Holiness Embraced, Challenge Taken

“God is speaking to you about something, challenging you about something, calling you towards something…”

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Nine years ago now I planted my church in Red Lodge MT. has it been easy? No, not by a long shot. Has it been worth it? Only God can answer that question but I truly believe it has. For one thing, out of this ministry-you are reading these words and I know God will use them to help accomplish his purpose in you.

I have been in a battle since I have been here for the very land, for the hearts and souls of Carbon County and all who come here seeking encouragement in their own battles. It is not a battle against flesh and blood. It is not a battle to be won by just doing good and being nice to people, it is a battle to be won in the heavenlies as our prayers affect the outcome of the battles we cannot see being waged all around us.

And each and every time a holy warrior acts in obedience to God’s word, to his Holy Spirit’s leading and with a heart devoted to God, another piece of ground is taken away from the enemy. Another seed is planted, another demon is bruised, another angel is strengthened and another heart is closer to being freed and healed.

We are warriors in a battle for the souls of humanity. It’s not about collecting brownie points from God like an obedient school child trying to earn extra credit so the teacher will let them go on the end of the year field trip. It’s not about avoiding judgement and scorn from God who is waiting to whack our knuckles with a ruler like an old time school teacher.

It’s about not giving the enemy a foothold in our hearts to discourage and accuse us and not putting up any barriers to the full power and blessing of our Father God so that we can go forth boldly and storm the gates of hell so that we can reclaim our neighbors and our families, our towns and our country.

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In 1 Timothy 3 we have a list of qualifications for servant leaders in the church. Being the person described in these two paragraphs isn’t about being able to say, “Well, look at me all you lowly sinners! I am somebody, kiss my ring and tremble in my presence for you are but worms compared to me.” It isn’t about being a stick in the mud who is not allowed to ever mess up or to have any fun; ‘squeaky clean and no caffeine, I have no emotions ‘cuase I’m a machine.’ It’s about being above reproach because you are doing your best and being honest about the rest.

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Because as soon as you start to think you are somebody, that you did it on your own and that God and those you serve are lucky to have you, you just fell into the devils trap. And nothing makes a more awful sound then one who was puffed up suddenly having all the air let out by the prick of the devils darts.

A servant of God who is worthy of honor is just that, a servant. A humble, obedient servant, who’s desire is to bless the one he serves and to be someone in whom others can see your King. You do that by being a person in whom they can see a heart of love. When they see that you love from a love that conquers all, a love that when received and believed removes all doubts and anxiety and leaves boldness in its wake, you are irrepressible.

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Holiness is a heart issue, you either want it or you ignore its call. It is not earned it is embraced. When you embrace holiness, nothing can touch your soul—NOTHING and No one, can touch your soul.

And I’ll tell you what, that is worth more than diamonds or gold, fame or fortune. It is far better than the best Scotch whiskey or craft beer. Better than having anything or anyone your foolish heart may lust after and better than having all your dreams and desires fulfilled.

Because all else is empty if you are not in a relationship with Jesus Christ and little will bring you peace if it is not your heart’s desire to be holy, set apart to serve your God and your King.

All of you who are here know what I’m talking about or you wouldn’t be here. God is speaking to you about something, challenging you about something, calling you towards something, but you are holding back, listening to the wrong voices—the voices of discouragement. Well, you know who you need to listen to, the one who resides in your heart.

That is my calling, that is my mission, to get you to embrace yours. There are lives and eternal souls in the balance, It’s not just about you, despite what this culture of me, me, me, says.

Because the world is living a life of discouragement, despairing often times even of life itself. And the only thing that is going to give them any hope that there is more to this life then the struggle, is Jesus Christ. And they have to see in us that we believe that, that we know that, and that he gives us the strength and desire to live a life devoted to him. Not because we have to, but because we want to.

So, to further that goal of being a light to the world as a church family, to root out the glory seekers who want the prestige of position without the sacrifice of obedience, who want homage without accountability, to head up servants without being the head servant, we must pay attention to God’s words.

If you are listening to and heeding his word, striving for holiness and trusting him for grace where you fall short, you will hear Him call you, and when you do—say yes, ‘yes Lord I will follow you wherever you lead—I am done living in fear! I accept the challenge–give me strength!’

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 God bless you warrior!

Find your freedom, release your inner barbarian

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Stand up Preacher!

