Another Turn of the Wheel

Today I celebrate my 57th birthday, another year, another turn on the wheel of the master potter, and another day to trust and marvel at his work. And best of all, to get to share it with those whom I love—and with you, my unseen but truly appreciated and heart connected brother and sisters. Be blessed, and please don’t be shy about leaving a comment, I would love to hear from you too.

adult arts and crafts clay dirty
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make.

Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter?” Jeremiah 18

Turns of the wheel

Moving from the Frozen North to the Southwest, leaving home to go far away into Job Corp, getting hooked on partying in any shape or form only to be radically delivered by an encounter with the Holy Spirit, getting married, becoming a dad and a rancher, leaving a lead man position in a welding shop to become a carpenter at 30. Taking college level theology classes at age 40, becoming a kids pastor in a church started in an old school on the wrong side of the tracks in Billings.

Becoming the pastor of a church that I planted at age 50—and that’s just the highlights—there were a lot of low lights along the way also, impurities that needed worked out, things that I think hindered me from skipping  over some of the more challenging turns of the wheel and fulfilling my call to pastor much earlier in life.

But God is good, God is patient and I had to be broken a few times to be remade along the way. I told you one of those stories last week, falling into the pit a work and blowing out two discs in my back; definitely a breaking that enabled God to retool me and reset some of my thinking. The night I realized just how hopelessly addicted I was to marijuana was certainly a breaking point as I cried out to the Lord, to the Potter—’please have mercy on me and set me free!’ He did, I was restored and his hand of blessing restored.

We have to be broken sometimes to be rid of the impurities that ruin us but we don’t have to be resigned to things being broken that are good, like homes, hearts, promises and lives.

When it comes to those things we often have a choice. It’s being broken of the things that cause the good things to end up broke that I’m talking about.  I remember when we first got married I had this almost crippling fear that Donna was going to leave me at some point, that our marriage would inevitably fail because that’s what I saw all around me and especially growing up.

Growing up in a broken home was hell, I’m sorry but it was, and it deeply affected my perception of life and relationships. It planted an unhealthy fear in me that had to be broken.

It started three weeks after our wedding when our house burned down. My greatest fear as I stood there watching everything we owned go up in smoke was that Donna would now leave me because I had nothing, not even a home to live in.

She didn’t.

We moved into a trailer house literally across the road that just happened to belong to her Dad and her sister and her family had just happened to have moved out of it two weeks earlier. A month or two later we had one of our first real arguments and in the aftermath I kept seeing this picture in my mind of her packing her things, which wouldn’t have taken long at that point after the fire, and walking out the door.

She didn’t

I remember telling her one day in that first year, I wish we could just jump ahead ten years so that we could say we made it, we’re still married. I had heard a statistic that most marriages don’t make it past five years and my own parents had divorced when I was five. She kind of laughed at me and then realized I was serious, she assured me she wasn’t going anywhere.

She didn’t.

During this time I prayed earnestly every day that the Lord would bless our marriage, that we would stay together and never have to suffer the trauma and pain of divorce and I remember very clearly the Lord speaking to me as I was driving home on Blue Creek road and praying as I always did. I still remember where I was on the highway when the Lord told me in no uncertain terms; ‘Your marriage will not fail, it is founded on the rock and nothing will ever come between you.’

“That is my word to you, put that right down there under your feet and stand on it.”

I wept and praised the Lord, something had broken in me at that point, the fear was gone. My marriage was safe in the hands of the Lord, my wife would not leave me, I had made a vow to her and her to me and as long as we were both committed to that vow, to one another, and to the one who gives us the ability to keep those vows, to the only one who can give us that assurance—we would make it.

We did.  And we will- 30 years and counting. . .

We serve a God of miracles, whatever you fear, whatever causes you grief, give it up to Jesus; “In this world you will have trouble, but do not fear, I have overcome the world.”

mountain preacher

 

I love you all, have a blessed week!

 

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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.

viking-longboat-art-by-david-seguin

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

 

 

 

World Changers?

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We all want to change the world, at least we start out that way. Every new generation is bent on making an impact; you go to high schools and colleges and ask the kids what they want to do and they all, in one iteration or another, will tell you they want to make a difference, to change the world. As we get older the enthusiasm wanes as we realize that just surviving takes so much energy and the world is such a large place that we give up hope of changing anything—except maybe our own circumstances, and even that can be futile.

We go from making the world a better place to ‘make my world a better place.’ ‘I just want to pay the bills, have a nice place to live and be happy.’ Ironically if we do get a nice place to live and can pay the bills we find ourselves wanting a nicer place to live and end up with bigger bills to stress about. In the end it all presents itself to us as, just what Simon Peter would come to call, an empty way of life, futile and aimless.

Simon Peter had gotten to that place, feeling empty, living an aimless, futile life. But then his boat was rocked and his world changed forever by the true world changer.

Then He (Jesus) got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little from the land. And He sat down and taught the multitudes from the boat.

When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”

But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” And when they had done this, they caught a great number of fish, and their net was breaking. So they signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men.” Luke 3

global-heart

 

A heart changed is a world changed.

Jesus got into Peter’s boat so that he could use it as a platform to preach to a multitude of people, a crowd so large and enthusiastic that Jesus actually got into the boat in part to escape being overrun by them. Yet what does he do? He turns to Peter and tells him to push out into the water, “We’re going fishing, just you and me buddy.”

Jesus did come to change the world, yet, with what looks to us as the world clamoring for his attention, a perfect opportunity to reach more and more, double, triple the size of his growing congregation, to keep the momentum going and reach the multitudes, he leaves them standing on the shore, and focuses on one—one somewhat reluctant man.  A man most wouldn’t have given a second thought let alone worth the time to mentor. But Jesus would  spend the next three years doing just that.

Why would he do this? Because Jesus knows that a heart changed is a world changed. 

The world is not made up of throngs, it is made up of individuals. Each and every one of which has hopes, dreams and aspirations; pains, trials and challenges; fears and regrets. And each and every person, each and every heart, has a place inside that no one knows but them, no one can truly experience, truly understand, a deep place where we live day in and day out.

It is our world, an entire world within us that we may not truly understand ourselves, we may not even like. But there is one other who does understand, who truly sees and hears what goes on in that world and wants to be a part of it. That is Jesus. Whether we let him in or not, whether we allow him full partnership in our world or not, he knows it still, he experiences our world with us and he wants to change it and to share it with us— with our permission and complete trust.

That world within us is just as large to Jesus as it is to us, it is just as important, perhaps more important to him as it is to us. Jesus knows that if he can change that world,  take away the pain, take away the fear, take away the hopelessness and frustration, he has done something huge, something wonderful, he has changed a world—he has ransomed you from a world of death into a world of life.

And that is the entire reason he came and died, to change your world. And if enough worlds are truly changed, enough hearts set free to be who he created them to be, then the world will be changed as well and become what he created it to be. A beautiful home for his most precious creation, mankind. Finally free from the curse, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God and now living in that reality.

A heart changed is indeed, a world changed.

Who is in charge in your world? You will never change anything worth changing until you can answer that question with one word— Jesus.

 

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 1 Peter 1:18—19 NIV

All else is only emptiness, a chasing after the wind.

heart changed

 

 

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.