Alive in Him

alive in him

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… Ephesians 2

Isn’t it good to be alive? Seriously, life is a precious gift. The ability to appreciate the beauty around us, to enjoy the smells, sounds  and sights of this amazing world we were placed in. The tastes of good food whether it’s the everyday bacon, eggs and coffee or whatever it is you have for breakfast—Wheatiesor the unique taste of the first burger of the season cooked on the BBQ after a long winter, or a special birthday cake fixed just for you.

I love the smell of new spring growth, the freshness of the rain, and the smell of fresh cut grass, the sound of a creek flowing over a rocky stream bed and on and on—it’s good to be alive and to have the ability to enjoy and appreciate the wonders of even the simplest things in life—all of them are a gift from God.

The gift

Life is a gift, a gift that comes with gifts. If we don’t enjoy this gift of life it’s no one’s fault but our own. No matter what is going on in your life, the pressures of family or work, the bills that need to be paid, the ailments that come and go, we can all step outside in the morning, lift our eyes to heaven, feel the sun on our face or see the wonders of the stars and say ‘thank you Lord, it is indeed good

It is good

—your creation is very good. Help me to be alive in it today, thank you for giving me life, help me live it today as a gift from you.’

Strange song

I love it in the spring when the song birds come back from the southern haunts. I never consider it to be spring until I hear the song of a meadow lark. I have been blessed to live where their songs fill the air about the time winter is making it’s last desperate attempts to hang on just a little longer, but to no avail, as the sun climbs a little higher into the Big Sky every day.

When we first moved to Carbon County near Red Lodge MT we thought there was something strange about the meadowlarks here. They sounded great but their song is a little different then the Meadowlarks we had been hearing for so long on Blue Creek just 30 miles away. It really bothered our daughter Danielle, she wanted to go out and teach them the right melody. I don’t know if it’s a learned thing that differs from region to region or what it is. The song is still beautiful but they just end on a different note and drop a warble on the end, like they forgot the last verse.

Nevertheless I have truly come to appreciate the song of the Meadowlarks that come stay with us each summer. There is one that likes to perch on top of the phone pole in our backyard and sing his heart out. It always amazes me that such a tiny bird can make such a big sound. You can be driving down the road at highway speeds with your window cracked open and hear the song of a meadow lark like you are standing right next to it.

I don’t personally know any meadowlarks, I mean, I’ve never sat down and visited with one, they’re pretty shy and not much for sharing and honestly, I don’t know if the bird that appears on our phone pole is the same one every year, or from day to day for that matter. They all look the same to me. Yet, there is one who does know those birds. In fact, he knows all the birds, and cares about them.

The one who created them, the only one who could have created such amazing creatures—I mean, feathers, flying, migrating, singing, surviving, even flourishing through the worst of natures wrath and challenges—that someone who always has his eye on the tiniest sparrow is, of course, God.

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Jesus would use this fact to teach us how valuable we are to God and to encourage us to not be afraid of anything this world would throw at us.

“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:4

Fear no other

Fear God and no other.

The only one a human being created in the image of God should fear is the creator. Yet we, who recognize just how valuable we are to Him, who are unable to be destroyed because our life is now in Christ, have nothing to fear from God nor the enemy.

That’s the point of all that Jesus came to do and teach, and is what Paul is telling us in Ephesians. We are alive, we cannot be destroyed, and we have nothing to fear for we are loved and always will be. Even at deaths’ door when this flesh is used up or destroyed, we are just opening the door to Jesus Christ and our eternity with him, seated in the heavenly places.

As I was praying about this message, and why I delved into the sparrow thing, is because of what the Lord gave me for you to share this week as relates to what we are studying in Ephesians this week.

“My eye is on the sparrow, my hand is on your heart. I am the air you breath and the song you sing.” HS

As we just read from the words of Jesus, not a single sparrow goes unnoticed by God nor is forgotten, yet we are so much more valuable to him and our hearts are in his hands. Our heart is our life, the seat of our emotions, the temple of the Holy Spirit—in scripture heart is synonymous with the soul—the real us within the tent of flesh that we live in.

