Back to Basics

Hope Chapel welcome

I have come to appreciate more and more Jesus having entrusted me to pastor in a small church in a rural community. It is, by necessity and choice, church in its simplistic basic form. Having been involved in much larger ministries this has been a learning process for me. I always thought I wanted to be somebody in a large church—needed to be—to really impact the Kingdom of God.

Reality check; “the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” —Jesus

We need to be humble and we need to keep it simple—real. I think that is vital because church has to be more than just a program, it has to be a place to hear from God and to be refreshed and strengthened in and by his presence. There has to be room for the Holy Spirit in our gatherings. That’s why I love more and more our little church in Red Lodge and appreciate all those who labor in and are committed to the many small churches across our land. Church is family knowing and loving one another and always having room for more.

I have been blessed to have been promoted through my ministry years from serving in a church of thousands, to a church of hundreds to a church of dozens as the Lord has entrusted me to personally shepherd a handful of his sheep in a very personal and powerful way as he prepares and uses them to storm the gates and advance his kingdom in ways that masses of casual Christians never could.

Small churches are the special forces of God’s army and only those who are dedicated to the cause of Christ our King, and disciplined to seek him out on a personal level without being spoon fed their faith by professionals multiple times a week will survive the cuts.

Christianity isn’t complicated but it isn’t easy either.

The older I get the more I appreciate just the simplicity of the gospel, of our walk with God. Don’t get me wrong; life is far from simple, but the basic tenants of the gospel are. God loves me so much that he sent his Son Jesus Christ to die for me so that I would not have to. He took my punishment so that I could be with him forever and he sent his Spirit to live in my heart the day I chose to believe with my heart and confess with my lips that Jesus Christ is Lord and that God raised him from the dead. Simple, even a child can understand and believe.

And if I believe with a childlike faith, not outsmarting myself or complicating things beyond understanding I am saved, I am right with God, plain and simple.

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In spirit and in truth

And because of that I can worship him anywhere, anytime, in spirit and in truth. And I can walk as close to… or as far from him as I want. Now, you would think, I would never not want to walk close to God, but you all know as well as I do that it’s a lot harder than it sounds because it seems that the whole world, including our own flesh is trying it’s hardest to not allow that to happen.

We look at the world reveling in its delights of indulgence and wonder why we should not be also. In the 60’s the mantra. “If it feels good do it” was coined. And as the culture has thrown out godly values in place of that mind set the new mantra of today is “Don’t judge me.”

Well, fine, I am not supposed to judge you anyway, only God can judge. But I will not condone or celebrate the flaunting of sin as we are being called upon to do nor will I participate because I know that there is a better way, that God’s word does not change even if societal norms do, and there will come a day when all are called to account. Then God will look into the hearts of all and he will either see hardness and rebellion toward him and his ways, or he will see Jesus in a heart that yearns for him.

I prefer to be that tortured soul of whom it is said, like Peter wrote of Lot—Abraham’s somewhat hapless nephew from way back in Genesis—that he was vexed in his soul by what he saw.

2 Peter 2:8 tells us that Lot was a “righteous man, living among them day after day, …tormented in his righteous soul by their lawless deeds that he saw and heard.”

We know what happened there, right? God showed up, Lot was spared and those in the “If it feels good do it, don’t judge me” crowd were not.

I mean, seriously, it had gotten so bad that when the angels showed up to deliver those who remembered the true God the men of the city tried to rape them.

So, that little jaunt to ancient Sodom aside, I’m not here today to talk about judgement, I’m here to talk about deliverance. Jesus is still on the throne, he is coming and he is here even now in each and every one of you who has called on his name.

So hang on and don’t give in, it might get darker before it gets lighter but it will, the light of the world is returning for his bride. In the meantime, be the church.

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We need each other more then we need a big building full of expensive furniture, high tech gadgets and polished preachers.

Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:28

I think there is a word in there for the church of today that I am hearing echoed amongst many believers from the pews to the pulpits; lift up your heads, look away from the glitz and glamour of the big production, entertain me, bless me, smoke machine, laser light, ear splitting worship concert, churches and just gather with the saints to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

Lift up your heads and see the person standing next to you who is hungry for something real, not just a charismatic speaker who can make people feel good about themselves without offending or challenging anyone to the point of feeling uncomfortable. This seeker sensitive modus operandi has emptied the churches of their true power and left us irrelevant in, and to, the world. If your preacher never offends anyone he is not being true to the word.

I’m sorry but Jesus offended nearly all of his followers at various points to where the thousands who followed him were down to one man and just a couple of women who stood by the cross as he breathed his last.

And in that moment he turned to one the sinner dying next to him and offered him salvation because he lifted up his head, saw a bleeding Savior who was shedding blood that he knew he didn’t deserve to shed, and he called out to Jesus—“Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus promised he would.

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We need to lift our heads to heaven, to lift our eyes to see and open our ears to hear, to escape the noise of cyberspace, interface and in your face and see the hands that were pierced for us reaching out and beckoning us come, follow me, we have things to do, challenges to face and overcome, battles to win and people to love. The days are short and the time is near.

Keep it simple, keep it real, keep it Jesus.

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Lift Up Your Heads

 

Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:28

Do you ever look around and ask; “What in the world is going on here?” Why is everything so hard, why do the challenges seem to keep getting bigger and more frequent? For a while I thought it was just me and my family but I have come to see more and more that it isn’t. It is indeed my family but it is my family on a much larger scale—my family in the Lord. And I am bone weary from the fight.

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We are being tested, stretched, targeted, challenged, maligned and just outright attacked from what seems like every quarter. The church is being tested by both the Lord and the enemy. One is testing us to strengthen and refine us for the battles ahead and the other is targeting us to destroy us before the battles ahead.

It seems as if the world has gone plumb mad and forces beyond our comprehension our driving the narrative of this world.

You are not imagining things and you are not alone in seeing it, it is a fulfillment of prophecy which tells me, although this is not from God but rather from the enemy, God was not caught off guard and he is still on the throne.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power… 2 Tim 3:1-5

So now you, each of you, has to decide; which side am I on, the side of one who has the victory in the end and can get me through today’s challenges, even using them to further his ultimate plan of redemption? Or am I going to choose the side of darkness so that I can escape the present wrath, stop swimming, let go and go with the current hoping that the drain it’s running towards isn’t as bad as we think it is, that it was all just fairy tails told us by our parents to scare us into being good—this heaven and hell, Jesus and the devil stuff.

It seems we have a choice between a challenging life of purpose or an easy life of emptiness. Sounds like a no brainer to me, I’ve tried both, the latter doesn’t advertise the emptiness but it becomes painfully obvious once you’ve tried it. Funny, those who are living for the flesh and the world will scream at those who are trying to live for the Lord that they are fools to be scorned and mocked while they flaunt their perceived freedoms and enlightenment. They will tell you how superior and fulfilled they are while at the same time succumbing to mind altering addictions to fill the void, and when that no longer works, suicide is all that is left.

Another victory for the enemy as he has prevented another tortured soul from fulfilling their destiny.

It’s time for the church, the true church to wake up, to rise up, to be heard.

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

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Eph 5:14—16

We, those who cling to the Lord despite the challenges, despite the doubts we are afraid to admit even to ourselves, despite the seemingly never ending onslaught of obstacles and outright attacks from places we would least expect them, we will soldier on, keep fighting the good fight of faith for it is the only fight worth fighting and the only fight with a guaranteed victory.

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34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21

 

Jesus is returning and we who are left standing will stand before him. Even if the enemy should strike us down, we cannot fall for we are in Christ and he is eternal and our death is our victory because Jesus has overcome the grave.

Stand strong my brothers and sisters, our day is coming and I believe I my spirit, more than I have ever believed anything, that this evil day will soon become the day of the last great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and those who weather the storms will be the ones who reap the great harvest to come.

Do not give up, do not give in, your redemption draweth nigh.

27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

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Barbarians in the Kingdom 

Weird?

“…don’t you speak in tongues or deliver prophetic messages in church—people might think you’re weird.”

Claim and accept everything God has for you, be whole again, feel again.

