Wild Flowers

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There is an undeserved yet very real stigma in the minds of the victims of sexual abuse. A stigma that is put there intentionally by the perpetrator. and by those who take the side of the perpetrator; “You brought this on yourself, you encouraged it–you like it!” and any number of horrible accusations. And, they are stigmatized unintentionally by everyone else from family to clergy as they just don’t want to have to deal with it; “Just get over it, it can’t have been that bad.”

This causes the person to hide. They hide behind a pretense of everything being okay because they do not want people looking at them differently. they don’t want people picturing them in the abuse situation making them feel victimized all over again, they don’t want people feeling sorry for them and they don’t want people inferring and asking things like; “Why didn’t you scream for help? Why didn’t you just leave? What were you doing there in the first place-were you being a tease? How were you dressed?”

It’s time to let go of the lies, let go of the pain–it’s time to still the voices.

Over the course of the next four weeks or so my blog here will be focused on overcoming the hurts of the past, sexual or otherwise, and finding healing and freedom in the very real and very powerful Love of Jesus.

It will not immediately delve specifically into the topic of of sexual abuse but all the lessons can be applied as such and will, as time goes by, bring us face to face with that issue.

Click here for the first installment

No Turning Back

I have also established a specific page on my blog site that will be devoted to this issue as it progresses. Thank you for being on this amazing if not challenging journey with me.

I love you all!

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Wildflowers

“A God given beauty that is not dependent on nor cultivated by man, but can only be discovered.”

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Still the Voices

No Turning Back

I want to talk over the course of the next few weeks about keeping our focus on the things in front of us, being determined to keep going forward, following the Lord and not letting anything hinder us; not our past, our fears, the failure of yesterday nor the demons of the past that continue to dog us— if we’ll let them.

Thinking about the teachings of Jesus that we are about to read and the burden the Lord  has put on my heart for his church, the family of God, I understand more and more that I have been, as I believe all of us who call Jesus Lord are, called to love people into wholeness. To do that we have to be a church family that is willing to go the distance, to follow where he leads, and not stop short of all that God has for us.

Keep that in mind as we read.

Verse 57

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9

I think a lot of people who set out to follow Jesus—at least to acknowledge him and ‘get saved’ as we put it—stop woefully short of being a follower -a disciple. If we take a good honest look at what is really a hard teaching here by Jesus, we see those people who are seemingly eager to jump on board the Jesus band wagon being discouraged and turning away before they even begin.

Jesus knew that they would not be able to finish the race, they would not go the distance so he wanted to save then the trouble. It’s not simply because they wanted to look back. We all have a tendency to look back. We look back at where we’ve been, at those staying behind. We look back at what we might be leaving behind and we often look either with a sense of sadness— longing for what we had—or we may look back with a sense of dread like the past is threatening to consume us.

But Jesus knew what was going on in their hearts and he said: you might want to think about this… they did and apparently stayed behind.  They missed it, they missed it because their hearts were not in it, and what does Jesus really want from us? -Our hearts.

Heads in the game

Jesus said: “All the law and the prophets hinge on these commands; the first and greatest ‘Love the Lord you God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.’  And the second like it; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus wants our hearts, he wants all of us, he wants our heads to be in the game.

One thing the Bible makes clear—especially the teachings of Jesus—is the need to be in the present— while looking forward— with hope— to the future. Sure we need to build our monuments as we looked at recently; treasured personal or family memories that serve as touchstones and reminders of the goodness and faithfulness of God. But even that is for the express purpose of looking forward— having hope in today.

…a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

… He said to another man, “Follow me.”

… Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord…   Luke 9:57- 61

 

It’s interesting that we have three instances stacked up on top of each other here by the gospel writer—boom, boom, boom— of people who claimed they wanted to follow Jesus, yet Jesus seemingly shot them down. Now, we know that Jesus would never discourage anyone from following him and wanted all to know him and be saved, so that makes this all the more startling. So we can only come to the conclusion that there is a lot more going on here.

