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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Healed by Grief

“Pain caused by pain healed by pain.”

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

I’m sure many of you recognize this verse as a saying of Jesus from the sermon on the mount. It’s become so familiar to us that we often just gloss over it and don’t really think about the impact of the statement, or it just becomes an empty platitude that we use to comfort the grieving, like a Hallmark greeting, kind of a ‘there, there, it’ll be all right’— but really; what is that comfort?

When you have lost someone you love, when you cannot imagine facing another day without your husband, your wife, your child, your parent, your best friend—anyone you love and depend on to be there in your life—when they are suddenly and irreversibly gone; what is that comfort that Jesus promised us here?

It is, of course, the resurrection. It is the life that we know cannot be snuffed out because of the very thing that we celebrate today—the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. As the great old Hymn says, “because he lives I can face tomorrow.” I will be comforted, because I know my redeemer lives. I know that I too will l live and that I will be reunited with all those who go before me and all those I leave behind and my grief will seem but a moment in the light of eternity together.

He is Risen

That first resurrection morning the followers of Jesus were in serious grief mode but their sorrow was turned into joy, they were indeed comforted when they heard the reports of the women who discovered the empty tomb and then shortly thereafter when Jesus visited them on several occasions after his resurrection. It is one of the most talked about and documented events in human history—and it changed everything—everything.

It changed the course of human history and the way we see life and death. It made all of Jesus’ radical teachings of love and mercy, forgiveness and charity a part of the human consciousness. For surely without the resurrection it would have all been quickly forgotten by a cruel and selfish world where only the strong and the most violent ruled or had influence. It brought hope to the hearts of humankind, it brought life and it brought healing.

But most importantly, it was a healing, a healing of our relationship with our God, an eternal healing of our dead and dying spirits. In the here and now it offers a healing to or hearts, our minds, and our flesh if we are willing to believe and seek it. But it is a healing that was purchased at the cost of incredible pain, sorrow and grief, a grief that we often don’t recognize like we should and a cost that is so great we can never comprehend it—a cost that was borne by our God.

Greif is pain and pain can only be healed by pain. It is one of those unwritten laws of the universe. God knows this, God grieves over this—and God himself bears the pain that ends the pain.

We in our frail flesh and limited perception sometimes experience what we think is pain beyond bearing, but we always have hope, there is always an end to our pain, and there is always a purpose. It is seldom on purpose, but our God always finds a way to use it for good for those who love him, for those who are called according to his purpose. We may not understand it nor always believe it but it helps to know that we have a God who does, who suffered and suffers, more than we can ever know.

God the Father knows the pain of loss.

Jesus was taken to a hill outside the city and is nailed through his hands and feet to a rough, blood stained wooden cross. He is then raised up from the ground and left hanging there to die a slow miserable death as the people he had come to save look on, some in horror— some in glee, most in indifference, ‘another day, another crucifixion.’ But there is one watching who is far from indifferent, his Father.

God the Father is watching his very son, the one through whom, for who and by whom he had created all things, become everything ugly and filthy in this evil and messed up world as all of the filth, all of that rebelliousness, all of the selfishness and foolishness that had separated mankind from him so long ago, forcing him to dwell behind a blackout curtain in a tiny room in a stone temple just to be near his people, all of that sin was being placed on his Son as he hung bleeding and gasping for breath on that cross made from wood he had created and even learned to shape with his hands.

be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Cor 5:20,21

We know of course why he did it, so that we could be reconciled to him. But think about it, the sacrifice that this was, the sheer magnitude of the pain and the grief it must have caused both the Father and the Son was for the first time in all of eternity past, the Son was being separated from the Father, separated by the thing most abhorrent to a holy God who is love, sin, the epitome of all things evil and dirty.

He whose Spirit when on the earth dwelled behind a covering of cloth when in the midst of sinful humanity was now seeing his own Son become the thing he had been forced to punish over and over again—his heart breaking every time.

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The Father was now being forced to confront his Holy and perfect Son, suffering immensely on the cross, but now enveloped—so immersed in our sinfulness that he became the embodiment of sin, and he had to deal to him the punishment that the law of a just and righteous God demanded; separation from God the Father. Complete separation from all things good, from love, from light itself— true and total death. The light of the world became darkness, life became death and the Father had to turn away.

