Sow What you Want to Reap

Notice the emphasis on hearing here. We must hear the word, receive the good seed, before we can plant it. The eagerness and seriousness with which we hear and accept the word will determine whether we are entrusted with more, which will give us seed to sow, which will lead to harvest.

26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4

I have always found this to be a fascinating and challenging little parable. Perhaps because I love to be in control. I’m the barbarian—if it moves and is not supposed to—kill it. If it does not move and it is supposed to—poke it until it does.

I’m the builder and the fixer—if I need it I’ll build it, if it’s broke I’ll fix it.

I’m the daddy and the pastor—if you’re broke I’ll fix you.

That’s my default M.O.

So, what do you mean just scatter the seeds and go to sleep not knowing how it grows? I want to know, I want to help, I want to do. . . I need to be in control!

And therein lies the problem. I have had to learn how to let go, and that’s what this means. Jesus is essentially saying– Use what I have entrusted you with to plant some seeds that I can bless and use to produce more fruit, so that I can get more seeds and entrust more people to sow. It’s really a simple concept, and a whole lot less stressful.

If you have planted good seeds, you have to let them grow. Only God can do that.

You can’t force a seed to geminate on demand and you can’t hurry the growth along by driving your tractor around in the field everyday just because you have to be doing something. You will end up destroying the crop.

The greatest and hardest example of that—where we all have or are struggled?  If you’ve spoken truth into your kid’s lives, you have to let them grow—and let them go. If you’ve planted good seeds there will one day be a harvest. But first come thunderstorms and days of scorching heat.

That concept of reaping and sowing, and leaving the growth up to God applies to every aspect of our lives. And the big part in the middle, the part between the sowing and the reaping—the very long and patience demanding grow part—that has to be left to God. There is no way around that.

So it is of utmost importance what you are sowing– what you are scattering.

What are you throwing out there?

There’s an old tongue in cheek superstition amongst construction workers in this Montana land of Big Skies and big winds—Don’t say wind.

It’s a beautiful fall day to frame, lay block, roof, set trusses— whatever and someone—usually the new guy— will pipe up with; “Sure hope the wind doesn’t come up—yesterday was miserable!” And before you know it, the wind is blowing, and everyone blames the guy who used the “W” word.

I don’t know if there’s anything to that, but I always seriously wonder—and so does everyone else.

Words have power, words spoken into the hearts of others and words spoken to the heavens have immense power and far reaching ramifications of which we will never fully know.

As believers, created in the image of God and enlivened and empowered by His Spirit—all we do, say and think, ultimately has some effect on what we can harvest when the season comes. Which brings us to the last part of the equation.

Hear the word, sow the word, trust the one who spoke the word—and then harvest.

Harvest

29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4

What will you be harvesting? What are you harvesting?

You can only reap what you sow.

In the real world, no matter how fancy your bread or where you bought it—someone had to plant a seed to get the grain that made the flour that made that bread. That applies to everything we eat. Someone had to put the very thing that could be made into the food we eat into the ground to die, in order to produce more of it, so that we could eat tomorrow.

You can’t grind your seed crop into flour. Even if you have to go hungry today, it may be necessary to ensure tomorrow, for you and many others.

Bottom line—If you want something you need to be willing to give it up.

What does that mean?

If you need healing? Be a healer. Need courage? Be an encourager. Need prayer? Be a prayer warrior. Need mercy? Be merciful. Need money? Give what you have.

You get the point.

How does any of that make sense? It only makes sense in the kingdom of God, but that is where you live—if you dare. It’s called faith.

Jesus has so much in store for you, if you’ll just trust him. If today is to be the day of your blessing, be a blessing.

Nothing that we cling to in this life compares to the riches to come.

You Cannot Give Up

God’s leaders are dropping like flies. If you are called to preach, teach or write for Jesus nothing you are facing is new or unexpected to God. When he called and equipped you, he had this time in mind.

“You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived;
    you overpowered me and prevailed.
I am ridiculed all day long;
    everyone mocks me.
Whenever I speak, I cry out
    proclaiming violence and destruction.
So the word of the Lord has brought me
    insult and reproach all day long.
But if I say, “I will not mention his word
    or speak anymore in his name,”
his word is in my heart like a fire,
    a fire shut up in my bones.
I am weary of holding it in;
    indeed, I cannot.”

Jeremiah 20:7-9

We need Jeremiahs now more than ever. If you are truly called to preach, teach or write for Jesus, you will find no rest in stopping. Breaks are fine, we all need Sabbaths, but don’t let the enemy silence your voice. Yours may be the voice God wants to use for such a time as this.

Fury

People accuse Spirit filled believers and “Evangelicals” of being out of their minds. But it is really the devil who is out of his mind-with fury.

People were used in earnest by the enemy of our souls to try to stop Jesus in his mission to bring people to his Father. His family thought him mad, the religious elite thought him demon possessed, and the government thought him a threat to power. Why would we think our mission, to bring people to the Father, would be any easier?

Correction: Mark 3::21-22

Just like any power hungry world leader, inclined towards evil, the enemy of our souls is never satisfied with what he holds, he always wants more— more territory, more death, more captivity, more fear, addictions, sickness, fear, more control—he wants it all.

He can only do that by stopping us, and by proxy, stopping Jesus. Something he has been trying to do with varying degrees of success since the days Jesus walked the earth and took away his right to keep us enslaved in fear of death and judgement.

 He is now out of his mind with fury and is determined to deceive all of us into believing that God’s ways are foolishness and madnessthat the lies he spreads are superior to our archaic ways and beliefs.

By changing the language— the meaning and acceptance of words— and vilifying those who believe in right and wrong, good and evil, he turns wrong into right, truth into lies, murder into choice, perversions into preferences, lusts into needs, violence into peaceful protests, scripture into hate speech and on and on.

