Marathon

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Someone asked me the other day; “Why does the enemy hate our church so much?” I answered, “Because we are a threat to him.” Really—If we weren’t, everything would be a cake walk. Another question, and perhaps a more difficult one—”Why does the Lord allow it to happen?” The answer, which has become painfully clear to me in this season, is that the Lord is allowing the enemy to sift us like wheat, as he told Peter, to remove the chaff.

Our weaknesses are never so obvious as when we give in to them and are lured in over our heads. Hidden or unrecognized weaknesses are often never truly dealt with, and can impede us so subtly we don’t even recognize we are dragging them until the ones whom we always thought were losers are suddenly at the finish line way ahead of us.

Why does the Lord allow attacks? Because we all have things in our lives that hinder us, sin which so easily ensnares us, and sometimes the only way to untangle us so that we can finish the race, is to allow it to be exploited by the enemy, to even expose us, making it painfully obvious to us that there is a problem, forcing us to make a decision; “Am I going to let the enemy win, and just give up?” Or am I going to lay this aside, do whatever it takes to be free of this, put my head down and push on to the finish where my Lord not only waits, but he sends his Spirit to come and strengthen me, to even carry me on, “on wings like eagles” if—I will just let him, trust him, and not lay down and die.”

No matter what anyone says, no matter the jeers and the taunts of the perfect and pretty people who seem to have it all together and always finish the sprints first and can whip out a dozen pull ups like it’s a breeze—no matter what my flesh is telling me as it screams for the right to just stay down, rest, run away, crawl away, crawl into a hole and die, whatever—just give up— no matter what, I am going to get up, put one foot in front of the other, getting stronger and closer to the finish with every step until I look back one day and see all the perfect people gasping for air and staggering from side to side as they jostle one another for position in the mob that seems to have stalled out short of the finish.

We find ourselves scarred, winded and shocked, ‘I did it! I am at the finish line!’ And there’s your crown, in the hands of the coach, twisted but no longer tarnished and shining like the sun because the Lord has cleaned it up for you just as he did your heart along the way.

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All he wanted you to do was get up and keep going. Because he knows how hard the race is, he did resist to the point of shedding his blood, everyone sneered and mocked, called him a drunkard and a sinner, a blasphemer, even an agent of the devil—”but for the joy set before him” he kept going, putting one foot in front of the other, obedient to his Father who spurred him on. One agonizing bloody step after another, trembling under the weight of his cross, the cross he would soon die on, the cross he could have forsaken and fled at any time he wished.

But he didn’t, why? Because he wanted you to be able to finish your race knowing that if he took away the ultimate penalty for failure to finish, the only insurmountable hurdle in the course, sin—life ending, spirit killing—sin. He knew that if he took away that hinderance for you by taking it on himself, he knew that there would be nothing—absolutely nothing—that would stop you from finishing the race, from winning the fight, if you only made that decision to finish, to look to him to do so. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

Don’t let the enemy win, don’t give up or give in, don’t fear the race, don’t shirk the fight, it is not easy, it is never easy, it is seldom fun but it is always rewarding and it is always blessed in the end. We are not beating the air, the battle is real, if it wasn’t there would be no need to fight, no one would ever stumble, no one would ever fall. And if you have ever been in a real fight with a real scrapper, you know that even if you win, you will still walk away bruised and bleeding.

And the enemy of our souls, is certainly a scrapper, as is our own flesh. When the two team up there is a real fight with real consequences, but realize that the battle is never over until the Lord says it is over and he calls you home.

Every day is another day to fight, around every turn is another straightaway to cruise through until you get to the next turn or have to jump the next hurdle, all the Lord asks is that we do not stop running. This life is so much shorter then we realize and how we run today will determine our forever.

. . .let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. Heb 12:1-4

There is a purpose in our striving. We might not always know what it is or why the enemy fights so hard against us, but we must always know that there is a purpose. We have to trust the author and finisher of our faith, that is of course Jesus.