The American church has forgotten that this world is not our home, and when we don’t get our little slice of heaven on earth, then we turn back to the world for satisfaction and solace.bible

We need Pastors, teachers and leaders who will remind us, who will be honest with us, who even know the word in the first place, that this life is full of big problems but we have a God who is bigger and who is more concerned with our hearts and our souls then with our comfort and happiness. We need preachers, biblically literate and Spirit anointed preachers, who will remind us that we are in a battle that we will win but there are scars yet to be earned on the way to victory.

And yes, we can find fulfillment and purpose in this life, but the fulfillment and purpose is found in preparing our souls for eternity and in preparing others to share that eternity with us.

So I charge you, Paul charges you—God charges you—to fight the good fight of faith, to know and teach truth and to stand firm on the rock, not letting your faith become a shipwreck that others get hung up on as well because you led them right into the rocks.

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This is our charge. The time is growing short and the enemy of our souls is getting more desperate and more blatant in his attempts to silence truth, to extinguish the light.

In much of the world he is just outright killing the church. I read a statistic just this week put out by Jay Sekulow that of all the persecuted people groups in the world, Christians make up 80%.

Quote— “An alarming study recently released by the British government described the current state of global Christian persecution as being “close to . . . genocide.” More than 80% of persecution victims globally are Christians.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Christians face horrific violence, abduction, torture, and murder for their faith. It’s genocide.”

“Christian children live in constant fear.” —End quote

And in America we are busy arguing about whether we should sing 500 year old hymns or contemporary music in our worship services or which English translation of the Bible was truly written by the Apostles and the prophets—none of whom spoke English by the way. There are places where you lose your head for singing any kind of Christian song and where people would give anything for even a scrap of God’s word written in their heart language.

We have a duty to speak the truth, to share the word, to be the light, while we still can, before the darkness consumes the entire world.

We don’t have time for petty arguments with believers with a slightly different approach or in house, ‘the preacher offended me I’m going somewhere else, maybe nowhere else,’ offenses.

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It’s time for the church of Jesus Christ that is still standing to get serious about the fight we are in, it’s not with each other. While we are arguing with each other about how literally to take the book of Revelation, how many years ago creation happened, and how wet we should get when we get baptized, our own government is slowly but surely outlawing the very bible we claim to stand on, declaring it offensive and hateful. And our culture, speech and public square is being systematically stripped of anything that could in any way be construed as Christian.

The PC police run roughshod over us all, silencing all honest discourse and somehow everything we now do and say is racist and homophobic. While we worry about plastic straws and which bathroom to use we ignore the high crimes and corruption in our highest offices and law enforcement agencies. We can no longer trust the IRS, the FBI, the CIA and the Justice Dept as they are all being manipulated by the rich and powerful for one another, against one another, and against us.

Our Constitution, the God inspired founding document of this nation under God which protected our rights to worship God as we so choose is no longer heeded nor upheld.

Christians and their leaders stand down and wring their hands, afraid to cause offense as perverts and pagans take over our education system twisting our children’s brains and stealing their innocence before they even get out of kindergarten, as communists and socialists take over our government—both of whom would regulate churches and synagogues right out of existence, take our paychecks and our weapons and leave us at the mercy of the state—which then becomes our god.

The state will provide, the state will decide, you do not need God.

I will not be silent and I will not be silenced. Too much is at stake.

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I know this sounds a lot like a political rant but I have a purpose here. We need people who are called to lead to stand up and lead, to speak out for truth and to stop running from leaders who are telling us the hard stuff even if what they teach makes us go against the grain of our culture.

I believe we are—you are— those leaders. Don’t fear the darkness, pick up your torch and lead the way through the darkness.

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Teach Truth

Disclaimer up front here—at some point in this blog you may be offended, I may have even offended myself.

But seriously, if you have a preacher who never offends you, you need a new preacher. (I am a preacher by the way) And an offense is just a challenge taken the wrong way.

Teach Truth

Paul warned Timothy of this issue long ago, this ‘do not offend me because I’m voting with my feet’ issue that would overtake the church one day. And as the time goes by and we are racing towards the final showdown between good and evil, pastors, teachers and leaders are become more and more afraid of the people to whom they minister, and less and less afraid of the God whom they serve.

Most pastors today will trade a full church for a full gospel any day. “Just preach the feel good stuff pastor so I can invite all my friends and show them what a progressive and cutting edge church we have. Otherwise, I’m outa here.”— “Oh, and you had better have top notch entertainment also, you know, drama and professional musicians and stage effects.”

