Restored Dreams

Ruth

Sometimes we give up on dreams, and sometimes they are just stolen from us—no matter what we do.

It is often the unfulfilled expectations of this life that weigh us down; things that happen to us in this life can leave us desperately searching for a reprieve, a redo, especially when it involves our families. I mean, it certainly doesn’t seem to be an overreaching expectation to be loved and surrounded by family—right?

It seems such a simple dream to be a part of a healthy whole family.  Then the drama comes, the unforeseen crisis, the pain of losing one we love—or fearing that we will— and we say “Why God?  “Why have you destroyed my dream, left me without hope and no reason to go on?” 

But we serve a God who can restore even the most hopeless and seemingly out of reach dream. Just ask Naomi.

Naomi lived long ago in Israel and she had a dream. A simple dream really, of passing on  the family farm to her sons and grandchildren.  She dreamed of growing old with her husband and watching her family grow, of getting to be grandma and seeing her sons marry women who loved and respected her and in return she would love them and hand down the wisdom of life’s lessons learned.

But this dream was shattered by one tragedy after another.

First a famine hit the land and the farm stopped making money, no rain, no graindust bowl time! So they walked away from the farm and moved west to the country of Moab.  Then, just as their fortunes seemed to be changing Naomi’s husband died. But Naomi found solace in that her two sons had both found nice Moabite women to marry. Then, tragically, both her sons died.  Within a ten year span Naomi had lost the farm, her husband and both her sons.

So here they are, three widows without much cause for hope, when they heard that the famine in Israel had ended.  With no other recourse Naomi decided to return home and hope for the best, but she still held out very little hope.  She told her daughter in laws:

Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I should have a husband tonight and bear sons, (for you to marry) 13 would you then wait until they were grown? Would you then refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, it has been far more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the Lord has turned against me.14 Then they wept aloud again. Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, (a goodbye kiss) but Ruth clung to her. Ruth 1

Naomi was convinced that the Lord was against her and she was destined to live out her miserable life alone.  But one of her daughter in laws, Ruth, was not about to leave her. Naomi was her family now and she would stay by her no matter what.

Naomi was blessed by the unconditional love of her daughter in Law but still she tried to persuade her to return home to her own mother’s house not wanting her to have to suffer the same hopeless destitute and lonely life she was sure would be her lot.  Ruth responded to her mother in law in no uncertain terms, “You are my family, your people will be my people, your God my God— so stop telling me to leave you, where you die I will die!” Wow, don’t we all need a Ruth in our lives?

Or a better question might be, Who’s Ruth am I? To whom have you said?—  I will never give up on you no matter what.”

Ruth said this to Naomi, so off they went; this tiny family, Ruth and Naomi, back to Naomi’s home town of Bethlehem.  They got there just as the Barley harvest was taking place. So, lacking any way to support or feed themselves, Ruth said she would go to one of the nearby farmers and ask if she could pick up the left over grain from behind the reapers.

ruth-gleaning

She chose a field that happened to belong to Boaz who turned out to be a relative of Naomi. Impressed by her willingness to work from sunup to sundown picking up dropped gleanings behind the paid harvesters to provide for her and her mother in law, Boaz told his workers not to harass her and  in fact to look after her and to make sure they left enough behind so that Ruth would get a good bushel or two to take home.  Boaz even told Ruth not to go to any other farms because he was afraid she would not be safe on another place.

When Naomi heard about all this she was filled with hope for the first time in years and exclaimed— ‘Boaz is a relative of mine, obviously he likes you, maybe this is the Lord’s way of providing you with a husband and restoring our family.’ ‘Uhm, I just had an idea.  There’s a harvest party tonight at his place. Wash yourself up girl, put on some nice clothes and some good smelling perfume and get on down there and make yourself known!’

“Here’s your one chance Fancy don’t let me down!” No wait, that’s Reba’s mother, not Ruth’s.

Long story short, Boaz did take notice of Ruth and impressed by her loyalty and virtuousness, he married her. And because he was a relative of Naomi he was even able to redeem the family farm that had been lost to Naomi’s family when all the male heirs had died off.

