fresh oatmeal cookies made from organic oats that you grew and rolled yourself, while their father is packing the minivan for a dream trip to Disney land—all those dreams now seem so far away; “Just give me the strength to make it till the end of the day without losing it and emotionally scarring my little monsters—I mean darlings— for life!”

Again, that’s your perspective. Maybe you thought you had the idyllic childhood and your mom made your life so wonderful, or maybe it was the mother of one of your friends, or a TV fantasy mom like June Cleaver or Mrs. Brady who made it all seem so easy and wonderful, but in reality, at least for the real life moms, they were also going through their days thinking; “Lord, give me the strength to not kill one of these kids before I can deposit them in their beds tonight.”Rockwell Mother

You thought it was all wonderful and perfect when you were a kid because that is the part you remember, you remember because you lived fully in the moment, you weren’t worrying about the future and your weren’t pining for, or trying to live up to, a past that can never be recreated, a past that now lives only in your mind.

Or maybe your childhood was full of turmoil and drama and you have vowed that things would never be that way for your own kids, but here you are, fighting off drama using your crabby Mom powers leaving you to beat yourself up at the end of the day, thinking you are failing miserably, letting the regrets of the day or even the regrets of a decade ago, keep you awake at night.

There are no regrets in eternity, only the moment.

Eternity begins today, eternity begins right now. So learn how to live in, make the most of, and treasure the moment.

I heard an interesting and kind of disturbing bit of trivia a while ago. Norman Rockwell, the famous artist who illustrated the cover of The Saturday Evening Post for many years, with what everyone thought of as classic Americana, once told a reporter that he discovered early in his career that he couldn’t sell reality near as well as he could sell the reality people longed for.

People look at Rockwell’s version of a perfect world and believe that somewhere, at some time, this was the way things really were. We all want to live in Mayberry.

I believe, because I have experienced them, that those moments do exist, they are just not as constant or as perfect as we dream of, but they are there, moments worth treasuring, we need to learn to recognize and appreciate them more, they make the rest of this crazy life much more palatable. And the more we grab a hold of and ponder those moments, the more there will be, not because they will magically happen but because we just learn to appreciate things more—less stress, more gratitude for today.

The most famous mother of all had this figured out:

 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2:19

Relax and treasure the moments that matter, take mental snapshots and ponder them later—the moment your child gives you that smile that just melts your heart. The moment your child spontaneously says: “I love you Mom.” The moment your little girl hands you a bouquet of wildflowers she just picked with her pudgy little hands, when your child falls asleep snuggled into your lap like it is the safest place the world.

These are the moments to treasure, these are the moments that matter, moments you actively helped create, even if they didn’t go exactly, or even close to, the way you planned, and the moments you create by just being in the right place at the right time.

Every moment spent being a mom, being a parent to your child, is  a moment spent in the right place at the right time. You are building eternity, moment by moment —and that is what makes you the world’s greatest Mom.

 

Free Bird?

 

“The plant, the all-natural, ‘God made marijuana” wonderful plant was screaming at me; ‘Smoke Me!'”…Holy Spirit Dove

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8

There was a time when I thought I was free, “No one can tell me what to do!’ but in truth I was far from free. I was bound up by the flesh, by my appetites for more– trying to fill a hole that could only be filled by Jesus.

I spent a good part of my seventeenth and eighteenth years in Job Corp. The Job Corp center I was in was in the mountains 10 miles from Anaconda. I lived there with 200 other guys and a bunch of staff who dictated and monitored nearly our every move. It was like a cross between a military base and a youth detention facility and a vocational-tech school.

You couldn’t leave the center without being considered AWOL and getting kicked out with the threat of a dishonorable discharge hanging over you. There was no drinking allowed, one time I was accused of covering for someone who had snuck in a bottle and had to clean the grout in the shower rooms with a toothbrush. We went to bed when they told us, dressed the way they told us, cleaned the entire dorm every morning before going to our training programs… you get the idea. Not much freedom.

