Where is the Church?

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

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

apple meme

Keep the passion, renew the passion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

resist

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

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

will

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

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

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

Stripes meme

Where’s the church?

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

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

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

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

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

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

PD

 

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.

battle meme

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.

 

 

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Fooled ’em for Another Week

“that all too familiar fear of failure and judgement hit the pit of my stomach.”

14 how much more shall the blood of Christ,… cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:14

How’s your conscience? Now there’s a loaded question. “What? What do you mean? What do you know, who told you…?” We all have secrets, insecurities and guilt over something or other—don’t we?. It’s like the joke I’ve heard at work a few times and have even said myself, usually on pay day; “Well, fooled ‘em for another week!”

The inference being that if the people you work for knew just how unqualified, insecure and hapless you are they would get rid of you immediately. Of course it’s meant to be a joke but like any good joke, especially the ones based in sarcasm, my specialty, there is always a nugget of underlying truth that makes it funny in the first place. The reality is, most of us are a little insecure in our jobs, relationships, positions or what have you, and feel like if people really knew the real you, the secret battles that go on in your head and heart they would be aghast and ask you to hit the road Jack.

I know I find myself often lately in rooms full of people with engineering degrees, architectural degrees, PHD’s or whatever, owners of big companies and CEO’s and I think, what am I doing here?

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Especially when they are looking to me for input on how to make things happen on their big construction projects, like I’m the expert on every aspect of the project. Sometimes I just want to say; ‘I’m just a carpenter, don’t ask me’, but I can’t say that so I silently pray Lord help me not to make a fool of myself and I say what comes to mind.

Sometimes that leaves people a bit astounded, like, did you really just say that? Because I’ll tell you what, if you’re leaning on the Holy Spirit to guide you, combined with experience, truth comes out and it’s not always comfortable—yet it always gets the desired results and I walk away respected. Which, I suppose, is why I keep finding myself in those circles. But I’m always a bit insecure.

Or I’ll find myself surrounded by tradesmen, business owners and craftsmen asking me how they are supposed to make things work according to the plans that I am supposed to know every aspect of, and have or know where to get all the answers—and I think, How in the world did I get into this position? I just set out to be a hard working craftsman, to build things efficiently and with pride, and now I’m the Superintendent responsible for all this? Yikes!

The other day my boss called just on the heels of working through issues with the electrician, drywallers and plumbers back to back to back, and asked how it was going and I replied, “Well, I’m just solving all the problems of the world one subcontractor at a time.” Which it seemed to me at the time was exactly what I was doing, and he replied “sweet!”

That’s what I do most of the day, run around in circles and answer questions and solve problems all the while thinking; I could really mess things up here if I’m not paying attention or if I give answers that are beyond my authority or understanding to give. So, I’m still employed as of Friday—fooled ‘em for another week. And every day I continue to pray, “Lord give me wisdom to do my job well and bless my ministry as well, make sure I have plenty left for my church and family.”

Grandpa n Quiny

I often go home at the end of the day and wonder, and even cringe sometimes, thinking about some of my interactions with people throughout the day—I’ll tell you what, I don’t always feel very ‘pastorly’ when I’m pushing a big job and having to be the driving force behind a whole bunch of often difficult personalities all trying to work around, over, and with one another all day every day with the shared goal of meeting a deadline that always seems way too close.

Buttons

Buttons sometimes get pushed, and some people’s button are much easier to push. It takes a lot to push my buttons anymore to bring out the—“you don’t want to mess with me or you’ll be out of here in a heartbeat”—old school—“I don’t give a rip who you think you are” —foreman in me. But he’s in there and he serves a purpose. But I try to live by the old proverb that ‘a soft answer turns away wrath’ first and foremost because a hard answer invites push back that does indeed force your hand to play the hard ass card, and when that happens then I go home thinking, “Lord, did I totally just blow any chance of ever witnessing to that person?”

Are they now thinking, if they even know, ‘what kind of  pastor is he?’ What would the people I pastor think? ‘What do you think Lord?’ ‘Oh, man I’ve blown it again.’ —Here comes the accusations, the guilt and the temptations to just give up and give in.

