Propriety in Prayer

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“Why am I wearing this? To show off my stuff, or to present myself as someone who cares about how I present myself to the world.”

As I work my way through the letters of Paul to Timothy, both for my church and for you, my faithful and beloved readers, we come to chapter two of 1st Timothy. A chapter I would much rather have ignored because it has been misused by elements of the church for centuries in a way I believe is not consistent with the whole of scripture and the heart of God. But that is why we need to tackle it, as it does carry some important principles that do indeed need to be heeded.

The following is a small part of what I shared with my church today on the role of women in the church from a section of scripture that really had to do with the behavior of both men and women in public services, the context of which gets lost once the admonition to women in particular jumps out at the casual reader of scripture.

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This chapter, (read 1 Tim 2) has everything to do with prayer and propriety in public worship services and Paul’s ongoing battle against false teachings and bogus apostles.

So, the admonition to men and women to behave themselves respectfully and orderly in their gatherings and to not give room to false doctrine, which keeps rearing its head and apparently likes to speak uninvited, and often, is the basis behind Paul’s admonitions here. And is the context for his wanting women in these prayer gatherings to learn, quietly and submissively, dressed modestly and outstanding in her love for serving the Lord and her family.

There is a dynamic that the casual reader of 1 Timothy cannot be aware of as well. It’s what scholars call the ancient sexual revolution going on in Roman culture at the time. This spawned a whole other class of women that was quite a departure from the meek women of patriarchal Jewish culture the apostles came up in, she is called; “The new Roman woman.”

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This ancient sexual revolution was taking place and was finding its way into the churches of Ephesus and Corinth causing concern for Paul as to the image and respectability of the church which met publicly and was widely scrutinized by all from the Romans to the Jews.

The new Roman woman was very vocal and haughty, displaying her liberation with clothing that could be considered promiscuous. There was indeed a sexual component to this cultural shift as birth control and abortion played a role in the lifestyle of the liberated Roman woman. Yes, the Romans were very good at turning procreation into recreation with no consequences. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

Quite the departure from the biblical view of sex as being between a husband and a wife for the purpose of joining a man to a woman physically and spiritually as they became one before God and to bring children into the world, into a stable family whose anchor is the covenant made between a husband and a wife.

The emphasis Paul makes on childbearing, faith, love, holiness and self-control is a reminder to the women of the early church of God’s idea of sex and behavior in contrast to the vocal, disrespectful and loose woman of the culture they were in.

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Decorum

In the Apostle Paul’s day it was usually the wealthy women of stature, women who had fewer responsibilities as they had servants and slaves to do their chores affording them more leisure time to pursue their pleasures and money to adorn themselves with seductive and suggestive attire.

 

Jewelry and elaborately braided hair piled upon the head had been more commonly associated with prostitutes of the day but was now becoming fashionable among the high society ladies of the day. Quite the contrast to the simple dress and pulled back and covered hair of the traditional Jewish woman Paul was used to. This suggestive dress was becoming a huge distraction, as you can imagine, to the men of the church. Men haven’t changed.

We are still very visual–you have no idea–and easily distracted by clothing or lack thereof that a woman may not see any harm in. Men today don’t generally relate braided hair or jewelry with loose women as they did in Paul’s day but there are other things that you may not want to wear if you do not want to be a distraction in public church gatherings. The same goes for men. Dress nice but don’t dress like you are trying to attract a mate.

Men and women, this applies to both of you, when you get dressed ask yourself: Why am I wearing this? To show off my stuff, or to present myself as someone who cares about how I present myself to the world.

Dress for the job you want, as the old saying goes. If you want to be a street walker or a calendar model, then dress that way. Just don’t expect to be taken seriously if you do, especially while witnessing for Jesus. That’s all Paul is saying here.

 

So Paul is trying to head this night club atmosphere off, to restore some modicum of decorum and morality, to avoid even the appearance of immorality, as he states elsewhere, and to set a standard of decorum which will keep them in some measure of respectability amongst the common people of the city and amongst the Jews, all of whom Paul wants to reach with the gospel.

