As The Tongue Goes -part II

You will not dictate what I say, and you will not dictate what I cannot say.”

The message of freedom that has kept this country so, has traditionally been propagated by preachers. We must not shirk that responsibility- that must include all believers in these dark days of increasing threat to freedom.

Jesus once said “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.”  That is the very heart of the gospel and teachers have a sacred to be true to that. That too is a huge responsibility and we must be thankful for and protective of the freedom to do just that.

James tells us that those who endeavor to preach the gospel, to teach the word of God are held up to a higher standard by God—and God alone. We can allow no man, woman, or government official to dictate what and how that message is preached and only the bravest and truest messengers for God will be unyielding and uncompromising in that sacred duty.

But, James warns us, mistakes will be made. So those who listen must listen closely and even choose to listen to another if it is determined that the one preaching is no longer listening to nor being faithful to the word and the Spirit. But know that we will all stumble so give us some grace.

But the point is, the freedom to preach, teach—and stumble is a right and a privilege that comes from God alone and must be protected and cherished so long as there are people on this earth who call themselves free. And the freedom for all to speak their mind while respecting the rights of others to do the same, no matter how vehemently we disagree, is just as vital.

Once you start outlawing speech, subject it to the lawmakers, and the elites, only the ones holding the power will be free—and even those will fall prey to their own convoluted premises in the end.

We have been blessed to be part of this grand experiment called the Land of the Free where all are supposed to be equal and to have a voice.

It is our constant fight to perfect and adhere to that principle that has made this a good place to live. God honors that desire to be a society where all can speak their conscience in regards to their conviction and religion. That’s what has made this nation largely a good and blessed land.

Canceled

And now we are cancelling ourselves. Ironic that we find ourselves in a time when we have chosen to take that right of free speech away from ourselves, or allowed others to take it from us, without hardly a fight. If not in law certainly in our popular culture.

The—me too, no wait, not you! —those words offend me, cancel culture full of imaginary racist dog whistles and micro-aggressions—ever changing rulebook of what is acceptable and what is not according to the self-appointed dictators of speech and behavior has become impossible to keep up with. And those who beat us over the heads with it would all be laughable in their absurdity if they were not literally destroying the lives of so many people whose only crime was thinking they still possessed the right of free speech.

It seems the only truly free speech anymore is that being exercised by those who wish to destroy everyone who has a viewpoint that goes counter to their own as deemed appropriate by the whims of the day. We have turned into a nation of verbal cannibals. It’s disturbing and dangerous beyond measure and we have example after example in recent history of how this ultimately ends; Lenin, Mao Stalin, Hitler, Kim, Castro—but alas, the safe zone dwelling destroyers of free and diverse thought and speech have destroyed and rewritten history so– doubtless we have to repeat it all over again.

Hell Fire

As the tongue goes, so goes the body.

With our tongue we can destroy the created and good order of things and turn it into just another vestige of Hell.

That’s some pretty heavy stuff James is laying down here. Maybe we ought to pay attention. The loudest voices in our nation right now are not speaking out of love, heaven is not being represented in our public discourse and society altering articulated hate is ruling the day and it is destroying us.

Just the sheer vulgarity of it all should make that obvious to any decent person. But decent people are not cool any more are they? They don’t get the news coverage and the viral video status our narcissistic society craves.

Demonic hatred and vileness rules the day; always offended, always indignant, always angry, always looking for something or someone to destroy. It’s doing nothing but turning us against one another.

We can change that, and we must. How? By speaking truth, by speaking love and by speaking boldly. And really, that is what James is telling us here. It starts with us, your heart and your tongue. Honestly—your own tongue is the only one you can and should control, or at least try to. Most people have stopped trying. They are letting anything and everything fly out of their mouths. Or they are letting others dictate what they speak—or don’t speak.

We as believers cannot be that way. You will not dictate what I say, and you will not dictate what I cannot say. We cannot make people listen to us nor should we. You have the right to not hear me just as I have the right to speak. That right to not hear is practiced by removing yourself from the speaker, not by silencing the speaker. That is where we are getting it wrong today.

The enemy is not happy with just turning people away from the church. He wants to silence the church, he wants to silence you. And he is succeeding—little by little over the decades and by leaps and bounds of late.

There are mayors of large cites and governors of entire states who have openly declared that they do not want churches to be open and have threatened to arrest those who go, and even to destroy the buildings. We are under assault people. But, we have to power to reclaim what was lost or to destroy what is left. And that power is in our tongues and ultimately only we can reclaim what our tongues allowed us to lose.

We have to speak up, we have to speak out, we have to pray, and we have to teach the next generation what freedom truly means. I have to wonder where my generation went so wrong that the next generation no longer knows the value of freedom let alone care about it.

We must recognize that God has given us a mighty tool, or weapon, depending on how you choose to wield it, and ultimately, cancel culture, 1st amendment or any other outside influence notwithstanding, we get to choose in the end the words we use.

And those words affect who we are, and according to James, they are who we are.

As the tongue goes, so goes the body, and ultimately, the nation.

I’m sorry, I usually try to be more positive with these posts, but I am scared to death for this nation and I really think we are running out of time to save it. I’ll just say this before I close—pray for this nation, pray for yourselves, and vote.

Vote for those who fight to defend your freedoms. Once they are gone we will not get them back, there will be no America out there to rescue us.

It was only 80 years ago that churches in Nazi Germany replaced the crosses on their altars with swastikas and remained silent as their neighbors were systematically slaughtered, because they dared not speak up or speak out. America freed them and woke them up, at great cost in blood and treasure. Who will help America?

God help us before it’s too late—for our sake and for the world.

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

As the Tongue Goes. . .

As the tongue goes—so goes the body-and the nation. Our words are so important and we see that over and over again in scripture. Our words have power, power to affect the heavens themselves through our prayers, blessings and curses; the power to affect the lives, hearts and souls of other people—and to affect who we are becoming and to make plain for the world to see, who we are.