Don’t let anyone slow you down or stop you, especially not the enemy. You won’t always even realize that he is there, but he is sneaky that way. Sticking out a foot to trip, slipping you an intoxicant into your water bottle, whispering in your ear along the way;

Why are you doing this? You cannot finish, you don’t need to finish, you already blew it anyway when you stumbled back there at the curve, you crossed into the wrong lane, you’re probably disqualified, didn’t you jump the gun too? Man, you could be sitting in the bar right now with a cold one watching Basketball on TV—now those guys can run.” “No one cares anyway—loser.”  Lies, nothing but lies.

 Spartan quickly runs through the sand

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8

You will finish, because Jesus doesn’t choose losers, and he chose you.

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You Don’t Know Me!

 

  Prodigal meme

Prodigal—Exceedingly or recklessly wasteful. From the Latin word Prodigere—to drive forth or away.

So, who really is the prodigal son in the story?

Most people are familiar with the story of the prodigal son; the younger brother who decided he was due hid inheritance only to go blow it all on wine, women and song (or something). Broke and ashamed he came home to beg forgiveness and a scrap of bread only to be welcomed and treated like the son he was to a forgiving and loving father, with grace.

while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

But—

Then there’s the older brother who had his own issues, the other prodigal son who apparently blew all the grace he had been given because he had none left to give his little brother when he came home.

The church is full of people like the big brother who all have their own issues and you may have experienced their wrath. Perhaps their issue is that they have not yet recognized that you are just as loved by the Father is they are, you are just as valuable as they are. Or- they are just bitter because they are getting tired. Tired because they have spent too much time working and not enough time sitting at the Father’s feet and listening. So when they look up and see the Father rejoicing over you they just naturally get angry.

That creates a whole other class of prodigals who will also need to have a genuine home-coming one day.

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ Luke 8

You cannot always listen to the older brothers, the wise and authoritative self-appointed representatives of the Kingdom. There is a time for reproof and there is a time for correction but if you are going to take on this task you had better be sure it’s from the Lord because usually the Holy Spirit is quite good at handling this himself.

And it’s usually the busybodies in the church who start the lynch mobs, not the ones who are being guided by the Spirit.

There are well-meaning big brothers who are genuinely concerned and zealous for the things of the Lord, perhaps too zealous and this taints their concern, shifting it from concern for others needs and leaving room for the Lord to work— to concern for justice. There must be justice, we must have a stoning!” Guess what, they have just become prodigals, because that’s not where the Father is.

That’s not what we, the church, were called to do.

The Lord me to Red Lodge to minster grace and healing, and he has entrusted and called us especially to minister grace and healing to his weary soldiers. To those who have served, who have worked and strived, given their all to serving the Lord— serving the church—until one day they just can’t do it anymore.

And to minister to those who desperately want to serve the Kingdom but are told they are not worthy, that they miss the mark. Well, if that is you, you are in good company, David and Jesus both found themselves there;

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people. Ps 22

God did not create any of us in the image of a worm, he created each and every one of us in his image, you are his child, he knows you, loves you, and just wants you to come home.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

And by his Spirit we cry Abba Father!

That call should not be unique to any particular church—we are all representatives of the one who freely gives grace.

You don’t know me

Only Jesus truly knows us, knows what goes on in a heart, in the mind. Only Jesus knows what made the younger son run. All the older brother knows is what his eyes and ears tell him. He only knows what the rumors are, what his imagination tells him. He thinks he knows his brother, the selfishness and evil that drives him and it makes him angry—‘How can he be so foolish? You deserve nothing but scorn, you had it all and you blew it, you had the same inheritance as me, and you just threw it all away like it was nothing!’

‘Look at me, I held on to mine, in fact I am using it to take care of the business of the one who gave it to me—I stayed and served our father while you were out playing your games like there were no rules, like our father’s feelings weren’t worth a second thought—and now you just come crawling back and I’m supposed to welcome you? I know what you did!’

‘Yes, maybe so brother, but you really don’t know me, and our father has welcomed me back—who are you to do any less?’  

