Twisted Crowns

Who is in control of my life? Who wears the crown? Me, or Jesus. All of us have twisted crowns because we are always wrestling with the Lord to try and take it back.

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Anxiety-

Freedom from anxiety; a lesson I have been struggling with the last few weeks, fear of being a bad superintendent and not getting my multi-million dollar construction project done right, fear of not being a good pastor, a good father, fear of what others may think of me if I fail at any of these. Anxiety is a relentless and merciless task master. —‘Lord—take away my fears and forgive me for doubting you when you tell me to cast all my cares on you, that you will never leave me nor forsake me, that you are my fortress and my strength, an ever present help in times of trouble—restore to me the joy of my salvation and help me to walk in victory!’ Amen?!

The Lord set me free 38 years ago with the words of a psalm—“Out of my distress I called on the Lord, the Lord answered me and set me free. With the Lord on my side I shall not fear, what can man do to me?” – from Psalm 118. And I was suddenly set free—not from addictions to drugs though that would be the end of my partying days, not to my need to drink mass quantities, though that would be the end of my drinking days, the Lord set me free in the moment I read those words from my fear of being alone, from the shame that kept me from him and the pain that drove me to the other things.

In that moment I decided to abide in is word, to live in his word, and be free—and I did. His words were more than just inspiring ink on paper, his words became alive in my heart and I felt his overwhelming presence like I never had before in an undeniable and unexplainable way and I vowed to never turn again to the things that had ensnared me by their false promises of appeasing the flesh and soothing the mind—I no longer need those things—but I still need Jesus, day in and day out because the flesh still tries to drag me down. Lord take my Crown.

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We are a stubborn lot. We want to be free but we don’t know what to do with our freedom and we use it to get right back into bondage—just bondage of a different sort. You can’t tell me what to do! Well. Maybe not, but then we make the wrong choice and we become a slave to ourselves, a slave to the flesh—or as Jesus would put it, “a slave to sin.”

Our own minds are our worst enemy. Our flesh—our own desire, our own thought patterns and motivations. Things that must be tempered by the Lord, by his word.

“Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin. 35 And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever. 36 Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.

The enemy cannot steal your freedom—unless you allow him.

How do we lose our freedom? -one word—sin

It’s really not that hard people, read the word, know the word. At the very least, know and abide by the Ten Commandments, they are very straightforward and succinct and will keep you out of a whole lot of trouble.

Example

—big uncomfortable, I don’t care if you are offended or not, this is gospel truth and I’m tired of having to clean up the messes of people who think it’s not important—example.

Donna and I did not sleep together until we got married.

I was living in my new found freedom from my addictions and in God’s love and grace when Donna and I started dating. We were not kids anymore, we both had a lot of life under our belts when we decided to get married. We were engaged, and we drove ourselves and each other crazy because we were committed to waiting for the Honey Moon to consummate –impatiently waiting

In the weeks leading up to the wedding Donna would sometimes spend the night at my house—on the couch in a different room—I lived out of town a ways and we often just wanted to be together long into the evening and Donna would be too tired to drive home.

A few times, sorry kids but we were passionately in love—and still are—we would get a little carried away with the kissy kissy and, like I said, drive ourselves crazy. ‘Why wait, we’re both adults, we know we’re getting married, everyone else does it,’ and then I would look at the big window in my living room and see my Christian fish sticker placed there for all the world—and myself— to see and remember why not—because the word of God says so.

After coming dangerously close to breaking our commitment to wait a time or two we both did some serious repenting and praying—I’ll tell you what, that prayer, asking the Lord to forgive us for pushing the boundaries and to help us stay strong in his word and his Spirit did more to solidify and bless our relationship than anything else we did to that point and perhaps since.

I am convinced that one of the reasons our marriage has stood the test of time, that we have been blessed by the Lord in our marriage, is because we abided by his word. We did not live together to practice, we did not succumb to the temptations of the flesh and become one outside of our sacred vows and we begged forgiveness and strength to overcome the lies of the enemy—”did God really say?” Yes, he did.

Where do you live in your mind? Confusion or Kingdom, circumstantial slavery or truth.

Because where you live is what you will become.

Stop wrestling the Lord for control and let him be King, he promises freedom, Let go of your twisted crown and lay it at his feet.

Claim your freedom, read- Barbarian’s in the Kingdom

 

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The Battle is Real

“I think the next generation of warriors are being prepared to fight on a higher plane.”

warrior-armor-helmet-shield-sword-background-renderingThis charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience. . . 1 Tim 118,19

We have the power of heaven at our disposal if we’ll just believe and learn how to wield it. We can command demons to flee, illness to cease, darkness to dispel, curses to be broken, broken hearts to mend, the lame to walk and even the dead to rise—if we only learn to walk in that power, to fight the good fight, to keep striving for, praying for, fasting for, trusting for, the power of God that lies within us to be released, for our will to come into perfect alignment with God’s will, for all fear to vanish and all doubt to be no more.

