Right and Wrong–and Trolls!

Compass

Our country is a mess because we no longer acknowledge that there is a set moral compass; a true North.

What is missing in much of our culture today? There is no longer a shared and agreed upon moral standard because our culture is rejecting God. Rejecting the black and white—‘look it’s written right here!— word of God. And even worse, people are rejecting the whispers in their hearts and minds that originate with God. Whether you call it a conscience or a divine spark guiding us and tweaking our sensibilities whether we know the Lord or not. Simply by virtue of having been created in his image and having a just God who would that all know the truth and can chose before they are judged on the fateful day to come.

There will be no excuse of ignorance.

“I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. Hebrews 8:10—11

Remember what the original sin was? —Eating from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. People know. They know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, they just refuse to act on the good and instead follow the lead of the corrupt and dying flesh deeper and deeper into the darkness. All the while proclaiming that what they are doing is ‘just fine’ and you had better not look down on them for it—in fact we are going to flaunt it, rub it in your face and demand that you condone it and celebrate itand if you don’t you are a hater and a (fill in the blank) phobic or ism.

You think I’m getting out there on a limb and missing the point of Hebrews eight? Maybe a little but I don’t think so. Us Pentecostals want to make this scripture all about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and dispensationalists want it make it all about the millennial reign, but it goes much deeper. Romans bears this out also.

gentiles heart

Everyone knows the difference between right and wrong, that’s why they get so defensive when they are challenged on their perversion of truth. People (with a little help from the enemy no doubt)  are experts at turning truth upside down and making right seem wrong and wrong seem right.

Enter the trolls.

We live in this strange new world where you can demean and belittle people you have never met before and probably never will from anywhere in the country or the world for that matter. Don’t you love trolls?

7112qaPHDvL._SX425_

I don’t mean the little elusive people of Scandinavian folk lore that live in the forest and wear pointy hats. Or the cute little cartoon creatures with the long fluorescent colored hair that stands straight up like Don King on steroids.

I mean the tiny minded people that stalk the social media sites looking for people to belittle.

I hate trolls, I know you’re not supposed to hate anyone—so okay, I don’t hate them, I just hate what they do and wish they would crawl back into their little troll holes and just play video games and leave decent people alone.

Yeah sometimes people invite trolls it seems by posting a lot of mean spirited and provocative propaganda, over and over and over again, or they just repost every cheesy thing they come across, like “write a word that starts with T and ends with T, most people can’t.”

Really? Anyone who graduated 1st grade can probably come up with quite a list. Why does all this stuff get reposted?—it drives me crazy. But you know, some people just don’t have a life or any real friends so just reposting everything they come across  gives them a way to feel like they are doing something or interacting I suppose, so you have to give them some grace.

Norse-Trolls-Creatures-of-Mythology-and-Folklore

Then again, perhaps the same is true of trolls, they just don’t have a life or any friends so they just sit in the mouth of their troll dens and poke people as they pass by. They know their doing wrong but they delight in evil; they no longer listen to their conscience.

But then, you may be thinking, how much time do you waste on Facebook that all this stuff bothers you? Well, probably more than I should but then I have three Facebook pages, two of which are ministry related. One that I started as a way to promote our annual worship festival; Beartooth Hope Fest that has attracted over 500, followers as I use it to promote local events that honor Jesus, and as a place to post little snippets of my sermons and memes that I make to go with them. (Many of which end up here)

I also have one that I originally started to promote my books called Dan Swaningson’s Words and Wit that I use to lead people to my weekly blog. Both of which occasionally attract trolls.

troll

I decided that when you start getting trolled that means you’ve arrived. Arrived where I don’t know, but it sounds good.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I posted a little thing on the Beartooth Hope Fest page about the mess this country is getting into with the celebration of infanticide, in your face homosexuality, and the attacks on people who dare to stand up for traditional values—daring to point out right versus wrong, and someone posted a comment;

“Maybe you should prove that your God is real before you make your whack job claims.”

I hate those comments because first of all, really, who wants to be called a whack job—although I’ve been called much worse on Facebook. People really freak out over some of my Barbarians in the Kingdom stuff—and secondly, I really want to rip into them in response.

I know I could, and I could use my gift of prophecy to rip right into the heart of these people. But that is not why God gives us those gifts. If he allows you to see into the heart of another it is so you can encourage and understand, not so you know how to really hurt them, but that’s a topic for another day.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1 Cor 13:2

So, I thought about that comment a lot. At first it didn’t really seem to fit with anything I had even said, like, ‘what does that even mean? Have you just been waiting for a chance to use this canned one liner you keep up your sleeve?’ But then it dawned on me as I reread my post again, trying to put myself in the mindset of those who have a seared conscience and I realized that they were offended not by what I said so much as they were the assertion that there is a right and wrong because my basis for what is right and wrong is based on God’s laws.

So, if there is no God, then there is no moral compass by which to judge what is right and what is wrong, thus it can change with the seasons or even from person to person—each person just does what was right in their own eyes.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the hearts. Psalm 21:2

“We shall no longer have to teach our neighbor saying ‘know the Lord.’” God’s laws are written on the heart and the Lord will look at the hearts of men and see whether what they did was willingly done despite having that inkling that it is wrong, and whether they repented of it and turned to our New High Priest and received the forgiveness offered there.

I think this Facebook troll knew that something he was doing was wrong but he had decided in his own heart that there is no God therefore there is no absolute, there is no one outside of oneself to say what is right and wrong— ‘No one can tell me what to do!” So he lashed out at me for reminding him that there is a God and that if that is the case then we don’t get to choose our own morality—well, we can, we will just have to answer for it one day-; and that’s a frightening thought to many people.

But, if there’s no God we can pretend that we are not skeered of that either. ‘So leave me alone you whack job.’

