Holiness Embraced, Challenge Taken

“God is speaking to you about something, challenging you about something, calling you towards something…”

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Nine years ago now I planted my church in Red Lodge MT. has it been easy? No, not by a long shot. Has it been worth it? Only God can answer that question but I truly believe it has. For one thing, out of this ministry-you are reading these words and I know God will use them to help accomplish his purpose in you.

I have been in a battle since I have been here for the very land, for the hearts and souls of Carbon County and all who come here seeking encouragement in their own battles. It is not a battle against flesh and blood. It is not a battle to be won by just doing good and being nice to people, it is a battle to be won in the heavenlies as our prayers affect the outcome of the battles we cannot see being waged all around us.

And each and every time a holy warrior acts in obedience to God’s word, to his Holy Spirit’s leading and with a heart devoted to God, another piece of ground is taken away from the enemy. Another seed is planted, another demon is bruised, another angel is strengthened and another heart is closer to being freed and healed.

We are warriors in a battle for the souls of humanity. It’s not about collecting brownie points from God like an obedient school child trying to earn extra credit so the teacher will let them go on the end of the year field trip. It’s not about avoiding judgement and scorn from God who is waiting to whack our knuckles with a ruler like an old time school teacher.

It’s about not giving the enemy a foothold in our hearts to discourage and accuse us and not putting up any barriers to the full power and blessing of our Father God so that we can go forth boldly and storm the gates of hell so that we can reclaim our neighbors and our families, our towns and our country.

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In 1 Timothy 3 we have a list of qualifications for servant leaders in the church. Being the person described in these two paragraphs isn’t about being able to say, “Well, look at me all you lowly sinners! I am somebody, kiss my ring and tremble in my presence for you are but worms compared to me.” It isn’t about being a stick in the mud who is not allowed to ever mess up or to have any fun; ‘squeaky clean and no caffeine, I have no emotions ‘cuase I’m a machine.’ It’s about being above reproach because you are doing your best and being honest about the rest.

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Because as soon as you start to think you are somebody, that you did it on your own and that God and those you serve are lucky to have you, you just fell into the devils trap. And nothing makes a more awful sound then one who was puffed up suddenly having all the air let out by the prick of the devils darts.

A servant of God who is worthy of honor is just that, a servant. A humble, obedient servant, who’s desire is to bless the one he serves and to be someone in whom others can see your King. You do that by being a person in whom they can see a heart of love. When they see that you love from a love that conquers all, a love that when received and believed removes all doubts and anxiety and leaves boldness in its wake, you are irrepressible.

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Holiness is a heart issue, you either want it or you ignore its call. It is not earned it is embraced. When you embrace holiness, nothing can touch your soul—NOTHING and No one, can touch your soul.

And I’ll tell you what, that is worth more than diamonds or gold, fame or fortune. It is far better than the best Scotch whiskey or craft beer. Better than having anything or anyone your foolish heart may lust after and better than having all your dreams and desires fulfilled.

Because all else is empty if you are not in a relationship with Jesus Christ and little will bring you peace if it is not your heart’s desire to be holy, set apart to serve your God and your King.

All of you who are here know what I’m talking about or you wouldn’t be here. God is speaking to you about something, challenging you about something, calling you towards something, but you are holding back, listening to the wrong voices—the voices of discouragement. Well, you know who you need to listen to, the one who resides in your heart.

That is my calling, that is my mission, to get you to embrace yours. There are lives and eternal souls in the balance, It’s not just about you, despite what this culture of me, me, me, says.

Because the world is living a life of discouragement, despairing often times even of life itself. And the only thing that is going to give them any hope that there is more to this life then the struggle, is Jesus Christ. And they have to see in us that we believe that, that we know that, and that he gives us the strength and desire to live a life devoted to him. Not because we have to, but because we want to.

So, to further that goal of being a light to the world as a church family, to root out the glory seekers who want the prestige of position without the sacrifice of obedience, who want homage without accountability, to head up servants without being the head servant, we must pay attention to God’s words.

