To My Fellow Warriors

Do you ever feel like you are laboring in vain? Lord, what am I doing here? What is this all about? Am I doing the right thing—in the right place?

Road Ahead

To really commit to something, especially for the Lord, you have to know that you are called to do it and that you are within God’s plan for you.

Nine years ago this week I planted a church from scratch in a small tourist town that seemed to be firmly in the grip of the enemy. Knowing I am called here has been my strength here; knowing that I am doing what the Lord wants me to do, where He wants me to do it—and here’s the hard part I’m still learning—doing it in His power and allowing Him to do it through me, for me and sometimes in spite of me.

It all takes patience, faith, and humility—lots of each

Nine years ago I answered the call to leave Billings and a church and the people I loved, a church that I had poured my heart and soul into for 7 years, to come and  start a church in Red Lodge, Montana. A church with a clear mission to minister to those who have grown weary of the battle, those who have been kicked aside or left behind by the church because they showed weakness or were no longer considered worthy of attention except to be pitied or maligned.

A church that would restore dreams, callings and passions; that would offer healing for wounded hearts and bring hope where hope was lost. A church that would honor Jesus and those who came truly seeking him. A church that was not afraid of the Holy Spirit and sought to minister in his power. A simple church with a powerful God.

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(My first sermon in Red Lodge)

But this isn’t about where we are, or where we have been– it’s about where we are going.

My fellow laborers, I believe we are nearing the end of days but I also know that there will be at least one more great outpouring of the Holy Spirit—it has already begun (California revival)—that will be accompanied by a great harvest.

But we must be diligent.

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After reading through this a few times this is what this said to me.

If you are more full of yourself then you are the Spirit of God, you will be; powerless—ignorant—stalled out.

Throughout his letters to Timothy, and to the other churches for that matter, Paul has been dealing with—false teachers and apostles. People, who claim to have a deeper understanding of the truth and the way things should be done. They are all about religion, ‘do this, learn this, listen to me’ and they draw people away from truth, away from the power of the Holy Spirit.

If you leave the Holy Spirit out of the equation there are no fruits or gifts of the Spirit, only the fruits of the flesh; the flesh which is selfish and greedy no matter how you disguise it with religious trappings.

This paragraph isn’t just talking about people in general, it’s talking about the church—people who claim to be teachers and leaders, wanting to be somebody, to appear to be Godly and religious yet stop short of truth, stop short of the Power of the Holy Spirit, thus they miss out on true freedom, true healing, so they can progress no further.

What about us? Are we moving in the power of God or are we just religious? Are we just always learning or are we coming to a knowledge of the truth? Are we progressing, or are we done?

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Done?

I ask this because there are those who think we are done, my church and yours… That we have fulfilled our mission and that it is time to move on; maybe get out of the way for others. They may even be well meaning and, God bless them, but they are wrong. We have only just begun.

We have been engaged in a battle here in Red Lodge, a battle that we are winning but has inflicted some casualties along the way, heartbreaking painful casualties. No doubt the enemy has come hard after you as well.

But they were battles that needed to be fought to clear the way for what the Lord wants to do here because we are far from done. I still have a vision the Lord gave me for the ministry he wants to build here and we have now cleared the road to allow that to be fully implemented.

The first several years of this ministry were largely about clearing some huge obstacles to allow God to move unimpeded by the enemy, to take away the enemies claim to the land. I believe we have accomplished that. But that was not our mission, that was just the preliminary, kind of a clearing of the right of way, so that we can now build what the Lord has planned for us.

I, for one, haven’t been here just playing church and making motivational speeches interspersed with scripture, I am fighting for the souls of a community, for the church.

We do not have just a form of godliness, we have the power of heaven at our command and I will not deny it.

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I believe we are poised and placed here to be a place where those who are going to be seeking truth, as the Lord pours out his Spirit, in what may be the last great revival, can come to be fed and encouraged. I want to be a part of that harvest. Why would I give up now after all the hard work we have put in?

but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was. 2 Tim 3

“Progress no further.” We must not be of those who resist the truth or we will progress no further and the truth is, we still have a mission and a call, individually and as a church family to advance the Kingdom of God. I intend to continue to preach the word of God from this pulpit and from anywhere else in where the Lord would lead me, until I draw my last breath.

I pray that you’re with me and continue to content for your community, for this nation, as well.

