On the Mountain part 2

And now, here we are, on the doorstep of another year—wondering, praying and hoping that the new year is better then the old, forgetting that we can only live one day at a time anyway and that every one of those days is a gift from our creator until the day when we step into eternity, where a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day. Where we will be reunited with those who have gone before us, as has been the way of man since the beginning— pandemic or no pandemic.

So, since we insist on looking at individual years as somehow being a cohesive and cosmically manipulative unit—what do suppose the new one holds for us? I can just about guarantee you it will have plenty of both—mountaintops and valleys. The real question is; what are you going to do in those valleys?

We have all echoed the cry of the frightened father as he helplessly watches his son being tormented by evil—“Lord, I don’t know how you can fix this but I want to believe that you can! Have mercy!”

Yellowstone Park Dan Swaningson

We all believe. But when the valleys seem darkest, it’s hard sometimes to feel like you have enough faith to get out. And that’s when we can count of the faithfulness of our God.

I have prayed that prayer many times for myself—”Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief!” and the valleys are suddenly not so dark.

But you know, there are no true valleys for those who believe because Jesus is with us no matter the elevation or the obstacles in the path. Some places are just more challenging than others. Each day is what you make it. And if you pay attention, sometimes the valleys are the places where the real learning happens, where you truly see God at work.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the valleys, the low swampy parts of the valleys it would seem, and I have to be honest—2020 was not a valley for me, compared to some. And because I spent the year or two previously, fighting my way through some pretty dark valleys, seeing the enemy wreak havoc and attack my family and my church—if you think you know me—I can guarantee you, you do not know even a half of it. 2020 was a victory dance in comparison.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But the lessons I learned and the bonds that were forged in those fires are priceless, indestructible—and eternal.

49 “For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.” Mark 9

And I am stronger and more appreciative of every day the sun rises and I am still walking with my Lord no matter what happens, because my God has proven himself faithful and present time and again. And that’s all I really need—Jesus.

Anything and everything else good in my life is just a bonus that I am immensely grateful for. Even the scars and aches are just reminders of battles I’ve survived.

On The Mountain

Should I be running in terror or kneeling in awe!?’

In the ninth chapter of Marks gospel we see the disciples go from a mountain top where they literally get a glimpse of God’s glory, to a crowded valley where the enemy is wreaking havoc on whom he wishes. They had to be asking, as we all have–Can’t we just stay on the mountain?

We know that on the day of Pentecost the Kingdom of God would indeed present with great power, as it came blazing into their lives by way of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. But more immediately, just six days later, three of them did get a glimpse of the Kingdom as it descended onto Jesus so he could have a brief conference with key players of the Old covenant of law, presumably about what it would take to usher in the New Covenant of grace.

The disciples must have had their heads spinning. “I don’t know if I’m coming or going, if I should be scared or thrilled, running in terror or kneeling in awe!” One minute I’m on a mountaintop with the very Son of God shining like the sun and the next I’m in the valley being derided by an angry Scribe and a desperate father while we battle a demon and a crushing mob.

Life

Sounds a lot like life—doesn’t it? Sounds a lot like this past year. Are we coming or going, suffering the attacks of the enemy or the judgements of God? Are we blessed or cursed; finished or just beginning? ‘Is it right for me to feel so blessed when the world is in turmoil? Is it right for me to be afraid of the turmoil when I know I am so blessed? I am blessed— right?’ Should I be running in terror or kneeling in awe!?’

We don’t even know how we should feel anymore. This generation of Americans has never been forced to face the battles we have faced together lately just to live as a free people who love God, one another, and an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. Yet here we are today, fed, clothed, carrying Bibles and still breathing the clean air of the most beautiful place on earth—Montana. (At least for those of us who aren’t in the shut down states)

So feel free to be happy and blessed. Every day is a gift.

And you know what? We are not being set upon in any new and unprecedented way. If you take an honest look beyond your own bubble, all the world for most of human history has lived this way; mountain tops to valleys,with the mountains being steep and difficult to climb and the valleys being deep, long and immersed in shadow.

But one thing we all share and have in common, around the world and thru the ages, at least among those who put their trust in God, is that we can always see that light just ahead of us, guiding us, beckoning us and calling us home. No matter the difficulty of the trail, with every step we take in faith, we are always one step closer to home.