But no matter how he schemes and blusters, God’s word remains and continues to change lives and keep God’s kingdom present in his dominion, and Satan’s fate sealed. But he keeps trying. Just like the last great European battle of World War 2, the Battle of the Bulge, an all but defeated enemy, Germany, threw everything they had into one last gasp effort in a battle that destroyed thousands on both sides but ended in the Allies destroying Hitler’s ability to wage war entirely.

It was a doomed effort but in the midst of it, the soldiers hunkered down in their frozen fox holes in the middle of the Ardennes  Forest, only knew that they were in a fight for their lives moment by moment, but they never gave up because they knew they could not loose. They were the U.S. Army and their cause was righteous.

I think that’s where we are, in the midst of perhaps the last great push by the enemy to destroy the church, to push us back and keep us from storming his gates.

The battles are ramping up and becoming more extreme in their vehemence and absurdity. Hitler mustered up children and senior citizens to fight to the death in that last battle knowing that they could not win. But he was determined to inflict as much damage as possible. He even ordered his generals to destroy their own cities if they retreated just to spite his enemies.

The generals refused to do it, it was indeed an absurd order, and fight; and they knew it.

Too bad the leaders of the enemies army in our own battles don’t see the absurdity of destroying your own cities. I talked to my Dad yesterday again about the destruction of many of our favorite old places in downtown Minneapolis. Between the shutdowns, looting and burning, the city is never going to be the same. It just makes me sad, Minneapolis was a wonderful and uniquely Minnesotan place, my birthplace, a place of generations of family history and treasured memories for.

And that is happening all over the country. But we know who is behind it. Our enemy is not flesh and blood. We know who he is, and he and his minions know who we are as well. We are the army of God, sons and daughters of that same God.

The enemy, Satan, is showing his hand in all of this like never before because the more furious and desperate he becomes, the more obvious it is just how truly evil and hateful he is, as his thin veneer of justice and moral superiority is wearing through and the ugliness revealed. And it should disturb and motivate us to shine even brighter even as the darkness does its utmost to overwhelm us.

Having the enemy expose himself should encourage believers to pray more earnestly and specifically, and even be excited, because for all the seeming power and influence the enemy seems to have—we know we can have so much more to counter. Greater is he who is in us than he who is in the worldright? Now we get to prove it.

But it’s hard I know. No one wants to be seen as mad, out of their mind or just plain ignorant. And that’s the brush we can get painted with. That’s a strategy the enemy uses to bind us so he can plunder our worlds.

But don’t get discouraged. If people thought Jesus was out of his mind, why would we expect to be treated any differently? Don’t let the enemy stop you from being who the Father created and called you to be and whom Jesus freed you to be. God wants to use you to bless, heal and deliver others from the lies of hopelessness and worthlessness.

We cannot let the world determine our worth and our usefulness—especially to the kingdom of God. We cannot let anyone deter us from speaking the truth as God reveals it to us. We cannot let anyone deter us from doing the good we were created and called to do and we cannot stand by and watch others suffer if we can help them. Whether it’s prayer for healing, a word of encouragement or correction, a prayer for deliverance or even just a much needed hug.

God calls the foolish, so if others call you the fool, shame and slander you to shut you up or stop you, consider that a confirmation of your call and an affirmation of your effectiveness.

You are not in this fight alone, we might be seen as an army of fools, but we we are fools for Christ, and together we are unbeatable!

Tumult

We are allowing the enemy of our souls to control the narrative.

Our country and our churches are a mess. And there’s no one to blame but ourselves for the state we are in.

It’s human nature to try to control every aspect of our lives, even the God part. We want to be in control of our destinies, our fortunes, our health, our walk with the Lord and our church services. We want to control the narrative. Guess what? We aren’t. And we are certainly not letting or inviting God to do it. So, by default, just as happened in the garden of Eden, we are allowing the enemy to control the narrative.

And his narrative always leads directly away from God and directly into destruction, And the road to destruction is always lined with shiny things and beautiful promises—even as those walking along it are angrily screaming at everyone to join them; ‘Come on, what’s wrong with you? Are you an ignorant hater? That narrow difficult path is for losers and rednecks.’

 We live in tense and tumultuous times. Which is ironic really because we live in the wealthiest nation on earth in what is likely the most prosperous period mankind has ever known. But, with that comes a stress all its own also, because apparently we all have too much time to worry about why our neighbors don’t all agree with our way of thinking, and why some people have more stuff than we do.

Life just gets more and more complicated and grounded less and less in reality. On the one hand there are people who run themselves ragged, trying to keep up with all that life offers and throws at us, either fending it off or fighting to get more of it, who have little or no time to fight for what they need or believe. They are too busy working.

And then there are those who seemingly have nothing but time because everything is handed to them and they have way too much time to fret over why you still have something they don’t have. And they have nothing better to do then scheme, shame or beat you into submission to their obviously superior ways. ‘Hey, if you weren’t trying to carry all that stuff down that narrow path we would have a lot more fun over here on this easy road—hand it over!

Looters

Never mind, we’ll just take it.

That has literally been happening this year with little or no opposition from those in charge whom we pay to look out for us. And if everything being talked about gets implemented it’s only just beginning. It won’t just be the thugs looting, it will be the authorities. Looting seems to be the order of the day.

The culture war has been brewing for a while, as has the class envy divisiveness that the voices of discontent keep propagating, and has now devolved into a sanctified racism against those who must be racist simply because of their color or political leanings.

Photo by Life Matters on Pexels.com

You throw a little pandemic into the mix, a botched presidential election between two ideologies that seem to have no common ground whatsoever and are so far apart that no matter who wins or loses, one half of the country is going to despair nearly to death, and refuse to accept the outcome– social media platforms that none of us can seem to avoid where we can spend every minute of every day arguing, provoking and being provoked by countless people, many of whom we have never met—and you mix it all up with a concerted and outright war on the truth of God’s word and his people—which isn’t hard because they have been progressively marginalized for decades now—and what do you get?