So if his hand is on our hearts, then our life is His and in His control and care—we just have to learn to trust that.

If we look to God for the song in our hearts, it will be there as surely as the air we breathe.

Barbarians in the Kingdom

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Blessings in Heavenly Places

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy… Ephesians 1

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Wow, how’s that for a promise here on this mother’s day weekend? Somewhere a while back (I tried to Google it but I think it happened before the internet took over our lives) someone coined the phrase “Ephesians, the breakfast of Champions.” An obvious rip off of the Wheaties slogan, but it was memorable and through the years whenever I read from Ephesians I think of that, “breakfast of champions”—Ephesians truly is. I plan to be exploring it here over the next few weeks.

It’s such a powerful book and it really lays it all out there; who we are in Christ, what we have, and how to live a life of victory. From the mystery of God’s will and grace revealed in the opening chapter that won the war for our souls, to the armor of a warrior given us at the end that we may win the battles in our own lives.

Better Eat your Wheaties

Does anyone eat Wheaties anymore? The idea behind their slogan obviously, was that if you ate Wheaties for breakfast you would be a winner, you would have energy and stamina to win and they always put a picture of a sports champion on the cover. If you get your picture on the front of a box of Wheaties you are truly at the top of your game. It was a common expression once that if you were going to have a big day the next day, someone, your boss or a coworker would say; “We got a lot of work to do tomorrow, you better eat your Wheaties!”

I just don’t eat cereal anymore, wheat cereal gives me heartburn and I discovered I am allergic to milk, so, no more Wheaties for me. But I start my day with Scripture, oatmeal and eggs so I’m good. Food to fortify the body and the spirit for the challenges of the day. So I guess in this day when it seems every day seems to bring bigger and tougher challenges for those who are trying to walk with the Lord we need to remind one another, “Better eat your Ephesians—devour the word of God!” We can’t live in and claim every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places if we don’t know what they are.

You eat breakfast every day, your body demands it, feeding your soul daily is just as, and probably more, important. After all, man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. We need to move those blessings from heaven into our own souls.

Speaking of blessings-

Mothers are indeed a blessing sent from Heavenly places and any good mother would agree that her greatest blessings are her children. So remember your mothers today, your love and time are her heart’s treasures.

Does anyone do breakfast in bed for their mothers on Mother’s Day anymore? When I was a kid that was the big thing on mother’s day, to bring your mother breakfast in bed. Some of those breakfasts were pretty scary to be sure but it was the thought that counts. I mean, if little kids were good cooks they wouldn’t need mothers right?

I remember my sister and I fixing my mother breakfast starting when we were pretty young. Before we were old enough to cook we would bring her a bowl of cereal, maybe even Wheaties, it might have been Captain Crunch, that was my favorite, a glass of orange juice and toast and who knows what else, maybe a banana.

I do remember my sister being in charge of the toast. The only breakfast I really remember was one that involved very dark, pretty much burnt, toast. We put it all on a try and carried to my mother’s bedroom and watched while she tried to eat from a tray perched on her lap without spilling all over the bedspread while proclaiming to my anxious sister that she loved her toast just that way.

Most mothers who have seen their babies grow up too fast would give anything to hear those little feet coming down the hallway with a tray full of something that resembles breakfast just once more. Messy kitchens, spilled milk and all.

Never mind the messes because messes that are made in an effort to love are not messes at all, they are evidence that someone who loves you cares enough to show it.

I never heard my mother complain about the mess we surely left behind, I only remember the feeling of joy we got from feeling like we made her day special. We felt loved.

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…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, Ephesians 1:4—5

God knew who our children would be long before we did. God already had a plan for each and every one of us and he knew all of us even before He knit us together in our mother’s wombs.

God also knew who would be His children also, those who would accept the invitation to be adopted as his. Adoption was predestined for those who would answer his call and our showing up to honor him as our Father gives him great pleasure, it is his will for us to stand before him blameless, even though we all know there are messes somewhere not too far behind us.