Fanning the Flame

“It was not long before we heard sirens coming from what seemed every direction, . . . we were now the idiots who tried to blow up Billings. “

Do you not yet perceive nor understand? Is your heart still hardened? 18 Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember? Mark 8

Can you imagine standing toe to toe with Jesus and having him ask you this? The indignation of this question is quite obvious in the context. So this was no rhetorical or contrived discussion question.

Welcome to the Capernaum chapter of the Clueless Fishermen for Jesus support group. Let’s break the ice by going around the circle and explaining in two or three sentences why you are still confused about this carpenter/teacher/prophet from Nazareth. Who wants to go first?”

No, This is a question from Jesus that no doubt made his followers a little uncomfortable. It’s like—‘Do I need to call Captain Obvious to explain things to you? Can you not hear? Can you not see? Have you forgotten everything?’

Do we understand? Because it’s easy to miss the obvious truth that Jesus is the Christ and that in him we have nothing to fear and nothing to loose, if we are totally surrendered to and trusting of him.

We have to keep fanning the flames of truth and understanding to really bring the knowledge of who Christ is, and what that means for us, from the head into the heart, into our very spirits. We have to let the Holy Spirit move freely through us and in us and that is a huge challenge because the enemy will do everything he can to block that wind of the Spirit so that those flames will die out leaving us with nothing but head knowledge and a weakness that leaves us susceptible to the yeast of the Pharisees—a yeast of selfish ambition and religious attitudes of judgment and haughtiness.

Look at me. I’m somebody and you are nobody, and I am worthy of more.‘  That attitude, along with the weaknesses of the flesh that we may give in to, can block the Spirit and leave us smoldering.

Why do we not understand? Because we are not putting it all together. This is what the Lord told me, because I asked, and the Lord gives wisdom to those who ask:

“The understanding is in the heart, the wisdom is in the word, and the conjunction is in the Spirit.”

Worldly wisdom comes from the head and what we can put in it. Godly wisdom is seated in the heart, it is a wisdom that comes from God’s word and is brought to life by his Holy Spirit.  

The word is the fire that is in the heart and the wind that fans the flames is the Holy Spirit fanning it all to life for wisdom, power and understanding. All of that leads to the faith we need to get us through this life with and for Jesus, blessed, fruitful and advancing the Kingdom of our God.

Fire!

Back in the 80’s when I worked for an outfit that did pipeline and refinery work we got contracted to do the demolition of one of those big oil storage tanks at the Conoco refinery in Billings. The tank was located in a lot just behind the refinery actually, just off the Interstate in what they called the “tank farm.” If you are going through Billings you have surely seen those tanks right near the river just before you get to the Lockwood exit.

Our job was to go in there with cutting torches and cut this huge tank into sheets of metal small enough to fit on a flatbed truck to haul away for scrap metal.

So where do you start demoing a giant steel tank? On the roof of course. So, using a crane with a “man cage” swinging from it they hoisted me up to the top and deposited me with my cutting torch in hand. The Oxy/Acetylene bottles were still on the ground and I had many feet of hose run out to it. I started cutting away, the plan being to cut pie shaped pieces of the lid loose and let them fall down inside. That’s another story all in itself, it’s a wonder I survived my earlier construction years looking back at some of the things we used to do. But anyway, so far, so good.

Now, this tank had been sitting empty for many years and there was a large hole cut in the side big enough to drive a small skid steer through and to let things air out real well. But there was this weird thick black dry residue of something all over the floor. It looked to me like ground up tires, three inches thick or so. It was actually some kind of residue from the crude oil that had been stored in the tank at one time.

We soon discovered that it was somewhat flammable, no problem. As I was cutting on top, occasionally a small fire would flare up on the floor and someone would just go in and pat it out with a shovel.

Then the boss, the owner of the outfit, ol’ Wayne, at least he seemed old to me at the time, decided that it would be much more efficient to put the oxy/acetylene bottles up on the lid, and then we would have enough hose to get two guys cutting.

So they loaded up the bottles into the man cage and hoisted them up to the lid. Everyone’s attention was on the bottles and the people going up to the top—and no one was watching the inside of the tank where a little bit of smoldering residue had got enough wind to burst into flames.

We now had a big enough hole in the roof that the wind blowing through the opening in the side could really get to fanning the flames and soon there was quite a plume of smoke billowing out of the top. I shouted “Hey, there’s a fire down below!”

