The Dreaded List

“One of my buddies oh so casually sidled up to the table and got a good look at the list—it had only one name on it, Nador, the urinal hugger”

No One condemned you

Remember the story of the woman caught in adultery that John recounts in his gospel?

“We caught this woman in the act of adultery and by the law of Moses she ought to be stoned!”

Jesus didn’t argue that the woman had not done wrong, he simply argued that no one there had the right to accuse her, to testify against her, because they were all guilty of something as well.

What happened? They all dropped the stones they had been about to pummel her with and walked away leaving the woman standing before Jesus, forgiven and given another chance.

And this was before Jesus had died for our sins, before he had given us his Holy Spirit as a witness to our place in him. Yet no one could stand up to him and say, she deserves to die for her sin! Let alone cast the first stone.

Imagine the authority and the protection he gives us against those accusations today, even from the chief accuser himself.

accuser thrown down

The devil will try to mess with your head, but you must not let him, there are no witnesses against you.

I have witnesses

Reminds me of a time back when I was in the Anaconda Job Corps center. I was eighteen years old and stuck in a center with about two hundred other young men, many of whom were always looking for a way to party without getting kicked out.

One guy had the bright idea of hiking the ten miles into Anaconda at night, through the mountains, to buy a bunch of booze and hike back hopefully undetected and  unmissed. So he went around in our dorm and solicited money from several guys that he trusted to keep quiet, with the promise that he would bring back alcohol for them.

I was among that group. I don’t remember for sure but I think I might have pitched in ten bucks, it just would not have been cool not too, and I was all about being cool back then.

Honestly, I thought he was nuts and I really didn’t think he could pull it off, and I would get my money back and we would all have a good laugh at his expense and move on.

But lo and behold he made it through the mountains to the Liquor store on a Friday night, filled his back pack with whiskey, and got back and into bed before the RA (Resident Advisor) realized he was missing as he made his rounds at night.

The next night the party was on. Several of us, maybe ten or so, were taking shots from the bottles, drinking it with coffee or putting it in half full soda cans, whatever, finding ways to consume mass quantities while staying out of the way of the RA and keeping a low profile.

Most of us did alright, except for one guy—Nador.

He did not handle his liquor so well and before the night was over he was hugging a urinal in the large communal rest room, throwing up and shouting his hatred and defiance for all authority and pretty much everyone. He might as well have had a bull horn because his rants were echoing in this large tiled bathroom like an amphitheater and right out the door-less entry, down the hall and into the RA’s office. . . . busted—at least he was.

By this point the rest of us had melted away into our various corners of the dormitory, suddenly we were all sound asleep in our beds, interspersed amongst the other 50 guys in our dorm.

Well, as you can imagine this opened up a big ‘ol can of worms. Drinking on this government run training center was strictly forbidden, as was leaving without permission—otherwise known as being AWOL. Those in charge of the center were determined to get to the bottom of all this; “Who brought in the booze? How did they do it? Who paid for it? Who all was drinking?”

bust

The administrators made a big deal out of finding the answers to all of this. Problem is, no one was talking. They threatened, lectured, offered to go easy on anyone who would give them names—claimed they knew things they didn’t know.

After a few days they tried a different tact, they claimed they had acquired a list of names of all involved and if any of those whose names were on that list would confess, they would just give them a month of KP duty and restriction, instead of kicking them out.

But if anyone who was on that list did not confess, they would be discharged and it would go on your permanent record—the dreaded dishonorable discharge.

The List

The dreaded list. The head administrator would make a big show out of sitting at a table in the mess hall during meals, holding his clip board with the dreaded list on it while giving everyone from our dorm the stink eye. Like he was plotting our demise.

After a few day of this, of compiling his big list of bootleggers, he made the mistake of leaving his list lying on the table as he got up to go to the restroom. One of my buddies oh so casually sidled up to the table and got a good look at the list—it had only one name on it, Nador, the urinal hugger who had drunk his bottle so hard and fast he couldn’t remember his own name that night, let alone who else had been drinking.

Shortly after this, by virtue of being a dorm leader I suppose, I got called into the administrators office for a personal interview.Dan, we know you know what happened that night, we know your involvement. I like you Dan, you’re a good kid, you’re smart—seriously, you set a record score on your GED test—you don’t want to go down like this.”

The smooth talk was coming on heavy. I calmly replied, I don’t know anything about this.“ Okay, disclaimer here, I was not comfortable lying and I’m not proud that I did, but there was a lot at stake here and I was no saint back then. Knowing Jesus notwithstanding, I was pretty much living for the flesh at the time.

Then came the threats;

 “I have witnesses and if you don’t confess to what they tell me about you, you are going to be in real trouble.”

I was not worried in the least. I knew there could be no witnesses to anything serious, I did not bring in the booze and I knew that no one who was drinking with me would say anything, but most reassuringly, I knew that my name was not on that list—there were no accusations against me that could be backed by any witnesses.

But you know what list my name was on? A few months later my name was on the list of people who had completed the program, I had finished my high school education in record time, completed the Heavy equipment operator and the welding programs. I graduated, received my papers, my money and got on with my new life.

My permanent record with the US government was spotless. Was I a perfect student? No, but those who would accuse me were silent and the only testimony on my behalf was positive.

Thots

Are you tracking with me here? There is no list of wrongdoing against us and the only list that we are on is in the Lambs book of life. Because we are perfect? No, but because the only one who has the authority to judge us has no charges against us that can be substantiated because the only witness whom the Judge will hear will only testify that we are spotless.

No Condemnation

If you have trusted Jesus with your heart, if you are wanting to walk in the Spirit and not in the flesh, you name is written in that book of life and there are no charges against you. You are loved, you are his—you are okay.

We have to know that we are okay, don’t we?

In times like this, it is especially poignant that we know, that we have that witness in our hearts and that we do not let anyone steal it away.

Witness Dove Life

We Have a blessed assurance, we have Jesus.

If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater; for this is the witness of God which He has testified of His Son. 10 He who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; . . . that you may know that you have eternal life.

1 John 5:9—13

Submit to the Authorities?

when you finally start to think that someone should do something, it’s too late. Everyone who might have stood up is discredited, defrocked, mocked and minimalized–canceled– making everyone else afraid to say a word.

Christians who read these admonitions in the scripture to submit to the governing authorities as a blanket statement forget about the stories of people like Daniel, Shadrach Meshach and Abednigo, or even Peter and John who were arrested for refusing to stop preaching Jesus. And they are ignorant of even recent history, and that is supremely dangerous.