God chose us to be his children knowing that we have and would make messes; burn the toast and maybe be banging on the door way too early in the morning with our meager offerings that seldom outshine the messes we left in the other room. But what he sees is someone who is blameless and holy because he has adopted us because it was his pleasure to do so and it is his will to love us.

And that is what keeps us trying, that is what keeps us from giving up, giving in and gives us the strength, the desire, and the motivation to keep fighting the good fight of faith and to continue seeking the Father through Jesus Christ for the empowerment through the Holy Spirit to be his champion.

We are the champions for Jesus our King. And we cannot loose, we will not lose because the victory is secured. In the end we will receive our inheritance and we have his Spirit within us as a guarantee that all these promises are to be counted on.

Sealed meme

Cow Pony My Eye!

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Meanwhile, back at the ranch;

Years ago, in my younger days on the Heyu-cow Ranch, it came time to move our cows from the lower pasture to the upper pasture and onto better grass, not an unusual occurrence, problem was, we were between horses- in other words we did not have any working cow horses at the time to round up the cows in the 130 acre pasture so that we could push them up the back road to the upper pasture, or as we called it;  up on the hill.

Not to worry, a guy I was working with at the time offered to bring out his horses to help us out.  “They’ll make fine cow ponies” he assured me.  So early in the morning on what would turn out to be a very hot Saturday my buddy Ray showed up with his young son, pulling a trailer loaded with three big stout horses.  They looked like they would do the job.  Ray saddled up two of them for his son and him and I threw my saddle on the third.

Off we went down the road to the lower pasture with my wife Donna following in the pickup to help lead the cows once we got them on the road.  The lower pasture is pretty rough- badlands, but this just added to the fun and we got the cows and calves rounded up and moving toward the gate without a lot of trouble but I did discover in the process that the horse I was riding had no cow sense whatsoever and in fact only wanted to follow Rays horse.

Ray informed me that he had never actually worked cows with these horses before, he used them for trail rides in the mountains and his horse was usually in the lead while the one I was riding was always following, oh well, at least my cows knew what to do, most of them anyway…

We got the pairs moved up the hill to the corner gate and got them all through, all that is except for three heifer calves.  The cows had hustled right through the gate knowing it meant they were headed toward greener pastures and most of the calves had followed on their heels but the three that lagged behind, having lost momentum, hesitated at the gate, as far as they could remember they had never been beyond this point and were not about to just run through it into the great unknown- gate or no gate, wannabe cowponies or no.

Before we could turn them on our mountain muscled trail horses they had skirted around us and headed back down the hill away from the gate and away from the rest of the herd who was already on the road and eager to go, then I made a big mistake; I told Donna to go ahead and lead the cows on up the road and that we would catch up with her after we got the renegade heifers turned around and out the gate behind them, those of you who work cows already know where this is going, don’t you?!

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Once a critter gets separated and loses sight of the herd there is no convincing them to explore strange new worlds, to boldly go where no cow has gone before.  These heifer calves were determined to stay put in that pasture, somehow convinced that the herd had to be in there somewhere because, well, they just always had been.  There are few things dumber than a heifer calf.

Anyway so here we go, two construction workers and a 11 year old boy on our trail horses to round up three wild eyed calves from 130 acres of badlands whose herd had disappeared off the edge of the earth.  We lit out after them- trying to get around them, the horses actually holding up quite well for as hot as it was but just not cut out for this task.

I was getting more and more frustrated as my horse was constantly fighting me just wanting to follow Rays horse rather than my signals.  At one point the heifers ran up a steep hill with Ray in hot pursuit up the trail.  I tried to follow him up the same trail, the terrain was quite rough and the trail was by far the best way to get up this hill, but after Rays horse got to the top of the hill and out of sight my horse panicked.