The flames were now way too big to pat out with a shovel. The boss quickly swung us and the bottles down off the top and soon everyone was running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I was standing there with Wayne waiting for him to tell me what to do and he looked at me and said; “I don’t know what to do!”

By this time there was a line of cars stopped on the highway watching this huge column of thick black smoke billowing out of the top of a tank; at the refinery!—this does not look good. We were a long ways from the nearest phone but the smoke signals we were sending up could be seen for miles. Just imagine a giant burn barrel full of tires; that’s what we had going there.

(A more recent fire) A STORAGE TANK at the ConocoPhillips refinery, above, lies crumpled Friday morning after a fire on Thursday in Billings.

I looked at Wayne and said “We have to stop that wind from blowing in that hole in the side—it’s just fanning the flames and making it look really bad.We grabbed a large tarp from one of our trucks and Wayne and I stood there and held it up against the hole as best we could to block the wind.

It helped but it did not stop the flames, the smoke was still horrendous. It was not long before we heard sirens coming from what seemed every direction. Soon a big yellow fire truck came rolling up and fireman all decked out in their coats and respirators came running at us shouting “What’s going on?”

We were standing the with our arms up over our heads holding the tarp against the tank, futilely trying to cut off the air, our faces black with soot—and Wayne didn’t say a word. I don’t know what he was thinking but he looked like a deer in the headlights. So I quickly explained the situation. About this time hoses were being strung out so we dropped our tarp and got out of the way as they ran headlong into the tank and started spraying foam everywhere.

Photo by Tobias Rehbein on Pexels.com
Here I am– to save the day!

Before it was over we had five different fire crews show up. The City of Billings, Lockwood, the refinery fire crews from Conoco and the nearby Exxon crew and a truck from the now defunct O’Donnell’s Fire service clear out in Shepherd.

I was just shaking my head. I kept thinking, “It’s just a little fire inside of a tank all by itself over here, it’s mostly just smoke!” But apparently everyone thought that the whole city was in danger. The fire was out long before all the trucks stopped rolling in.

Of course we made the evening news and we were now the idiots who tried to blow up Billings. But we went back to work the next day and made sure we kept someone on fire watch. Life goes on.

Thots

Do you understand?

Understanding is the small flicker of flame that starts as a little smolder in a rich and abundant bed of fuel planted in our hearts by God’s word, that has to have the wind of the Spirit to really get it roaring. The Devil will try everything he can to put out that fire. But all he has is a tarp made of lies to try and block the wind. Don’t let him do it.

To understand you have to put it all together, if you understand that Jesus is the Christ, that he is with you, that you have nothing to fear, that he can use what you have to do incredible things from a heart of compassion for people, and do not let the greed of the heart, the lies of the world and the pride that is always prodded by the enemy choke you off, then the Holy Spirit will fan the embers of faith in your heart into a roaring fire that God can use to overcome any obstacle to his purposes that he puts on your heart to achieve.

Not for greed, not for glory, not for fame or self-satisfaction, but for Jesus.

The understanding is in the heart, the wisdom is in the word, and the conjunction is in the Spirit.

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Tradition or Truth?

13 making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do.” Mark 7

You ever hear something so much that you stop hearing it? Do something so many times that you forgot you just did it? Or don’t remember why you even do it that way? In the Kingdom of God that’s called empty religion. In Jesus’ dealing with the religious of his day, he called it your tradition.

That little word your being the telling and convicting word there. Not because tradition is bad, but because it had replaced, truth–even replaced God.

“Then the Pharisees and scribes asked Him, Why do your disciples eat with unwashed hands? Why don’t you respect the tradition of the elders?” Mark 7:5

In Mark 7 we see Jesus getting frustrated yet again at the blindness of those who were supposed to know better; with the teachers and scholars of the day who had taken the word of God, the law and the promises, the warnings and the blessings and managed to totally remove God from them. They added to and twisted them to serve their own purposes. They made the words more important than the people they were meant to serve, and the God they were meant to point to.

The Scribes and Pharisees had turned the word of God into something to be worshipped, rather than a means through which to worship. The law was turned into something to serve rather than something serving us. It no longer pointed to a righteous and loving God, it only served, in the hands of the Pharisees and those they deceived, to subjugate and condemn people.