Harvest

The Lord reminded me this of the verse I taught on last Sunday, he made this come alive in my heart and I am claiming this for us:

 The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. 2 Tim 2:6

We have worked here for nine years now, sharing the word, proclaiming truth, fighting the enemy, bringing healing restoration and hope in the name of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit— why. . . why in the name of all things holy, would we quit now?

What farmer tills the fields, plants the seed, kills the weeds and the pests, prays for the rains and the sunshine, just to leave right when the harvest is about to start?

No farmer I know. And not this one either.

You my brothers and sisters in arms, have been placed where you are for a reason—don’t give up, strengthen your hands and prepare for the harvest—it is upon us.

Last year, at the end of an intense season of pitched spiritual warfare I had a vision as I lie in my bed one night of myself swinging a Viking war ax and splitting the skull of the enemy–as only a barbarian pastor could—very graphic and very satisfying.

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Victory is ours my friends.

Get your barbarian on for Jesus

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The Power of Grace

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If the church is to survive, if the gospel is to continue to bring people to a place of recognizing their need for, and access to, a Savior, she must continue on in the truth of the scriptures and in the power of Grace.

Grace is more than just a nice word to describe mercy, it is the power of God, it is the catalyst of freedom, it is the door through which his Spirit moves.

Grace is the spilled blood of Jesus, enlivened and commuted by God’s love to become the portal through which the kingdom of this earth and the Kingdom of Heaven move to mesh and become whole again. Our hearts are that place of meshing which quickens our very souls and becomes an unlimited source of power and life.

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That is something that all the scholars, astrophysicists, mathematicians, psychologists, theologians, philosophers and mystics have been trying to understand and explain for as long as man has drawn breath, and we get to own it simply by claiming it with a childlike faith.

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” And Jesus is God, so—what else do you need to know?

Stick that in your PHD pipe and smoke it.

The mystery is revealed.

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Still the doubts…

But it’s hard, isn’t it? As time goes by and things don’t always go the way we hope and pray that they will. When people you love are sick and dying, relationships decay, when the enemy seems to pick off those you thought were secure, when doubt and questions start creeping into your mind and seem to be in a constant war with your heart—your heart wants to just give up and give in. That’s where the power of grace comes in.

11 This is a faithful saying:

For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.
12 If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him. 2 Tim 2:11,12

We need to remember the rest of that saying, v 13:

13 If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.

 

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful, he cannot deny himself.” So long as we do not deny him, intentionally renounce, speak against and reject Jesus outright, ‘making a shipwreck of our faith’ as Paul wrote to the Hebrews, then we are still covered by grace and if we endure, if we do not deny, if we keep looking for and seeking the Kingdom that our hearts know is there, we will see it. Our doubting mind will have the confirmation it needs to keep on keeping on.

I have been doing my best to follow the Lord for many decades now and have been in ministry of one form or another for many of those years, since 1985 anyway, and I have seen God do miracle after miracle.

I have experienced miracle after miracle. I have seen countless lives transformed and felt the power of God move in and through me in ways that my flesh can barely withstand. Yet, my flesh still wants to convince me that it’s all in vain, that it’s all a fantasy. And when that fails it wants to convince me that I have done my share and it’s time to rest on my Laurels, just go fishing and let someone else carry the load.

I mean, how much can be expected of one man?

That’s where that endurance thing comes in. We only have a few decades to effect eternity for good or bad, every minute is a gift we must use wisely, time does not give us any redos.

We cannot compromise, ‘I’ll go through that door later, I’ll harvest that crop later, I’ll fight that battle later’, when the sun sets on any given day, that day is gone forever.

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Make your hay while the sun shines.

No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, . . .And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. 2 Tim 2

Our day is coming, we will see the harvest, if we endure.

Farming without compromise. Ministry without compromise; playing by the rules, not getting distracted by the affairs of the world. This game of life is for keeps and it is a marathon, not a sprint, so to make it to the finish line takes discipline. Discipline and diligence lead to endurance and keeps us moving forward even when our faith may falter.

Continue to stand my friends, today is a gift and the sun will come up tomorrow.

That’s the power of grace.

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Mediocre? No More!

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We have a holy calling. Do you believe that? Do you receive that?