It wasn’t long before Naomi had a grandson and her long dead dream of being the grandma, of handing down the family farm, and having a daughter in law to share life’s joys with, was restored.  Her dream, her long dead— ‘never gonna happen now’— dream, was restored, as was Ruth’s.

 Then the women said to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin;  and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.”  Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse.  The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.” They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David. Ruth 4:14-18

I love that the Holy Spirit put this story in here, sandwiched between much weightier books,  to remind us that he is a very personal God who cares about the individual. 

He cared about Naomi even though she had given up hope. She had given up hope but she never stopped trying, she just kept pushing on and though she was convinced that for some reason God was against her, she never turned to another God, she never rebelled. God was still her God and he came through for her in spite of her hopelessness and despair.

The Red Tent

Then there’s Ruth, a foreigner who did not even know Ruth’s God. Yet exemplified the purity of simple faith, in her willingness to follow her dead husband’s mother to a land she did not know, and worship the God of that land though she saw no tangible benefits to that worship.  She had a faith and a virtuousness that put to shame many more religious women who never knew the tragedy she had endured.

Because of her astounding character she was restored and blessed, even becoming the great grandmother of King David, the throne of whom the Messiah himself would occupy forever.

Both of these women just kept putting one foot in front of the other and recognized the restoring hand of God when it appeared, and appear it did, when they least expected it in a way they could never have imagined.

What a great reminder of who our God is—the restorer of dreams. 

Never give up, never lose hope, your God loves you and hears you.

 

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Marathon

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Someone asked me the other day; “Why does the enemy hate our church so much?” I answered, “Because we are a threat to him.” Really—If we weren’t, everything would be a cake walk. Another question, and perhaps a more difficult one—”Why does the Lord allow it to happen?” The answer, which has become painfully clear to me in this season, is that the Lord is allowing the enemy to sift us like wheat, as he told Peter, to remove the chaff.

Our weaknesses are never so obvious as when we give in to them and are lured in over our heads. Hidden or unrecognized weaknesses are often never truly dealt with, and can impede us so subtly we don’t even recognize we are dragging them until the ones whom we always thought were losers are suddenly at the finish line way ahead of us.

Why does the Lord allow attacks? Because we all have things in our lives that hinder us, sin which so easily ensnares us, and sometimes the only way to untangle us so that we can finish the race, is to allow it to be exploited by the enemy, to even expose us, making it painfully obvious to us that there is a problem, forcing us to make a decision; “Am I going to let the enemy win, and just give up?” Or am I going to lay this aside, do whatever it takes to be free of this, put my head down and push on to the finish where my Lord not only waits, but he sends his Spirit to come and strengthen me, to even carry me on, “on wings like eagles” if—I will just let him, trust him, and not lay down and die.”

No matter what anyone says, no matter the jeers and the taunts of the perfect and pretty people who seem to have it all together and always finish the sprints first and can whip out a dozen pull ups like it’s a breeze—no matter what my flesh is telling me as it screams for the right to just stay down, rest, run away, crawl away, crawl into a hole and die, whatever—just give up— no matter what, I am going to get up, put one foot in front of the other, getting stronger and closer to the finish with every step until I look back one day and see all the perfect people gasping for air and staggering from side to side as they jostle one another for position in the mob that seems to have stalled out short of the finish.

We find ourselves scarred, winded and shocked, ‘I did it! I am at the finish line!’ And there’s your crown, in the hands of the coach, twisted but no longer tarnished and shining like the sun because the Lord has cleaned it up for you just as he did your heart along the way.

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All he wanted you to do was get up and keep going. Because he knows how hard the race is, he did resist to the point of shedding his blood, everyone sneered and mocked, called him a drunkard and a sinner, a blasphemer, even an agent of the devil—”but for the joy set before him” he kept going, putting one foot in front of the other, obedient to his Father who spurred him on. One agonizing bloody step after another, trembling under the weight of his cross, the cross he would soon die on, the cross he could have forsaken and fled at any time he wished.