Growing up in the sixties and seventies I heard a lot about the evils perpetrated on mankind by the Nazis and Imperial Japan as the war had only ended a couple decades earlier and the world was still recovering from the damage inflicted and trying to understand how so many people could have taken part in, or simply ignored such evil that systematically imprisoned, enslaved, tortured and slaughtered millions upon millions of people in such a short amount of time.

There are many, many lessons that were learned from it all, and it was important that they were, so that we do not go there again. But sadly much of that is now being ignored or minimalized because we as a people generally have very short memories and the devil only has so many tricks. But, because mankind keeps falling for them, that’s all he needs.

The biggest and most disturbing lesson was that people are capable of justifying absolutely anything no matter how evil. The question that was asked over and over at the Nuremburg trials where Japanese and German soldiers who were charged with committing such heinous acts against American prisoners of war, and entire ethnic and religious groups were being tried. How do you justify your actions?

From the top generals and on down to the lowly prison guards who were on trial for war crimes, especially as concerned the concentration camps and the systematic abuse, horrific medical experimentation and slaughter of entire people groups, the defense that was offered over and over again by those who took part in these horrors was this; “I was just following orders”.

The Nazi death camp thing was especially disturbing to the American Psyche because the German people were considered to be good Christians. It was ground zero of the Reformation and the bible first became available to all because of the German translations and the invention of the printing press—the famous Gutenberg bible.

Yet the German people as a whole, good people who went to church on Sunday, raised families and went to work just like decent Christian people in America, all said basically the same thing when asked; “How could you let this happen in your own backyard, to your own neighbors?” “We were just doing and believing what we were told.”

Do suppose that is an answer that will stand up on the judgement day? I doubt it.

It didn’t work for many of those at Nuremburg either. There were a lot of hangings when those trials ended. If you take part in carrying out war crimes against mankind as defined by the Geneva Convention, you are guilty regardless of who told you to do it.

How

As a child I wrestled with that question myself. If I had lived in Germany during that time, what would I have done? It all seemed so black and white, good and evil, right and wrong. ‘How could you let yourself be a part of or ignore any of that?’

Now, not everyone did. In fact many people, pastors included, who refused to submit to the ever increasing encroachment of darkness disguised as social justice and necessary adjustments for the greater good of all, would find themselves in concentration and labor camps as well.

But the majority did not resist, they just went along. It was easy for me to think; “Man, if I had been alive back then, and a citizen of Germany when all this was happening I would have risen up and died fighting to free those who were being tortured. I would have tried to stop Hitler, using any means possible.”

Would I have been justified? Would I have had the courage? Would I have just gone along and drank the now proverbial Jonestown Kool Aid like everyone else? They say the churches that were near the railroad tracks used to time their worship so that they were playing their pipe organs and singing their Luther hymns when the trains passed by as to drown out the screams of the people packed in the freight cars like cattle bound for slaughter.

Compromise

As I grow and mature I understand more and more how a people could get to that place. Little by little, compromise and deception, compromising what you know is right to avoid conflict and allowing yourself to be deceived into thinking that wrong is right. The word of God and it’s absolutes gets replaced with the wisdom of the collective and the experts. Science is used and manipulated to achieve any goal that those in power agree on, and all who want to be somebody sign on with it. We have a consensus! You can’t deny the science!  

And the loudest voices of the morally bankrupt and deceived masses demand their way while never realizing that they are playing right into the hands of the powerful elite who are pulling the strings and fulfilling the desires of the Prince of this present world, Satan, who prowls around like a roaring lion seeking only to kill, steal and destroy.

None of it happens overnight, it happens so slowly and subtlety at first that you hardly take notice and when you finally start to think that someone should do something, it’s too late. Everyone who might have stood up is discredited, defrocked, mocked and minimalized making everyone else afraid to say a word.

And here we are, heading right down that road again. Today we call it being cancelled.

We are to be subject to the governing authorities yes, but only to the point where it goes contrary to the commands of our Lord. At the point we are taking part in the proverbial war crime, it is no longer submission, it is complicity.

There is a higher law and in the end all will stand before a judge who does not recognize the authority of those who impose evil upon a people whom God created to do good works.

When those in charge praise evildoers and punish those who do right, it has overstepped its authority over the hearts of God’s people.

So we have to be very discerning when we read these admonitions in the scriptures so the enemy does not use them to deceive us into participating in evil.

13 Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether to the king as supreme, 14 or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. 

1 Peter 2

I said it in my Barbarians in the Kingdom book so this is not a new revelation to me; we must be very careful who we are submitted to. Peter is actually telling us here the kind of authorities we are supposed to submit to. Those who punish evildoers and praise those who do good. Paul said much the same thing.

When rulers become a terror to good works, while condoning evil, their God given authority ends.

Today

Are we there yet? In some ways yes, in some ways no.

We need to be very, very careful and use great discretion, display great courage and with all humility seek to live and speak the truth of God’s word.

We must submit to the laws of the land and not be seen as trouble makers and rebels just for the sake of being trouble makers while never compromising what we believe in our hearts to be true.

This takes a lot of prayer, study and a keen ear to the Holy Spirit within.  

15 For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men— 16 as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. 17 Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.

1 Peter 2:15-17

God’s heart is for his people to live in submission and obedience—Submission to the authorities and obedience to his word, without compromise, selfishness or spite.

What are we to do now? The short answer is to live honorably, love God and keep doing good, even if it’s wrong.

Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and to God that which is God’s. —Jesus

Shamed Into Submission

We who love the Lord are the temple of God. Living stones built upon the chief cornerstone- the Nazarene, rejected and despised, Jesus the Christ.

The enemy of our souls knows that nothing knocks down a spiritual house quicker than shame. We are the living stones that God is building his spiritual house with, his dwelling place here on the earth. And the enemy is doubling and tripling down on his efforts to destroy that house, to destroy us, through several tactics, but perhaps most effectively recently, through shame.

The spirit of God lives among the dark and lost souls of this world through us, and the devil cannot abide that. This is his world to destroy and mankind is his to toy with and destroy as well—and we keep messing it up with this gospel business.

And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame. The enemy is using shame right now to silence God’s people. He has done it for years on a personal level. Convincing believers that they are unworthy and that God is displeased with them so they have no right to speak out for God.

But now he is doing it on a societal level, convincing the world, and us, that what we believe and hold dear is bigoted, racist, homophobic, hateful and outdated—and even if they cannot convince us that what we hold to be true by God’s word is wrong–because we know that, according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, that Jesus loves and died for all men and women— then he makes us ashamed to speak out.

