Hear Me

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We all want to be heard, to be known. For those who love, and put their hope in, the Lord, the most important ear of all belongs to God.

We live in a culture that values fame above all else, a weird phenomenon that I think rose hand in hand with the invention of Thomas Edison’s movie projector, moving pictures…an idea that would change the world. Suddenly everyone with a nickel could go downtown and sit in a dark theater to watch actors moving across a screen, bigger than life, in black and white. Beautiful people having dreamlike romances, dancing in lavish ballrooms most had only heard of in stories, daring heroes on horseback like Tom Mix and Will James, saving damsels in distress.

There were the clowns, those what made us laugh with their slapstick antics and goofy looks; Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, Larry, Mo and Curly. Where before only the rich and privileged got to see actors portraying characters on stage in the big productions in places like Broadway or Paris—those actors only known to the few who saw them live—now everyone recognized the faces they saw in the Saturday matinee’s, and as the silent moving pictures became talkies everyone fell in love with the singers and everyone learned to talk like James Cagney, Humphrey Bogart, John Wayne and Mae West.

JamesCagney

Soon the movie companies were willing to pay their actors, their stars, more and more money, and we were willing to pay more and more to watch them on the big screen and we all dreamed of being like them, not just their characters, but like the stars themselves. They get to live in mansions and wear diamonds and tailored clothes, go to all the best parties and hire people to do everything they don’t want to do.

Everyone loves them, everyone knows them, everyone listens to them, ‘if only I could be like that…’ So we try, maybe we won’t be big stars but we want to be known, people will go on reality TV and make total and utter fools of themselves just to be seen by lots of people. People will do amazingly dangerous stunts just to get lots of people to watch their videos on YouTube.

Like the woman who shot her boyfriend with a fifty caliber handgun thinking that a phone book would stop the bullet, just to make a video that would make them famous, for a few minutes. He died as their young child watched.

When I was a teenager we all just wanted to hang out together, to be part of the cool crowd, or any crowd that would have us. In Billings in the 70’s it was the freaks and the jocks, the cowboys and the nerds, it didn’t matter, what mattered was being accepted, being known by someone. Now things have shifted more to virtual “hanging out” How many friends do I have on Facebook, how many people liked my last post, how many Twitter followers do I have? But there is a disconnect there. We can interact with more people than ever before, anytime and anywhere, yet we really don’t know these people, and worse, they really don’t know us.

The big movie stars figured this out years ago. You can be known and loved by millions of people, yet not have any real friends. In fact you have to hide from most people because everyone just wants to use you, either just to brag that they know you, or to get some of your fame and fortune for themselves, many would even mob you just to say that they touched you, got a piece of you. Just because people recognize you or know your name doesn’t mean they know you. Just because people remember a line you said in a movie—or on Facebook, doesn’t mean they like you. All they know is a persona, a character or a face.

Marilyn-Monroe2

All that to say; life can be lonely. It is lonely because we all have an intrinsic need to be loved, to be heard, and because we crave it so desperately, we try to attain it the wrong way, often leaving us more lonely and disappointed than ever. Because even if we get noticed, it is often not what we hoped for, it just is never enough. That’s because the only thing that truly satisfies the heart’s need for love is to have a heart that is grounded in the love of our God. A heart that is assured that it is heard by our God, heard and known, is a heart that can find joy in the love of others, a heart that can give that love and hear others, is a heart that engenders that reciprocal love and attention in others.

If you want to be loved, love, if you want to be heard, hear. But we have to start with the knowledge that our creator hears us, not just hears us but knows us and cares about us. That’s what Psalm 139, a psalm of David, is all about. Long before moving pictures and never ending seasons of American Idol, there was a King in the land of Israel who knew that his life, his lot, and his happiness, all hinged on his knowledge that his God knew everything about him, knew him better than he knew himself, yet still loved and cared about  him.

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways.
For there is not a word on my tongue,
But behold, O Lord, You know it altogether.
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is high, I cannot attain it. Ps 139;1-6

I certainly wouldn’t want everyone to know me like God does, in fact I wouldn’t want anyone to know me like God does, but I am glad that he does. Because his knowledge of me is so complete, I know he understands the reasons behind some of the things I do and think, that I desire to be a good person and long to do better, to be Holy and pleasing to him. Yet I often fall short. Praise him that Jesus makes up the difference and has purchased my salvation, because he knows that deep down inside, I truly do love him.

 

 

 

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Thou Shalt Nots?