But he didn’t, why? Because he wanted you to be able to finish your race knowing that if he took away the ultimate penalty for failure to finish, the only insurmountable hurdle in the course, sin—life ending, spirit killing—sin. He knew that if he took away that hinderance for you by taking it on himself, he knew that there would be nothing—absolutely nothing—that would stop you from finishing the race, from winning the fight, if you only made that decision to finish, to look to him to do so. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

Don’t let the enemy win, don’t give up or give in, don’t fear the race, don’t shirk the fight, it is not easy, it is never easy, it is seldom fun but it is always rewarding and it is always blessed in the end. We are not beating the air, the battle is real, if it wasn’t there would be no need to fight, no one would ever stumble, no one would ever fall. And if you have ever been in a real fight with a real scrapper, you know that even if you win, you will still walk away bruised and bleeding.

And the enemy of our souls, is certainly a scrapper, as is our own flesh. When the two team up there is a real fight with real consequences, but realize that the battle is never over until the Lord says it is over and he calls you home.

Every day is another day to fight, around every turn is another straightaway to cruise through until you get to the next turn or have to jump the next hurdle, all the Lord asks is that we do not stop running. This life is so much shorter then we realize and how we run today will determine our forever.

. . .let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, lest you become weary and discouraged in your souls.  You have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin. Heb 12:1-4

There is a purpose in our striving. We might not always know what it is or why the enemy fights so hard against us, but we must always know that there is a purpose. We have to trust the author and finisher of our faith, that is of course Jesus.

Don’t let anyone slow you down or stop you, especially not the enemy. You won’t always even realize that he is there, but he is sneaky that way. Sticking out a foot to trip, slipping you an intoxicant into your water bottle, whispering in your ear along the way;

Why are you doing this? You cannot finish, you don’t need to finish, you already blew it anyway when you stumbled back there at the curve, you crossed into the wrong lane, you’re probably disqualified, didn’t you jump the gun too? Man, you could be sitting in the bar right now with a cold one watching Basketball on TV—now those guys can run.” “No one cares anyway—loser.”  Lies, nothing but lies.

 Spartan quickly runs through the sand

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. 2 Timothy 4:7-8

You will finish, because Jesus doesn’t choose losers, and he chose you.

You Don’t Know Me!

 

  Prodigal meme

Prodigal—Exceedingly or recklessly wasteful. From the Latin word Prodigere—to drive forth or away.

So, who really is the prodigal son in the story?

Most people are familiar with the story of the prodigal son; the younger brother who decided he was due hid inheritance only to go blow it all on wine, women and song (or something). Broke and ashamed he came home to beg forgiveness and a scrap of bread only to be welcomed and treated like the son he was to a forgiving and loving father, with grace.

while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

But—

Then there’s the older brother who had his own issues, the other prodigal son who apparently blew all the grace he had been given because he had none left to give his little brother when he came home.

The church is full of people like the big brother who all have their own issues and you may have experienced their wrath. Perhaps their issue is that they have not yet recognized that you are just as loved by the Father is they are, you are just as valuable as they are. Or- they are just bitter because they are getting tired. Tired because they have spent too much time working and not enough time sitting at the Father’s feet and listening. So when they look up and see the Father rejoicing over you they just naturally get angry.

That creates a whole other class of prodigals who will also need to have a genuine home-coming one day.

28 “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. 29 But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ Luke 8

You cannot always listen to the older brothers, the wise and authoritative self-appointed representatives of the Kingdom. There is a time for reproof and there is a time for correction but if you are going to take on this task you had better be sure it’s from the Lord because usually the Holy Spirit is quite good at handling this himself.

And it’s usually the busybodies in the church who start the lynch mobs, not the ones who are being guided by the Spirit.

There are well-meaning big brothers who are genuinely concerned and zealous for the things of the Lord, perhaps too zealous and this taints their concern, shifting it from concern for others needs and leaving room for the Lord to work— to concern for justice. There must be justice, we must have a stoning!” Guess what, they have just become prodigals, because that’s not where the Father is.

That’s not what we, the church, were called to do.

The Lord me to Red Lodge to minster grace and healing, and he has entrusted and called us especially to minister grace and healing to his weary soldiers. To those who have served, who have worked and strived, given their all to serving the Lord— serving the church—until one day they just can’t do it anymore.

And to minister to those who desperately want to serve the Kingdom but are told they are not worthy, that they miss the mark. Well, if that is you, you are in good company, David and Jesus both found themselves there;

But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by everyone, despised by the people. Ps 22

God did not create any of us in the image of a worm, he created each and every one of us in his image, you are his child, he knows you, loves you, and just wants you to come home.