It is thought that some of these wealthy liberated women where teaching the heresy’s Paul warns about in the preceding chapter and he wants to put a stop to this

In Timothy’s church, just as he had to do in Corinth, Paul is trying to establish a respectable, presentable and productive order to things without quenching the Spirit.

And again, culture plays such a huge role in these discussions that looking at it in light of our western culture thousands of years and miles removed, it is nearly impossible to know exactly what Paul was referring to or trying to remedy.

But what we do know is that God still cares about how we present, and represent, ourselves as dearly loved children of the Father and as witnesses for Christ. Your beauty lies within, just let it shine.

loved

 

 

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Teach Truth

Disclaimer up front here—at some point in this blog you may be offended, I may have even offended myself.

But seriously, if you have a preacher who never offends you, you need a new preacher. (I am a preacher by the way) And an offense is just a challenge taken the wrong way.

Teach Truth

Paul warned Timothy of this issue long ago, this ‘do not offend me because I’m voting with my feet’ issue that would overtake the church one day. And as the time goes by and we are racing towards the final showdown between good and evil, pastors, teachers and leaders are become more and more afraid of the people to whom they minister, and less and less afraid of the God whom they serve.

Most pastors today will trade a full church for a full gospel any day. “Just preach the feel good stuff pastor so I can invite all my friends and show them what a progressive and cutting edge church we have. Otherwise, I’m outa here.”— “Oh, and you had better have top notch entertainment also, you know, drama and professional musicians and stage effects.”

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth… 2 Timothy 4:3—4

I’m going to spend the next few weeks looking at Paul’s letters to Timothy, a young pastor. Because I think the church, has gotten to a place where people are not answering the call any more. Those who have not just flat fallen away from the church and the faith, as many have in this age as we see church numbers dwindle across the board, are just not answering the call, they are not stepping up and they are not desirous of truly living a life worthy of their call even if they did have an inkling to do so.

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There is this weird paradigm happening where people can claim to be, and even truly be, madly in love with Jesus but not willing to live according to, or denying the truth and relevance of his word and his ways, they are in fact, unwittingly and in some cases, denying truth in favor of experience, emotion and cultural norms.

History shows that cultural norms are a dependable basis for determining God’s truth—no wait, that never works.

Right is wrong

I can hardly even keep up anymore as to what’s acceptable and what’s not in public discourse and cultural acceptance, not that I want to.

It would be downright comical—if it were not so frightening in its implications—watching the myriad of presidential candidates trip all over each other trying to outdo one another in embracing and doubling down on whatever absurd notion the other candidates happened to get attention with even if it is a total contradiction to what they claimed to believe and support just last week.

The spirit of delusion seems to have fallen on the whole lot of them as wrong becomes right and everything we have believed in becomes yesterday’s ignorance, as they all sit in their political and media circles and cheer each other on while the rest of us go,—’what? Who are you people, am I trapped in a bad episode of the Twilight Zone?  Or is this all just a bad dream’— no, it’s just the enemy playing with his puppets to destroy all that is good, the little that is left anyway.

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The point is—truth changes daily—you want to base your standing with the Lord on that? People don’t even know where to turn anymore, which statues we are tearing down this week, what heroes are no longer heroes, what history can no longer be taught or acknowledged; ‘Can I use a straw in my organic, sustainably grown coffee mixed with milk voluntarily given up by free range cows even if it’s offered to me by a transvestite barista? Or is this just a test to see if I really care about mother earth and all her multi gendered children?’

And that had all better be okay with you or you will have a milk shake thrown on you just before we beat you for being a hater.

What is acceptable, what is right, what is truth?

People are willing to go bonkers defending and promoting their political agendas and the latest scheme to save the planet from evil humanity but won’t give a moment’s thought to the one who created it all or bother to open the instruction manual he gave us, the Bible.

‘Maybe we can get truth from music?’ Yeah, that always works well. We went from drugs sex and rock and roll, to; I kissed a girl and I liked it, to whatever foul and perverse thing I can get to fall out of my mouth with something we call music behind it.