They throw the sins of the past or the shortcomings of others who called themselves Christian in our faces– or give no reason at all. Too many have succumbed to their tactics– we’re just wrong and need to shut up unless it’s to accept their premise, mouth their mantras, and beg forgiveness.

If we aren’t ashamed, then we are afraid. And if you boil it down, our fear is based on shame. Because if you truly believed in the principles set forth by God and the message of the gospels of Jesus Christ, then fear could not stop you from speaking truth, from speaking with a wisdom given you by the Holy Spirit himself. From putting to shame those who oppose you.

If you are in Christ Jesus, Spirit filled, operating in the gifts and living the fruits of the Spirit—if you are going to the word of God and drinking of the pure milk, then there is no condemnation, no accusation, no charge that can stick to you in the heavenly court room.

If you abide in the word of God you are not a racist, you do not hate anyone, you do not have to apologize to anyone simply for being the color that God made you to be and you do not think less of anyone else for being the color that God made them to be.

You do not kneel to, or for, anyone but Jesus Christ and you are never ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God for the salvation of your soul.

And one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. We will not and must not be shamed into silence because to not speak truth is to allow the enemy to win, and Satan’s idea of victory is destroy to all those who are created in God’s image.

We have the words of life, we have the keys to the kingdom and we shall overcome.

Never forget who you are, there is no shame in the Kingdom of God among those who walk in the light.

Do not let anyone keep you from proclaiming the praises of our God and do not let anyone keep you away from the word of God, from the pure spiritual milk that you and all people need. (1 Peter 2:1-3)

I used to raise beef cattle (see my last blog) and occasionally I would have a cow who would reject her calf, kicking her off when she would go for the milk it knew it needed to survive. In that case I would bottle feed the calf or graft it to another, more accommodating cow.

You know what happens to cows that reject their calves and don’t let them get to the milk , who kick the calves away when they try to nurse? They go to town and end up at McDonalds, not for lunch—as lunch.

Jesus is a stumbling stone and an offense to those who refuse to listen to truth.

Let people be offended by you all they want, you are building on the Rock and you will be the one left standing when the Rock returns to crush his enemies.

The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone’?

18 Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” —Jesus

Luke 20:17—18

That my friends, is true justice.

Man up and stand up for Jesus, check out my latest book; getting to be more relevant every day.

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/barbarians-in-the-kingdom-dan-swaningson/1127708082?ean=9781683144762

The Pure Milk

Instinct

One of the things I miss most about not ranching anymore is the adventure of calving. It can be one of the most challenging and stressful times in a ranch operation but also the most rewarding because, that is after all, the whole reason that you do what you do as a rancher—to bring those calves into the world to either sell in the fall, or use to build the herd that your whole operation and much of your life is centered around.

But each calve that hits the ground on your ranch is more than just a paycheck, it is a miracle—another life, vibrant, warm and curious, looking at the new world with big dark eyes, and within minutes struggling to stand up and get on with the business of life.

The most fond memories to me to me are of the ones who came in the middle of the coldest and darkest nights. Memorable because I had a nice cozy barn where I could get them in if I knew a cow was about to calve. I would herd an imminent mother into a stall where there was warm straw on the ground and enough light that I could keep an eye on them.

No matter the weather or the lateness of the hour it always seemed warm and safe in the barn. There is just no way to describe the feeling of being alone in the quiet of a barn in the night with an animal who trusts no other human in the world besides you.

To either witness and assist, as in the case of a heifer having her first calve, or to find the new born calve of a seasoned cow struggling to it’s feet shortly after being born, it’s always wonderful and amazing to behold.

One of the things that never ceased to amaze me about the whole calving scenario, and to me speaks volumes to the undeniable fact that there has to be a creator, is the fact that every calf within minutes of hitting the ground knows where to find the milk.

Think of it. Here is a calf who has just seen the world for the first time, has no experience in anything whatsoever except being shoved through a tight dark tunnel and dropped unceremoniously onto the cold hard ground in a heap of slime that moments earlier had been it’s whole world, it gets licked off by this giant four legged creature with a familiar sounding moo.

And the next thing you know it is pushing its hind end up on wobbly legs followed by first one, then two front legs, being perfectly placed under the front shoulders to push the calf up the rest of the way. And what is the first thing it does? From there it could go in any direction or no direction at all. It could fall down and decide it’s just too much work to do any more.

But no, it heads straight for the tiny little space just under the belly of the giant creature standing nearby, and latches onto the even tinier little spigot tucked underneath and makes the prefect sucking motion with its never before used mouth to get the pure milk that will give it everything it needs to keep it alive and strong for the next few hours, and will sustain it for the next several months as it grows by several hundred pounds.

You can’t tell me that that little pea brained calf who doesn’t know a barb wire fence from a chokecherry bush, or an ice cold creek from a bed of straw at that point, yet knows exactly where to go for it’s first meal, was not given that knowledge by the God who designed and created her.

How about you? With all your vast knowledge and life experience, do you know where to go for milk? Is that calf smarter, more blessed than you? You know where to go, you just have to guard your heart against thinking that you have had enough or that there are other things that will help you more.

There is not.

The calf, knows right where to go, if it doesn’t—it dies.

And once that calf starts in on that milk, I have seen it happen again and again, you can see the energy start to flow through and into the body of that calf, the life giving colostrum rich milk warming from head to toe, the nutrients and antibodies surging into and through the blood stream and affecting and protecting every cell of it’s being.

You can see the lights coming on in the glazed and dazed eyes as they start to shine with life and the sucking becomes more voracious, the head starting to butt the bag above it, stimulating even more milk to be dropped down into the milk filled bag that will be her sole source of life for a good long time.

And she will come back again and again, each time more aggressive and needing more and more—”Milk, I need, I want, milk! I have tasted and seen that the milk is good and I need nothing more!”

That’s what Peter is telling us here. If you have tasted the pure unadulterated and unaltered milk of the word of God, been given life itself, you should want nothing more than to keep coming back to it for more nourishment, so that you can grow thereby.

The pure milk of the word that has given you life, pulled you from darkness to light, death to life, has to be—and this should not even be a question or something you need to be reminded of—your continuing source for strength, for healing nutrients and immunities.

As long as I have walked with the Lord it has continued to baffle me how a person can receive Jesus, be born anew, forgiven and regenerated, and not absolutely fall in love with the word of God and desire more and more of it.

