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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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

 

Stand Firm- (with puppies)

“Putting that tarp on top of that kennel just turned it into a big box kite…”

faith

My faith is a gift, my faith is real and no one nor anything can steal it away–but they keep trying.

When your faith becomes real you will do anything to honor him from whom that faith comes, Jesus, and to let all the world know the good news. Because the life you live on this earth today is just the beginning of eternity.

All who knew Jesus before and after his death, laid down their lives to gain them, knowing they had nothing left to lose. Nothing could steal their faith, or harm their spirit.  The Apostle Paul wrote:

31 I face death every day—yes, just as surely as I boast about you in Christ Jesus our Lord. 32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus with no more than human hopes, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised,

“Let us eat and drink,
for tomorrow we die.”

33 Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Cor 15:31—33

How are you doing –wondering, struggling? We all do, don’t give up.

Your faith is not in vain, do not talk yourself nor let anyone else talk you out of it. Do not be misled by the foolish. The world is in an upheaval right now like we have seldom seen as the darkness rises up to kill steal and destroy all that is good, all that is holy, all that is right. Every time we turn around something that was unheard of a few years ago or even yesterday, is suddenly right, and we had better not have an issue with it.

The enemy wants to make a mockery of your faith, belittle, humiliate and delegitimize you and all that you stand for, or at least thought you did. ‘Do I really? Do I really want to be the social pariah? How can so many voices, so many seemingly good and smart people be wrong, be deceived? Am I the one who is wrong, am I the one who is deceived?’

That’s the oldest trick in the book—literally. “Did God really say…”Did Jesus really rise from the dead? Am I wasting the few decades I have on this planet trying to live by the standards found in a book that was written thousands of years ago, should I just eat and drink for tomorrow I die? Is God just trying to ruin my fun?

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No, dozens if not hundreds of witnesses who saw Jesus before and after his resurrection gave up everything, their homes, their jobs their lives, even fighting wild beasts in Ephesus —I would like to hear the  rest of that story— for the sake of the good news that Jesus is Lord, that he is alive and that we can share in that resurrection as well, if we keep the faith.

That faith that is a gift from God that tells us this is not foolishness, that there is so much more to this life, this existence, than what we can see, then what we can eat and drink. Life isn’t about wringing all that we can out of it while we have the chance.

Life is about walking in the light of a Savior who illuminates our hearts to see the truth, to taste and see that the Lord is good, to walk in the joy of our salvation, to stand as warriors for the kingdom of God. Warriors for the Kingdom of a God that will return, will have the final victory and where God’s standards of right and wrong, justice and truth will no longer be questioned, no longer be mocked and there will be no more death, there will be no more sickness, no more pain and God himself will wipe away every tear.

We will be resurrected to a new and better day, But today, he wants to resurrect your heart. He wants to resurrect his church, he wants to restore hope, renew faith, he wants you to raise your eyes to heaven and say ‘yes I believe in you, I believe in your love for me.’

He wants you to say ‘yes I will stand for truth, yes I will follow where you lead’ and ‘yes I will pledge in my heart today to allow you open my eyes to see the world through your eyes, to love like you love, to serve like you served and forgive like you forgive, and like I have been forgiven.’

‘Today, the thing that matters to me more than anything else in all the world is you Lord and your kingdom. I want to advance your kingdom starting in my own heart as I let go of the last stakes that are holding me down. and to this earth—the false promises of wealth and happiness that turn out to only be more stress, pain and distraction.

I want to be free to fly on wings like eagles and to seek out others who need to hear the good news as well. Resurrect me Lord, resurrect your church, let your kingdom come and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

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‘Letting go of the stakes…’  Reminds me of a story.

Pulling stakes

Years ago we had a German Shepherd named Tara. Tara got married one day, at least that’s what we told our girls, and became great with puppy—9 puppies actually. After they outgrew their kiddie pool in the basement we moved them out to the dog house in the kennel. The kennel was one of those portable chain link types that you get at a farm and ranch store.