Funny, I got home the other day and grabbed the mail. I noticed that I had a letter addressed to me from Foursquare, the big headquarters office in LA. That’s not unusual, but this one, this one made me uneasy right off the bat and I first didn’t realize why. I looked at it again and it was addressed to Dan Swaningson, yeah so? Well, most everything I get from Foursquare is addressed to Rev, Dan Swaningson. So you know the first thing that came into my mind? ‘Am I fired?’ Foursquare finally figured out that I am not qualified or worthy to pastor and they are stripping me of my title?

mountain preacher

I knew that wasn’t the case but isn’t that the way our minds work?-instant guilt, instant fear. My mind instantly flashed back to something I had written on a monthly report a couple months ago about the tight winter we had here—instant guilt and conviction. They’re going to replace me with a charismatic millennial in skinny jeans and a Prius rocking a man bun, and… Birkenstocks? —I don’t know, I’m not even hip enough to know what millennials wear, if it doesn’t say Wrangler, Stetson or Carhart on it I wouldn’t know if it came from the Dollar Store or from 5th Avenue, nor would I care.

So, I’m getting a it off track here, my point is, I panicked just a bit as that all too familiar fear of failure and judgement hit the pit of my stomach.

We are always a little afraid of getting into trouble, of maybe being found out like we have to hide who we really are, what we really think and probably some things we say or do, maybe I’m worse than most because of my codependent tendencies, but overall I think this is just human nature and part of our spiritual makeup. As we talked about last week, that’s the conscience pricking us, something it’s really good at.

Some of that may be the accuser whispering in our ears that we are miserable failures doomed to fail and to be cast aside by everyone who matters and by our God. And some of it is the legitimate feeling of guilt we have by virtue of having God’s laws and ways written in our minds and on our hearts.

10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Heb 8

We who know the law better than most because we care to read it and study it from our Bibles, often experience that guilt, fear and panic more than most. But that’s not the way it should be. We need to remember who we are, loved children of the Living God washed and guiltless before our Father by the blood of the Lamb of God—Jesus.

So, anyway, I didn’t get my ordination revoked so my church is stuck with this old redneck, cowboy shirt wearing preacher for now with no tattoos, an Ironworker vocabulary that I work hard to suppress every day, and a Pickup truck powered by Ford.

Turns out that letter was just a notice of some changes to my 401k and was from the financial dept at Foursquare, and their services being available to all paid staff across the board they don’t necessarily know or care who’s ordained and who’s not.

So, I’m fooled ‘em for another day. I’m still credentialed and okay to preach on Sunday—whew!

Barbarian meme

Right and Wrong–and Trolls!

Compass

Our country is a mess because we no longer acknowledge that there is a set moral compass; a true North.

What is missing in much of our culture today? There is no longer a shared and agreed upon moral standard because our culture is rejecting God. Rejecting the black and white—‘look it’s written right here!— word of God. And even worse, people are rejecting the whispers in their hearts and minds that originate with God. Whether you call it a conscience or a divine spark guiding us and tweaking our sensibilities whether we know the Lord or not. Simply by virtue of having been created in his image and having a just God who would that all know the truth and can chose before they are judged on the fateful day to come.

There will be no excuse of ignorance.

“I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. Hebrews 8:10—11

Remember what the original sin was? —Eating from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. People know. They know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil, they just refuse to act on the good and instead follow the lead of the corrupt and dying flesh deeper and deeper into the darkness. All the while proclaiming that what they are doing is ‘just fine’ and you had better not look down on them for it—in fact we are going to flaunt it, rub it in your face and demand that you condone it and celebrate itand if you don’t you are a hater and a (fill in the blank) phobic or ism.

You think I’m getting out there on a limb and missing the point of Hebrews eight? Maybe a little but I don’t think so. Us Pentecostals want to make this scripture all about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and dispensationalists want it make it all about the millennial reign, but it goes much deeper. Romans bears this out also.

gentiles heart

Everyone knows the difference between right and wrong, that’s why they get so defensive when they are challenged on their perversion of truth. People (with a little help from the enemy no doubt)  are experts at turning truth upside down and making right seem wrong and wrong seem right.