Jesus came saying, ‘No, the word of God sets people free and restores and rebuilds people—that was the intent and that’s why I came—to show, provide, and be the way, the truth and the life that you failed to grasp and attain through the written and spoken word.

The word is not of no effect —because I Am the Word.’

And that’s what all of this–Church, blogging, worship, living for Jesus– is about. That is why we celebrate Christmas, and every Sunday, and every other day that we draw breath, knowing that one day we will draw breath in a new heaven and a new earth from a resurrected and perfect body.

But back to Jesus and the religious know-it-alls.

The word become flesh

Jesus accused the religious scholars of making the word of God of no effect—but we know that the word of God never goes forth but that it accomplishes that for which it was spoken. It never returns void, it is never of no effect—if it is spoken in the Spirit of which it was given—Love. God is love and all he does and says is motivated and grounded in his inexpressible and unstoppable love for his children—for us.

The word of God was and is of effect, because the word is Jesus, and he is among us. He is Emmanuel.

The promise was fulfilled.  The thing mankind and all of creation had waited for, groaned for, believed for. The wait was over, even if some failed to see.

Summer Vacation

Have you ever really looked forward to something?  Like Christmas; the year 2020 to be over… How about the best summer vacation ever? 

When I was ten years old my mom and my step dad moved us from Cloquet Minnesota to Albuquerque NM. Imagine the culture shock -unfortunately my dad still lived in Minnesota.  But my sister and I were going to spend a month with him in the summer—  a whole month!

When I first found out I was so excited to go I could hardly stand it.  Not only were we going to get to see our dad, we were going to get to fly on a big Jet for the first time. He promised us all kinds of fun, camping and fishing, and the best part of all— we were actually going to take a trip to Niagara Falls!  On the way there we were going to stay for a couple days in Detroit where one of my aunt and uncles lived and we would all go together from there.  What an adventure.  It was more than I could fathom. 

As the school year ended and the time got closer and closer for us to go, I began to worry that I would mess it up, maybe get grounded for doing something stupid and not be allowed to go.

But my biggest fear was that I would die before I got to go see my Dad, or that some tragic accident or sickness would prevent us from getting to do all those amazing things together. I was living with irrational fear, but hey, I was only a kid, that’s what they do. We’re supposed to know better now—right?

 Anyway, the night before we left, we had the plane tickets and we were still alive and well. I don’t think my sister and I slept a wink, we were just too anxious, it was actually going to happen! And it did. We flew to Minnesota, got airsick and lost our luggage—but hey, we had a great time anyway.

The wait was worth it.

Now, this is a small thing compared to waiting for the Savior to come. But it’s the sense of anticipation, the longing to see your father who seems so far away, the never ending night, clinging to the promise that it was indeed going to happen and fearing that somehow you were going to mess it up, even be hindered by death-—that is what the world, all the world who had put their hope in the One true God, the Father— experienced and lived with for thousands of years.

If we truly love God and believe the promises we are living for the day when we would get to go see the father. But God didn’t just send a plane ticket and wait, he actually came in the flesh so that we could see him, hear him, look into his eyes and know that we were loved. And then he laid down his life to pay for the ticket that would bring us home.  The word became flesh.

Jesus didn’t need religion, and he still doesn’t.  He didn’t need to perform the rituals that symbolized purity and the forgiveness of grace- he was the embodiment of purity, he was forgiveness and grace, he was the very word of God. And in fulfillment of that word, he makes us pure and whole as well. He opened the way to the Father—making Him approachable, just like he was as that baby lying in  a manger so long ago, on a night that changed everything.

That’s a promise straight from God’s word, and God always keeps his promises.

Merry Christmas Family!

Tumult

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looters

Never mind, we’ll just take it.

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

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

Photo by Life Matters on Pexels.com

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

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

The Answer

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

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

Photo by Tim Gouw on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ezekiel 10:18

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Warrior’s Reward

Bottom line; We win!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it Time to Panic Yet?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reactions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So what manner of persons shall we be? 

What Manner?

What manner of persons are we to be?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is it time to panic yet?

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

Will The Church Destroy Herself?

Luther’s ’95 thesis nailed to a church door couldn’t have caused more of a stir than a mask sign does.

God’s word is a light that shines in this present darkness. It is a light we must heed—pay attention to—until the light fully comes, when Jesus, the Morning Star, rises in our hearts.