In spite of my attempts to keep him on the trail that kinda cut diagonally up the hill he insisted on running all out- straight up the hill, apparently I was just along for the ride.  Well we got to the top of the hill in record time and still upright, the problem came when we got to the top of the hill; he was so focused on powering straight up this hill to catch up with his leader that he forgot to quit running uphill once we crested the top.

The hill suddenly leveled out and he was suddenly pawing the air reaching for the next step- which was not there- guess what happened then; he fell flat on his face rear over teakettle and sent me flying on over his head where I landed on my shoulder, having had time to half turn in midair to avoid landing on my face. I quickly got to my feet, as did the horse who seemed no worse for the wear, unlike myself, and grumbling; “Cow pony my eye!”  I climbed back on.

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Ray and his son came back looking for me after having lost the calves and I told them to “forget about the calveswe had better catch up with the rest of the herd before Donna has a bigger problem with cows scattered all over the neighborhood.”

So nursing a sore shoulder and a bruised inner thigh from the saddle horn that had made a lousy airbag, we got the herd where they belonged, rode back to the house, got the horses unsaddled and cooled down from their work and loaded back in the trailer.  I thanked Ray and sent him on his way, thinking to myself behind a forced smile, “cow ponies my eye!”  I than jumped in the truck and drove down the road to see what had become of our renegade heifers.

After we had given up on them apparently they had a change of heart and had walked through the open gate on their own.  I met them trotting down the road about a ¼ mile from the gate to the upper pasture bawling for their momma’s who were standing by that  gate calling for their calves.  All I had to do was follow them and open the gate to let them in when they got there.

I learned a lot that day about cows, calves, horses, the importance of holding pens, and the soreness I had for the next several days made sure I remembered the lessons, chief among them, don’t move cattle with a horse who will not heed it’s rider!

Don’t let the name fool you, a trail horse is not the best choice for  trailing cows!

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Thots

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  John 15

That horse, whose name I forgot long ago, had no inkling whatsoever to listen to me.  As far as he was concerned I was just along for the ride.  He thought he had it all figured out; “I’ll just do what I have always done- follow the other horses.”  That wasn’t working here in the badlands.

He didn’t know me, he acted like he trusted me at least until it was important, when I tried to get him to veer from his chosen course and save us from a wreck, because of that we didn’t get the job done, we had to leave calves behind and got hurt in the process.

Sound familiar?  How many times have we said we trust the Lord, that we will do what he says and go where we sends, until it comes time; “But Lord, everyone else is doing it this way, everyone else is going that way!”  So we fight against the bit and just go where we had planned to go anyway suddenly finding ourselves disoriented and in a heap on the ground not even hearing the Spirit say- “Now why did you do that?” Instead we huff and puff and complain that the Lord steered us wrong.

“It can’t be my fault, that’s the way I’ve always done it, that’s the way everyone else does it!”

Being Spirit led is a lot like being broke to neck reign, just a light touch on the side of the neck and a sharp horse who trusts the rider will turn the instant it feels the leather shift- after a while even anticipating the reins by the shift in body weight and a squeeze of the knees.  A Spirit led believer will move as soon as it feels the Spirit signal, even anticipating the nuances of the Spirits movements in our hearts.

This happens only if you truly trust the Lord, if you are truly open to his leading and the more you do, the more you will trust him and the easier it is to follow, even into the unexpected, until it becomes second nature.  A good cow pony absolutely delights in getting to work cows and will just about turn inside out with anticipation when it sees it’s rider coming toward him with a saddle, the job gets done with no stress, little pain and a pure sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that makes any pain or soreness worthwhile and even more prepared for the next mission.

A lazy, unresponsive cowpony will get left in the corral until his wrangler gets fed up with wasting good feed on him and sells him to the folks down the road who want a cheap lethargic horse to entertain their grandkids.