Enter the trolls.

We live in this strange new world where you can demean and belittle people you have never met before and probably never will from anywhere in the country or the world for that matter. Don’t you love trolls?

7112qaPHDvL._SX425_

I don’t mean the little elusive people of Scandinavian folk lore that live in the forest and wear pointy hats. Or the cute little cartoon creatures with the long fluorescent colored hair that stands straight up like Don King on steroids.

I mean the tiny minded people that stalk the social media sites looking for people to belittle.

I hate trolls, I know you’re not supposed to hate anyone—so okay, I don’t hate them, I just hate what they do and wish they would crawl back into their little troll holes and just play video games and leave decent people alone.

Yeah sometimes people invite trolls it seems by posting a lot of mean spirited and provocative propaganda, over and over and over again, or they just repost every cheesy thing they come across, like “write a word that starts with T and ends with T, most people can’t.”

Really? Anyone who graduated 1st grade can probably come up with quite a list. Why does all this stuff get reposted?—it drives me crazy. But you know, some people just don’t have a life or any real friends so just reposting everything they come across  gives them a way to feel like they are doing something or interacting I suppose, so you have to give them some grace.

Norse-Trolls-Creatures-of-Mythology-and-Folklore

Then again, perhaps the same is true of trolls, they just don’t have a life or any friends so they just sit in the mouth of their troll dens and poke people as they pass by. They know their doing wrong but they delight in evil; they no longer listen to their conscience.

But then, you may be thinking, how much time do you waste on Facebook that all this stuff bothers you? Well, probably more than I should but then I have three Facebook pages, two of which are ministry related. One that I started as a way to promote our annual worship festival; Beartooth Hope Fest that has attracted over 500, followers as I use it to promote local events that honor Jesus, and as a place to post little snippets of my sermons and memes that I make to go with them. (Many of which end up here)

I also have one that I originally started to promote my books called Dan Swaningson’s Words and Wit that I use to lead people to my weekly blog. Both of which occasionally attract trolls.

troll

I decided that when you start getting trolled that means you’ve arrived. Arrived where I don’t know, but it sounds good.

Anyway, a few weeks ago I posted a little thing on the Beartooth Hope Fest page about the mess this country is getting into with the celebration of infanticide, in your face homosexuality, and the attacks on people who dare to stand up for traditional values—daring to point out right versus wrong, and someone posted a comment;

“Maybe you should prove that your God is real before you make your whack job claims.”

I hate those comments because first of all, really, who wants to be called a whack job—although I’ve been called much worse on Facebook. People really freak out over some of my Barbarians in the Kingdom stuff—and secondly, I really want to rip into them in response.

I know I could, and I could use my gift of prophecy to rip right into the heart of these people. But that is not why God gives us those gifts. If he allows you to see into the heart of another it is so you can encourage and understand, not so you know how to really hurt them, but that’s a topic for another day.

If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 1 Cor 13:2

So, I thought about that comment a lot. At first it didn’t really seem to fit with anything I had even said, like, ‘what does that even mean? Have you just been waiting for a chance to use this canned one liner you keep up your sleeve?’ But then it dawned on me as I reread my post again, trying to put myself in the mindset of those who have a seared conscience and I realized that they were offended not by what I said so much as they were the assertion that there is a right and wrong because my basis for what is right and wrong is based on God’s laws.

So, if there is no God, then there is no moral compass by which to judge what is right and what is wrong, thus it can change with the seasons or even from person to person—each person just does what was right in their own eyes.

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes,
But the Lord weighs the hearts. Psalm 21:2

“We shall no longer have to teach our neighbor saying ‘know the Lord.’” God’s laws are written on the heart and the Lord will look at the hearts of men and see whether what they did was willingly done despite having that inkling that it is wrong, and whether they repented of it and turned to our New High Priest and received the forgiveness offered there.

I think this Facebook troll knew that something he was doing was wrong but he had decided in his own heart that there is no God therefore there is no absolute, there is no one outside of oneself to say what is right and wrong— ‘No one can tell me what to do!” So he lashed out at me for reminding him that there is a God and that if that is the case then we don’t get to choose our own morality—well, we can, we will just have to answer for it one day-; and that’s a frightening thought to many people.

