The War We Wage

“I don’t know about you but I am tired of being tossed around by the prince of the power of the air. Why do we put up with it?”

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Ephesians 2 –And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,… Ephesians 2

We live in a wondrous world as citizens of a higher kingdom, yet we are constantly at risk of being attacked, and the ironic thing is, it is not just the enemy of our souls, the prince of the power of the air that we must guard against for, as Pogo Possum once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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War

We are at war. The flesh that is us is constantly at war with our spirits—which is also us. At least that is true if your Spirit has been reborn, made alive, by the Holy Spirit of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. If we are alive we are at war, that’s just a reality of living as the redeemed in this fallen world.

If you have not chosen life or refuse to act as one who has, well, then there is no war, the flesh is just a dead shell, blown by the winds of this world, housing a soul that wonders why it is so miserable and empty while at the same time pretending it’s okay. In that case the Prince of the power of the air, obviously a reference to Satan, is just running roughshod over you while the turbulence sucks you in behind him.

Once we are reborn, made alive in Christ, we become the resistance. No longer owned by the prince of this world yet living amongst the zombies who are. The children of wrath—the zombies— are those who have are still dead in their trespasses. They are those who have not yet heard nor believed in the one who can give them new life and deliver them from the evil one.

…the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. Eph 2:3

This the war we fight—we fight not against the zombies but for them, to rescue them as those who have not claimed the life offered by Christ. Our fight is not against flesh and blood, it is against the evil one and his demons, we need to stop the righteous hate we are all tempted to engage in in the name of standing up for good and remember that our primary weapons are love and mercy, God’s word and truth. Truth spoken in love is irrepressible.  Let God be judge and his wrath be the final say.

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Because but by the grace of God, there go us.

The greatest battlefield of our war is our own hearts and minds. We must fight against our own flesh as it constantly demands our attention and subservience. You don’t believe me? Try fasting. Whatever it is you give up will be the one thing your flesh decides it craves more than anything else. That’s why fasting is so important to our spiritual health. A subdued body is a strong spirit and a war being won.

We are either obedient to the flesh or the spirit, the two are seldom in agreement as to what’s right and good. Which is why we so desperately need not just grace—forgiveness—but the power of the Holy Spirit as well. We need his direction, we need his strength, we need to seek him for wisdom, for as James said,

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:6

I don’t know about you but I am tired of being tossed around by the prince of the power of the air. Why do we put up with it when we serve and are redeemed, empowered and loved, by the Lord of all the heavens? We are the living, we do not need to fear the lord of the dead. We are not the children of wrath, we are the children of God.

‘We are alive in you Lord and we shall not fear, not the arrow that flies by day nor the terror that stalks at night. My life is in your hands, you are my life.’

 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Eph 2

We may be in a war but we have nothing to fear—we have already won. We are saved by grace, a precious gift from God that we did not have to earn nor can we, and we are God’s workmanship. Each and every one of us unique and loved, created to do good things.

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That right there is a reason to celebrate our lives. ‘I was created for good works which God had planned for me long before I was even a twinkle in my daddy’s eye.’

And I will not be deterred!

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Alive in Him

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But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ… Ephesians 2

Isn’t it good to be alive? Seriously, life is a precious gift. The ability to appreciate the beauty around us, to enjoy the smells, sounds  and sights of this amazing world we were placed in. The tastes of good food whether it’s the everyday bacon, eggs and coffee or whatever it is you have for breakfast—Wheatiesor the unique taste of the first burger of the season cooked on the BBQ after a long winter, or a special birthday cake fixed just for you.

I love the smell of new spring growth, the freshness of the rain, and the smell of fresh cut grass, the sound of a creek flowing over a rocky stream bed and on and on—it’s good to be alive and to have the ability to enjoy and appreciate the wonders of even the simplest things in life—all of them are a gift from God.

The gift

Life is a gift, a gift that comes with gifts. If we don’t enjoy this gift of life it’s no one’s fault but our own. No matter what is going on in your life, the pressures of family or work, the bills that need to be paid, the ailments that come and go, we can all step outside in the morning, lift our eyes to heaven, feel the sun on our face or see the wonders of the stars and say ‘thank you Lord, it is indeed good

It is good

—your creation is very good. Help me to be alive in it today, thank you for giving me life, help me live it today as a gift from you.’

Strange song

I love it in the spring when the song birds come back from the southern haunts. I never consider it to be spring until I hear the song of a meadow lark. I have been blessed to live where their songs fill the air about the time winter is making it’s last desperate attempts to hang on just a little longer, but to no avail, as the sun climbs a little higher into the Big Sky every day.