Thank goodness we have Christian radio—yeah, right. Let’s get our truth, our theology, from skinny jean wearing, young, rad worship leaders who got their theology from watching faded Levi wearing young cool worship leaders who got there theology from watching big haired, bell bottom wearing, key board banging worship leaders who got their theology from the young hip bearded bible study leader who showed up on campus one day with a Living Bible—“Cool man, finally a bible I can understand!”

You see where I’m going here? We need to keep grounded in truth. We cannot keep walking in ignorance. If you are going to endeavor to teach, or to be taught, you have to stay in, believe in, be submersed in, God’s word. You need to know the doctrine of grace and love found in the New Testament and the Law that preceded it and showed us the need for the grace in the first place.

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Because if all we are doing is presuming on grace and not caring a whit about how much of God’s law we are flaunting in our new found freedom, we are going to be in trouble, we are not carrying the torch that lights the way for all to see, the torch that keeps us from being swallowed by darkness as we await the sunrise of a new day in the Kingdom of our God.

Don’t get me wrong, there is some great Christian music out there, but that is what it is, music—an alternative to the garbage the world throws up. We cannot heed it as though it is gospel and every catchy tune with a clever chorus is not a word from God. The same goes for the beloved hymns. Even the oldest hymn was written many hundreds of years after the Bible was canonized and the word completed.

We can be inspired, blessed and encouraged by music from Christian artists, I certainly am, but we cannot stand on it. The only thing we can solidly stand on is the word of God.

We are entering a new season of the church, the great falling away is coming to an end and those who are still standing are being called back to holiness and will see the power and grace of God move in and through them like they never imagined possible.

Be that warrior, you are God’s chosen.

Eph 6 memeBarbarians in the Kingdom by Dan Swaningson

 

Stigma (See Me II)

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“No one wants to believe that their humanity and worthiness is being completely and totally disregarded”

The underlying theme of my blog these last several weeks has been sexual abuse. A topic much of the church is afraid to touch but one that is out there in a big way and sorely needs to be brought into the light. There is no dark so dark as that imposed by the church because that is a darkness with all hope of escape erased. This church is called to be a light and a place of hope. Stigmas have no lasting home in God’s family.

That said, there is an undeserved yet very real stigma that exists in the minds of the victims of sexual abuse. A stigma that is put there, intentionally by the perpetrator— and by those who take the perpetrators side; “You brought this on yourself, you encouraged it— you liked it!” and any number of horrible accusations. And victims are stigmatized unintentionally by everyone else from family to clergy as they just don’t want to deal with it, ‘just get over it, it can’t have been that bad.’

This causes the person to hide. They hide behind a pretense of everything being okay because they do not want people looking at them differently, they don’t want people picturing them in the abuse situation making them feel violated all over again. They don’t want people feeling sorry for them and they don’t want people asking and inferring things, like; “Why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you leave? What were you doing there in the first place; were you being a tease? How were you dressed?”

Without going into a lot of detail here there are very real psychological answers to these questions that the victim themselves may not even understand. A person’s instinctual defense mechanisms kick in and can cause what seems like rational thought to shut down. I think the bottom line is, people want to be seen as people, so even in the midst of an attack there is a level of denial.

No one wants to believe that their humanity and worthiness is being completely and totally disregarded by someone, especially if it was someone who just moments ago, was making you feel special.

So people get good at pretending because they soon discover—it’s part of growing up unfortunately— that most people cannot see past a person’s past to who they want to be. They pretend there are no hurts or failings, especially in a church, where everyone is supposed to be okay— all healed, temptation and turmoil free. And so all of us, to some extent and especially victims of abuse, pretend to be someone else to avoid being seen as anything less than a normal, well-adjusted person, who is worthy of love and respect.

Not one of us garnered Jesus’ love because we proved that we were worthy—Not one, and none ever have.

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Did Simon the Pharisee? Did the sinful woman? No, “While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us.” Jesus loved both Simon and the woman and treated them with respect—equally; the man who had devoted his life to studying and living by the law of God to the nth degree and considered himself worthy—and the one who made her living by capitalizing on the carnal lusts of morally weak men in the city.

Yet—the one who thought herself the least worthy was the one who went away with the blessing and of peace and the gift of saving grace.