There is so much more to every story, to every heart, then we ever imagine, that is why we only have one judge.

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. 1 Cor 4:5

Honesty

What’s important for us as a church family is that we keep things in the light, that we are not afraid to share our thoughts and struggles, our failings and our temptations so that they are in the light where they can be dealt with before they get to the point where they are suddenly exposed, to our shock and dismay, and everyone goes UUUHHH!

That can only happen in a church that does not judge a person’s heart so we can punish it, but desires only to heal and restore, to encourage and forgive—that’s called grace. If we are not living in, trusting in and exuding grace we are not living in, abiding in the words of Jesus as—harkening back to last week— we must absolutely do if we have any hope to stay in the grace and blessings of God, as a church and as individuals.

Because that’s what a church is, a collection of individuals who are all part of the same family, God’s family and we all find ourselves looking at the horizon once in a while and thinking the party over the hill has got to be more fun than the narrow road we walk to the fields every day.  

We have to be the ones that go after the one, even if the running they did was only in their hearts and minds.

What kind of church we are, one that can weather the storms together, each of us pulling on the oars as we are able while those who are weary and wounded find rest and security in the hold?

Or one that throws it’s weary and wounded overboard until we run out of warriors to keep this longship moving forward and it capsizes in the waves.

We are never going to fully be where we are going until the Lord calls us home for the wedding feast, it’s who we are in the journey, what we did along the way, and whether we got there with the warriors and crew he entrusted to us.

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I call our church in Red Lodge the barbarian church and yes our ship is a Viking longship; the longship was a boat whose design allowed it to flex and bend with the waves never capsizing or breaking it—as long as it took the waves head on, and that never happened by accident, it took a determination and an endurance, it took a crew.

Let’s weather the storms together be the first to make it to Vinland where we will drink a toast with the groom in celebration.

“This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. 25 Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:24, 25

And I’ll take my wine in a drinking horn thank you.

Barbarians in the Kingdom

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Fantasy

“Can I just check myself into the nursery and sit in the corner with a sippy cup full of wine for an hour or two—or six?”

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The alarm goes off—it’s Sunday, Mother’s day.

You informed everyone the night before that they will all be going to church tomorrow lest there be any doubt. It’s Mother’s day and you are going to have a nice day with your family. You are going to church— let everyone see what a wonderful family you have, that you are the godly parent providing for their spiritual nourishment.

After church your family is taking you to a nice sit down restaurant and you are going to pretend that you are not stressing over how much this is taking out of your budget for the month.

So, the alarm goes off—way too early, you are the first one up and you were the last one in bed because you had to finish the laundry. You jump into the shower, throw on your robe and go wake up the kids. They are all in a state of suspended animation so this takes several attempts over a 25 minute period making you more frustrated and leaving you less time to do something with your still wet hair.

Finally they are all sprawled across the furniture out in the living room, hugging their blankets and making unpleasant mumbling sounds. A few moments later from the bathroom you know they are finally waking up because they are now starting to snarl at each other until one of them screams; “Mom, Johnny called me a poopy head!” You scream back; “Go brush your teeth and find something to eat!”

Your husband shouts above the sound of clanging pans, “I’m making oatmeal!’ Your youngest replies, “I want sketios.” Husband; “You can’t have Sketios for breakfast, you’re eating oatmeal, that’s what’s for breakfast.” The chorus continues as you close the bathroom door to focus on getting ready.

20 minutes later you emerge from the bathroom to make sure the kids are finding the right clothes to wear. Your youngest is wearing her oatmeal—as is the stove top. Johnny is just sitting at the table staring at his bowl determined to outlast his Dad who told him he is not moving until he eats and your teenage daughter is informing you that you are ruining her life by not allowing her to wear the outfit she came home from the mall with last week and she has already texted fifteen of her friends and posted three selfies on Facebook of her new tongue piercing, which is now swollen, possibly infected, and makes her lisp like Gopher on Winnie the Pooh.