That is where God is taking us, that is where I want to go. I want to take that sword and shield and wield it like I was born with it in my hand. I want to cleave the enemies skull and watch his minions run in terror as God’s angels rush in to rescue the children of the Lord they have left behind as they fled. I want to stand firm in the face of evil and say “No more, your day has ended, this is the day the Lord has made.” I want to speak the words of God that always find their mark, that never return back void and always accomplish that for which they were intended.

 

I want to find myself standing at the gates of heaven one day, weary from preaching the word, even that very day, still swinging the sword he has given me and feeling the sudden release of pressure as the enemy that had just been pressing against my shield is suddenly not there anymore. I want to see heaven for the first time through the visor of my battered helmet as the Lord comes and pulls it off my sweating brow and says “welcome home warrior. You have fought the good fight, and you have won.” Like I heard one of my heroes in the faith, the late 4sq Rev Jerry Cook, say one time, “When I am finished I want to have nothing left, because I am going to use it all for Jesus.”

I’m not saying work yourself to death—I am a big proponent of not working yourself to death for the church, of knowing when to say when. But the point I am making here is, if we are answering the call in the time and place, if the yoke we are bearing is indeed the one Jesus gave us, we can and should go down still swinging. We are eternal beings created to affect eternity, why would we stop just because this temporary flesh is aging?

I just want to encourage you to keep fighting the good fight. If you haven’t stared, start. If you have stopped, pick up your sword and sharpen it up. The Lord still has some battles for you to fight, and if you are a veteran of many battles, you should be leading others into the fray with you.

Paul ends his letter to Timothy the same way he started it, with an admonishment to keep fighting the good fight of faith.

11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 1 Tim 6

We lost an incredible warrior for the Kingdom this last week, Billy Graham, he fought the good fight and rescued many, many souls, but—the Reverend Billy was your grandparents warrior. I think we are entering a new and maybe more intense period of warfare, most likely the last gasp of a defeated enemy as the Lord readies to reap the harvest of the earth and put an end to his days and execute the sentence that was handed down to him the day Jesus walked out of the tomb.

I think the next generation of warriors are being prepared to fight on a higher plane. We have a generation who is hungry for spiritual things, who embrace things past generations feared and recognize that there is so much more than what we can see and touch with the flesh. Even the directions of the sciences are turning in that direction, physics and astrology—string theory, parallel universes, worm holes, black holes, dark matter, wrinkles in time—suddenly science, who had denied for years anything beyond the readily explainable, is peering into the unseen realms just beyond our grasp.

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The God of order and design who created this world of carbon and hydrogen that we live in, also created the spiritual, so chances are it is also put together in an orderly and ultimately understandable way. We, who have been given the eyes of the spirit, need to learn to operate in those spiritual places, to recognize the light and the dark aspects of that realm so as not to be seduced by the evil and live in the power of the good so that we can overcome.

The name of Jesus is more than a get out of jail free card—it is the key to eternity—an eternity that we were created for and are now given the keys to.

The Lord has waited patiently for two thousand years, not wanting to put an end to things just yet as he wants to make sure more and more souls have the chance to hear the message of the gospel and to also have a chance to make the good confession and lay ahold of eternal life. But things are spiraling out of control and The Father will not let that happen, not while Jesus is on the throne.

I believe we are on the cusp of seeing an outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will make the Azusa Street revival and the great awakening of the century before that look like warm up bands. We are being called to the front lines, being prepared to face battles ahead that we never dreamed we could ever win let alone witness. We will see the Spirit do things we only read about in the scriptures and scarcely dared believed could be literal.

We are the church, and we will be victorious, if we remember who we are and who our Lord is and why he called us for such a time as this.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, 2 Cor 10

The battle is real, but so are your weapons— hone them.

 

 

Where was God when I was being hurt?

 

 

“. . . an almost greater hurt is often inflicted on the heart of the victim after the assault when those who are supposed to care, the ones that the victim desperately needs to care, and understand—to hear them—do not.”

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. Rom 8:25Slide2

I want to ask the hard question, the one that we all ask from time to time and one that we all, as Christians have probably been asked by others—‘Where is God when I hurt, where was God when I was being hurt?’ Frankly, as a Pastor, that question sometimes scares the snot out of me because I am not sure I know the answer, or that the answer will be adequate to stay the anger that is directed at God that is causing that question to be asked in the first place. All I know is that God grieves over our hurts and he is not unaware of our sufferings.