A nation without hope. A nation without a moral compass. A nation tearing itself apart at the seams and ignorant of everything that once made it the most blessed place on earth and a light and beacon of hope to the world. A nation whose God is no longer the Lord.

The Answer

So what’s the remedy? Winning an election isn’t the answer, just the fact that we can get into the state we’re potentially in, where we stand to lose everything that we have traditionally fought for and held dear as Americans and God fearing people, because of a single election, is evidence that something is very, very wrong.

The fact that God had to use a bombastic, rude, playboy billionaire turned reality TV star to wake this country and the church up to what we were losing and how we had been too cowardly to fight for it, is evidence that something is very, very wrong.

Photo by Tim Gouw on Pexels.com

Which probably means that somewhere, we went very, very wrong. Perhaps, God has left the building, crowded out by idols of power, greed, perversions and humanism. Or perhaps he was crowded out by self-righteous blindness that can’t see the work of the hand of God and the opportunity we were given because the vessel was not polished and certified wholesome like a Bush or a Romney.

Our country was and is a mess. And in the case of now or never God uses the willing, he uses those who answer, when the rest lie down and roll over because the fight is ‘not becoming of a person of my stature, and I just want to get along—don’t you?’

I’m glad Jesus didn’t worry about impressing the righteous.

And some of the scribes were sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Mark 2

He just did what needed to be done for those who needed it the most, and who were willing to receive the gift being offered.

Our iniquity is great and our sins are many. Yes, God sometimes does leave the building, his patience is longsuffering and his mercies great, but there is always a time when he just has no room left, when even the Holy of Holies is no longer habitable.

The vision of Ezekiel in Ezekiel 8—10  where he sees the wheel, way up in the middle of the air, might make a fun Sunday school song, but that wheel was God’s Holy Vehicle for his Spirit to depart from the desecrated Temple, and from Israel.

 He was leaving a temple that had become a house of idols to all sorts of vile and detestable demonic gods and a land whose leaders and priests were far from him.

“Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? For they say, ‘The Lord does not see us, the Lord has forsaken the land.’ ” Ez 8:12

Then He said to me, “The iniquity of the house of Israel and Judah is exceedingly great, and the land is full of bloodshed, and the city full of perversity; for they say, ‘The Lord has forsaken the land, and the Lord does not see!’ Ez 9:9

18 Then the glory of the Lord departed from the threshold of the temple Ezekiel 10:18

Ezekiel 10:18

Do you see the main problem here? They decided God was gone long before he was, and that’s what pushed him out. They say— “The Lord has forsaken the land, and the Lord does not see!’

We are not there yet. God has not forsaken us, we have forsaken him, and God does indeed see. See’s and weeps. ‘Turn back to me!

God has not left the building, but collectively we just act like he has—the country as a whole. It’s not too late, we who still trust in him and ache for the soul of this nation and the church need to stand up and be heard by the Lord and the world. Those God has called need to preach the word with authority, teach unapologetically, now is the time to stand up and be heard.

We have the greatest story ever told to share with a desperate world. We have the good news of Jesus Christ, the pure, simple gospel of love and forgiveness, redemption and hope. We have the power and authority by virtue of his Holy Spirit to set the captives free, to speak life to death, healing to sickness, light to darkness, infallible truth to lies and deceits.

It won’t be easy or pleasant, because the enemy is alive and well and has gained great control over much of this world including our society. But we have something he does not, truth and love embodied and dwelling in our hearts, the Holy Spirit. And if we just show up and keep speaking, acting and doing whatever it is that Spirit of love asks you to do, people are drawn to Jesus—they just are.

44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught by God.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me. John 6

You just open your mouth, refuse to be silenced, and let God do the teaching through you. Then watch the Father draw people to Jesus. You’ll be amazed. Just be ready to welcome all comers and keep Jesus front and center.

Invite the Lord to control the narrative. And then allow him to narrate through you.

Chrome

Jesus is Lord.

This is what you need to know, nothing else matters, all else is rubbish and just confusion if you do not know and believe in the Christ as presented and proclaimed in the gospel accounts, you are powerless, all show and no go. But in him, we are mighty!

Jesus was pretty controversial in his day–as he still is.

“What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee. Mark 1:27,28

This was no new Doctrine, this was the word of God incarnate. And his fame now knows no bounds, so long as his story continues to be told. In this troubled day, that message must be loud and clear.

And all the unclean spirits say —bummer dude!

Chrome

And there are a lot of unclean spirits in our lives and in our world that need dealt with, aren’t there? That’s why we need to Gospel, why the simple gospel of Jesus Christ must always be front and center in his church and the core of our witness to the world.

All else is just chrome and paint, it’s what’s under the hood that gets us to the finish line. People are popping the hoods to many churches, and of their own lives, and finding there was nothing under the hood but an old dusty Chilton’s Manuel that says place engine here. Or they see an engine that is just collecting spider webs and mouse nests because it hasn’t run in years.

I bought my first car when I was 16. A 1960 Chevy Belair. A big blue beautiful piece of molded Detroit steel all highlighted with chrome, real chrome, not the phony stuff that flakes off the plastic grills of todays cars. It had a 350 engine under the hood that the guy I bought it from had just put in it.

I think I paid about $100 bucks for it. In 1978 when minimum wage was $2.30 an hour, that was a lot of money. It was a great car. I towed it home and put it the field behind my folks house where it sat until I hauled it to the junk yard a year or two later.

You see, the engine was not hooked up, it had just been dropped in there and bolted down. I knew nothing about what it took to install a new engine in a car. I washed it, polished the chrome, bought a bunch of wire to maybe start wiring it—but I never heard it run. When I bought it the guy I bought it from promised me he would help me get it going, but he moved out of town after only spending an hour or so under the hood with me.

I ended up buying a beat up ’68 Delmont 88 with a 455 that ran like a top, and finally had to get rid of the shiny Chevy because the landlord was complaining. I basically got scrap metal prices for it because I didn’t even have a title—$30—which was what it had cost me to rent the tow bar to get it there.