To counter that I started hanging out with the guys who would sneak off into the mountains in the evenings to get stoned on weed that had been snuck in through various clever means–there is always a way. By the end of my time there I was getting stoned every day. Finding new and innovative ways to get away with it, hiding in the furnace room, going sledding in the hills, taking half the tobacco out of a cigarette and filling it with weed… but there was always the fear of getting caught—if only I could get stoned whenever I wanted…

Then I graduated and was free to go home. Me and a few other graduates got on the Greyhound bus heading east, to Billings for me, the others, farther still. We couldn’t wait to start celebrating our completion of the program and the start of our new lives, so we had snuck on bottles of whiskey bought at the bar conveniently located next to the bus station in Anaconda, and started partying.

One of the guys had a boom box and we were jamming to Leonard Skynyrd. Their big hit song, Free Bird came on and suddenly I was overwhelmed with the exaltation of realizing that I was now free. I stood up and with the bus driver glaring at me in the mirror, started exclaiming to the whole bus, that I was free. I was pointing out the window and saying, “you see those cows, they are free, you see those horses they are free, all those people on the highway, they are free, and so am I!” I don’t remember much more, the whiskey was talking by then.

That was just the start, my freedom to destroy my brain cells went on for several years until I realized that my supposed freedom had become a prison from which I could not escape. I knew Jesus through all this but now he seemed a far-away figure whom I was ashamed to come to because I was ashamed of all I was doing with my freedom.

But he never gave up on me, he kept pestering me, whispering to my soul, “come back.” I knew what that meant but I didn’t want to listen, I didn’t want to turn to him and admit that I was destroying my life, I didn’t want the party to end, I didn’t want to devote myself to a God who probably wanted to put me to work embarrassing myself in front of people, I mean, right now people think I’m cool, that I have it all
together and I am having a blast.

In truth I was miserable and was only cool to the people who were themselves miserable and enslaved to the party.

So I finally quit running and gave in to the call of the Lord in my heart, but I discovered I was too ensnared to stop with the beer and weed. My flesh was screaming at me, “satisfy me! The plant, the all-natural, “God made marijuana” wonderful plant was screaming at me; “Smoke Me!” and after one day of my resolve to stay straight so I could discover the plan God had for my life, I was a mess. I had become a slave, literally, to a lower life form–a plant. It had become my master and my god. If I wasn’t smoking it I was looking for more and every morning I bowed down to it as I leaned over my bong to make my burnt offering and let it alter my consciousness.

I don’t care what anyone says about it, what weed did to me was truly evil. It offers wisdom and freedom, but that is just whispers of the serpent using the same old lies he used in the garden—because they work every time–and he stole five years of my life. Five years I could have been fulfilling the God ordained plan–postponing my family and my ministry, making me apathetic, lazy and stupid—stupid enough to try every other drug under the sun as well.

Anyway, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the wonderful things the recreational smoking of marijuana did for me. My point is, I was far from free. The thing that promised freedom had become my prison so at the end of that first day of DT’s and anxiousness, I opened up my Bible, and found my freedom in the word of God. The living word became the miracle that set me free and by the end of that evening with my empty and cold bong sitting at one end of my coffee table, and my long neglected, but now on fire, open Bible sitting at the other, I cried out to my Father and he filled me with such an incredible feeling of love and acceptance that I threw away that bong, emptied my refrigerator of beer and the next morning I started a new walk with the Lord, this time truly free.

 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. 1 Cor 6:12

I am not a recovering alcoholic or druggie, I am not an addict to anything—I am a son of the living God. I am redeemed, I am free, I am a Jesus freak and if that makes me weird or even gets me imprisoned one day, I will still be free because nothing and no one can take away the freedom I have now, the freedom of the soul. I choose to continue in the teachings of Jesus, to abide in his word, and he keeps me free.

neither…the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 A
nd such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ… 1 Cor 6:10-11

I am free to be even the barbarian he created me to be, unfettered by anything, even religion. To me, that’s what it means to be free. This bird is indeed free.

For the rest of this message go to Hopechapelredlodge.com and click “Audio Sermons” 5-7-17

Double Barrel

“When your child is in imminent danger thirty feet is like a mile.”