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

And by his Spirit we cry Abba Father!

That call should not be unique to any particular church—we are all representatives of the one who freely gives grace.

You don’t know me

Only Jesus truly knows us, knows what goes on in a heart, in the mind. Only Jesus knows what made the younger son run. All the older brother knows is what his eyes and ears tell him. He only knows what the rumors are, what his imagination tells him. He thinks he knows his brother, the selfishness and evil that drives him and it makes him angry—‘How can he be so foolish? You deserve nothing but scorn, you had it all and you blew it, you had the same inheritance as me, and you just threw it all away like it was nothing!’

‘Look at me, I held on to mine, in fact I am using it to take care of the business of the one who gave it to me—I stayed and served our father while you were out playing your games like there were no rules, like our father’s feelings weren’t worth a second thought—and now you just come crawling back and I’m supposed to welcome you? I know what you did!’

‘Yes, maybe so brother, but you really don’t know me, and our father has welcomed me back—who are you to do any less?’  

There is so much more to every story, to every heart, then we ever imagine, that is why we only have one judge.

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. 1 Cor 4:5

Honesty

What’s important for us as a church family is that we keep things in the light, that we are not afraid to share our thoughts and struggles, our failings and our temptations so that they are in the light where they can be dealt with before they get to the point where they are suddenly exposed, to our shock and dismay, and everyone goes UUUHHH!

That can only happen in a church that does not judge a person’s heart so we can punish it, but desires only to heal and restore, to encourage and forgive—that’s called grace. If we are not living in, trusting in and exuding grace we are not living in, abiding in the words of Jesus as—harkening back to last week— we must absolutely do if we have any hope to stay in the grace and blessings of God, as a church and as individuals.

Because that’s what a church is, a collection of individuals who are all part of the same family, God’s family and we all find ourselves looking at the horizon once in a while and thinking the party over the hill has got to be more fun than the narrow road we walk to the fields every day.  

We have to be the ones that go after the one, even if the running they did was only in their hearts and minds.

What kind of church we are, one that can weather the storms together, each of us pulling on the oars as we are able while those who are weary and wounded find rest and security in the hold?

Or one that throws it’s weary and wounded overboard until we run out of warriors to keep this longship moving forward and it capsizes in the waves.

We are never going to fully be where we are going until the Lord calls us home for the wedding feast, it’s who we are in the journey, what we did along the way, and whether we got there with the warriors and crew he entrusted to us.

viking-longboat-art-by-david-seguin

I call our church in Red Lodge the barbarian church and yes our ship is a Viking longship; the longship was a boat whose design allowed it to flex and bend with the waves never capsizing or breaking it—as long as it took the waves head on, and that never happened by accident, it took a determination and an endurance, it took a crew.

Let’s weather the storms together be the first to make it to Vinland where we will drink a toast with the groom in celebration.

“This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. 25 Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:24, 25

And I’ll take my wine in a drinking horn thank you.

Barbarians in the Kingdom

 

 

 

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.

Jesus Christ Crucifixion on Good Friday Silhouette

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

 

 

 

Invest in Yourself

 

 reading bible

“Maybe I could have my own show on the History Channel;The curse of Matchbox County.’”

Seeing Space X launch a Tesla driven by a spacesuit clad mannequin into orbit around the sun a few weeks ago got me to thinking about the– too long ago– 1969 moonshot. I remember very well watching it on our big console color TV, I have no doubt that every American with a television, which was everyone by then, was watching this unfold with, “I’m Walter Cronkite and that’s the way it is.” I remember staying up late with my mom and stepdad watching and waiting for Neil Armstrong to emerge from the Eagle and take that first step on the dusty grey surface of the moon.

I remember my stepdad commenting as we were watching the Eagle land that it might just sink out of sight in the dust, because, how do we know what the moon is made of? It didn’t, but it got my 8 year old mind to worrying that the astronauts might just jump out of the landing capsule and sink out of sight in dry lunar quick sand. I had watched Tarzan movies—it could happen! Quick sand is everywhere! “Don’t struggle, I’ll throw you a vine!”