We have to remember that we are talking about Jesus, the Son of God whom—as the gospel writers pointed out on more than one occasion—knew the thoughts and the hearts of people he was dealing with. So certainly he knew the hearts of these men who came to him eager to follow— to make a good show of enthusiasm for his cause— but Jesus knew their enthusiasm would soon turn to disappointment and resentment when they began to realize the cost of following this itinerant preacher with no home and no intention of placating the demands of his followers, and who was ready to lay down his life both literally and figuratively and would expect the same of his followers.

So yeah, there is a lot going on here as Jesus looks into the eyes of these breathless people caught up in the moment and sees beyond the anticipation of quick rewards and change and he sees that they are not ready or truly willing to let go of the things behind them. I know this surely made Jesus sad because he knew that the things they were not willing to let go of were paltry and tenuous compared to what he was offering.

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Don’t be one of those who cannot let go, just take that step, and the next, as you began a new journey with Jesus. He will show you how to let go, as you learn to trust, and to still the voices.

 

Awaken

Nothing good ever comes after the words, “Here, hold my beer” are uttered.

This will probably not be one of my more popular blogs, but teaching God’s word, despite what many believe, was never meant to be part of a great marketing strategy or an ace in the hole of life’s popularity contest…

A crash course from Ephesians 5

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” Eph 5

It’s time for the church to wake up and start acting like the body of Christ again, to behave like dear children of God. We can no longer get away with claiming ignorance nor act as those who have no power. And we must stop presuming on grace to cover us for sins that we have no intention of even trying to avoid, we all love the grace part of the gospel but forget the repentance part.

deceipt

Entertainment focused churches and Christians who seek feel good messages from preachers who speak the empty words that deceive the children of disobedience into believing they are the dear children of God will be exposed as purveyors of half-truths selling ear tickling pop—psychology devoid of all power with no ability to set hearts free and to hold back the darkness.

The time is too short and the days too evil for God to allow that to continue unchallenged. And he challenges us to wake up and stand for truth, to preach the whole gospel and shun the deeds of darkness while claiming the full power of God’s word and Spirit.

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit

Don’t be a fool, redeem the time, and stay sober.

darkness

I have said it before and I will say it again here because it seems the church at large has slipped from total abstinence to total indulgence on this issue. The scripture makes it quite clear in both the Old and New Testaments in story after story, in admonitions, psalms and proverbs and even the example of Jesus that yes, it is okay to drink, but it is not okay to get drunk, nor to be a drunk.

And if you cannot make the distinction or stop the flesh from demanding more than just the occasional cup, then you should not even go there at all. You cannot function in the power of the Holy Spirit while drinking. You cannot be under the influence of a substance and the Holy Spirit at the same time because they are in direct opposition to one another.

That is why Paul ends the Ephesians 5 section of how to walk in love, to be imitators of God, and what the difference between deeds of light and deeds of darkness are with—don’t be drunk with wine.

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King Solomon wrote: “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” And all of these things that we are told not to do, to avoid even the appearance of— fornication, foolish talking, crude jokes and general filthiness—are encouraged in us when we are under the influence of too much drink. If you walk through a prison and ask people if they committed whatever crime they are in there for whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol nearly all of them will say yes.

Nothing good ever comes after the words, “Here, hold my beer” are uttered. You won’t find too many miracles, acts of service or prophetic words in scripture, or anywhere else for that matter, that starts with that phrase.

Hey look! There’s Jesus walking on the water in the storm. Peter, let John hold your wine and come out to me on the waves!” Wait, that didn’t happen.

‘And the disciples were all together in one place and they were all filled with wine and begin to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.’ No, that didn’t happen either, not quite like that.

pentacost

 

It was the Holy Spirit that was poured out on them and they went out from there and kicked the enemies butt and the world is still reeling from this group of Spirit filled believers who became the hands and feet of Jesus and turned the world upside down with his teaching, laying hands on the sick and casting out demons with a word.

