Stand Firm- (with puppies)

“Putting that tarp on top of that kennel just turned it into a big box kite…”

faith

My faith is a gift, my faith is real and no one nor anything can steal it away–but they keep trying.

When your faith becomes real you will do anything to honor him from whom that faith comes, Jesus, and to let all the world know the good news. Because the life you live on this earth today is just the beginning of eternity.

All who knew Jesus before and after his death, laid down their lives to gain them, knowing they had nothing left to lose. Nothing could steal their faith, or harm their spirit.  The Apostle Paul wrote:

31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”

33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Cor 15:31—33

How are you doing –wondering, struggling? We all do, don’t give up.

Your faith is not in vain, do not talk yourself nor let anyone else talk you out of it. Do not be misled by the foolish. The world is in an upheaval right now like we have seldom seen as the darkness rises up to kill steal and destroy all that is good, all that is holy, all that is right. Every time we turn around something that was unheard of a few years ago or even yesterday, is suddenly right, and we had better not have an issue with it.

The enemy wants to make a mockery of your faith, belittle, humiliate and delegitimize you and all that you stand for, or at least thought you did. ‘Do I really? Do I really want to be the social pariah? How can so many voices, so many seemingly good and smart people be wrong, be deceived? Am I the one who is wrong, am I the one who is deceived?’

That’s the oldest trick in the book—literally. “Did God really say…”Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Am I wasting the few decades I have on this planet trying to live by the standards found in a book that was written thousands of years ago, should I just eat and drink for tomorrow I die? Is God just trying to ruin my fun?

apple meme

No, dozens if not hundreds of witnesses who saw Jesus before and after his resurrection gave up everything, their homes, their jobs their lives, even fighting wild beasts in Ephesus —I would like to hear the  rest of that story— for the sake of the good news that Jesus is Lord, that he is alive and that we can share in that resurrection as well, if we keep the faith.

That faith that is a gift from God that tells us this is not foolishness, that there is so much more to this life, this existence, than what we can see, then what we can eat and drink. Life isn’t about wringing all that we can out of it while we have the chance.

Life is about walking in the light of a Savior who illuminates our hearts to see the truth, to taste and see that the Lord is good, to walk in the joy of our salvation, to stand as warriors for the kingdom of God. Warriors for the Kingdom of a God that will return, will have the final victory and where God’s standards of right and wrong, justice and truth will no longer be questioned, no longer be mocked and there will be no more death, there will be no more sickness, no more pain and God himself will wipe away every tear.

We will be resurrected to a new and better day, But today, he wants to resurrect your heart. He wants to resurrect his church, he wants to restore hope, renew faith, he wants you to raise your eyes to heaven and say ‘yes I believe in you, I believe in your love for me.’

He wants you to say ‘yes I will stand for truth, yes I will follow where you lead’ and ‘yes I will pledge in my heart today to allow you open my eyes to see the world through your eyes, to love like you love, to serve like you served and forgive like you forgive, and like I have been forgiven.’

‘Today, the thing that matters to me more than anything else in all the world is you Lord and your kingdom. I want to advance your kingdom starting in my own heart as I let go of the last stakes that are holding me down. and to this earth—the false promises of wealth and happiness that turn out to only be more stress, pain and distraction.

I want to be free to fly on wings like eagles and to seek out others who need to hear the good news as well. Resurrect me Lord, resurrect your church, let your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Lord's prayer

‘Letting go of the stakes…’  Reminds me of a story.

Pulling stakes

Years ago we had a German Shepherd named Tara. Tara got married one day, at least that’s what we told our girls, and became great with puppy—9 puppies actually. After they outgrew their kiddie pool in the basement we moved them out to the dog house in the kennel. The kennel was one of those portable chain link types that you get at a farm and ranch store.

We were still out on the ranch at the time and my wife was worried that a hawk might swoop down into the kennel and carry away one of our little fuzz balls so I tied a tarp across the top of the kennel. I then took several steel concrete stakes, the nice long heavy duty steel stakes that you use to hold concrete forms in place, drove them into the ground around the kennel and wired them to the frame of the kennel panels.

Well, that worked great for a while. One day we were gone somewhere and we came home to find a dog house standing alone where the kennel was. and several black and tan puppies wandering around in the back yard just having a good old time. The kennel was several yards away laying somewhat mangled in the nearby hay field.

Putting that tarp on top of that kennel just turned it into a big box kite and those steel stakes were no match for an upper Blue Creek wind. In fact, I think the wind just saw it as a challenge—see if you can blow this over.