If you are listening to and heeding his word, striving for holiness and trusting him for grace where you fall short, you will hear Him call you, and when you do—say yes, ‘yes Lord I will follow you wherever you lead—I am done living in fear! I accept the challenge–give me strength!’

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 God bless you warrior!

Find your freedom, release your inner barbarian

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Propriety in Prayer

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“Why am I wearing this? To show off my stuff, or to present myself as someone who cares about how I present myself to the world.”

As I work my way through the letters of Paul to Timothy, both for my church and for you, my faithful and beloved readers, we come to chapter two of 1st Timothy. A chapter I would much rather have ignored because it has been misused by elements of the church for centuries in a way I believe is not consistent with the whole of scripture and the heart of God. But that is why we need to tackle it, as it does carry some important principles that do indeed need to be heeded.

The following is a small part of what I shared with my church today on the role of women in the church from a section of scripture that really had to do with the behavior of both men and women in public services, the context of which gets lost once the admonition to women in particular jumps out at the casual reader of scripture.

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This chapter, (read 1 Tim 2) has everything to do with prayer and propriety in public worship services and Paul’s ongoing battle against false teachings and bogus apostles.

So, the admonition to men and women to behave themselves respectfully and orderly in their gatherings and to not give room to false doctrine, which keeps rearing its head and apparently likes to speak uninvited, and often, is the basis behind Paul’s admonitions here. And is the context for his wanting women in these prayer gatherings to learn, quietly and submissively, dressed modestly and outstanding in her love for serving the Lord and her family.

There is a dynamic that the casual reader of 1 Timothy cannot be aware of as well. It’s what scholars call the ancient sexual revolution going on in Roman culture at the time. This spawned a whole other class of women that was quite a departure from the meek women of patriarchal Jewish culture the apostles came up in, she is called; “The new Roman woman.”

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This ancient sexual revolution was taking place and was finding its way into the churches of Ephesus and Corinth causing concern for Paul as to the image and respectability of the church which met publicly and was widely scrutinized by all from the Romans to the Jews.

The new Roman woman was very vocal and haughty, displaying her liberation with clothing that could be considered promiscuous. There was indeed a sexual component to this cultural shift as birth control and abortion played a role in the lifestyle of the liberated Roman woman. Yes, the Romans were very good at turning procreation into recreation with no consequences. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

Quite the departure from the biblical view of sex as being between a husband and a wife for the purpose of joining a man to a woman physically and spiritually as they became one before God and to bring children into the world, into a stable family whose anchor is the covenant made between a husband and a wife.

The emphasis Paul makes on childbearing, faith, love, holiness and self-control is a reminder to the women of the early church of God’s idea of sex and behavior in contrast to the vocal, disrespectful and loose woman of the culture they were in.

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Decorum

In the Apostle Paul’s day it was usually the wealthy women of stature, women who had fewer responsibilities as they had servants and slaves to do their chores affording them more leisure time to pursue their pleasures and money to adorn themselves with seductive and suggestive attire.

 

Jewelry and elaborately braided hair piled upon the head had been more commonly associated with prostitutes of the day but was now becoming fashionable among the high society ladies of the day. Quite the contrast to the simple dress and pulled back and covered hair of the traditional Jewish woman Paul was used to. This suggestive dress was becoming a huge distraction, as you can imagine, to the men of the church. Men haven’t changed.

We are still very visual–you have no idea–and easily distracted by clothing or lack thereof that a woman may not see any harm in. Men today don’t generally relate braided hair or jewelry with loose women as they did in Paul’s day but there are other things that you may not want to wear if you do not want to be a distraction in public church gatherings. The same goes for men. Dress nice but don’t dress like you are trying to attract a mate.

Men and women, this applies to both of you, when you get dressed ask yourself: Why am I wearing this? To show off my stuff, or to present myself as someone who cares about how I present myself to the world.

Dress for the job you want, as the old saying goes. If you want to be a street walker or a calendar model, then dress that way. Just don’t expect to be taken seriously if you do, especially while witnessing for Jesus. That’s all Paul is saying here.

