A Girl Named Hope

Nothin yet

Is your church more than a seeker sensitive message, loud music, trained official greeters and ushers and a fantastic coffee bar with gluten free, sustainably grown goodies?

(note-this message was written for my church in Red Lodge MT but I think it is a question we all need to ask of our own houses of worship.)

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

It’s not random chance that the church the Lord called me to start was established in Red Lodge. I could have, and was willing to go anywhere the Lord would send me. As a kid I lived in 5 different states so I know how to make my home wherever I would find myself, and though I had been in Yellowstone County for 34 years I was not rooted so deeply there that I was not unable to leave. This earth is not my home, home is where the heart is and my heart belongs to heaven.

Yet I feel blessed that the Lord sent me to familiar territory, neighboring Carbon County, where the mountains meet the prairies.. It’s all the best of Montana and if heaven looks just like Montana I will not be disappointed at all.

The point is, this church was strategically placed in Red Lodge by the Lord. Placed here to be a place where people would be drawn, from near and far, to be refreshed and healed, challenged and equipped— restored to effective Kingdom readiness status as a warrior for Christ, strong and confident in their call and in their worthiness to move in the power of the Holy Spirit— in the power and security of his love.

A ministry established at the base of some of the most majestic hills in all the earth, the Beartooth Mountains. People come here from all over the world, not just because it’s on the way to the most famous park in the world, there are much easier routes, but because it is the most beautiful and awe inspiring drive there is, by many estimations, in the country.

And right here, on the edge of paradise, is Hope Chapel Red Lodge—a place of Healing Restoration and Hope. Are we perfect in fulfilling our call? No. Have we had any success in our mission? Much that I am aware of and probably much that I don’t know of, I hope.

No matter the call and our willingness to hearken, we are still imperfect people who are going to make mistakes, maybe let some people down and offend others, but by the grace of God and a willing heart we will do the best we can—and God blesses that.

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Hope

That reminds me of something that happened just a few months ago. A young couple was here that I didn’t recognize, at first. They had a baby with them that was just a few months old. I said ‘hi’ and introduced myself then we had worship. Then during worship I started to think, “They look familiar”—then I remembered that they had been here before, I remembered because they had been real interested in my late grandfather’s creation, a steel eagle sculpture that stands next to the platform where I preach. The young man was himself a welder and he recognized the skill it took to create this.

So during the greeting time I went to them again and said, “You were here before weren’t you? Aren’t you from Worland WY?” They got big smiles on their faces and said “Yes, we were here one year ago on our honeymoon. Today is our anniversary and we knew we just had to come back here.” I said “To Red Lodge?” “No, to this church. We drove up just this morning to be here for church”

“I” the young lady then said, “was pregnant and very scared for our future when we were here last but we were so blessed and encouraged when we were here that we decided that we were going to name our baby after this church—her middle name is  Hope, Kash Hope, because that is what the Lord gave us here at Hope Chapel.”

I was blown away, what do you say to that? God is good—all the time. And he is always doing something and we often have no idea. We didn’t know what was going on in this young couples’ lives and hearts when they were here, bi-racial by the way, but the Lord used each and every one of you (our church family) to touch them. They could have heard the best sermon ever—and not felt loved and accepted by this church family, and left still scared of the future and desperate for hope.

Or—they could have been loved and accepted, heard a great polished sermon and a professionally produced worship set—yet not felt the Lord’s presence, because we didn’t invite him in or leave room for him to work because it’s all about uswhat we can do, how we have the right training, the right people skills, the seeker sensitive message and trained official greeters and ushers—and a fantastic coffee bar with gluten free, sustainably grown goodies.

No, even if we had all of that, if Jesus isn’t here, moving amongst us, touching hearts, healing hurts, speaking words of encouragement and love, filling the air with an unexplainable energy and a peace that passes understanding—then we are just a feel good program with no meaningful or lasting impact on a person’s heart, let alone anything eternal like—oh, I don’t know— their very soul!

That was an encouraging testimony, but that’s just one of the ones who came back to share how they were touched by the Lord through being in this house, with this family.