As the tongue goes, so goes the rest of us. This lines up with what Jesus said, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks… But James is expanding on that a bit and telling us that not only does the mouth reveal what is in our hearts, it also dictates where the heart is going.

If you are speaking hate—you will have a heart full of hate. If you are speaking love, you will have a heart full of love. If you don’t speak at all, you will probably become bitter and hard because we were created to speak, to communicate freely with one another and with our God.

The measure to which we are who we are is immeasurably tied to what we have had communicated to us, and to what we have been allowed to communicate to others. Ideas, wisdom, lessons learned, questions that need answered, emotions that need addressed, hurts that need appeased and rights that need wronged, prayers—none of those can be transferred from one to another if we cannot speak to one another.

That amazing ability to do all of that is a huge gift to mankind and you could argue is what makes us human. But it is also a huge responsibility because the tongue is something we are all prone to lose control of. And it can get us into trouble pretty fast. With our tongues we can do great good, but our fallen nature often leads it to do great harm.

That word there, similitude, that just means we are created in God’s image, that we have attributes like the creator, among them— according to James here—is in the gravity and power our words hold. God created the world and all that is in it with his word and for better or worse, he gave us, as those created in is image, the ability to affect change with our words as well—to create or destroy, not on the same level as God obviously, but probably a lot more powerfully than any of us realize.

What do we do with that power? That’s the question.

Looking at that concept from a political and societal point of view, we are blessed to live in a nation that recognizes the importance and God given power of the words we speak. Our founders fought and died to ensure that we had, and retained, that right, as have many who have come after them.

One of the great constitutionally protected freedoms we enjoy as Americans and the very basis and mark of a free people is the freedom of speech, the right to speak our minds, to express our concerns, to criticize or boast about our leaders and each other, and to communicate our thoughts without fear of arrest or persecution from the law.

As with any freedom, the responsibility for the proper use of that freedom falls back on the one who exercises that freedom. I remember the late great Paul Harvey used to say, “With great freedom comes great responsibility.”

Do you all remember Paul Harvey? “Hello America, I’m Paul Harvey. Stand by for news!”

Up until a decade or so ago he did a morning and afternoon newscast every week day that pretty much the whole country listened to, and looked forward to listening to. Try to find a single newscaster today that you could get everyone in any work place to sit around a radio to listen to without someone being offended or storming out of the room while muttering obscenities.

Objective journalism and fair minded reporting and observation is a thing of the past—on both sides. And that’s the problem– we have all chosen sides. And those sides are far apart.

I just want to be on Jesus’s side, and on the side of freedom, because the first casualty of any lost freedoms always seems to be the freedom to think, move and speak as one would believe God wants him to.

That has always been the founding principle, and what the very notion of freedom is that this nation fought so earnestly for and enshrined in our charters from the Magna Charta to the Declaration of Independence to the Bill of Rights to the Emancipation Proclamation. The true definition of freedom is the freedom to be who we believe that God wants and destined us to be. And the freedom to fall short of that because of our own choices.

The freedom to verbalize the reasons behind what we do and think, to debate, teach and listen to various reasons and thoughts is truly an invaluable and necessary freedom for the health and advancement of the human condition.

Our founders were truly inspired by God to establish those rights for us as the basis for the freedom we have enjoyed. It is literally how the gospel has, and is, spread—freely speaking and teaching truth. Not always perfectly and unfortunately not always lovingly, but always freely. And everyone has had the freedom to argue with or reject the word as it was spoken by those who endeavored to teach it.


We, all of us who believe, get to choose whether we speak with the fire of the Spirit or spread the flames of hell’s fury and destruction. We get to choose whether we are fonts of fresh living water or whether we are spewing destruction. Those outside of Christ don’t really have that choice, they are woefully deceived and speak only the lies that the father of lies, the devil, has planted on their lips.

We have to counter that, we have to lead them to freedom by speaking the words of freedom. We must be springs of living water.

We must remember and realize that the world is not our enemy, the world is only deceived by the real enemy because we have stopped up our springs of living water, we have quenched the fires of the Spirit found in the word of God.

The voices of evil have gotten louder because the voice of the church has gotten quieter.

The hell fires burn hotter when the fire of the Spirit is quenched. Do not let that happen!

Really? Rahab the Harlot?

“…her words and her actions bore witness to a God given, front loaded, heart of faith.

In the second chapter of James we are given two examples of those who proved that their faith was real by their actions. Abraham and “Rahab the Harlot”.

Unarguably, Abraham’s actions as found in Genesis were a testament to his faith and a fitting seal of a long life of faithfulness and nearly everyone knows who he is still today.

But then, there is Rahab. She is just dropped into the picture out of the blue, a woman with no known history of faithfulness and no long recorded history of interactions with God for us to marvel at. Yet she ends up with a lead role in the story of the making of Israel.

Rahab

You have to wonder, of all the people in the Hebrew scriptures— Noah, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, King David, Elijah, Ruth, Solomon, Jeremiah, Esther—great heroes, prophets and examples of integrity and tenacity—of all the possible examples, to put on par with Abraham as examples of those justified by faith in action, James uses Rahab the harlot.

Really? Rahab the harlot?

Obviously her last name wasn’t harlot but that was her designation, a title actually. Like Builder Bob or Sam the butcher. James makes it clear in that way just to whom he is referring, there is no mistaking—but still, Rahab the Harlot?

You all know that means she’s a prostitute right? Not exactly a career choice that a woman who wants to become a beacon of light and an example of faith in the Kingdom of God, should draw to—let alone even go and stay with, as the spies that Joshua sent to her hometown of Jericho to check out did. Really guys, you went straight to a prostitutes house to find sanctuary?  

