The Strong Man

“We end up tied up in the corner begging for another drink, another hit, searching for a bigger thrill because it always takes more and more— and Jesus? Well, he is shoved into the closet. ‘He’ll be fine in there, a few verses of amazing grace and a communion wafer now and then is all he needs.’”

David and Goliath

“Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house.” Mat 12:29

I grew up in the 70’s convinced that drugs were bad. I had heard horror stories about what happens to people who succumb to such debasement. I was raised by truckdrivers and cowboys and only flea infested long haired hippies did drugs. I started drinking now and then when I was fourteen, fifteen, but that was a man’s reward for a job well done and was socially acceptable. So, when I went into Job Corps at seventeen I was hardcore cowboy fresh from working summers and weekends at ranches and auction yards. I was anti—drug with no desire whatsoever to smoke any whacky tobacky.

But, after being there several months, sequestered in the mountains with a lot of other guys that I considered friends, I discovered that a lot of them smoked the stuff—guys that were in the Heavy Equipment training program with me, the cool tuff guys. A group I had never fitted in with before back home. In the evening there was often a bunch of guys that would sneak off into the mountains around the center, sit in a circle and get stoned. It was the Seventies Show in the wilderness.

I would often go along just to get out of the dorm but I would pass on the inevitable joint going around. Beer was my drug of choice—too bad there wasn’t any around. It was a lot easier to smuggle in a bag of weed than it was a six pack of beer.

Then one Saturday afternoon I said ‘What the heck, I’ll try it.’ This was after a lot of encouraging from my friends of course. I mean, they didn’t seem to have fleas, in fact they all had short hair—it was required to be in the Heavy Equipment program—not by choice, it was the seventy’s after all—and they all seemed pretty normal to me.

So I smoked my first weed. It gave me a headache and I went back to the dorm and slept the rest of the afternoon—‘Yay, wasn’t that fun.’

A while later I tried it again. This time, sitting there in that circle in the trees, I got really buzzed. And suddenly everything everyone said was just hilarious. ‘Wow, this was even better than alcohol!’ Even though I was paranoid about getting caught, afraid the staff would see my goofy grin and notice the lovely burnt rope odor emanating from my otherwise redneck appearance, I couldn’t wait to do it again, and again, and again. Soon I was getting stoned every day and even started to smuggle in my own weed.

Somehow I still managed to graduate the program without getting caught and when I graduated Job Corp I just went nuts with the partying and was soon into much harder stuff, always looking for the next thing that would give me that buzz that made everything hilarious and all my friends so fun to be with.

That’s a whole other story that did not turn out so well in the end as the Lord intervened by allowing my life to basically fall apart. But it would take five long years and a genuine miracle from the Lord before I could overcome my need to be stoned all day every day on the weed and to be able to give up all the other bondages I had acquired during that period.

I wasted some of the best years of my life; being stoned, and I am talking about marijuana—the not so bad drug of choice, the other drugs came and went—being stoned on weed robbed me of my ambition, my energy, my confidence, my relationship with my Lord and my sense of who I really was, actually my sense in general. I was in bondage simply because I decided one day to try something, no big deal, just a time or two—and just a little.

I could tell you nearly the same story about drinking, about pornography, about tobacco—both cigarettes and snoose, about speed—on and on. I have been addicted to it all. Things I never thought I would be dumb enough to do yet would find myself craving over and over and over again—that’s a bondage and that is an opportunity for the enemy to come in and do whatever he wants, to kill, steal and destroy.

And that is exactly what he does—unless you cry out to Jesus, trust him and his word, repent and be set free. Restored as the strong man of your house—both the Temple that is your body and the home you are supposed to be building for you wife, your kids, your grandkids or whomever the Lord entrusts you to influence.

Only Jesus can truly free you from bondages that destroy, that render you useless for the Kingdom of God and ineffective as a protector and provider for you family. We have a much higher purpose, dad’s, then just surviving and numbing the flesh with the things that it demands. We are the strong man, we are the guardians of the hearts of our children for as long as they are under our roofs or you give them away in marriage.

And even then you are a spiritual covering as your prayers, depending on your righteousness, are powerful and effective in protecting them from the evil one. You are the protector of your wives’ heart as well, the one whom you vowed to love, cherish and cling to only, for as long as you both shall live.

