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.

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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.

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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?

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“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.

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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.

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Available now Barbarians in the Kingdom 

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

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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.’

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.”

Grandpa n Quiny

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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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?

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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.

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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

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

 

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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?

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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.

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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. . .