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth… 2 Timothy 4:3—4

I’m going to spend the next few weeks looking at Paul’s letters to Timothy, a young pastor. Because I think the church, has gotten to a place where people are not answering the call any more. Those who have not just flat fallen away from the church and the faith, as many have in this age as we see church numbers dwindle across the board, are just not answering the call, they are not stepping up and they are not desirous of truly living a life worthy of their call even if they did have an inkling to do so.

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There is this weird paradigm happening where people can claim to be, and even truly be, madly in love with Jesus but not willing to live according to, or denying the truth and relevance of his word and his ways, they are in fact, unwittingly and in some cases, denying truth in favor of experience, emotion and cultural norms.

History shows that cultural norms are a dependable basis for determining God’s truth—no wait, that never works.

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I can hardly even keep up anymore as to what’s acceptable and what’s not in public discourse and cultural acceptance, not that I want to.

It would be downright comical—if it were not so frightening in its implications—watching the myriad of presidential candidates trip all over each other trying to outdo one another in embracing and doubling down on whatever absurd notion the other candidates happened to get attention with even if it is a total contradiction to what they claimed to believe and support just last week.

The spirit of delusion seems to have fallen on the whole lot of them as wrong becomes right and everything we have believed in becomes yesterday’s ignorance, as they all sit in their political and media circles and cheer each other on while the rest of us go,—’what? Who are you people, am I trapped in a bad episode of the Twilight Zone?  Or is this all just a bad dream’— no, it’s just the enemy playing with his puppets to destroy all that is good, the little that is left anyway.

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The point is—truth changes daily—you want to base your standing with the Lord on that? People don’t even know where to turn anymore, which statues we are tearing down this week, what heroes are no longer heroes, what history can no longer be taught or acknowledged; ‘Can I use a straw in my organic, sustainably grown coffee mixed with milk voluntarily given up by free range cows even if it’s offered to me by a transvestite barista? Or is this just a test to see if I really care about mother earth and all her multi gendered children?’

And that had all better be okay with you or you will have a milk shake thrown on you just before we beat you for being a hater.

What is acceptable, what is right, what is truth?

People are willing to go bonkers defending and promoting their political agendas and the latest scheme to save the planet from evil humanity but won’t give a moment’s thought to the one who created it all or bother to open the instruction manual he gave us, the Bible.

‘Maybe we can get truth from music?’ Yeah, that always works well. We went from drugs sex and rock and roll, to; I kissed a girl and I liked it, to whatever foul and perverse thing I can get to fall out of my mouth with something we call music behind it.

Thank goodness we have Christian radio—yeah, right. Let’s get our truth, our theology, from skinny jean wearing, young, rad worship leaders who got their theology from watching faded Levi wearing young cool worship leaders who got there theology from watching big haired, bell bottom wearing, key board banging worship leaders who got their theology from the young hip bearded bible study leader who showed up on campus one day with a Living Bible—“Cool man, finally a bible I can understand!”

You see where I’m going here? We need to keep grounded in truth. We cannot keep walking in ignorance. If you are going to endeavor to teach, or to be taught, you have to stay in, believe in, be submersed in, God’s word. You need to know the doctrine of grace and love found in the New Testament and the Law that preceded it and showed us the need for the grace in the first place.

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Because if all we are doing is presuming on grace and not caring a whit about how much of God’s law we are flaunting in our new found freedom, we are going to be in trouble, we are not carrying the torch that lights the way for all to see, the torch that keeps us from being swallowed by darkness as we await the sunrise of a new day in the Kingdom of our God.

Don’t get me wrong, there is some great Christian music out there, but that is what it is, music—an alternative to the garbage the world throws up. We cannot heed it as though it is gospel and every catchy tune with a clever chorus is not a word from God. The same goes for the beloved hymns. Even the oldest hymn was written many hundreds of years after the Bible was canonized and the word completed.

We can be inspired, blessed and encouraged by music from Christian artists, I certainly am, but we cannot stand on it. The only thing we can solidly stand on is the word of God.

We are entering a new season of the church, the great falling away is coming to an end and those who are still standing are being called back to holiness and will see the power and grace of God move in and through them like they never imagined possible.

Be that warrior, you are God’s chosen.

Eph 6 memeBarbarians in the Kingdom by Dan Swaningson