Nothing has changed, Jesus hasn’t changed and his word hasn’t changed. “In the last days he will pour out his Spirit.” We are certainly still in those last days, the last days are surely running out and the days becoming more evil.

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Eph 5

Why? Why are the days becoming more evil? Perhaps because the church has fallen asleep, perhaps because the church has taken to drinking too much wine, perhaps because there are too many empty words being preached from the pulpits. Perhaps because the enemy is wide awake and he is fully aware that the day of the Lord is fast approaching and he wants to take us all out with him, suck us into the darkness so that in his demise he can gloat over all the dear children he deceived.

Perhaps it’s all of these things. But we can change the direction, we can redeem the time, if we do indeed wake up and start walking in, praying in, living in the light. Walk circumspectly—that means suspiciously, cautiously, kind of circling around something to make sure it’s safe before we just blunder right into it.

Time to wake up, for the church to rise from the dead and walk in the light.

awake

God has a plan and a purpose for you and you are here for such a time as this, stay awake and walk in the light. You will never regret it!

Shunned -(The Wall part 2)

12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near, reconciled through the cross and bringing peace. Ephesians 2

Separated

It stinks to be excluded, to not be able to join in the reindeer games. Today, we call it being excommunicated, shunned, or our new favorite; tough love.Those who experience it just call it being judged and scorned.

In this scripture Paul is urging the gentile believers in Ephesus to remember how they once felt when they were not a part of the family of God, separated by different belief systems, different cultures and traditions—different gods entirely. The Ephesians had been living without hope as their gods promised nothing but demanded everything, leaving them without hope. They were looked down upon by the Hebrews, those who worshipped a God who offered the hope of eternity and blessings in this life and the next but shunned all who did not adhere to their laws or even belong to their race.

They were unclean, and as far as,any of the Israelites of Paul’s day were concerned they could just stay that way, but more importantly, just stay away!—Open hostility. The Israelites had always been called to be a light to the world but they didn’t always do a very good job of it.

Remember Jonah? He decided he would rather die in a storm at sea then go preach God’s message to the dirty Assyrians. “Just throw me overboard and the storm will cease…” But God wouldn’t let him off that easy He sent a great fish to swallow Jonah before he drowned and to spit him out on the shore so he could fulfill his mission of giving the Ninevites a chance to repent and be redeemed from judgement.

jonah

He did, they did, and Jonah was furious. “These people deserve nothing but judgement, they deserve punishment” “Seriously God, where’s the justice?”

Mercy

That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O Lord, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.’ And the Lord said, ‘Is it right for you to be angry? Jonah 3

‘Really Jonah? You’re going to be angry because I am merciful and give second chances? You just need to get over your bad self.’

We don’t know if Jonah ever did (get over his bad self) his story ends with God rebuking him for being angry at God for his mercy toward sinners—the religious rebuked and the sinners restored. An unexpected twist and a theme that would be repeated over and over again throughout scripture.

Even Jesus said, “I did not come for the healthy, for the healthy do not need a physician.”

Why does your teacher eat with tax-collectors and sinners?’ 12 But when he heard this, he said, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. 13 Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’ Mat 9:11—13

“Go and learn what this means.” That is a challenge from Jesus to those who deem themselves righteous.

We serve a God of mercy, a God so merciful that when he saw no other way to overlook the sins of humanity, who constantly rebelled and forsook his ways, He became one of them and bore the penalty of that sin in his own body, purchasing our mercy with his own blood.

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…thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Eph 2

Has God put to death your hostility? Or has it only shifted focus or even intensified? That’s a hard question we all need to be asking ourselves.

Restoration

The specific and unique mission the Lord gave me for my church is that we would be a place of healing, restoration and hope for the church, for God’s people, for his children. For the wounded and weary soldiers of the Lord’s army who have fallen for whatever reason, and have been kicked aside by the church. What about the unsaved? Without a healthy church there will be no saved, which is largely where we are today I’m afraid.