I just love the realness and grittiness of the bible. God uses real people to do his greatest works, and he doesn’t gloss over their flaws. It gives me hope.

So, why Rahab? Why would God lead the spies there and why would James use her to make his point?

Easy—She was able to show them the money. She probably didn’t talk a lot of bible speak or come across as a religious person, she was, after all, a harlot in a pagan city. But when it came down to it, she was able to show the fruits of her faith in the one true God by her actions.

In that regard I think James was quite ingenious in using her as an example of what he is telling us here when he says that we are to show our faith by our works. There was nothing else about her,at least not that we are aware of, that would have merited her a place in the family of God, as a recipient of what was apparently a saving faith totally apart from the law and any religious expression in regard to Yahweh.

There is nothing about her, no moral witnesses, no history of her talking the right talk, saying the right words, praying the right prayers, no self-proclaimed rights to righteousness, seemingly nothing to merit her becoming listed as an ancestor to King David and thus to the Messiah, Jesus himself—she was not even Jewish! Let alone a worshipper of their God.

Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king. Mat 1

But when called upon to fulfill her destiny, to become a key player in the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people that he would deliver them from slavery and give them the land of Canaan, she acted with a courage that would set her apart as someone who truly had a faith in the God whose mighty acts she had only heard about. She had a faith in this unknown God who had apparently been whispering to her heart— that he was indeed real and loved her.

How do I know that? How do I know that God had been whispering to her heart? Because God does it all the time, and he has done it to me. And because her words and her actions bore witness to that God given, front loaded heart of faith.

Spies

Do you all know the story? From the book of Joshua?

The children of Israel had been miraculously delivered from slavery in Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, lived in the desert for forty years eating manna from heaven and were now finally ready to enter in and take the promised land under the leadership of Joshua.

But first, they have to get past Jericho. The fortress city that dominates the first region of the country the Lord is giving them as their new homeland, the very land he had promised hundreds of years earlier to Abraham, where he would become a great nation.

So Joshua, as any good military leader would, sends of a couple of spies to do some reconnaissance.  The spies make it into the city of Jericho largely unnoticed but word soon gets around that they are not just ordinary nomads coming to trade goat milk for pottery.

They are part of that very large group of former slaves from Egypt known as the Hebrews who have just crossed the Jordan river and are wreaking havoc on anyone who tries to stop them, and many have. So the spies seek out a place to hide, preferably someone who can give them a little insight as well, and somehow or other, I have to wonder at the thinking that led them there, but they end up in the home of a local prostitute named Rahab.

But, it turns out, little goes unnoticed in this town and word gets back to the King himself that there are enemy spies staying at Rahab’s house on top of the wall. So he sends troops to arrest them. But Rahab gets word that they are on their way so she takes the Israelites up on her roof where she has flax laid out in the sun to cure, and hides them underneath it. When the king’s men show up she tells them that the spies have already left and that if they hurry they might be able to catch them, so off they go.

After a time Rahab has the spies come out from hiding and tells them that she can lower them over the wall from her window, as her house is on the massive wall that surrounds the city, with a rope so that no one will see them leave and that they can then go in a different direction, avoiding those who are pursuing them.

But first she wants a promise. She has helped them at great risk to herself. But she realized that they were on the winning side, because she believed in an unseen God, heard the stories of his power to deliver those who serve him, and she fears him more than she fears the soldiers banging on her door.

She believes that the Israelites will indeed take the city she dwells in and that all their enemies will be destroyed. So she asks them to remember how she helped them and to spare her and her family when they return to take the city.

The spies tell her to tie a scarlet cord in her window as a sign and a reminder to the Israelite army that they are to spare her and all in her house. And indeed that is what happens. When the Israelites return and do their now famous seven day march around the city walls and blow them to smithereens with nothing but a shout and a trumpet blast, Rahab and her family are spared and become a part of the nation of Israel.

Now, thinking about this story, it seems that her part in the big picture conquest of the promised land was pretty small. I mean, Jericho probably would have been taken regardless of the spies eluding capture, but that is not the point.

The point of the story, the point of God’s favor and blessing on Rahab, and the point that James is making, is that it is not the significance or standing in man’s eyes, it is not the outward appearance or having a clean record of holiness and purity—it’s what are you doing today, it’s who are you when the chips are down, how do you respond when your hour comes and God is giving you an opportunity for action, calling you to fulfill your purpose, to make a real difference, to bless and help someone in a real tangible way.

Rahab literally saved the lives of two men and endangered her and her family in the process; two men she had never met before from a strange people she had only heard horror stories about—the Hebrew refugees from Egypt who are mowing down everyone who gets in their way. But, they have this God. . .

And what this God saw in Rahab the Harlot was a heart that wanted to do what was right, that said yes to him when it mattered the most, and when it was probably the hardest to say yes.

God said ‘show me the fruit Rahab’, and she did. And her faith saved her.

A faith lived out is a faith lived in. A faith walked out is a faith that will carry you home.

This is the Hour

A Prophetic Word

As we continue in this season of seemingly ever increasing insanity, fear, evil and uncertainty, all of us who love the Lord, and seek his wisdom, ways and understanding are wondering –What is going on and how do we respond?

I–as all of God’s people including his prophets and pastors, those who humbly seek his face–have been seeking a word from the Lord as we need to hear from him if we are survive–not just survive but overcome–in this hour of decision.

And this is what the Lord has shown me:

This is the hour–the hour in which we the church, and the people of this world, stand in the balance together yet on opposing sides. The group that prevails, that provokes the Lord and forces him to decide in favor of one or the other, life or death, judgement or favor, blessings or curses–that is entirely up to us now.

I see two cauldrons, bowls if you will, hanging over us in the heavens. One is the bowl of the wrath of God, a bowl of loathsome and terrible things that he has done all in his power, without destroying the free will of those created in his image, to prevent having to empty on mankind.