And then you will no longer have to chase after the wind, beating your head against the wall of futility and vanity.

No More Futility

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.   Ephesians 4

The world, for all it’s advanced knowledge and sophistication, still clamors for and eats up anything it can to explain the inner need for soul satisfaction, to answer the questions that the heart yearns to know, to see past the flesh into what we know is out there but cannot grasp.

Is it aliens? Is it ghosts? Is it healing crystals and any other number of mystic powers? Is it drug induced nirvana? Maybe tapping into the spiritual realm and it’s power by chanting or performing rituals? Maybe it’s in ascribing power to the stars, assigning to ourselves certain constellations with cool names like Leo, Sagittarius and Aries that come with astrological prophecies ‘that just seem to fit us oh so well.’

Weird

Funny, people can walk around with healing rocks and herbs hanging from their necks, doing yoga stretches that are supposed to get them in touch with their inner selves, delight in having ghosts in their houses, familiar spirits to guide them, have friends who have been abducted by aliens, hear from dead relatives, be reincarnated from Egyptian princesses, take daily direction from star formations and pursue all sorts of legendary mystical beings to whom are ascribed supernatural qualities like Big Foot, Skin walkers, Moth man, Leprechauns, or our own local favorite; the Little Peoplebut don’t you speak in tongues or deliver prophetic messages in church—people might think you’re weird.’

No, I’ll tell you what’s weird, living in a world that is hungry for, thirsting for, dying for something, anything of the Spirit that will restore life, that will restore feeling, to a dead and dying spirit while denying the one true power for good in all the universe, the one true power that truly can bring dead hearts, Spirits, and even flesh back to life; the power of the Living God that is available from the Holy Spirit that dwells within us and that can be fully released in us by the Baptism of that same Spirit, the Spirit of the Living God, the Spirit of Jesus, the true worker of miracles.

I have put on Christ, I have put off the old self and I am alive in him, I move in the power of God in direct proportion to my willingness to exercise my gift and to facilitate them by living a holy life and striving for righteousness while at the same time knowing that Jesus and him alone is my true righteousness. And I have an incredible gift that is proof positive that my God is real, that he loves me and that he is in me—my prayer language.

Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 1 Cor 14;22

Why would anyone be ashamed of or think it weird or foolish? I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of salvation for all who believe, and the gifts of the spirit, including tongues, are part of that Gospel.

And don’t tell me my gifts are from the devil. They are not from the devil. I am a child of the living God, not of the enemy. They accused Jesus of being an agent of the devil also, because when the power of God manifests itself through you, you either have to believe that the devil is playing mind games with you, or you have to believe that the Kingdom of God has indeed come in power upon us.

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The Kingdom has come to all who believe and I choose to move in His power, to hear His voice. I can pray for the sick and see them healed, I can tell you things about yourself that only you and God knows, because I do not move in the counterfeit; ‘let’s work myself into a trance, grainy footage on a shaky video, it worked for my friend John so it must be true, kind of power’. I do not need rocks or herbs, star charts or mediums, clairvoyants or thermal imaging cameras, I just need Jesus. I just need to ask my Father and believe that he answers prayer.  

Every day is Father’s day if we give ourselves to the Father every day, seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and stop walking in the futility of trying to do life apart from him and in our own strength.

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I do not walk in the futility of my mind as nonbelievers and believers who have had their understanding darkened do, I choose not to be ignorant nor pretend that I am. I am not alienated from God, because I have embraced truth, I have embraced his word both written and living. —In the beginning was the word, the word was with God and the word was God, all things were made through him and without him nothing was made that has been made, the word was the light of men …and the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  -John

The word is living and breathing and sharper than any two edged sword, put on the sword, put on righteousness, put on the Holy Spirit, move in his power, live in his power, wield his power. —Be truly alive.

I implore you, if you have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit, please pray to be so.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:13

I’m just going to say it—If you are not walking in, seeking out and doing your best to implement the plan of God for your life, answering his call and moving in the gifts he has given you—then yes, your life is futile.

But I believe better things for you!

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Barbarians in the Kingdom

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This Little Light of Mine

“’If looks could kill…’” Well, after years and years in the ministry, let me tell you, they can.”