 

So Paul is trying to head this night club atmosphere off, to restore some modicum of decorum and morality, to avoid even the appearance of immorality, as he states elsewhere, and to set a standard of decorum which will keep them in some measure of respectability amongst the common people of the city and amongst the Jews, all of whom Paul wants to reach with the gospel.

It is thought that some of these wealthy liberated women where teaching the heresy’s Paul warns about in the preceding chapter and he wants to put a stop to this

In Timothy’s church, just as he had to do in Corinth, Paul is trying to establish a respectable, presentable and productive order to things without quenching the Spirit.

And again, culture plays such a huge role in these discussions that looking at it in light of our western culture thousands of years and miles removed, it is nearly impossible to know exactly what Paul was referring to or trying to remedy.

But what we do know is that God still cares about how we present, and represent, ourselves as dearly loved children of the Father and as witnesses for Christ. Your beauty lies within, just let it shine.

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Stand up Preacher!

The American church has forgotten that this world is not our home, and when we don’t get our little slice of heaven on earth, then we turn back to the world for satisfaction and solace.bible

We need Pastors, teachers and leaders who will remind us, who will be honest with us, who even know the word in the first place, that this life is full of big problems but we have a God who is bigger and who is more concerned with our hearts and our souls then with our comfort and happiness. We need preachers, biblically literate and Spirit anointed preachers, who will remind us that we are in a battle that we will win but there are scars yet to be earned on the way to victory.

And yes, we can find fulfillment and purpose in this life, but the fulfillment and purpose is found in preparing our souls for eternity and in preparing others to share that eternity with us.

So I charge you, Paul charges you—God charges you—to fight the good fight of faith, to know and teach truth and to stand firm on the rock, not letting your faith become a shipwreck that others get hung up on as well because you led them right into the rocks.

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This is our charge. The time is growing short and the enemy of our souls is getting more desperate and more blatant in his attempts to silence truth, to extinguish the light.

In much of the world he is just outright killing the church. I read a statistic just this week put out by Jay Sekulow that of all the persecuted people groups in the world, Christians make up 80%.

Quote— “An alarming study recently released by the British government described the current state of global Christian persecution as being “close to . . . genocide.” More than 80% of persecution victims globally are Christians.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Christians face horrific violence, abduction, torture, and murder for their faith. It’s genocide.”

“Christian children live in constant fear.” —End quote

And in America we are busy arguing about whether we should sing 500 year old hymns or contemporary music in our worship services or which English translation of the Bible was truly written by the Apostles and the prophets—none of whom spoke English by the way. There are places where you lose your head for singing any kind of Christian song and where people would give anything for even a scrap of God’s word written in their heart language.

We have a duty to speak the truth, to share the word, to be the light, while we still can, before the darkness consumes the entire world.

We don’t have time for petty arguments with believers with a slightly different approach or in house, ‘the preacher offended me I’m going somewhere else, maybe nowhere else,’ offenses.

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It’s time for the church of Jesus Christ that is still standing to get serious about the fight we are in, it’s not with each other. While we are arguing with each other about how literally to take the book of Revelation, how many years ago creation happened, and how wet we should get when we get baptized, our own government is slowly but surely outlawing the very bible we claim to stand on, declaring it offensive and hateful. And our culture, speech and public square is being systematically stripped of anything that could in any way be construed as Christian.

The PC police run roughshod over us all, silencing all honest discourse and somehow everything we now do and say is racist and homophobic. While we worry about plastic straws and which bathroom to use we ignore the high crimes and corruption in our highest offices and law enforcement agencies. We can no longer trust the IRS, the FBI, the CIA and the Justice Dept as they are all being manipulated by the rich and powerful for one another, against one another, and against us.

Our Constitution, the God inspired founding document of this nation under God which protected our rights to worship God as we so choose is no longer heeded nor upheld.

Christians and their leaders stand down and wring their hands, afraid to cause offense as perverts and pagans take over our education system twisting our children’s brains and stealing their innocence before they even get out of kindergarten, as communists and socialists take over our government—both of whom would regulate churches and synagogues right out of existence, take our paychecks and our weapons and leave us at the mercy of the state—which then becomes our god.