Surely twomen-drivers-virgil-stephenshe arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. Is 59:1

 


A while ago, back when we were still ranching on the Heyu-Cow, we needed to move some cows from one pasture to another. We had what was called the lower pasture where we would pasture some cows in the spring and then move them a mile or so up the road to the upper pasture. This involved a little round up to get all the cows and calves out of the pasture, through the gate and onto the road. This usually required a few people on horses and a pick up or two.

Most years this meant that we would have to get a couple neighbors or a friend or two to come help with our little cattle drive. One particular year we were kind of short on horses so some friends from church offered to bring out a few horses and help out. So on round up day they showed up bright and early with their horses in tow, including one big gelding named Silas, that my wife, Donna, rode. Everything went well, we got the cattle in the lower pasture—a hundred acres of badlands—all rounded up, out the gate, up the road, and into their summer pasture. Then everyone rode back to the house to let the horses cool off and have some lunch.

Once back at the house our daughter Jessie, who was two at the time, asked if she could ride the horsy. Donna had been riding the big gelding all day and they had gotten along well, so trusting the well broken horse she set Jessie up on the saddle and starting leading him to the trailer. After they had gone a few feet Donna asked Jessie if she was having fun. Jessie said in her little girl voice; “Uh, huh.” All of a sudden that horse came uncorked and starting bucking like there was a mountain Lion on his back.

Jessie, hanging on to the saddle horn, started screaming and this only made Silas even more determined to rid himself of this shrieking creature. The only thing we could figure out was that she was so light that Silas didn’t know she was there until she said something and that just freaked him out. I’m seeing all this from about thirty feet away and I started running towards them knowing there was little chance of getting there in time. When your child is in imminent danger thirty feet is like a mile.

At the same time I’m trying to cover the impossible distance, Donna is holding on to the lead rope with one hand trying to control the panicked horse, and reach for Jessie with the other hand. She was wishing her arms were longer— but you know what? I will never forget this sight as long as I live. While still holding that bucking horse with her left hand she grabbed a hold of Jessie’s arm with her right hand and pulled her right up out of the saddle—which wasn’t hard because she was about to be launched—letting go of the horse the instant Jessie was clear so she could hold her in both arms, at this moment the horse spun around and aiming for the screaming little girl let loose with what Donna called later, both barrels, and hit Donna just above the knees on both legs with a terrible whap!.

Just then I got there, and Donna breathlessly said “Take her” as she handed me Jessie, terrified but wholly unscathed. Then Donna staggered over to the edge of the driveway, laid down in the grass and passed out for a few moments from the pain of the blast she had just taken from the massive beast who suddenly was not her buddy anymore.

After a few moments Donna was able to shake it off and was okay. She had some nasty bruises for a while but she had saved her daughter and that was all that mattered. Thank God for super human mommy powers.

Thots

Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save,
nor his ear too dull to hear. Is 59:1

 

We are blessed to know, because we have the stories and incredible history recorded in the Bible covering many thousands of years, that we have a God who is involved in a very real way in his creation even though it seems sometimes that all is just chaos with no possible way out. But there is always a plan. And we are also blessed to know that there is always a plan for us as individuals too.

We are blessed to know that, God hears one cry at a time and reaches out to take your hand.  He can do that in a very real sense, with nothing hindering him being there for you, because of what was accomplished on the cross so long ago. No longer can our sins cause our Father to turn away, no longer do we have to wait for the promised one, he has come, he is here, his arm is not too short to save nor his ear to dull to hear.

Donna knew when her little girl was screaming in terror that nothing was going to prevent her from getting her off that saddle. To Jessie, that 8 second or so ride probably seemed like an eternity, I know it did to me as I was trying in vain to get there in time. But then the arm reached her, in spite of the pain that Donna had to suffer when that huge, out of control horse turned on her, she rescued her little girl.

I know Donna would willingly do the same thing over and over without hesitation and in fact she still bears the marks on her legs from those kicks, but to her it is just a reminder of her love and an assurance that her daughter is safe, and still here.

Jesus did that for you. He grabbed a hold of that which threatened to destroy you, reached out and snatched you from certain death and he would not hesitate to do it again, even knowing the great pain it will cause him. He still carries the marks, and they remind him of his great love for you. When he opens his hands and see the scars he is reminded of his great love for you, he knows that you are safe, you are in the palm of his hands.