As long as we walk this earth we are still growing and maturing in the Lord and we must keep going back to the place our hearts just instinctly know it must go, to find what you need to sustain that new life.  If not, perhaps you heard the wrong gospel and never truly tasted that the Lord is gracious. — IF indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious -Peter says.

There are a lot of false or incomplete gospels out there.

What is the gospel? It is as follows:

Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs . . . you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. . . .

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”. . .

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” -Acts 2

That’s the gospel, direct from the Holy Spirit through the lips of Peter mere moments after the church was born on the day of Pentecost . The pure gospel.  That is the pure milk of the word of God. That’s the colostrum that gives you life and delivers you from the old world of darkness and ignorance to the world of light and enlightenment. You want to be woke, live in and for the word of God.

All else is rubbish.

And that is the message the world has and is rejecting and why this world is such a mess. And the world, who has not left the womb of ignorance and darkness, is now trying to shame us into turning away from the pure milk of the word.

They are not just rejecting us, they are not just rejecting the word of God, they are rejecting the Lord himself, the precious living cornerstone.

But we who do believe, who do not reject the truth will by no means be put to shame.

Rest for a Weary Soul

The Lord preserves the simple;
I was brought low, and He saved me.

Return to your rest, O my soul,
For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. Psalm 116

Going to the Sun Highway, Glacier Park MT

This week I took some much needed and rare time off from both my Construction Job and My Church duties. My wife and I, though her having lived in Montana all her life, and me, most of mine, had never been to Glacier Park before so we decided to just run away and do it. Yellowstone Park is in our back yard and we have been there many times but Glacier is nearly 450 miles and several mountain ranges away. (Yes Montana is a big state.)

So today, I am just sharing some of the beauty I manged to capture in photos while we were there. God is good and we were blessed with a beautiful and refreshing time of glorying in the wonders of creation.

Photos do not do justice to the sheer magnitude of the grandeur, if you ever have a chance to go yourself, I highly recommend it.

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go into the house of the Lord.” Psalm 122
 I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth. Psalm 121
And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Mark 3:13
He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water. John 7:38

Be blessed my friends, God is good and He is still on the throne.

Pulled From Darkness

I know, let’s write him a letter telling him how disappointed we are, and all the things he did wrong. That’ll help.

If you have read the gospels you know who Peter is; the headstrong fishermen who followed Jesus faithfully and wholeheartedly for the three years of his ministry, and whom was counted among the first to recognize just who Jesus of Nazareth was; You are the Christ, the Son of God.

But Peter was also somewhat rash and compulsive, often finding himself in over his head, quite literally. Like when he decided to walk out on the water to Jesus in the storm. He was doing quite well until he realized just how crazy and frightening what he was doing really was, and then he sunk like a rock. But Jesus reached down and pulled him up.

This would not be the last time Jesus reached down to pull Peter up from certain doom. On the night of Jesus’s arrest Peter would find himself again sinking into a pool of despair as he realized that the courtyard he had followed his Lord into was full of people who wanted to destroy those who followed the Lord they were now openly mocking and beating.

Peter became overwhelmed by the waves of fear brought on by the storm of hatred he found himself surrounded by and when he found himself denying his Lord to save his own skin he knew he was doomed to drown. He ran out into the night to be consumed by the darkness as his own heart and a rooster mocked him. He ran straight into an outer darkness that the rising sun over the hill of Golgotha would only intensify.

But just a few days later Jesus would reach down once again and pull Peter back into the land of the living, into the light. His heart would be rescued by his Lord on the shores of the same lake that had nearly swallowed him on that dark and stormy night so many months ago.

Peter would devote the rest of his life to serving and following his Lord wholeheartedly, fearlessly and sacrificially. Sharing the hope and the life that he now knew and had eternally secured. He knew the living hope, his name was Jesus and his Spirit lived within. He desired nothing more in life than for everyone to know this also, to know his Jesus.

Called men and women ever since have had the same desire, to have all people know the Lord who pulled them out of darkness—I know, I am one. It’s the heaviest burden that can ever be borne, but one that is not carried in one’s own strength, and that is why we do it.

The Loneliest Job

Trust me on this, for all their business and interactions with others, most pastors are the loneliest people in the world. Everyone assumes that everyone loves them and that they have nothing to do but hang out with people. When they are “hanging out”, they are always still on duty, still ministering, being quizzed and challenged and expected to have all the right answers to make your day better.

But few understand or even care about the burdens the pastor carries—alone, expect for maybe his or her amazing spouse, whom the pastor tries not to overburden lest they be destroyed by the weight. They also often carry an unbearable burden—but for the grace of God— all their own. Being married to a pastor means you carry a burden for them, and for all they love.

I’m not saying this for my sake, this is the life I have chosen to follow the Lord into, and I knew going in that that was what was required. I wasn’t ready for all the heartache of having so many feel I let them down, (see my last blog) but there is nothing else I would rather do. I was created to do exactly what I am doing and I thank God every day that he entrusted me to do it.

I am saying this for your sake and for the sake of all the leaders out there who are feeling like failures left alone to sink in the dark waters of despair wondering where Jesus is and why they are no longer walking on the water with him. If you are in the boat don’t just say “tsk tsk, poor Peter, I guess he didn’t have what it takes” Pray for him,! Lord, reach down and help Peter, he is just trying to reach you!

Better yet, get out there with him. There were at least 11 people on that boat. What were they doing? ‘That Peter, there he goes leaving us here in this storm tossed boat, I guess he didn’t care about us after all.’ “I know, let’s write him a letter telling him how disappointed we are, and all the things he did wrong. That’ll help.

Don’t do that. . . never do that.

You are a disciple of Jesus Christ, the pastor is your brother, or sister, stand with them, pray for them and love them.

And if you are that “Peter”— Jesus has your back, he always has your back.

I Will Let You Down

“…people can come to put too much of their hope in you. That’s a pitfall of ministry and of a life devoted to Jesus in general.

For years, prophets and God fearing people tried to piece together the means of our redemption, how would we ever be restored to a relationship with the creator who we spurned so long ago?

We now see the big picture, we know how the story ends, we have the box cover. But, it still seems our lives are one big attempt at trying to put together a puzzle complicated by the fact that someone keeps coming along and rearranging or undoing what we thought we had done. Some days it’s like; Please, whoever, stop messing with my puzzle, you’re not helping!