You would laugh but you are convinced that she will probably die from the infection and you are already trying to figure out how you are going to get her into a doctor on a Sunday afternoon. But first, ‘we are having Mother’s Day!’ Fifteen more minutes magically disappeartime flies when your frantic—“Everyone in the car, where going to be late!”

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Where’s your youngest? She’s in her room cutting the hair on her My Little Pony. She has already taken off her new dress and replaced it with her Toys R Us  Princess Anna dress, ‘Ughhh!” no time to change, you grab her and a pair of her shoes and head out the door only to find out half way to church that you grabbed the Minnie Mouse shoes and she wanted her Dory shoes and you are going to hear about it the rest of the way there. She won’t keep them on anyway so what does it matter?

Your husband and oldest daughter aren’t on speaking terms right now because of the piercing thing, but at least they’re quiet.

You walk into church half way through worship, send the kids in all the right directions, plop down in a chair way to close to the front because that is what’s left and pretend you are able to focus even for one minute on worship. You hear a phone ring and it about sets you off—“Who could be so inconsiderate!” Then you realize it is yours, you forgot to put it on silence.

‘Can I just check myself into the nursery and sit in the corner with a sippy cup full of wine for an hour or two—or six?’

And that’s just Sunday morning.

Happy Mother’s Day!? I am a miserable mother and I’ll be lucky if my children don’t grow up to be ax murderers.

It Is Enough

I bet if I could took a poll every mother reading this would say they feel or have felt this way. And you can bet your own mother’s often felt this way as well. You are tasked with raising little human beings with all the complexities of emotion and thought that anyone else has, each with a different and unique personality and way of thinking.

Yet, when you get them, they have absolutely no idea how to deal with any of those things. They have all the potential and none of the tempering experience, and you, probably have little or no experience being a mother. and training these needy helpless complex creatures on how to be a functional person in a world that few really understand in the first place now seems way beyond your pay grade.

You went into this with an idea in your head of how it would or should be. ‘Sweet little darlings to nurture and love, entertain and delight with crafts to do, cookies to bake together and eat, board games and activities with other wonderful kids from the neighborhood.’

You are going to teach them how to sew and garden, cheer them on in sports and be the 4-H mom that is able to volunteer for everything. Your kids are going to sing in the church choir and everyone will envy you for having such wonderful children and they will grow up and give you grandchildren who can’t wait to come over and spend time at your knee listening to the stories of your wonderful life and memorize Bible verses.

You might think that because that’s what you hear from your neighbors, you saw it on that Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel —or that’s what you remember from your own childhood. You just want to give your kids that perfect childhood.

There are no perfect childhoods—at least not by the impossible standards of our fantasy’s. But there are perfect memories. Not that things are remembered perfectly, but that in memory they become perfect.

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You think back and remember the good times you had as a kid, the things you learned, the adventures you had back when everything was new and exciting and you felt safe and loved because your Mom was always there and always cared. She probably remembers the chaos because while you were being covered in love she was being covered in bodily fluids. While you were learning about the wonders of the universe above she was being annoyed by your constant questions while she was trying to balance the check book and figure out how to pay the gas bill.

You get my point, all we can do is the best we can do and by God’s grace, if we indeed care, it is somehow enough, more than enough. You are not tasked with creating the perfect person, there is only one creator and he has already done the hard part and yet he never quits working on until the task is complete. What he is asking you to do is to help them build the foundation.

What you need to do is give your kids the foundation to build on, the corner stone, give them Jesus. How do you do that?—You do the best that you can and you keep caring. You build the foundation by caring, and you keep caring—always.

You keep standing on the rock, loving them, praying for them, being there for them, getting them here to church to hear about Jesus from a teacher who is devoted to teaching them God’s word and giving you the opportunity to be fed as well.

All the Lord asks of us as parents, just as he does in our relationship with him, is that we keep doing our best and never give up knowing that it is not entirely up to us.

