Healed by Grief

“Pain caused by pain healed by pain.”

Easter 18v

Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted. Mat 5:4

I’m sure many of you recognize this verse as a saying of Jesus from the sermon on the mount. It’s become so familiar to us that we often just gloss over it and don’t really think about the impact of the statement, or it just becomes an empty platitude that we use to comfort the grieving, like a Hallmark greeting, kind of a ‘there, there, it’ll be all right’— but really; what is that comfort?

When you have lost someone you love, when you cannot imagine facing another day without your husband, your wife, your child, your parent, your best friend—anyone you love and depend on to be there in your life—when they are suddenly and irreversibly gone; what is that comfort that Jesus promised us here?

It is, of course, the resurrection. It is the life that we know cannot be snuffed out because of the very thing that we celebrate today—the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As the great old Hymn says, “because he lives I can face tomorrow.” I will be comforted, because I know my redeemer lives. I know that I too will l live and that I will be reunited with all those who go before me and all those I leave behind and my grief will seem but a moment in the light of eternity together.

He is Risen

That first resurrection morning the followers of Jesus were in serious grief mode but their sorrow was turned into joy, they were indeed comforted when they heard the reports of the women who discovered the empty tomb and then shortly thereafter when Jesus visited them on several occasions after his resurrection. It is one of the most talked about and documented events in human history—and it changed everything—everything.

It changed the course of human history and the way we see life and death. It made all of Jesus’ radical teachings of love and mercy, forgiveness and charity a part of the human consciousness. For surely without the resurrection it would have all been quickly forgotten by a cruel and selfish world where only the strong and the most violent ruled or had influence. It brought hope to the hearts of humankind, it brought life and it brought healing.

But most importantly, it was a healing, a healing of our relationship with our God, an eternal healing of our dead and dying spirits. In the here and now it offers a healing to or hearts, our minds, and our flesh if we are willing to believe and seek it. But it is a healing that was purchased at the cost of incredible pain, sorrow and grief, a grief that we often don’t recognize like we should and a cost that is so great we can never comprehend it—a cost that was borne by our God.

Greif is pain and pain can only be healed by pain. It is one of those unwritten laws of the universe. God knows this, God grieves over this—and God himself bears the pain that ends the pain.

We in our frail flesh and limited perception sometimes experience what we think is pain beyond bearing, but we always have hope, there is always an end to our pain, and there is always a purpose. It is seldom on purpose, but our God always finds a way to use it for good for those who love him, for those who are called according to his purpose. We may not understand it nor always believe it but it helps to know that we have a God who does, who suffered and suffers, more than we can ever know.

God the Father knows the pain of loss.

Jesus was taken to a hill outside the city and is nailed through his hands and feet to a rough, blood stained wooden cross. He is then raised up from the ground and left hanging there to die a slow miserable death as the people he had come to save look on, some in horror— some in glee, most in indifference, ‘another day, another crucifixion.’ But there is one watching who is far from indifferent, his Father.

God the Father is watching his very son, the one through whom, for who and by whom he had created all things, become everything ugly and filthy in this evil and messed up world as all of the filth, all of that rebelliousness, all of the selfishness and foolishness that had separated mankind from him so long ago, forcing him to dwell behind a blackout curtain in a tiny room in a stone temple just to be near his people, all of that sin was being placed on his Son as he hung bleeding and gasping for breath on that cross made from wood he had created and even learned to shape with his hands.

be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:20,21

We know of course why he did it, so that we could be reconciled to him. But think about it, the sacrifice that this was, the sheer magnitude of the pain and the grief it must have caused both the Father and the Son was for the first time in all of eternity past, the Son was being separated from the Father, separated by the thing most abhorrent to a holy God who is love, sin, the epitome of all things evil and dirty.

He whose Spirit when on the earth dwelled behind a covering of cloth when in the midst of sinful humanity was now seeing his own Son become the thing he had been forced to punish over and over again—his heart breaking every time.