Years ago when our girls were little we were visiting my Dad and family in Minnesota and on one of our outings my Dad took us to see a cabin on a lake that belonged to his sister and her family. No one was there at the time but he knew where the key was hidden so we went in just to check it out.

In the middle of the main room a table was set up with one of those big 500 piece jig saw puzzles on it that was about half way put together. As us adults were getting the quick tour we didn’t realize that the girls had found their own entertainment and when I turn my attention  back to them I hear, “Look Daddy, we’re doing a puzzle!”

Well, much to my horror, they were not doing a puzzle, they were undoing a puzzle. Pretty much all the previously assembled puzzle had been disassembled. “AAAH! Girls, that’s not our puzzle to play with!”

We left shortly thereafter leaving me to only imagine what my cousins must have thought when they came back to the cabin to find all their previous work undone. Starting over. Hopefully it was not that big of a deal.

But in real life, when all we have accomplished, dreamed of and planned for gets undone, it seems like a big deal doesn’t it?

Our response is everything in those times. Because that is really what this life is, isn’t it? One big puzzle that we hope to get assembled into a beautiful picture before we run out of time, or the next unknown visitor comes along and “helps” us.

Look, we’re doing a puzzle! No your destroying everything!

But are they?

 What are they really messing with? If it’s this life, your plans, your schemes and dreams, your security, life and health—all of that is temporal and is not where your hope is supposed to lie. Remember what we learned from James, and Jesus recently? That to plan and think we have it all figured out, that our future is secure, eat, drink and be merry, we are arrogant fools and our very souls may be required of us before we even get to indulge in our hoard.?

Many of us have had the pieces of our lives rearranged or even stolen, probably more so lately than ever. But what is truly important, what really matters? How much of our lives do we waste worrying about things we cannot control?

These are the days in which we truly discover where our hope lies. We discover if it is living, if it is based on truth and planted in and by the Holy Spirit and faith, or if it was based on other things and other people.

Flawed Hope

We can grieve, if need be, but we must remember that in all of our trials, our lives, our souls, are secure in the hands of Jesus. We are kept, preserved, protected, secure, by the power of God. He is our living and perfect hope. All other hope is flawed and tenuous at best, including hoping in others.

One of the things that makes loving people for Jesus, the way Jesus loved, unconditionally and sacrificially, heartbreaking at times, is that people can come to put too much of their hope in you. That’s a pitfall of ministry and of a life devoted to Jesus in general.

It frustrates me more and more as the years go by and I build relationships with more and more people, and as my family grows, that I cannot be there for everyone as much as they nor I would like. I know there are people who are upset because they don’t feel that I pursue or keep up with them the way they would like.

Feelings get hurt and resentments build and it hurts, it hurts them and it hurts me. It hurts me because I have never stopped loving and caring for anyone whom I have ever invested in, and there have been many over the years; whether it’s blood family, married family, spiritual family, the many kids and grandkids, nieces and nephews I have spiritually adopted over the years, friends and fellow warriors from a multitude of ministries and churches—I love and cherish all of them and look forward to one day having forever to spend with all of them.

But today I just flat cannot. I may have eternal life, but today I am still on the clock.

I work 9 or more hours a day in construction, five days a week, I then go home and spend my entire evening working on my sermon for Sunday. I spend all day Saturday at the church finalizing my sermon, doing the bulletin and PowerPoint, these blogs and Facebook blurbs, taking care of whatever church business and building and yard maintenance needs done.

I go home and go over my sermon some more and then I spend most of Sunday getting ready for church, preaching, visiting with and praying for people, and then I go home, if I’m lucky, and take a short nap before I take care of whatever needs done at home.

In the few spare minutes I have around all of that I try to maintain a relationship with my wife, my daughters and my many grandchildren who are all the joy of my life. I also have a mother and father and various siblings that I seldom get to spend time with, and I feel guilty about all of that.

So if I don’t have a lot of quality time to spend with you, or pursuing a relationship or mentoring you, I’m sorry, I truly am, but that is my reality and I cannot change it unless I either quit my job and starve, or quit the church, and God has not released me to do that.

Now, I am not telling you this to make you feel sorry for me or brag about my busyness for Jesus, my point is, and this is the same for anyone; I will let you down. And if you are left feeling hopeless and alone, unloved and bitter, because I or anyone in ministry—anyone in your life— has disappointed you and not lived up to your expectations, than your hope is in the wrong place. Any hope that you derive from any human being is going to be flawed. Period.

Your joy and peace cannot be tied to whether or not I had time to visit with you or pray for you. Whether I called you when you were having a bad day or invited you to coffee. Whether I chased you to the ends of the earth when you decided to stop showing up.

I can only be in one place at a time and I can only spend quality time with one person at a time and there are people whom I have to prioritize that will get my time, and there are people who will try to hoard my time and prayers, making it even more difficult to share my time.

Everyone’s time is limited. But you know who does have all the time in the world for you? The Holy Spirit. He is your Living Hope.

And the Holy Spirit doesn’t get exhausted, he is the source, we are just vessels. And frankly I, and no doubt every pastor out there who preaches in the power of the Holy Spirit, is exhausted after pouring out his everything as he preaches the word of God, because this imperfect vessel of flesh is mostly empty by noon on Sunday. I know I am, because I have given you everything I’ve received. And I need the rest of the day to rest and recharge so I can start again on Monday.

Fortunately it’s not all up to me, that’s not the way Jesus established his church.

That’s why I have always encouraged people to hang around after church and visit with one another, pray for one another, because you have just been filled through the worship, the word and the Spirit. You are being equipped for the work of the ministry. Take care of one another—every day of the week— love one another, but remember, your hope must ultimately, and primarily, be in Jesus. That’s what all this is about.

I will let you down. Pastor fill in the blank will let you down, your best friend will let you down, your family will let you down. Your job, your banker, you car, your waitress, everything and everyone will let you down—if, and only if, you are putting the onus for your joy and sense of well being on them in a disproportionate way.

How do you like me now?

your faith and hope are in God. 1 Peter 1:21

Your faith and hope must come from God and God alone.

The living hope can only be the Holy Spirit, and only the Holy Spirit, can be your living hope.

The Enduring

We are all doing this now, what is wrong with you? How dare you question authority and collective wisdom.”

“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” Acts 15:28—29

Do this

Those words from the book of Acts represent the final verdict that came out of the Jerusalem council, presided over by James as to what the Gentile believers in the Jewish Messiah should do to remain in good standing. This was the extent of the religious requirements placed on those who had confessed Jesus as Lord and turned away from their demonic false gods.