And the other is the overflowing vessel full of his Holy Spirit’s love and power. They are the blessings of life and freedom that we were created to enjoy, forfeited in favor of lies and deceptions from the evil one who hates all things good as they are of the Father he vainly tried to usurp. They are the blessings that are available to us because of the sacrifice of his only begotten Son.

Those cauldrons are hanging precariously over us, each tipped at an angle suggesting they are about to spill their contents entirely and once that happens there will be no stopping it. On is tipping to to east and one is tipping to the west. The direction is irrelevant geographically speaking other than to suggest that they must be poured out in opposite directions because they cannot be poured out together as they cannot mix or mingle–it is an either or set up.

Below the cauldron of wrath are those who stir up, celebrate and provoke evil. Darkness perpetuates evil and is now threatening to swallow the earth including the last vestiges of light and freedom, the land that once openly confessed Jesus as Lord and afforded all the freedom and opportunity to seek him as they so chose.

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.” Revelation 15:7

Those who oppose that life giving gospel message of freedom, equality and redemption are actively provoking all of those who still embrace that message and the God behind it and in so doing they are prodding that cauldron of misery from below and by this reckless action they are causing the loathsome things within to splash on them and on all around them. Yet they only use that poison to further rile up those who choose to listen to the lies of their father the devil rather than turn to the creator and be healed.

That cauldron is being prodded to the point that it is about to be emptied on their own heads, and on the heads of every living thing on this planet. That will be the end and there will be no more chances, no more salvations, healings, or mercies. We will have brought on the final judgement and only the promise of the new heavens and a new earth to follow will allow those who have put their hopes in Jesus to escape the misery of this fallen and cursed world.

But there is still that other cauldron, the vessel of God’s love awaiting release to be poured out on this hurting world and bring fresh life and renewal, to give opportunity for this, and subsequent generations, to find redemption hope and healing.

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;” Acts 2:17

This Spirit generated renewal will overcome the darkness and cleanse the land of sickness, prejudice, hatred and anger. The Spirit of the living God and his word will rid the land of deceptions and lies. Deceptions and lies that have wreaked havoc in the hearts and now the streets of this land that was so blessed and held such great promise–and still can, if we will but turn from our evil ways, turn our hearts to Jesus and rise up as the Holy Army we are called to be.

We have a prod as well. A prodding stick that is reaching up for that cauldron of blessings and power and that has even hit it a few tentative times and released tastes of the goodness within. But as this point the prods are weak and ineffective as those who are prodding the cauldron of wrath are intimidating those below the blessings so that they are afraid to raise their prods to heaven lest they be called out for being bigots and racists, haters and ‘phobes.

This is the hour. We must choose which cauldron will be emptied in this, the last days, as the enemy makes his final last gasp desperate attempt to take all of God’s children with him to his destruction. We must choose to stand together as the church and proclaim healing for the brokenhearted, sight for the blind and release for the captives, because tomorrow will be too late.

We must pray like never before. We must stand on God’s word unapologetically and we must never kneel before evil.

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phillipians 2:1011

Kneel before God and him alone, that is the only thing that will save this nation, and this world.

We have an opportunity like we have never been given before–let’s release the power of heaven!

Let the Spirit bear witness to your spirit as to the truth of these words. -Pastor Dan Swaningson

Pentecost Challenge

“The Holy Spirit does does His greatest work when we are gathered together in one accord. If there was ever a time when we needed that, this is it.”

It disturbs me greatly as a pastor and preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ how casual much of the church has gotten in their embrace of questionable behaviors. Or, to put it bluntly, why is sin not taken seriously anymore?

lay aside wickedness

James 1:21

Perhaps the church has gotten so good at loving the sinner that they forgot to hate the sin, and then got sucked into it. Perhaps we have become so focused on grace that we misplaced repentance. Perhaps we became so adept at hearing the word that we confused hearing with doing.

We threw out the baby with the bath water. Embracing the free gift of grace while forgetting why we needed that gift in the first place—because we have all transgressed the law of God from top to bottom—and needed to bathe in the blood of Christ and the waters of baptism.

But then we threw out the law entirely because it makes us uncomfortable. It reminds us of who we were and that at the same time we are not yet anywhere near where we should be in the holiness department by God’s standards.

We can’t repent of something if we don’t know it’s a sin. If there is no penalty for sin, then why worry about it? Well, there is a penalty for sin, and the Son of God suffered it. He suffered a horrendous and unimaginably horrible death that afflicted every nerve in his tortured body with pain, and he endured betrayals and injustices that tortured his psyche in ways we cannot fathom—all of this at the hands of the people he created and loved enough to endure it for.

So yes, your grace is a free gift to you, but it cost the one who purchased it for you dearly.

1 Cor 6 Jesus

So when you look in the mirror and see a hearer of the word and not a doer, (James 1:23) resolve to do something about it. You’ll be surprised at the power that comes with that free gift of grace.

Grace is not just forgiveness, grace is power, the power of God in your life to be holy just as he is holy, the strength to overcome and the catalyst for the renewing of your mind that gives you the desire to lay aside all filthiness and to overflow with living water instead of wickedness.

The Holy word that was planted in your heart to the saving of your soul is also your strength and your call to cast aside the sin which so easily entangles (Heb)and walk in the freedom of his grace as doers of the word and not just hearers only.

Today is Pentecost Sunday. GO TO CHURCH. The Holy Spirit does does His greatest work when we are gathered together in one accord. If there was ever a time when we needed that, this is it.
And if your church is not open–find one that is! Yes I said it.

‘The Holy Communion of the saints is essential for the life of the church and for the strengthening of the covenant.’ –HS

Pentacost Dove

Are You Not entertained!?

“A warrior needs to be taking on the enemy in a battle that means something, not in an arena.”

