Still the Voices

No Turning Back

I want to talk over the course of the next few weeks about keeping our focus on the things in front of us, being determined to keep going forward, following the Lord and not letting anything hinder us; not our past, our fears, the failure of yesterday nor the demons of the past that continue to dog us— if we’ll let them.

Thinking about the teachings of Jesus that we are about to read and the burden the Lord  has put on my heart for his church, the family of God, I understand more and more that I have been, as I believe all of us who call Jesus Lord are, called to love people into wholeness. To do that we have to be a church family that is willing to go the distance, to follow where he leads, and not stop short of all that God has for us.

Keep that in mind as we read.

Verse 57

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9

I think a lot of people who set out to follow Jesus—at least to acknowledge him and ‘get saved’ as we put it—stop woefully short of being a follower -a disciple. If we take a good honest look at what is really a hard teaching here by Jesus, we see those people who are seemingly eager to jump on board the Jesus band wagon being discouraged and turning away before they even begin.

Jesus knew that they would not be able to finish the race, they would not go the distance so he wanted to save then the trouble. It’s not simply because they wanted to look back. We all have a tendency to look back. We look back at where we’ve been, at those staying behind. We look back at what we might be leaving behind and we often look either with a sense of sadness— longing for what we had—or we may look back with a sense of dread like the past is threatening to consume us.

But Jesus knew what was going on in their hearts and he said: you might want to think about this… they did and apparently stayed behind.  They missed it, they missed it because their hearts were not in it, and what does Jesus really want from us? -Our hearts.

Heads in the game

Jesus said: “All the law and the prophets hinge on these commands; the first and greatest ‘Love the Lord you God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.’  And the second like it; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus wants our hearts, he wants all of us, he wants our heads to be in the game.

One thing the Bible makes clear—especially the teachings of Jesus—is the need to be in the present— while looking forward— with hope— to the future. Sure we need to build our monuments as we looked at recently; treasured personal or family memories that serve as touchstones and reminders of the goodness and faithfulness of God. But even that is for the express purpose of looking forward— having hope in today.

…a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

… He said to another man, “Follow me.”

… Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord…   Luke 9:57- 61

 

It’s interesting that we have three instances stacked up on top of each other here by the gospel writer—boom, boom, boom— of people who claimed they wanted to follow Jesus, yet Jesus seemingly shot them down. Now, we know that Jesus would never discourage anyone from following him and wanted all to know him and be saved, so that makes this all the more startling. So we can only come to the conclusion that there is a lot more going on here.

We have to remember that we are talking about Jesus, the Son of God whom—as the gospel writers pointed out on more than one occasion—knew the thoughts and the hearts of people he was dealing with. So certainly he knew the hearts of these men who came to him eager to follow— to make a good show of enthusiasm for his cause— but Jesus knew their enthusiasm would soon turn to disappointment and resentment when they began to realize the cost of following this itinerant preacher with no home and no intention of placating the demands of his followers, and who was ready to lay down his life both literally and figuratively and would expect the same of his followers.

So yeah, there is a lot going on here as Jesus looks into the eyes of these breathless people caught up in the moment and sees beyond the anticipation of quick rewards and change and he sees that they are not ready or truly willing to let go of the things behind them. I know this surely made Jesus sad because he knew that the things they were not willing to let go of were paltry and tenuous compared to what he was offering.

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Don’t be one of those who cannot let go, just take that step, and the next, as you began a new journey with Jesus. He will show you how to let go, as you learn to trust, and to still the voices.

 

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Lift Up Your Heads

 

Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:28

Do you ever look around and ask; “What in the world is going on here?” Why is everything so hard, why do the challenges seem to keep getting bigger and more frequent? For a while I thought it was just me and my family but I have come to see more and more that it isn’t. It is indeed my family but it is my family on a much larger scale—my family in the Lord. And I am bone weary from the fight.

Eph 6 meme

We are being tested, stretched, targeted, challenged, maligned and just outright attacked from what seems like every quarter. The church is being tested by both the Lord and the enemy. One is testing us to strengthen and refine us for the battles ahead and the other is targeting us to destroy us before the battles ahead.