But you cannot do that if you are in bondage, if there is anything apart from your Lord and your wife that is more important to you, that you cannot give up or get through a week or even a day without. Anything that causes her grief when she thinks of your need for it, anything you would be horrified to learn your kids were also doing—you need to break free from that.

I am the warrior

Would You?

Ask yourself this next time you indulge; Would you drink that, would you smoke that, would you watch that, if Jesus were standing next to you? You think Jesus doesn’t know? Of course he does, yet he loves you and wants to set you free, free to be the strong man. Choose to be loosed, pick up your bibles, get on your knees and cry out to Jesus and then find some Christian brothers who will stand beside you.

Make it a habit to go to church, fall in love with worship, those are the things—repentance, scripture, worship fellowship—that set and keep me free, and I am no one special, I am just a man like you, a person like you ladies—you are not exempt from this, you need to be the strong woman also.

The rewards are so much sweeter than the temporary thrill of whatever high you are getting from your mind altering, dopamine releasing, hangover inducing, bondages of choice. Kids look to you dads to be strong for them, your wives look to you husbands to be strong for them. The younger men you work with look to you to see how a man is supposed to act. The guys next to you in church look to you to know how a godly man is supposed to cope with this life. What are they seeing?  A strong man living in freedom or a pretender living in bondage?

  43 “When an unclean spirit goes out of a man, he goes through dry places, seeking rest, and finds none. 44 Then he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes, he finds it empty, swept, and put in order. 45 Then he goes and takes with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man is worse than the first. Mat 12:43-45

The Salesman

The enemy especially loves to bind Christians. We turn to Jesus, we get the house all cleaned up and ready for company but then there’s a knock on the door and there’s a salesman. Those Kirby vacuum toting, encyclopedia Britannica hocking, Fuller brush pushing type remnants of a day gone by.

Good day sir, I am selling feel good goodies. You’re a man right, the man of this house, the king of this here castle? Your daddy and your granddaddy loved this stuff and they were manly men right? Here, try some of this, by one get one free. Oh, and this here goes great with that, I’ll throw that in free, just this once though. And then—whoa ho ho! —how about this huh? Have you ever seen anything like that before? You know you want it. Here, let me just come in and unpack all this stuff for you, have a seat and re—lax.

We end up tied up in the corner begging for another drink, another hit, searching for a bigger thrill because it always takes more and more— and Jesus? Well, he is shoved into the closet. ‘He’ll be fine in there, a few verses of amazing grace and a communion wafer now and then is all he needs.’

Just keep the blinds closed and the porch lights on and everyone will think your fine—because you are , right?

Depression

Am I the only one who gets visited by this salesman now and then? I know I’m not, I’ve been in this ministry game a long time and I have seen a lot of very full houses. Houses full of everything but what they should be full of—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.

“Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.”   Mat 12:33

A tree cannot grow both good and bad fruit, the choice is yours, and your family are the ones who have to live with the fruit. But Jesus doesn’t tell us this just to condemn us, he tells us this to give us the way to be loosed. Remember, the whole premise of this story was that the Kingdom power is here, he brought it and he still makes it available to each of us. We just need to clean house, using the power, and then keep it and ourselves unfettered. For those you love if not yourselves.

Jesus said it best— “If the Son sets you free you are free indeed.”

Barbarian meme

Read ‘Barbarians in the Kingdom’

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Free Bird?

 

“The plant, the all-natural, ‘God made marijuana” wonderful plant was screaming at me; ‘Smoke Me!'”…Holy Spirit Dove

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8

There was a time when I thought I was free, “No one can tell me what to do!’ but in truth I was far from free. I was bound up by the flesh, by my appetites for more– trying to fill a hole that could only be filled by Jesus.

I spent a good part of my seventeenth and eighteenth years in Job Corp. The Job Corp center I was in was in the mountains 10 miles from Anaconda. I lived there with 200 other guys and a bunch of staff who dictated and monitored nearly our every move. It was like a cross between a military base and a youth detention facility and a vocational-tech school.

You couldn’t leave the center without being considered AWOL and getting kicked out with the threat of a dishonorable discharge hanging over you. There was no drinking allowed, one time I was accused of covering for someone who had snuck in a bottle and had to clean the grout in the shower rooms with a toothbrush. We went to bed when they told us, dressed the way they told us, cleaned the entire dorm every morning before going to our training programs… you get the idea. Not much freedom.