 

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Listen to the voice, the counselor whether you turn to the left or the right, even if you have always done it that way and even if the rest of the herd is out of sight.  We are the church of Jesus Christ, we are the body, we are born again spirit led disciples of the living God.  Who are we listening to, who are we trusting, who are we following?- the answer had better be, The LORD.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way;( walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

 

The Substance of Faith

“nothing has never spawned something by the power of no one”

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     Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb 11

Faith. We all struggle with faith at times don’t we? Of course that can be a pretty broad statement, “I struggle with faith.” That can mean anything from struggling to believe that God will fulfill a specific promise to you, to believing that he hears your prayers, to believing that he even exists. Faith is always difficult if we think we have to muster it all up on our own—we really don’t, depending on what you are trying to have faith in or for anyway.

Faith is an interesting and even puzzling thing. The simple definition of faith is that it is a belief in something or someone. It helps of course to have evidence for our faith, like; I have faith politicians in Washington will be adamantly opposed to whatever someone from the opposite party comes up with because they always are—that’s a pretty sure bet.

I have faith that the sun will come up tomorrow and that winters in Montana will be cold—and way too long. Faith—it’s not complicated, usually, unless you are talking about faith that comes from the heart instead of the head because the head always wants to mess it up.

Yet, here we are, many of us, Sunday after Sunday, gathered together for one reason—faith. Faith in a resurrection that we didn’t witness, faith in a God that we have never seen and faith in a promise that we will one day be resurrected also. But why would we believe in something that we cannot see or feel? Why would we waste our time and mental energy dwelling on and clinging to something that we believe just because?

Because the faith we enjoy as children of God, as those who believe that God so loved the world that “He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”—is more than just a belief, it’s more then just a hope, it’s a gift from the God in whom we have put our faith.

When we take that small step toward God saying; “Lord I want to believe, I want to know you, I want to be have that hope of salvation, even resurrection kind of faith that knows that it knows”— he gives it to us.

It becomes real, it becomes tangible, it becomes a part of us—literally, because it is more than just a thought pattern, it is a Spiritual renovation that affects every fiber of our being. Jesus called it being born again. It’s a fresh start, a rebirth, a resurrection in it’s own right. A resurrection of the heart, a resurrection of the dead spirit that was killed off by sin and darkness, fear, doubt and rebellion—that spirit now replaced by the Holy Spirit of the Living God. You have to want faith to have it, “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief!”  at that point faith becomes real.

Real

My faith is just as real to me, just as tangible to me, just as undeniable as my own flesh and blood—even more so. I sometimes look at myself in the mirror and think, are you for real? How can you be so stupid, so weak, so easily angered, fooled and tempted? And how can you be so old all of a sudden—seriously—who are you?

My flesh and blood lets me down quite regularly but my Jesus never does. Jesus is real, his Spirit within me is real and he sees the real me that wants, that yearns to be with  him, to live in his will and ways knowing that in him my flesh will be and is overcome. As long as I cling to Jesus, keep the faith, his peace and joy is always within reach. And I can look in the mirror and even like what I see—because I see someone who is loved, just as I am.

I can look into the eyes staring at me from the mirror and see the life behind them that is Jesus.

For now I see but a reflection of Jesus as though in a mirror, dimly. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Cor 13:12) But I can rest assured that I will one day see him face to face. Because our faith is real, our faith is alive, our faith is Jesus.

Evidence

Substance

I believe because my faith has substance. It has manifest itself in my life countless times. And my faith is my evidence, even in and of itself. Aside from all that just the wonder of this world, that there even is a world, is evidence. The one I have faith in created all that we can see. It only makes sense that it all had to come from somewhere—nothing has never spawned something by the power of no one—so it only makes sense that there had to be a beginning somewhere at which point nothing became everything at the word of someone.

Only God can speak substance into a vacuum and wind up with an entire universe, and only God can speak life into the vacuum of your heart and create hope. Our hope is found in Jesus, the Son of God, Son of Man.

Jesus gave his life to give you yours, claim your hope, claim Jesus as your own-he wants nothing more than to claim you.

Luke 4

You are Loved, just as you are.

Stand Firm- (with puppies)

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

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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?

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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.

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‘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.

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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.

 

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.

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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.