No doubt somewhere in some classic car show my Belair lives on because I can’t imagine that this savvy junk yard dealer just crushed it. I kind of hope someone got it, it deserved a reset. But back then, it was just an old car cluttering up the neighborhood.

Dare I go there?

How many churches are just cluttering up the neighborhoods, all chrome on the outside but no life inside where it matters. They’re not going anywhere. I used to sit in that old car and dream of driving it. It actually had electric seats and windows and if I charged the battery they would work, for a little while. But it never roared to life—it was dead. All show and no go.

No road trips for me.

Reset

Last week we talked about the reset God is doing with his church. In the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, is the reset story. The reset button between the Old and New Covenant, between fables and faith, between truth and pop psychology, between chrome and actual internal combustion.

In this season of reset for the church as all the chaff and trappings of religiosity are being stripped away, as the business of religion is going bust, glitzy halls of production stand empty, and all the crowd demanded programs cancelled, what is left standing is the word of God, the truth of the gospel message and the power behind it to heal, restore, and change lives forever.

That’s what we find in the Gospels. The beginning of wisdom, the final victory, the only thing that truly matters and will never fail. Jesus Christ as Lord. —The words of life, the words of truth.

If we want to be mighty for God, a mighty warrior, mighty in the Kingdom— putting the enemy to flight, wrongs to right, and bringing healing to the flesh and the soul, we must accept what Jesus offers and live as he lived; Spirit filled, prayerful–guided, emboldened and protected by the living word.

In the first chapter of Mark, which I will be teaching through for the nest several weeks, Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately he follows the Spirit’s leading and go to fast and pray in the wilderness for forty days. He does battle with the enemy in those wilderness days and withstands him with the word, as we know from the other gospels.

Mark doesn’t record that, perhaps because he knows the temptations and the battle would continue until the final victory when Jesus walked out if the tomb three years later. His mission accomplished, his road trip completed.

He got there because he was Spirit filled, prayed up and he had the word hidden in his heart. He was indeed mighty. In this wilderness test he prevailed and  because of his faithfulness he was protected from the wild beasts and cared for by angels.

If you’ve ever spent any amount of time, especially alone, in the wilderness around here (Montana) you know how vulnerable you are to wild beasts. Bears, mountain lions, wolves, moose, badgers, snakes, Big foots, the Little people—don’t laugh, we’ve all heard stories or had experiences, there’s some weird stuff out there in our wilderness.

There’s even wild beasts that threaten us in our towns anymore, and the smallest one of all that has everyone hiding—viruses. We all need and must contend for protection, being mighty is of little avail if we live in fear and can be taken out by any mindless or malevolent beasts out there.

The point is, God protects those who are faithful and trust in him. We too can be mighty. There is no greater witness of God’s power and love than his willingness to heal. The healed will follow and serve him, knowing that there is indeed power under the hood, it’s not just promises and show.

The mighty pray for the sick and contend and believe for healing, they don’t shun them and hide from them or just mourn their demise

They bring their message to the streets, they drive their Chevies to the dry levies proclaiming that they know where to find the water that never runs out. They proclaim the message of the gospel.

Jesus’s message was simple, hear the good news I am bringing, believe it and turn away from your sin and follow me.

The immobile chrome is heading to the junk yard, get that 455 rocket tuned up! https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=455+rocket+song+kathy+mattea#id=1&vid=a4557249fc2bdd6bf59fd474db01b952&action=click

Warrior’s Reward

Bottom line; We win!

Today’s blog will be short and to the point.

It takes no great insight to see that the world is in a state of chaos and turmoil right now. I’m not just talking political and societal, that is nothing new, although we are suddenly getting smacked in the face with it here in America where we have lived in relative peace and security until now.

I am talking about emotionally, relationally– spiritually. We all seem to be living on edge. As I write this a presidential election is about to take place that will determine the direction of our country, two radically different forms of government and economic philosophies being what is actually on the ballot. The future of the country and the church as we have known it are on the line. (Please vote!)

Even if we as a people should choose the conservative side and preserve what we have, the opposing side promises to riot, burn and loot-and they have proven they are up to the task.

We are still largely living under the thumb of a virus and the fear it’s presence has ginned up. The church and the rights we have enjoyed and taken for granted have been under blatant and outright attack and people, neighbors, families and even believers, can no longer have civil discussions as all who have an opinion that does not match your own are evil and must be destroyed. Thus we all live in fear of being attacked and cancelled from life.

And there seems to be no end or relief in sight. The long dark winter of our discontent is fully upon us and our eventual dissolution as a church and a free nation seems to be inevitable.

Except for, that one thing, that Jesus thing. We have promises, we have assurances, we have a recourse and most importantly-we have a hope.

We have a God who comes in the darkest nights, in the coldest winters, like a warrior come to rescue his children from the enemy just as the enemy thinks he has won. When all seems lost our God proves that he is indeed the Lord of Hosts and the King of Kings and no one and no thing can stand in his way or steal any of his precious lambs from his hand. He had time and again, and he will again.

The Lord goes forth like a soldier,
    like a warrior he stirs up his fury;
he cries out, he shouts aloud,
    he shows himself mighty against his foes. IS 42:13

So, hold your head up, keep looking to your redeemer, keep the battle cry on your lips and keep your sword sharp. Our redeemer lives, and so will we.

You will receive the warriors reward–a place to raise your family and live in peace where their will be no more suffering, no more tears and no more death.

So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.
Mark 10:29-30

Until then–remember you are more than a conqueror and no weapon formed against you will prosper.

Reset

Today, Sunday, October 25th, marks the tenth anniversary of Hope Chapel Red Lodge. The humble little church my wife Donna and I planted in the little town of Red Lodge MT in 2010.