When we first moved to Carbon County near Red Lodge MT we thought there was something strange about the meadowlarks here. They sounded great but their song is a little different then the Meadowlarks we had been hearing for so long on Blue Creek just 30 miles away. It really bothered our daughter Danielle, she wanted to go out and teach them the right melody. I don’t know if it’s a learned thing that differs from region to region or what it is. The song is still beautiful but they just end on a different note and drop a warble on the end, like they forgot the last verse.

Nevertheless I have truly come to appreciate the song of the Meadowlarks that come stay with us each summer. There is one that likes to perch on top of the phone pole in our backyard and sing his heart out. It always amazes me that such a tiny bird can make such a big sound. You can be driving down the road at highway speeds with your window cracked open and hear the song of a meadow lark like you are standing right next to it.

I don’t personally know any meadowlarks, I mean, I’ve never sat down and visited with one, they’re pretty shy and not much for sharing and honestly, I don’t know if the bird that appears on our phone pole is the same one every year, or from day to day for that matter. They all look the same to me. Yet, there is one who does know those birds. In fact, he knows all the birds, and cares about them.

The one who created them, the only one who could have created such amazing creatures—I mean, feathers, flying, migrating, singing, surviving, even flourishing through the worst of natures wrath and challenges—that someone who always has his eye on the tiniest sparrow is, of course, God.

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Jesus would use this fact to teach us how valuable we are to God and to encourage us to not be afraid of anything this world would throw at us.

“And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!

“Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:4

Fear no other

Fear God and no other.

The only one a human being created in the image of God should fear is the creator. Yet we, who recognize just how valuable we are to Him, who are unable to be destroyed because our life is now in Christ, have nothing to fear from God nor the enemy.

That’s the point of all that Jesus came to do and teach, and is what Paul is telling us in Ephesians. We are alive, we cannot be destroyed, and we have nothing to fear for we are loved and always will be. Even at deaths’ door when this flesh is used up or destroyed, we are just opening the door to Jesus Christ and our eternity with him, seated in the heavenly places.

As I was praying about this message, and why I delved into the sparrow thing, is because of what the Lord gave me for you to share this week as relates to what we are studying in Ephesians this week.

“My eye is on the sparrow, my hand is on your heart. I am the air you breath and the song you sing.” HS

As we just read from the words of Jesus, not a single sparrow goes unnoticed by God nor is forgotten, yet we are so much more valuable to him and our hearts are in his hands. Our heart is our life, the seat of our emotions, the temple of the Holy Spirit—in scripture heart is synonymous with the soul—the real us within the tent of flesh that we live in.

So if his hand is on our hearts, then our life is His and in His control and care—we just have to learn to trust that.

If we look to God for the song in our hearts, it will be there as surely as the air we breathe.

Barbarians in the Kingdom

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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.

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…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

Cow Pony My Eye!

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Meanwhile, back at the ranch;

Years ago, in my younger days on the Heyu-cow Ranch, it came time to move our cows from the lower pasture to the upper pasture and onto better grass, not an unusual occurrence, problem was, we were between horses- in other words we did not have any working cow horses at the time to round up the cows in the 130 acre pasture so that we could push them up the back road to the upper pasture, or as we called it;  up on the hill.

Not to worry, a guy I was working with at the time offered to bring out his horses to help us out.  “They’ll make fine cow ponies” he assured me.  So early in the morning on what would turn out to be a very hot Saturday my buddy Ray showed up with his young son, pulling a trailer loaded with three big stout horses.  They looked like they would do the job.  Ray saddled up two of them for his son and him and I threw my saddle on the third.

Off we went down the road to the lower pasture with my wife Donna following in the pickup to help lead the cows once we got them on the road.  The lower pasture is pretty rough- badlands, but this just added to the fun and we got the cows and calves rounded up and moving toward the gate without a lot of trouble but I did discover in the process that the horse I was riding had no cow sense whatsoever and in fact only wanted to follow Rays horse.

Ray informed me that he had never actually worked cows with these horses before, he used them for trail rides in the mountains and his horse was usually in the lead while the one I was riding was always following, oh well, at least my cows knew what to do, most of them anyway…

We got the pairs moved up the hill to the corner gate and got them all through, all that is except for three heifer calves.  The cows had hustled right through the gate knowing it meant they were headed toward greener pastures and most of the calves had followed on their heels but the three that lagged behind, having lost momentum, hesitated at the gate, as far as they could remember they had never been beyond this point and were not about to just run through it into the great unknown- gate or no gate, wannabe cowponies or no.