Do not fear, he hears you.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Mark 4:40

 

 

 

 

 

Where is Jesus?

Where is God when I hurt?

Where is Jesus? It’s Easter, so of course we will say; “He’s resurrected and sitting at the right hand of the Father.” And, that would be correct. But here’s a harder question, one that I Scary forestheard recently, that has been echoed in various forms throughout my years of ministry but has become especially poignant since I have started ministering the love of Christ to the places of the heart that can be the most damaged, the places where the hurts of the worst kind of abuse is festering, the abuse that has now given rise to our Wildflowers (Survivors of sexual assault) ministry: “If my own parents looked the other way while I was being abused, how can I believe that the Father in heaven wasn’t just looking the other way also?”

So again I ask; without the expected easy ‘you’re  good little christian so you better give the pat answer— the  Sunday School response— ‘Where is Jesus? Where is Jesus when I hurt? Where is Jesus when I am afraid? Where was Jesus when I was being abused, teased, maligned and bullied? Where was Jesus when I was being cheated, when I was being wounded physically or emotionally, when my loved one died? —Where is Jesus, where was Jesus, where is God when I hurt? The short answer is everywhere, the hard answer is— and the one that has to be the basis for the rest of the answer—Jesus was on the cross.

Jesus was not looking away uncaring or ignorant of your suffering, he was not busy doing something more important for someone he loves more, Jesus was on the cross. We all know he died for our sins, but he also died for our sufferings—we always forget that part, we blame God, we get angry: ‘Where were you, why did you let this happen?’

We cling to the promise and the knowledge that Jesus bore our sins on the cross, we don’t get angry and ask: “Where were you when I was sinning?” Because really, we hope he wasn’t around, yet we earnestly and eagerly believe and receive the grace that removes that stain, but we don’t apply that same standard to our sufferings, the things that may come as a result of our sins or the sin of others.

We need to claim the grace for the removal of our pain just as we claim God’s grace for the undoing of our failures, grace that comes through the cross of Jesus.

Let’s read the words of the prophet Isaiah concerning the Messiah.

Surely He has borne our griefs
And carried our sorrows;
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God, and afflicted.
But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
Isaiah 53 Written 700 years before Jesus’ death

On the Cross

Where was Jesus when we were being hurt? Why doesn’t he care, why doesn’t he do something. He did, He was on the cross doing something about it. Jesus was on the cross witnessing our hurt, witnessing all the evil that has been, is, and will ever be, purveyed by, and against, mankind. He was not just witnessing it, he was being it. He who knew no sin became sin… we cannot even began to grasp what that means. Jesus wasn’t just paying the penalty for our sins, bearing the griefs and sorrows, pains and regrets that come as a result of all that sin, he was experiencing it.

He experienced it in his flesh as he was beaten and whipped beyond what most could have survived even before the crucifixion. And, he experienced it in his Spirit, as time stopped and he spent three hours in the hell of torment and rejection as all those evils were placed on him to bear, causing his Father to turn away from him. The only time his Father had ever looked away from his Son, and the last time the Father would ever turn away from any of his children.

…we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:20 NKJV

Jesus was steep
ed into eternity while still in the flesh dying on the cross and he experienced all the hurts, was accused of and bore all the sin, witnessed every evil and heard every cry. He bore it in real time just like he was there—because he was. That is why Isaiah could write about the event 700 years before the crucifixion just like he was  witnessing it— because in eternity, it had already happened, was happening, and was yet to happen.

Remember when Jesus said: “Before Abraham was, I am.”? Same thing, Jesus is God and is therefore not bound by time. But he did have to step into time, he laid aside his glory to take on flesh and bone and mortal life, so that he could give up that life for us.

Here W
ith Us

“Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!”

Where is Jesus? He is on the cross, he is on the throne, he is in my heart, he is everywhere but most importantly, in this realm of man where we are limited by time and space—he is right here, right now, fully present and fully committed to loving you and I.

Open your eyes and see him, that’s not the gardener offering you healing, that’s the Lord Jesus.