Back in 2011 I told our young church; “I think the biggest hindrance to people coming to the Lord through the church is the church.  People look in at us working ourselves to death, shooting our wounded, snubbing the world and say, ’I’ll just stay out here and take my chances, thank you very much.’”

I strive to lead a church where there are no walls of hostility, where all are welcome, all the time. The only people I have ever had even a hint of a harsh word for here are those who come in looking down their noses at me or at any of you. The religious and judgmental do not normally last long here and in fact the only spirits I have ever personally had to cast out of here have been religious spirits. Yes I mean spirits, not people. People are just pawns used by the spiritual forces of darkness, and self-righteous indignant people are  his favorite weapon for destroying churches.

A few weeks ago, I was beating myself up for not being able to prevent people from making bad choices and feeling the condemnation of those who think me too easy on the fallen and hurting—In my lowest point of discouragement The Holy Spirit told me in no uncertain terms, “All I ever asked you to do is love people.” Those words set my heart free.

It just dawned on me this last week that that is exactly how my mission to restore the wounded of Christ’s army is lived out, just loving people for Jesus, letting God be the judge.

My friends, if anyone is detected in a transgression, you who have received the Spirit should restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness. Take care that you yourselves are not tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ. For if those who are nothing think they are something, they deceive themselves. Gal 6:1—3

Love gently restores. Only love can gently restore the wounded and weary, and the broken and fallen.

Fallen soldiers are not to be used by the ‘more spiritual’ for sword practice as they test how sharp their blades are by hurling God’s word at them like bayonets on the end of a Japanese rifle during the Baton death march where weary American POW’s were stuck mercilessly like living pin cushions.

Remember who ended up winning that war, the scorned and shamed Americans.

The point is, we are to be merciful and offer the hand of restoration letting God be the judge while offering to help bear the burdens of those we think least deserve it.

Save the bayonet practice for the real enemy, the one who is trying to destroy all of us, the fallen and the strong.

We do not kick our brothers and sisters when they are down, we do not shoot our wounded. We gently restore them because without mercy we are nothing. If we are not bearing one another’s burdens, we are deceiving ourselves if we think we are any better than anyone else—if we think we are anyone’s judge.

The one thing I have heard over and over again through the years from people who have stumbled and even fallen in the eyes of the church is this: “Where is the church when I need them? When I needed the church the most was when they shunned me.”

Up go the walls of hostility.

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down that wall.” There are hurting people who need mercy, who need healing, who need restoration, who need love. We do not know the whole story, their story. I don’t care how discerning or informed you think you might be, there is always a much bigger story, causes, curses and pitfalls of hearts and minds damaged and bruised by the flaming arrows of the evil one in days gone by. Arrows that can smolder for years.

All we see are the sudden bursts of the flames that we are convinced must have been started by the wounded playing with and delighting in fire.

There are a lot of hurting people out there who need a church family and who need us to be there. Where are we? Are we the guards ready to shoot those who dare approach the walls?—“Release the hounds!” Or are we those who see motion on the other side of the walls and rush towards them, overwhelming those walls and the guards until the walls come down and we become one again.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. Eph 2

Jesus set aside the rules and just loved people into wholeness, gently restoring them. As he said to the woman caught in adultery; “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?”

11 She said, “No one, Lord.”

And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

peace

Jesus came not to condemn the world, but that through him the world might be saved.

Jesus loved people into the Kingdom. Can we do the same?

 

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?

apple meme

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.

Lord's prayer

‘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.

When-Do-German-Shepherd-Puppy-Ears-Stand-Up

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.

 

Rest in Grace

“After what seemed like forever of the guard just staring at us like he was trying to decide if he should break out his shotgun, I was suddenly remembering the bag of weed and the bottle of whiskey we had in the back seat.”

10 Therefore I was angry with that generation,
And said, ‘They always go astray in their heart,
And they have not known My ways.’
11 So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest.’ ”

12 Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; 13 but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end, 15 while it is said:

“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.” Heb 3:12—15

rest meme

Today, if you hear his voice do not harden your hearts? What does that mean?