We were still out on the ranch at the time and my wife was worried that a hawk might swoop down into the kennel and carry away one of our little fuzz balls so I tied a tarp across the top of the kennel. I then took several steel concrete stakes, the nice long heavy duty steel stakes that you use to hold concrete forms in place, drove them into the ground around the kennel and wired them to the frame of the kennel panels.

Well, that worked great for a while. One day we were gone somewhere and we came home to find a dog house standing alone where the kennel was. and several black and tan puppies wandering around in the back yard just having a good old time. The kennel was several yards away laying somewhat mangled in the nearby hay field.

Putting that tarp on top of that kennel just turned it into a big box kite and those steel stakes were no match for an upper Blue Creek wind. In fact, I think the wind just saw it as a challenge—see if you can blow this over.

Cucumber

Well, the hawks didn’t eat our puppies, they were all accounted for, but we did move them down to a stall in the barn. Which worked well except for the one puppy who got stuck in the wire hog panel I put across the stall door to keep puppies in and to let Tara out– she could hop over the low panel.

Then one day I heard one of our girls hollering “Daddy, daddy, there’s a puppy stuck in the wire!” I followed the frantic girls to the barn to discover a squealing puppy with her head stuck in a square of the hog panel. I had just the solution. I ran to the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of vegetable oil and then poured a good portion of it on the puppies head. This lubed her up enough to slip her out of the wire, no worse for the wear. The girls then named her Cucumber because she smelled like a salad after that.

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Thots

Jesus wants to set you free. You were not meant to cower under a tarp in a chain-link kennel. God created you for a purpose, God has a plan for you and he died to set you free to pursue it. The things you cling to, money, addictions, position and power, the need for more stuff, to be in control, to avoid any unpleasant or uncomfortable situations—anything that becomes more important in your heart and mind, anything that you know God would rather you not spend so much, if any time on, those things are the stakes that have you pinned to the ground.

And if you’ve tried to escape on you own and got stuck, Jesus has the vegetable oil that will get you unstuck. It’s called faith.

 

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
Forever. Psalm 23

And that faith will put your enemies to shame in the end as you share in the Lord’s table while they stuff themselves to misery while always wanting more. This world will never satisfy you, only a relationship with the resurrected Lord can do that. Only a faith in the things we cannot see but know with our hearts can satisfy. Goodness and mercy will be our companions, and hope our reality. And we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

 

Auction Day in Jerusalem

The Auction

“Sold to the Nazarene!”  “What!?”  The pretender cries out, “That was no bid; he was throwing up his hands in surrender!” 

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I went to an auction at the Public Auction Yards in Billings years ago with Ralph, my father in law who was selling his calves.  I had not sat in the buyers seats at too many auctions at this point, most of my livestock auction experience had been on the other side of the gate, as a teenager I had worked at Billings Livestock and on sale days it was my job to push the frantic cattle through the banging hydraulic gates and into the noisy sale ring.  So anyways, here I sat just to watch.  I had a buyer’s card in my hand that I was using just to keep track of how the sale was going.  I was just starting to raise up my own herd and I wanted to learn what the buyers were liking.

In the midst of the sale I turned to say something to Ralph and gestured with my hand to the calves in the ring, suddenly the auctioneer acknowledged a bid and the price went up.  I had a sinking feeling as I realized the hand I had waved had the card in it and that was how the buyers were signaling their bids—waving their cards.  Much to my relief someone else bid up the calves but then I felt like a fool as I sat there with a deer in the headlights look as the auctioneer then looked to me trying to illicit another bid.  Not only did I not want the animals being sold, I did not have any money.  I learned to keep my hands in my lap when at an auction lest you buy something you don’t want!

Sale day in Jerusalem

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There was a day some two thousand years ago now when there was another auction going on.  Though you weren’t aware of it you were there; you and the whole human family herded into the sale ring like so many sheep.  It was a huge sale and there were a lot of spectators, the sale barn was filled mostly with demons and angels but there were only two buyers; the one known as the Prince of Darkness, the deceiver, and the other, the carpenter from Nazareth, the Son of God.

