Jesus Knows

Jesus tells an eye opening story one day about two men who enter the afterlife– to much different ends.

Lazarus gates

One of them is known only as “a rich man” and the other is Lazarus. Lazarus is a man down on his luck–big time. He is laid, apparently immobile, hungry and covered with sores at the gate of this rich man. He is ignored by all but the dogs who see him as a chew toy covered with sores that they find quite tasty–insult added to injury. While the rich man within the gates feasts daily in his opulence and revelry. Mindless and uncaring about the beggar dying  in the shadow of his mansion. The rich man never new his name.

Jesus knew.

And his angels were watching. Lazarus had barely closed his eyes for the last time when they swooped in to carry him off to paradise to feast with Father Abraham. The “rich man” then dies also, surrounded by luxury, and is buried in a tomb of great value–leaving his treasure behind. He is carried off as well, more like cast down–straight into Hades.

bosom of Abraham

The rich man then begs from his place of torment for Lazarus, whose name he suddenly remembers, to be sent back to warn his brothers–but it ain’t happen’. They, like him, had their chance. Now justice is served.

cast into darkness

What I see here in this story is hope. Hope and a challenge. The challenge is—if we were to die tomorrow would we wish we could go back and tell those we love that there is more to this life than satisfying the flesh, more to this life than this life—so don’t waste it you only get one shot? Would we be satisfied that we had told everyone we could about Jesus so that they didn’t end up in a place of torment, from which there is no relief or recourse?

Have you lived your life with the mindset of storing up your treasures in heaven as a priority over building your own stores of wealth? Or have you been faithful with your blessings to use them to also bless others, to help those left at your gates as though in so doing you are helping Jesus?

‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Mat 25:40

Because in the end there is always justice. The piper always gets paid. As the line from old theme song from the 70’s cop show  Baretta used to say; “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

And the hope is—no matter how badly this world and this life treats us, we can look forward to an eternity of joy in a place, in a kingdom where all our tears are wiped away, where there is no more sickness and no more death, and where the wicked can no longer mistreat, abuse, mock or use us.

So long as your heart is right.

Jesus was addressing the hearts of those who despised and neglected Lazarus and those like him here. And because this nobody in the eyes of the world became somebody in the Kingdom of our God, we know that his heart had to be right. He didn’t rail against the oppressors and seek ways to steal or deride those who had what he did not.

He didn’t covet their wealth and curse his neighbors or blame God for his misfortune, he only longed to eat and made himself available to be helped by someone who could. But he had put himself at the mercy of a hardened heart, at least in this life—His soul was safe in the hands of his God.

20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. . . . 24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. Luke 16

In the end the one who showed no mercy was the one begging for it.

I can’t help but think of Job when I read  this. Job had lost everything he had. His children had all been murdered in the raid that destroyed his farm and he was left stricken by a horrible disease and a wife who despised him. He was covered with sores and had nothing left to do but put on sackcloth, cover himself with ashes and morn his fate.

the book of Job

 

His friends also came and told him we was a rotten sinner or surely he would not be stricken so—just curse God and die and get it over with.

He would not. And because of his continued faith in the God who was his righteousness, he was restored and he finished his life more blessed than he had ever been before. And his friends were put to shame for their ignorance.

Lazarus too, had lost everything, but he held on to his integrity. We don’t know the back story—only Jesus did. And only Jesus was able to see his final reward, which was of immeasurable worth. Very few knew and certainly no one remembered his name… Jesus did.

But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus,

Jesus knew his name.

He knows my name

He knows yours as well

Jesus knows. . .

The Holiness Fight

This is the beginning of the end. The beginning of the final battle and I want to stay in the fight.

Ax victory

I just read an article on the state of the American church and it cited a study done by the  Barna Group that looked at 70 different moral behaviors and could find no statistical difference between Christian and non—Christian behaviors in any of these areas. That can only mean one thing—There’s no holiness, there’s no respect or gratitude for the price that was paid for their forgiveness.

And there’s no witness.

How can we expect anyone to believe a word we say about a God who saves, a God who redeems, who changes us from the inside out freeing us from the snares of sin, addictions and emotional turmoil when we behave like animals with no control over our flesh or our emotions. Yes none of that is easy, but it takes you desiring to be free, not just forgiven, and it takes a real relationship with Jesus.

He’s not going to wade through a swamp of sin to spend time with you if you are content to wallow in filth and then wonder why you don’t hear Jesus and why you are not being blessed.

Maybe the enemy is not harassing you there, why would he? You’re no longer a threat to him. But you may end up in his goat pen in the end.