Jesus Christ Crucifixion on Good Friday Silhouette

The Father was now being forced to confront his Holy and perfect Son, suffering immensely on the cross, but now enveloped—so immersed in our sinfulness that he became the embodiment of sin, and he had to deal to him the punishment that the law of a just and righteous God demanded; separation from God the Father. Complete separation from all things good, from love, from light itself— true and total death. The light of the world became darkness, life became death and the Father had to turn away.

As a result the heavens went dark, the sun refused to shine and the earth itself trembled and God the Son cried out in anguish rending the heavens with his cries “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

The Father’s heart breaks at that moment, absolute, unspeakable— ‘there are no words to describe the pain, grief and anguish I feel’— heart break. Then Jesus cries out with a loud voice, takes his last breath and he is gone

The Father looks down and see’s the bloody robe of his son in the hands of the soldiers as they look up at the one whom they have pierced and his anguish and grief demand an outlet and he finds a way, the same way that Joseph’s father Israel had expressed his anguish at the sight of his son’s bloody robe so many centuries ago—Rip!

And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.

38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Mark 15:37—38

lightning

The very real, very costly and very heavy cloth veil that separated God from man, that hid his glory from sinful eyes that would never bear up under the sight of seeing a perfect and holy God in his glory, is literally ripped from top to bottom. This was more than just symbolic of the separation between God and man being taken away, the timing says to me that this was God saying ‘I am hurting beyond words at the death of my Son and this is my way of expressing it to you.

Grief

God the Father, at the time of his Son’s death was experiencing inexpressible anguish and grief—“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!?” It was about all the Father could take but he could not intervene, he could not reach out to his Son, this had to be done—for us. All he could do at the moment to express his grief to the universe was to rip his robe. The one thing that had separated all of humanity from seeing him, just as our own clothing hides us.

The rending of the veil, in the end, come to have a much greater meaning. One that would also facilitate our healing, even God’s anger has a higher, loving purpose. For in God’s grief we would find our salvation, our healing, our reconciliation, in the grief of the one who loves us, a grief that we had caused.

God’s grief would later be assuaged by the resurrection of his Son and his return to glory, as Jesus, who had never sinned, who was indeed the Son of God and the Son of man was able to overcome death because death had no claim to him.

And God now rejoices in the reconciliation of all his children back to him—and offers healing for our grief and pain.

Pain caused by pain, healed by pain.Tunnel

 

 

 

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Equal and Respected

“There is no room for the subjugation or devaluing of anyone in God’s

Kingdom. . . “

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The following is an excerpt from my newly released book; Barbarians in the Kingdom

I C O N T E N D T H A T Barbarism is a state of mind, one

the kingdom needs—as long as it is a state of mind that is subject to

Christ. As we saw earlier, the name barbarian was originally a term

used to designate a group of people: those unconquered and uncivilized

tribes living north of the mighty Roman empire. In later centuries those

now “civilized” barbarians would reassign this term to reference the

Norsemen who would pour out of the north, taking what they wanted

and answering to no one. We now know them as Vikings. The sword

and the battle ax was their law—at least in regard to the world outside

of their own communities.

Within their villages and clans they did live by a code of conduct, a

strict and honorable code of conduct that honored and protected women

and children and ensured that all could live in security and that they

each had a voice. Within this codified culture, as in nearly all barbarian

cultures, the women had an equal voice and were respected. Many of

them fought alongside the men in battle and some even led men in

battle; hence the venerated shield maidens—a misnomer, as according

to the Norse sagas they did much more than hold shields and bat their

eyes; they led warriors from the front.

The lower class?

It’s really a notion that comes along with civilization, advanced learning,

and religious regulations, that the women should be subjugated and

diminished to a lower class of citizen. We saw that in ancient Israel—a

very patriarchal culture—and in our own country’s not-so-ancient

history. Until just a few generations ago, women couldn’t even vote, and

if they chose to work outside of the house their options were few as they

were relegated to being nurses, teachers, waitresses, or secretaries. We

now see that religious expression of female subjugation to the extreme

in much of Islam where, under Sharia law, women are little more than

livestock.