The auctioneer is the Father himself and he opens the bidding high, eternity is at stake but there are no bids.  The auctioneer sings out  “Who’s gonna bid, who’s gonna bid, who’s gonna bid today!”-  Some in the ring cry out; “Will no one redeem us!”  While others, ignoring the high steel rail wall holding them in, shout them down saying, “No one needs to buy us, we are free!” 

What they don’t realize is that they are all slated for slaughter unless they can be redeemed, they may spend some time in blissful ignorance being fattened up first but they are marked for slaughter all the same.  There is a debt to pay and this sale is their only hope, the hope that the price paid for them is high enough to pay what is owed because they violated and maliciously abused the free range law of the Kingdom and the law cannot be ignored; no exceptions, no more promissory notes.

Unbeknownst to those in the ring there is a buyer who wants to bid, the gentleman from Nazareth, but he is being prevented from being heard by the other registered buyer. But it turns out Prince Darkness is not really there to bid, he is actually trying to stop the sale altogether claiming that he owns those in the ring because they have been grazing in his pasture for eons and he has every right to lead them to slaughter. “They are wearing my brand!”

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The sale goes on, the lone legitimate buyer desperately trying to be heard but no one can hear him over the din of the spectators and even the voices of some of those in the ring shouting that the buyer from Nazareth has no right to bid.  “We must hold out for another!” they claim.  Suddenly a fight breaks out and the brawling fills the auction barn and it seems that the pretender; Prince Darkness,  is gaining the upper hand, he has even managed to strip the other buyer of everything, taken away everything from his clothes to his dignity, even his identity, leaving him nothing with which to bid.  The auctioneer, still working every trick he knows to secure a bid, is watching intently the struggle going on in the seats when suddenly he sees two hands go up.

Those in the ring cry out, some with despair and some with jeering exaltation as the auctioneer slams the table top with his open hand and shouts out “Sold to the Nazarene!”  “What!?”  The pretender cries out, “That was no bid; he was throwing up his hands in surrender!” 

The auctioneer calmly points out that the price he was demanding was in the hands of the buyer when they went up.  At this every eye turned to see the blood flowing from the wounds in the hands of the Nazarene. “This was no surrender”, the auctioneer explains; “this was no mistake, the price has been paid, the price set by the original owner to redeem this flock, should it stray, was death—blood.”

“The blood of the Son of God is the price sufficient to purchase the entire flock, the only payment sufficient to cover the debt.” The bidding is closed, the bill of sale being written.

Suddenly the successful bidder falls to the floor and the pretender again shouts out, “He is dead!  How can he claim his flock, how can he open the gates and turn out his sheep when he is dead?  I win by default!  The slaughter is imminent!  They all must pay the price on their own because the sale has been nullified!”

The auction barn goes crazy, the spectators, demons and angels, shrieking for joy, or wailing with grief, respectively. While those in the ring all argue over what has just happened.

Just when it seems all is lost and the auctioneer has even been discredited, the high solid gate to the pen is suddenly flung open and there, silhouetted in the sunlight suddenly pouring into the dingy ring is the Gentleman from Nazareth.  Silence falls over the auction barn as everyone comes to grips with what has just happened.  The Father, the auctioneer just smiles and hands the bill of sale to the Nazarene.  The bill of sale signed with blood, notarized by the Spirit and recorded by the Father in the Lambs book of life.

Incredibly, some choose to stay in the ring as many are led by the Nazarene, Jesus by name, into his pasture where they are tended and groomed to be presented to the Father; eyes and coats shining.  Some refuse to budge, still not believing that the sale, or the buyer, was legitimate.  Meanwhile the pretender is slowly backing his rig up to the opposite gate of the ring ready for the front gate to close.  Eager to take every straggler he can to the end prepared for the pretender himself.