Outer Darkness

Depart from me, I never knew youMat 7:24

How do you like me now?

The Robe

I’m just urging you to take your relationship with Jesus seriously. Take your invitation seriously.

“See, I have prepared my dinner; …”  But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. the wedding

This last year was a challenge for many Christians I know. It seems like the battles just keep ramping up and the hits just keep coming. The strong are being stretched and the weak are falling away. We cannot give up. The Lord is calling us to holiness. I have been saying this since last year and I have seen the Lord putting his people through the refiners fire and the faithful being strengthened.

This is the beginning of the end. The beginning of the final battle and I want to stay in the fight. I want to see the victory and wield the weapons the Lord is pouring out on the faithful who have not given up or given in.

I still believe we are going to see God use people you least expect to do miracles and unleash the power of heaven in places you least expect. I see it already happening.

Pray for our president. Despite his flaws he is the first president we have had in many decades who is fighting for the church, not just talking about it. Pray for your pastor. He lives to fight for you-and it is a battle. Pray for your children and grandchildren. They are the warriors of tomorrow and the enemy would love to take them out before their fight begins. And pray that you have the courage and the faith to be used by God to advance the kingdom in ways you never imagined you would be used by God to do.

Many are invited but only those who take it seriously will be still standing in the end. God will only use the Holy.

many invited

It seems that all are invited but  it will not be the big name —everyone look at me —flashy church celebrities that are left standing to fight the battles ahead. It will be those who quietly and sometimes bewilderdly stood apart while the world seemed to go mad around them.

And they will win.

few chosen

Who will be allowed to stay in the wedding feast? The question in the end will always be, do you know Him?

If you do you will be given the white robe and you will be allowed to stay.

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” Rev 19

So go into this new year ready to fight, and win—you were made for this! -(Carolton on YouTube)

 

Whatever Happened to H#%l?

“The truth is still the truth, sin is still sin, Hell is still hot and the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and the road narrow that leads to its gates”

king's invite

We’ve all been invited to a royal wedding. Yet, there are still those who think it no big deal nor worth preparing or being inconvenienced for.

The ever expanding culture of anything goes and every deviant behavior is normal and good that’s all around us has permeated the church and had a devastating effect on the Bride of Christ. Very few churches preach holiness any more. I mean, living a life that is different from the world around us, living by God’s standards regardless of what the world is telling us we must believe say and do. Just the fact that I have to explain holiness is a sad testimony.

Many of those who go to church, who want to get that invitation, that ticket to heaven, just want to get their assurances that they’re fine; ‘Jesus loves you no matter what so just do whatever.’

Sin is not confronted, Hell is not preached let alone believed in—If you’ve ever read through the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) you may have noticed that many of the stories Jesus told end up with people in outer darkness, weeping and gnashing ,and feeding the worms with their burning flesh—apparently Jesus believed in Hell!

Outer Darkness

Here’s the question we need to ask those who argue otherwise; “If there is no hell then why did Jesus pay such a heavy price to redeem us from it?” Why suffer rejection and humiliation, dying a bloody naked torturous death on the cross where a person basically suffocated to death after they became to weak to pull themselves up against the nails in their hands in order to take the pressure of their diaphragm in so they could inhale?

What could be so terrible that the Son of God himself would allow himself to be subjected to that horror in order to save us? Oh wait, I know—Hell. And then there’s the whole wrath of God being poured out in him thing as He who knew no sin became sin while he hung there in the darkness that struck the earth in the middle of the day as the creator was being destroyed, as the author of life was being killed.

And then Jesus asks us to take up our cross and follow him. What do you suppose that means? What did it mean to him? What did it mean to those who heard him? They all knew what a cross was; a cross was an instrument of death. We know what that means because Paul would tell us—we must crucify the flesh and it’s evil desires and live for the Spirit.

crucified the flesh

But that’s not a popular message is it? People want to be patted on the head, entertained and not made to feel like they have to change anything in their lives; ‘just show up, put a few dollars in the plate and bring your friends next week and we’ll promise we won’t offend them. We’ll only use scriptures about love and blessings, if we use any scripture at all, and we’ll make sure we have you out of here in time to make the playoff games. You have beer to drink after all.’

You can have it

You know what? If that’s what it takes to build a big church where I can have a full time salary and a staff that does all the tedious or messy work of ministry while I just write fun sermons and get all the acclamations—if that’s what it takes to have enough tithing members that I don’t have to work like a dog in the mud, the dirt, the cold or the heat all day every day, well, I’ll just keep my construction job for as long as this tired old body keeps moving.