As a result the heavens went dark, the sun refused to shine and the earth itself trembled and God the Son cried out in anguish rending the heavens with his cries “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

The Father’s heart breaks at that moment, absolute, unspeakable— ‘there are no words to describe the pain, grief and anguish I feel’— heart break. Then Jesus cries out with a loud voice, takes his last breath and he is gone

The Father looks down and see’s the bloody robe of his son in the hands of the soldiers as they look up at the one whom they have pierced and his anguish and grief demand an outlet and he finds a way, the same way that Joseph’s father Israel had expressed his anguish at the sight of his son’s bloody robe so many centuries ago—Rip!

And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.

38 Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. Mark 15:37—38

lightning

The very real, very costly and very heavy cloth veil that separated God from man, that hid his glory from sinful eyes that would never bear up under the sight of seeing a perfect and holy God in his glory, is literally ripped from top to bottom. This was more than just symbolic of the separation between God and man being taken away, the timing says to me that this was God saying ‘I am hurting beyond words at the death of my Son and this is my way of expressing it to you.

Grief

God the Father, at the time of his Son’s death was experiencing inexpressible anguish and grief—“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!?” It was about all the Father could take but he could not intervene, he could not reach out to his Son, this had to be done—for us. All he could do at the moment to express his grief to the universe was to rip his robe. The one thing that had separated all of humanity from seeing him, just as our own clothing hides us.

The rending of the veil, in the end, come to have a much greater meaning. One that would also facilitate our healing, even God’s anger has a higher, loving purpose. For in God’s grief we would find our salvation, our healing, our reconciliation, in the grief of the one who loves us, a grief that we had caused.

God’s grief would later be assuaged by the resurrection of his Son and his return to glory, as Jesus, who had never sinned, who was indeed the Son of God and the Son of man was able to overcome death because death had no claim to him.

And God now rejoices in the reconciliation of all his children back to him—and offers healing for our grief and pain.

Pain caused by pain, healed by pain.Tunnel

 

 

 

Poison Words

Funny how Christians can use supposedly, biblical labels that become just as hurtful as the labels the world uses.gwenny-art-fiole-props

Words of destruction, poison, can come from many places, even from those we seek out for words of encouragement. Years ago I had someone whom I looked to as a mentor, we met together regularly for years and I had received a lot of encouragement and sound advice from him. Then it took a subtle shift and I often left our meetings feeling more often angry and defeated than encouraged.

It got to where I started to dread our meetings. But I thought I needed his advice, and he mine, but it was usually pretty one sided and I often found myself having to repent of some slight he had perceived in something I had done or said to him or someone else. That was fine, I searched my soul each time and decided that somehow he was right and I was wrong.

But after a while it seemed I was always having to play defense as I was called out for things that I knew were not wrong, but were in fact things the Lord was showing me or developing in me. I was starting to have that old, ‘maybe I am worthless and lazy’ feeling that I had gotten away from so many years earlier, the feelings that the poisonous words of my two stepfathers has sown into my soul. This time it just had different labels. This time I was prideful and unwilling to submit—two things you cannot be if you want to be in good standing in church leadership circles.

Funny how Christians can use supposedly, biblical labels that become just as hurtful as the labels the world uses.

I had spent years, many years, discovering and developing my gifts and talents so that I could use them to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, I had learned how to be who I was, to use the personality God had given me to relate to people for him. I had overcome extreme shyness and the fear of public speaking to preach, teach and even lead worship in front of kids and adults of every background, and I was finding great fulfillment and great blessing in it.

It was all on the verge of being undone.

Finally I had to make a choice, listen to God or listen to man, answer the call or submit to the “Authorities”—I chose God, I fled that relationship.

Shortly after that the Lord gave me a new name, one that to many would seem like an insult, but to me, as only the Lord who knows me— my history, challenges and triumphs, who knows what moves and motivates me could have done, came up with a name that was a compliment, a challenge and a motivation all at once. He called me a Barbarian. That name changed my life, my relationship with him, with the church and set me free.

To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’ Rev 2

But that is the power of his name for us, if we’ll just listen, if we’ll accept it.

I found my freedom, when I listened to the voice of the Lord first and foremost in my life. My freedom was completed when the Lord revealed to me his name for me, Barbarian with a Bible. That name as the Lord showed me means freedom, pure simple unchallengeable freedom. Freedom from the hurts of the past, freedom from the poison that has over the course of my life seeped into the very fabric of my heart and threatened my very purpose in this life, a purpose that came from God alone.

I am not worthless, I am not lazy, as my stepfathers told me. I am not unsophisticated, uneducated and inferior, as my former boss told me. I am not a prideful ingrate, as my former mentor told me. I am not ungifted and unfit for preaching as a former pastor said of me— I am a barbarian with a bible who has been given an assignment and nothing on this earth, seen or unseen is going to stop me from doing what God has called me to do for as long as he wants me to do it.