God has an answer to that: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there

is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all

one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28 NKJV).

Paul reiterates this to the Colossians: “ . . . and have put on the

new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him

who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor

uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and

in all” (Col. 3:10–11 NKJV).

There is no room for the subjugation or devaluing of anyone in God’s

kingdom, and again we see the barbarian put on an equal footing with

the “oh so philosophical” Greek and the spiritual and meticulously pious

Jew. Everyone—man, woman, slave, and free—is equal in the kingdom

of God among those who put their hope in Christ. So again I ask the question.

Why do we strive to emulate the “Greek” and the “Jew”—the

sophisticated and the religious?—“Let’s debate and argue theology until

we don’t even remember what the debate is about anymore, and let’s

see how many more rules and rituals we can cram into our written, and

unwritten, personal books of do’s and don’ts until we get so caught up

in the doing, so hung up in the nuances of our theological bents, that

we forget what the purpose of it all was in the first place.”— that we

can no longer see the forest for the trees.

According to this scripture, there is no advantage to being one over

the other, for our identity is now in Christ. The woman should not strive

and desire to be like the man. The Greek should not try to become the

Jew; the barbarian should not try to emulate—to try to act like someone

they are not—as though we must fit into a certain mold; “I must be

sophisticated and highly educated like the Greek. I have to be a shining

example of religious perfection like the God-fearing Jew—always seeking.” barbarian-meme

The point is, be who you are! That’s what this is saying.

If you are of the barbarian persuasion—then be the barbarian! That

is the simplicity of purpose. You cannot spend your life trying to be

someone you are not. If you commit yourself to Christ as a barbarian

and he welcomes you into his arms of love, then be the best barbarian

for Christ that you can be. He loved and called you for who you are. It’s

hard enough to keep the flesh at bay and try to keep the Spirit prevalent

in our hearts—we don’t need to make it all but impossible by trying to

be someone we are not. Playing yourself in the drama of life is much

simpler than playing someone else—someone you wish you were, or

were told you must be.

BAR COVER

Buy now at Amazon.com

 

Invest in Yourself

 

 reading bible

“Maybe I could have my own show on the History Channel;The curse of Matchbox County.’”

Seeing Space X launch a Tesla driven by a spacesuit clad mannequin into orbit around the sun a few weeks ago got me to thinking about the– too long ago– 1969 moonshot. I remember very well watching it on our big console color TV, I have no doubt that every American with a television, which was everyone by then, was watching this unfold with, “I’m Walter Cronkite and that’s the way it is.” I remember staying up late with my mom and stepdad watching and waiting for Neil Armstrong to emerge from the Eagle and take that first step on the dusty grey surface of the moon.

I remember my stepdad commenting as we were watching the Eagle land that it might just sink out of sight in the dust, because, how do we know what the moon is made of? It didn’t, but it got my 8 year old mind to worrying that the astronauts might just jump out of the landing capsule and sink out of sight in dry lunar quick sand. I had watched Tarzan movies—it could happen! Quick sand is everywhere! “Don’t struggle, I’ll throw you a vine!”

But, all we got is “one small step for man” and life went on, no quick sand, no aliens, no moon bases from which to explore the galaxy like we all read about in Isaac Asimov’s books.

Thinking back on this got me replaying my childhood in my mind as I tried to remember other things about my life in this time period, life was so much different back then in so many ways. But it was a good time to be a kid, a very good time, us kids were free and we were many— in the baby boom. Hard to believe it’s been a half a century ago now, and now I understand how some of those folks who went from horse and buggy days to seeing a man land on a moon on TV must have felt.

invest meme

Most of us have more technology, computing capability and access to information in our back pockets then the entire control room at NASA combined during those moon landings and certainly more than the spacecraft themselves did and satellites track our every move via those same devices we willingly carry. To me the memories of my childhood when social networking meant gathering on the corner to decide teams for the next impromptu game of baseball, football or hockey, are treasures. But they are fading and I was having a hard time reconciling some of the dates with my memories. But, then my memory hasn’t always been infallible either, like remembering where I buried my treasure in our back yard.