The state will provide, the state will decide, you do not need God.

I will not be silent and I will not be silenced. Too much is at stake.

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I know this sounds a lot like a political rant but I have a purpose here. We need people who are called to lead to stand up and lead, to speak out for truth and to stop running from leaders who are telling us the hard stuff even if what they teach makes us go against the grain of our culture.

I believe we are—you are— those leaders. Don’t fear the darkness, pick up your torch and lead the way through the darkness.

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Teach Truth

Disclaimer up front here—at some point in this blog you may be offended, I may have even offended myself.

But seriously, if you have a preacher who never offends you, you need a new preacher. (I am a preacher by the way) And an offense is just a challenge taken the wrong way.

Teach Truth

Paul warned Timothy of this issue long ago, this ‘do not offend me because I’m voting with my feet’ issue that would overtake the church one day. And as the time goes by and we are racing towards the final showdown between good and evil, pastors, teachers and leaders are become more and more afraid of the people to whom they minister, and less and less afraid of the God whom they serve.

Most pastors today will trade a full church for a full gospel any day. “Just preach the feel good stuff pastor so I can invite all my friends and show them what a progressive and cutting edge church we have. Otherwise, I’m outa here.”— “Oh, and you had better have top notch entertainment also, you know, drama and professional musicians and stage effects.”

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth… 2 Timothy 4:3—4

I’m going to spend the next few weeks looking at Paul’s letters to Timothy, a young pastor. Because I think the church, has gotten to a place where people are not answering the call any more. Those who have not just flat fallen away from the church and the faith, as many have in this age as we see church numbers dwindle across the board, are just not answering the call, they are not stepping up and they are not desirous of truly living a life worthy of their call even if they did have an inkling to do so.

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There is this weird paradigm happening where people can claim to be, and even truly be, madly in love with Jesus but not willing to live according to, or denying the truth and relevance of his word and his ways, they are in fact, unwittingly and in some cases, denying truth in favor of experience, emotion and cultural norms.

History shows that cultural norms are a dependable basis for determining God’s truth—no wait, that never works.

Right is wrong

I can hardly even keep up anymore as to what’s acceptable and what’s not in public discourse and cultural acceptance, not that I want to.

It would be downright comical—if it were not so frightening in its implications—watching the myriad of presidential candidates trip all over each other trying to outdo one another in embracing and doubling down on whatever absurd notion the other candidates happened to get attention with even if it is a total contradiction to what they claimed to believe and support just last week.

The spirit of delusion seems to have fallen on the whole lot of them as wrong becomes right and everything we have believed in becomes yesterday’s ignorance, as they all sit in their political and media circles and cheer each other on while the rest of us go,—’what? Who are you people, am I trapped in a bad episode of the Twilight Zone?  Or is this all just a bad dream’— no, it’s just the enemy playing with his puppets to destroy all that is good, the little that is left anyway.

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The point is—truth changes daily—you want to base your standing with the Lord on that? People don’t even know where to turn anymore, which statues we are tearing down this week, what heroes are no longer heroes, what history can no longer be taught or acknowledged; ‘Can I use a straw in my organic, sustainably grown coffee mixed with milk voluntarily given up by free range cows even if it’s offered to me by a transvestite barista? Or is this just a test to see if I really care about mother earth and all her multi gendered children?’

And that had all better be okay with you or you will have a milk shake thrown on you just before we beat you for being a hater.

What is acceptable, what is right, what is truth?

People are willing to go bonkers defending and promoting their political agendas and the latest scheme to save the planet from evil humanity but won’t give a moment’s thought to the one who created it all or bother to open the instruction manual he gave us, the Bible.

‘Maybe we can get truth from music?’ Yeah, that always works well. We went from drugs sex and rock and roll, to; I kissed a girl and I liked it, to whatever foul and perverse thing I can get to fall out of my mouth with something we call music behind it.