Cucumber

Well, the hawks didn’t eat our puppies, they were all accounted for, but we did move them down to a stall in the barn. Which worked well except for the one puppy who got stuck in the wire hog panel I put across the stall door to keep puppies in and to let Tara out– she could hop over the low panel.

Then one day I heard one of our girls hollering “Daddy, daddy, there’s a puppy stuck in the wire!” I followed the frantic girls to the barn to discover a squealing puppy with her head stuck in a square of the hog panel. I had just the solution. I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of vegetable oil and then poured a good portion of it on the puppies head. This lubed her up enough to slip her out of the wire, no worse for the wear. The girls then named her Cucumber because she smelled like a salad after that.

When-Do-German-Shepherd-Puppy-Ears-Stand-Up

Thots

Jesus wants to set you free. You were not meant to cower under a tarp in a chain-link kennel. God created you for a purpose, God has a plan for you and he died to set you free to pursue it. The things you cling to, money, addictions, position and power, the need for more stuff, to be in control, to avoid any unpleasant or uncomfortable situations—anything that becomes more important in your heart and mind, anything that you know God would rather you not spend so much, if any time on, those things are the stakes that have you pinned to the ground.

And if you’ve tried to escape on you own and got stuck, Jesus has the vegetable oil that will get you unstuck. It’s called faith.

 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever. Psalm 23

And that faith will put your enemies to shame in the end as you share in the Lord’s table while they stuff themselves to misery while always wanting more. This world will never satisfy you, only a relationship with the resurrected Lord can do that. Only a faith in the things we cannot see but know with our hearts can satisfy. Goodness and mercy will be our companions, and hope our reality. And we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

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Auction Day in Jerusalem

The Auction

“Sold to the Nazarene!”  “What!?”  The pretender cries out, “That was no bid; he was throwing up his hands in surrender!” 

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I went to an auction at the Public Auction Yards in Billings years ago with Ralph, my father in law who was selling his calves.  I had not sat in the buyers seats at too many auctions at this point, most of my livestock auction experience had been on the other side of the gate, as a teenager I had worked at Billings Livestock and on sale days it was my job to push the frantic cattle through the banging hydraulic gates and into the noisy sale ring.  So anyways, here I sat just to watch.  I had a buyer’s card in my hand that I was using just to keep track of how the sale was going.  I was just starting to raise up my own herd and I wanted to learn what the buyers were liking.

In the midst of the sale I turned to say something to Ralph and gestured with my hand to the calves in the ring, suddenly the auctioneer acknowledged a bid and the price went up.  I had a sinking feeling as I realized the hand I had waved had the card in it and that was how the buyers were signaling their bids—waving their cards.  Much to my relief someone else bid up the calves but then I felt like a fool as I sat there with a deer in the headlights look as the auctioneer then looked to me trying to illicit another bid.  Not only did I not want the animals being sold, I did not have any money.  I learned to keep my hands in my lap when at an auction lest you buy something you don’t want!

Sale day in Jerusalem

Jesus Cross

There was a day some two thousand years ago now when there was another auction going on.  Though you weren’t aware of it you were there; you and the whole human family herded into the sale ring like so many sheep.  It was a huge sale and there were a lot of spectators, the sale barn was filled mostly with demons and angels but there were only two buyers; the one known as the Prince of Darkness, the deceiver, and the other, the carpenter from Nazareth, the Son of God.

The auctioneer is the Father himself and he opens the bidding high, eternity is at stake but there are no bids.  The auctioneer sings out  “Who’s gonna bid, who’s gonna bid, who’s gonna bid today!”-  Some in the ring cry out; “Will no one redeem us!”  While others, ignoring the high steel rail wall holding them in, shout them down saying, “No one needs to buy us, we are free!” 

What they don’t realize is that they are all slated for slaughter unless they can be redeemed, they may spend some time in blissful ignorance being fattened up first but they are marked for slaughter all the same.  There is a debt to pay and this sale is their only hope, the hope that the price paid for them is high enough to pay what is owed because they violated and maliciously abused the free range law of the Kingdom and the law cannot be ignored; no exceptions, no more promissory notes.

Unbeknownst to those in the ring there is a buyer who wants to bid, the gentleman from Nazareth, but he is being prevented from being heard by the other registered buyer. But it turns out Prince Darkness is not really there to bid, he is actually trying to stop the sale altogether claiming that he owns those in the ring because they have been grazing in his pasture for eons and he has every right to lead them to slaughter. “They are wearing my brand!”

branding

The sale goes on, the lone legitimate buyer desperately trying to be heard but no one can hear him over the din of the spectators and even the voices of some of those in the ring shouting that the buyer from Nazareth has no right to bid.  “We must hold out for another!” they claim.  Suddenly a fight breaks out and the brawling fills the auction barn and it seems that the pretender; Prince Darkness,  is gaining the upper hand, he has even managed to strip the other buyer of everything, taken away everything from his clothes to his dignity, even his identity, leaving him nothing with which to bid.  The auctioneer, still working every trick he knows to secure a bid, is watching intently the struggle going on in the seats when suddenly he sees two hands go up.