A couple of weekends ago I was in our small church building trying to get the lights just right so that attendees and the camera could see the folks up front without them being blinded, adjusting monitor; trying to work the bugs out of the sound, both in the house and on the live feed, is a constant ongoing battle, the Power Point programs and the background pictures I use on the screen to enhance the message and the verses in a way that all can see them, thinking about the placement of the worship team and facilitating all of that both for those in house and the camera, the slow internet speeds and on and on.

I was trying to work through all of that when it all just kind of overwhelmed me a bit (I have no tech people) and I threw up my hands and shouted at the back wall–

“Are you not entertained?”

maximus

In my mind at that moment I was Russel Crowe playing Maximus,  in the movie Gladiator holding up my blood dripping sword after having lobbed the heads off of all of my technological issues and not having any fun whatsoever doing it. In fact I was rather frustrated because it is not what I want to be doing, but it just seems necessary, expected and required.

Like fighting and killing just for show. Fighting and sometimes killing is necessary at times to protect what and who you love and cherish from harm but when it becomes a sport to be cheered it no longer serves a noble purpose.

 A warrior needs to be taking on the enemy in a battle that means something, not in an arena.

Maximus was a noble warrior who is forced to fight for show. He had been a respected general leading a Roman legion, fighting against the barbarians in the north for an Emperor he loved, for what he perceived to be a noble cause, when he was betrayed and found himself in the hands of slavers and sold to a purveyor of the gladiator arena.

After having been forced to fight in several different arenas, using his extensive military experience and skill to become a money making crowd pleaser he is becoming more and more disgusted at the whole system so one day he walks into some backwater arena where he is facing six opponents by himself and he becomes a flurry of steel and sinew as all six opponents are quickly dispatched within a matter of seconds.

As the crowd sits in stunned silence at the display of efficient, no nonsense swordsmanship, Maximus turns to them and sarcastically shouts—“Are you not entertained? –are you not entertained!?”

His trainer and owner then derides him after the show for not putting on a show—”if you want to become truly famous, if you want to make it to the Colosseum in Rome, you have to put on a show, that’s what the people want.”

Frustration

 

Maximus was right in being frustrated that he had to put on a show when the end goal was to dispatch the enemy. For the most part, those in the arena who were put forward as gladiators were captured enemy soldiers or criminals sentenced to death. A quick and efficient execution would have sufficed but they made it into a sport to appease the citizens who needed some distraction from the shortfalls of the leaders and the misery of their day to day.

And once that system, that show was started, the more they demanded and the more creative they had to be in turning killing into entertainment. And it was all about keeping the people happy and pacified.

How many pastors and evangelists feel the same way; ‘Why can I not just get up here and slay the enemy, stomp the devil and his demons and release those he has deceived and put into bondage with the sharp sword of the word of God and release the power of grace in the hearts of God’s children by the life changing, life giving Holy Spirit?

Why the song and dance? Why the multimillion dollar gilded stadiums, the Broadway worthy stages and actors, the lighting and effects, sound and video technologies, that would make any high dollar Rock band feel right at home if they were dropped onto the stage? Why the special events and carefully planned activities that would make a cruise ship director proud?

Are you not entertained?!

recieve with meekness

We are asked to receive the word with meekness. Should it not be sufficient also to deliver the word of God to be implanted in your souls with meekness as well? Meekness means with humility, gentleness, quietness, it certainly doesn’t mean with as loud and as grand a show as you can afford or imagine.

And receiving the word with meekness means not demanding that you be entertained, that your ears be tickled, in the process. The churches feel the pressure to put on a show because the people have come to expect it, and to expect even more. —”Otherwise I’m going golfing—wait, that church on the other side of town, I hear they have an amazingly talented worship team and the drama team, Wow, they are top notch!”

Meanwhile the rest of us are just trying not to lose the remote to the PowerPoint slide show while hoping that no one trips on the mic  cord to the phone we are using to try and keep our church service on Facebook, and that those who run Facebook don’t shut us down because we are preaching the whole gospel and not just the ‘aren’t we all wonderful parts.’

Jesus is Lord and he loves us so much that he died on the cross because of our sins. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. And the Holy Spirit is also alive and well and wants to indwell, heal and lead you, but you must be obedient to his voice and his word if you want to be used of him to make a difference. And you must be willing to get out of your comfortable little happy bubble and be Jesus to a sick and dying world because he is coming back. And then it will be too late to do all that we had put off.’ —That’s the whole gospel.

doers and hearers

We are to be doers and not just hearers.

That’s the unvarnished, life changing, soul saving, devil slaying gospel of Jesus Christ.

What are we going to do with it? How do we become doers?

The Sheep and the Goats

James gives us the answer—get out and change the world, one hurting person at a time, without letting the world change you.

helping hand

It’s the same thing Jesus told us. Who is it that he recognizes at the judgement seat as he separates the sheep from the goats? Those who remembered and visited him when he was sick and in prison, who clothed and fed him when he was naked and hungry.

He recognizes the doers, not those who were only hearers—and talkers.

And why would you not want to make a difference in this world? If you truly have the heart of Jesus, know the love and hope he offers and know the depths of his love, how can you look at those who hurt and not love them like Jesus does? And if you truly love, you will act.

I don’t blame the church for the state of apathy and spiritual arrogance. I blame the leaders who teach what they think will bring people in instead of what will truly save them from missing out on all that God has for them. For allowing them to wallow in filth.

The Holy word that was planted in your heart to the saving of your soul is also your strength and your call to cast aside “the sin which so easily entangles” (Heb) and walk in the freedom of his grace as doers of the word and not just hearers only.

lay aside wickedness

 

Triggers

“Triggers are only the flesh trying to convince you that you are weak–you are not….”