But, if there’s no God we can pretend that we are not skeered of that either. ‘So leave me alone you whack job.’

12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Heb 8

 

New Covenant

We have a new Covenant but people are still living as though they are bound by the old and they don’t want to have to earn their way into heaven. They know what’s right and wrong but they know they cannot live up to it so why even bother to try, why even acknowledge it in the first place. That’s because they haven’t heard the good news of the new covenant that God will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds He will remember no more.”

If we are acknowledging God, accepting his offer and joining into the new covenant He offers we receive his forgiveness, we receive his Spirit to guide and lead us, to give us strength to do the right we now see more clearly. And each and every time we choose the right over the wrong, each and every time we repent of the wrong, seek forgiveness and acknowledge that it’s wrong, we draw that much closer to God and experience his blessings of peace love and joy more and more, and no one will be able to convince you at that point that God is not real.

Prove it

I thought about the audacity and the ludicrousness of that troll’s comment a lot, “Maybe you should prove that there is a God first…” I cannot prove that there is a God, only God can prove that he is there. And he has proven it to me over and over and over again. My life is an ongoing proof that there is a God, proof to me and hopefully a witness, evidence of the existence of God, to others.

I feel his presence, I experience his grace and live in the freedom of his covenant with me, the covenant he has written on my heart and in my mind that says I am free, I am loved, I am forgiven and I am His. You can do anything you want to me, say anything you want to me, take away everything I have and all that I love—you can take my very life—and I will still know that there is a God.

I never responded to that troll—God can defend himself, and me. I am just called to love people.

Love one another

Blown It?

Have I lost my salvation?

Depression

You ever feel like you’ve blown it so bad with Jesus that surely He must be done forgiving you and you might as well just give up and give in? “I might as well eat drink and be merry because surely I’ve lost my reward and will be lucky if I even make it into heaven. ‘Lord, how can you love a sinner like me?’” Time marches on, the years go by and it seems like the struggle never ends, the temptations keep coming and the flesh keeps falling for the same old tricks and the heart still struggles to hold on to hope.

It doesn’t always happen, some days we feel pretty good about ourselves and feel we might be winning the battle, our anchor is holding fast, but then we stumble again “Oh Lord, how can you love a wretch like me?” And then we read something like Hebrews chapter 6 and we really get worried.

For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame. Heb 6

Encouraging isn’t it?—um, not really… I’d be willing to bet that as you read this it caused you a little sense of panic; “Have I lost my salvation, is this me, is this my wife, my husband, my child?”

But we have to look at it in light of what he said just before this and in the previous chapter–five–that we shouldn’t have to keep laying the foundations again and again, those foundational principles that we are saved by repentance and faith, turning away from sin and to Jesus. We shouldn’t have to keep hounding on the basics of the faith, the resurrection of the dead, the importance of baptism, the power in the laying on of hands and the finality of God’s coming judgement—things which were even basic principles in the Jewish faith before the once for all sacrifice of the Son of God.

He’s saying that it doesn’t do any good to keep hounding people who already know all these things, who have experienced them and understood them, yet have rejected and turned away from them—from God—to hear them again because it will no longer do them any good. They have fallen away and no longer care; they can’t be resaved, when they have rejected what they had. The anchor rope has been cut and left on the bottom with the anchor.

The grace on which our hope is based is a gift. And a gift returned to Jesus because we didn’t like it is a gift no longer ours and may never be offered again. That may all sound a bit unnerving but that’s what it says here. But stay with me here, he’s not talking about misled or foolish believers who make some bad choices, he’s talking about being truly apostate, renouncing faith in Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Those who have received the gift of grace, been reborn by God’s Holy Spirit and even experienced the miraculous transformative power of that Spirit and moved in the Kingdom’s power, only to one day say ‘God is not real, his word no longer satisfies my soul’, They are rejecting the truth and forfeiting the grace they were so freely given.