But, all we got is “one small step for man” and life went on, no quick sand, no aliens, no moon bases from which to explore the galaxy like we all read about in Isaac Asimov’s books.

Thinking back on this got me replaying my childhood in my mind as I tried to remember other things about my life in this time period, life was so much different back then in so many ways. But it was a good time to be a kid, a very good time, us kids were free and we were many— in the baby boom. Hard to believe it’s been a half a century ago now, and now I understand how some of those folks who went from horse and buggy days to seeing a man land on a moon on TV must have felt.

invest meme

Most of us have more technology, computing capability and access to information in our back pockets then the entire control room at NASA combined during those moon landings and certainly more than the spacecraft themselves did and satellites track our every move via those same devices we willingly carry. To me the memories of my childhood when social networking meant gathering on the corner to decide teams for the next impromptu game of baseball, football or hockey, are treasures. But they are fading and I was having a hard time reconciling some of the dates with my memories. But, then my memory hasn’t always been infallible either, like remembering where I buried my treasure in our back yard.

Buried Treasure

As a young child my treasure was Matchbox and Hot Wheels cars, especially the Hot Wheels—now they were awesome. Little diecast cars in futuristic sleek shiny styles, an inch and a half of pure fantasy as you imagined owning a car just like that someday.

I would save up my dimes and nickels and when I got a dollars’ worth, me and my buddy, would ride our bikes down to Main Street in the small town we lived in and go into the basement of Gambles all by ourselves, the basement was where all the toys were—it was heaven. But all I was really interested in was the rack off to one side with all the Hot Wheels cars hanging on display in all their glory.

99¢ apiece, ironic that that is pretty close to what they still cost today, but these were American made, hand painted, state of the art cutting edge toys in the late 60’s. If you picked just the right one you would be the envy of the neighborhood and the bartering power it gave you was unmatched.

But then one day I started to get worried. What if I play with my cars so much that I get tired of them?—shutter the thought. So I had a solution. I put them all in a metal Batman lunch box, well most of them, and buried them in the back yard under the big pine tree. No one will ever find them there and next summer I can dig them up and it’ll be like having brand new cars all over again. Brilliant! Then winter came and froze the ground and covered it with a few feet of Northern Minnesota snow.

Then we moved across town—before the snow melted. Whoops. Of course I couldn’t tell my folks what I did, not that it would have mattered, it would have just made me look foolish. Well, I certainly didn’t get tired of them, in fact I had to start a new collection, oh well, maybe someday like Black beard the Pirate I will return for my lost buried treasure. Maybe I could have my own show on the History Channel;The curse of Matchbox County.’

I kind of doubt that after a half century in the wet Minnesota soil there is much left of my tin lunch box or my cars. And, actually I did return a couple of years later. Turns out my parents didn’t sell that house, they just rented it out and we moved back into it for a while after selling our new house in preparation to move to New Mexico. My excitement of moving back to treasure Island was short lived though, because the huge Pine tree I had buried my treasure under was gone and try as I might I could not find that box of cars.

Besides, you can only get away with digging so many holes in your backyard before your parents take issue. The lost treasure remains lost. Those cars are probably worth a fortune on eBay today if I did still have them. Oh well, in the end all turns to dust and rust right?

Dust and rust, now there’s a picture of futility, but that is the way of it. It’s a good thing that we do have something that we can hold on to, something that is worth more than we can ever repay or imagine and can never be lost or stolen—the word of God planted in our hearts, in our heads, in our souls—life giving, hope inducing, healing and strengthening, and always right where we left it untarnished and safe.

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Mat 6:19—21

Word meme

It is amazing and a testament to its inspired nature that the word of God remains relevant, powerful and meaningful even today for those who take the time to look into it and explore their own hearts in light of it. That’s because no matter our surroundings we are still humans with feeling, fears and passions with a capacity to love, hurt and dream just as Adam and Eve and every person who has ever lived since has. And that is what the word addresses, the heart.

It is the word of a God whose image we are created in so it will always be relevant. Knowing it is an investment in ourselves—in eternity.

 

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.

 

The Battle is Real

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

battle-war-spiritual-fists.1200w.tn

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

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

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

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

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

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

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