Keep being Jesus to the stranger and to those who you have come to know, who have confided in you, or that you have come to see as an imperfect human who needs a lot of help—oh wait, that’s just a mirror…—don’t stop believing, hoping, praying, contending and believing for more and more because I truly believe that the best is yet to come and that we have not seen anything yet.

To use the grammatically disastrous but yet very effective phrasing: You aint seen nothing yet.

That goes for each and every one of you who are called by the name of Jesus!

Click to Download Barbarians in the Kingdom today.

BAR COVER

 

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The Word Behind You

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Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left. Is 30:21

When us Spirit filled Christians think of the word behind us we tend to think of the voice of the Holy Spirit. And this is certainly a valid thought. But remember what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do, he will not only teach us all things but he will also bring to our remembrance all that Jesus has taught us as well. We who do not have the benefit of having walked with Jesus know His word via the written word, the Gospels.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14

I think this applies to the whole of scripture as we know that all scripture is God breathed and that Jesus is God, as he claimed to be on numerous occasions—”Before Abraham was, I am”—and that he was the very embodiment of the word, and he is the word—”In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God”

When we’re walking along, traveling the trails of this life the Holy Spirit is there to guide us, to teach us the way. We have big decisions to make and a verse comes to mind, a story from the Bible, something we just read this morning or something we learned in Sunday school as a kid.

We have small decisions to make, at least what seems small to us, and a bible character comes to mind, something they said or did, and we are inspired to do a certain thing as a result. That is the voice behind you—the scriptures that were written so long ago, way back there between two thousand and four thousand years ago, made alive and brought right up behind us like a GPS unit telling us to ‘take a left here, stop there, turn around.’ It is the scriptures made alive in us by the Holy Spirit in front of us leading us from in front with his words to our hearts and encouraging us from behind with the voices of the past.

In order for that to work, in order for Jesus to remind us of his words, we have to have known them in the first place. You cannot be reminded of something you never knew in the first place.

How can you be inspired to courage in the face of the giants of this life when you never read the story of David and Goliath? How can you know how to pray for God’s will to be done in your life when you never read Jesus’ prayers and his teaching on prayer? How can you trust God to do the impossible when you don’t know the Story of Abraham and Sarah, Elizabeth and Zechariah?

How can you have hope that this life is not all there is and that Jesus will one day return for his church if you have never read the book of Revelation or the myriad other references to heaven and the return of our King scattered throughout his word?

How will you not fear the evil that is rising seemingly unhindered and without end if you have not read those books of the Bible, Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelation, the words of Jesus in the Gospels that tell us how we win in the end? And on and on and on.

I find my greatest inspirations to continue the fighting in the stories of Jeremiah, Isaiah and of course the Apostles. People who were maligned and even martyred yet never stopped because they were obedient to the truth, they hearkened to the voice of the one who called them. And because they listened and obeyed—he kept leading them.

Their words still speak to us and their stories inspire millions, today. ‘Lord, let my life be a witness of your love and power. Let me have the Spirit of  a Jeremiah, the courage of a David, to be as bold as John the Baptist, as clever as Isaac and as patient as Job. And most of all, let me love like you Lord, laying down my life for my friends and taking up my cross to follow you no matter where you lead—Not my will but yours be done!’

‘My life is yours because you redeemed my life from the pit and there is nothing else in this world that compares to you.’

When you have tasted freedom after having been ensnared by hopelessness and despair, addictions and the sin which do easily entangles, nothing else matters but keeping that freedom and leading others to it.

That is where Jesus is taking you, that is why we need to follow Jesus, because others are watching to see where we’re going and if it indeed leads to freedom—freedom and joy.

Everyone in this life wants to be happy but few are. That leaves us with a lot of desperate people. We know the way. They only way we can show the way is if we are willing to keep following ourselves, every day, every minute.

And obey

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If you want God to continue speaking to you, you have to actually do what he asks. In my kid’s ministry days, in my classroom if a child refused to listen and obey, if he, or she, just became competing noise making it impossible for those who wanted to learn to do so, I would remove them from the classroom. “Go stand in the hallway until I come and get you.” When they are standing  in the hallway, they are not hearing anything, they are not participating and they soon become bored and frustrated.