When they turn back to the sin and bondages that Jesus died to free them from, whether it is turning back to the law—trusting in religious works and ceremony instead of Jesus for salvation, or rejecting the word of God out of hand and living just for the flesh as though Jesus was nothing more than a myth used by the foolish to keep people down—they are basically thumbing their noses at Jesus. Just as those who crucified him did.

The Mob

Jesus Cross

The screaming mob who stood before Pilate and shouted “crucify him” were many of the same people who had witnessed his miracles of healing, heard his words of power and authority proclaiming the coming of the Kingdom of God and offering peace and forgiveness to all who believed. They had heard of and even seen Lazarus who was raised from the dead, heard the shouts of praise from the blind men and the lepers, the crippled and bleeding women who were healed.

They had seen and heard demons flee in terror from those they had tormented, at just a word from Jesus—and then, because they were led astray by the words of a handful of men in fancy robes who claimed to be too smart to be swayed by such foolishness, they demanded his death.

Why would they do that? Perhaps because they wanted something now that that they weren’t getting. They wanted their Messiah to give them free bread everyday just like Moses had called down for their ancestors or like Caesar was doing in Rome. They wanted their deliverer to charge in on a white stallion leading an army like David and Solomon did in the glory days of old, their swords dripping with the blood of their enemies.

They wanted all their wishes and desires pandered to and they wanted vengeance on their enemies—and they wanted all this today. But it wasn’t happening so they were now an angry mob, and once that mentality takes hold, it’s no longer anchored in hope, it’s anchored in hate.

They hated the Romans, they hated the Samaritans, they hated their puppet king and the corrupt priests. But all Jesus wanted to talk about was love and faith, forgiveness and mercy—heart issues and selflessness—’we don’t need that, we need action, displays of power that will put the fear into the Romans and restore the greatness of Israel, and we need it now. ‘So off with his head!’, the Queen of Hearts is back on the throne, and Jesus is no longer relevant to us.’

That’s what the writer here is talking about when he says it’s impossible for those who once knew, saw and tasted that God is good, who experienced real forgiveness and felt the power of grace, who throw it all away, who renounce their faith and chase after the things of the flesh once again, to be restored to life. They have thrown away their grace, traded life for death, love for hate, mercy for judgement. Just as surely as those who stood on the hill at the foot of the cross and mocked him—the Nazarene who bled there.

They are committing the worst of sins in their mocking and jeers, that are blaspheming, cursing God himself.  Jesus put it this way;

against me

Still a citizen

So the writer of Hebrews here is not talking about just making mistakes and doing on occasion what we know we shouldn’t oughta do—he’s talking about purposely disregarding Christ and no longer caring or being grateful for his grace. Like the young woman from Alabama who basically renounced her U.S. citizenship to join Isis in Syria who now wants to come back to America. That renounce America and swear allegiance to her enemy thing is not working out so well for her—turns out the enemy’s promises of glory and purpose are not all they’re cracked up to be and now she will have a tough row to hoe proving that she truly warrants another chance to come home to the land she openly mocked and scorned.

In the case of one “fallen away” they just do not want to come home.

Better things

better things

The writer of Hebrews, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, as all of scripture is, is convinced that we are not those who have denied our faith and jumped headlong into the pit of doom. Just the fact that one would take the time to read these words is proof enough that the heart is still seeking the Lord, still open to his Spirit and receptive to his grace.

I used to have men ask me back when I was doing bible studies at the jail, men who acknowledged that they have made bad choices—done horrible things and stumbled and fallen in their walk with the Lord— they would ask me, desperate and forlorn, “Have I lost my salvation, can God still forgive me?” And I would always tell them the same thing, the same answer I would give to many others since then, “Just the fact that you are asking me that question, that you are worried about it, means that you haven’t.”

An apostate, someone who has denied Jesus as Lord, blasphemed the Holy Spirit whom it is that bears witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, does not care any longer what God thinks, they are not worried about losing their salvation or being forgiven because they no longer acknowledge that they are accountable to him. A heart that has rejected Jesus Christ as Lord is a hard heart with no room for remorse.

anchored meme

If one reads on in Hebrews 6 you’ll discover that God has given us his word, His solemn oath, that our souls are anchored in him, anchored by hope and that hope is found in his word, trusting his word, believing his word, our hope is his word, in his word we find Jesus, his only Son, creator, redeemer, the word of God, God himself, incarnate.