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Jesus made sure the Pharisee saw the hypocrisy in his attitude towards this daughter of his Father.  “Simon—do you see this woman?” Luke 7

Jesus saw her and she was forever changed. He sees the scared little girl that has long ago hidden behind the painted eyes and exotic dress of her trade. He sees beyond the mask of lewdness forced through a tincture of stubborn hardness and anger.

He sees the pain and humility—he sees the tenderness that has looked desperately for an outlet, for a heart that would return the love she longed to set free—that cried at night when no one was around and she could no longer ignore it; ‘What have I done to deserve this? Why won’t anyone help me, why can’t anyone see the real me?’

Jesus sees you–and so does this pastor. . .

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If you are ever in Red Lodge MT, stop in to Hope Chapel and be loved. Until then, call on Jesus, he not only sees you- he hears you.

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I challenge all of you church leaders our there to get real about this topic. You have no idea until you are willing to see, how many victims are hiding in your own pews waiting to be seen–and that’s all they really want. Trust me…

 

Heart Storms (Bury the Dead II)

“We are afraid, not because we forget, but because we cannot forget– nightmare experiences where we had no control and felt vulnerable, verbal abuse, beatings, neglect, sexual abuse.”

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Like the disciples who feared for their lives even as they were in the boat with Jesus– as Christians, we often forget who we are with. If we have given our hearts to Jesus, we are safe in the arms of the Savior, indwelt by his very Spirit of power and perfect peace. That is the key to overcoming all our fears and failures, to quieting all the voices of the past and the fears of the future— to remember who we are with.

But, like the disciples sitting literally in the very same boat with Jesus, we forget. We let our past become our biggest enemy, our greatest hindrance to following and moving forward into the perfect plan he has for us, into the perfect healing he has for us. We need to stop looking back, to let the past be the past while at the same time using it for his glory, to strengthen us and even give us a testimony of how we overcame in Christ—“You go and proclaim the Kingdom”—Tell the story, be a voice of hope. ‘Do you know what God has done for me, I was lost and now I’m found, I was blind but now I see!”

‘I was a victim but now I’m a victor. I have followed Jesus and he took me away from abuse, from addictions, from perverts and manipulators, from the sick and demented, from the liars and the hurtful—he has delivered me from evil, I have escaped the dead—and you can too.” —That’s our testimony!

That creaky old boat sailing off into the setting sun to a shore you cannot see is the safest place you have ever been and it is all you need—as long as Jesus is in it. There may be storms but you will reach the other shore and what a story you will have to tell— you may even walk on water.

Don’t let the things of yesterday overshadow the faith you need to survive today. Don’t be like those who saw Jesus do miracle after miracle only to wind  up scared half to death hours later in a storm. Peter saw Jesus heal his own mother in law with a touch, and that same evening loses all hope. Yeah, that storm was bad and very real, but there reactions were really cause by unseen storms, the storms within, that was their real issue, and the one Jesus was concerned with.

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Heart storms

Heart storms, any little thing that goes wrong, any big thing, and suddenly there is a storm released in our hearts. “Lord, don’t you care that I am perishing?!” That’s why we are afraid, we are afraid because we are looking back beyond the deliverance we received, the love and assurances we received just moments ago quickly fade into the darkness of a past that continually boils on the horizon like a summer storm building a perfect thunderhead that looks like it could devastate us. We are afraid, not because we forget, but because we cannot forget.

We need to let go, get free of the past and stop fearing the storms that the world keeps throwing at us. We need to stop looking at the storms and start looking at the one in the boat with us,I am His and He is mine and nothing can change that.’ He is the resurrection and the life and He cannot be destroyed— hence neither can I. If He can calm the storm driven waves He can certainly calm my storm driven heartif I’ll let Him.

Those inner storms are the voices of the dead. The dead keep coming back to taunt us. Things that we thought we buried, things we heard as a child that caused us to wonder about our worth, we buried. We buried them next to other graves that hold memories of nightmare experiences where we had no control and felt vulnerable, verbal abuse, beatings, neglect, sexual abuse. . . .

We finally move past those things and get away from the perpetrators— out of the grave yard—but then we run into more people whom we think love us but end up speaking words of death to us, and our hearts flash back to thoughts of past—lies we thought we left buried.