Hope Chapel Red Lodge’s old rugged cross

It was meant to be a day of celebration with our church family, a day of reflection and prayer for the season ahead. Instead, for the first time in those ten years, we had no church service, no one at the church, not even a livestream Covid shutdown type message. Pastoring in a mountain town in Montana snow storms are more the norm than not it seems, and I have never not had services, nor been unable to make it myself because of weather. But this weekend we just flat could not make it and I did not want to encourage anyone else to be out on the treacherous roads as we had an unseasonably nasty snow storm, a series of storms actually, blast their way across our state this week. And as I write this it is only 7 degrees Fahrenheit outside my door-in October!.

I just spent two days driving back from Coeur d’Alene ID where my wife and I were blessed to have been able to attend the Foursquare Church North Western District conference. It would normally only take seven hours to drive back, but driving through numerous mountain passes in a snow storm tends to slow you down a bit–and, we spent the night in Belgrade (MT) as they closed the Interstate ahead of us. So, no church, no celebration, just icy roads and and the company of crawling semi trucks, grateful for every mile that we were still moving past the many who were not, as they slid into the guardrails, barro pits and snow filled mediums.

But we made it home and look forward to gathering with the church next week. Best laid plans. . .

But isn’t that the way it’s been lately? “Lord just help me keep moving forward, mile by mile, step by step, inch by inch. Keep me out of the ditch and don’t let this be my end!”

I just spent a few days in the company of 250 other church leaders, most of them pastors, (masked and socially distanced, kinda) and they all seemed to be in the same state of Lord, just get me through this and to the other side! Many, like myself, are feeling a little shell shocked and even, dare I say it, hopeless. It seems that every snowy mountain pass we get through just leads to another, and another, and another. For me, and many others, this started long before the Covid gift from the wise men in the east showed up.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

The enemy has been running rough shod over the church, over my people, for a few years now. I have seen way too many marriages end, families torn apart and pastors crushed. Yes, there have been victories and yes, God is still on the throne. And I know that much of what has happened, including this year with it’s race riots, shutdowns, deaths and sicknesses, persecutions and general mayhem and panic, is not caused by God, but is being used by him nonetheless, to prune and refine his church.

The church that is still standing, if and when this time of trial is over, will be the true church of Jesus Christ. And they will be the ones used to bring in the great harvest that is coming and has already begun.

Across the board, and around the world, churches have been forced to decide what’s truly important, what being the church really means, and face the reality that much of what and whom they counted on were not real, were not true and were not truly of God. Many of those we thought we had discipled have turned against us and all the trappings of religion and all the programs people demanded have been stripped away.

And what’s left? Exactly what should be left. The resurrected Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross to save us from the many sins we are all guilty of. The Holy Spirit who has been poured out on those who believed in that Christ to give us life, healing and the power to be his witnesses in all the world. The word of God, unchanging, eternal and absolute. And the peace and joy that comes only from a relationship with that Savior who died for us, found in this word, and made alive in our hearts by his Holy Spirit. So that we can come boldly into the throne room and be loved and blessed by our Father God.

And what is church? The gathering of two or more to celebrate, honor and worship that God who loves us so, to learn and be encouraged by his word and to be blessed and healed by the presence of his Spirit. PERIOD!

If that gathering has to happen in a building against the wishes of the authorities, than so be it. If it happens in a home, on a beach, in a catacomb, so be it. But it must happen.

The church is going through a forced reset. When all is stripped away, long enough that it cannot easily be brought back, and all that is left is us and Jesus, we will remember what it was all for in the first place–for HIM.

We love him because he first loved us.

I try to live by a simple mantra, I am after all, just a barbarian with a Bible:

Keep it simple stupid…

This is a picture of me 10 years ago, preaching my first sermon at our new church in Red Lodge. I had nothing but a bible, a guitar and a roomful of used chairs in a 900 square foot rented storefront-and a handful of good friends who believed in what we were doing there. Preaching the gospel and worshipping our Lord.

I preached that first message without notes. I simply told the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, dramatically acted out and as boldly as I could. As I told the story I literally built the cross that has adorned our sanctuary ever since. It was made from scrub Cedar logs that had been knocked down by heavy snows on our old ranch. I was making a statement, that Jesus would always be the center of all that we did there, that as Paul had told the Corinthian’s, “I come to you determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

That message is still central to our ministry, and always will be. There have been times when I have succumbed to the pressure to “do more” to please and attract the people. But now I see that the simplicity of the church I felt led to start and maintain is the model that has stood. We have not attracted the masses and gotten noticed by the important people, but we are still standing— focus on the road ahead, and a steady hand has kept us out of the ditches..

So, “Lord, as your church is being “reset” in this season of trial, please give me, and all my brothers and sisters in arms, the strength and grace to stand, and when all is finished, to still stand. And to prepare a people committed to you, to reap and welcome in the harvest of souls that you have prepared even in the chaos.”

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.” -Jesus

Little children, Love.

We will make it home, just keep moving forward, stay focused and keep praying. The sun always rises, spring always comes and our God still reigns.

Is it Time to Panic Yet?

This whole Covid thing has only brought to light just how little peace we truly do have with our own mortality.”

“Both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

Talk about global warming. T’aint no Paris Accord, wind farms or Swedish teenagers that are going to stop that one—“How dare you!”

You won’t need an arctic expedition to go study the polar ice caps to see if they’re melting. You’ll see the steam of their boiling into oblivion from here—that is if you can see through the smoke of melting rock.

We have this dire warning, and then a question is posed—Therefore what manner of persons ought you to be? That would probably not be your first thought if you picked up your morning paper—which no one does anymore I know—and read the headlines: “The Heavens and the Earth Will be Dissolved With Fire in Three Months — scientists agree.

‘Honey! We only have three months left to live on this earth. What manner of persons shall we be?’ For the most part, that’s not how most people are going to react. When faced with predictions or diagnosis of doom it’s usually fight or flight, panic or despair—not introspection and attitude corrections.