And hope never disappoints us. —Romans 5:4

So no, you have not blown it.

Be blessed my friends;  Dan–the barbarian Pastor

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Fence Crawling

“The answer is always the word of God—it’s really that simple—live it and live, or ignore it and die.”

The Double Edged Sword

Last week we talked about the rest that is offered by God, the rest from our striving and anxieties caused by having to try and earn our way into the Kingdom of God and by facing this life’s challenges alone. We discovered by studying chapter three that our rest is a result of trusting in God’s grace through Jesus Christ and his righteousness rather than in our own. It is also rest from our fears and worries knowing that we do not have to face this life alone and that his grace is power and freedom.

In other words—stop trying to do everything yourself and let God be God, cling to his promises and live in the joy and the hope that that confidence brings. Faith is freedom—faith is rest.

Faith in what? That’s the million dollar question. We find the answer in God’s word, and the answer is God’s word. We must trust God’s word, we must know God’s word and we must live God’s word. I can say without hesitation that every evil perpetrated on mankind, every fear, every malady, every grief—every struggle we face and issue we fear—has it’s roots in sin somewhere, the failure by someone, somewhere, to live according to God’s word.

It really is that simple. Whether it was a decision you made five minutes ago to do something contrary to God’s word, or as a result of the original sin back in the garden of Eden that opened the floodgates of death and decay on God’s perfect world, it could have all been avoided by resting in God’s word and not having to try the boundaries just to see what will happen. “It seems right to me, what can it hurt?”

—Everything.

That’s why the first few verses of Hebrews four warns us, as did chapter three for that matter, not to harden our hearts, not to walk in rebellion and disobedience—to what? To God’s voice, to God’s word.

Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, (His rest) and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said: “Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.”

For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day.

Heb 4:6-8

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Thinking about this, ‘trying the boundaries and hardening our hearts to God’s voice’ I was reminded of back when we were ranching and we still had a good part of one of our summer pastures fenced off with electric wire. Parts of the original ranch had been subdivided so Donna’s dad had just put up electric fence to keep the cows off the sold parts.

The fence was pretty remote so he had a solar charger hooked to a 12 volt battery powering the fence, which worked great—most of the time. One summer the cows all decided they really wanted to get through that fence and into the neighbors pasture, you know the old saying; “The grass is always greener on the other side”—A cow first said that, and it is one of the primary cow rules of thumb.

Up there with; Never go graze when there’s a hay yard to stand next to all day while we wait for food. Never start calving until it’s storming and cold and; Make sure you do most of your pooping in the barn so the rancher has something to do in the spring. Important lessons that cows pass from generation to generation.

So, after finding the cows in the neighbors’ field a couple times and the electric wire down I started keeping a closer eye on them. I would go up the hill to find them all standing along that fence a few feet back making sure they didn’t touch it because cows really do hate being zapped, as does anyone, but their calves—well they didn’t know better.

So, cow’s aren’t as dumb as they pretend to be, they would let their curious calves get between them and the wire and about the time they were sticking their noses out to sniff at this strange little wire their momma’s all seemed so intrigued by, the cows would nudge the calf from behind pushing it through the wire, or at least causing the calf to jump and maybe snag the wire pulling it down or breaking it. As soon as the wire hit the ground it would short out and voilaParty time—’let’s go girls!’

No more boundaries, they didn’t even care if I was watching them, rebellious ungrateful cows. Ranchers call these kind of critters “fence crawlers”

They had a 150 acres behind them  and they had to obsess over the 20 acres next door.

The problem I ran into was the more the wire got knocked down, the more charge it would take out of the battery and it would take the solar charger a few days to charge it up well enough to put the fear back into them. So after a while it was, hey, this zap ain’t so bad—let’s just do it. They wouldn’t even bother pushing the kids through first anymore.