God was angry with the Israelites he led out of Egypt because they failed to believe his promise of a better life where they would find rest from their life of pain and hardship as they had in their days of slavery. Today, the rest being offered is a rest from the wanderings and striving of a people with no sense of purpose or direction and the strivings of a people who feel they must earn their way home—us. We have to know that we no longer have to strive and seek our grace, our salvation, we can find our rest in Christ.

If you can learn that lesson, I mean fully understand that we no longer have to work and strive to earn our salvation, our favor with God—we have accomplished something. Today our rest is in Christ, our salvation, our power, our freedom—grace, grace is our rest.

Preparing a sermon on this topic for Sunday I was really struggling to come up with a story to illustrate the idea of what it means to enter into God’s rest. I kept thinking, Ultimately our rest is in grace, so what is grace?  Grace is not getting what we deserve, so the rest we find in that grace is in not feeling we have to deserve the grace we get.

This brought to mind a time when I was very grateful not to get what I deserved, there are many times like that but in this instance it could have meant some serious jail time.

Rancho No Go

rancho deluxe

As my followers know, I was in Job Corps as a young man. While I was there I was in the Heavy Equipment program and one of the projects we did was to build a reservoir on the Montana State Prison Ranch just out of Deer Lodge. It was a big project that we worked on for months, moving massive amounts of dirt. Every day we would load up on the big green bus and drive into the very large ranch like we owned the place, using one of the gates on the back side to get to the work sight.

Fast forward a couple of years. Me and some buddies are partying and one of them has just gotten a new car—“Hey, let’s take a road trip!” So, about midnight four of us get into the car with an ample supply of beer whiskey and weed and off we go, west.” We drive all night and 250 miles later we end up watching the sun rise over the beautiful Pintlar Mountains just out of Anaconda MT, not far from where me and one of the guys who was with us were in Job Corps together.

This got me and my buddy reminiscing about our days in the Job Corps heavy equipment program so on a whim, and with no other  destination in mind anyway, we decided we would head over towards Deer Lodge and show the others, one of whom happened to be a girl we thought we should impress, the reservoir we built—never mind that it happened to be on State Prison property.

Apparently when you’ve been drinking and smoking for 16 or so hours straight your judgement is off a bit. So off we go. Just before the town of Deer Lodge we cut off on a dirt road heading straight for the mountains that butt up against the ranch and we get to the familiar gate—the one that says; “Montana State Prison Ranch, Authorized Vehicles Only.”

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Whatever, no one will ever see us, we’re in the middle of nowhere. My buddie is driving at this point so I get out and open the unlocked barbed wire gate, the kind you find on any ranch, and drive on in. We get in a ways, maybe a half mile or so, and we see an approaching dust cloud. An official looking pickup truck with the seal of the great state of Montana emblazoned on the door is barreling down on us from the other direction.

The truck pulls up alongside of us flashing his headlights and waving for us to stop. The driver, decked out in a cowboy hat and a prison guard uniform, looking very stern and perturbed asks; “Who are you?” My buddie says, “Oh we were in Job Corps and just came in to show our friends the dam we built.”

The guard just looks at us like, “Are you kidding me?” After what seemed like forever of the guard just staring at us like he was trying to decide if he should break out his shotgun I was suddenly remembering the bag of weed and the bottle of whiskey we had in the back seat. I was sitting in the passenger seat trying to look innocent and harmless wishing my buddy wasn’t looking so defiant while wondering what the penalty was for smuggling drugs and alcohol into a prison and how we could have been so stupid.

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Finally the guard just says—“You can’t be in here, turn around and go out the way you came.” My buddy just says, okay and I quickly followed up with “Yes sir, thank you sir!” And off we went. Back to the gate no one watches with a prison truck right on our tail.

That was a sobering experience in many ways.

That was grace—not getting what we deserved, not even close. When we got past that gate, after waving at the trustee in the road grater who was looking at us like “what the heck?” and down the road a ways I was finally able to breathe again. I was resting in the knowledge that I was not going to be spending a lot more time in Deer Lodge than I had planned.