Those in the ring cry out, some with despair and some with jeering exaltation as the auctioneer slams the table top with his open hand and shouts out “Sold to the Nazarene!”  “What!?”  The pretender cries out, “That was no bid; he was throwing up his hands in surrender!” 

The auctioneer calmly points out that the price he was demanding was in the hands of the buyer when they went up.  At this every eye turned to see the blood flowing from the wounds in the hands of the Nazarene. “This was no surrender”, the auctioneer explains; “this was no mistake, the price has been paid, the price set by the original owner to redeem this flock, should it stray, was death—blood.”

“The blood of the Son of God is the price sufficient to purchase the entire flock, the only payment sufficient to cover the debt.” The bidding is closed, the bill of sale being written.

Suddenly the successful bidder falls to the floor and the pretender again shouts out, “He is dead!  How can he claim his flock, how can he open the gates and turn out his sheep when he is dead?  I win by default!  The slaughter is imminent!  They all must pay the price on their own because the sale has been nullified!”

The auction barn goes crazy, the spectators, demons and angels, shrieking for joy, or wailing with grief, respectively. While those in the ring all argue over what has just happened.

Just when it seems all is lost and the auctioneer has even been discredited, the high solid gate to the pen is suddenly flung open and there, silhouetted in the sunlight suddenly pouring into the dingy ring is the Gentleman from Nazareth.  Silence falls over the auction barn as everyone comes to grips with what has just happened.  The Father, the auctioneer just smiles and hands the bill of sale to the Nazarene.  The bill of sale signed with blood, notarized by the Spirit and recorded by the Father in the Lambs book of life.

Incredibly, some choose to stay in the ring as many are led by the Nazarene, Jesus by name, into his pasture where they are tended and groomed to be presented to the Father; eyes and coats shining.  Some refuse to budge, still not believing that the sale, or the buyer, was legitimate.  Meanwhile the pretender is slowly backing his rig up to the opposite gate of the ring ready for the front gate to close.  Eager to take every straggler he can to the end prepared for the pretender himself.

mel

Thots-

Which gate are you going to use?  You can’t stay in the ring forever.  There are no more bidders, only one had the price required to redeem you.  One thing I learned about sheep when I worked the auction yard- you can’t push them like you can cattle, they have to be led.  Us cowboys used a halter broke ram, in slaughter houses they use a goat aptly called a Judas goat.  A good shepherd doesn’t need a goat or a ram, his sheep know his voice and they follow him.   Jesus is the Shepherd, follow him.

2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice….

Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

   11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….    I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.  

19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” John 10:2-20

Are you listening to him, do you hear his voice?  Unless you believe he was stark raving mad, you have to choose, choose to listen, or choose to remain in the pen and let the thief, the pretender, lead you to destruction.  Choose life, choose freedom- choose Jesus.

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Good Friday Thoughts and a Broken Watch

I have an old pocket watch that doesn’t work. It belonged to my great grandfather, a Dutch immigrant. This watch was broke when I got it and no doubt has been frozen on the same time for decades. I could probably have it fixed, if I had the money and could actually find a watch repairmen, probably a dying craft.

This weekend we actually celebrate the day our watches were restarted.

We literally keep track of time, our calendar is based on, how long it has been since Jesus was here—. B.C and A.D. Many of our own lives are measured the same way. This is more than just a convenient place holder in human history by which to place historical events, a separation of ages, though it certainly is that. I believe the clock of the universe was also reset at that time.

That time between Jesus breathing his last on the cross and his taking his first breath in that stone cold tomb three days later, when all the universe held its breath, waiting and watching—”What will happen, had the author of life himself been destroyed? Is He who holds all things together, things on heaven and on earth dead? Or will the clock be restarted?”

“Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ”Having said this, He breathed His last. Luke 23:44-46

As the author of life was dying, even the sun refused to shine, the very thing by which we measure time. The Son of God was dead, the Spirit of God had left the temple, and man was left totally and utterly alone. Time seemed to be up.

But it wasn’t, because death could not hold him, Him “by whom, through whom, and for whom all things were created.” The dark could not overcome him and when the sun rose clear and bright on that Sunday morning it arose on an empty tomb, the stone sealing him into the hole he had been lain in, to become dust, was shoved aside and in the same motion the gates of hell were stormed and the devil who danced before them trampled upon as the seed of Eve left his heel print on his forehead.