“…I bet you didn’t get pChain breaks into piecesast the ‘do nots’…”

I don’t do a lot of yelling at the enemy or condemning people for their sins. I’m more about getting people so full of love, so full of the Spirit of God, that there is no room for the influence of the enemy. I believe that is a more long term solution to our overcoming the flesh and the enemy, basically crowding out anything bad with all that is good, all that the Father has to offer. I believe that, because that is what Jesus did and does, for me—overwhelmed me with his love. Because of that I overcame and continue to overcome.

 

Therefore do not beunwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, 21 submitting to one another in the fear of God. Eph 5:17-21

 

It tells us here ways to be filled with the Spirit, but I bet you didn’t get past the do notsdo not be unwisedo not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation (or debauchery); We tend to focus on the do not part here and then link it directly to the fullness of the Spirit. We think ‘okay, If I do not get drunk with wine, I will be full of the Holy Spirit. If I am not unwise, I will be tracking with the Lord.’

The wine isn’t necessarily the problem, turning to the wine instead of the Lord, being intoxicated and thus numbed to his presence, that is the sin. And that opens the door to other issues, lets things into the opening created when you dropped your sword to grab that bottle. I know in my life I had to realize that I was turning to everything but the Lord for my peace, I was allowing my quest for pleasure and my fear of what God would have me do prevent me from seeking his fullness. And I’m not just talking about being baptized in the Holy Spirit, that is just the beginning, we still have to make the choice to keep being filled.

 

Being baptized in the Spirit is important, vitally important, it releases the gifts and empowers us to move in and share his love for others. But it can still leave us full of the wrong stuff; arrogance, lust, selfishness, fear, addictions, etc. we still have to choose to live for Jesus, to trust him, worship him and surrender to him. That is not easy, but it is necessary if you want to clear the pipe.

Many of you are aware of my testimony, how the Lord delivered me from addictions, the miracle that delivered me from a need to be stoned and or drunk constantly as I was for many of my younger years. And the easy short version of that story is to say that God did a miracle in my life that took away my desire to get stoned. But the truth is, God didn’t really take away that desire, he pushed it out of me by filling me with a love that left no room for the pain that was fueling the desire to be stoned all the time. He gave me such a feeling of joy in my spirit that I was able to defeat the flesh in its demand to be placated.

 

Previously, I had been saved by Jesus Christ and baptized by the Holy Spirit, I knew the bible, had a prayer language, and when I wasn’t too stoned or fearful of what I might hear, I even heard from God as he spoke to my heart. But what I didn’t do was surrender my heart to him, I didn’t seek the fullness, I wanted the power and the assurance but I wasn’t willing to submit to his Lordship.

 

But because I had already made the mistake of praying for the baptism of the Holy Spirit, he wasn’t going to let me alone to enjoy my foolishness. If ignorance is bliss, knowledge is misery, when you refuse to abide it. I finally got to a point where I couldn’t shake the notion that I was missing out on something really good, that surely God’s plan for my life was better than my own. My own plan was going nowhere and was getting me no satisfaction whatsoever—which was in part why I was always seeking to be full of drink and drugs. That which I started doing for fun, became my means of survival, and was becoming my undoing.

Anyway, I decided to, by my own strength of will and determination, be not drunk with wine—or stoned with weed—or anything else for a month, so that I could be filled with the Holy Spirit, and discover God’s plan for my life.

 

The be not thing didn’t get me through the first day. By about 6:00 PM in the first day of my abstinence I was suffering mightily. I felt ready to burst at the seams.

But then I did something radical, I read my Bible with a real desire to hear from God—I did, and what he told me there in that dusty old book my uncle had given me when I was a kid, made me realize that I was going about this spirit quest all wrong. In fact I had been going about my life all wrong. I realized just how foolish and selfish I had been, how enslaved I was and how deceived I was, thinking that God just wanted to ruin my fun with a lot of  “thou shalt nots”.

 

As I was reading his word it hit me like a ton of bricks what I needed to do, I needed to let go of my desire to control my own destiny, to stop running from God—which was pretty foolish since he was already in my heart—and simply trust him. I honestly don’t remember any words to any prayer I prayed that night although I know I must have. Maybe it was more of an honest conversation with the Lord who had been waiting for me to invite him to have full control, to admit that I was enslaved and helpless, and turn to him for help, then it was any formal prayer. More likely, it was me just finally being willing to listen to him.

All I know is that after reading a couple sections of scripture that I know he led me to—1 Corinthians 6 and Psalm 118 to be exact— I felt totally and completely overwhelmed and filled with his love. It felt like something in me had come unstuck and I was being filled. Years’ worth of pain, loneliness, fear, anguish, insecurity, paranoia, to name a few, was being pushed out at the speed of light. The darkness was fleeing and getting lost in the light.