Seek first meme

Thots

Sounds like us. ‘Rules schmules’, I been beyond those boundaries many times, I don’t even feel a twinge anymore. And we’re off where we shouldn’t ought to be and then wondering why we are being chased by a frazzled shepherd and we’re not being blessed in our wanderings—we have stopped even realizing that we are wandering. ‘Oh, that fence has been down for a long time—nobody pays attention to that!’ Abstinence till marriage? Pshaw! Closing down the bars and shaking my bootie for all to see? Don’t body shame me!

Watching porn and shows that glorify sexual pursuits, fantasizing? So what? Ignoring God’s call to use my time, talents and money to glorify him? That’s old school, I have a career and a dream to pursue—I need to take care of me right?

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Mat 6:33

Those fences have been down for a long time—nobody pays attention to that!’— God does.

His ways never change, his word is eternal. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.” And what is Jesus? The word of God, the one who also wields the sword of judgement. We need to wake up church and look at where we’re at. Are we even close to the right pasture anymore or are we in the neighbors hay field bloating on alfalfa because it just tastes so good.

A cow loves green alfalfa—but it will make a cow bloat up until it can’t even breath—and then it dies. That’s not in the cow rule of thumb hand book and that’s why the rancher builds fences. I replaced that electric fence with barbed wire by the way. God won’t do that, we are not livestock, we are his children, created in his image with the understanding of what is right and wrong—because he puts it in our hearts and teaches us with his word—but he leaves it to us to obey or not to obey. A caged child is an abomination and God loves us too much to do that to us.

The question is, do we love him enough to obey and stay in the pasture he has prepared for us knowing that he will always lead us beside the still waters? One thing I noticed about wandering cows, they usually come back when they get thirsty enough. There are only so many watering holes in cow country Montana, as there is in life. God always puts us where we can be taken care of, we just need to stay there.

How do we know where that is? Again, the answer is, the word of God. The answer is always the word of God—it’s really that simple—live it and live, or ignore it and die

Sorry if that’s not a feel good sentiment but the church has had too many feel good sentiments fed to her as a steady diet of; platitudes and catchy sayings that fit well in a song posing as the word of God and we are about ready to bloat and suffocate as a result. It is already too late for many.

Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you seem to have come short of it. Heb 4:1

If you are reading this, it is not too late for you.

Grace meme

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Heb 4:15—16

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Be blessed my friends!

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Just who is this Jesus? (Crazy Love)

Jesus God Meme

“. . .because we have been to hell and back together. . . and because we have always had one another’s backs . . . we (my wife and I) do not have to fear that we will one day wake up to discover that we are no longer in love and tear each other apart.”

Today begins a journey through the New Testament book of Hebrews. I hope you’ll join me my friends.

Hebrews

The first chapter of Hebrews lays out succinctly and plainly just who Jesus is. This is of utmost importance as this is what makes a Christian a Christian; knowing, believing and accepting who Jesus, not just was, but is. So the writer, gets that point across right out of the chute. And like that 8 second ride that saying brings to mind, you have to pay attention to every twist and turn, buck and snort, because it will be over before you know it and if you weren’t paying attention you’ll wonder what the big deal is and walk away thinking it was all about the clowns.

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. Hebrews 1:1—4

All of that in the opening sentence of this amazing book.

The Only Way

Jesus is salvation, not a component of salvation. Jesus is the way, not one of the ways. He is the creator, not created like an angel. He is exalted because he was exalted. He is a Son of God yet he is God. All that gives his death on the cross it’s power. Without that basis, without knowing and believing who Jesus is, the cross is emptied of power and we are indeed left to earn our salvation by adhering to the Law; by being good enough to get into heaven.

The Jesus described here in Hebrews in great theological clarity is put forth as many things as Jesus’ true being is many faceted. But all this is somewhat cerebral. It’s one thing to know who Jesus is, it’s another to know him. One without the other can be a ‘lose lose’ for both you and Jesus. If you have a head knowledge of who Jesus is but do not know him, you are lost because, as John also said in his gospel, we have to believe and receive.

 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, John 1:12

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But you can also know Jesus, invite him into your heart and be cleansed of your sins, without really knowing on what your faith is based. If you don’t have the word to back up your faith you can potentially be talked out of it, and perhaps end up lost to Jesus.