Simple, concise and easy. But these simple requirements made the former pagans stand out like sore thumbs—because everyone else was doing them and expected everyone to participate. If you refused you were seen as ignorant, judgmental, narrow minded and deemed a threat to society. We are all doing this now, what is wrong with you? How dare you question authority and collective wisdom—we have a consensus!

The same was happening in Jerusalem where the followers of Jesus no longer supported the temple worship and threatened the power and financial base of the priests and Pharisees. Things were getting ugly, you didn’t just buck the system—not the Roman system nor the Jewish religious system—without paying dearly. The church was forced into civil disobedience as they had to choose over and over again whether to listen to God or to man.

So this called for endurance, as they were often beaten, imprisoned or worse.  

Proclaiming “Jesus is Lord and there is no other way to the Father but by him” was not okay. They were constantly swimming against the current, but this just served to make them stronger. When Jesus is all you have, you learn that Jesus is all you need. And then you are fearless and unstoppable. Even your death becomes a witness that cannot be stopped and a testimony that cannot be silenced.

Job

You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord”

—Job’s patient endurance in the face of his misery, robbed of everything he loved by the devil himself, his health, his wealth, his children and his dignity live on as a testimony equal to none. But he refused to give in to the temptation to forsake his God and concede that maybe he was wrong about a loving and merciful God who seemed so far away in his pain. But he didn’t. He was counted among the enduring and was ultimately blessed beyond measure.

James is telling his church; ‘Don’t despair, don’t give in to the shrill voices of the deceived and ignorant who demand that you condone and accept their debauchery and corruption. Don’t succumb to their insistence that right is wrong and good is evil. Don’t sell your soul for the false peace promised to those who fall in line with the ever changing norms of a culture that has no set standard by which to measure good from evil aside from how the mob feels that day.’

Don’t set aside who you are to conform to who they demand you be. Be patient—be patient and endure.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5

Establish your hearts, strengthen them, defend the hill on which you stand and watch and be ready for the coming of the Lord.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. James could have written his yesterday and it would all mean the same thing. God’s word is truly eternal and the enemies’ tricks are always the same.

Societal Pressure

All of this, this pressure on the early church to conform to the norms of a sick culture, should sound very familiar.

If you are trying to live by the basics of right and wrong, to honor God and his word, to abstain from the lewdness, rudeness and crudeness—from the drunkenness and the pervasive everybody must get stoned mindset that is being openly and aggressively promoted, then you will stand out like a sore thumb and you will be targeted and attacked as ignorant, judgmental, narrow minded—and deemed a threat to society.

And this is no longer just on a street level, this mindset is now pervading mayors offices, governors mansions, judge’s chambers and the halls of congress.

So this call to endure and persevere is no longer just an abstract concept that we have to manufacture perceived slights, and feign offense at whispered back biting, to relate to. It is now very real and it is being codified into law and popular culture.

I’m going to say this once, and I’m going to say it plainly. The only firewall we have right now between us and the spirit of the antichrist legally obliterating the church in America— is sitting in the Oval office.

Very few Christians know or care how many arrows our president has taken for the church and frankly, it is shameful that we are not more appreciative and supportive.

Is he perfect? No, he’s a Celtic barbarian from the mean streets of New York and he behaves as his blood and his upbringing dictate. But he is God’s chosen warrior, the one who stepped up, to buy his church time to repent and regroup. And we either have 5 months or four more years to do that. Trust me on that as a pastor who pays very close attention to all of this, and to what the Spirit is saying.

I don’t say this lightly because I know it will offend many people and probably cost me some readers. But, that is what happens when you speak honestly in the name of the Lord.

People who don’t cause offense don’t suffer and need no patience. But that is not us is it? If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ve learned critical thinking, how to question everything and not to accept everything just because someone else said so. And you’ve learned not to be offended by truth or challenges to your spiritual status quo.

Barbarian

There’s no contented stagnant pools in my church because I’m always stirring the pot with my sword to keep it fresh. I told you, and them, long ago I’m just a barbarian with a bible and God keeps challenging me to keep that straight forward—fight the enemy in front of you—spirit, while living in total obedience to my king.

Barbarian prophetic preachers don’t draw big crowds or get invited to preach in big churches. But then Jesus only had a handful of people left in his group after three years, and they changed the world—forever.

We are the fruit of their sufferings and patient endurance and we are far from done. We will endure.

I referred earlier to the only firewall between us and the true church being outlawed as sitting in the White house.

There is another firewall, a spiritual firewall, that must be built up and reinforced because the Law is only as good as the people who adhere to or enforce it. The president can only buy us time. That time must be used to reclaim this country and this culture for Jesus.

That will take patient endurance yes. It will take boldness and may involve suffering, yes. It may involve civil disobedience as we are forced to choose between obeying God and obeying man, yes.

But none of that will have a lasting or meaningful impact unless we become people of prayer.

God had shut up the heavens when ancient Israel turned its back on him and it did not rain for 3 1/2 years. It took the fervent prayers of just one man, a man who was willing to stand in the gap between blessings and curses, right and wrong, God and idolatry, and pray for blessed rain.

He alone prayed because he alone heard God speak to him, Elijah, it’s time—pray for rain.

Elijah was just a man, one with a nature like ours, who had bad days, lots of bad days, and good days. Imagine if there had been an army of Elijahs? There is, we are they.

We are the people called by his name. We are the enduring.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

1 Peter 1:23

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/barbarians-in-the-kingdom-dan-swaningson/1127708082?ean=9781683144762

Justice, and a Cowdog?

Hank the Cowdog by John R Erickson, Image by Gerald L Holmes

Justice is an unalterable law of God’s universe

We serve a God of Justice. Lately we have been tracking along here in this blog with the biblical book of James. He is a no punches pulled kind of preacher and towards the end of his letter he lays in to the “rich”.

Not a lot of happy aren’t you all wonderful preaching in the book of James. But if you dig into his mind a bit and follow his train it truly is encouraging. Because it’s about truth and justice. Something we all inherently yearn for.

James’s words of rebuke and condemnation for the oppressive wealthy are given, not so much as a warning to the rich, as they are not his primary hearers, but as an encouragement to those who are oppressed. This is meant as an assurance that the Lord see’s the plight of the poor and oppressed in his church, and is their vindicator. He is reminding us that final judgement and vindication belongs to the Lord of Hosts and to him alone.