We have to heed the light and focus on it, not fear the dark. The enemy is using this season of turmoil to destroy us. When this all started I was calling it a dress rehearsal for the coming of the Antichrist, how to totally alter and mollify a population of freedom loving, God fearing people, into bending to your will while rendering the church impotent, irrelevant and willingly shut down.

Well, if it started out as a dress rehearsal, it is no longer a drill. It’s Tora! Tora! Tora! The North Tower has collapsed and Portland is burning. We are at War. If that all went over your head you need to learn history and start paying attention to current events because play time is over.

We have shut down the world and given up our freedoms at the highly subjective and varied whims of governors, shunned our families for fear, and put our very livelihoods into the hands of unelected officials all for the sake of a virus with a 99% survival rate—plus or minus, depending on which political party the person doing the math belongs to.

And it has become the most contentious thing to hit the church since the reformation—seriously. Luther’s ’95 thesis nailed to a church door couldn’t have caused more of a stir than a mask sign does.

As of August the survival rate of the American church, according to Barna Group who surveyed pastors, is 80%. So 20% of the churches in this country are likely going to shut their doors for good. Why? Because of fear, fear of illness, and animosity towards one another over how we should react.

Divide and conquer. Just in our little church we have people who will not come to church unless everyone wears a mask, and we have people who will not come because we do have the mandated sign on the door asking you to wear masks and everyone in between walking on eggshells.

This divide and conquer tactic started back in March with—you have to close the church contingent pulling the church one way, and the you cannot close the church contingent pulling us the other way. Suddenly everyone is a medical expert or a master theologian.

This fight over—

“close or don’t close, mask or no mask, distance or no distance, people are dying in drovesno it’s all a farce!— what did the experts really say this week and who can we trust?— we have to address racial injustice, we have to tell people who to vote for

—is a fight that is happening amongst every body of believers in the country if not the world. And I’ll tell you what—if there are any pastors left standing a year from now, they need to receive purple hearts and Sainthood.

And just in case the pastor’s job is not hard enough, and the sheep not scattered for enough, suddenly, everyone is a prophet also.

Be careful who you listen to. Everyone with a Facebook page or a YouTube channel who claims to be, or is said to be, a prophet—is not. Weigh EVERYTHING against scripture.

The Lost World

And that’s just the church, we who should know better. Imagine how scary this is for the world at large, people who do not have the Morning Star rising in their hearts.

Untold and incalculable damage and death has occurred because of the shutdown and breakdowns of social norms, jobs, families, and support groups. And have no doubt, this rioting in the streets that is burning down our cities is a result of the fear and anger incited by having been locked down and force fed fear. Fear without hope, fear without end.

Now we are being told that the normal flu season that is coming upon us is reason to continue all this, they can keep this going indefinitely.

Even the hope of a vaccine, supposed to be available real soon, the thing that has always been touted as the only thing that will allow us to return to normal, is being discredited and maligned before it has even been released just as long used and well established medications have been.

People need hope, people need you, people need Jesus—they need the truth, the truth of the words of the prophets we know we can trust—the words in the Holy Scriptures. If this is the beginning of the death throes of this present world and the day of the Lord is at hand, the world, and the Lord, need us to be courageous, and engaged like never before—together.

So, let’s get past this, hang on tight to the Lord and each other, keep our eyes on the Morning Star which is rising in our hearts—if we’ll allow, and reflect his glory.

Bottom Line

So, because I love you and want all of you to do be free to do whatever you believe in your heart the Lord wants you to do, If you come to my church, I cannot and will not force you to wear what many believe is the equivalent of a petri dish on your face and put your health at risk.

Nor can I ask you to be around others who are not wearing a mask if you believe it is putting your health at risk.

That is a choice I am going to let you make, I am a preacher of the gospel not an agent of the state. It is not my job to enforce man’s laws, it is my job to preach God’s laws. And, as I have been saying since this started, we need to respect each other’s choices in this even if it means you stay home for a while until we get through this latest apparent uptick in illnesses (in Montana).

For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? 30 But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? 31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. 1 Cor 10

Whatever you decide, mask or no mask, make sure your heart is right and you are doing it for the right reason.

I have said it often over the years and I am not going to change my message now, because the word of God does not change—whatever you do, your motivation has to be love—love for God and love for your neighbor.

Because everything our God does for us is motivated by love.

Little children… love.

Compliance

(morning Star Rising part 2)

What are you so afraid of?