Our new day had begun.

Go to church Sunday and have your watch fixed–or rewound.

Have a blessed Resurrection Day!

Pastor Dan,

Hope Chapel Red Lodge.

Thy Will Be Done

 

Jesus’ suffering secured our salvation, he asks that we endure, even in the hard times, and suffer a bit also, taking the path of most resistance, that we may reap the reward we know is coming.

hands

Today the church celebrates Palm Sunday. The day Jesus rode triumphantly and openly into Jerusalem knowing that he was a wanted man. Marked for destruction by the religious hierarchy who saw him as a threat to their traditions. And more sinisterly, their power and status.

Jesus was warned by all who cared about him, ‘you must not go to Jerusalem this year for the Passover Celebration’, and he was no fool, he knew it would most likely be his end. But he went for one reason and one reason only—it was his Father’s will.

Jesus would say; I do only what I see my Father doing. To do that he had to overcome both flesh and demon

Flesh and Demon

If Jesus came to this earth as a man to do one thing, that thing was to do the will of his Father. A mission that would be tested over and over again by his flesh and by the enemy. But Jesus would overcome both, telling his disciples as he had told Satan himself in the wilderness temptation, essentially;  ‘I am not here to satisfy the lust and cravings of the flesh, I am not here to glorify myself and ascend to any earthly throne or position.’

How many of us can say that?

Thy will

“Man does not live by bread alone but by every word which comes from God”

“To finish His work”? What was the work of his Father? To redeem mankind from its own foolishness that had caused him to forsake the creator in favor of the created. Jesus came to finish the job, to fulfill all that which the law and the prophets had foretold and foreshadowed. To be the seed of Eve that would crush the head of the serpent and to be the new Adam, restoring the life that the first Adam had lost.

What can we learn from this? Oh, I don’t know, maybe that if we want to accomplish the purpose of God for our lives we should seek and obey the will of God. Maybe that obedience to God’s will, will likely bring suffering, but it is worth it and leads to much greater things. Things like overcoming the evil one who thinks he’s so darn clever; seeing those we love get saved; seeing the kingdom of heaven be advanced through us; being glorified in the end—you know, small stuff like that. Stuff that Jesus exemplified and made possible for us by his obedience to the will of God. Obedience even to the point of shedding his blood, innocent blood, so that we could be over-comers as well.

lion

I read something in a fellow bloggers post recently that really struck a chord in me; Pastor Mario Murillo  -he said that most preachers are failing their congregations in these later days in not teaching them that they are capable of defeating the enemy themselves. I agree. We don’t have to depend on elders, preachers, priests or exorcists to defeat the enemy, to cast him from our presence and to end his influence and interference in our lives, interference that can take many, many forms.

One of the enemies’ greatest fears is that the church will wake up to the fact that each and everyone of us who follows the Living Lord, who has received his Holy Spirit, has the power to overcome him and thwart his plans of destruction and death.

James says it quite clearly and makes the point exactly.

 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7—8

The only way to conquer is to submit to God, submit to his will and draw near. You lean in to God, he will lean in to you, then nothing else will matter all that much, the suffering loses its sting and the victory sweet.

How do I know? –How do I know what is God’s will?

The short answer is; Come boldly before him and find out.

draw near

Available now Barbarians in the Kingdom 

It’s time to live your freedom, to live your victory.

book cover

Where is the Church?

Today, the children of crowded churches of the 80’ and 90’s are largely staying away from the churches, we are moving into a post church era, and the enemy is delighted.

‘You don’t need those hypocrites! You’re just fine, what else could you possibly learn anyway? Here, have an apple.’

apple meme

Keep the passion, renew the passion

When I first tasted true freedom in Christ I had a real passion that everyone should hear the good news. How can you resist the love of God, surely if everyone just heard the truth they will surrender also and find the joy that I have. I had considered myself a Christian for many years but I was always holding out, ‘my life is mine to do as I please and as long as I’m a good person, Lord, you just need to be fine with it.’ Well, that arrangement wasn’t working out so well for me. It just made me a slave to sin, anxiety and loneliness.

So when I finally, in desperation, surrendered completely to him saying ‘Lord, my life is yours, my heart is yours, I’m ready trust you completely and do your will, I’m tired of the pain, the partying that no longer satisfies and the pointless relationships and head games’—at that point I was indeed set free and experienced real life, real joy, real peace and real love from a God who turned out to be very real and very near.