You love them for Jesus, and keep knowing that you are loved as well, by him, by your kids and by us. And every day is a new day.

on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

Cherish this day

If there is one piece of advice I can leave you with—mothers—is this; enjoy this day, cherish the chaos and noise because one day you’re going to miss it. Trust me, my wife will tell you the same thing; each and every day with your kids is a gift, and one day your kids will look back and say the same. Your kids would never trade you for another, you are their mom.

Keep standing on and loving from the rock—you are immovable, and that’s all your kids really want anyway.

. . .you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,

“Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And the one who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:5,6

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Jesus Still Shows Up

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 “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

Jesus doesn’t just appear on the river bank anymore, but he does still show up. I have seen it happen over and over again, when Jesus touches the heart of a person because of the witness I or someone else might bear, it is very evident, often very emotional and I never get tired of seeing it—it always makes my heart rejoice.

Seeing a hard heart melt, the fear dissipate like fog on a lake when the sun rises, seeing the tears of healing and joy flow, often leaving the person having the encounter wondering why they are even crying when they suddenly feel so full of joy. You cannot tell me that Jesus is not real and that he does not reveal himself to people today, I have seen it happen over and over again.

Jesus still shows up today—”Behold the Lamb of God” But this almost always happens after someone comes announcing that he is coming. Before Jesus can come into a heart, can be believed and received, before the Father can melt a cold heart there must be a harbinger, a messenger, a voice of one speaking with the voice of the one.

We are called to proclaim the Lord, just as John the Baptist—the first witness of Christ.

22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” 23 He said:

“I am

‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Make straight the way of the Lord,”’

as the prophet Isaiah said.” John 1

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The Apostle Paul would also quote from Isaiah later, a follow up question to this answer.

And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?”

 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, . . .“        

 Rom 10:14,15

Reminds me of a little story I heard years ago.

No Back Up Plan

After Jesus ascended back to heaven following his resurrection the Angel Gabrielle asked him how he was going to get the good news of his resurrection power to the world. He replied, “I left my followers to spread the news and all who hear it will share it as well.” Gabrielle replied, “Sounds kind of risky, what is your back up plan?” To which Jesus answered; “I have no back up plan.”

Obviously this is a made up story but there is nothing in scripture to contradict the truth of it. In fact, the scripture we just read asks the same question; ‘how shall they hear unless someone is preaching the Gospel?’

Who is willing to be the voice of the one? It can be hard, it can be intimidating, it can be a sacrifice, it can land you in trouble and in some places even cost you your life or your freedom—as it did John the Baptist. The eternal fate of humanity depends on it, on us and it often seems like a futile pursuit. But the rewards of seeing hearts set free are unmatched by all the riches and comforts of the world.

I didn’t want to be the preacher, I don’t want to be the odd man at work who doesn’t live and react like everyone else. I didn’t want to have to put others before myself, to give up my dream of ranching or having my own business, of being able to spend all my weekends fishing, camping and hunting.

I didn’t want to have to study and pray all the time to be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in me—and I am not talking about just being a pastor— I am talking about living a life devoted to Jesus Christ and being a witness of his mercy and grace, his offer of salvation for all who call on his name.

I would rather just look out for my kingdom, build a life for my family and not worry about anyone else—but that is not why I was put on this earth, it is not why any of us was put on this earth and the rewards of following Jesus, of being the voice of one “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” And being the voice of the one;—“Jesus loves you and wants to heal your broken heart and make his home with you, he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Getting to be that voice and seeing Jesus show up because he was proclaimed—there is nothing on this earth, no joy, no treasure, no stimulation, no drug, nothing can compare to the reward of seeing Jesus heal a wounded heart. I know that joy, so now I do want to be the preacher. If I could figure out a way to preach 6 times a week in every small town in Carbon county and make a living, I would do it. I might just do it anyway—but that’s me, I have a fire in my heart and shut up in my bones and I have to speak or it consumes me.

But he is calling you also to speak, to speak words of life, of healing, ‘proclaiming Jesus is Lord, he loves you and he is just waiting for you to recognize him.’  Jesus does the healing, Jesus does the saving, that is his part, he just asks us to let people know that he is coming to do just that, if they will just turn and look to him, if they will just cry out ‘Lord save me,’ if they will just believe.