The sophisticated religious establishment does not appreciate barbarians, but I no longer care, which is what makes me a barbarian I suppose. I am through being manipulated, denigrated and brow beaten back into “my place”— that is, my place according to others. I know who I am, I am who the Lord of the universe created me to be, who he calls me to be and everything that falls short of that, my faults, He reveals to me in a healthy and loving way through his word, by his Spirit and through people he has put in my life who love me and him, more than they love themselves.

If I hang on to that and guard what is spoken into my heart, I will be built up, not destroyed. The words of God are life, always life, never poison. God will never speak poison into your soul. If you walk away from any encounter doubting your worth as a human being, keep walking and don’t look back. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

So I have to ask, who are you listening to; The voices of destruction, or the voice of love, the voice of Jesus? Freedom, that’s what my name means, what is he calling you? What is he calling you from, what is he calling you to?

Be very careful how you answer that, the answer will change your life forever.

 

Oust the Snakes

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

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

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

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

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

Buddy the Bull Snake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thot’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Killed by Life

“The tooth fairy still comes, the rainbow still shines after the rain and the monsters still have never come out of the closet at night to get you. Then one day it happens. . . “

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After several years in kids ministry I used to look at those innocent, seemingly wise and well balanced kids who just had a simple faith—I always marveled at how I could pray for a sick child and nearly always there would be a healing, because the child just believed God would heal them; ‘Pastor Dan prayed for me, God answered the prayer and I am better’, it’s just that simple, but I would look at them and think, if only they could stay that way.

Puberty hits and they go insane. The world lures them into dark places and they become irrational, confused, rebellious and doubtful. What happened to that even keeled happy child? It’s a question that still haunts me. Not all kids go insane at puberty but they all face challenges that try their good sense and their faith. All we can do is hold on to the promise that if we train them up in the way they should go, when they are older they will not depart from it. We build the foundation, the rest is up to them.

And take it from one who has been around long enough to see it happen, that return—more often than not it does happen. God never gives up on our kids, on his kids, no matter how old—we are all his children and he still has a plan for us.

And God still has a plan for you, your days are still written in his book and he wants to share them with you, to lead you on in a spirit of fearlessness and trust, trusting your Abba Father—your Daddy.

For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, Rom 8:15—16

Most of us know this with our heads, but it’s hard to live it. We need to get this notion into our hearts, it needs to become instinctive, overriding all other fears, all external stimulus to the contrary and ghosts of the past. We need to listen to the Spirit, that this would become such a part of who we are that we don’t even cognitively recognize all the time that it is the Spirit talking to us, we just know that we know that we are a child of God, free from fear, free from bondage to anything but the love of Christ to which we willingly submit, placing our hearts into the hands of the one who loves us more than we can ever fathom. Trusting the hands that never fail.

Child of God

We start out trusting, as infants we trust that when we scream our mothers will comfort us. As we grow we trust that we will be fed, nurtured, we take love for granted, it’s just there because it always has been. When our parents or any adult for that matter tells us something we believe it. We have an innocence, a trusting wonderful and palatable innocence where we imagine everything is fair, everyone is good and life will go on and only get better.

That’s the childlike faith the Lord says we must have if we are to enter the kingdom of heaven. One that trusts the hands of the one who calls us like a child taking the hand of his daddy as they cross a parking lot together. You might not understand all the dangers and why you need that hand but you know it is there, that it is important, and that your Daddy wants you to hold it. So you just do, and it is good.

Then you start to experience more and more of life, you get into school, riding the big bus all by yourself, having to listen to a teacher who doesn’t think you are the center of the universe, interact with other kids whom you discover aren’t all always nice and willing to share the crayons with you. Some even call you names.

It’s okay, you are still loved, you are safe. Then you start to see and hear things, stories from other kids, TV shows, lessons in the history books; life isn’t fair, nor is everyone nice, in fact far from it. Life is still good though, you are safe, you are loved. The tooth fairy still comes, the rainbow still shines after the rain and the monsters still have never come out of the closet at night to get you.

Then one day it happens. Someone you thought could be trusted does something to you that you never imagined happening, maybe more than once. You don’t know what to do with it so you just shut it out, you try to pretend it’s okay, in fact they tell you it is. ‘This can’t be okay. . . well, I don’t know. . .’

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And then someone leaves that you thought would always be there, the love you counted on is gone. The pain inside becomes not only sealed inside but now you feel alone and betrayed. But you don’t know what to do with that.