I surrendered to his will and I couldn’t get enough. I loved going to church, bible studies, prayer groups, assembling together with the saints to be exhorted and to stir one another up. And I was indeed always stirred up in these gatherings.

23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10

I got baptized in water and experienced a supernatural work of the Lord as a result when  and set my mind free from the torment of my past, even becoming the Lord of my troubled dreams.

And I loved the worship, It seemed like I was stepping right into the very presence of God when I worshiped with the saints, singing the now familiar songs for the first time, coming boldly before the throne of grace, feeling his presence, hearing his voice, receiving direction and encouragement. Honestly, I have a hard time getting there anymore because I am usually too focused on what I am doing next as the preacher preparing to speak on the Lord’s behalf, but he always gives me something for you and that is what I am anointed in this season to do, so I’m okay with that.

But, I wonder if I have lost some of the zeal and passion to do God’s will. I think it is a symptom of following the Lord through so many valley’s, so many battle fields, that we get a little gun shy and just plain discouraged.

resist

We must remember that God’s primary will for this earth is that all should hear and know that Jesus Christ is Lord and that by no other name may we be saved—That all may know his love. Period.

That is why Jesus walked willingly where his Father led him, walked right into the hands of the enemy willingly, went to his sham trials, flogging and crucifixion, willingly—because his passion was for the lost. That was his passion because it was his Father’s will. Jesus lay  down his life both figuratively and literally to accomplish his Father’s will for his life. “Father, if it is possible, take this cup from before me, nevertheless, not my will but thine be done.”

will

Jesus surrendered his will, even his instinct to survive, in favor of the Father’s and he suffered mightily for it, but it was his victory, and ours.

35 Therefore do not cast away your confidence, which has great reward. 36 For you have need of endurance, so that after you have done the will of God, you may receive the promise. Heb 10

We cannot give up just because it’s hard. We must not lose our passion and desire to accomplish God’s will and purpose for his church, for us.

Stripes meme

Where’s the church?

Like I said, when I first surrendered to Jesus I wanted nothing more than to tell the world of his love. One day I hand printed a bunch of flyers full of verses proclaiming the Lordship of Jesus and went to the Jehovah Witnesses convention at the biggest arena in Billings. No other Christians were there that I saw, and, long story short, I ended up being escorted out by the elders, whom I witnessed to as I was being walked out to my car.

Where is the church? Was my biggest question. A couple of years later I was interviewed by a local Christian TV station about the jail ministry I was involved in. I was afraid to give out my phone number during the interview because I was sure once people heard of this opportunity we would be flooded with people who wanted to get involved. We needed more volunteers—surely people just need to know. But I didn’t want my phone ringing off the hook.

The station agreed to field the phone calls for me so we gave them their number. Not a single person called. My primary question was, where is the church?

I got very busy for many years going where the fields were ripe for the harvest, on the wrong side of the tracks, and noticed that it was always the same few people who were doing the same— where is the rest of the church?

The church was mostly staying where the music was polished and so was the preaching. ‘We don’t want to get dirty, those places are full of scary nasty things and people.’ Well, you know what? The fields with the most manure in them are the most fertile ones and they produce the best fruit.

There again, I haven’t gone down to tackle an arena full of Jehovah witnesses lately either. I haven’t been in the jails, prisons, shelters and youth detention centers for a few years now. Yes, as a pastor, I have a new assignment that keeps me busy, and that assignment is to urge the church, to urge you, and to equip you, to follow Gods will. And his will, again, is that all would be saved. But for anyone to be saved they must hear and to hear someone must be speaking the message and “blessed are the feet of those who bring good news.”

PD

 

Are your feet blessed? It’s more than reposting every cheesy Christian meme on Facebook. You have to get dirty.

We have to get together to encourage one another and then we must get out and share what we have—preferably together. The fields that are ripe for the harvest should be crowded with workers reaping the harvest for Jesus.

Much of my experience with going into the places where angels fear to tread, as me and one of my old ministry partners used to joke, took place during the 80’s and 90’s when many churches were busting at the seams, all the pretty people gathering together to see how many more people they could attract into their ever larger buildings.

Today, the children of those crowds are largely staying away from the churches, they are neglecting the gathering of themselves together and we are moving into a post church era, and the enemy is delighted. You can see it in our culture as the Bible and God’s ways—his will—is being spurned, mocked and even outlawed.