Pressure is pretty much unavoidable in this life so avoiding it is not really an option nor a sign of godly character, actually quite the opposite is true—it seems the more you care about others and doing right, being responsible and loving, the more apt you are to experience and feel pressure. And the more you are entrusted with, the more apt you are to feel pressure.

So then the question becomes—how do you respond to pressure? It’s how we handle that pressure? That becomes the important thing as far as our emotional and spiritual health goes; and that is what the Lord is watching and hoping we learn because if we are not exuding grace under pressure, we are probably not handling it right, and that can get us into big trouble.

tempted drink

There are many things that can trigger us. Trigger us to do stupid things–to sin.

Pressure can cause us to sin through anxiety or fear. ‘Oh my gosh! How am I going to get through this—survive this? What if I don’t? How could you leave me here to suffer and deal with this? Why God, why did you do this to me?’ That is a total lack of trust and faith and borders on blasphemy, blaming God for our troubles as though we deserve nothing but sunshine and roses.

God does not cause our troubles. Nine times out of ten it is a result of our own bad choices, somewhere along the line. And the rest of the time it is the result of someone else’s bad choices—maybe even all the way back to Adam and Eve whose bad choices brought sin, sickness and death into this world to start with.

Another way we can give way to sin under pressure, fail the trial, is by turning to harmful substances or behaviors to distract and “help us forget our troubles.”

Now there is the biggest lie we have ever told ourselves. Drinking, smoking, snorting or shooting, however you feed your mind numbing addictions, only make the troubles loom larger and seem more overwhelming as you dull or alter your ability to deal with or resolve those problems in a healthy constructive way. And that quickly creates a whole new set problems—more unneeded, totally avoidable, bad choice pressure.

Everyone forgets that alcohol is a depressant until they drink to forget their woes and turn into the saddest whiniest fool in the room.

And marijuana just makes you stupid as you forget everything, including your ambitions, goals, and where you left your car keys.

All the other drugs just make you forget what your car even looks like and how to drive it—but that’s okay because eventually you will not have a car, or a license, a job, or any dignity—but you will have a purpose in life—getting more of your drug of choice no matter what it takes. Addicts are the most dedicated people around, dedicated to self-destruction and avoiding all responsibility and pressure.

Anyway, backing up just a bit from sleeping in a carboard box surrounded by empty cans of Schlitz tall boys—the lie that gets us there, to that ‘nothing else matters anymore except getting my fix’ state, is much more subtle and starts small. It’s a little here, a little there as the flesh is a many deceitful thing left to its own accord.

‘A little was okay yesterday so more must be okay today, and I need this.’

Part of the deceit is that the things we claim to be doing to forget our pressures, are things the flesh is pushing us to do anyway, pressure or not. And this latest pressure we may be experiencing, whatever it is— there will always be something— is just a convenient excuse to indulge the flesh. And whenever we dull our senses, we open ourselves up to even greater sins.

put off the old nature

The same goes for succumbing to lust, pressure is another excuse we use to indulge in things we know we ought not. I just need comfort, to relieve some stress, to be understood. This can lead to all kinds of unhealthy and grievous sin that only hurts our relationship with the Lord and damages our own souls.

Blessed

So, you probably get the point by now—withstand the test

Persevering under trial means not giving in to sin. Not giving in to temptation, not using it as an excuse or justification for sin, and not losing control of our emotions and lashing out to hurt others.

Grace under pressure, tapping into the power of grace under pressure, leaves us blessed—wiser and stronger—for the battles ahead.

We must allow the Lord room to work and give him the glory when he does—we are not in this, any of this, alone.

What do you do with pressure? Do you carry it alone thinking that you are alone, and you alone can fix it? Do you panic? Stick your head in the sand? Drug yourself until you are comfortably numb?

Or do you give it to God, seek him for wisdom and strength, and learn all that you can in the midst of it so you can be stronger and wiser the next time.

The answer is indicative of where you are in your walk with the Lord, your state of grace; whether you are walking the walk or just talking the talk, as James so poignantly challenges us with throughout his letter. God’s grace is fully available and accessible to all who trust in his Son. We must learn to trust in it and keep us in the fight growing and learning, don’t be deceived, you cannot be destroyed and God is not out to get you.

He loves you immensely and desires to bless, heal and equip you.

Triggers are only the flesh trying to convince you that you are weak–you are not, you are a warrior and a child of God.

Barbarian woman wolf

Free your inner warrior today; Read  Barbarians in the Kingdom

book cover

 

How Are You Doing?

Grace under pressureMany in this season of uncertainty and change are feeling the pressure of stress and disappointment. The stress of the unknown and uncertainty and the disappointment of ruined plans and dashed hopes. You may even think God’s plans for you have been stymied, and that is hugely disappointing. I know, I have been there, more times than I care to admit.

But God is not so easily thwarted and he only sees opportunity where we see dead ends—we need to learn to do the same.

If God has called you, gifted and equipped you for a specific mission, ministry, career or given you a passion to affect change somewhere, to make a difference in the world, in people’s lives—whatever it is that you feel God was leading you into to be a light and an instrument of change—that has not changed!

Sovereign

God is still sovereign.

Do you really think a Governor or a county health director can stop God’s plans? Do you really think God is not bigger than a virus that only picks on the old and compromised?

Do you really believe that God is sent into a panic and mere survival mode by a hyperventilating news media or confused by ‘he said, she said, it’s your fault, nuh-ah it’s your fault’ bickering and power hungry politicians?

Do you think God is stopped short of finishing what he has started by a lack of funds because of lost jobs and the fact that his offering plates aren’t getting passed because the big houses of worship are closed? —NO!

He is in fact seeing what we are all made of in all of this and using this time to refine his church. We are all in the pressure cooker right now and our preparedness for his service is being expedited like has not happened in a long time.

crown of life

Those who persevere will be rewarded, they will receive all that God had and has planned for them.