It should be comforting to all who love justice, who have been mistreated and hurt by being treated unjustly or aggrieved at the mistreatment of others, to know that there is ultimately justice. In that is our peace.

Our God is a God of justice, that is where our sense of fairness and justice comes from and why it bothers us so to see it miscarried.

We all do our share of stupid things and we must extend the grace that we receive.  The God who knows everything, does not hold it all against us. Our sins are not ignored but they are forgiven because of Jesus.

Justice must be served and that is an unalterable law of the universe God created that cannot be ignored, but it can be delayed and even satisfied by a proxy.

And we as Christians know that that proxy was Jesus. Justice was satisfied—it was served on Jesus. The one who took the punishment for our sins.

But what about all those who seem to get away with so much, lying cheating, stealing and the really heinous things like sexual assaults and murder, or the rich and powerful whose actions and greed hurt thousands and even millions of people?

Their day is coming.

the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.  You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you. James 5:4-6

Hank the Cowdog

Our God loves us too much to turn a blind eye to those who hurt us and he does not forget or disregard those hurts or those who inflict them.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. James 5

My daughter Jessie used to love reading Hank the Cow Dog books when she was a kid. A champion for rural justice.

One day when she was in second or third grade I suppose, all the kids got to go to school dressed up for Halloween. Jessie decided to go as Hank the Cow Dog. So my wife, Donna, rigged up some sort of costume with ears, a tail and painted whiskers on the face. It was pretty cute.

When I got home from work that night Jessie was not in a happy mood, which was pretty unusual for her, and Donna told me that she had had a really tough day because some kids made fun of her for going to school as a dog.

This broke my heart and made me furious all at once. I wanted to go find those kids and tell them, “You little punks, you just wait fifteen years or so and I’m going to find you and kick your butts!”

Of course I didn’t, nor have I, but I never forgot that slight against my little girl. You can’t love someone that much and not feel their pain, maybe even more than they do. Which, I think in this case may have been so.

A couple of years ago we were in some shop somewhere with Jessie, who is all grown up of course, and in the back we find a rack full of old books. I hear Jessie exclaim “Hank the Cowdog! Look, they have Hank the Cowdog books!” Instantly all the hurt and anger I felt that Halloween day so many years ago came back and I hesitantly asked Jessie; “You still like Hank the Cow Dog?”

“Of course I do, why wouldn’t I?” “I guess I thought all the trauma you experienced when you went to school dressed as Hank spoiled it for you.” She looks at me funny and says, What? I don’t remember that?

Apparently if wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I thought it was. Or she forgave and forgot, I’m glad for that, but still—stupid kids . . .

That’s what James is saying here. God loves you and he sees the pain and injustices being inflicted on you, and it may not always seem like it, and you may wish for swift justice and all things to be set right—but be patient, they will.

Your Father who loves you knows all of it, he sees all of it and he will not forget all of it. He hurts when you hurt and cries when you cry and those who cause you pain, if they do not repent, and hopefully they will—which is why God is patient, they will have to answer for what they do to his precious children.

You just keep living your life, investing in heaven and let the Lord worry about the unjust and the oppressors. Life is too short to live it angry and indignant or fearful and anxious.

The precious fruit is coming with the latter rains.

A Man’s Pay

I handed it to him and said, that’s how you do it. The other hand said “Hey Dan, take it easy on him, he’s just a kid!”

A few years ago I was doing a remodel on an elementary school in Billings. One of the guys I had working under me was the teenage nephew of the owner of the company I worked for. I had him and another more experienced guy removing all the ceramic floor and wall tile in the bathrooms.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I got them lined out and went to do other things. A couple hours later I came back and there wasn’t a whole lot accomplished yet. The more experienced hand was popping tile off the walls with a little seven bar and a hammer, making a little progress, but here was the bosses’ nephew sitting on top of a short ladder with his Leathermen tool, basically an expensive Swiss Army knife—in case you don’t know— and he was using the little flat screw driver attachment to pry the tiles off, one agonizingly slow tile at a time.

I said, what are you doing? I gave you a spud bar and a floor scraper. He says, “Oh, I don’t need those, I have all the tools I need right here in my Leatherman.” I said, “No, put that away, we don’t have forever to get this done.” I then grabbed the spud bar and attacked the walls with it scraping off scores of wall tiles from the concrete backer board in a matter of a few seconds.

I handed it to him and said, that’s how you do it. The other hand said “Hey Dan, take it easy on him, he’s just a kid!” I replied, “He’s getting paid a man’s wages here, he needs to do a man’s work.” (Yes I know that’s not politically correct–so sue me) Production increased dramatically after that.

Just a few months ago I happened to run into his Dad at a supply house in Billings and he recognized my name as he was taking my order. He said, “Hey, I’m Kyle’s dad, my son worked with you a few years ago and he talked about you a lot, he really liked you and he learned a lot that summer! Thank You.”

I said “Thanks, that’s really good to hear.”

I have always believed that you are not doing anyone any favors by not teaching them how to work and expecting more out of them then they expect out of themselves. Being fair, yes, but expecting one to do their best. That’s the way I was raised, that’s the way I came up in the trades and that willingness to work hard and the wisdom to work efficiently and productively has always served me well.

It has kept me working and garnered me more responsibility, and a bigger paycheck as I have been entrusted with more and more over the years.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. James 3:13

That’s what James is doing here, trying to teach us how to work, to garner more responsibility and trust so that we can have greater rewards.

The apostle James is laying out for us in his letter, the way to obtain wisdom, the fruit of righteousness, even grace; telling us it is in our willingness to let go of ourselves, our selfish ambitions, lusts, our need to be somebody in the eyes of the world and in humbling ourselves, repenting of our arrogance and selfishness.

In fact, he is quite adamant and passionate about it, true to his ‘no holds barred’ style he is even calling us out as being adulterous for seeking our own advancement over that of the Kingdom, which has implications of we the bride cheating on the groom. James is calling us out for going after the false gods of self and the desires of the flesh.

Bottom line here, I believe, in this section of James’ letter is that our arrogance, pride and apathy is disqualifying us from the full measure of grace and the power that goes with it that God so desperately wants to give us.

How-ya liking James now?

“Hey, I’m just a kid, leave me alone!” No. you are being fed meat, you need to work like an adult.

God yearns jealously for our spirits as only a first and true love can. And we are truly the ones our God yearns for as his first love, the crown of his creation made in his image. To love and be loved with the kind of love only a being created like the creator, who embraces that love, can.