Life goes on, people start to ridicule you simply for trying to be good, you are not cool, you are a loser until you discover that if you do this one thing, you suddenly gain some acceptance—the mocking slows down, ‘maybe you are cool?’ The one thing leads to more things and you are loved by many but then the ones you desired most to love and accept you now turn on you—“How can you behave this way? You are such a disappointment, I don’t know what got into you.”

Now you feel more alone then ever so you retreat farther inside, fully harden your heart and shut out everyone—‘no one is going to hurt me again, no one understands me, no one cares—I don’t care, no one is going to tell me what to do, no one is going to step on my heart again.’

That little child inside is now dead, killed by life, and the person that takes his or her place is scarred and battered, but will survive; ‘I will do what I want when I want as hard as I want.’ From then on our reflexive mode to any provocation, to any potential hurt or reminder of past hurt is anger. We do not trust, we do not care, and we do not share. We remember those long ago days when life was simple and we somehow were happy without all the stuff we do now just to ty to feel normal, to appease the flesh, but we know we can never go back.

Then along comes Jesus who says: ‘trust me, I have been there too, I have experienced the hurt and betrayal, I know the heartache and have felt unimaginable pain both physical and emotional and I can give you a future.’

So we ask him in to our hearts, we are no longer dead, we can be that child again, and it is glorious— for a while. Until life rears its head and taunts us, and we remember past hurts, our reflexes kick in and we shut down and shut in. ‘No one is going to hurt me again, trust no one, fear everyone.’ We learn to manipulate and extract what we need from others because we fear we will never get it any other way.

Our story

Now, I made that story up entirely as I was writing it but I’ll bet every one of you at some point in that wondered if I was talking about you. . . because for the most part—that is the human experience, and sadly, it is as far as many believers get— that is their life story; the end.

They get saved but stop short of healing, of renewal, of true and lasting peace, the peace that comes as a result of knowing with our hearts, not just with our minds, that we are children of God, that we have a Daddy who will never leave us, never forsake us, who will always be there to hold our hands as we walk across the parking lot of known and unknown dangers. We are still in bondage to fear.

We don’t have to be. Choose not to be.

We have to accept the healing, to just believe that it has happened just like those little kids—‘pastor prayed for me,. God heard, and I am better, Stop hardening your hearts, we have to stop responding to every point of stress that threatens us, to memories of the past, to taunts of the enemy with the fear of a helpless child.

You are no longer innocent, no longer ignorant of the ways of the evil one—you are a warriorand you are free, f5e2864d8685336898f586437794c4d2-d9cyq2byou are no longer in bondage to the flesh, you are a joint heir with Christ and you are victorious, you just need to recognize it, you need to live it—it has to become your new normal, muscle memory,’ I can do this in my sleep’, reflexive, instinctual, ‘that is just who I am now’ intentional victory. I have a life to live, a plan to fulfill and a God who loves me and I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Retrain your brain to come into line with what your spirit is telling you— that you are safe in the hands of your Father. He holds your heart and he is never letting go.

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

The Stories We Can’t Tell

 

…anyone who has had someone you love get hurt—you are a victim also.

“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar. …
Dreamscapes #8Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.”  Psalm 139:1-2,6

There has been something that has been on my mind a lot lately, something that happened in my spirit though it took me a while to realize and began to understand what it was, and the reason it happened was purely the grace of God. And, I believe, a result of just doing my best to be obedient and do what I believed the Holy Spirit was leading me to do; ministering to you, tackling things that I wasn’t really comfortable tackling— as I talked about some last week.

You ever have God do something in you, you know it was really good but you’re not exactly sure what it was or why it was significant— and harder yet—trying to put it into words? For me it kind of boiled down to this:

You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.


These words have been in my heart lately and that’s why I started with this psalm. As I write this I am still struggling with trying to understand what happened and the significance, so, as I have said so many times before to my church, when the Lord is trying to teach me something that is often what I teach on— because then I know it has to come from the Lord and that’s it’s fresh, even if it’s only half baked.

As you may know; I love to tell stories and I love to write. Stories help me to get my point across in a way that people remember and even enjoy, while writing helps me to sort things out in my own mind, it’s therapeutic. Writing and telling the stories of my life helps me to bring order to my life, helps me to deal with things that may have bothered me and— like I have told you in the last few weeks— telling our stories helps us to redeem our past.