We are in the situation we are in in this world, not because of an illness—we have always had illnesses. And until the Kingdom of God comes in all its glory and casts the prince of the power of the air into the Lake of Fire to which he has already been sentenced—we always will have sickness and death.

Of course we still get tastes of the glory to come through the healing power of the Holy Spirit as believers pray for one another and as we claim that healing—but you know what? So far no one has gotten out of this life alive—except for maybe Elijah and Enoch—even Jesus suffered the pain of death. But what did Jesus do? He took away the sting of death.

Yes God can and does heal. I have experienced and witnessed it many, many times. But this flesh—this tent is temporary, and praise the Lord for that.

Because it’s getting pretty worn out, and I get to look forward to a new day; the day when this life is over and I am free from this tattered tent and looking forward to the resurrection day when I get a new body that does not get sick, does not wear out and cannot die—just like the glorified body of our Lord.

So no, I do not fear death, I do not fear illness, I will not cow tow to the demands of this current evil system that I refrain indefinitely from gathering with the saints, hugging my family, breaking bread with others, smiling for them to see, and living the life the Lord has given me to its fullest extent and seizing the opportunities he puts before me.

We are called to be a light to the world, not a quivering candle hiding under a bushel lest we get snuffed out by an errant wind. The only wind I fear and respect is the wind of the Holy Spirit, the wind that will carry me straight into heaven as a bright and blazing fire that has been fanned into a fire in my heart that cannot be contained so that I am weary from holding it in and indeed I cannot.

When did we become so afraid of death that we became afraid to live? Perhaps this life for us American Christians has just become too easy. Have we gotten so comfortable and complacent that we love this life more than we fear God?

12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed  2 Peter 1

We have to remain established in the truth—the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that in this world we will have trouble, but we need not fear, for he has overcome the world.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to be stupid and careless, I still wear a seat belt when I drive and I wear a safety harness when I’m working on a roof. But I don’t let the very real possibility of a car wreck keep me from going about my business and I don’t let the very real possibility of getting hurt at work keep we from pursuing a living and building the things the Lord has gifted me to build.

We have to keep things in perspective and not live in fear, that’s my point here. Fear will not be my new normal. When the world says new normal, it means concede defeat and give up more control to me—trust me, it’s for your own good!

The book of Revelation is full of new normal.

Well, that sounds pretty handy, since the forehead is about all you can see of people anymore.

I’m not saying wearing a mask is the mark of the beast, but this prophecy is sure becoming more and more likely as everything becomes digitized and people more willing to accept large social changes in record time.

We need to be paying attention, keeping our eyes on Jesus and not losing sight of what’s important.

God’s word is a light that shines in this present darkness. It is a light we must heed—pay attention to—until the light fully comes, when Jesus, the Morning Star, rises in our hearts. We have to heed the light and focus on it, not fear the dark.

Keep your eyes on Jesus. There is no place for fear in the heart of a believer, only love and Hope.

The Rise of the Morning Star

The truth of God’s word should always encourage, and never frighten those who love him and are called according to his purpose.

There is no place for fear in the heart of a believer.

And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts 2 Peter 1:19

But in the world of chaos we live in where we have monsters coming at us from all sides, all lit up with spotlights piercing the surrounding darkness—looky here, looky there, you don’t stand a chance!—it’s easy to lose sight of the light, the light of promise, the light of hope, the light of Jesus within our hearts, the light which Peter is telling us, we would do well to heed.

One nice thing about living in rural Montana—other than the lack of riots—is that for the most part you can still see the stars, and I love doing that—looking at the stars. Through much of the year, when I leave for work in the morning, it is still dark so I will often stand in my driveway for just a moment and look up at the brilliance of the stars overhead before I get into my truck and spoil it with its artificial lights.

That hill we live on is far away from any other lights so you can see everything. I often see falling stars, satellites crossing the sky, and I never cease to be amazed by the vastness of the Milky way.

This time of year the planets Mars and Venus are very visible in the morning—Mars is the reddish one almost directly overhead and a bit to the Southwest, and Venus is the bright bluish one, due East just above the horizon where the sun is about to rise. Also known as the Morning Star, perhaps because it’s presence and position is seen as the promise of a soon and coming sunrise.

Which is what our scripture from 2 Peter today is about; the promise of a soon and coming day to end the long dark night.