12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Heb 8

 

New Covenant

We have a new Covenant but people are still living as though they are bound by the old and they don’t want to have to earn their way into heaven. They know what’s right and wrong but they know they cannot live up to it so why even bother to try, why even acknowledge it in the first place. That’s because they haven’t heard the good news of the new covenant that God will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds He will remember no more.”

If we are acknowledging God, accepting his offer and joining into the new covenant He offers we receive his forgiveness, we receive his Spirit to guide and lead us, to give us strength to do the right we now see more clearly. And each and every time we choose the right over the wrong, each and every time we repent of the wrong, seek forgiveness and acknowledge that it’s wrong, we draw that much closer to God and experience his blessings of peace love and joy more and more, and no one will be able to convince you at that point that God is not real.

Prove it

I thought about the audacity and the ludicrousness of that troll’s comment a lot, “Maybe you should prove that there is a God first…” I cannot prove that there is a God, only God can prove that he is there. And he has proven it to me over and over and over again. My life is an ongoing proof that there is a God, proof to me and hopefully a witness, evidence of the existence of God, to others.

I feel his presence, I experience his grace and live in the freedom of his covenant with me, the covenant he has written on my heart and in my mind that says I am free, I am loved, I am forgiven and I am His. You can do anything you want to me, say anything you want to me, take away everything I have and all that I love—you can take my very life—and I will still know that there is a God.

I never responded to that troll—God can defend himself, and me. I am just called to love people.

Love one another

Advertisements

Right, Wrong—How Do We Know?

 

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the hearts. Psalm 21:2

 

gentiles heart

How do we know?… how do we know indeed. We live in a time when it seems that ‘everyone does what seems right in their own eyes’; to quote an oft used phrase God used to describe Israel in the days before he handed them over to Assyria and Babylon for judgement.

So is that where we are headed; judgement? Destined to be carried off by our enemies to place we do not want to go and where the blessings of God and the freedom to worship him as we see fit are just in the memories of the old? Just wistful stories to tell our children or the stuff of old legends only found in the forbidden books hidden away in the cellar? In Pre-PC history books and forgotten scriptures that now read like Homer’s Iliad or the tales of Gilgamesh?

I hope not, but I often wonder why not. Why haven’t we been weighed on the scales as a nation and found lacking as we revel collectively in sin, flaunt immorality and taunt those who adhere to and dare make a stand on Judeo/Christian values while allowing our history to be rewritten or expunged? Why wouldn’t God turn his back on us and allow our enemies to overrun us and destroy all that we have built as a nation over the brief time we have been a nation, once proudly hailed as a nation ‘under God’, ‘in whom we trust’, but now not allowed to openly say that anymore for fear of being sued or ridiculed?

mock

Well junior, that’s a darn good question. And honestly, I can’t say we won’t be. But I also think—and pray—we still enjoy a modicum of divine protection because we still have a core body of believers, the remnant of a once vibrant church, who are praying for and interceding on behalf of this nation and it’s leaders. But I also think it’s because we live in a different time and under a different covenant then did the nations of old who were judged and smitten when they failed to turn away from their sin and to the living God.

Gone like Yesterday

They’re gone. “Gone like a freight train, gone like yesterday, gone like a soldier in the civil war—bang bang.”   -(Montgomery Gentry)

When was the last time you met an Assyrian, a Roman, a Philistine, a Babylonian—and the list goes on. Great and powerful nations that have come and gone. But, there again, they were all nations who failed to make or accept a covenant with God, as Israel did, so that even in all her failures, Israel, because there was always a remnant that remained faithful, was never fully destroyed and persist as a people, and once again as a nation, to this day.

They had a covenant, as do we, not as a nation necessarily, though we may and should, but I am referring to us as a church, the church of Jesus Christ that was once the majority of this nation, but now—not so much. Possibly in name if you take a poll, but certainly not in the way we behave. The fruit is just not there to prove it anymore. We have gone from being a melting pot where all are free and equal and all life sacred, to a fractured society pitting ourselves against one another while slaughtering millions upon millions of inconvenient lives because they had the gall to be conceived in an unprepared womb.

Yet, we have grace, we still wake up day after day and get another chance. Because we are in the hands of a loving God and we are the recipients of a new and better covenant. A covenant better then the one first made with Israel so long ago, yet one of which Israel is a benefactor also. A covenant first offered to them and brought through them by the Jewish carpenter named, Yeshua, Jesus as it got recorded in the Greek of the day. Even so, many Israelites have and are recognizing Jesus as their Messiah. Accepting the covenant of grace, not of law.

A new covenant that frees us from the judgment of God by virtue of our belief and acceptance of his Son, the one who paid the price to redeem us from that judgement by virtue of dying in our place, experiencing and overcoming the death that was to be the penalty of our failure to keep the covenants requirements.

“The Lord has sworn
And will not relent,
‘You are a priest forever
According to the order of Melchizedek’ ”),

22 by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant. Heb 7

We have a forever priest and a better covenant. So I think maybe God is delaying his judgment on this earth until that final day when all shall see him return to reap the harvest of the earth, gathering the wheat and burning the tares. On that day there will be no more time, either you are part of the covenant or you’re not.

On that day there will be no more argument as to what is right and what is wrong, it will be plain and sure. Bottom line is, as to what’s right and what’s wrong?

God determines that.

lightstock_68257_small_user_43213847

But it’s not a mystery—and it never changes. Unlike us who always seem to have evolving ideas of what is acceptable and what is not—and we find it written on stone and on parchment, written in our minds and our hearts, sealed by his blood and his Spirit and handed down for generation after generation—God’s eternal word.

And it’s there for all who dare or care to look and hear.

-Stay tuned for Trolls. . .

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

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