Thank goodness we have Christian radio—yeah, right. Let’s get our truth, our theology, from skinny jean wearing, young, rad worship leaders who got their theology from watching faded Levi wearing young cool worship leaders who got there theology from watching big haired, bell bottom wearing, key board banging worship leaders who got their theology from the young hip bearded bible study leader who showed up on campus one day with a Living Bible—“Cool man, finally a bible I can understand!”

You see where I’m going here? We need to keep grounded in truth. We cannot keep walking in ignorance. If you are going to endeavor to teach, or to be taught, you have to stay in, believe in, be submersed in, God’s word. You need to know the doctrine of grace and love found in the New Testament and the Law that preceded it and showed us the need for the grace in the first place.

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Because if all we are doing is presuming on grace and not caring a whit about how much of God’s law we are flaunting in our new found freedom, we are going to be in trouble, we are not carrying the torch that lights the way for all to see, the torch that keeps us from being swallowed by darkness as we await the sunrise of a new day in the Kingdom of our God.

Don’t get me wrong, there is some great Christian music out there, but that is what it is, music—an alternative to the garbage the world throws up. We cannot heed it as though it is gospel and every catchy tune with a clever chorus is not a word from God. The same goes for the beloved hymns. Even the oldest hymn was written many hundreds of years after the Bible was canonized and the word completed.

We can be inspired, blessed and encouraged by music from Christian artists, I certainly am, but we cannot stand on it. The only thing we can solidly stand on is the word of God.

We are entering a new season of the church, the great falling away is coming to an end and those who are still standing are being called back to holiness and will see the power and grace of God move in and through them like they never imagined possible.

Be that warrior, you are God’s chosen.

Eph 6 memeBarbarians in the Kingdom by Dan Swaningson

 

Forgiven Much

“‘love covers a multitude of sins.’ I love that, don’t you? —I can do that.”

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Anyone forgiven much? —Do you love much? That’s a little harder question isn’t it? We all know we are supposed to love, love the Lord our God with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves. But where the rubber meets the road, it’s a lot harder to do then to say.

I don’t care what anyone says, we’re all pretty good at loving ourselves, even the woe is me, I’m a pitiful wretch I hate myself, person who claims they need to learn to love themselves is focused on what? Themselves. “Look at me, help me, love me.” We all want to be loved, if we didn’t love ourselves we wouldn’t care if anyone loved us.

Jesus didn’t make any disclaimers when he told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He didn’t say, “Unless of course you don’t love yourselves.” Selfishness is rooted deep in the human psyche. We might not always like ourselves, but fallen man always puts himself before anyone else and anything you put above all else is what you love the most.

Jesus is asking us to put others before ourselves, and especially to put God before ourselves. That’s true humility, not drawing attention to ourselves with our own woes but being willing to put ourselves out for others, to even humiliate ourselves. That’s what the woman we studied last week, the sinful woman who washed Jesus feet with her tears did, and why Jesus was so moved by her love that he declared her forgiven—she got it.go in peace

 

The last thing she needed to do, and would have wanted to do, was to come into a room full of people who loath her, downright despise her as wicked and dirty, and make a spectacle of herself for the sole purpose of thanking one man for showing her respect, for treating her like she mattered, who loved her for no other reason than that she came to him seeking something beyond herself—seeking redemption.

And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; Luke 7

She went away pure, and at peace, because Jesus declared her so—forgiven much.

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Preparing my sermon last week and spending much time thinking about the woman who was so overwhelmed by a feeling of love for Jesus that she ended up washing his feet with her tears, I knew I wanted to spend more time on those words that Jesus spoke to Simon the Pharisee and the rest of the room concerning the woman whom they could only see as sinful and shameful;  “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

I have pondered that verse many times over the years and am always astounded at how I have seen it proven true over and over and over again. It’s somewhat of a sad testament to the human condition that those who seem to have fallen so far, gotten so far away from a life that honors God and his ways, are the ones who, if and when they are willing to receive the healing touch from Jesus, are the ones who ultimately become the most passionate about their relationship with him.

You would think it’s the ones who never strayed that would be the most passionate in their love for Christ but I guess it makes sense that the one who has been the most hungry for the longest time is the one who is most grateful for the bread when they find it.