Buried Treasure

As a young child my treasure was Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, especially the Hot Wheels—now they were awesome. Little diecast cars in futuristic sleek shiny styles, an inch and a half of pure fantasy as you imagined owning a car just like that someday.

I would save up my dimes and nickels and when I got a dollars’ worth, me and my buddy, would ride our bikes down to Main Street in the small town we lived in and go into the basement of Gambles all by ourselves, the basement was where all the toys were—it was heaven. But all I was really interested in was the rack off to one side with all the Hot Wheels cars hanging on display in all their glory.

99¢ apiece, ironic that that is pretty close to what they still cost today, but these were American made, hand painted, state of the art cutting edge toys in the late 60’s. If you picked just the right one you would be the envy of the neighborhood and the bartering power it gave you was unmatched.

But then one day I started to get worried. What if I play with my cars so much that I get tired of them?—shutter the thought. So I had a solution. I put them all in a metal Batman lunch box, well most of them, and buried them in the back yard under the big pine tree. No one will ever find them there and next summer I can dig them up and it’ll be like having brand new cars all over again. Brilliant! Then winter came and froze the ground and covered it with a few feet of Northern Minnesota snow.

Then we moved across town—before the snow melted. Whoops. Of course I couldn’t tell my folks what I did, not that it would have mattered, it would have just made me look foolish. Well, I certainly didn’t get tired of them, in fact I had to start a new collection, oh well, maybe someday like Black beard the Pirate I will return for my lost buried treasure. Maybe I could have my own show on the History Channel;The curse of Matchbox County.’

I kind of doubt that after a half century in the wet Minnesota soil there is much left of my tin lunch box or my cars. And, actually I did return a couple of years later. Turns out my parents didn’t sell that house, they just rented it out and we moved back into it for a while after selling our new house in preparation to move to New Mexico. My excitement of moving back to treasure Island was short lived though, because the huge Pine tree I had buried my treasure under was gone and try as I might I could not find that box of cars.

Besides, you can only get away with digging so many holes in your backyard before your parents take issue. The lost treasure remains lost. Those cars are probably worth a fortune on eBay today if I did still have them. Oh well, in the end all turns to dust and rust right?

Dust and rust, now there’s a picture of futility, but that is the way of it. It’s a good thing that we do have something that we can hold on to, something that is worth more than we can ever repay or imagine and can never be lost or stolen—the word of God planted in our hearts, in our heads, in our souls—life giving, hope inducing, healing and strengthening, and always right where we left it untarnished and safe.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Mat 6:19—21

Word meme

It is amazing and a testament to its inspired nature that the word of God remains relevant, powerful and meaningful even today for those who take the time to look into it and explore their own hearts in light of it. That’s because no matter our surroundings we are still humans with feeling, fears and passions with a capacity to love, hurt and dream just as Adam and Eve and every person who has ever lived since has. And that is what the word addresses, the heart.

It is the word of a God whose image we are created in so it will always be relevant. Knowing it is an investment in ourselves—in eternity.

 

Tag, You’re It!

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What if everything we are doing is for the next generation. Are we okay with that? Therein lies the problem. I think we have a tendency to be shortsighted— ‘I don’t want to cause my kids any grief’—while we are ill equipping them for the future. And we are still primarily focused on what we can get out of it, I want the best for my kids!— maybe so, but you also want the best for yourself—right here, right now, no conflict, no patience required.

We are all about Instant gratification. No one saves money anymore, no one writes and mails letters, no one lays up stores for the winter.

A lot of people can’t even wait for their coffee to perk anymore, they’ve got to have a Keurig or a Starbucks drive thru and the most popular shows on TV are the ones where people become instant superstars like American Idol, The Voice, America’s got Talent—because who wants to work their way up to the top like those poor saps Johnny Cash or Dolly Parton had to? We can’t even wait until their scheduled air time, we have to download and watch them when we want to watch them on a four inch screen that gives us the world on demand. Anyway, I digress.

