Really, here in Plevna?

How he knew where I was, why he was even in the area—I still don’t know. But here he is, the building inspector…

one of many churches in Plevna

Years ago I was sent to a little town in eastern Montana called Plevna to do some work on a church. Unless you are from that area you have probably never heard of it. It’s just east of Ismay. . .which should clear that right up.

The project manager told me to just load up and head over there. (over 200 miles away) He couldn’t remember the name of the church but, he said, it’s a tiny town you should have no problem finding the church, it’s the white one with the bad sidewalks.

Guess what, there are six churches in Plevna, and they were mostly all white with old sidewalks that looked like they needed replaced. In fact, it turns out that the name Plevna is an eastern European word (Turkish, Bulgarian?) that means many churches.

Anyway, after a phone call back to the office for a little more information I found the right church. It was the Baptist church, and we went to work replacing sidewalks and improving the drainage from the site to keep the water out of the basement.

Now, I am in the middle of nowhere by most reckonings. A couple of miles off of a secondary highway on the back side of a small town, working at a small church— and after a couple of weeks on the job, guess who shows up. The State building inspector.

The first thing you see coming into Plevna

Now, aside from the few bigger towns who have their own building inspectors, there are two state inspectors that cover the entire state, one the western half, and the other the eastern half.

That’s a lot of territory. How he knew where I was, why he was even in the area—I still don’t know. But here he is; “I heard there was a project going on here so I thought I had better check it out. I don’t think anyone pulled a permit for this did they?”

Um, I don’t know. Excuse me, I need to call the office. The office told me that the value of the project was under the dollar amount that required a building permit. When I told the inspector that he said, “Well that might be true, but when you are doing anything that changes an egress, you have to have a review and a permit.”

For those of you non construction types, an egress is the way you enter and exit a building. So I told him, well, we are not changing any doors or paths of travel inside or out. He saw all the new concrete around the front door and just assumed that we had changed everything.

No, all we did was bust out the old and put in new, it’s all exactly the way it was before—without the big cracks. “Oh, okay, I guess your good then, have a nice day!”

The moral of the story is, no matter how far away and tucked away you are, you can’t hide from the building inspector. But I was not doing anything wrong, in fact, I was diligently doing my best and that little church got a nice new sidewalk among other things. A few Baptists in Plevna MT were blessed and I have since been entrusted with much larger projects—and have a great rapport and trusting relationship with the state building inspector–who never fails to find me.

You never know when the chief shepherd is going to show up, so you had best be found playing by the rules.

Obscurity

And take care of that with which you are entrusted.

Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away. 1 Peter 5

There is a phrase, more of a concept really, that has been on my mind and heart a lot lately. I first heard it about two years ago, a prophecy with a promise, that those who are diligently laboring in obscurity will be the ones God uses in a mighty way to accomplish his purposes in the great harvest to come.

Pastor Mario Murillo https://mariomurilloministries.wordpress.com/ is the one who has been speaking this message. But the Holy Spirit has sealed that word in my heart.

I have certainly felt at times like I am laboring in obscurity here, in my little Red Lodge church, diligently toiling away, fixing broken things at a small church in a small town that few know even exists let alone try to find. But there is one who sees, one who knows, and he will reward us, all of us who are quietly working, doing the best we can without thought to what we can get out of it or our own advancement.

For all of you, my fellow shepherds and bond servants of Christ, toiling in dry fields far from the lights of notoriety, in the Ismays, Plevnas and Red Lodges of the world, hear this;

In that quiet humility and eagerness to just do what God asks us to do, because we love him and his, and for no other reason, we will be blessed with grace and favor that will one day turn into a crown of glory that will make us forget all about the days of frustration and doubt that we may have had.

The chief Shepherd is watching us, and he knows exactly where we are— and he is pleased.

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Leadman

As a good leader you know that everything that happens under your watch is your responsibility.

Years ago I was working on a project at Rocky Mountain College in Billings. It was an addition on the Student Union building. I showed up shortly after it started to help form the walls for the foundation and quickly realized that the guys who were doing the work did not have all the stuff they needed, namely whaler brackets, and they did not really know what they were doing —the hundred foot of wall they were forming was as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

The foreman was off getting some parts at the yard so I made a phone call to the shop to try and catch him because the guys had told me what he was after and I knew it was not what we needed.