And I’ll keep preaching truth to those who show up here serious about going to that wedding. Because if I am responsible for one person getting booted out of the feast because they showed up in their filthy clothes and had no good answer as to why, then I deserve to be cast out with them.

invited to the wedding

You can have it. I was made for this.

I don’t want your fancy suits and your retirement packages. I’d rather work shoulder to shoulder with someone who is desperate for truth and hope and doesn’t know where to begin looking because none of those people from the big fancy churches ever bothered to get to know them, listen to them and love them. They had to get ready for the next retreat where they could teach or hear about how God has a plan for them that no doubt includes abundant blessings.

I am here to make disciples, not converts. I am here to make soldiers for the Kingdom of Heaven, not camp followers. I’m here to turn barbarians loose who will now turn their passion for adventure and overcoming all obstacles into a passion to overcome the prince of darkness and take this world for the King of Kings unashamed and unapologetic. Pillaging the world for Jesus still wild eyed and fiercely determined behind shields of faith but now wielding the sword of the Spirit, no longer being deceived by the lusts of the flesh and the lies of the enemy that once drove us to self-destruction.

Eph 6 meme

And those of you who have stuck it out with me and lived and preached the word of God as best we can, as honestly and as completely as we can— well, you will be, you and all in the few churches scattered across this land where the truth is still the truth, sin is still sin, Hell is still hot and the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and the road narrow that leads to its gates, we will be a part of a celebration like the universe has never seen nor ever will again and then we will commence to rule with Christ.

faithful over a few

Our day is coming

And our day here in this life is coming as well. Check that– our day is here!

God will use the faithful few of this generation to wake up his called, to prepare the way and to usher in the Kingdom once and for all.

14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” -Jesus Christ Mat 22

Barbarians in the Kingdom

Barbarians ad copy axe

Audience of One?

“You are given those gifts, those talents if you will, to invest in others, not to invest in yourself.”

As I was reading through the Parable of the talents  the other day I had a random thought pop into my mind when I came across this part about the wicked and lazy servant: And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ Mat 25:25

What came to my mind was this; “I play for an audience of one.”

That’s an old worship leader adage. As someone who led worship for many years myself I had heard that many times. I think I have even had a shirt that said that once, but suddenly it dawned on me that that may be wrong, that playing, using your talent, with no consideration for anyone else, just playing or singing solely to impress or bless God, to just use it as a vehicle to bring yourself into his presence where, of course, you’ll expect to be blessed, is perhaps, selfish.

You are just giving back what the Lord gave you, no more, no less.

have what is yours

Now, don’t start throwing rocks at me here, I might be all wet, but we have to pay attention  to these random thoughts while we’re reading scripture because it is often the Spirit showing us things through his word.

Why does God give someone the gift of music? Why does God give someone a voice that others want to hear and try to emulate and sing along with and them give them an opportunity to use it to lead worship?— I’m talking about believers here—He gives you that gift to lead others into his presence, to give others the opportunity to worship and be blessed by coming into the presence of the Lord through that worship music.

Or, to encourage a group of people, people whom the Lord loves, to lift up their voices together, or to play their instruments together, to bless the Lord God Almighty the maker of heaven and earth.

You are given those gifts, those talents if you will, to invest in others, not to invest in yourself. God invested in you when he gave you those talents. Hiding your talent for fear of using it because you might be embarrassed, is the same as burying it in the back yard for safe keeping.

Or, if you are using your talents with no thought to how others are responding as long as you are being blessed, that is selfishness and may well warrant that—Jesus’ words not mine—wicked and lazy servant title.

invest his talents

My worship leading, all the years I spend playing guitar, learning new chords, learning and practicing song after song, many hours each week—none of that was for me, (at least it was not supposed to be, pride is another battle) that was all an investment into the lives of others. If you are a worship leader, you are someone who had been entrusted with a huge bag of gold, (What a biblical talent really is) so invest wisely.

The Master does not just want his money back interest free. “Here’s what you gave me, isn’t it beautiful?” So no, do not play for an audience of one. Do not preach or teach for an audience of one, do not witness for an audience of one, do not sacrifice and give all that you have for no other purpose than to try to impress God.

preciopus

Don’t just live in your underground caverns with your precious gift like Smeagol and his ring uncaring about anyone else.

You can do it for God, because you love him and want to share his love with others, but he is not your audience, He is your Lord, your inspiration and your power and he asks us to advance his kingdom, not our own. We advance the Kingdom, we always advance the Kingdom, by witnessing, blessing and encouraging others.