 

 

If I listened close, I could still hear my flesh crying out for weed, I could still hear the beer in the refrigerator crying out to me, but there was another voice that was much louder, it was the voice of my Father telling me he loved me.

I was filled with his Holy Spirit so I did not need to be drunk with wine.

I just had to do it the other way around. The fullness of the Spirit gave me the desire and the strength to overcome the flesh. I didn’t have to overcome the flesh to bring on the fullness of the Spirit, I had to bring on the fullness of the Spirit to overcome the flesh.

Even if you can overcome the flesh on your own it will just leave you empty and you will have to put something in there, it’s just the way we are made, we are not made to be empty, we are made to be loved, full of his love, and remember—God is love. (1 John 4)

How did I get full? I had to be willing to let God empty me of me.

 Grassy field

 

Generational Curses

…I have heard the term generational curse bandied about like it is just an accepted and theologically sound ‘thing’.  Well, according to the Bible I read it is not a thing.

What is a curse? It’s kind of a complicated notion that, actually, can cover a somewhat broad spectrum of misfortune, and Scary forestcan mean many things to many people. Biblically, we generally understand a curse to be a prayer or pronouncement for evil or ill fortune to befall another person. It is the removal of the favor and blessing of God and even the purposeful distress of a supernaturally imposed affliction purveyed by the enemy, or by God himself.

So a generational curse as we understand it, is the handing down of a fate over which we apparently have no control, a predetermined destiny of hurt, designed to leave us without hope.  Anyone a little uncomfortable with this yet?  In a word—fatalism

Ill Fated

Let me illustrate. A young woman—I don’t have any particular person in mind but truth is, I have known several people who could fit into this scenario—a young woman, raised by a single mother with a troubled past, finds herself living with a young man she met at a party. They were both wasted when they met so they have a hard time even remembering why they got together, other than they shared an affinity for good weed, a little meth to get them through the night, and a lot of time spent together just looking for the next high.

She doesn’t feel too bad about it really, in fact, she feels kind of invigorated by the rebelliousness. Her mother is always bugging her to straighten up but she remembers her mother living on the wild side, coming home blasted at all hours of the night, leaving her to care for her baby brother, neither her or her brother even know where their fathers are anymore, maybe dead or in prison -or, no doubt, just hiding out to avoid having to pay for child support.

The young lady had found the Lord at a church camp and got all excited about Jesus for a while, but then, well, she found out she could be cool and accepted by doing all the things she was told by her Christian friends and leaders she should not do. One day she finds herself pregnant, her boyfriend—or whatever he is—is suddenly not interested in her much anymore and even accuses her of sleeping around—“this isn’t my kid!” he shouts one night, and then he’s gone.

Desperate now, she gets cleaned up, mostly avoiding the drugs, staying with her mom until the baby is born. Soon she meets another man who claims he loves her and her baby girl, they move in together, make another baby and after a couple of tumultuous years of passion and drama, he is found cheating on her with her best friend.

Fast forward

Next thing she knows, she comes home after another bender, having turned to the bottle when the weed didn’t dull her anguish like it used to, to discover that her now 15 year old daughter is pregnant, and hooked on meth. Something the daughter had kept hidden, which wasn’t hard since her mother was seldom home.

The story just gets worse from there.

The young woman looks at her life, the generations before and the ones ahead and thinks, ‘that’s just the way it is, like mother like daughter, I can’t change it’—as the pagans used to say “Fate is inexorable.”

 

‘Stupid pagans, what do they know?’ Yet some in the church would look at her and say; she is subjected to a generational curse. Which to me is pretty much the same thing, an inescapable fate, and a cursed life. Ironically, the Christian version sounds even more cynical.

The fate is inexorable saying comes from the Norse mythology belief that there are three sisters, the norns, spinning people’s destinies on their golden spinning wheels in the nether world at the roots of Yggdrasil, the world tree.

In our enlightened “scriptural” version, it is God determining aforetime that the women in this family are doomed to a life of misery, or at best, he has decided ahead of time that they are not worth the effort to pull from the clutches of the devil. “You made your bed, you lie in it, or your mother made your bed, or your grandmother… either way, you are doomed.”

Uncomfortable with this notion yet?

Over the course of my walk with the Lord and having heard many, many speakers, teachers and preachers I have heard the term generational curse bandied about like it is just an accepted an

d theologically sound “thing.” Well, according to the Bible I read it is not a thing. But by throwing it out there over and over we have made it a thing, a thing that has discouraged and defeated many who love the Lord, who want to overcome the flesh, to put to death the hurts, hang-ups and bondages of the past and move on in our relationship with the Lord. ‘Well, a lot of smart people talk about it so it must be in there somewhere.’ The sad fact is, that is how most people, pastors included, build there theologies.