Perhaps it’s that “You never know what you had until you lose it” principle at play. Those who think they are just always in right standing with the Lord, who say in their hearts, “Well I’m certainly doing a lot better than those messed up people over there so I must be worthy.” are the ones who end up bitter and ungrateful because they always believe they are getting the short end of the stick.

“I deserve better than this! Why am I not getting a ring and a fatted calf?” —to use a prodigal son reference. While those who have failed miserably and know they will probably get nothing short of scorn and judgement, are so grateful when they receive loving graces from the Father that they can only rejoice, and they cannot wait to share with others who are still in the same miserable shoes that they were in.

Listen! I am standing at the door

I have often said of myself when people express thanks to me for teaching or preaching the gospel, “I’m just a beggar telling other beggars where I found bread.” It’s a line I stole from an old gospel song I heard years ago and it just sums it up for me. I’m no one special, just someone who was starving for truth and meaning and stumbled upon a treasure trove of both in Christ, in his word and by His Spirit.

I just had to be willing to receive it when it was offered. And there is plenty for everyone. Why so many prefer to go through life starving when they can have the bread of life is beyond me but I am determined that it won’t be for lack of me trying to point the way to the pantry.

Really, that’s what it comes down to, that has been the motivating factor in my walk with Christ ever since he rescued me from my own self-induced famine and filled me to the top with his love and forgiveness.

The night in 1985 that I fell to my knees a trembling convicted mess and arose a man overwhelmed, filled to overflowing with love and joy, is a night I will never forget.

After several years of running from the Lord and life, after years of doing what I knew I should not be doing but unwilling to let go of my own destiny and trust Jesus, only giving the Lord a little bit of my heart, only living by his word when it didn’t interfere with what my flesh wanted. I had finally had enough of the frustration and loneliness that comes from a life separated from God by willful disobedience and dove into God’s word searching for an answer— anything to help me overcome my addictions and anxieties and he infused his word with such a power that I was unable and unwilling to close my heart to its truth any longer.

I was unwilling and unable to close my heart off to his Holy Spirit’s offer of love, joy, peace and patience any longer and I simply said yes, ‘yes Lord. I trust you, yes Lord I am yours, Yes Lord I will follow you wherever you lead.’

I gave him my life and he gave me my life back. “Go in peace, your faith has saved you.”

At that point I knew I was truly forgiven much and I loved much as a result. And I still try to do my best to do so, in his power, and he is always faithful. It doesn’t always make me popular, much of the church doesn’t understand how I can love some people, how I can accept some people, how I can keep an open heart and open arms.

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I am only doing what Jesus did for me and what I continue to see him doing. I am called to love all, both the unbeliever who doesn’t even know they are a sinner and the believer who is entangled in sin but is unwilling or unable to face the truth of how it’s hurting them, and breaking the Lord’s heart. I know, because I feel his heartbreak, that’s what is there when you get past the anger and offense, neither of which serve any good purpose, a love that is willing to bear pain is a love that is hard to hold.

But it is the kind of love we are given, and called to share.

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If we are doing our best to love much, we will not scorn others, nor will we be scorned, for love covers a multitude of sins. I love that, don’t you? —I can do that.

 

 

Do You See Them? (Still The Voices)

“. . .she told me that the only reason she came that first Sunday was because I was the first man who had ever talked to her like she was a real person.”

Forgiven much meme

Last week we talked about Jesus crossing the sea of Galilee in search of a lost lamb, leaving the proverbial 99 to find the one.

Sometimes the Lord would have us go to great lengths, travel great distances, to share Jesus with the lost and hurting. And that’s good, we are commanded to go into all the world to share the good news, that is the great commission. But we are also commanded to love our neighbors as well. Often times we miss what is right in front of us. We can fail to see the person right next to us that desperately needs Jesus, needs rescued, just as much as the fellow from Gadarene that we named Xander.

My wife Donna is good at seeing those people, the lost lambs, and because of that they are drawn to her. She was working with one such young lady at McDonald’s in Billings. Donna had befriended this young lady, a single mother struggling to make ends meet, and this young lady began to pour out her heart to Donna. She had found a safe place to be real.