Or do you just want to skate along and hope you can hold out long enough, and be good enough, to get into heaven in the end and maybe get a few blessings along the way. Well my friends, those days are gone. That apathetic brand of mediocre Christianity was a lie from the enemy that has sucked all the power and the very life out of the church and the Holy Spirit is not going to sit idle any longer, He’s on the move. The chute has been opened, the bronc has been spurred, and I intend to stay on the hurricane deck until the buzzer sounds. And I pray that you do also.

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Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began 2 Tim 1

Following Jesus, being a believer, being a Christian, was never intended to be about making life easy and carefree. It was never about what we can get out of it or getting what we deserve simply by virtue of ‘being us’ and allowing God to be our God. It is about recognizing that we don’t get what we deserve—eternal death, and that we have long failed to fully recognize how sinful and empty we are because we don’t fully appreciate who our God is.

Following Jesus is about repentance, acceptance and obedience.

When we do recognize who our God is, we gladly suffer for his name and no longer feel the shame of being different from the rest of the world, because he has removed our shame as sinful creatures and made us his children, by virtue of His love and grace, not our own.

Then his purpose becomes our purpose and our life has meaning and our heart is filled with hope as we answer his holy call.

Power

But he doesn’t just ask us to answer his call and suffer needlessly and impotently—he gifts us and equips us to truly make a difference. His power becomes available to us. Seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

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Those of you who have been blessed to have been in Spirit filled churches or prayer groups that are not afraid of the Holy Spirit are well aware of the gifts and have a pretty good idea what your own gifts are. But there are those of you who have not yet had a chance to really understand or explore your gifts.

 1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant. . .

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. . . . But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 1Cor 12:1,4

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There are many types and categories of gifts from the supernatural, wow gifts, as we see listed above, to the office, this is who you are gifts, to the everyday, aren’t you talented gifts. Some of these gifts are only released when you are baptized in the Spirit through the laying on of hands or as you are subsequently anointed for a specific task or position.

All the gifts,  whether gifts of encouragement, gifts of service, craftsmanship, teaching, healing, words of wisdom, spiritual discernment, prophecy, our prayer languages, seeing into people’s hearts— He does all this so that we can bless people.

God has called and equipped  you, do not fear nor neglect your gifts. Using your gifs to answer your Holy calling is truly living. The alternative, mediocre Christianity, is numbness.

To live comfortably numb, not using our gifts, not taking the risk of getting into trouble with them, not having to stretch ourselves, to work and put ourselves out there, may sound like a pretty safe strategy just to survive this life intact till the Master returns, but in doing that we miss one very  important aspect of the gifts made available to us— they are given us for the express purpose of investing in and growing the Kingdom of Heaven.

That is the point of Jesus’ parable of the talents.

“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Mat 25:20-21

Jesus wants us to make a difference in this world, that is why he left us the gifts in the first place. We are Jesus to this dying world and we are equipped and we are expected to take our place and function as part of his body in whatever capacity he places us or calls us to.

Our mediocrity could very well come back to bite us.darkness.jpg

But we are not of those who shrink back for fear, are we?

It may be that you are afraid of your calling so you ignore it- it may have been stolen away from you by a church leader who told you that you were not qualified or ready- or you may be waiting for someone, anyone with authority, to recognize and release you.

You are responsible for you and only you can answer to God for you. Get your barbarian on and just do it.

Check out my latest book Barbarians in the Kingdom

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Soul Satisfaction

Is there a hole in your soul?

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I hate to keep using my own life as an example of living with a hole in your soul but it’s all I really have, that is my testimony—my story is Jesus’ story. Until I was willing to let go of my own destiny, to let go of my rebellious, ‘you can’t tell me what to do, I am free to do as I choose and these are the things that give me satisfaction’, attitude I was never truly satisfied, I had no soul satisfaction.

Quite the contrary, the more I pursued the partying, the emptier I became as the feelings of camaraderie and euphoria of the first time highs continued to be just beyond my grasp.

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When I was finally willing to trust the Lord to be my peace, to be my contentment without the drugs or drink that had just ensnared me I found out what real contentment—soul contentment was.

But it’s easy to forget that isn’t it? Throughout my life other things start to creep in promising contentment. We start getting anxious for other things worrying that we may never achieve them or be able to hang on to them if we do.