There are many reasons for this church exodus and I have talked to you many times about it, but they are all excuses that the Lord will surely not overlook as his word clearly says—Do not neglect the gathering of yourselves together, be sprinkled with the blood and washed with the water, come boldly before the throne. Hebrews 10

The fact that someone in a church somewhere let you down, that things got phony and powerless, that there might have been more programs then missions, things were contrived instead of inspired, the Spirit seemed to have been replaced by the script and the Pastor’s will took precedence over the Lord’s—all detrimental things to be sure—are not excuses the Lord will accept; the enemy will however. In fact he’ll help you come up with even more excuses.

‘You don’t need those hypocrites! Your just fine, what else could you possibly learn anyway? Here, have an apple.’

Oooh look, healing crystals and yoga classes.’

Who needs the church…well, maybe the church needs you. We need each other. “Wherever two or more are gathered, there I am in the midst of them” we need Jesus and together we are strong.

Let’s keep it real, let’s make sure the Holy Spirit is always welcome and let’s realize that it is up to us to take his word to the street, to the world, because the enemy is having a heyday there without us.

Go out there and kick the devils but all over the pavement, and the gravel. You have the power.

battle meme

Is it easy? No, but battles never are. But they have to be fought to win and the best equipped and most passionate army always wins, that is us—it you are willing.

We are in a battle for the very soul of this nation–of this world–we need you–be the church.

 

 

Love Complicates Everything

Why is love so hard?

Conscience

11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:11

It’s easy to get lost in the theology of all this as Hebrews really does get into the ways and means of God’s redemptive work on our behalf as he strives to bring us back to the garden, so to speak, to a place where we can once again be in fellowship with him.

Love Rules

But let’s remember why he does all this, why he didn’t just give up on us, brush us off the face of his earth and just start over with some more grateful and obedient beings. Why? Because he loves us and love complicates everything.

Love that matters, love that makes a difference, has to be forged and proven in the fires of adversity. It has to be chosen willingly and clung to against all that can oppose it and all that would tell you it’s not worth it. Love that stands despite all that would destroy it, love that is chosen even in the last hour after everything else is tried first, love that says I will do whatever it takes because I now see that it is worth fighting for, that is the love God wants because it is who He is. God is love and that unstoppable love is the kind of love he has for us.

That kind of love in return can only be generated in a heart that is free to chose against it, that kind of love can only come from a heart that can fail, and has failed so it knows the difference and now clings to it with all that it has. That kind of love can only come from a heart that knows what it’s like to be loveless, to be scorned, to know the guilt of a conscience that is screaming at it that it has failed to the point of no return—only to look up and see the eyes of the one who cares.

The one who would say to the woman who wept at his feet while the others mocked her—’they who are forgiven much, love much.’

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You did not anoint My head with oil, but this woman has anointed My feet with fragrant oil. 47 Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” Luke 7

God did not want brainless spineless wimps who love him because they don’t know how not to, because they don’t know there is a choice let alone make it, He wanted children created in his image, with all the nuanced complexity of thought, the passions of emotions that can make or break, the intellect to even question God himself as we decide we might even be smarter then He. No, God wanted real people with hearts that felt what He felt even if it would at times lead us astray as we outsmarted ourselves—so that we could love like he does.

And he proved it all to us by becoming us and walking in our shoes to show us the way he intended for us to live—totally in love with him and with our fellow man. That leaves no room for selfishness, rebellion, hatred or pride and thus by default eliminates sin.

Still Selfish

But we are not like that are we? Despite the example of Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God, we still do things out of selfishness, pride, hatred and rebellion—’you can’t tell me what to do, I need this for me, I know what is right and you had better not get in my way as I pursue my passion for what is right—you stupid liberal, or, you bigoted denier . . . I mean, have you heard about Jesus—he loves you?’

Epic fail. We are far from perfect, we do not deserve the love as we blunder through life walking the line between light and dark wondering why it always seems the dark has the loudest voice so often in our heads.

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But remember, it’s not what we do that makes us perfect, it’s what Jesus did. ‘with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.’

This is what I want you to see, this is all God really wants you to see, it is all he has ever wanted you to see—He loves you so much that he shed is own blood for you, gave his life, emptied himself of all pride, all power, all glory and became the worst of all we are, “He who knew no sin became sin that we might live.” While Jesus hung on that cross He took on himself all of the things that destroyed our relationship with God, all the things that our conscience loved to beat us up for and all the things the enemy delights in reminding us of, even though he may be the one that threw them in out paths to stumble on in the first place.

Jesus, love incarnate, who never failed in doing all that He did and saying all that he said because of his love for his Father’s lost lambs, became the perfect lamb that would be slain by hateful, angry, mocking and jeering crowds—why? Why would he do such a thing? Because he loves us and love overcomes all things—true love overcomes all things and God’s love is the truest thing in all of existence.