Then the attitude usually changes; “Can I please come back in? I will listen, I promise!” I wonder how many times the Lord has put us in the hallway to stew but we were too wrapped up in ourselves to realize that the Lord may be trying to teach us something. “Lord, why aren’t you speaking to me?” Well, maybe because we didn’t do, or even bother to listen to, the last things he told us. —Just a thought.

Reminds me of another bit of wisdom I gleaned in my younger days that I have repeated many times to younger people coming up under me in the construction trades.

Do what the foreman tells you to do and you can’t go wrong. Because then, even if it is wrong, it is his fault. And, his way is a lot less likely to be wrong then your way in the first place. That’s why he’s the boss and you’re not.

You mess up enough times because you refused to listen and you will no longer be around to hear anything from the boss. You won’t have to worry about arguing with the boss anymore about how dumb his assignments are. Of course you won’t get paid anymore either.

The Kingdom of God works much the same way. We have to acknowledge; “You are God and I’m not.” That’s a hearkening.

We can have a hearkening today, or a reckoning tomorrow.

35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Mat 12

We are only given so many days in this life, don’t waste today by saying tomorrow you might listen, tomorrow may never come, at least not the one we expected.

book cover

Now available from your favorite online bookseller in print or eBook form

Barbarians. . . seriously?

Political correctness be d@#%d!Barbarian meme

Barbarians in the Kingdom

The Barbarian in the Kingdom is a man, a simple man with a simple mission- to live victoriously and to never be ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Barbarian in the Kingdom makes no apologies for who he is as a man or as a soldier for Christ. The barbarian in the Kingdom takes care of his own- the women in their lives- not because they are inferior and weak but because that is his role and he embraces it. The barbarian women in his life appreciate and thrive in the freedom and security that care affords them.

It is the civilized and religious man who subjugates and diminishes his woman- in the barbarian tradition, as in the Kingdom of God, the women always play a key and equal, even if different, role in the societal and family structure. They are not ashamed to be women and the men are not ashamed to be men- this gender neutralism business trying to pervade our society is just as ridiculous and absurd as was the notion that women are inferior.

The barbarian in the kingdom lives by a simple heart cry:

8I desire to do your will, my God;
your law is within my heart.” Psalm 40: 8

The simplicity of the barbarian nature guided by an instinct of justice uncluttered by religious rules or p.c. gamesmanship. This allows he or she to move freely and effectively, advancing and strengthening  the Kingdom while hardly even realizing it. Moving in the three basic tenants that are ingrained in the soul of every person who is wise enough and courageous enough to embrace it, the tenants that reflect the Spirit and life of our Savior:

Simplicity of purpose, Singularity of mission, Determination of spirit

And that’s why we need Barbarians in the Kingdom

Dan Swaningson- the Barbarian pastor

Download the book today

The Riddle

“What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? 25 But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed those who are gorgeously appareled and live in luxury are in kings’ courts. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. Luke 7

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Remember the old batman character the Riddler? He was always messing with Batman’s mind by giving clues to his true intentions in the form of a riddle.

Riddle me this caped crusaders; What is covered in camel’s hair but is not a camel? What speaks the words of God but is not found in a temple? What eats locusts and honey but is not a wild beast, and stands as sturdy as an oak but is not a tree. What is not concerned about being politically correct and not offending anyone yet draws hearers from far and wide?

Answer—A true prophet and more than a prophet, the voice of one—John the Baptist.

The crowds weren’t drawn to John because he was a smooth talker in fancy clothes. They were drawn to John because he was honest, because he spoke truth, and the people were hungry for the truth. Which is of course why they now followed Jesus—he also spoke truth—he could do nothing else because he is truth.