Before we could turn them on our mountain muscled trail horses they had skirted around us and headed back down the hill away from the gate and away from the rest of the herd who was already on the road and eager to go, then I made a big mistake; I told Donna to go ahead and lead the cows on up the road and that we would catch up with her after we got the renegade heifers turned around and out the gate behind them, those of you who work cows already know where this is going, don’t you?!

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Once a critter gets separated and loses sight of the herd there is no convincing them to explore strange new worlds, to boldly go where no cow has gone before.  These heifer calves were determined to stay put in that pasture, somehow convinced that the herd had to be in there somewhere because, well, they just always had been.  There are few things dumber than a heifer calf.

Anyway so here we go, two construction workers and a 11 year old boy on our trail horses to round up three wild eyed calves from 130 acres of badlands whose herd had disappeared off the edge of the earth.  We lit out after them- trying to get around them, the horses actually holding up quite well for as hot as it was but just not cut out for this task.

I was getting more and more frustrated as my horse was constantly fighting me just wanting to follow Rays horse rather than my signals.  At one point the heifers ran up a steep hill with Ray in hot pursuit up the trail.  I tried to follow him up the same trail, the terrain was quite rough and the trail was by far the best way to get up this hill, but after Rays horse got to the top of the hill and out of sight my horse panicked.

In spite of my attempts to keep him on the trail that kinda cut diagonally up the hill he insisted on running all out- straight up the hill, apparently I was just along for the ride.  Well we got to the top of the hill in record time and still upright, the problem came when we got to the top of the hill; he was so focused on powering straight up this hill to catch up with his leader that he forgot to quit running uphill once we crested the top.

The hill suddenly leveled out and he was suddenly pawing the air reaching for the next step- which was not there- guess what happened then; he fell flat on his face rear over teakettle and sent me flying on over his head where I landed on my shoulder, having had time to half turn in midair to avoid landing on my face. I quickly got to my feet, as did the horse who seemed no worse for the wear, unlike myself, and grumbling; “Cow pony my eye!”  I climbed back on.

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Ray and his son came back looking for me after having lost the calves and I told them to “forget about the calveswe had better catch up with the rest of the herd before Donna has a bigger problem with cows scattered all over the neighborhood.”

So nursing a sore shoulder and a bruised inner thigh from the saddle horn that had made a lousy airbag, we got the herd where they belonged, rode back to the house, got the horses unsaddled and cooled down from their work and loaded back in the trailer.  I thanked Ray and sent him on his way, thinking to myself behind a forced smile, “cow ponies my eye!”  I than jumped in the truck and drove down the road to see what had become of our renegade heifers.

After we had given up on them apparently they had a change of heart and had walked through the open gate on their own.  I met them trotting down the road about a ¼ mile from the gate to the upper pasture bawling for their momma’s who were standing by that  gate calling for their calves.  All I had to do was follow them and open the gate to let them in when they got there.

I learned a lot that day about cows, calves, horses, the importance of holding pens, and the soreness I had for the next several days made sure I remembered the lessons, chief among them, don’t move cattle with a horse who will not heed it’s rider!

Don’t let the name fool you, a trail horse is not the best choice for  trailing cows!

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Thots

5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.  John 15

That horse, whose name I forgot long ago, had no inkling whatsoever to listen to me.  As far as he was concerned I was just along for the ride.  He thought he had it all figured out; “I’ll just do what I have always done- follow the other horses.”  That wasn’t working here in the badlands.

He didn’t know me, he acted like he trusted me at least until it was important, when I tried to get him to veer from his chosen course and save us from a wreck, because of that we didn’t get the job done, we had to leave calves behind and got hurt in the process.

Sound familiar?  How many times have we said we trust the Lord, that we will do what he says and go where we sends, until it comes time; “But Lord, everyone else is doing it this way, everyone else is going that way!”  So we fight against the bit and just go where we had planned to go anyway suddenly finding ourselves disoriented and in a heap on the ground not even hearing the Spirit say- “Now why did you do that?” Instead we huff and puff and complain that the Lord steered us wrong.

“It can’t be my fault, that’s the way I’ve always done it, that’s the way everyone else does it!”

Being Spirit led is a lot like being broke to neck reign, just a light touch on the side of the neck and a sharp horse who trusts the rider will turn the instant it feels the leather shift- after a while even anticipating the reins by the shift in body weight and a squeeze of the knees.  A Spirit led believer will move as soon as it feels the Spirit signal, even anticipating the nuances of the Spirits movements in our hearts.