The less we miss the more we miss.

Coming

Those who can muster the patience to hear, know there is something big coming down the pike. God has told us, we see it in his word, we hear if from the prophets of old and of today. I have spoken it myself and have spoken about it at great length lately, that we are going to see a great outpouring of his Holy Spirit as the final act of this age is played out. I believe we are being prepared for the final battle— good against evil, believers against the purveyors of evil—those supernaturally empowered, perhaps, by Satan himself to deceive and frighten the world into submission and ultimately destruction.

12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. 13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Tim 3:12—13

We must not be among those deceived. But it is going to take great patience and forbearance as we anxiously wait for the fulfillment, and as we realize that the battle is frightening and prolonged.

And at this point we don’t yet know if we are going to be the champions or if we are simply charged with preparing the next champions for Christ.

What we cannot do is say, veterans of the battle, “This is the way it is, this is the way we did it and it is as good as it gets, just try to replicate it and pray that you are as good as we were.” No, a good teacher, a real mentor always seeks to teach his charges to think beyond him and exceed him.

I believe the Lord is going to use the next generation to shape the final battle, to help usher in and be the long term benefactors of the next great outpouring. And—I’m talking to Baby boomers—they will do it with us or without us, with our help or without our help. If it is without us it will be a tragic and sad end to our generation, that we were too busy, too tired, retired or apathetic to step up and use our gifts and talents, our experiences and anointings, our God given remaining days, to affect the fight, to come alongside and then spur on ahead— the warriors coming up.

I think one of the great hinderances to this is perhaps pride, like I alluded to earlier, we think we have seen it as good as it gets, like the Israel and Judah that Isaiah was prophesying to, ‘we have reached the pinnacle, we are blessed and have the favor of God, nothing can touch us, nothing can better us—just do everything we do and you too will be blessed.’ Then along comes the Isaiahs, the Jeremiahs, the John the Baptists, trying to tell them otherwise until God destroys both kingdoms from top to bottom and rebuilds them as new generation is prepared while in captivity in Babylon, those like Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea and Esther.

That’s what the promise we see here would come to mean for that later generation.

And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us. Is 25

 

But today, we have a new generation, the church, waiting once again for the fuller and final fulfillment of the larger part of this same prophecy.

He will swallow up death forever,
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;

And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us. Is 25

 

But we cannot rest yet, we cannot get arrogant and say, ‘This is all there is, the book is closed, the final chapter written and all you can do is wait for it to end with a bang.’ ‘Rapture me up lord before it all hits the fan.’ ‘I went to the biggest church in town, worshiped you with smoke machines and light shows, participated in Broadway quality dramas and saw thousands of people give their hearts to you!’

‘I used my vacations to go to third world countries, help at church camps—I mean, we’ve reached the pinnacle—we have our own TV stations, radio stations, my face is on the cover of bestselling books and I have a million Twitter followers, look at what we’ve built!

Let’s build a tower that reaches the heavens! –Oh wait, that’s a bad thing.

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Well, that’s all great, but what about the next generation? Are we building them? Or are we setting them up to fall short because we have gotten this church thing so polished and professional that the pressure that they watched kill many of us off is nothing they want anything to do with.

Is this what we waited for?

No, this is just the precursor to what God is doing next. Now is the time to stop looking at what we built, and start looking at who we can build.

That takes patience, that takes time, that takes commitment and most of all, that takes humility. When we point others to Jesus, we then have to get out of the way so they can see him and so that they can follow. Can you say John the Baptist?

So I say to the next generation— Tag, you’re it!

 

Poison Words

Funny how Christians can use supposedly, biblical labels that become just as hurtful as the labels the world uses.gwenny-art-fiole-props

Words of destruction, poison, can come from many places, even from those we seek out for words of encouragement. Years ago I had someone whom I looked to as a mentor, we met together regularly for years and I had received a lot of encouragement and sound advice from him. Then it took a subtle shift and I often left our meetings feeling more often angry and defeated than encouraged.