I was no expert but I had been on a couple of big concrete jobs by then and had learned from the best. This was long before everyone carried cell phones so the best I could do was call the office and hope someone could run out to the yard and give him the message.

I missed the foreman, he had come and gone, but somehow I ended up talking to the big boss and I explained to him what was going on and he agreed that ‘yeah, you need some whaler brackets to straighten that wall— why don’t they have any?’  

We soon had some whaler brackets. Of course then I was worried that the foreman would be angry that I had seemingly gone over his head to get the right parts. Instead he was grateful that I had set the wall and the crew straight—he admitted that he was not very experienced in doing concrete foundations. I had to admire his humility anyway.

As the job progressed it wasn’t long before the crew was looking to me for guidance on how to form the walls that got higher and more complicated as we worked around the building. I was just a carpenter, same as everyone else, but one day the foreman came to me and asked, “Dan, I would like you to run the concrete crew.”

I said, “That would be fine but if you want me to push these guys I need to get paid to make it worth the push back.” (Actually I said it in more blunt construction terms; “If I’m going to be an asshole, I need asshole pay”) He said he would talk to the big boss and see what he says.

A day or two later the big boss came out to take a look at the job and he came over to where I was working and looked at a corner in the twelve foot tall foundation wall we were forming. He saw some bracing he thought was inadequate and said, “You know the hydraulic pressure of that much concrete is probably going to blow out that corner the way it’s done there.”

I looked at it and said, “Well, yeah, you’re probably right. I didn’t form this corner, Randy and Monty did.” At this —and I’ll never forget this—he turned and looked me in the eye and said; “A foreman has to take responsibility for everything his crew does.”

I looked at him for a moment and simply replied; “I’ll make sure it gets taken care of.”

That was his way of telling me that I was now the official leadman and I did get an extra dollar an hour on my paycheck. And a couple years later I got promoted to foreman.

We all have those moments when something changes the way you think and set’s you on a better course that leads to favor and blessing—if we’ll humble ourselves and listen.

I remember that day well, standing there in that hole on a hot summer day some 25 years ago, covered in form oil, dust and sweat, and it was a lesson I never forgot. And I still live by that rule to this day, as a Job superintendent and as a leader in the church. With authority comes great responsibility and everything that happens under your watch is your responsibility. And you cannot throw people under the buss to make yourself look faultless.

In the end that only makes you look small, and the people you lead will stop respecting you and the quality of the work will suffer greatly. Carrying the load of others’ mistakes or failures is never easy but that is what those who would lead, whether in business or in the church, are called to do.

It’s not just taking the responsibility, it’s striving to help others avoid those mistakes going forward and to recover and recoup from the mistakes already made.

Heavy is the Head

There’s an old saying that was popularized by William Shakespeare in Henry the IV; “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.”

Everyone wants to be in charge, until they are. True leaders know that they are servants who get others to follow by showing them the way, not just telling—carrying the burdens with them, not just demanding that they be carried. True leaders have been there and done that which they are now expecting of others while knowing that if the job is not done he will likely have to do or fix it himself.

Am I talking about construction or ministry? —both. Heavy is the head that wears the crown whether it’s a white hard hat or the anointing oil of ordination. And the older you get, and the more you understand the significance and the reasons why, the greater the burden becomes and the more valuable your leadership.

If others will listen. It’s the fool who despises the words of their elders.

Which is why we are told to submit.

People who have earned their authority didn’t get there by being lazy or foolish.

It is not for naught that Jesus gives certain persons the gift of leadership and then has them earn their crown—pay their dues so to speak. Those who don’t are more likely to fall, or more likely be knocked off their high horses.

Grace and favor come to the humble.

Our humility today, our humble and faithful service, will gain us the crown of glory. We do not get to lord over anyone today as if we have already been glorified and all must look up to us. We have our greatest example of that, of course in Jesus. Jesus set aside his glory and became a servant, a suffering servant.

Exaltation through Humility. Jesus literally took the blame for everything mankind has ever done, he bore all our sins on that cross, exemplified love, grace and selflessness and is now wearing the crown of the king of glory over all the universe.

Certainly, his was a heavy head as it was crowned with thorns. But he did it because he knew that the end result was worth it, the end result being the redemption of those he loved.