This happens only if you truly trust the Lord, if you are truly open to his leading and the more you do, the more you will trust him and the easier it is to follow, even into the unexpected, until it becomes second nature.  A good cow pony absolutely delights in getting to work cows and will just about turn inside out with anticipation when it sees it’s rider coming toward him with a saddle, the job gets done with no stress, little pain and a pure sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that makes any pain or soreness worthwhile and even more prepared for the next mission.

A lazy, unresponsive cowpony will get left in the corral until his wrangler gets fed up with wasting good feed on him and sells him to the folks down the road who want a cheap lethargic horse to entertain their grandkids.

 

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Listen to the voice, the counselor whether you turn to the left or the right, even if you have always done it that way and even if the rest of the herd is out of sight.  We are the church of Jesus Christ, we are the body, we are born again spirit led disciples of the living God.  Who are we listening to, who are we trusting, who are we following?- the answer had better be, The LORD.

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way;( walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

 

The Substance of Faith

“nothing has never spawned something by the power of no one”

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     Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb 11

Faith. We all struggle with faith at times don’t we? Of course that can be a pretty broad statement, “I struggle with faith.” That can mean anything from struggling to believe that God will fulfill a specific promise to you, to believing that he hears your prayers, to believing that he even exists. Faith is always difficult if we think we have to muster it all up on our own—we really don’t, depending on what you are trying to have faith in or for anyway.

Faith is an interesting and even puzzling thing. The simple definition of faith is that it is a belief in something or someone. It helps of course to have evidence for our faith, like; I have faith politicians in Washington will be adamantly opposed to whatever someone from the opposite party comes up with because they always are—that’s a pretty sure bet.

I have faith that the sun will come up tomorrow and that winters in Montana will be cold—and way too long. Faith—it’s not complicated, usually, unless you are talking about faith that comes from the heart instead of the head because the head always wants to mess it up.

Yet, here we are, many of us, Sunday after Sunday, gathered together for one reason—faith. Faith in a resurrection that we didn’t witness, faith in a God that we have never seen and faith in a promise that we will one day be resurrected also. But why would we believe in something that we cannot see or feel? Why would we waste our time and mental energy dwelling on and clinging to something that we believe just because?

Because the faith we enjoy as children of God, as those who believe that God so loved the world that “He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”—is more than just a belief, it’s more then just a hope, it’s a gift from the God in whom we have put our faith.

When we take that small step toward God saying; “Lord I want to believe, I want to know you, I want to be have that hope of salvation, even resurrection kind of faith that knows that it knows”— he gives it to us.

It becomes real, it becomes tangible, it becomes a part of us—literally, because it is more than just a thought pattern, it is a Spiritual renovation that affects every fiber of our being. Jesus called it being born again. It’s a fresh start, a rebirth, a resurrection in it’s own right. A resurrection of the heart, a resurrection of the dead spirit that was killed off by sin and darkness, fear, doubt and rebellion—that spirit now replaced by the Holy Spirit of the Living God. You have to want faith to have it, “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief!”  at that point faith becomes real.

Real

My faith is just as real to me, just as tangible to me, just as undeniable as my own flesh and blood—even more so. I sometimes look at myself in the mirror and think, are you for real? How can you be so stupid, so weak, so easily angered, fooled and tempted? And how can you be so old all of a sudden—seriously—who are you?

My flesh and blood lets me down quite regularly but my Jesus never does. Jesus is real, his Spirit within me is real and he sees the real me that wants, that yearns to be with  him, to live in his will and ways knowing that in him my flesh will be and is overcome. As long as I cling to Jesus, keep the faith, his peace and joy is always within reach. And I can look in the mirror and even like what I see—because I see someone who is loved, just as I am.

I can look into the eyes staring at me from the mirror and see the life behind them that is Jesus.

For now I see but a reflection of Jesus as though in a mirror, dimly. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Cor 13:12) But I can rest assured that I will one day see him face to face. Because our faith is real, our faith is alive, our faith is Jesus.

Evidence

Substance

I believe because my faith has substance. It has manifest itself in my life countless times. And my faith is my evidence, even in and of itself. Aside from all that just the wonder of this world, that there even is a world, is evidence. The one I have faith in created all that we can see. It only makes sense that it all had to come from somewhere—nothing has never spawned something by the power of no one—so it only makes sense that there had to be a beginning somewhere at which point nothing became everything at the word of someone.

Only God can speak substance into a vacuum and wind up with an entire universe, and only God can speak life into the vacuum of your heart and create hope. Our hope is found in Jesus, the Son of God, Son of Man.

Jesus gave his life to give you yours, claim your hope, claim Jesus as your own-he wants nothing more than to claim you.

Luke 4

You are Loved, just as you are.

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.’

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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.

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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.

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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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