People were not drawn to John because he looked good in his designer clothes and impeccably groomed beard and stylish haircut, people did not walk miles in the hot sun into the middle of nowhere because they wanted to hear the message of abundant living, the secret to success, that some well-to-do preacher was offering. They went because they were hungry for truth, hungry for something real; because John was proclaiming, for no apparent personal gain of his own, with no pretense or fancy talk, that the Kingdom of God, the Redeemer was coming and coming now.

“The Redeemer will come to Zion,
to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,”
declares the Lord.

 “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit, who is on you, will not depart from you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will always be on your lips. . .  Is 59:20—21

They went to John because they were hungry for God, hungry to be right with God, hungry for the word and seeing and hearing this wild eyed man in the desert who cared not about his own pride or esteem, who wasted no energy worrying about whether he would look good enough and preach good enough to make people want to come back next week, hearing him tell them that he had a way for them to do that—to be right with God—'”repent and be baptized” and be ready.’ ‘Believe in the one who was to come, “the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.’”

Peter would preach that same message on the day of Pentecost three years later—Repent and be baptized— but this time it was not to receive the one who is to come, but to receive the one who has come.

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2

This was a fulfillment of John’s promise that one was coming who would baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

But for now, on that day when Jesus asked the people, why did you go to see John?—No one else was offering them that hope for grace, no one else was telling them their sins could be taken away, let alone the sins of the world, or that they could soon even be immersed in the Holy Spirit.

The priests had made a business out of offering only temporary absolution, ‘keep coming back, keep buying the animals for the sacrifice we sell here, keep paying the temple tax and the tithe, keep doing everything the teachers of the law tell you to do, you dirty sinners, if not for you God’s Kingdom would have come a long time ago!’

Garments of righteousness

Jesus wasn’t trying to make the point that we need to dress modestly like John did. He was telling us that it is what’s on the inside that’s important.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, My soul shall be joyful in my God; For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Is 61:10

Here are the garments that we need to wear, the ones that are truly important, the ones that we wear out of respect and love for the one we stand before as a bride.

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I always tell the groom to be when we are preparing for a wedding I am performing when he is stressing over how he is going to look up there in his Tux or whatever as he is standing before a crowd nervous and self-conscious—”No one is going to be looking at you”, the minute that bride comes in, all eyes are on her. She even has her own song.

The bride is usually all decked out in a white dress that is made just special for her to dazzle and magnify her beauty. They spend hours on the hair and the makeup, the flowers and accessories, veils, trains, jewels, whatever and as soon as the groom sees her the last thing he is thinking about is whether or not he looks dorky.

He is awestruck and madly in love at that point and can never imagine ever feeling any other way about her, she is the very center of his universe.

Every time I gave away one of my daughters at their wedding I had the same thought, “Boy, you had better realize how lucky you are.”

That is how Jesus sees us—as the most beautiful thing he has ever laid eyes on and he is thrilled beyond comprehension that we have chosen to be his, that his Father has given us to him. He is honored and happy that we have accepted the garments of salvation, and me the robe of righteousness he offers to us and that we chose to wear them just for him.

The lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world has made us his bride, and we are perfect and beautiful and he can never imagine himself loving us less. How can we not rejoice in that?

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It’s not luck that gets the groom the beautiful bride, it’s the unfailing, sacrificial love and devotion that the husband to be showers on the one he has chosen to be his bride—Jesus has chosen you.

 

 

 

The Mad Prophet

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“. . . clumsy, uncouth, crude, unsophisticated, redneck— that’s the words, those don’t bother me so much as the condescending looks and attitudes do. ‘

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.’”

Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Mat 3:3—4

I think we can learn a thing or two from John the Baptist that is relevant to where we are as a church family today. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, prepared hearts for the message of Jesus and the subsequent outpouring in his day, the last days will need harbingers as well—they could very well be alive today, they could even be you.

Chew on that for a minute. —If you are mentoring or teaching, encouraging or equipping someone, you may very well be preparing the next John the Baptist, or you are the next John the Baptist. Don’t discount that idea or think it could never be someone like you.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Mat 3:11

“I am not worthy”  Biblical prophets never considered themselves worthy, they were seldom well known until they went mad in the eyes of the world, and most often those who thought themselves superior to them didn’t take them seriously and told them to back off.