Those who were only in it for what they could get will be cast aside like yesterday’s chicken bones.

The Call

God is not done with you, God is not discouraged, and God cannot be stopped.

gifts from above

That calling, that equipping, those talents and experiences and the wisdom to know how to use those all together, or at least were beginning to have an inkling of, as the Lord was leading you step by step—those things were from God. That was, and is, the Holy Spirit leading you, encouraging you, giving you a vision.

“Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of heavenly lights.” You didn’t conjure up and develop those gifts on your own or for no good reason.

You did not acquire that “fire in your heart and shut up in your bones” (Jer 20:9) just to have your plan and purpose stymied by  a sickness induced political and social shift.

Schools may be shut down, travel made nearly impossible and social interactions limited, but God is not.

Businesses may shut down and many most likely for good as they fail after months of no revenue meaning lost jobs and opportunities, but God is not worried.

Weddings and funerals, birthday parties and graduations cancelled, funerals banned and still, the uncertainty of whether or not we are even safe yet from this virus as many of the so called experts and those in power are all screaming we’re all going to die if we dare get on with life! while others are calling it all one big conspiracy designed to strip us of our freedom and our identity— hangs over all of our heads, but God is not worried.

We don’t know what all the agendas are behind all the hype and seemingly over the top power grabs and irrational controls, and what is truly necessary and what is just human foolishness swayed by demonic deceptions and intrigue, but God is not worried.

We don’t know a lot of things in this season as a nation and as citizens of a world that has gotten very small in our lifetimes.

What we do know— is that our choices are severely limited right now as are our options and opportunities. This is truly causing a deep societal anxiety that has us all under a great amount of pressure, that cannot be overstated or ignored, it’s very real.

It seems that all our hopes and dreams, our plans and schemes are all in jeopardy of crashing down, as are the plans that God had for us.

But are they? Are God’s plans for you thwarted? Is your life and purpose forfeited because God was caught off guard by this upheaval? Are your opportunities to serve, follow, growto fulfill the dreams and chase the plan he has for you wherever it may lead— are they all gone?

No, they most certainly are not. The one who gave you those gifts to use, develop and to make a difference, to advance the Kingdom of Heaven and to storm the gates of hell, setting the captives free and bringing sight to the blind and healing to the broken hearted, He does not change like shifting shadows.

And  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth,” God’s word does not change, it does not perish, it is never wrong and it is what he used to place that fire in you, to cast the vision in your heart, and it will not return back to him empty and unfulfilled.

And the pressure you are feeling and experiencing today may very well what God is using as the catalyst for your tomorrow, to perfect you and move you into your destiny.Jeremiah 20.9How are you doing?

Trials and Tests

“I’m not good at the patience thing when I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Test of Faith

We don’t always think about faith and patience being intertwined but they really are. What is faith if it’s not waiting for something that we have not yet achieved or possessed? And what gets us through hard times?—trials, if it’s not patience; patiently waiting for the manifestation of that which we hope for, believing that it is coming.

The Long Trial

Ten years ago I was going through quite a trial. Two years earlier we had bought twenty acres and financed the purchase of a beautiful modular home, built a garage, new fences, we were set up pretty well there. I had a good job in Construction with a company I had been with for many years, plus another job as the children’s pastor at a church in Billings that brought in a few more bucks—and then the bottom fell out of the economy.

Construction took a major hit and to top it off we got a new field manager who seemed to have a set of favorites (drinking buddies) who got the few good projects we had, and I was not one of them. I ended up getting laid off for months at a time over the next two years and with a brand new and substantial mortgage payment due every month the finances were looking grimmer and grimmer.

I was really feeling the pressure as the bills came due every month and we would have no idea where the money was coming from. Long story short, God took care of us and we never missed a payment but I knew I had to do something. We had barely recovered from years of financial hardship caused by a major back injury—and here we are again—’I need a steady income! I have to take care of my family!’

I started my church in Red Lodge in the middle of all that also by the way, because the Lord was asking me to—‘sell my house and move to Carbon County? Right after the housing market has crashed and the big mortgage companies gone bust?’

Now there was a trial—I can’t say I was counting it all joy—but I had to remain faithful. Nervously, impatiently faithful, but faithful nonetheless, and here we are.

But, I was determined to fix my own lot in the midst of this; ‘I have to be working, I can’t sit home and keep waiting and hoping for this months’ miracle to get our bills paid and unemployment benefits are not enough.’

 So I started looking for another job, no one was willing to pay me a full time salary to preach, and I had been called to start a church from scratch in Red Lodge anyway and I only know how to do two things, preach and build things.Preacher Dan

So I started looking for another job. Turned out there was not a lot of commercial builders looking for a Job Superintendent with a bad back in the middle of a recession.

I went to see an old friend who had a construction company in town, someone I had actually worked with years earlier when he was a foreman with the company I was with,  but he had built up a pretty good company of his own since then. He was more than happy to talk to me, he’s a fellow believer also, but he said he just didn’t have enough work to put on another foreman at that point.

“Dan, I would love to have you and I might have more work soon, but I gotta tell you, knowing what I know about the outfit you’re with, I would just be patient for now and stick it out there. You are a good superintendent, the estimators like you, and there are some changes coming that will greatly improve your lot.” “Some of the older supers are going to retire soon and you will find yourself at the top.”

 

When I told my wife Donna what he said, she looked greatly relieved and said, he’s right. She didn’t like the idea of me jumping ship in the midst of a storm, and honestly, neither did I but I’m not good at the patience thing when I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But my old friend was right, soon the construction market in Eastern Montana picked up, largely thanks to the Bakken oil field money, Our house sold and we didn’t loose any money on it and the field manager who couldn’t seem to keep me working was let go and eventually the old guard of the top foreman, did retire.