2020 seems to have been kind of a never ending night hasn’t it? In some respects anyway, life is still what you make it and our hope and joy can still be found in Jesus—if you are keeping your eye on him rather than obsessing over the latest scares being bull horned into our heads.

All the world has is threats—projections of doom—while the God we serve, the King of the Universe, offers us promises of a better day. You can keep your computer models, I have the word of God and his Spirit to assure me that my soul is his and the fate of the world is ultimately in his hands.

We have such incredible promises, prophetic words, that come by way of the scriptures, and by those who speak for God by the power of his Holy Spirit. Promises that are so incredible that just the light emanating from those words of hope is enough to get us through the darkness as we await the dawning of the fullness of God’s glory, like the rising of the sun after the darkest night.

The morning star, Jesus Christ, is the promise of that coming dawn just as the planetary morning star, Venus, is always visible in the east just before and even during the sunrise.

Of course Venus is not a star at all, at least not as we understand stars today, it is a planet. As a planet, it does not produce its own light as the distant stars do, stars that are overwhelmed by the light of our own sun as it chases away the dark. The morning star is a planet that reflects the brilliance of the sun. Thus when the other stars are washed out, it still shines until it is overtaken fully by the glory of our sun and it’s light is no longer needed or noticed.  

Reflection

I think it safe to say that just as the morning star reflects the greater light of the sun, so too, our hearts are to be a reflection of the light, the light of Christ, holding the promise of the fullness of his glory which, though we see but a dim reflection in our selves now, will be fully realized at his return as that star rises fully in our hearts, unhampered by the corrupt flesh and misinterpreted prophecies.

When that day comes, when Jesus comes and chases away the last vestiges of the dark, the morning star within our own hearts—the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ—will rise up in inexpressible joy when see him face to face, and all things are now ours to see and understand fully.

In the meantime we have the prophecies—the words of Christ, the prophets and the Apostles, serving as a light to our path. Even before the dawn of that new day we have the light of the morning star to comfort and guide us, a promise that morning is coming.

16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.”

17 And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” Rev 22:16—17

28 even as I also received authority from my Father. To the one who conquers I will also give the morning star. 29 Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches Rev 2:28—29

If that Morning star is indeed Jesus Christ, Holy God one in three, three in one, with the Father and the Spirit, then that can only mean that we have eternal life that can never fail, that can never die—it’s a light that can never go dim again for we have Jesus himself rising in our hearts.

Wow, doesn’t leave a lot of room for fear does it?

Which is why we see Peter here, in the scriptures preceding the morning star promise, referring to his pending martyrdom as little more than striking camp and moving to a better location. A lesson we all need to pay attention to in this season of irrational fear, panic and threats.

Threats that come from people in the guise of righteous indignation. ‘If you don’t fear death by cop then you are privileged and everything you have is illegitimate.’ ‘If you don’t fear death by virus and live accordingly, then you are an uncaring conspiracy theorist and even a murderer yourself.’

No, I am not a racist or privileged, I have worked and fought for everything I have and I have had much more than I currently have taken away from me over the years.

And no, I am not uncaring and I will do what I can within reason to not make anyone sick, just as I would any other time with any sickness. But am not afraid and I will not let fear control me anymore than I did or do for any other illness that was supposed to kill us all through the years like clockwork.

Aren’t you afraid? Aren’t you contrite? Aren’t you being selfish and uncaring—oblivious to the truth?

 No. I have just not forgotten the present truth in favor of the current collective and promoted wisdom of the day. A wisdom that changes pretty much every day by the way. The worlds present truth changes at the whims of the powerful.

Honestly, I have been lied to so much in the last 6 months by all sides I don’t believe much of anything I hear anymore. Everything seems to have been spun to fit someone else’s narrative. So I camp in the word of God, the only truth I can get straight from the source and the only source whose primary agenda is love for me.

My present truth is unchanging and eternal. The truth I cling to is   that I am in the hands of the one who holds my heart and that this life is just the beginning of eternity as I look forward to the rise of the morning star.

12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, … 2 Peter 1

And as long as I am in this present tent, I will keep reminding myself, and all who will listen, that Jesus Christ is Lord and he alone is my healer, redeemer and Lord—and my soon and coming King. And I will walk in the paths that he leads me on, even right smack through the valley of the shadow of death, fearing no evil, comforted by his rod and his staff.

Stay Tuned. . .