It seems as if the world has gone plumb mad and forces beyond our comprehension our driving the narrative of this world.

You are not imagining things and you are not alone in seeing it, it is a fulfillment of prophecy which tells me, although this is not from God but rather from the enemy, God was not caught off guard and he is still on the throne.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power… 2 Tim 3:1-5

So now you, each of you, has to decide; which side am I on, the side of one who has the victory in the end and can get me through today’s challenges, even using them to further his ultimate plan of redemption? Or am I going to choose the side of darkness so that I can escape the present wrath, stop swimming, let go and go with the current hoping that the drain it’s running towards isn’t as bad as we think it is, that it was all just fairy tails told us by our parents to scare us into being good—this heaven and hell, Jesus and the devil stuff.

It seems we have a choice between a challenging life of purpose or an easy life of emptiness. Sounds like a no brainer to me, I’ve tried both, the latter doesn’t advertise the emptiness but it becomes painfully obvious once you’ve tried it. Funny, those who are living for the flesh and the world will scream at those who are trying to live for the Lord that they are fools to be scorned and mocked while they flaunt their perceived freedoms and enlightenment. They will tell you how superior and fulfilled they are while at the same time succumbing to mind altering addictions to fill the void, and when that no longer works, suicide is all that is left.

Another victory for the enemy as he has prevented another tortured soul from fulfilling their destiny.

It’s time for the church, the true church to wake up, to rise up, to be heard.

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Eph 5:14—16

We, those who cling to the Lord despite the challenges, despite the doubts we are afraid to admit even to ourselves, despite the seemingly never ending onslaught of obstacles and outright attacks from places we would least expect them, we will soldier on, keep fighting the good fight of faith for it is the only fight worth fighting and the only fight with a guaranteed victory.

entangled meme

34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21

 

Jesus is returning and we who are left standing will stand before him. Even if the enemy should strike us down, we cannot fall for we are in Christ and he is eternal and our death is our victory because Jesus has overcome the grave.

Stand strong my brothers and sisters, our day is coming and I believe I my spirit, more than I have ever believed anything, that this evil day will soon become the day of the last great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and those who weather the storms will be the ones who reap the great harvest to come.

Do not give up, do not give in, your redemption draweth nigh.

27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

warrior victim meme

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Barbarians in the Kingdom 

This Little Light of Mine

“’If looks could kill…’” Well, after years and years in the ministry, let me tell you, they can.”

look meme

If we have answered the call to follow Jesus it doesn’t take long to learn that we are called to love people, that is first and foremost what following Jesus is all about, it is after all, what he did–and does.

One way we love is to always speak truthPaul exhorts us in Ephesians;“…we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love,…” Eph 4:14-15

You can tell people some really hard things if they know that you love them. How do they know? Not because you said, “I love you—but…” They know because they can hear it in your voice, see it in your eyes, feel it in your embrace—love is the light of Jesus emanating from every fiber of your being even while the words of your mouth are speaking truth.

The eyes, seriously, the eyes are the lamp of the body. Watch— brothers and sisters—how you look at one another. What are your eyes saying? Remember when Jesus said don’t hide your light under a basket, to put it on a lampstand that all may see it?

33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye. Luke 11:33,34

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…”

little lite meme

We all know the verse and the song but do we ever ask ourselves ‘how do we let it shine? How do people see the light? What is the light? The light is Jesus, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness,” (John 1) That light is Jesus in us and he’s asking us to let our light shine. We don’t put Jesus in a jar like a bunch of fireflies and set him on a table in a dark room. No, Jesus tells us right there in the very same breath from whence our lights shines—it shines from our eyes.

The Lamp

The eye is the lamp of the body. You want people to see the light in you, to know that you love them so that they will hear the truth that will spark the light back to life in their own hearts and behind their own eyes? Look at them and love them. Remember the rich man who asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life?

“one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “’Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’”. . .