It got to where I started to dread our meetings. But I thought I needed his advice, and he mine, but it was usually pretty one sided and I often found myself having to repent of some slight he had perceived in something I had done or said to him or someone else. That was fine, I searched my soul each time and decided that somehow he was right and I was wrong.

But after a while it seemed I was always having to play defense as I was called out for things that I knew were not wrong, but were in fact things the Lord was showing me or developing in me. I was starting to have that old, ‘maybe I am worthless and lazy’ feeling that I had gotten away from so many years earlier, the feelings that the poisonous words of my two stepfathers has sown into my soul. This time it just had different labels. This time I was prideful and unwilling to submit—two things you cannot be if you want to be in good standing in church leadership circles.

Funny how Christians can use supposedly, biblical labels that become just as hurtful as the labels the world uses.

I had spent years, many years, discovering and developing my gifts and talents so that I could use them to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, I had learned how to be who I was, to use the personality God had given me to relate to people for him. I had overcome extreme shyness and the fear of public speaking to preach, teach and even lead worship in front of kids and adults of every background, and I was finding great fulfillment and great blessing in it.

It was all on the verge of being undone.

Finally I had to make a choice, listen to God or listen to man, answer the call or submit to the “Authorities”—I chose God, I fled that relationship.

Shortly after that the Lord gave me a new name, one that to many would seem like an insult, but to me, as only the Lord who knows me— my history, challenges and triumphs, who knows what moves and motivates me could have done, came up with a name that was a compliment, a challenge and a motivation all at once. He called me a Barbarian. That name changed my life, my relationship with him, with the church and set me free.

To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’ Rev 2

But that is the power of his name for us, if we’ll just listen, if we’ll accept it.

I found my freedom, when I listened to the voice of the Lord first and foremost in my life. My freedom was completed when the Lord revealed to me his name for me, Barbarian with a Bible. That name as the Lord showed me means freedom, pure simple unchallengeable freedom. Freedom from the hurts of the past, freedom from the poison that has over the course of my life seeped into the very fabric of my heart and threatened my very purpose in this life, a purpose that came from God alone.

I am not worthless, I am not lazy, as my stepfathers told me. I am not unsophisticated, uneducated and inferior, as my former boss told me. I am not a prideful ingrate, as my former mentor told me. I am not ungifted and unfit for preaching as a former pastor said of me— I am a barbarian with a bible who has been given an assignment and nothing on this earth, seen or unseen is going to stop me from doing what God has called me to do for as long as he wants me to do it.

The sophisticated religious establishment does not appreciate barbarians, but I no longer care, which is what makes me a barbarian I suppose. I am through being manipulated, denigrated and brow beaten back into “my place”— that is, my place according to others. I know who I am, I am who the Lord of the universe created me to be, who he calls me to be and everything that falls short of that, my faults, He reveals to me in a healthy and loving way through his word, by his Spirit and through people he has put in my life who love me and him, more than they love themselves.

If I hang on to that and guard what is spoken into my heart, I will be built up, not destroyed. The words of God are life, always life, never poison. God will never speak poison into your soul. If you walk away from any encounter doubting your worth as a human being, keep walking and don’t look back. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

So I have to ask, who are you listening to; The voices of destruction, or the voice of love, the voice of Jesus? Freedom, that’s what my name means, what is he calling you? What is he calling you from, what is he calling you to?

Be very careful how you answer that, the answer will change your life forever.

 

The Battle is Real

“I think the next generation of warriors are being prepared to fight on a higher plane.”

warrior-armor-helmet-shield-sword-background-renderingThis charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience. . . 1 Tim 118,19

We have the power of heaven at our disposal if we’ll just believe and learn how to wield it. We can command demons to flee, illness to cease, darkness to dispel, curses to be broken, broken hearts to mend, the lame to walk and even the dead to rise—if we only learn to walk in that power, to fight the good fight, to keep striving for, praying for, fasting for, trusting for, the power of God that lies within us to be released, for our will to come into perfect alignment with God’s will, for all fear to vanish and all doubt to be no more.