We cannot make either of those mistakes, we cannot discount others and we cannot discount ourselves—in fact, we are all called to prophesy.

I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. 1 Cor 14:5

It’s what your prophetic role is that becomes the question and whether or not you are bold enough to fulfill it.

The Lord likes to call those who, to the rest of the world, seem the least likely to fulfill the role he has in mind for them. It’s like God looks through High School yearbooks to find those voted least likely to succeed and chooses them. It might not be officially written in our year books but we all get labeled, classified, nonetheless. No matter our station in life at any given time we always seem to be either running from or trying to live up to a label.

I only recently embraced and became proud of what I call my barbarian side but it is something that has followed me all my life. Since I was a kid I have been labeled at various times as clumsy, uncouth, crude, unsophisticated, redneck— that’s the words, those don’t bother me so much as the condescending looks and attitudes do. We are all very adept at pegging people and being pegged, often times without a word and it is always very evident.

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Construction worker

I have worked with my hands all my life and never saw a lot of benefit to just putting in time in a classroom if they are not teaching something relevant or new.

Because of that I quit school at the start of my junior year to go into Job Corp to learn a trade that would make me a living. I had always done well in school but by the start of the 11th year it seemed like we just kept relearning the same stuff so I decided to stop wasting my time trying to stay awake in a classroom and do something more constructive. So before my classmates got that piece of paper and a tassel to hang on their car mirror for sticking it out I had gotten a GED, completed a heavy equipment operating course with over a thousand hours of operating time and was certified in three different types of welding.

While my former High school classmates were either going to work for minimum wage or going into debt to fund a college education they would spend much of their lives trying to repay, I was running back hoes, bulldozers and cranes and welding on pipeline jobs making decent money. But in most of the world’s eyes I was, and am, an uneducated construction worker.

Those of you who get dirty for a living know what I am talking about. There is often a little bit of an air of superiority in the way those who wear suits and ties to work relate to you—if they even bother to try. People assume you work with your hands because you are too stupid to do anything else.

This stigma carries into the church also. It’s not overt, but it is there. This is relevant because it is often a factor in who we choose to invest in as leaders. Surely the educated sharp dressed handsome man or the tastefully dressed young woman from the upstanding church family with no tats or piercings is the best candidate for the salaried position of her dreams in the big church.

I’m just saying, we need to stop looking at people like we are choosing the next cover model for GQ or Vanity Fair, we need to stop judging people by whether or not they have grease under their fingernails or letters after their names. And that goes both ways. Not all suits are snobs, many wish they had my job and my skills, they ae going insane sitting behind a desk all day.

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We cannot judge a person by outward appearances and the church establishment is probably the biggest offender. It goes all the way back to King David, and King Saul. Saul won the people’s choice award and David wasn’t even invited to the party, yet David became the king whose throne would endure forever.

And for you, don’t ever think you have to somehow look or act a part to win that part in the Kingdom of God. If you are called to be the preacher, the teacher, the evangelist, the prophet, the harbinger of the coming of the glory of the Lord—then don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Forge on my barbarian friends.

BAR COVER

Barbarians in the Kingdom

 

Equal and Respected

“There is no room for the subjugation or devaluing of anyone in God’s

Kingdom. . . “

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The following is an excerpt from my newly released book; Barbarians in the Kingdom

I C O N T E N D T H A T Barbarism is a state of mind, one

the kingdom needs—as long as it is a state of mind that is subject to

Christ. As we saw earlier, the name barbarian was originally a term

used to designate a group of people: those unconquered and uncivilized

tribes living north of the mighty Roman empire. In later centuries those

now “civilized” barbarians would reassign this term to reference the

Norsemen who would pour out of the north, taking what they wanted

and answering to no one. We now know them as Vikings. The sword

and the battle ax was their law—at least in regard to the world outside

of their own communities.