In my humble opinion, it is all hog wash. Certainly, at least, as we have come to understand it.

And I would venture to guess that your understanding of the generational curse thing is vague, and hard to explain. That’s because no one really can explain it, not without making stuff up, and heresies always get complicated real fast.

Let’s cut to the chase here—

We have to choose to live as the blessed, to learn from the mistakes of the past, and of others. Because even if there are no generational curses, just like in the rest of life, we are still affected by the choices our parents made that affect our environment of influence. Bad choices always affect more than just ourselves. This is a natural consequence, not a spiritual curse.

Yes, ultimately, we are all potengenerationstially heirs of the curse brought on by Adam and Eve, that when they eat of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they shall surely die, make their living by the sweat of their brow and suffer pain in child birth. The ground shall be cursed and produce thorns, etc.. But we are redeemed from the curse by the new Adam—the curse being death, Jesus being life.

 21 For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.

1 Cor 15:21-22

We who are in Christ are no longer heirs of the curse Adam and Eve brought on themselves and the land, we are no longer heirs of the flesh which inevitably leads us into sin and condemns us. We are now heirs of Christ, we are now Spirit. As Jesus would tell Nicodemus, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, but that which is born of the spirit is spirit, that is why I told you, you must be born again.” If you have been born again, you are not cursed, in any way shape or form, period.

It is just not possible.

You are not cursed, quite the contrary, you are loved!

If you not born again, just say this simple prayer: Lord Jesus I believe in you, forgive me for my failures, come into my heart and give me new life. Amen

Welcome to the family! The curses are gone…

Contented Contending

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You know what I think of sometimes when I look at a cow standing in a pasture?  ‘How can a warm blooded mammal with a brain, pound for pound, about the same size as mine, possibly be content just standing and staring at the fence all day just waiting for the rancher to show up with a load of hay?’ Just the life of livestock in general—as long as they know where their next meal is coming from or their bellies are full and they feel relatively safe in their little never changing world- they are content,  ‘Just let me chew my cud and fling some slobber at my flies and life is good.’ 

 

Sure horses can get a little restless, but sheep, pigs,  cattle, chickens- they don’t care ‘just throw me some corn and my life is complete.’  Simple yet satisfying, and in the stress of life some days we might tempted to say, gee I wish I had it so rough!” But it’s actually kind of scary to even think about being that way—a mindless chunk of meat living to fill our belly—thank God we were created much differently than that, well, most of us anyway.

 

We are certainly a different creature and I’ll take my ADD, OCD, co-dependent, border line manic depression riddled life of adventure any day over a life of sedentary blissful ignorance.  But it can get to be a bit much sometimes, being the amazing creatures we are, created with all the attributes of our amazingly complex God, tucked away in us to varying degrees. We have the potential to drive ourselves to total despair as we feel stuck in this world where the whole universe seems to be on a mission to frustrate our every move and thwart our every plan.  Maybe it is—but we have something better—we have the Holy Spirit of the Living God to keep us from imploding, I’ll take that over a cud to chew any day.

Give ear to my prayer, O God,
And do not hide Yourself from my supplication.
Attend to me, and hear me;
I am restless in my complaint, and moan noisily, Psalm 55:1-2

There is a restlessness within the human soul that is common to all of us.  That restlessness can be amplified by certain conditions and stirred in different seasons.  Knowing what to do with that restlessness and finding the peace that can quench that restlessness when nothing else can, is the quandary many of us find ourselves in. There is a healthy, needed, restlessness that drives us to action, drives us to our knees in prayer, when you know deep inside that something has to give, something needs to be done, but you do not know or are afraid to find out what that is.

 

Listen carefully to this; the only way you are going to get past that feeling of restless confusion and anxiety—the only way you are going to know what it is you are supposed to do—is to come to the Lord, fall on your face, either literally or figuratively, and cry out ‘Lord help!  I can’t do this alone I need you to tell me, to show me what to do.’— and he will.

Remember that contented cow? That cow is a happy cow, not just because she is simple minded and clueless, but also because she trusts that she will get taken care of, that the rancher will show up—just as he always does at just the right time—to feed, that there will be water in the tank and the grass will grow in the spring. She also knows that when the rancher calls it’s because he has just put out cake or it’s time to go to a greener pasture. She is content because she knows that the rancher is there to take care of her, not to make her life miserable. I use to call my cows—whooo-bosss! —and they would come running, because they knew that I never called them to do harm to them, that something good was in store.

Why can’t we trust our Shepherd like that?