Donna felt compelled to invite her to come camping with us on our big annual family camp out (Family being used pretty loosely and extending to pretty much everyone we knew.) Since the campsite was not too far from Red Lodge where my church is, and everyone knew me either as family or from church past and present, everyone who was camping planned on coming to our church Sunday morning.

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You know you’re in a mountain town church when you walk in and everyone smells like campfire smoke.

So anyway, this single mother and her one year old daughter, did indeed come camping with us. They had never camped before and Donna invited them to stay with us in the camper we had borrowed. I found this a little awkward but I thought she was  pretty brave to go camping with the preacher’s family, especially since she had never even met me.

Donna told me on Saturday afternoon while we were camping that her young friend said that she probably wasn’t going to go to church the next morning with us. I was suddenly very disappointed. I had only met her the day before but I knew Donna had been loving on her for a while and was very concerned about, and had filled me in on, all heartache and betrayal she had already been through in her young life by her parents and her ex-husband.

Later I saw her and her baby girl sitting at the picnic table in our campsite and I did something I hardly ever do, I sat down across the table from her, and tried to coerce her to come to church with us. I’m just not the kind of person who likes to put someone on the spot.

She didn’t know me, and she actually looked kind of terrified when I sat down across from her. But I looked her in the eye and said: “I hear you aren’t sure about coming to church with us tomorrow. I would really like you to. I know this might sound weird but I really think the Lord gave me the sermon just for you. And if you come I’ll give you one of my books; To My Girls” (Yippee— Hey I was desperate.)

I was desperate because I really did believe that the message I was preaching that Sunday was written just for her. I knew in my heart that she was why God had given me the message titled: You are Loved. To my relief and joy, she came. And she came back the next week, with her sister, both of them giving there hearts to the Lord in that first week or two and both attending quite frequently for a few years driving 60 miles all the way from Billings to Red Lodge to do so.

That young lady is still a big part of our life, her little girl calls me “Granpa” and 8 years later she still loves the Lord with all her heart and soul and is healing from a horrific past as she walks with him and seeks to learn how to live in this messed up world as she tries desperately to see the world through the eyes of Jesus rather than the eyes of a distrusting wounded soul who has every right to be angry and rebellious.

But she has allowed the Lord to still the voices that taunt and haunt.

no tuning back

I had been somewhat amazed for quite some time that she even came that first time, let alone again the next week and that she just kept coming. Especially with what seemed like such an awkward invitation from me, the strange preacher she didn’t know. Maybe it was the book, I don’t know, it had deeply touched many. I was sure love was involved, the love of the Lord, the love of our church family.

Then, one day we were visiting about that day, and she told me that the only reason she came that first Sunday was because I was the first man who had ever talked to her like she was a real person.

I knew she had been hurt and betrayed, seriously betrayed, by the men in her life, but his really startled me; no other man had ever treated you with respect!? —That doesn’t say much for the world we live in, does it?

How sad that people can go through life never feeling like people even see them, at least not as a person. I was kind of startled when she told me that, because of all the reasons I might have come up with for her coming to our little church—and returning— the fact that I had talked to her with the respect that I would give to any other person, would never have been one of them.

Donna saw her, then I saw her, that’s what it boils down to. I saw her through what was no doubt the eyes of the Father, a scared little girl struggling in a big scary world to be a mother and provider despite the worst the world could throw at her, a young woman who needed to know she was loved and that she was not alone. A lost lamb who had been betrayed in the worst way by her own father, her mother and then a husband.

GirlHiding

But Jesus saw her and sent someone to let her know.

We all need that; we all want to be seen;Somebody, anybody—see me for who I really am.” We all share this basic desire, and to some extent I think we all are a little fearful of being truly honest with one another for fear that we will be seen differently, so we either pretend for as long as we can, or we just go full blown; “I no longer care, the hell with y’all!”

At least that’s what we tell ourselves– But inside we are still dying.