And sometimes, in response to those suffering, that is the best answer—no answer, but to grieve and wonder with them, to give them space and license to weep and vent, recognizing and validating the hurt while clinging to the hope that in the end, whether we can see the end or not, will not disappoint us.

I probably won’t answer that question today either, but then, if we knew the answer, if we had immediate deliverance from all our trials, if we always saw the Lord standing beside us, it wouldn’t be called hope—would it.

The story of the raising of Lazarus, the brother of two women whom Jesus had come to know very well—Mary and Martha, gives us some insight into this perplexing question. Jesus and the disciples stayed at their home when they were in the area and Martha, apparently a woman of some means, likely helped support Jesus and his followers as they to traveled around spreading the news of the Kingdom’s coming. You might recall the story of Martha bustling around serving while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus as he taught.

So when tragedy struck, their brother Lazarus falling deathly ill, they expected and believed that Jesus would be there to save the day—but he wasn’t.

I’ll give you the highlights here, for the whole story read John chapt. 11

Now a certain man was sick, Lazarus of Bethany, the town of Mary and her sister Martha. . . . Therefore the sisters sent to Him, saying, “Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick.”

. . .  Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after this He said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.”

The disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, lately the Jews sought to stone You, and are You going there again?”

. . .He said to them, “Our friend Lazarus sleeps, but I go that I may wake him up.”

12 Then His disciples said, “Lord, if he sleeps he will get well.” 13 However, Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He was speaking about taking rest in sleep.

14 Then Jesus said to them plainly, “Lazarus is dead15 And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, that you may believe. Nevertheless let us go to him.”

. . . So when Jesus came, He found that he had already been in the tomb four days.

. . .20 Now Martha, as soon as she heard that Jesus was coming, went and met Him, but Mary was sitting in the house. 21 Now Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.”

23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”

24 Martha said to Him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

27 She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

. . . 32 Then, when Mary came where Jesus was, and saw Him, she fell down at His feet, saying to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

33 Therefore, when Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her weeping, He groaned in the spirit and was troubled34 And He said, “Where have you laid him?”

They said to Him, “Lord, come and see.”

35 Jesus wept36 Then the Jews said, “See how He loved him!”

37 And some of them said, “Could not this Man, who opened the eyes of the blind, also have kept this man from dying?”

38 Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39 Jesus said, “Take away the stone.”

Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.”

40 Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God. 41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me,. . . 43 Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.”

The Father Hears

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‘Lord, why weren’t you here, where were you when Lazarus was hurting? Where were you when we were crying out for you?’

Quite the story, honest and real if you look at the human drama being played out here around the miracle that often overshadows what I think is the greater lesson and the insight into the real emotions and empathy of a real God. Let’s just bite off a few pieces here and see what we can glean.

“And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. 42 And I know that You always hear Me”

This one spoke a lot to me as far as answering our question.

“I know that you always hear me.” I have to conclude that Jesus waited this long to come because his Father asked him to. Jesus was sorely grieved, groaning in his spirit both in anguish for his dear friends Mary and Martha but also, both in his humanness and as the Son of God, because of the pain of death his friend Lazarus had to endure—the pain he endured wondering; “Where is Jesus? Is he going to heal me before I die? Is he going to care for my sisters? Where is God?”

Jesus was aware of this anguish and he felt it deeply himself. But he knew his Father heard him, even while he wrestled in his flesh with not hurrying straight to Bethany. But even in this turmoil which he no doubt experienced amidst the potential for doubt and anguish, he was patient and obedient to his Father knowing that his Father always heard him.

I think there is a great lesson there, do we believe that the Father always hears us? He does. And we also know that Just as Jesus was interceding for his friends his Spirit is interceding for us—even in, and especially in our pain.

But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Rom 8:26—27

Jesus is interceding for us with the same passion and compassion that he interceded for Mary, Martha and Lazarus with, an intercession even too deep for words. That is your hope.

Immanuel, God with us.

What Mary didn’t know was that Jesus was there. He is here with us even now, even in our darkest days. When all hope seems lost, when it has to be just too late, it is never too late, Jesus is there by his Spirit, the Father is there, grieving, groaning because of the pain we suffer and he calls us to be there for one another—to be his arms to hold, his hands to help and his heart to break, to  grieve with those who grieve, but he also calls us to bring the hope, to pray in the Spirit, on behalf of the Spirit.

Hear them

We need to display that heart of Jesus. One of the things I have learned in ministering to those who have been sexually abused is that an almost greater hurt is often inflicted on the heart of the victim after the assault when those who are supposed to care, the ones that the victim desperately needs to care, and understand—to hear them—do not.