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If we have answered the call to follow Jesus it doesn’t take long to learn that we are called to love people, that is first and foremost what following Jesus is all about, it is after all, what he did–and does.

One way we love is to always speak truthPaul exhorts us in Ephesians;“…we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love,…” Eph 4:14-15

You can tell people some really hard things if they know that you love them. How do they know? Not because you said, “I love you—but…” They know because they can hear it in your voice, see it in your eyes, feel it in your embrace—love is the light of Jesus emanating from every fiber of your being even while the words of your mouth are speaking truth.

The eyes, seriously, the eyes are the lamp of the body. Watch— brothers and sisters—how you look at one another. What are your eyes saying? Remember when Jesus said don’t hide your light under a basket, to put it on a lampstand that all may see it?

33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye. Luke 11:33,34

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…”

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We all know the verse and the song but do we ever ask ourselves ‘how do we let it shine? How do people see the light? What is the light? The light is Jesus, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness,” (John 1) That light is Jesus in us and he’s asking us to let our light shine. We don’t put Jesus in a jar like a bunch of fireflies and set him on a table in a dark room. No, Jesus tells us right there in the very same breath from whence our lights shines—it shines from our eyes.

The Lamp

The eye is the lamp of the body. You want people to see the light in you, to know that you love them so that they will hear the truth that will spark the light back to life in their own hearts and behind their own eyes? Look at them and love them. Remember the rich man who asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life?

“one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “’Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’”. . .

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:29

Jesus looked at him and loved him, and then gave him the hard truth. And the man went away sad because he wasn’t ready yet to give up that which kept him from his call to follow. The man wasn’t angry, he wasn’t defensive, he was sad.

That tells me that he heard Jesus and accepted what he said as truth. Why did he believe it?—again, he saw the love in Jesus’ eyes. Jesus’ demeanor, his gentleness, his forbearance and love was evident. We can only hope that later this man chose to live in that truth. But that was entirely his choice at that point. Jesus did his part, in warning and then facilitating his freedom by giving up his own for a time.

How could you say no to Jesus? Especially when he is right there speaking to you. People do it all the time sadly.

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(Painting by Alkiane Kramerik)

“Jesus looked at him and loved him”— I love that. I want people to see Jesus in my eyes looking at them and loving them. There is an old expression; “If looks could kill…” Well, after years and years in the ministry, let me tell you, they can. People can tell from the look in your eye if you are loving them or judging them. People can tell in an instant if you have already made up your mind about them and will not give them a chance to be heard, to seek help or grace, so they will shrink away from you, avoid you, become defensive and hard.

Then there will be no repentance if it’s needed, there will be restoration gentle or otherwise, and you may have just damned their soul to hell. Yes, looks can kill. I’m sorry if that offends you but this is serious stuff. There is a world that needs to hear truth. There are brothers and sisters who need to hear truth, and they are not going to the righteous potato heads who are wearing their angry eyebrows or who will not even look at them period.

People want, people need, to be seen. They need to know that God has not forgotten about them or given up on them. See people, love people, Jesus looked at people and loved them. We are his body, we must do the same. I am tired of hearing people say in anguish, “So and so will not even look at me.”

The gifts we are called to use and given to equip our call must be used in love or we are just a clanging gong or a crashing cymbal. When we learn to love like Jesus does, to speak truth in love, to see with Jesus’ eyes—then we can say we are no longer children chasing after whatever the latest popular preacher is laying down promising to make us happy, wealthy and wise.

14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together

The Kingdom of God is advanced by loving others, not by acquiring more notches in our guns. “Boy you told them, preach it brother, fire and brimstone, repent or die, grovel or burn…” There may be a place for that— wait, that was called the Old Covenant.

Breakfast

That doesn’t mean we don’t call sin, sin. People have to know they are loved or they will refuse to hear truth, it’s just that simple. Jesus was the master of that, of course he was God so Duh… But he is also our ultimate example. Jesus called people to repentance even as they were compelled to follow him, to listen to him, they knew they were loved when they were in his presence; Mary Magdalene, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus the tax collector, Peter who flat out denied Jesus three times on the same night he swore he would die for Jesus first.