Then we get to rejoice with them.

John (the Baptist) Replied. . .

29 The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete. John 3:29

Let your joy be complete, be the voice of the One.

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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

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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.

battle-war-spiritual-fists.1200w.tn

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.

 

 

I Want a Redo!

 

 What is Good

“What, did God get tired of making souls and have to start recycling?”

So teach us to number our days,  that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Ps 90:12

Living a blessed life of purpose and meaning takes an intentionality. But just living a life for the Lord— let alone one that is fulfilling—a life that is not wasted, is a challenge. We need to be intentional about living a life where you don’t just wake up one day when you are old and say; “How the heck did I get here?– I want a redo!” There are no redo’s.

We are given a precious gift of life, of being a uniquely made being with an awareness of self, an insatiable curiosity about the world around us and an inkling of, and a hunger for, things of the Spiritual realm that we somehow know is there but just can’t quite grasp. We must not waste our days or just coast through life because our days are numbered, whether we acknowledge it or not. You don’t get to come back and try again as someone else, God isn’t practicing on you hoping he gets a version that works out.

And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many.  Heb 9:27-28

One shot

The futility of reincarnation is a lie from the enemy, you live once, you die once, then the judgement. Jesus died once to redeem you from the sins of that one life, that is all that is needed and all that is available. For those whose names are written in the book of life that one death is but a passage to eternity—continued life. For those who have refused the gift of salvation, they will be judged for their deeds—a fair trial by a just God who knows every misdeed, every rebellious and malicious thought— word and deed— we ever entertained or purveyed. I’ll take the free gift of grace, -thank you. A grace that came as a result of the unjust bogus trial we gave Jesus.

Besides, getting through one life is hard enough, who would want to go through all this again, especially with no memory of past experiences from which to learn? Reincarnation? —What, did God get tired of making souls and have to start recycling? Like I said, it’s one of many lies the enemy promotes to convince us to discredit God and his word. If we just keep getting recycled until we get it right then Jesus death was a complete waste of time and had no relevancy whatsoever.

But my point is, this life is all you get as far as who you are and who you will always be. God created you just the way he wanted you to be, your inner self will never cease to be you, whether you are in this fragile flesh, whether you are in spirit with the Lord or after the resurrection of that same flawed flesh into perfection, you will always be who you are today.

Think back on your earliest memories, playing in your yard, fighting with your sister, wondering how those little singing people got inside of the radio or what the midget who lives inside the base of the street light pole making it change eats for dinner.

Remember that inner dialogue as you started to understand the world around you and marvel at how things are?

Think about that inner voice, the sound of it—has that voice changed, are you someone else now? —No, your soul is the same, it has to be, otherwise you wouldn’t remember any of it—that is the you that will still be you in 50 years, in 100 years, a 1000 years—into forever. Yes it will grow and mature and understand more about the world and itself, but at your core you will still be the little girl or boy God created you to be before the messed up world came in and messed with your mind—God can and will cleanse and heal the mind, heal the heart, starting today and lasting forever. That’s why he used his one life in the fragile flesh of a man to heal you.

Jer 29

Life doesn’t just happen

So what are you doing with you? Are you just letting life happen to you? Or are you using your limited days in this world to the full. You do have a choice, you can steer the course of your life to some extent. At the very least, if it doesn’t go where you hoped it would, it certainly doesn’t have to be wasted. One of the keys to a fulfilling life is just making the decision to not live just for yourself, but to serve God and serve others.

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

That, I believe, is the difference between a wasted life and a life that means something. God honors the intent and helps steer you into places where you can make a difference. If you are serving him through serving the people he loves—which is everyone—in his name, you stand a pretty good chance of discovering his plan for your life along the way.

You want to know what to do, while you are waiting for his grand plan to be revealed to you and he hands you the keys to your brand new destiny—act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. In other words, get over your bad self. treat people right and keep looking up.