Within their villages and clans they did live by a code of conduct, a

strict and honorable code of conduct that honored and protected women

and children and ensured that all could live in security and that they

each had a voice. Within this codified culture, as in nearly all barbarian

cultures, the women had an equal voice and were respected. Many of

them fought alongside the men in battle and some even led men in

battle; hence the venerated shield maidens—a misnomer, as according

to the Norse sagas they did much more than hold shields and bat their

eyes; they led warriors from the front.

The lower class?

It’s really a notion that comes along with civilization, advanced learning,

and religious regulations, that the women should be subjugated and

diminished to a lower class of citizen. We saw that in ancient Israel—a

very patriarchal culture—and in our own country’s not-so-ancient

history. Until just a few generations ago, women couldn’t even vote, and

if they chose to work outside of the house their options were few as they

were relegated to being nurses, teachers, waitresses, or secretaries. We

now see that religious expression of female subjugation to the extreme

in much of Islam where, under Sharia law, women are little more than

livestock.

God has an answer to that: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there

is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all

one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28 NKJV).

Paul reiterates this to the Colossians: “ . . . and have put on the

new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him

who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor

uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and

in all” (Col. 3:10–11 NKJV).

There is no room for the subjugation or devaluing of anyone in God’s

kingdom, and again we see the barbarian put on an equal footing with

the “oh so philosophical” Greek and the spiritual and meticulously pious

Jew. Everyone—man, woman, slave, and free—is equal in the kingdom

of God among those who put their hope in Christ. So again I ask the question.

Why do we strive to emulate the “Greek” and the “Jew”—the

sophisticated and the religious?—“Let’s debate and argue theology until

we don’t even remember what the debate is about anymore, and let’s

see how many more rules and rituals we can cram into our written, and

unwritten, personal books of do’s and don’ts until we get so caught up

in the doing, so hung up in the nuances of our theological bents, that

we forget what the purpose of it all was in the first place.”— that we

can no longer see the forest for the trees.

According to this scripture, there is no advantage to being one over

the other, for our identity is now in Christ. The woman should not strive

and desire to be like the man. The Greek should not try to become the

Jew; the barbarian should not try to emulate—to try to act like someone

they are not—as though we must fit into a certain mold; “I must be

sophisticated and highly educated like the Greek. I have to be a shining

example of religious perfection like the God-fearing Jew—always seeking.” barbarian-meme

The point is, be who you are! That’s what this is saying.

If you are of the barbarian persuasion—then be the barbarian! That

is the simplicity of purpose. You cannot spend your life trying to be

someone you are not. If you commit yourself to Christ as a barbarian

and he welcomes you into his arms of love, then be the best barbarian

for Christ that you can be. He loved and called you for who you are. It’s

hard enough to keep the flesh at bay and try to keep the Spirit prevalent

in our hearts—we don’t need to make it all but impossible by trying to

be someone we are not. Playing yourself in the drama of life is much

simpler than playing someone else—someone you wish you were, or

were told you must be.

BAR COVER

Buy now at Amazon.com

 

Oust the Snakes

“Poison or not, the business end of a bull snake is not a happy place when its’ business is you.”  

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I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:1—2

We are called to be Holy—set apart, separate from the world even while in it—Holy warriors. We cannot expect to be a light to the world if we are living in the deeds of darkness, we cannot expect to be blessed by a Holy God if we are not setting our hearts towards holiness and we cannot expect to find ourselves in the path of the Lord’s plan for us if the flesh is leading us down the path of sin.

So what’s the big deal, we’re covered by grace, we are free, what’s a little indulgence gonna hurt? I don’t know, maybe you should ask your kids.

I want to tell you a true story I hope makes the point.

Buddy the Bull Snake

This goes way back to when we were still on the Heyu—cow ranch. We had only been in the new house we had built after our honeymoon cottage burned down for a year or so, long enough for the ground under our front steps to settle and create a cavity—a perfect snake den it turns out. We had a five foot bull snake move into that cavity. Cool, no big deal, we had a Bull snake hanging around at the old Homestead house we had started in, maybe even the same one. We had named him Buddy because Donna would ask me now and then if I had seen my buddy lately.

