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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The Ghost

If we expect to be overcome and subject to the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of this present age, we will, our authority will go unused, null and void, because we refuse to recognize and wield it.

The sixth chapter of the Gospel of Mark is rich with stories about various groups of people and their reactions and expectations of Jesus. In fact, their expectations largely determine their experiences with him.

Through all of this the ones who would become known as the Apostles see, hear and even do incredible things. From being empowered to cast out demons and heal, to being used to feed over five thousand hungry people with almost nothing. In fact, it is immediately after that miraculous feeding that they go from a God experience euphoria to a woe is me I’m going to die night of terror.

Once again the twelve, as Mark likes to call them, find themselves in a boat at night, in a wind storm, rowing their butts off trying to stay perpendicular to the waves and not get driven out any farther to sea or into the unseen hazards of the shoreline, their short trip down the coast has become an all-night ordeal—what else could possibly go wrong? Oh look, a ghost walking across the water right towards us! And they are scared out of their wits.

47 Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. 48 Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. 49 And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw Him and were troubled. Mark 6

Really? You just fed thousands of people with the equivalent of a couple of happy meals. Right after you had returned from a couple weeks missions trip where you just went from town to town and personally cast demons out of people like it was just another day at the office, and now you are afraid of a ghost on the sea?

And you don’t even recognize your own Lord and realize that it could be him walking on the water—like it is the last thing you would expect?Come’on man!

The twelve still had a lot to learn, yet Jesus would continue to invest in, and entrust them with more and more as time went on, and they would change the world–forever.

Isn’t it nice to know that you don’t have to have perfect faith to be used by the Lord to do amazing things for Jesus? It just takes a little faith in the one who has faith in us to accomplish what he sets before us to do. We need to learn to expect God to continue working in and through us. Because he is.

Conversely, if we expect to have the enemy run roughshod over us, he will.

If that really had been a ghost, a demon spirit coming for the apostles in the dark of night, as they were all trembling with fear, they might have all jumped overboard to escape him. Rather than commanding he leave, they were screaming like little girls. “ they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out”

 If we expect to be overcome and subject to the prince of the power of the air, the ruler of this present age, we will, our authority will go unused, null and void, because we refuse to recognize and wield it.

But if you expect to be listened to by the powers of darkness when you speak, if you expect the Holy Spirit to have your back and give you an infallible blanket of protection as you do battle with the enemy, if you expect the authority of God to be at your disposal as you pray against sickness and oppression—it will be yours.

It is your birthright as sons and daughters of God, once robbed from us by virtue of sin and disobedience, doubt and pride, handed down by our ancestor Adam, but now restored and made available for the taking by the new Adam—Jesus Christ.

Do not wallow in defeat. Do not wallow in pity and sorrow, do not expect your lot to be defeat and misery—expect God to hear you, to accomplish his purpose for and through you. And expect the enemy to flee at the sound of your voice never even showing his face because he does fear you.

We might have been a little hard on the boys; screaming like girls and all. . .

It might be too easy for us to look back and wonder; ‘Why were the disciples afraid of the ghosts anyways? They had just cast out demons left and right, and now they are fearful of one?’

But we are all afraid of certain things or situations, aren’t we?

I think we’ve all been in that wind-blown boat in the darkest hours of the night with nothing but an oar and a prayer to hold on to.

The disciples, most of whom were seafarers as a requirement of their fishing trade, were no doubt apprised of the prevailing superstition that a seeing a water spirit in the dark of night at sea was a sure portent of imminent death.

It didn’t matter how much time you spent at sea, the thought of drowning as you descended into the black depths of the unknown was terrifying, perhaps more so to those who have had more time to ponder it as those who spend their nights fishing from wooden boats would have. And tales of terrors in the seas would be a common theme haunting seaman of all ages.

Yet, for all their terror and appearances of doom, Jesus was there for them in the end. Even if they were expecting death to come for them, at the same time their hearts were crying out for God’s mercy and help. And it came in the form of Jesus. Once Jesus became apparent, once they heard his voice. they expected things to be okay, and they were.

But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” 51 Then He went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled. 52 For they had not understood about the loaves, because their heart was hardened.

Mark 6

Their picture of Jesus, although not yet complete, was getting there. But they had to open their hearts.

We cannot let our hearts get hard. We have to understand that it is not all up to us, we are not alone, we are never alone. Jesus has got us. Believe it, expect it, know it.

He’s got you

Back when we were ranching, on the Heyu Cow Ranch, I came home from work one day to find quite a scene. Ralph, my Father in Law, Charlie, my brother in Law, and my wife, Donna were trying to herd a heifer into the barn so they could help her calve. (A Heifer is a two year old first time calver)

She, the heifer, was at the stage in calving where it was evident that she needed help, (They don’t always) the calve would have to be pulled. The water had broken and the little front hooves were playing peek a boo.  The three trying to help were certainly capable and qualified to do so, but there was one problem, this heifer did not know them, at least not well enough to trust them.

They had managed to get her into the barn but she was still frantically trying to avoid them. About this time I walked into the barn from the opposite door, turned the corner coming into view and said, “What’s going on?” No sooner had I said that when the heifer plopped down in the straw and let out a huge cow sigh. (Yes they can.)

From behind her the other three were looking at her amazed and somewhat incredulous and then back at me and Charlie said, We have been trying to get her to let us help her for half an hour and she wasn’t having it. As soon as she heard your voice she just laid down!

She knew me, she knew my voice, and she expected things to be okay because I was there—and they were. I got behind her and with the help of my able crew we pulled a healthy calve as I continued to speak in reassuring tones to my frightened heifer, now a new momma.