I was blessed with great favor translating into raises and more importantly, steady work. And last year, when the bottom suddenly fell out from under the company I worked for for nearly three decades, that favor and blessing all rolled over into an even better job doing the same thing with most of the same people and for better money still, with a company that truly appreciates me.

IMG_2954

And the church we started in Red Lodge has been changing lives and healing hearts throughout. And that is an ongoing and blessed story of trails and victories.

Bottom line in the whole scenario—I just had to be patient, and have faith. God had never stopped working on my behalf.

joy

So now, when the trials come—and there have been many since then in various shapes and forms—I do not worry and fret anymore. I count it all joy. Not the giddy, ‘devil may care, but I don’t’, kind of joy, but the ‘I know this is going to be alright and that God is going to use this to accomplish something good, something I cannot see  or even imagine right now kind of joy.

So rejoice in the trials of the day.  In this trial—you are being perfected.

Heal this Land

We have to trust and seek the Lord to heal us of this pandemic, and give him the glory for the healing that has begun.Heal the Land

I believe the healing has already begun. We did not experience near the horrors that were predicted or expected, and we cannot take all the credit for that.

In reality, hiding from this virus will only prolong it. Left to it’s own devices, this virus, as all do, will spread to as many people as it can reach so long as there is still one person in the world who has it. It will not go away until all who have survived it outnumber those who have not had it and break the chain of the spread.

I mean, that’s just reality. Historical epidemics bear that out.

And we all know how ineffective the annual flu vaccines have been, I wouldn’t put too much stock in that solution.

But we serve a God who is not bound by our reality, the reality in which we are all subject to the curse and can only wait in fear for our turn to suffer.

Our God has overcome the curse by dying for our sins and he carried our infirmities, through His Son Jesus Christ so we do not have to be subject to the whims of microscopic invaders and destroyers of the living.

And we do not have to fear the death that inevitably comes to all living things, regardless, because for us it is only the beginning of eternity, free once for all from all death and sorrow.

Last weekend an old friend showed up in our just reopened church, Bill, I don’t know how old he is but he’s up there.

After service he insisted on shaking my hand and said, “My daughter tells me that I should be careful because I am one of those who is at risk. I told her getting out and living my life is a winwin. If I don’t get sick, I wasn’t stuck at home alone and enjoyed my last days, and if I do get sick, I am going home to glory where I will no longer be old and frail.”

Amen and praise God for that.By his stripes

Thanks to Jesus Christ we do not fear death. But we do not need to live in fear of this virus either. Even centuries before Jesus died for our sins and healed us by his stripes. God promised his people that if they as a nation would turn to him, they would be healed.

13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chron 7:13—14

And notice that in this promise from Chronicles he specifically mentioned pestilence. So there is a promise we can stand on, and thank him for.

God has begun the healing, I believe that during the Easter and Passover season as all of God’s people were holed up in their homes, collectively praying, perhaps like they have never prayed before, that God heard our prayers and stopped that virus in it’s tracks.

And that is what it’s going to take to keep it from regaining steam and wreaking the havoc it was advertised to wreak. No more wreaking wreaker! In Jesus name! As Dora the Explorer might  say; ‘Wreaker stop wreaking!’

We cannot stop praying, seeking the Lord’s face, humbling ourselves. We cannot stop thanking the Lord for our health and well being, for the life and the blessings that we enjoy and for the challenges that teach us valuable lessons and keep us looking to the Lord who is always there to help us through.

Pray that the perverseness and the wickedness that has run rampant in our land for far too long is recognized for what it is and that the light of the world scours it from the land like the sunshine does this virus.

All of us need to pray for forgiveness for our parts in letting this nation get to the wicked state, that much of it is, by our own willingness to compromise, to go along to get along, to allow our morality to be subjective and relative to anything other than the word of God.

And we all need to repent of our own sins, our own failings and seek to be holy just as he is holy. Then, this pestilence will be no more forever and we can began the harvest the Lord has promised in earnest.

uproot them

Because if we don’t, if we continue to turn to other Gods, the kind we bow down to and the kind we lust after, America, at least as we know it, will be no more. And our children’s children will tell stories of a long ago and far away land where people once lived free and were blessed beyond measure with things kings of old could only dream of. Camelot lost, Atlantis sunk, just another legend of a place to fantastic to be believed.

 

Guard your soul

guard your soul

But we are not going to let that happen. We are going to guard our souls, possess our souls. There again is that admonition we keep running into lately to safeguard our souls, our inner being, our hearts, from outside influence and harm.

You cannot train up a child, let alone a nation, in the way they should go if you are not guarding your own soul.

The Lord has been calling us to holiness, I have told you that over and over again these past two or three years. Holiness is a guarding of the soul. It’s turning away from the lusts of the flesh, the pursuit of worldly goods and pleasures at the expense of our relationships with Jesus and in place of answering our call to whatever it is the Lord has called and purposed you for, not to mentioned gifted and equipped you for.

Some have taken that challenge seriously, many have not.

Well, here we are, mission critical as the time is upon us, the time for all who have answered the call, who have prayed and fasted, sought and cried out to God, devoured his word and loved his people, now is the time to pray and seek like never before; “God, what would you have me do now? How can I be a vessel of your love in this time of harvest? Pour out your Spirit, let your glory be known and seen by all, and give me the strength and the courage to be a part of it.”

Help me to train up a nation, forgive and heal this land and help us to build something real, something good, something beautiful and blessed on the foundation that you have laid, in my life, in my home and in my nation.

And start right here today, in my heart. Help me to guard my soul, the soul that you died to bring back to life, not the living dead life of darkness and emptiness that I knew before I knew you, but the eternal ‘nothing can touch me, no one can steal my joy or my hope’ kind of life that only you can give.

In the name of Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life, Creator Savior and Lord, I pray these things and I thank you for the healing.

Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!Blessed Nation