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:29

Jesus looked at him and loved him, and then gave him the hard truth. And the man went away sad because he wasn’t ready yet to give up that which kept him from his call to follow. The man wasn’t angry, he wasn’t defensive, he was sad.

That tells me that he heard Jesus and accepted what he said as truth. Why did he believe it?—again, he saw the love in Jesus’ eyes. Jesus’ demeanor, his gentleness, his forbearance and love was evident. We can only hope that later this man chose to live in that truth. But that was entirely his choice at that point. Jesus did his part, in warning and then facilitating his freedom by giving up his own for a time.

How could you say no to Jesus? Especially when he is right there speaking to you. People do it all the time sadly.

Alkiane Kramarik

(Painting by Alkiane Kramerik)

“Jesus looked at him and loved him”— I love that. I want people to see Jesus in my eyes looking at them and loving them. There is an old expression; “If looks could kill…” Well, after years and years in the ministry, let me tell you, they can. People can tell from the look in your eye if you are loving them or judging them. People can tell in an instant if you have already made up your mind about them and will not give them a chance to be heard, to seek help or grace, so they will shrink away from you, avoid you, become defensive and hard.

Then there will be no repentance if it’s needed, there will be restoration gentle or otherwise, and you may have just damned their soul to hell. Yes, looks can kill. I’m sorry if that offends you but this is serious stuff. There is a world that needs to hear truth. There are brothers and sisters who need to hear truth, and they are not going to the righteous potato heads who are wearing their angry eyebrows or who will not even look at them period.

People want, people need, to be seen. They need to know that God has not forgotten about them or given up on them. See people, love people, Jesus looked at people and loved them. We are his body, we must do the same. I am tired of hearing people say in anguish, “So and so will not even look at me.”

The gifts we are called to use and given to equip our call must be used in love or we are just a clanging gong or a crashing cymbal. When we learn to love like Jesus does, to speak truth in love, to see with Jesus’ eyes—then we can say we are no longer children chasing after whatever the latest popular preacher is laying down promising to make us happy, wealthy and wise.

14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together

The Kingdom of God is advanced by loving others, not by acquiring more notches in our guns. “Boy you told them, preach it brother, fire and brimstone, repent or die, grovel or burn…” There may be a place for that— wait, that was called the Old Covenant.

Breakfast

That doesn’t mean we don’t call sin, sin. People have to know they are loved or they will refuse to hear truth, it’s just that simple. Jesus was the master of that, of course he was God so Duh… But he is also our ultimate example. Jesus called people to repentance even as they were compelled to follow him, to listen to him, they knew they were loved when they were in his presence; Mary Magdalene, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus the tax collector, Peter who flat out denied Jesus three times on the same night he swore he would die for Jesus first.

Jesus sought Peter out after his resurrection, fixed him breakfast and gently restored him, telling him the truth in love. Peter was convicted and restored probably more by the look in Jesus’ eyes then by the words that he spoke. “How can you look at me with such love when you know what I did? How can you want to spend time with me, to even give me an assignment, ‘Feed my sheep?’ When you know how I failed you?”

Peter was given three chances to say I love you Lord, one for every time he denied him. Jesus spoke truth to Peter, and to all the sinners who crossed his path whom he knew would receive truth, and he spoke it with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with them in love.

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,” Eph 4:1-2

Wow, there’s a walk to emulate. Walk on.

Walk on meme

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.

messes meme

 

…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

Thy Will Be Done

 

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

hands

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

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

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

Flesh and Demon

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

How many of us can say that?

Thy will

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

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

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

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

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

James says it quite clearly and makes the point exactly.

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

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

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

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

draw near

Available now Barbarians in the Kingdom 

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

book cover

Where is the Church?

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

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

apple meme

Keep the passion, renew the passion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

resist

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

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

will

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

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

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

Stripes meme

Where’s the church?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oooh look, healing crystals and yoga classes.’

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Love Complicates Everything

Why is love so hard?

Conscience

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

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

Love Rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Still Selfish

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cleansed

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

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

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

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

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

Love bears all

No hiding

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

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

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

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Check out my latest book  Barbarians in the Kingdom

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