Jesus sought Peter out after his resurrection, fixed him breakfast and gently restored him, telling him the truth in love. Peter was convicted and restored probably more by the look in Jesus’ eyes then by the words that he spoke. “How can you look at me with such love when you know what I did? How can you want to spend time with me, to even give me an assignment, ‘Feed my sheep?’ When you know how I failed you?”

Peter was given three chances to say I love you Lord, one for every time he denied him. Jesus spoke truth to Peter, and to all the sinners who crossed his path whom he knew would receive truth, and he spoke it with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with them in love.

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,” Eph 4:1-2

Wow, there’s a walk to emulate. Walk on.

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Shunned -(The Wall part 2)

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

Separated

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

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

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

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

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

Mercy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restoration

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Up go the walls of hostility.

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

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

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

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

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

11 She said, “No one, Lord.”

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

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

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

 

The Wall

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Some of you might be old enough to remember the Cold War—a war that was never officially declared, it just kind of happened—so it never had an official end, yet it did have an end for all intents and purposes. It ended, with great fanfare and celebration actually such as Europe and the world had rarely seen, at the fall of a wall, a dividing wall. It was a wall made of concrete but built as a wall of hostility.

When that wall came down there was little doubt that a war had indeed ended, freedom and opportunity had won, and oppression and fear had lost. At the end of WW II Europe was basically split up between the Allies, at least as far as political influence went, the Soviet Union getting control of Eastern Europe and the Western powers comprised chiefly of the US and Britain, gained control over western Europe.

It soon became apparent that the East and the West had very different ideas of how things were done, with the Soviets imposing Communism and all the government control that went with that over the eastern nations of Europe, and the West encouraging democracy and capitalism in the west. Germany, the primary provocateur of the 2nd World War that had shaken the world to the core was herself split between the powers, the capital city of Berlin included.

During the time of division and turmoil the opposing powers developed immense stock piles of Nuclear weapons and pointed them at each other, both sides convinced that their side was right and their ways superior. But as time wore on it became apparent that the Communists ideology of government control over everything was a recipe for hardship and starvation so people began to flock to the west where freedom afforded people opportunity to shape their own destiny and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

The Wall

How do you keep people from leaving your little evil Empire? You build a wall. One night, August 13 1961, 10 days after I was born, Berliners woke up to discover that not only were the border crossings between East and West Germany closed, there was now a heavily guarded concertina wire fence separating them from family and friends, a fence of wire, bullets and German Shepherds that was soon to become a wall of concrete which would stand for thirty years.

Anyone who tried to escape East Germany, and many tried, were shot on site and the ground on the eastern side of the wall cried out with the blood of many hundreds slain while seeking freedom, the freedom we take for granted because of the blood shed around the world and even on our own soil for our freedom. Freedom from oppression at the hands of our own government and freedom from the tyranny of other nations and ideologies that would destroy us and our way of life.

We had an ingenious group of founders who ensured with documents and arms that we would have the right to live free to pursue life, liberty and happiness and that we would have means to defend those rights and ourselves against overreaching government, and foreign invaders. And we have the world’s most powerful army of volunteer citizen soldiers, free men and women, who have kept our borders secure for generations. Sadly, many of those European nations have succumbed to the seductions of socialism and are losing those freedoms, and the churches who were freed when the Iron curtain fell are now empty again, and even burning.

By the way, kids, socialism is just a small step away from communism, it is in fact the total implementation of socialism. No one owns anything and all things belong to the state, including you, for the good of the whole. All of it managed by a government that has total power, and has your best interests at heart of course. By the way, Nazis are socialists, that is what the word means, it is an acronym for the National Socialist Party, as was USSR, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

So yeah, I lived through the cold war as one socialist government replaced another in Europe, Nazism for Communism, and brought pain and misery, imprisonment and execution to millions and caused the free world to live in terror as these benevolent dictators pointed their weapons at us and called us the capitalist oppressors as they crushed the church under their boots. Christianity was declared a threat to their greater society, the state was their God and God’s word was too dangerous for common people to read.