In fact, we already know how people react to news like that because we have doomsday prophets all around us, and have for some time.

“Let’s Panic! –Why aren’t you panicking, don’t you care!”

Reactions

How do people really react? They stock up on guns and ammo. They beat each other up in the grocery store Isles for the last package of toilet paper. They irrationally cling to every shred of hope the authorities might toss them, and tremble at every word of the dire predictions the experts proclaim.

They build bomb shelters and stock them with crackers and bottled water, or buy mountain retreats in Montana—which is really dumb because our state carries a good part of the world’s nuclear arsenal and is full of coal, oil, lumber and precious metal reserves —certainly we’re not in anyone’s crosshairs (He says sarcastically). Not to mention the really long winters—there’s a reason why much of this state is largely uninhabited.

Another response to impending doom is the party like it’s 1999 response. They run out and indulge the flesh as much as possible just in case it’s the last chance, or simply because they might be able to get away with it. During hurricanes, massive fires and now riots, as most are fleeing or hiding, there are those who decide ‘Let’s take advantage of the chaos and go loot a shoe store, and then the liquor store—free stuff!’

During the German Blitzkrieg on Britain as large parts of most major English cites burned illicit affairs were rampant because the beleaguered people were determined to enjoy what might be their last moments on earth.

It’s the natural inclination to seek first the needs of the flesh in times of perceived impending doom. But as believers, those who have an eternal viewpoint and know that this life is just the beginning, we know that we must seek the protection and wellbeing of the soul, and the souls of those around us, first and foremost. At least we are supposed to know that,

So the question, “what manner of persons shall we be?” becomes a critical and urgent one, and one that we no longer must answer just hypothetically believing that our generation will never face what the bible thumping preachers of old have been proclaiming for many, many years.

We are in a global pandemic—admittedly one that pales in light of past pandemics, but one that has wreaked havoc nonetheless, particularly economically and emotionally, on an unprecedented scale.

And the church is being persecuted and attacked in our own country, and around the world, like never before on such a large scale. As we speak most churches across the country are severely limited in how they gather, if they are allowed to gather at all.

All across the land of the free and the home of the afraid churches and synagogues in this country’s biggest cities are banned from meeting at all. And there are those who take great delight in reporting infractions. Neighbors are turning against neighbors.

Currently, in this one nation under God, we have the representatives of an entire political party, viciously attacking a women who has been nominated for the Supreme Court because she dares to profess that her faith is important to her. Their biggest concerns being that they might lose the federal protection on killing the unborn and same sex marriage, that in their twisted minds have become the most important rights we have.  

Around the world, Christians are still being murdered, enslaved and driven underground, and the spirit of the Antichrist is driving people mad in their hatred for anyone and anything that dares espouse any moral values that remotely resemble the laws of God.

And very few care or take any of this seriously—even within the church.

But my point is—it looks like maybe, just maybe, the day of the Lord may be drawing near, and the fiery cleansing that comes with it—because, things they are a changing at an alarming pace and the red flags of warning are going up everywhere.

And if this is what we see with our eyes, you can bet the spiritual battles raging around us are beyond intense.

So what manner of persons shall we be? 

What Manner?

What manner of persons are we to be?

We are to be people who are diligent, who are looking forward to these things, who are spotless and blameless, at peace and conducting ourselves in Godliness and holiness. ‘Huh, can’t I just buy more ammo and toilet paper and avoid my ignorant neighbors at all costs? Except to belittle and provoke them on Facebook?’ –Um. . . No!

Be found by him at peace. Are you at peace? Are you at peace with your neighbor? At peace with your family—with yourself, with your God? When you lay down your head at night do you sleep the sleep of the redeemed or are you worried and anxious? Do you handle stress by giving it to your Father, or do you dilute it with drugs or drink, or any other manner of addictive behaviors?

Are you at peace with the fact that you could die tomorrow—today even? This whole Covid thing has only brought to light just how little peace we truly do have with our own mortality, and death is the very last thing we who have eternal life should fear. We cherish life and do what is prudent to preserve it, but it cannot become our obsession and prevent us from following our Lord.

Following Jesus is the death of the flesh, that is the very definition. Peace comes with laying down our lives and our fears and placing them in his hands. That peace is reflected in our attitudes toward one another.

Are you at peace with your brothers and sisters in the Lord or are you bickering over all of the things I have talked about here and offended by some of what I’ve said?  —I know many are. Which is why my peace, and the peace of anyone who fearlessly preaches truth from God’s word, is constantly threatened, and why most preachers just preach ear candy.

Peace is a rare commodity these days. And this, from Peter, is not an offer of peace, it’s not a recipe or a formula for peace, it’s at best a reminder and at most a command to be found at peace.

Jesus is coming like a thief in the night. Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless. Knowing Jesus and following his commands—that is your peace, it is a gift and a birthright of the redeemed that can only be lost or frittered away by us, his children.

Is it time to panic yet?

No, it’s time to keep our eyes on heaven and our hands to the task at hand. It’s harvest time.

A Dumb Donkey

But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 2 Peter 2:16 KJV

Prophecy for Profit? Even a dumb ass knows better than that!

There’s a wild story in the Biblical book of Numbers, chapter 22, about a mad prophet name Balaam, having an eye opening conversation with a donkey that we could all learn a lesson from today.

The Apostle Peter thought it worth reminding us of also.

Balaam loved the wages of the unrighteous. In the story of Balaam, he was being hired by the king of Moab to curse Israel as they crossed his land in preparation to enter the promised land. Balaam was directed by the Lord not to go with them, but Balaam petitioned the Lord to allow him, the money he was being offered being a big motivator. So the Lord relented and told him he could go, but only if he agreed to say only what God told him to say.