To counter that I started hanging out with the guys who would sneak off into the mountains in the evenings to get stoned on weed that had been snuck in through various clever means–there is always a way. By the end of my time there I was getting stoned every day. Finding new and innovative ways to get away with it, hiding in the furnace room, going sledding in the hills, taking half the tobacco out of a cigarette and filling it with weed… but there was always the fear of getting caught—if only I could get stoned whenever I wanted…

Then I graduated and was free to go home. Me and a few other graduates got on the Greyhound bus heading east, to Billings for me, the others, farther still. We couldn’t wait to start celebrating our completion of the program and the start of our new lives, so we had snuck on bottles of whiskey bought at the bar conveniently located next to the bus station in Anaconda, and started partying.

One of the guys had a boom box and we were jamming to Leonard Skynyrd. Their big hit song, Free Bird came on and suddenly I was overwhelmed with the exaltation of realizing that I was now free. I stood up and with the bus driver glaring at me in the mirror, started exclaiming to the whole bus, that I was free. I was pointing out the window and saying, “you see those cows, they are free, you see those horses they are free, all those people on the highway, they are free, and so am I!” I don’t remember much more, the whiskey was talking by then.

That was just the start, my freedom to destroy my brain cells went on for several years until I realized that my supposed freedom had become a prison from which I could not escape. I knew Jesus through all this but now he seemed a far-away figure whom I was ashamed to come to because I was ashamed of all I was doing with my freedom.

But he never gave up on me, he kept pestering me, whispering to my soul, “come back.” I knew what that meant but I didn’t want to listen, I didn’t want to turn to him and admit that I was destroying my life, I didn’t want the party to end, I didn’t want to devote myself to a God who probably wanted to put me to work embarrassing myself in front of people, I mean, right now people think I’m cool, that I have it all
together and I am having a blast.

In truth I was miserable and was only cool to the people who were themselves miserable and enslaved to the party.

So I finally quit running and gave in to the call of the Lord in my heart, but I discovered I was too ensnared to stop with the beer and weed. My flesh was screaming at me, “satisfy me! The plant, the all-natural, “God made marijuana” wonderful plant was screaming at me; “Smoke Me!” and after one day of my resolve to stay straight so I could discover the plan God had for my life, I was a mess. I had become a slave, literally, to a lower life form–a plant. It had become my master and my god. If I wasn’t smoking it I was looking for more and every morning I bowed down to it as I leaned over my bong to make my burnt offering and let it alter my consciousness.

I don’t care what anyone says about it, what weed did to me was truly evil. It offers wisdom and freedom, but that is just whispers of the serpent using the same old lies he used in the garden—because they work every time–and he stole five years of my life. Five years I could have been fulfilling the God ordained plan–postponing my family and my ministry, making me apathetic, lazy and stupid—stupid enough to try every other drug under the sun as well.

Anyway, that’s just the tip of the iceberg of the wonderful things the recreational smoking of marijuana did for me. My point is, I was far from free. The thing that promised freedom had become my prison so at the end of that first day of DT’s and anxiousness, I opened up my Bible, and found my freedom in the word of God. The living word became the miracle that set me free and by the end of that evening with my empty and cold bong sitting at one end of my coffee table, and my long neglected, but now on fire, open Bible sitting at the other, I cried out to my Father and he filled me with such an incredible feeling of love and acceptance that I threw away that bong, emptied my refrigerator of beer and the next morning I started a new walk with the Lord, this time truly free.

 “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be enslaved by anything. 1 Cor 6:12

I am not a recovering alcoholic or druggie, I am not an addict to anything—I am a son of the living God. I am redeemed, I am free, I am a Jesus freak and if that makes me weird or even gets me imprisoned one day, I will still be free because nothing and no one can take away the freedom I have now, the freedom of the soul. I choose to continue in the teachings of Jesus, to abide in his word, and he keeps me free.

neither…the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 A
nd such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ… 1 Cor 6:10-11

I am free to be even the barbarian he created me to be, unfettered by anything, even religion. To me, that’s what it means to be free. This bird is indeed free.

For the rest of this message go to Hopechapelredlodge.com and click “Audio Sermons” 5-7-17