The same thing that should motivate us.

A Proclamation to the Spirits

In 1 Peter there is a tantalizing and seemingly random statement that brings about all sorts of speculation as to what, exactly, Peter is referring to.

He went and preached to the spirits in prison

Most likely this refers to Jesus making a proclamation to the fallen angles, spirits, who were imprisoned during the building of the ark for the untenable crime of procreating with human women and polluting the human race.

Jesus’ preaching, his proclamation, was one of victory and triumph that by his suffering, death and resurrection, he has sealed their final fate, theirs, and all who have opposed the Father and followed their own selfish agendas and joined in the rebellion of Satan. This is reinforced with Peter’s assertion a few verses later that angels and authorities and powers have been made subject to Him. 1 Peter 3: 22

I see in this section of scripture from Peter and others like it a proclamation. A proclamation to all of mankind that we are free and have nothing to fear, that whatever suffering we endure today for the sake of doing what is right and good will soon come to an end and will not be for naught.

I see a proclamation by Christ himself to all the devils, demons, fallen angles, ghosts and goblins, whatever you choose to call them and in whatever form they come to taunt us, that we are now his and always will be.

Let me take a bit of license here, Spirit led and Scripture backed license—because that’s what preachers do.

I see Jesus, having been risen from the cold finality of the tomb. Made alive by the Spirit—The Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God—making a public proclamation. Preaching a sermon that was for the ears of every spirit of every kind and station in the cosmos—angels, principalities and powers—Jesus, the resurrected and glorified King of Heaven, the Son of God through whom and for whom all things were created things in heaven and on earth, (Col 1) standing up in all his glory in a place of prominence that we cannot even fathom at this point, a place where all can see and hear.

He has a proclamation for the spirits—those in prison and those still roaming the earth looking for those they can destroy, and those who are constantly coming before the throne of God with accusations against God’s beloved—those he created in his image to love and be loved.

They now hear this:

Hear Ye

‘Hear ye and know, from this point forward and forever more, death has been swallowed up, it’s sting and victory are no more. I, the risen Lord of Hosts—the Lamb of God, the Alpha and Omega—have overcome all of your wicked schemes, foiled all of your evil plans for the destruction of my people, and your power over them is hereby deemed devoid of any authority and your rights to those who stumble are revoked.’

‘You have been publicly and completely humiliated in what you thought was your greatest victory—seeing the Son of God, Son of Man, crucified and rejected, there was no victory in it for you, it was your doom.’

‘Henceforth you have no authority over any of those who call on my name, no rights of accusationyou are no longer welcome before the throne and your case will no longer be heard. The debts have been paid and the chains of sin have been removed.’

‘But those of you foul spirits who are chained, will remain chained until the great and terrible day of the Lord. Those who are roaming the earth—you can rail and bluster all you like, you can lie and deceive, roar and wreak havoc but only so far as those who know me will allow. ‘

‘For I have given my authority to all those who revere me and are made alive by the Spirit, and you are subject to them. Nothing can separate them from my love, and they have a mission and permission to proclaim that truth to all the nations until all have heard the good news I proclaim to you today. The news of your demise, and their victory.’

 ‘I have set the captives free, I have overcome death and I am the answer— the answer to all their fears, all their pain, all their sickness and all their hopes. I am freedom, I am healing, I am hope, I am life—I AM.’

‘And, lest there be any doubt—as to whom you are now subject to, you foul, lying and ridiculous spirits— their names are all written in my book, the Lambs book of life. They shall dwell in my presence forever and will never hear your lies again.’

 27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Rev 21:27

Jesus has the final word in all things.

So maybe, just maybe, we should stop living in and trading in fear and start living in and trading in victory!

And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, 1 Peter 3:14-15

Jesus is that answer, he has conquered death and set you free. So trade in your fear for hope.

Shamed Into Submission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 20:17—18

That my friends, is true justice.

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

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Pulled From Darkness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Loneliest Job

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t do that. . . never do that.

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

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

I Will Let You Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But are they?

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

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

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

Flawed Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you like me now?

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

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

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

The Enduring

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

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

Do this

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

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

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

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

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

Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Societal Pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Peter 1:23

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Greater Works Amidst Chaos

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

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

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

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

And we, the church, all just roll over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greater works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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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!