The voices are still taunting us; “You are worthless, you deserve nothing but what you got— trust no one and strike first before you get hurt again.” Jesus would tell us otherwise.

Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?”. . . Then He said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you. Go in peace.” Luke 7:44. 50

 

Hope meme

 

 

The Dead Ahead II

dead ahead 2

It is not your lot in life, nor the Father’s desire for you, to live in fear of harm.

As a man, a husband and a father I consider it my highest calling in life to provide for and to protect my family, to ensure that they are, and feel, secure. I know that not all of you can relate to a father who really cares about your well being—But you indeed have one. We see him personified in Jesus and can know him through his Holy Spirit. It is His desire that you, His child, should not live in fear. that you can rest easy knowing that things are being taken care of by someone who not only cares, but has the power to take care of things in a perfect way.

Get safe

boat

But—what if you have found yourself saddled with someone who does not care? If you have sailed off to safety with Jesus, away from the dead in your past in that proverbial boat we have been studying, and been met on the opposite shore by the dead and allowed yourself to be deceived by them into trusting them. Like I said last week—If you are not safe, you need to get safe, it is not the will nor the desire of the Lord for you to live in fear or pain, to tolerate or excuse, or to take the blame for someone else’s evil.

You do not deserve to live in pain, you do not deserve to live in fear and if you are now a follower of Jesus—you will recognize that evil just as surely as Jesus did when he confronted the legion of demons who had taken possession of that poor man on the far side of the lake; What is your name?” The demons could not lie to Jesus and had to admit that there were many of them“We are legion” please let us go live with the pigs! How pathetic is that?

“Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” Then He asked him, “What is your name?”

And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.

11 Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. 12 So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.”

Mark 5

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And that didn’t last long, Jesus arranged a little burial at sea.

Once we have buried the dead—silenced the voices, we must not allow the enemy to stand in our way or saddle us with new demons and hurts. Not only must the dead stay buried, we must avoid future ensnarement.

That demon possessed man had come out to meet them. According to Matthew’s telling of this same story, these demons had been harassing and preventing people from passing here for some time now, disrupting people’s plans. But the demons quickly recognized that they were the ones who were about to have their plans changed and their day ruined. When Jesus showed up and their host carried them right into His presence they knew they were in trouble and could only beg for a little reprieve from their ultimate end.

This man had attacked everyone else and beat them mercilessly but he runs to Jesus and worships him. The spark of life, the glimmer of hope still alive in his heart recognized that God had heard his anguished cries and somehow knew his redeemer had come—just for him.

Jesus, nor those who love him are not subject to the whims and wiles of the enemy. The disciples had left the dead to bury the dead and they were not going to get bogged down by the dead ahead.

No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. Mark 5

Free

No one was strong enough to subdue him, no one that is, except Jesus— with just a word. Everyone else was dealing with the man, binding him and avoiding the spirit, Jesus was dealing with the spirit and freeing the man.

Jesus Saw beyond the madness, the nakedness, filth and threats and saw a good heart waiting to be rescued, a heart that was so tormented and in such pain that he spent his nights crying out alone in the graveyards, who was in such anguish that he cut himself with sharp rocks and was so hopeless and forlorn that he only sought to hurt others while they only sought to bind him and keep him away from them.

No one loved him, no one cared a whit about himno one that is, except Jesus. Jesus left the 99 to rescue the one.

Jesus didn’t just protect the disciples from a demoniac, he delivered the demoniac—a man created in is image—he set him free and cured his heart. Because—Jesus is fiercely protective of his children; all his children.

35 Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed. Luke 8:35,36

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You are safe with Jesus, there is no need to fear the dead, nor the demons, that taunt from behind and will keep trying to cut you off in your journey with the Savior. Keep pushing forward, keep trusting, be as innocent as lambs and as wily as coyotes and as bold as lions as you traverse the many trails ahead. The road is wide that leads to destruction while the path that leads to salvation is narrow, but it is a path that is well lit and secured by Jesus, the one who will never leave you nor forsake you.

Find your freedom. Embrace the barbarian in you!

Barbarian woman wolf