I told that woman, who had asked me where the Father was when she was being abused even as her own parents looked the other way, refusing to acknowledge or believe the story of their little girl being used in such a detestable way—I told her: ‘Your Heavenly Father was not looking away, he was weeping for you and already planning your redemption, providing for your healing and he was laying out a path before you that would allow you do use what the enemy intended for harm as a weapon for good.’

Surely he who was able to undo his own death can undo your hurt as well.

He is risen, your new life awaits you.

Happy Resurrection Day!

 

 

Stained Glass Jesus

‘I don’t need no fancy preaching…’  My first Cloquet Jesusmemories of church are from when I was a little kid in the northern Minnesota town of Cloquet. My parents were divorced but when my Dad would come to visit, up from the Twin Cities, he usually came on a Sunday in time to pick up my sister and I and take us to church. Now there was no mistaking that this this place was a church, unlike our converted pole barn/shop where I pastor in Red Lodge.

When you walked in the first thing you noticed was the huge gleaming polished brass pipes from the pipe organ that covered most of the wall behind the pulpit and put out a sound to match. Then you looked up and saw the stained-glass windows depicting, what to a little kid, were some very bizarre scenes—giant glass cartoons that to me were on the wrong walls because during church you had to turn around to see them. Much more interesting than the preacher in his funny robes talking about mysterious God things.

There was the one with the guy being blinded by a bright light from the sky, and one with another guy trapped in a deep hole with hungry lions who looked about to eat him. And then there was the 3 half-naked guys hanging on crosses all looking miserable and the guy who was having huge rocks thrown down on him by other guys in bath robes—come to think of it they were all pretty disturbing— except for one, the biggest one; it was a handsome fellow kneeling down and resting on a huge rock looking serenely up to heaven while a light shined lovingly on his face. I asked my Dad who that was and he told me it was Jesus praying. I remember that one the most because it wasn’t nearly so traumatic as the others, in fact it looked rather pleasant—A gentle, happy Jesus praying in a garden.

Little did I know in my childhood innocence that it was anything but a gentle and happy time for Jesus. That little prayer time in the garden was a pivotal moment for him, for us, and for all of creation, as the fate of all mankind and the defeat of the enemy who had stolen the earth and our lives from us. Even the next to sit on the very throne of God himself was being decided in that garden in the middle of the night on a hill outside of Jerusalem.

It would come down to one thing, obedience, Jesus willingness to be obedient to the will of his Father who was asking him to do something that every fiber of his being told him he could not bear, not just suffer the wrath of man and the torture of his flesh, but to suffer the wrath and rejection of his Father.

Father’s Will

37 All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all those he has given me, but raise them up at the last day. 40 For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” John 6

I have come down from heaven to do my Father’s will… Jesus knew where he was from and he knew why he was here. He was here to do the will of his Father, and the will of his Father, indeed, his very own will—for he and his Father were one—was that everyone who believed in and looked to him would have eternal life. Quite a high calling and goal.

But that didn’t make it easy, even though Jesus knew where he was from and where he was going, while he was here he was a man in every sense of the word with all the weakness, fears and emotions of any other man, or woman. And he knew, because he was also still God, that he would have to bear all the failings of all those with whom he now shared—yet without falling into—those same weaknesses and temptations.

Think about that, God becomes a man so that he can suffer the wrath of God so that we will not have to. It was the will of God the Father for his children to be exonerated from the death penalty we deserved by dying in our place through God the Son so that we could have life both today, and forever, through God the Holy Spirit. I think I like the will of God.

So why do we still struggle to trust that God’s will is one we want to submit to fully? Human nature I guess, but we can overcome that human nature with the nature of God now living in us, super nature if you will. The more we submit to, and trust his will, the more supernatural we will become as the glory of God falls on us and we receive all the benefits of the life Jesus purchased for us on the cross. I know I just got a little deep there for some of you but if you can grasp it—and you will if you want to—it can change your life.

God bless that little church that set me–and many others I’m sure–on the path to one day find Jesus.

But as for me- ‘I don’t need no fancy preaching, I don’t need no shiny organ pipes or funny collar, all I need is Jesus’ and I come before you determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified.  Because of that, I too–just like serene happy stained glass Jesus in the window–can have perfect peace.