Crazy Love

I was thinking about a young woman in our church family the other day, how she just seems to get more and more excited and plugged into Jesus as time goes by, and the thought hit me, “Man, that girl is just crazy in love with Jesus!” And I thought, “You know, that’s really what it takes to get us through this life.” We can know all the scriptures, even grow up in church, look and act like good little Christian boys and girls and never really have a deep down love and appreciation for Jesus, and the enemy can come along and steal our joy, our passion—our lives in him.

It’s like my wife Donna and I. We have been married for nearly thirty one years. We have been through some really hard times, we have not always seen eye to eye and we have tested and stretched one another, but we are crazy in love with one another. We started out our marriage in love, and we have always been in love. There were times when we might not have felt it so much or maybe wondered about the whole thing; but we were, and always have been, committed to our marriage.

And today as we look around near and far and see marriages fall apart, people living selfishly or refusing to do things God’s way and then struggling to understand why they are not happy and blessed we find ourselves looking at one another more and more and saying ‘thank you Jesus for us.’

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Photo by Snapwire on Pexels.com

I know that we are in a relationship that will endure. I can know that because we know one another, better than we ever have, better than anyone else in the world, because we have been to hell and back together.  And, because we have always had one another’s backs and afford one another complete and total trust and honesty, we do not have to fear that we will one day wake up to discover that we are no longer in love—and tear each other apart.

I can say that because we have a crazy love for one another that is based on and modeled after a crazy love for Jesus who promises he will never leave us nor forsake us, and we made that promise to, and before him, to each other. And we are blessed. You know what that blessing is? Love, love is the blessing, love that cannot die, that cannot be taken away, that is ours to keep and live and breathe and sleep in, for as long as we chose to do so because it is a love that comes from Jesus, a love that is Jesus.

Above all else, Jesus is love. This chapter 1 from Hebrews goes to great lengths to explain to us from several different angles and scriptural proofs that Jesus is God, and what is God? God is love.

So if you are going to know Jesus, if you are going to be in Christ, live in Christ, build a life, build a marriage, build a family, on the rock, on Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Son of Man, ‘who was and is and is to come’, you are going to have a love that cannot be destroyed and that ‘overcomes all things’. And if that is all I have, if that is the sum total of my life when I breath my last—I had love. And because I had love, I had everything. I am in love, I am in Christ—and because I recognize and embrace that, I am and will die a blessed, happy and content man.

Everything else the Lord entrusts me with is just icing on the cake. Everything the world and the enemy throws at me is just a nuisance and a temporary heartache. I know who my Jesus is, I know my Jesus and he knows me.

If you fall madly in love with Jesus, you are in Jesus because Jesus is love. Thus you now know who Jesus is.

Just crazy

That head and heart understanding of who Jesus is has carried me through and beyond challenge after challenge, trial after trial, grief after grief, temptation after temptation, failure after failure—for 34 years now. 34 years this last week in fact. I know I would be a mess otherwise.

I have a mind that is always rebelling against my heart and a flesh that is constantly fighting with my spirit. And I know if I were not crazy in love with the real Jesus, the Jesus who is Lord, Lord of my life, I would just be crazy.

Instead of crazy in love, I would just be crazy and I would have to turn to something else, things that would ensnare me, and I would probably be someone I didn’t like very much. But because I have a God who believes in me, who loves me and always sees the best in me and encourages it, I can love myself. And because of that and my love for him, I desire to be the best that I can be and I have a reason bigger then myself to do so.

grayscale photo of couple holding frame while kissing
Photo by Murilo Folgosi on Pexels.com

That carries over into my marriage also, because I love, and am loved, by a Lord who upholds all things by the word of his power:

“and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,”  Heb 1

Because of that I can love others sacrificially and unconditionally as well, just as I am loved.

And just as the trials and challenges that Donna and I have faced together have served to make our love and respect for one another only grow stronger over time, so the many trials and tribulations that I have faced, and face, only serve to make my love for Jesus stronger and my relationship with him ever more precious and appreciated.

You can take away all that I have, but you can never take away my love and knowledge of Jesus Christ, my Lord and King—my God.

But to the Son He says:

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever;
A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. Heb 1

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