I have told many a worried young person who desperately wants to be married that God will most likely not fulfill that desire until you learn to be content with just Him. That also makes for a much healthier marriage because if you are depending on someone else to bring you contentment you will be disappointed, no one can live up to that, only God can do that.

A couple of years after giving my life fully over to the Lord and experiencing real freedom I was starting to worry that I would never get married. At 26 I had never even had a serious girlfriend; Thank the Lord for that, it no doubt saved me a lot of grief! But I was starting to think there was something wrong with me, that I was doomed to perpetual bachelorhood.

For one, I was way too shy to even really know how to pursue a relationship that may end in marriage, and there just didn’t seem to be any likely candidates crossing my path, there probably was but I was clueless as to how to pursue them. I was terminally shy and I was very intent on not getting into any relationship that God did not ordain for me or would likely not end in marriage. Dating for fun is one of the stupidest things you can ever do, especially if it’s done in the world’s model of dating, (unless of course you enjoy heartache and lifelong complications.)

Oh Lord, the world would be such a better place if everyone just lived by your standards and pursued godliness instead of just presuming on grace while letting the flesh run roughshod over their hearts. I used to be embarrassed to no end that at 26 I was a still a virgin, but the more I experience life and ministry and see the messes caused by giving away your most sacred gift willy nilly, the more grateful I am to the Lord that I was too awkward, shy and respectful of women to give in to demands of the flesh and the invitations of others.

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But I desperately wanted to get married, I wanted to have a family, to be the dad and to yes, end my life of celibacy. But I knew I couldn’t just make it happen, there are no guarantees in this life so I had to reconcile to the fact that I might be perpetually single, and that was that.

I had to come to the place where I knew I would be okay, that I would be content if I never got married. I had Jesus, I had a mission to share him with the world, I had eternal life and the Holy Spirit residing in me and I was never truly alone. Life is good.

And then the Lord told me to court and marry my friend Donna. My eyes were opened to the one I was supposed to love and, long story short. Less than a year later we were married. It was a pursuit— which is what courting is—because even though God had told me that I was supposed to marry her, God hadn’t bothered to tell her that she was supposed to marry me.

But the point is, when I had come to the place where I decided I did not need to married to be happy, as long as I had Jesus, then he blessed me with a wife. And I am forever grateful and appreciative of, and for her, because of that.

That same principle has been repeated over and over again in my life. My first house—after striving and conniving to try to buy a house with no credit and no money I had to confess to the Lord my frustration and repent, telling him I would be happy living in a tent as long as I had him. The Lord then did a miracle and a couple weeks later (Literally) I was signing the papers for my first house.

Pastor?

For years I fought and fretted, trying to figure out how to fulfill my call of being a pastor when I could not take the time nor the money to go away to school, long before everything became available on line. And no one seemed to be willing to facilitate my desire to climb the church ladder into a pastoral position.

And then one day, at least a decade after I had decided I would never be a pastor in this lifetime, and that I was okay with that, more than okay with that actually—who in their right mind would want to be a pastor? —the Lord opened the Yellowstone Valley Bible institute which was accredited with the very Bible college I had been trying to figure out how to get to years earlier, in my own backyard, or at least in my home church.

He then told me to sign up. But Lord, I am content just being a Sunday school teacher, making hay, raising cattle and kids, and…—’no, you need to go to school.’ Okay Lord. —But if I’m going to start a church, which I knew was where he was taking me, it had better be in a big town so I can have enough people to pay me a good salary and make it all worth the effort.

Boy did I have a lot to learn.

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‘Red Lodge? That’s not a big town!’ But you know what? By the time the Lord got me here, I had had more than my fill of church attitudes that took a business approach to ministry—‘How can we get more customers— I mean tithing members? How can we improve the product—I mean make the gospel more appealing?

How about you just let God be God, preach the word, the whole word, and allow the Holy Spirit to draw—or repulse—sinners and saints? Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from having fully grasped how to get away from this church marketing and growth strategy mindset but I have learned to stop stressing about it also—something that I think makes my fellow pastors worry that I have lost the vision.

No, I have just stopped listening to the lies of the enemy that keeps dangling that golden ring out there for all to chase right into his trap.

1 Tim 6:8 -And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. . . . 

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I know I am where I am supposed to be, smack in the middle of His plan for me. And in that I have soul satisfaction, and that is priceless!

 

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Find your freedom in Jesus!