That is where God is taking us, that is where I want to go. I want to take that sword and shield and wield it like I was born with it in my hand. I want to cleave the enemies skull and watch his minions run in terror as God’s angels rush in to rescue the children of the Lord they have left behind as they fled. I want to stand firm in the face of evil and say “No more, your day has ended, this is the day the Lord has made.” I want to speak the words of God that always find their mark, that never return back void and always accomplish that for which they were intended.

 

I want to find myself standing at the gates of heaven one day, weary from preaching the word, even that very day, still swinging the sword he has given me and feeling the sudden release of pressure as the enemy that had just been pressing against my shield is suddenly not there anymore. I want to see heaven for the first time through the visor of my battered helmet as the Lord comes and pulls it off my sweating brow and says “welcome home warrior. You have fought the good fight, and you have won.” Like I heard one of my heroes in the faith, the late 4sq Rev Jerry Cook, say one time, “When I am finished I want to have nothing left, because I am going to use it all for Jesus.”

I’m not saying work yourself to death—I am a big proponent of not working yourself to death for the church, of knowing when to say when. But the point I am making here is, if we are answering the call in the time and place, if the yoke we are bearing is indeed the one Jesus gave us, we can and should go down still swinging. We are eternal beings created to affect eternity, why would we stop just because this temporary flesh is aging?

I just want to encourage you to keep fighting the good fight. If you haven’t stared, start. If you have stopped, pick up your sword and sharpen it up. The Lord still has some battles for you to fight, and if you are a veteran of many battles, you should be leading others into the fray with you.

Paul ends his letter to Timothy the same way he started it, with an admonishment to keep fighting the good fight of faith.

11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Tim 6

We lost an incredible warrior for the Kingdom this last week, Billy Graham, he fought the good fight and rescued many, many souls, but—the Reverend Billy was your grandparents warrior. I think we are entering a new and maybe more intense period of warfare, most likely the last gasp of a defeated enemy as the Lord readies to reap the harvest of the earth and put an end to his days and execute the sentence that was handed down to him the day Jesus walked out of the tomb.

I think the next generation of warriors are being prepared to fight on a higher plane. We have a generation who is hungry for spiritual things, who embrace things past generations feared and recognize that there is so much more than what we can see and touch with the flesh. Even the directions of the sciences are turning in that direction, physics and astrology—string theory, parallel universes, worm holes, black holes, dark matter, wrinkles in time—suddenly science, who had denied for years anything beyond the readily explainable, is peering into the unseen realms just beyond our grasp.

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The God of order and design who created this world of carbon and hydrogen that we live in, also created the spiritual, so chances are it is also put together in an orderly and ultimately understandable way. We, who have been given the eyes of the spirit, need to learn to operate in those spiritual places, to recognize the light and the dark aspects of that realm so as not to be seduced by the evil and live in the power of the good so that we can overcome.

The name of Jesus is more than a get out of jail free card—it is the key to eternity—an eternity that we were created for and are now given the keys to.

The Lord has waited patiently for two thousand years, not wanting to put an end to things just yet as he wants to make sure more and more souls have the chance to hear the message of the gospel and to also have a chance to make the good confession and lay ahold of eternal life. But things are spiraling out of control and The Father will not let that happen, not while Jesus is on the throne.

I believe we are on the cusp of seeing an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will make the Azusa Street revival and the great awakening of the century before that look like warm up bands. We are being called to the front lines, being prepared to face battles ahead that we never dreamed we could ever win let alone witness. We will see the Spirit do things we only read about in the scriptures and scarcely dared believed could be literal.

We are the church, and we will be victorious, if we remember who we are and who our Lord is and why he called us for such a time as this.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, 2 Cor 10

The battle is real, but so are your weapons— hone them.

 

 

Pack Lightly

“I just don’t have room in my heart for anger anymore.”