And we start to wonder—’Were they not lies? Am I really worthless, sinful, stupid, unlovable, worthy of no one better, of nothing better?’

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‘No! I can’t go there again!’ —and we run back into the graveyard frantically digging  a grave for the new lies while the old ones keep resurfacing like the swimming pool scene in Spielberg’s movie Poltergeist where coffins and corpses are popping up from the mud like gophers at Chucky Cheese. Words from a boss, a spouse, a co-worker, a parent’s love and approval we still seek, a manipulative and abusive ex–we keep digging, frantically trying to bury them, but all we seem to be doing is digging our own graves.

The voices of the dead start to feed off one another and we are overwhelmed. ‘I can’t do this, I can’t handle all this, the bills, the kids, the jobs, messed up relationships—maybe I deserve this, maybe I am not worthy just like they said’ —in the midst of it all those voices of the past, the nightmares we tried to forget and the wounds we thought were healed, the things we can’t share with others because they are so shameful— the all come crashing from the sky like waves on a boat and we find ourselves in the perfect heart storm and we cry out: “Lord, help me, don’t you care that I am perishing?

39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Mark 4

There are no storms in your life or in your heart that Jesus cannot get you through and even still—there are no voices his voice cannot still. You will not drown, you will not perish, you are worthy of love and deliverance—his love, his healing love.

You will not perish—That’s a lie. Jesus didn’t call you, reveal himself to you—bring you here to hear this message—just to watch you drown.

And He cast out the spirits with a word, and healed all who were sick, 17 that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

“He Himself took our infirmities
And bore our sicknesses.” Mark 4

Jesus carried your wounds, took them and destroyed them on the cross.

Stop listening to the lies and start listening to Jesus. You heart is in the safest place it could ever possibly be, in the hands of Jesus. Trust him when he beckons —come follow me, as he says to your heart— peace be still.

Keep your eyes on Jesus, keep moving forward. Live in the today he has given you and in the hope of an even better tomorrow. Bury the dead, write them a farewell note of forgiveness and throw it in the hole as you turn away and to Jesus, the one who has the words of life.

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But pastor, you don’t know what I’ve experienced. Perhaps not, but Jesus does and he is not shocked nor overwhelmed by it. He was betrayed by those he loved also.

Those are the worst—betrayals by people you love, people who were supposed to protect you or at least love and cherish you—and if there is a sexual component, it becomes more heinous because then the whole being is affected, body, mind and soul.

The sexual betrayals outstrip them all but they can be overcome as well by the same principle of letting the dead bury the dead and recognizing that you are in a safe place with Jesus.

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Find your true freedom in Jesus

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Bury the Dead

“They made their choice and if they are inflicting pain, … you need to leave them behind and let them bury one another.”

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Early in Jesus’ ministry he is traveling around teaching people, healing many and drawing huge crowds. He ends up at Peter’s house; probably to eat and rest. But they arrive to find his Mother in Law is sick so he touches her and heals her. Word quickly gets out— ‘Jesus is at Peter’s house’; and people are flocking to him for healing and deliverance and he heals them all and drives out many demons.

After a while as the crowd was growing alarmingly large, he gets up and says to his closest disciples:  “Come onWe’re going to go to the other side of the lake.”  Jesus apparently turns to another and invites him along, but this man hesitates for reasons only Jesus can see.

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 preach the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:59—60

Walking down to the nearby shore Jesus then gets into the boat with those who have decided to leave it all behind, probably the twelve, who are surely thinking about now; “Man, we are the chosen few, the ones who are going to ride this train to glory!”  You can almost hear Willie Nelson sing in the background: “Blue skies shining on me, nothing but blue skies do I see.”

They cast off with visions of the Kingdom Come in their heads —and sail— right into a storm. “Where’s Jesus? Asleep? Ahhh, we should have stayed behind with those others who are safe and dry in their own beds tonight!” “Lord don’t you care that we are about to drown?”

They chose to follow the one who was bringing wholeness and life to those he touched, they left behind the dead—all who refused or were unwilling to give up their pasts—the things they had always counted on to be their provision—and now they had sailed right into possibly one of the worst storms these men who had grown up on this inland sea had ever seen.