But on the road to the land of Moab he was met by and Angel who was waiting to kill Balaam and on three different occasions his donkey saved his life by refusing to go on until the angel left. Balaam did not discern the angel, the Donkey did. You know you’re in a spiritual desert when a dumb ass has more spiritual discernment than you do, but then, that’s probably true of many animals, they trust their instinct and develop this sixth sense while we just accept everything at face value—if my eyeballs can’t see it—it doesn’t exist!

Anyway, each time Balaam’s donkey refused to plunge forward into unseen danger Balaam got more frustrated with him and started to berate and beat him, until the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey.

The donkey starts talking to Balaam, asking him why he is treating him so when he has been nothing but faithful all these years. Balaam actually has a conversation with the donkey, “Man, if I had a sword right now I would kill you!” In the course of discussion it is revealed to him that there is a very large angel, the Angel of the Lord, with a very large sword waiting to strike Balaam down.

Balaam’s punishment was about to be meted out— why? Peter gives us the answer here—Because he loved the wages of the unrighteous.

He was going to speak the words of God, not really caring so much if they were true or not or what the result was, as long as he got his wages and kept his reputation as a seer so that he could keep his lucrative prophet business profitable.

And, apparently he was mad, which would explain his conversing with his donkey like it was an everyday thing—at least right up until he saw what the donkey saw—the menacing angel, who was actually giving him a second chance through the hyper perceptiveness of the donkey who could see or sense what man could not, the danger ahead.

He could easily have just smitten Balaam and been done with it. God had another plan though, he was using this justified, but now deferred, punishment to ensure that Balaam learned a lesson and that he did indeed fulfill his assignment to speak blessing and truth on God’s behalf to Moab, and over Israel.

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand; and he bowed his head and fell flat on his face. 32 And the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out to stand against you, because your way is perverse before Me. 33 The donkey saw Me and turned aside from Me these three times. If she had not turned aside from Me, surely I would also have killed you by now, and let her live.” Num 22:31—33

There are a lot of false prophets who love the wages of unrighteousness and many who have gotten to the point of madness as they have fallen deeper and deeper into their own deceptions. They end up just leaving you all tied up and cowering in the corner bound up in rules and expectations that leave you powerless and afraid.

When you are in that state, you are very easy to take advantage of.

Cults

We have had some very extreme and horrific examples of that just in my generation. I think of the false messiah David Koresh and the Branch Davidians in the 90’s who met their end down in Waco at the hands of the Federal Government; the Heaven’s Gate cult who committed suicide to be reunited with their mother ship.

On November 18th, 1978 as I was just getting settled into my new life in the Job Corp Center in the remote mountains outside of Anaconda, hundreds of men, women and children were drinking purple Kool-Aid laced with Cyanide in another very different kind of center.

Jones, a doomsday prophet, had proclaimed that the persecution and abuse that he had prophesied was coming upon them was here, and that the only way to escape it and to retain their favor with God was to follow him in death and escape into heaven. Over 900 people died that day, most by suicide, many by forced injection, all in the name of God.

CUT

More recently, and much closer to my neck of the woods, another self-proclaimed prophet, Going by the name of Elizabeth Clair Prophet, convinced thousands of people, that she heard from what she called, ascended masters; among them Buddha, Mahammad and Jesus Christ. I don’t know or remember all the details and I don’t want to know, but she somehow convinced all her followers to send her enough money that she was able to purchase a very large chunk of land in Paradise Valley just north of Gardiner Montana. It was known by all of us around here as the CUT Ranch. C.U.T. being the acronym for Church Universal and Triumphant.

Sometime in the mid 80’s she proclaimed that she knew when–or at least real close-the apocalypse was going to take place, ushering in the new kingdom of whatever and all who survived would be living in some sort Nirvana.

Hundreds of families all across the country sold everything they had and invested it in her massive building project up at the ranch. She was building underground bunkers for all her followers to hunker down in and wait out the impending apocalypse. So, when it was time, all these people, over two thousand, who invested all they had, came out and crawled into their bunkers, and waited for the nuclear holocaust, and —nothing.

They finally went home, broke and disillusioned, Elizabeth Clair false Prophet was discredited and soon afterward was struck with dementia, she soon faded from memory, and lost hers. And her Son, who took over the ranch was eventually indicted for illegally dealing in automatic weapons.

Good times.

Deceived

How were so many people deceived? It’s kind of scary isn’t it? I’m sure they were all good people who thought they were doing the right thing, even serving God. But they stopped listening to their spirits, allowed their emotions to be played, and were ignorant of the scriptures.

There will always be wolves in sheep’s clothing, who will be judged and will suffer the consequences of their heresies even as they are in the midst of the righteous, yet the righteous will be given the means to resist the temptation to join in the foolishness which brings on their punishments, so long as they do not succumb to the temptation to join them in their presumptuousness rebelliousness.

We need to be very careful in this season of turmoil and uncertainty because prophets are going to be coming out of the woodwork all claiming to have the answers and teachers and preachers are going to be exposed and start falling like flies as their great swelling words are exposed to be empty wells that leave people powerless against the evils that are befalling this generation.

It’s not unheard of even in the natural realm, to have a sixth sense so to speak, in fact it’s more unnatural not to. We talked about Balaam’s donkey’s ability to sense danger. They say Elephants and other animals around the Indian Ocean fled inland just before the Tsunami hit that wiped out entire cities and killed untold thousands of people.

Birds can fly half way around the world and always return to the same exact places. Bees never lose their way back to their hives no matter how far or zig zagged their flights. Dogs can smell cancer or sense oncoming epileptic seizures in people and instinctively know that it is bad and try to warn people.

We can certainly know when something so important as the health of our very soul is being threatened, that something is amiss.

Listen to the still small voice of the Spirit within, your own heart will guide you, and the heart of the Lord residing in you will guide you.

Don’t just follow the crowd, just because everyone else is doing it does not make it right. A herd mentality, social pressure and cultural norms derail real discernment quicker than anything else, except for maybe the lust of the flesh.