They just need someone to hear them, to love them, to give them space to grieve, to be angry and to ask the hard questions without pat answers, indifference or judgments. Just be there, be there for the hurting, the abused, the sick, the dying and grieving, be Jesus so when they ask “where is Jesus” you can say; ‘right here, He sent me to you, and my spirit groans for you as I pray for your restoration and healing.’ And in that, I assure you, they will find comfort, that’s a promise from Jesus.

 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted. Mat 5:4

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For me the bottom line is here, Jesus hurts when we hurt, his heart is totally devoted to and invested in us and in the end everything will indeed be okay, better than okay, if not in this life then most assuredly in the next. We have the resurrection and the life in our corner and we do not necessarily have to wait till resurrection day to see that power on display for we are more than conquerors—and that is our hope, and hope will not disappoint us.

 

 

 

Life Suckers

Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God. Mat 5:10-
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I remember working in the old Lincoln Education Center in Billings, we were renovating the 3rd floor so that Billings Senior could send their freshman there to alleviate the overcrowding in the High School. One day the ceiling contractor showed up, he was not supposed to be there yet-I had him scheduled for a couple of weeks later-and he said: “I got done early on another project so I thought I would come over here and start doing the ceiling grid in the hallways.”

I told him he couldn’t do that because we still needed to get all the electrical conduit in above the ceiling and if he put up the grid that would be very difficult. He grumbled about needing to get his hours in so I told him he could put up his wall angles but nothing else.

Apparently he went and told the electrician he was putting up the ceiling grid because a little while later one of the estimators from the office of the electrical contractor showed up and started yelling at me: “If he puts up this grid we won’t be able to get our conduit in! Can’t you control your subcontractors?”

Well this didn’t set well with me. I told him to calm down, that he was just putting up the wall angle, about that time the ceiling guy walked up behind us on his stilts, and the electrician shot back. “He said he was putting in the grid.” I turned around and looked right at the ceiling guy and said; “If he starts putting up grid I’m going to knock him off his stilts! —let’s all just chill out here.”

The ceiling guy just grunted and walked away, the estimator went back to his office and the electrician had time to get his conduit in and we all got along fine for the rest of the job.

Being a peacemaker can be a challenge sometimes that’s for sure. One time I was telling Donna about refereeing some dispute at work, Jessie, who was about five I suppose, overheard it and told Donna later: “Poor Daddy, he has to babysit bad boys at work all day.”

Unfortunately, that’s exactly the way it seems sometimes. And it’s the part of the job I hate. I certainly don’t enjoy the strife.

17 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18 Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3

Does anyone enjoy strife? I know that sounds like a no brainer but I really think some people enjoy strife, I mean, we all know people who just seem to go from crisis to crisis and just love telling everyone all about how their world is falling apart today and the universe is conspiring against them. Or people who just seem to go out of their way to antagonize people, causing arguments—just challenging people to correct them— it’s like they go through life saying to themselves; “I’m going just say whatever comes to my mind, the most obnoxious and contradictory thing I can think of and it will be right just because I said it.”

Drama queens, debaters, antagonists, hypochondriacs–some people are always looking for a struggle or a fight. I have known several people like that, and I call them life suckers; because after you pour into them over and over and they just keep coming back with bigger and better ‘woe is me’ stories, you realize that they are not being helped and you are finding yourself more and more depleted every time they walk away from you.

And the ones who feel the need to constantly correct or challenge you suck all the joy out of you and leave you feeling defensive and angry—life suckers they are.

Here’s a life sucker test for you:

  1. Do people walk away from you when you head their way?
  2. Do people seem to pretend they didn’t see you?
  3. Do people avoid asking you how you are doing but you tell them anyway?
  4. Do people get defensive when you talk to them?
  5. Do you find yourself apologizing a lot for something you just said or having to explain what you meant even though you actually meant it the way you said it but now realize how bad it sounded?
  6. Do you use the phrase: “Yeah but” a lot?
  7. Do you ask for prayer more than you offer it?

If you answered yes to more than a couple of these questions, then you are probably not a peacemaker- you could be a life sucker. But good news; recognizing it is the first step to recovery!

No one truly likes conflict, often we just use it to mask the fear and self-doubt that plagues our hearts. We need to reverse the flow of life so that we are giving it rather than taking it. We become peacemakers by giving the life that is so abundantly given to us, speaking life into the hearts of others rather than sucking it out of them by whining or condemning and demanding.

If you are your first priority; “What can I get, what can you give me? Bless me, heal me, love me!” Then you will never have peace and you will engender conflict everywhere you go because people will always push back against that. God cannot bless that selfish attitude and the world does not respond well to it either. It’s the givers who are blessed, the givers who are loved and from their abundance they can give and love even more.

Perhaps being a peacemaker has more to do with the words we speak to others, the words that cut to the heart where we all long for peace. Freely you have received, freely give.