God grieves for us in our sins and engenders an incredible passion to do whatever is necessary to restore us and restore order to his creation, his order being love. And the final piece that would bring our peace was the sacrifice of his only Son.

22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sin. Heb 9:22

Cleansed

Under the old Covenant everything that was to be set aside as Holy; things and people set aside exclusively for use in the Temple had to be purified with blood. Blood is life, and life is the cost of sin. Life lost for love rejected. But on the contrary, and now under the new Covenant, Life gained for love accepted.

But what’s the difference, why can we now gain life and perfection? The difference is we have now been cleansed by blood that was perfect, blood that contained the life that is eternal, unblemished and indestructible.

The blood we have been sealed with by our acceptance of it’s sacrifice was offered willingly, unlike the sheep, goats and cattle that were offered as foreshadows of better things to come. Jesus gave freely of his life, experienced death so that we would not have to fear it as the end—because it was not the end of him. Death could not hold him because he shed the blood of the very author of life itself. The creator became the created to be destroyed by the created—but that was impossible.

But it didn’t matter because it satisfied the just requirement of the law nonetheless. Jesus was given the death sentence, by man and by God, and he died so the judgement was fulfilled, the sentence carried out. The fact that Jesus didn’t stay dead doesn’t reinstate the punishment, not for Jesus and not for us as Jesus died in our place.

God can now exonerate us of all charges and he hears no more accusations from the prosecution. The lawgiver handed down the sentence, the wages of sin is death, and he became a proxy for the accused and condemned to be executed and even die. But love overcomes all things—even death. And that love overcomes our death as well.

Love bears all

No hiding

So I may at times fail miserably, or at least feel like I have. I may want to hide away from God, ashamed and fearful because I know he knows how I really think, feel and act sometimes, but I don’t —I don’t get to fool God for another week. I can’t and I won’t try because I have a God who has proven to me over and over again that he loves me. He loves me more than I love my own kids, more than I love my grandkids, more that I love my wife—and I love all of those people with a love than can never ever die or be taken away.

In spite of my failures I cannot let anything or anyone stand between me and my Father. I love him with a love that overcomes all things as well, because he first loved me. And that is why I keep trying, day after day, I keep doing my best to live a life pleasing to my Father—not because I have to, but because I want to.

I am not perfect, not in my eyes, not in your eyes, I cannot be, but I never have to fear the rejection of my Father. Because in his eyes, the eyes of love, I am perfect. He sees the person I want to be, the person he is leading me to be, the person I am becoming by the power of his grace. Jesus has torn down the veil to the Holy of Holies and is showing me the way in. He has gone before me and made the sacrifice that purifies me so that I can receive the grace, love and strength I need to make it through even the valley of the shadow of death unscathed and still clean before him.

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Check out my latest book  Barbarians in the Kingdom

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Fooled ’em for Another Week

“that all too familiar fear of failure and judgement hit the pit of my stomach.”

14 how much more shall the blood of Christ,… cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:14

How’s your conscience? Now there’s a loaded question. “What? What do you mean? What do you know, who told you…?” We all have secrets, insecurities and guilt over something or other—don’t we?. It’s like the joke I’ve heard at work a few times and have even said myself, usually on pay day; “Well, fooled ‘em for another week!”

The inference being that if the people you work for knew just how unqualified, insecure and hapless you are they would get rid of you immediately. Of course it’s meant to be a joke but like any good joke, especially the ones based in sarcasm, my specialty, there is always a nugget of underlying truth that makes it funny in the first place. The reality is, most of us are a little insecure in our jobs, relationships, positions or what have you, and feel like if people really knew the real you, the secret battles that go on in your head and heart they would be aghast and ask you to hit the road Jack.

I know I find myself often lately in rooms full of people with engineering degrees, architectural degrees, PHD’s or whatever, owners of big companies and CEO’s and I think, what am I doing here?

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Especially when they are looking to me for input on how to make things happen on their big construction projects, like I’m the expert on every aspect of the project. Sometimes I just want to say; ‘I’m just a carpenter, don’t ask me’, but I can’t say that so I silently pray Lord help me not to make a fool of myself and I say what comes to mind.

Sometimes that leaves people a bit astounded, like, did you really just say that? Because I’ll tell you what, if you’re leaning on the Holy Spirit to guide you, combined with experience, truth comes out and it’s not always comfortable—yet it always gets the desired results and I walk away respected. Which, I suppose, is why I keep finding myself in those circles. But I’m always a bit insecure.