It’s taking something that haunts us, that was meant to harm us and turning it into a weapon for good; that story becomes our testimony; the Gospel of Jesus Christ come crashing into our lives, the Holy Spirit eclipsing the flesh, the good chasing away the evil, the Kingdom of God overshadowing the power the evil of this world once held over us— that’s the redemption of our stories, that’s the God of eternity, the God of history becoming the God of our present, and altering our future regardless of our past.

That’s why we can say as in Romans 8:28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

Untold stories

But what about the stories that we can’t tell?

A few weeks ago in the church I pastor, at the end of what was the culmination of my series on overcoming the hurts and pains of the past, breaking away from the dead who would drag us back and keep us bound up in fear, doubt, condemnation and guilt—much of it aimed at overcoming the pain of past sexual abuses— I had, like I said, something happen in my Spirit that I didn’t recognize at first, at least not for what it was.

I got done preaching the message “See Her” About the woman that people had labeled as a sinful woman, yet Jesus had seen beyond that hard and false exterior that had been forced upon her and saw the person deep inside that she wanted to be, saw the healing that needed to take place and ministered to it, forgiving her and setting her free.

Jesus had ‘searched her heart and he knew her’— just as the psalm says—and loved her into wholeness. I finished the message and turned things over to the worship team as I normally do and took my seat to join in the worship and, in the midst of the worship, I was overcome with emotion and just started to weep, and I wasn’t sure why. I knew something was happening in my heart, that the Lord was doing something, I wasn’t sure what, but it felt like the Spirit was just washing over me and taking care of something.

Next thing I knew worship was over and the worship leader is looking at me like; ‘okay, your turn.’ So I went up with tears still streaming down my face, normally at this point I give one last thought and then close in prayer; I looked at the faces looking back at me and all I could do was say— let’s just pray—close my eyes and bowed my head. I have no recollection of what I prayed but I think the Lord was in it.

Afterwards I was totally wiped. I thought, okay Lord, this has been a very emotional morning, this last few weeks has been very emotional for a lot of us as, things have been being acknowledged and ministered to that have been swept under the rug for far too long, so yeah, it’s going to be draining as you allow the Lord to use you to bless people. But I quickly realized that this went way beyond that.

The reason I was feeling the way I felt, the reason I had lost it at the end of that series and why I felt so totally emptied—drained— yet freshly empowered to begin a new thing at the same time; was because the Lord had healed me as well, he had ministered to my heart as well; the minster was being ministered to.

The reason I didn’t recognize it was because I was redeeming the stories I can’t tell.  And I didn’t recognize that this was possible.

You see, the amazing thing about our God? He knows us better than we know ourselves and if we trust him, if we follow him into even what seems to be the scary places— ‘the last thing I want to do, the last thing I want to face’ -places— we find redemption and grace.

I had told my church that I didn’t have the stories of sexual abuse so whatever ministry was to be born of this was going to have to be theirs. I never considered myself a victim of sexual abuse but the Lord knew better. The Lord revealed to me that I was a victim, not directly, but I, like so many, was also a victim— anyone who has had someone you love get hurt—you are a victim also.

You think you are carrying someone else’s pain you think you are feeling someone else’s hurt, you pray for them, you protect them and you wish that you could have done something to have prevented it, and you hate yourself for not being able to prevent it, you just wish you could make it go away—but you don’t recognize what it is doing to your own heart.

When you get the worst news you can possibly get as a parent—twice— and when you learn that your childhood home was far more dysfunctional than you ever imagined and that things were not as safe for all your siblings as you thought they were, when you love people like they are your family and know the secret pain they carry from things that are taunting them from their pasts—when you carry these things but you cannot share them, you cannot tell the stories because they are not your stories and above all you must protect those you love, those are the things that eat you up; the hurt is yours as well.

So, what I learned is, those are the things the Lord knows about and wants to heal as well. Those are the things the Lord cares about. In my obedience to minister to and tackle an issue that nobody wants to talk about, that I certainly didn’t want to talk about, I was ministered to as well, by the Holy Spirit himself.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  —Romans 8

The Lord searched my heart, and really, I am just left standing in awe of our God.

“Lord you searched me and you know me… Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain!”  I do not know how to pray as I ought, I do not know what all the enemy has planted in my heart, I do not know  why I have such grief, why I have such fears, why does this bother me, why can I not express my frustrations, what is it that eats away at me like a cancer and I can’t explain it let alone counter it —but Lord, you know, you understand, you know exactly what is in my heart, you know exactly what I need— Holy Spirit intercede for me and the very will of God will be done.

And his will is that his children are whole and that they have a “peace that passes all understanding”.