Main Point: Contentment comes from listening and believing; believing that the Lord hears what you are contending for and knowing what to contend for because you were listening.

 

Take up Your Cross?

Being a real disciple, fully committing your life to Christ can only be done by laying down your life first, something very few, quite frankly, are willing to do.

Why woJesus-Freakuld you not want to live fully in the plan that God has for your life?

Because we know that to truly do that, we have to take up our cross. We have to die to self. And even as miserable as “self” might be, as unfulfilled and unsatisfied as self may be with all that we can give it—we like self. Self is all we have—all, that is, except for Jesus.

 

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. 2For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? 27 For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works. Mat 16

Jesus wasn’t talking about some burden, some annoyance, that must be put up with, the way the world has come to use the term, “Well, that’s my cross to bear!” Jesus was talking about dying.

In his day the cross wasn’t a religious symbol in any way, it didn’t represent an annoyance or a burden, it represented one thing and one thing onlydeath. To carry one’s cross meant you were carrying your own method of execution to the spot where you would be left to slowly but surely die.

 

So when Jesus talked about taking up the cross It was not a pretty image to consider, but one that surely got the point across—‘if you want to follow me, you have to be willing to give up everything, to die to self, give up your pride, your treasure, your dignity, position, your future, your plans—everything— even life itself, and follow me.’

Sounds like a no win propositWooden crossion, who would do that? But he doesn’t stop there, he then adds, “for whoever loses their life for my sake will find it.”

To have a new life you must be willing to give up the old. To be reborn you must die, to live in his plan you must give up your own, and that is really, really hard.

To have a new life you must be willing to give up the old. To be reborn you must die, to live in his plan you must give up your own, and that is really, really hard.

Dreamer

I am a dreamer, I have, and have had, many plans. Some I have fulfilled, many not, some fit the Lord’s plan for me, many not. It’s a daily struggle and a challenge to keep following because one thing about following, you can’t follow a stationary object, Jesus is always moving so you have to pay attention.

I can think of story after story as to how I have had to give up something, lay down a plan or part of my life to follow Jesus, but it is not usually a hard decision anymore because I have experienced suc

h incredible feelings of joy and fulfillment, of wonderment and awe at how the Lord has used me and orchestrated my life to bless both him and me. I figured out long ago that my own plans, or lack thereof, for my life, only lead to heartache and disappointment.

When I was a young man I planned to just work hard and party hard, live for no one but myself and my buddies; fish, hunt, backpack, stay stoned and stay free. I was accomplishing it too. But, as I realized that the more I lived for myself, the more miserable I was, not to mention the less free, I finally decided to trust Jesus, I mean, not just say the sinners prayer, ‘thanks Lord for saving me, see you in heaven’, but I mean really trust him, lay down my right to get drunk and stoned at will, lay down my right to do what I want when I want and actually stay sober long enough to hear his voice—and then obey.

Long story short—when I gave up and gave in he revealed to me his love and grace in a very real and overwhelming way. I was delivered from addictions and stupidity in an instant. But I discovered that there

was more to this following and trusting Jesus. I decided to be a pastor— right now— because the Lord called me—no, it wasn’t time yet. I decided that maybe it was okay to be single because I wasn’t finding a wife, oh wait, there she is. And by the way, here’s three kids and a ranch—no more spending every weekend in the mountains for you.

Cool, I’ll just raise kids, cattle and hay. Green acres is the place for me… ‘Just give me a spud bar and a few hundred acres of fence to fix, a field full of hay to mow, a few dozen cows to care for and I’ll be happy.’

Nope, now it’s time to be a pastor.

Fine, I’ll be the best children’s pastor Billings has ever seen and I’ll stay at Hope Center till I retire; nope, it’s time to start your own church. Great, I’ll go to a big city where I can build a big church and have a big office and a full time salary. Nope, you’re going to Red Lodge.

You get the gist. Each one of those represents days, months and even years of wrestling with the Lord, the flesh trying to overcome the Spirit. Self not wanting to die and the cross looking frightening and wrongFather if you are willing, take this cup away… yet in the end I had to say, needed to say, and am glad I did; not my will but yours be done. And in each instance the blessings that came far outstripped anything I gave up.

Then there are the seemingly little day to day decisions that decide who is going to win the day, the flesh or the spirit, whether we take up the cross or run from it. What we watch, read or think, how we react to things and people, how we treat our spouse and who we put first in our lives—ourselves or others.

Being serious about following Jesus isn’t sitting around reading the bible and praying all day, it’s living and implementing the things we get out of our bibles and time spent with the Lord, it’s real adventures in a real world in the real power of  a real God.