So no, you won’t find me cheering on any politician in our upcoming elections who espouses socialism or anything like it, as being good for our country.

Socialism is evil disguised as compassion.

Free nations don’t have to put up walls to keep people in and they don’t take away their guns for their own safety. I’m sorry if that’s too political for some of you but our fathers, grandfathers, uncles sons and daughters did not, and are not, fighting, bleeding and dying to strengthen a government over the people. All those people whose white crosses filling graveyards around the world and those bones lying forgotten where they fell died for a “government of the people, by the people and for the people.”

“There is no greater love then that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Freedom isn’t free. Which is why our Lord laid down his life for us.

God Bless America

Jesus didn’t lay down his life to take away our freedoms for our own good, he laid down his life to free us from those laws that separated us from God and caused division amongst us and to bring peace.

15 He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, so that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, 16 and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. Eph 2:15—16

Happy Memorial day my Friends!

And may God continue to bless America!

The War We Wage

“I don’t know about you but I am tired of being tossed around by the prince of the power of the air. Why do we put up with it?”

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Ephesians 2 –And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,… Ephesians 2

We live in a wondrous world as citizens of a higher kingdom, yet we are constantly at risk of being attacked, and the ironic thing is, it is not just the enemy of our souls, the prince of the power of the air that we must guard against for, as Pogo Possum once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

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War

We are at war. The flesh that is us is constantly at war with our spirits—which is also us. At least that is true if your Spirit has been reborn, made alive, by the Holy Spirit of God through the blood of Jesus Christ. If we are alive we are at war, that’s just a reality of living as the redeemed in this fallen world.

If you have not chosen life or refuse to act as one who has, well, then there is no war, the flesh is just a dead shell, blown by the winds of this world, housing a soul that wonders why it is so miserable and empty while at the same time pretending it’s okay. In that case the Prince of the power of the air, obviously a reference to Satan, is just running roughshod over you while the turbulence sucks you in behind him.

Once we are reborn, made alive in Christ, we become the resistance. No longer owned by the prince of this world yet living amongst the zombies who are. The children of wrath—the zombies— are those who have are still dead in their trespasses. They are those who have not yet heard nor believed in the one who can give them new life and deliver them from the evil one.

…the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. Eph 2:3

This the war we fight—we fight not against the zombies but for them, to rescue them as those who have not claimed the life offered by Christ. Our fight is not against flesh and blood, it is against the evil one and his demons, we need to stop the righteous hate we are all tempted to engage in in the name of standing up for good and remember that our primary weapons are love and mercy, God’s word and truth. Truth spoken in love is irrepressible.  Let God be judge and his wrath be the final say.

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Because but by the grace of God, there go us.

The greatest battlefield of our war is our own hearts and minds. We must fight against our own flesh as it constantly demands our attention and subservience. You don’t believe me? Try fasting. Whatever it is you give up will be the one thing your flesh decides it craves more than anything else. That’s why fasting is so important to our spiritual health. A subdued body is a strong spirit and a war being won.

We are either obedient to the flesh or the spirit, the two are seldom in agreement as to what’s right and good. Which is why we so desperately need not just grace—forgiveness—but the power of the Holy Spirit as well. We need his direction, we need his strength, we need to seek him for wisdom, for as James said,

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. James 1:6

I don’t know about you but I am tired of being tossed around by the prince of the power of the air. Why do we put up with it when we serve and are redeemed, empowered and loved, by the Lord of all the heavens? We are the living, we do not need to fear the lord of the dead. We are not the children of wrath, we are the children of God.

‘We are alive in you Lord and we shall not fear, not the arrow that flies by day nor the terror that stalks at night. My life is in your hands, you are my life.’

 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Eph 2

We may be in a war but we have nothing to fear—we have already won. We are saved by grace, a precious gift from God that we did not have to earn nor can we, and we are God’s workmanship. Each and every one of us unique and loved, created to do good things.

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That right there is a reason to celebrate our lives. ‘I was created for good works which God had planned for me long before I was even a twinkle in my daddy’s eye.’

And I will not be deterred!