Buddy liked to stretch out in the front yard to soak up the morning sun; this would give you quite a start if you came across him unexpectedly.  We didn’t worry about him too much because we figured he would keep the worse snakes—the rattlers— away. Just leave Buddy be, what’s one snake gonna hurt?

Well, the problem arose when our daughter Cally, was three or four years old, old enough to start roaming around outside the house some by herself. She would be outside playing and run into Buddy causing her to go into hysterics; she would then run away shrieking at the top of her lungs.  Apparently when you are only three feet tall a five foot snake is pretty scary.

Well, after hearing Cally scream bloody murder a few different times I decided Buddy had to go. So, the next time I heard Cally scream I donned my welding gloves, high boots and grabbed a rake and a five gallon bucket.  I found Buddy lying in the front yard right where Cally’s screams indicated he would be, I snagged him with the rake and dropped him into the bucket.  I quickly put the lid on the bucket and took Buddy for a walk.

I took him to the opposite corner of the forty acres our house sat on and released him in a swampy area where I figured he would find plenty to eat and have a nice life near the water.  Apparently all Buddy found there was other snakes who were looking to “have a nice life” because about a month later I heard that familiar scream again and ran out to find Cally running from a gathering of four bull snakes and the largest garter snake I had ever seen lounging around the front yard basking in the morning sun like vacationers on the beach.

Once again I put on my gloves and boots, grabbed a rake and a large cardboard box and went out to start scooping up snakes as they tried to make their way back to the den under the steps.  The only problem was the snakes were coming out of the box almost as fast as I was putting them in.  After I had scrambled enough to get three of them to stay in the box at the same time I shut the lid on the box while the remaining two disappeared under the steps.  I then threw the box of snakes into the back of my pickup and headed for the lower pasture a couple miles away down the back road, all the while I was cringing, imagining those snakes crawling into the cab with me, (I really don’t like snakes.)

Finally I got to where I planned to release them, far enough away that I knew they would not come “home”, and dumped them into the head of a large washout. One of the larger snakes decided he would rather come after me then go into the chasm, mouth open, fangs bared and hissing, so I ran back to the truck and high tailed it out of there.  Poison or not, the business end of a bull snake is not a happy place when its’ business is you.  I later dispatched the Garter snake with a shotgun and the remaining bull snake with a shovel and much dancing while he hissed and struck at me; no fun!  Snakes don’t make good “buddies”.

Thot’s

What’s one snake gonna hurt? You see, the trouble started when I allowed just one little ol’ snake to hang around.  I even began to think of him as a friend.

We’ve all been there; ‘What’s one gonna hurt?’  He’ll keep the others away.  So I have a couple of bad habits, I’m a big boy, I can handle it. What’s one hit gonna hurt, what’s crude comment gonna hurt, what’s one look gonna hurt—one drunken evening. I’s no big deal, so what if I fall short in this area? I’m only human, I’ve got to have some fun right? No one will care if I sleep around, no one will care if I steal a little from my employer—no one will know.

Here’s a question to ask yourself next time you are indulging; If Jesus was standing here next to me, would I still do this?

Or—’If my kids saw me doing this would they be okay with it, or would they run away screaming?”—innocence has a much different perspective. How about this question, “Would I be okay with it if my kids started doing this themselves?”

If you are not okay with your kids doing it, why would you expect your Father in heaven to be okay with you doing it? There’s something to ponder.

Why would you not be okay with your kids doing it? Why not drink yourself silly? Why not sleep with someone who hasn’t bothered to make a marriage commitment with you? Why not cheat and steal, cuss and lie, smoke and chew? Why would you not encourage your kids to do these things? Because you know they are harmful, you know they are hard habits to break and you want better for your kids—so does the Lord.

That’s why he gave us the commandments, not to ruin our fun but to keep us safe, to keep us free—because he loves us and has something so much better for us. He doesn’t want us playing with snakes, snakes are not nice and they always invite other snakes to move in with them.

Snakes always den up with other snakes and your heart is a fine place to den up—especially if the Lord has cleaned it out for them.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. 44 Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. 45 Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”  Mat 12:43-45

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