Woman and tornado

‘What kind of a deal is this? Did you bring us into the desert to see us perish of thirst?’ No wait, that was Moses. ‘Did you take us from our homes and our families just to see us drown in the sea?’

Storm

I have never been in a storm at sea but I can imagine how frightening it must be. Sitting in a small wooden ship, about half the size of a Viking long ship and not nearly as flexible, getting drenched by the rain and the waves as the wind drives you farther and farther from shore. And the only place to go? Into the churning water that holds only darkness and death, a merciless and terrifying tomb that hungers for the living like a doorway to Hades itself.

That’s what these guys are facing. ‘I thought following Jesus, the miracle man, the Messiah, our long awaited king, would make us impervious to harm, where did this come from? I want my money back!’

So here are the followers of Jesus, who left all behind, now thinking, “This is it! We’re going to be swamped and drown.” A fisherman’s worst nightmare. But what they still didn’t understand was just who it was that they were with. This storm was nothing. They were still thinking as those who were still back in the past, who were still living with, subject to, and even one of —the dead. We’ll never overcome this, we’ve been told all our lives to be careful, to not get caught out too far from shore when a storm is brewing—why are we even here?!’

But they are no longer amongst the dead nor one of them. They were now counted amongst the living, in the very presence of life itself, the creator and giver of life, yet they still feared death. How quickly they had forgotten., how quickly they had lost faith.

Where’s your faith?

be still

The disciples had just spent the day with Jesus seeing one miracle after another. And that very same evening they are in a storm fearing for their lives and what do they do? They panic— “We have to wake up Jesus! How can he possibly be sleeping at such a time as this?  “Don’t you caredon’t you care that we are going to drown?”

“Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” That’s a huge question.

Why are we so afraid? We forget what we are leaving behind, we forget the impossible hopeless situations we have seen God take care of with just a word and we forget who we are with. We are afraid of things that now have no power to hurt us.

Demons, people who have hurt us, financial difficulties, we get bogged down in fear and doubt by worries and unforgiveness— voices and faces that come back to taunt us—the dead. We fear the dead.

The dead keep taunting us, their voices alive in our heads. Which is why Jesus told the disciple back in Capernaum; “Let the dead bury their own dead.”

“Lord, don’t you want us to take care of our families, don’t you want us to honor our fathers?” Yes, but nothing can excuse disobedience and here was God in the flesh telling this man to come with him and here is this man making excuses, using what seems a noble task as an excuse for disobedience.

Jesus was asking this man to put him first, to not be dissuaded from following him by those who choose not to follow, to listen to his voice over the voice of man—even his own father. The man was worried about security, about his inheritance, let me be a diligent son and heir and I’ll catch up with you later…

Get Safe

Listen to this—Those behind us, whether it’s family, friends, employers, teachers, even church leaders—anyone who has pulled at you, planted seeds of doubt in your mind, outright hurt you with words, or blows that bruised more than your flesh, who left wounds that pain you to this day—they are the dead that we must leave behind.

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They made their choice and if they are inflicting pain, then they are not following Jesus, they are following their own flesh. If they claim to be following Jesus but are not bearing the fruit of that life in Christ, then they are living as those who are dead and—listen carefullyyou need to leave them behind and let them bury one another.

You get free, go and proclaim the kingdom of God to those who will hear it, among those to whom Jesus leads you. Staying in a place of hurt out of a sense of duty is not the will of God, is not an acceptable sacrifice, it is disobedience. Jesus is saying to you: “Come follow me. Get into the boat and let’s cross this big lake and get away from this clamoring mob who would drag you down and suck all they can out of you. Let’s get away from the voices of those who care only for themselves while pretending to love.”

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Make of that what you will— I will let the Holy Spirit fill in the rest in your hearts as only he can do.

 

Follow, Today!

no tuning back

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. We can’t rest on our laurels, nor can we fear the future because of the past. We must keep our eyes fixed on Jesus.