Or I’ll find myself surrounded by tradesmen, business owners and craftsmen asking me how they are supposed to make things work according to the plans that I am supposed to know every aspect of, and have or know where to get all the answers—and I think, How in the world did I get into this position? I just set out to be a hard working craftsman, to build things efficiently and with pride, and now I’m the Superintendent responsible for all this? Yikes!

The other day my boss called just on the heels of working through issues with the electrician, drywallers and plumbers back to back to back, and asked how it was going and I replied, “Well, I’m just solving all the problems of the world one subcontractor at a time.” Which it seemed to me at the time was exactly what I was doing, and he replied “sweet!”

That’s what I do most of the day, run around in circles and answer questions and solve problems all the while thinking; I could really mess things up here if I’m not paying attention or if I give answers that are beyond my authority or understanding to give. So, I’m still employed as of Friday—fooled ‘em for another week. And every day I continue to pray, “Lord give me wisdom to do my job well and bless my ministry as well, make sure I have plenty left for my church and family.”

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I often go home at the end of the day and wonder, and even cringe sometimes, thinking about some of my interactions with people throughout the day—I’ll tell you what, I don’t always feel very ‘pastorly’ when I’m pushing a big job and having to be the driving force behind a whole bunch of often difficult personalities all trying to work around, over, and with one another all day every day with the shared goal of meeting a deadline that always seems way too close.

Buttons

Buttons sometimes get pushed, and some people’s button are much easier to push. It takes a lot to push my buttons anymore to bring out the—“you don’t want to mess with me or you’ll be out of here in a heartbeat”—old school—“I don’t give a rip who you think you are” —foreman in me. But he’s in there and he serves a purpose. But I try to live by the old proverb that ‘a soft answer turns away wrath’ first and foremost because a hard answer invites push back that does indeed force your hand to play the hard ass card, and when that happens then I go home thinking, “Lord, did I totally just blow any chance of ever witnessing to that person?”

Are they now thinking, if they even know, ‘what kind of  pastor is he?’ What would the people I pastor think? ‘What do you think Lord?’ ‘Oh, man I’ve blown it again.’ —Here comes the accusations, the guilt and the temptations to just give up and give in.

Funny, I got home the other day and grabbed the mail. I noticed that I had a letter addressed to me from Foursquare, the big headquarters office in LA. That’s not unusual, but this one, this one made me uneasy right off the bat and I first didn’t realize why. I looked at it again and it was addressed to Dan Swaningson, yeah so? Well, most everything I get from Foursquare is addressed to Rev, Dan Swaningson. So you know the first thing that came into my mind? ‘Am I fired?’ Foursquare finally figured out that I am not qualified or worthy to pastor and they are stripping me of my title?

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I knew that wasn’t the case but isn’t that the way our minds work?-instant guilt, instant fear. My mind instantly flashed back to something I had written on a monthly report a couple months ago about the tight winter we had here—instant guilt and conviction. They’re going to replace me with a charismatic millennial in skinny jeans and a Prius rocking a man bun, and… Birkenstocks? —I don’t know, I’m not even hip enough to know what millennials wear, if it doesn’t say Wrangler, Stetson or Carhart on it I wouldn’t know if it came from the Dollar Store or from 5th Avenue, nor would I care.

So, I’m getting a it off track here, my point is, I panicked just a bit as that all too familiar fear of failure and judgement hit the pit of my stomach.

We are always a little afraid of getting into trouble, of maybe being found out like we have to hide who we really are, what we really think and probably some things we say or do, maybe I’m worse than most because of my codependent tendencies, but overall I think this is just human nature and part of our spiritual makeup. As we talked about last week, that’s the conscience pricking us, something it’s really good at.

Some of that may be the accuser whispering in our ears that we are miserable failures doomed to fail and to be cast aside by everyone who matters and by our God. And some of it is the legitimate feeling of guilt we have by virtue of having God’s laws and ways written in our minds and on our hearts.

10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: 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. Heb 8

We who know the law better than most because we care to read it and study it from our Bibles, often experience that guilt, fear and panic more than most. But that’s not the way it should be. We need to remember who we are, loved children of the Living God washed and guiltless before our Father by the blood of the Lamb of God—Jesus.

So, anyway, I didn’t get my ordination revoked so my church is stuck with this old redneck, cowboy shirt wearing preacher for now with no tattoos, an Ironworker vocabulary that I work hard to suppress every day, and a Pickup truck powered by Ford.

Turns out that letter was just a notice of some changes to my 401k and was from the financial dept at Foursquare, and their services being available to all paid staff across the board they don’t necessarily know or care who’s ordained and who’s not.

So, I’m fooled ‘em for another day. I’m still credentialed and okay to preach on Sunday—whew!

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