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whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. —Phil 4:8

Do not give place in your hearts to anger, malice, fear or perversions, the more of that you have in your hearts the less room there is for what is good, and your mouth will speak from the over flow of your heart and you will become a vessel of decay rather than a vessel of his love.

You can only be a holy vessel, a holy warrior, if you are striving to keep the bad out and the good in.

I decided a while ago that it is too much work to hold grudges, to promote boycotts and stir up anger. Even poised as righteous indignation, it just leaves me feeling yucky and unloving. I want to speak life, no one ever turned to the light because they got hit over the head with a flashlight. I just don’t have room in my heart for anger anymore.

What is your heart full of? Listen to yourself talk—that will be a good indicator. The mouth brings forth what the heart is full of.

Reminds me of the murmurings of the tribes of Israel as Moses was leading them out of Egypt, they were always muttering against Moses, against the Lord—complaining and cursing.

24 And the people murmured against Moses, Ex 15 KJV

There is only room in your heart for so much, or, maybe that is better stated, you can only carry so much and still get where you want to go.IMG_1503

Pack lightly

Back when I was younger and had good knees and my time was my own, I did a lot of backpacking in the high country—up where the trails are steep and the air is thin. One thing I learned pretty quickly is that every pound, every ounce, of weight that you put in your pack or strap to your belt must be carefully considered as to its value to your expedition. Because, after you have carried it up a mountain—or six, you will start to seriously reevaluate whether it was worth packing.

As the miles walked and the altitude gained start to multiply so does the weight, exponentially. A six pack of beer and canned chili are not wise items to pack into a mountain lake—especially with a huge sleeping bag and an oversized tent and a hangover. I know, I did it, the first time I hiked into Twin Lakes at the top of Beartooth Pass.

After a few years of backpacking experience and losing the consuming mass quantities of beer habit, I learned to pare a lot of weight off my back. I invested in a down mummy bag, a durable lightweight pup tent. I learned how to pack food that was nutritious and lightweight, replaced the beer with tea bags—everything was carefully considered—”do I need this for survival or is it just a luxury? Will this enhance the experience or is it not worth the misery of carrying it in?”

I would weigh my backpack before every trip and if it was over thirty pounds something had to go. The essentials were things that kept me dry, warm and fed and the rest was negotiable—save for my fishing pole, camera and pistol—those were essential. I always carried a pocket size bible and a journal as well because God often met me in the mountains—which became a big part of the reason for going.

But what I’m getting at here is this—we need to learn to decipher what is worth carrying in our hearts and what is not worth the grief it causes on the journey. If you are carrying around anger, jealousy, anxiety, sorrow, addictions—whatever, there is something else more important and desirable that will have to get shoved down into the bottom of the pack or left behind all together—then when you stop and open up your pack to help a fellow hiker who might have run out of bug repellant or desperately needs a drink of water, you are going to have to search around the bags of cow manure you are hauling and the person is going to say—ah, thanks but I don’t think you have what I need.

“Oh wait, here it is!” No really I’m good, the mosquitos keep me moving and I’m really not that thirsty after all. What they are really saying is—I saw all the other cow puckey you have in there—I don’t want anything that came out of the same pack that is in!

If your heart is so full of spite or anger that your first reaction to certain situations or comments from others is to go off on a tangent, no one is going to believe the love that eventually gets pulled out is genuine.

If your heart is full of lust, no one is going to trust you to be there for them as a brother or a sister, a father figure or a mentor—at least they shouldn’t, sadly they too often do, which is why seemingly good people turn out to be monsters—they packed too much of the wrong stuff into their hearts, they wanted to go somewhere good, maybe help some folks along the way, but they were bogged down with too much junk and it had to come out.

Are you tracking with me here?

45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:45IMG_1515

Whatever you are harboring in your heart is what is going to spill out of your mouth, and what spills out of your mouth is who you are. We are, in the Spirit realm and in the eyes of the world, what we speak. Seriously—we are saved by our words, “if you confess with your mouth, that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Because it is an indication of what is in your heart; “And believe with your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 8:9