The spirit is our inner being, the very core and heart of who we are, and God wants nothing more than to connect with us on an intimate personal level. Too often we let our mouths get in the way. There’s an old saying; “Don’t let your froggy lips overload your tadpole ass.” In other words. Don’t let your mouth get you into more trouble than you can handle.

A little humility goes a long way. Especially with the Lord.

Pride always gets us into trouble. It just sets you up to fail.

I have little patience at work, as I have mentioned to you before, for someone who spends more time telling me what they can do and how good they are, than they do working. Less talk, more work. Talk is arrogance, work is humility. When the task at hand is done, then we can talk. And even plan what’s next, based on what you did, not what you said you can do..

Let the boss catch you working, head down, mouth shut, hands busy. And when it’s time for layoffs, you’ll look up and see that the talkers are gone and you are now somebody—somebody trusted, somebody with favor, more responsibility, more authority—but most importantly, still employed.

That scenario has happened to me more than once in my construction career. God’s economy works the same way. Yeah we could all go on unemployment or welfare and make it to heaven in the end, presuming on grace as citizens of the Kingdom by virtue of the blood.

But then you are not living up to your potential, you are wasting the talents given you and you are missing out on the joys of seeing the fruits of your labors and the honor and security of being a diligent trusted worker with the opportunity, by virtue of your position, to help others and even bring them into the fold as well.

The reward for faithfully working is often those greater works you seek.

Greater Works Amidst Chaos

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last several months (kind of sounds good right now) you may have noticed that much of the nation is descending into chaos. We have the National Guard protecting the Lincoln Memorial from American Citizens who want to destroy it and have already tried. We have cities burning and police departments abandoned to violent mobs. City Centers surrendered to Anarchists. We still have thousands of Churches and small business that have been shut down for months. We are not allowed by most local authorities to celebrate our freedom on Independence Day.

We have people killing, burning and looting live on social media and not being arrested. Everyone is racist and all are turning against each other for simply being the wrong color in the wrong place, or wearing the wrong color hat. And we are all expected to wear face masks so no one can even exchange a smile anymore let alone have any color of face.

And that’s just my off the cuff rant, the whole truth is much worse and a lot more disturbing than that.

Was the virus something to take seriously? Yes. Was the brutal and unjustified killing of a man at the hands of law enforcement horrific? Yes. But undeclared Marshall law followed by out and out riots is not the way a civilized and God fearing society reacts. Unless they are totally duped by the enemy.

And we, the church, all just roll over.

We are in extraordinary times and I don’t believe for a moment that it is anywhere near over. The enemy is not going to just give up when he has gained so much ground in such a short time. He will divide us, slander us, panic us and outlaw us. Not “will”— is.

But God is using this to accomplish His purpose as well, to empower and purge, strengthen and cull, the church must get serious about the gospel message, return to its roots and stop compromising and prophesying falsities and misrepresenting the truth of God’s word and His Holy Spirit.

Red Lodge in the good old days when we could celebrate freedom!

In the last days of Ancient Israel and Judah there were many prophets who claimed to speak for God who assured everyone over and over again that they could not be defeated and that God would never remove his hand of blessing and protection from them.

The few who did speak truth were banished, beaten, imprisoned and executed. Gee, where do I sign up. Oh wait, I already did!

Both Israel and Judah were destroyed for their failure to heed the warnings and repent.

But we live in a different time and under a new covenant of grace. Yet, our God does not change. What has changed is that now we, all of us, can be cleansed for our failures and shortcomings by the blood of the perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ, and are given chance after chance to get up and start fresh, picking up our cross and follow our Lord.

Each and every one of us who believes in the Son and asks for the Holy Spirit can be a conqueror and more than a conqueror—we are children of the King, heirs of the promise and we can, each and every one of us, do the works that Jesus did and even greater.

That’s what is needed, that’s what is going to win the battles we face and take this nation and the church back from the brink of the abys.

Greater works

Both Jesus and James talk about “works” as being a part of faith, a sign of faith and a result of faith. We all assume that James is talking about doing good stuff like feeding the poor, taking care of widows and orphanswell, he says as much. But, so did Jesus.

Yet, we just assume that Jesus here, in John 14 is talking about miracles when he says “Greater works than these will he who believes in me do.” And he most likely is, that is after all, how he validated all the radical and world changing things that he taught. But remember, he said this just after having washed the feet of the apostles. He humbled himself to do a work that was usually performed by only the lowest servants. And then he says, greater works than these shall we do.

So just what is Jesus talking about? I think he is talking about both; works is doing practical “here let me serve you and help you” get your hands dirty and humble yourself to help another, kind of works and here let me lay hands on you and pray for your healing, deliver you from the enemy and even raise the dead, kind of works. Both kinds are certainly considered good works and I think the later is predicated on the former.

If you are not willing to humble yourself, to seek first the wellbeing of others before yourself, to lay down your life for a friend, swallow your pride, be a peacemaker and yield to God and others, you will not be used to do the greater works.

If you love me you will keep my commandments. Jesus said that immediately after he told them that if they ask anything in his name they will receive it. These are not isolated and separate statements. If you love me you will keep my commandments—love your enemy as yourself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind—and I will pray the Father and he will give you another helper, … the Spirit of truth.

Then you will do the greater works that Jesus did, you will command the mountain to be cast into a sea and it will do so.

You will cast demon spirits into the abyss, you will resist the devil and he will flee, you will lay hands on the sick and they will be healed, you will speak in the tongues of men and angles, utter the mysteries that have been hidden from mankind for ages, prophecy and have dreams that come straight from God, and you will reap the harvest of the righteousness that was sown in peace.

But if you are seeking these things, these greater works, for selfish gain and glory, you will receive nothing.

So many believers think that if they just do the lip service, lot’s of talk and little or no action, if they pray for and receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that everything will just automatically fall into place in their lives. And voila! Miracles, prophetic words, healings, words of wisdom— look at me I’m super spiritual person!

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. James 4

If you are not willing to do the good works, you will not do the greater works. If you are not willing to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, to get dirty helping others while keeping your spirit clean—staying holy; I’m sorry, but you are not going to receive the more grace that is needed to alter the laws of the physics of this world to walk on water and bring sight to the blind.

A double minded man receives nothing. James told us that earlier in his letter. You have to have a kingdom mindset, and clean hands.

Keep fighting the good fight and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

Greater works are for those who are not afraid to work, and who are strong-hearted and humble. —Thus says the Lord.

Stay strong, and stay awake. We need you, this nation needs you, the Kingdom of Heaven needs you.