We do that with the gifts He gave us.

Invest in people

If you want to just keep your talents between you and the Lord then you might as well join a monastery, go live high on a mountain with no contact with the outside world in your own little holy bubble and make sure you don’t lose or desecrate your talent, keeping it safe and sound, no challenges to it, no stretching it, no wearing it out—nothing ventured nothing gained—or lost.

At least not until the master returns to see how you invested his investment in you. “What? No fruit, no interest, you could have at least put it in the bank where they could have done something with it and payed you a few bucks in return! ‘Take what he has and give it to someone who I know will invest it.’”

Take his talent.jpgMatthew 25:28-30

Give it to someone who will at least try to make a return.

You see, it wasn’t that this, the third servant in our parable, did anything wrong, it was simply that he did nothing.

So, if you are going to say I play for an audience of one, that audience of one needs to be a person who needs you to play for them, who needs you to invest what the Lord has given you into them.

did it unto me.jpg

So, a better adage might be, I would play for an audience of one.

Would you? –Would you play for an audience of one? Would you preach or teach for an audience of one? Would you use any of the things the Lord has given you, time, energy, wisdom, money—even give all of it—just to invest into three, two, even just one person? Will you be faithful over just a few?

The church has been dying off in the last couple of decades because too many people answer no to that question.

Be the one who says yes!

faithful over a few.jpg

Small Things, Big Results

He was breathing garlic, sweating garlic, and s*#%ng garlic. 

They are a couple of short parables, one right after the other, that Jesus used to describe the Kingdom of Heaven that share something real obvious else in common. They are about small things with a huge impact. -A tiny seed producing a large tree; a small bit of leaven affecting a whole lot of dough.

Mustard seed.jpg

Let’s think about the mustard seed thing for a minute. Yes there are bigger trees, but Jesus isn’t talking about trees, he’s talking about herbs. What is an herb? You don’t make a meal of herbs, have you ever said ‘let’s sit down and enjoy a big bowl of mustard!’ (If you have you are very strange)

Or have you ever dined on a plate of rosemary and thyme? You can try it but you’ll probably be sorry. I know there are people who smell like they have eaten nothing but herbs—”eew-wee, did you eat a bowl of garlic for breakfast?” But that’s because it only takes a small amount of most herbs to make a huge smell– and it’s never good second hand.

Garlic Boy

I worked with an electrician once who ate a whole jar of pickled Costco garlic. He told me it was so good he just couldn’t stop eating it. As you know, nothing that comes from Costco is small so this was a good sized jar. I had the misfortune of having to work around him the next day.

That garlic was determined to make its presence known. He was breathing garlic, sweating garlic, and he had to run to the bathroom several times that day to more directly vacate that garlic. He was miserable, and so was anyone who got near him—or that bathroom.

I nicknamed him Garlic Boy after that day.

But the point is, herbs are meant to flavor something, to change the palatability, the taste, to enhance, alter or even preserve food.

Yeast does pretty much the same thing. So when Jesus compares the kingdom to a mustard seed, he’s talking about an herb that flavors and alters whatever it’s put in to, but yet when planted and allowed to grow, unlike other herbs that generally grow on fast growing and low lying plants that whither and die fairly quickly or can easily be trodden underfoot, the little tiny mustard seed is an herb that grows into a strong sturdy long lived tree that cannot be overlooked and draws in, and sustains, life.

“…but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

Remember the point of these short parables—they are conveying what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. So the Kingdom of heaven, though it may seem like these are just insignificant stories of a faraway fantasy place, in the face of other things of this world that seem to undeniably slam into you like Jalapenos and Habaneros making your eyes water and your lips burn, this kingdom is real and it can change the world like nothing else can, it just works differently—diligently, consistently, sometimes imperceptibly.

Until you have a tree that produces more mustard seeds than you can possibly use or plant alone and withstands the storms, the droughts and the changing seasons.

Sounds like the kind of kingdom I want to belong to, sounds like the kind of church I want to belong to.

Are you letting the kingdom take root in your heart? Are you trusting the still small voice, the leaven of the Holy Spirit that continues to give rise to good things if you’ll just give it time and keep it in the proofer of your soul.

leaven Bread

Hide God’s word in your heart, plant his love in your soul, and watch the fruits of joy, peace and hope take root and turn your new year into the most blessed year ever.

Affecting the world for the Kingdom of heaven starts with the small things, it starts often times just with your smile.

smile light.jpg