I would do many more stupid things after that, maybe none quite so stupid as that, and I usually somehow managed to stay out of serious trouble—Grace. If I got pulled over today as many times as I did back in the 80’s for driving while wasted I would still be in the system, back then I just got lectured and sent home.

Many of us have stories like that where we just go along not worrying so much about whether what we are doing is right or wrong and then we concede that maybe someone is looking out for us and we turn our hearts to Him. We find freedom and grace, strength and joy, in knowing the truth, in having a purpose. But then we get more bound up by guilt and stress then we ever were because we suddenly care and we realize that we do not deserve to be forgiven for our foolishness.

No rest there. That’s not the way it is supposed to work. Recognizing our grace should not cause us to fear that it will fail us. Yes, I still do some stupid things, nothing near as stupid as I used to because I have God’s word to guide me, and more than that I want God’s word to guide me so I avoid a lot of the situations where I had to worry about getting in big trouble, but I still make mistakes and sometimes bad choices, but God’s grace is still sufficient and He is still looking out for me.

I no longer have to worry about getting a DUI or being busted for possession—or smuggling contraband—but I now have to learn not to stress about not being worthy of God’s grace. Jesus makes me worthy and in that I can rest—I can rest in His promises.

Like I said; Grace is not getting what we deserve, and the rest we find in that grace is in not feeling we have to deserve the grace we get.

That prison guard would have had every right to call for back up, drag us out of the car and search it. We had no right or reason to be there, but we were allowed to go on our way unscathed. That’s grace.

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The difference between the grace I received that day from that guard and the grace we get from God through Christ? We can depend on God’s grace, we don’t have to sweat it our hoping we don’t get thrown on the ground and cuffed.

God’s grace is our salvation and that we can rest in.

I am what I am

 

My Rock

“Jesus is not going anywhere, he is not changing and we do not have to wither.”

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Do you ever feel like life is spinning helplessly out of control? You find yourself asking; ‘How can I continue like this, why does everything have to keep changing and how can I possibly hang on, keep my sanity, and not just give it up, be swept away by the current of mishaps and messes that seem to surround me like the vortex of a whirlpool that threatens to suck me down the drain?’

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‘Why should I keep fighting the good fight when others around me are giving up? Why do I keep striving for righteousness when others I thought were doing the same seem to have given up? How can I keep fighting for those I love when the enemy seems to keep stealing them away making me look like a fool?’

Your heart is crying out; ‘I feel like I’m sinking! Help me hang on!’ but you are afraid to verbalize it because then good well-adjusted Christians will clamor all over you with ‘there there’ smiles, and platitudes, that leave you feeling like a fool for not just being happy. And worse, you are afraid to verbalize it because you are afraid God himself will be disappointed in you. ‘Oh ye of little faith, here’s another dose of trouble to teach you perseverance.’

Christians are funny creatures, but not very. Navigating your way through this life is serious business and is not something we were meant to do alone—not in the flesh or the Spirit. We need each other and we need the Lord. We need to know that we are connected to something bigger and that we have a landmark, an immovable rock to always come back to, more of a fortress I suppose.

I am often tempted to give up, and give in to despair and hopelessness. But I don’t and I won’t. Because no matter what the world around me does, when all is sinking sand and it seems that there are more arms reaching out to pull me down then there are to pull me up, I am planted firmly on the rock.

I will love You, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my strength, in whom I will trust;
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.
I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised;
So shall I be saved from my enemies. Psalm 18:1—3

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Apparently David felt this way at times as well. We all do, life happens and often happens the way it wants to regardless of our desires or plans. At last that’s the appearance. Those of us who know the rock, who cling to and make our stand on the Rock, know that there is someone else who is ultimately in control and He will not let us sink or be shaken off that rock so long as we trust and desire to stay on it.

Jesus is my rock and I shall not be moved.

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Am I okay?