…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…  

62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:57- 61

All these would be followers only offered lip service. They all wimped out. Content to be parasites looking for sympathy to their issues but unwilling to take steps that would bring them to a better, even if unknown, place. But Jesus was going places, he didn’t have time to wallow in their mud with them.

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. We could just write it off as Jesus not being seeker sensitive but we also know that Jesus loved all people 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 who 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 with 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.

The other day I told you there are those who do not want to be healed, to move ahead and away from the pain, they are parasites on the rear ends of those who bring good news. Butt parasites—or life suckers as I call them—never lay down their lives, they only expect that of others.

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. The best lie ahead but they were unwilling to risk the known for the unknown.

lasting fruit

You are not one of those who desire pain, nor do you deserve it. You are beloved of God and he delights in your willingness to seek him and hear.

Today, my beloved, is the day of your salvation.

Words are Real

“…here’s the deal; you have to want healing and deliverance.”

no tuning back

There’s an old saying we learn as kids; “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

That’s a lie, a lie we tell ourselves and the bullies in our lives to try and take away their power over us, the power of the words they sling. Because I will bet each and every one of you can remember nearly every mean and insulting thing that someone said about you when you were in grade school, middle school, High school, and beyond.

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And you hear those voices over and over again, when you look in the mirror and see whatever it was someone deemed irregular and weird about your appearance and just wish you could change the face you see. You hear those voices when you fail to live up to your own expectations of yourself because someone long ago labeled you as lazy, stupid, worthless, whatever—you are still trying to prove those voices wrong.

The bruises and scratches of sticks and stones will heal quickly, but the wounds inflicted by words never do. Well, that’s a lie also. We serve a God who gets the final say in our lives—if we’ll let him, if we’ll let him still those other voices.

We’re going to spend the next month or so revisiting a series of teachings I first did three years ago now, that had a powerful impact on many in my church and in my larger online ministry. I ended up labeling the series Still the Voices as it became evident that the Lord was using it to coax us away from the things of the past—the voices— the memories—that haunt us and taunt us, and to walk in the freedom of our healing; spiritual and emotional healing, one and the same in my book.

We are after all, spiritual beings housed for the time being in a body of frail and ever failing flesh. Flesh that also houses a heart that can be hardened, corrupted and deceived into doing foolish and even horrible things to another and can give us any number of reasons to give up either because of what we have done, or because of what has been done to us.

Because words are the primary weapon of the sexual predator–“Don’t tell anyone, no one will believe you, this is normal, no one else will love you…” –this series ultimately ended up dealing with the hard issue of sexual abuse and I was stunned by what I learned in the process and the prevalence of this evil in the lives of so many. One of the things that stunned me the most, or should I say troubled me the most, was in regards to the church overall and their refusal to deal with this hard issue. But, I was never one to shy away from a challenge, especially if it’s one others fear.

offend you

“Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. . . .

67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6: 61—68

My prayer and purpose in this series is that the voices of the past, the voices of today, the voices that have shaped each and every one of us and echo constantly in our heads; voices—strange and complex creatures that we are—that God has used for good to encourage who he created us to be, that they take root.

But that the voices that have been used by the enemy to discourage and disturb, that they are indeed stilled. That those negative and poisonous voices would no longer have sway over us and prevent us from being all that God created us to be and has planned for us.

Words of the past planted deep within us can be as fresh and present as the day they were first spoken. Our souls are eternal and words that touch our souls have no past or present—they just are. But we have a God who is the Lord of the past as well as the present and the future. A God who calls us to follow, to not turn back and to trust as he leads us into our tomorrows and our ultimate victory in him.

There is no going back. Once you start following Jesus all else is meaningless apart from him.

But here’s the deal; you have to want healing and deliverance. Some people, sadly, prefer to be the perpetual victim. And no matter how much prayer, council and love they consume, they will always continue to cling to pain. It becomes their identity. You are created for better and the freedom is yours to claim—just do it. Be the messenger of good news, not the parasite on the backside of the messengers.

hear and be healed

Don’t be a butt parasite—hear and be healed.

Offended yet? – Good, it means I’m hitting home. If not, I’ll keep trying.

Tired of being the victim? Stay tuned.

Barbarians in the Kingdom

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