Before you drink the Kool-Aid, maybe ask yourself, ask the Lord, is this really what I am supposed to be doing? It just feels wrong. . . Yep, it’s wrong.

I don’t know if this is the end, no one knows for sure when that is going to happen, but we must always be ready, be diligent and always looking to God, his Spirit and his word for truth.

Ultimately you will stand alone one day and answer as to what you did with Jesus—if your answer is I loved him with all my heart and soul and picked up my cross daily—you will have nothing to fear; then, or now.

Dry Wells and Tempests

Spiritual discernment is critical in this time of darkness when only the sharpest eyes can see the light.

Not a real happy sounding scripture there is it? You’re probably not going to find that embroidered on a pillow at grandma’s house or on a coffee cup in a gift store.

Don’t you love that phrase—“great swelling words of emptiness.” I’ve sat through a few sermons that could have been entitled that. . . and apparently, so has Peter.

Because if you read today’s chapter in preparation for the message, you know Peter is a little riled up and is apparently taking serious issue, as he ought, with what he calls, along with many other unflattering things, false prophets and teachers

Peter is making no bones about the fact that some among the church are teaching the wrong message. Some things never change…

Wells without water may look good, but they are useless, and clouds that promise rain but only bring wind and dust, are worse than useless, they are dangerous.

People are too easily lured away from the Living Water into what turns out to be a dry oasis. When that happens, they quickly perish, and they won’t even know why. They refuse to understand that the beautiful show being put on all around and above them, promising the life giving rains from the heaven, is only virga—all lights, bluster and shadows—but the rain never reaches them.

False teachers always end up leading others back into bondage, it may be a return to the old bondage, or it may be a new one.

You found Jesus, got set free from sin and shame, forgiven and made alive, but you are lured into new selfish ambitions—your walk becomes a lust for personal gain.

Or, you are given license to indulge the flesh—“go ahead, party hardy, jump into that strange bed, shake that thing—you got it, flaunt it! Focus on your bank account and spend all your time and money pursuing happiness—you deserve it!”But don’t forget to support the teacher who makes you feel so good about yourself, makes you laugh and cry, but never challenges you or leaves you feeling you had a touch from God that you cannot ignore.’

It’s disturbing to me, this seemingly new trend I see in the American church, to use grace as license to sin. If the only difference between the lifestyles of a believer and a nonbeliever, is that one goes to church—once in a while—and one doesn’t, than something is dreadfully wrong.

Drinking, cussing and fornicating on Saturday night and praising Jesus on Sunday morning, does not make you a liberated Christian saved by grace—Hallelujah— it makes you a believer who is still bound up by the sin that you were supposed to have been freed from and perhaps now even worse because you are deceived into thinking that you are free.

I pray Lord that I have not been guilty of that misguided teaching. I have seen way too many people whom I have ministered to over the years, reveling in satisfying their flesh while giving little thought to what it cost Jesus to give them their freedom. And I just shake my head in sadness and ask, “Am I that inept at teaching God’s ways, or are people truly that weak that they would trade the Living Water for empty wells that even those who have never tasted life know cannot satisfy?”

The devil is a wily one and the flesh is incredibly weak.  You have to be constantly seeking truth, constantly going to the source, drinking from the living waters of God’s word, praying in and for the Holy Spirit of God to keep you strong, to keep you free, to satisfy and protect your soul from deceit and despair.

God wants you to be free, and to be safe—it’s called love.

I have a real hard time pretending everything is fine and just patting my adult daughters on the head when I know that something they are doing is wrong and will end up hurting them. Why would our Father God be any different? Unfortunately, some parents just go along to get along with their kids and they end up either spoiled or in serious trouble.

I never stop loving or accepting them, but I am determined to be a light and to share and show the way. The most important thing is to give them the tools to make wise choices as they are growing up. We are all still growing up in the Lord and he is offering us the tools to make wise choices also.

You have to pray for and practice wisdom and discernment, the ability to know something in your head and in your gut. We all have an innate God given ability to recognize when something is amiss or flat out wrong, what we lack is the wisdom and courage to act on it.

When your righteous soul is vexed—it may be time to stand up, or just run the other way.

and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the wicked (for by what that righteous man saw and heard as he lived among them, he was vexed in his righteous soul day after day with their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 2 Peter 2:7—9 RSV

You get the impression when reading the story of Lot and his family in Genesis that Lot thought he was pretty cool living in the woke city of Sodom, but eventually he started getting pretty disgusted. Yet it took a visit from two angels to convince him to get out of there, to rescue him. But he did listen.

Do you?

Listen to the still small voice of the Spirit within, your own heart will guide you, and the heart of the Lord residing in you will guide you.

Don’t just follow the crowd, just because everyone else is doing it does not make it right. A herd mentality, social pressure and cultural norms derail real discernment quicker than anything else, except for maybe the lust of the flesh.

Before you drink the Kool-Aid, maybe ask yourself, ask the Lord, is this really what I am supposed to be doing? It just feels wrong. . . Yep, it’s wrong.

As believers we have something that Lot did not have-we have the Holy Spirit of the Living God within us-listen to Him!

We need to be very careful in this season of turmoil and uncertainty because prophets are going to be coming out of the woodwork all claiming to have the answers and teachers and preachers are going to be exposed and start falling like flies as their great swelling words are exposed to be empty wells that leave people powerless against the evils that are befalling this generation.

I would never be so presumptuous as to say that I have it all figured out, or to render judgement by standards that I do not wish to be judged by myself. But I have some pretty good ideas as I look at others in light of the scriptures, the fruit that they produce, and what I feel in my own spirit when I hear their words,—all things that we must use to weigh the words of those who would deign to speak on God’s behalf. We are told to test the spirits so the onus is really on the hearer as to whom they chose to listen to.

Look for the fruits of their teachings, the scriptural basis, and use the gift of discernment given you by the Holy Spirit. And keep praying; Open the eyes of my heart Lord, that I may see with your eyes and not be deceived.