I was thinking the other day about what I was going to preach on this week after having had last week off. It’s funny how just one week can seem to totally throw everything off kilter, but then, much of these last couple of years have seemed a little off kilter to me. A lot of hard things in my life, a lot of good things for sure, but some real challenges too, things that are still a challenge.

Seeing people you love getting attacked by the enemy, trying to understand the incomprehensible, having things you built that you thought were being built correctly threaten to fall apart, or be torn down, it can all be very disconcerting, leaving you wonder—what is going on? Not just in my life, but in this world? The whole world seems to have gone mad, am I next? People are ripping each other to shreds just for sport, gleefully and vehemently.

I was thinking about this the other day, the challenges I face and my own failings, and where my heart is right now and I have to say, my heart is okay.Well, how can your heart be okay? Don’t you care? Don’t you see what’s going on? Are you just selfish and uncaring? You need to stress and worry, weep and mourn, fight and strive.’ Well, maybe—there is a season for all those things, but it is not my life, that is not where my heart dwells and that is what the Lord is teaching me lately.

I have to trust in him. I do not have to—I cannot—succumb to the fear, panic and despair that my mind would drag me in to. I can honestly look into my heart, see Jesus, and know that I am okay. I am planted firmly on the rock and I cannot be moved. People can shove me, ridicule me, shame me, ignore me—whatever, I am building on the rock and I will complete the project and I will win the prize at the end of it.

We cannot get caught up in the garbage that is thrown at us and around us all day long. We have to have a dogged determination to remain strong by knowing and abiding by God’s word. Only His word, made alive by His Spirit, will allow us to see past and through the manure that is always moldering and smoldering around us. “Let’s build our house on compost”—said no one with a brain ever.

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Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,

“Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.”

Shame?

What is it the world tries to do to us, what is the enemies’ primary weapon? Shame—minimalizing us, embarrassing us—making us question our faith, our love, our purpose and our relationship with the Lord. ‘Am I really doing what is right? Am I really hearing God? Can I really trust in his word, that his promises are true and that I am not just wasting my time and my life when others are mocking me? When they are accusing me of being shortsighted, bigoted, intolerant and prudish? Am I really just judgmental and out of touch with reality? Can I really live in the modern world and adhere to a religion that is two thousand years old that is an extension of religion that is as old as creation?

‘How old is creation anyway? Am I a fool? Am I just another animal among many who evolved from slime in a tepid mud pit to become a hairy ape who eventually became so full of himself that he made up a story about being created in the image of a God that we cannot even see?

The world would call us a fool, our flesh would call us a fool, and we become ashamed to admit, to confess what we believe—and the enemy has won. We have been put to shame. Until we look down and realize that we are still standing on the rock and Jesus is not going anywhere, he is not changing and we do not have to wither.

He is building us into a spiritual dwelling that cannot be destroyed, that will weather the storms that wail, and the assaults of those who hate us. Because as long as we are building on that rock they have a constant reminder that they are trying to build on ever shifting sand that cannot sustain anything for very long.

A sand castle looks great until the tide comes in and then you have to start over. I do not ever have to start over. My foundation is secure and no tide is taking me out to sea.

So whether you are a Covington Catholic school student, the wife of the Vice President being mocked for teaching in a Christian school, a resident of New York City who had your heart ripped out this week when you saw your city celebrating the murder of fully viable unborn babies, or a seemingly invisible highschool or college student who got mocked because someone saw a Bible in you backpack, stand firm and know that when all else crumbles, YOU WILL STILL BE STANDING!

God will not be mocked and you are his.

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I know I don’t have to worry that I might wake up tomorrow and be someone I don’t want to be, someone I don’t like. I am not going to lose my religion (to use an old phrase) not so long as I choose not to—and I choose not to. In that there is a peace. Let the storms rage— slander me, kick me, rail against me, give it your best shot. I know Him on whom I stand. My Redeemer lives and I will too, now and forever.

Hang in there my beloveds…

 

Check out my latest Book- Barbarians in the Kingdom and discover your strength.

 

 

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