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Thots-

Which gate are you going to use?  You can’t stay in the ring forever.  There are no more bidders, only one had the price required to redeem you.  One thing I learned about sheep when I worked the auction yard- you can’t push them like you can cattle, they have to be led.  Us cowboys used a halter broke ram, in slaughter houses they use a goat aptly called a Judas goat.  A good shepherd doesn’t need a goat or a ram, his sheep know his voice and they follow him.   Jesus is the Shepherd, follow him.

2 The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice….

Jesus said again, “Very truly I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who have come before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep have not listened to them. 9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

   11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep….    I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep.  

19 The Jews who heard these words were again divided. 20 Many of them said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to him?” John 10:2-20

Are you listening to him, do you hear his voice?  Unless you believe he was stark raving mad, you have to choose, choose to listen, or choose to remain in the pen and let the thief, the pretender, lead you to destruction.  Choose life, choose freedom- choose Jesus.

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Thy Will Be Done

 

Jesus’ suffering secured our salvation, he asks that we endure, even in the hard times, and suffer a bit also, taking the path of most resistance, that we may reap the reward we know is coming.

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Today the church celebrates Palm Sunday. The day Jesus rode triumphantly and openly into Jerusalem knowing that he was a wanted man. Marked for destruction by the religious hierarchy who saw him as a threat to their traditions. And more sinisterly, their power and status.

Jesus was warned by all who cared about him, ‘you must not go to Jerusalem this year for the Passover Celebration’, and he was no fool, he knew it would most likely be his end. But he went for one reason and one reason only—it was his Father’s will.

Jesus would say; I do only what I see my Father doing. To do that he had to overcome both flesh and demon

Flesh and Demon

If Jesus came to this earth as a man to do one thing, that thing was to do the will of his Father. A mission that would be tested over and over again by his flesh and by the enemy. But Jesus would overcome both, telling his disciples as he had told Satan himself in the wilderness temptation, essentially;  ‘I am not here to satisfy the lust and cravings of the flesh, I am not here to glorify myself and ascend to any earthly throne or position.’

How many of us can say that?

Thy will

“Man does not live by bread alone but by every word which comes from God”

“To finish His work”? What was the work of his Father? To redeem mankind from its own foolishness that had caused him to forsake the creator in favor of the created. Jesus came to finish the job, to fulfill all that which the law and the prophets had foretold and foreshadowed. To be the seed of Eve that would crush the head of the serpent and to be the new Adam, restoring the life that the first Adam had lost.

What can we learn from this? Oh, I don’t know, maybe that if we want to accomplish the purpose of God for our lives we should seek and obey the will of God. Maybe that obedience to God’s will, will likely bring suffering, but it is worth it and leads to much greater things. Things like overcoming the evil one who thinks he’s so darn clever; seeing those we love get saved; seeing the kingdom of heaven be advanced through us; being glorified in the end—you know, small stuff like that. Stuff that Jesus exemplified and made possible for us by his obedience to the will of God. Obedience even to the point of shedding his blood, innocent blood, so that we could be over-comers as well.

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I read something in a fellow bloggers post recently that really struck a chord in me; Pastor Mario Murillo  -he said that most preachers are failing their congregations in these later days in not teaching them that they are capable of defeating the enemy themselves. I agree. We don’t have to depend on elders, preachers, priests or exorcists to defeat the enemy, to cast him from our presence and to end his influence and interference in our lives, interference that can take many, many forms.

One of the enemies’ greatest fears is that the church will wake up to the fact that each and everyone of us who follows the Living Lord, who has received his Holy Spirit, has the power to overcome him and thwart his plans of destruction and death.

James says it quite clearly and makes the point exactly.

 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:7—8

The only way to conquer is to submit to God, submit to his will and draw near. You lean in to God, he will lean in to you, then nothing else will matter all that much, the suffering loses its sting and the victory sweet.

How do I know? –How do I know what is God’s will?

The short answer is; Come boldly before him and find out.

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Available now Barbarians in the Kingdom 

It’s time to live your freedom, to live your victory.

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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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