You know what the primary difference is between the twelve in that boat, the heifer in the barn, and us? We do not have to wait for the master to show up. He is here, he is always here. We just need to expect to hear his voice of reassurance, and we will. We need to expect his help, and we’ll have it.

We need to expect grace, strength, peace and wholeness—we need to expect love, because we have it— we have Jesus.

Our Old Barn

“Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”

The only ghost that can touch us is the Holy Ghost.

Sow What you Want to Reap

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

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

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

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

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

That’s my default M.O.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you throwing out there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvest

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

What will you be harvesting? What are you harvesting?

You can only reap what you sow.

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

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

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

What does that mean?

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

You get the point.

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

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

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

Fury

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

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

Correction: Mark 3::21-22

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Dry Wells and Tempests

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do you?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wasted Time

“’Hey man, if it feels good—do it!’ …it has long since transcended that Woodstock seed-stock and become the cultural norm. ”

How much time do we waste? All of us begin looking back at some point in our lives and realize just how much of our lives have slipped by like water under a bridge and have a sudden sick feeling of “Oh my, what have I accomplished? Where am I headed? Why have I not spent more time moving myself into where I want to be?”

If you are a believer the question might be; “Why did I spend so much time on stupid things like partying and chasing when I should have been pursuing God’s plan for me?” I know that’s the question I have asked myself often. I know the years I spent drinking, smoking and snorting—running with the party crowd and trying to find or throw the best parties and worrying about who was dating who—set me back more years than I can ever know in following the Lord’s perfect plan for my life.

I feel like I have been playing catch up ever since. Of course God is able to use us for his glory and bless us from wherever we are when we choose to start living for him, to stop living to please the flesh and impress all our good time buddies. But even then you still have to be on guard because the old ways are always there calling you; Remember how much fun we used to have? ‘Remember how popular you were? How cool you were? Wouldn’t it be easier to just give up the fight and go with the flow?’

If it feels good…

In the sixties when I was a kid, the phrase that was coined by the hippie—LSD, free love—crowd was “Hey man, if it feels good—do it!”

That was a subculture philosophy that belonged to the dope smoking, acid dropping fringe who drove VW busses with peace signs on them, wore bell bottom blue jeans, long hair and no shoes. But it has long since transcended that Woodstock seed-stock and become the cultural norm.

We might not express it that way but that is how we now live and base our morality. You can’t judge me! I have needs, this is just the way I am, this is who I am, if there is a God I’m sure he’s fine with this. How can it be wrong when it feels so right? I’m sure I’ll be forgiven, or, more likely today— I have nothing to be forgiven for!

It’s my body… And thus the argument is closed.

You know what? I’m just gonna lay it out here—It’s all lies, it’s all wrong and it’s all a huge waste of precious time.

And if you are in Christ, no, it is no longer your body. You were bought at a price, the blood of the very Son of God. Your indulgences have no eternal value, make no one else’s life better and take you farther and farther away from God’s grace and blessings, and derail his plan for your life.

You all know that verse right? Do you believe it? Or are you still trying to figure out how the if it feels good do it philosophy fits in there?

Well, it doesn’t. But you know that. You just have to decide what you want—a life of pursuing an elusive high that never seems to satisfy like it once did, or a life of meaning and purpose that makes tomorrow worth fighting for?

I tried both ways and I tell you what, following Jesus is never the easy road, but it’s a heck of a lot less miserable. I have a hope, and a future, and I no longer need your dope. I now have the mind of Christ.

I don’t want to waste another minute of this way to short life lusting after things that destroy and will be destroyed. I want to live for the will of God. The one who not only died to forgive me for those lusts of the flesh but also set me free by the power of his Holy Spirit simply because I asked him to. When I asked sincerely, not halfheartedly—’Lord I trust you, I want to live your plan for  my life, my own plan is only leaving me hopeless and confused—help me to overcome!’

And thus began a life of adventure—real adventure, not the empty— well now what —kind.

Wasted Time

So, again I ask, how much time do we waste satisfying the lusts of the flesh on things that have no value in making a difference in this life, in making the world a better place for others, and for advancing the Kingdom of God? Are you using the gifts God gave you? Are you ministering to one another in love? We can’t keep putting things off until tomorrow or hoping or thinking; this season is for me—tomorrow I’ll get serious and live for the glory of God.

There may not be another season. None of us knows the number of our days or when those trumpets will sound and time is up for all of us.

 I think the admonition of Peter to stop wasting time living for the flesh like the pagan’s do is becoming more urgent by the day. It would seem the days of devil may care it’s all good, bless me Lord in my revelry and fleshly pursuits, are coming to a rapid close and the sides are being chosen and the evil less and less subtle.

There’s no subtlety in trying to rip a US senator and his wife limb from limb in front of a guillotine as they were leaving the White House at the end of a presidential speech or shooting young children for the crime of being white. This is truly an evil day.

But, at the same time, the Spirit is moving for those who care to listen and the Lord is urging and warning us—pay attention, this is the hour of decision. Are you going to choose wrath or blessing, life or death, lies or truth. Because we can either have a revival or a tribulation—and I would much rather have a revival. And yes, as I have told you before, I think the choice is ours.

We are being warned and the alarms are going off for those who are awake and aware.

We don’t have to go there, not yet. Keep praying, stay awake and trust the one who holds your soul. He loves you.

The world will think you’ve lost it. Who cares. You are actually the one who found it–found Him, found freedom.

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.

Trading In Fear

“…the more things you fear the more respected and with it you are. You are woke.

Photo by Swaningson “Weeping rock”

“…do not be frightened.”  Now there’s something we need to hear!

We live in a time of fear —don’t we? It seems that is the currency of the day. We are told to fear, we collect fears, and the more things you fear the more respected and with it you are. You are woke. If you don’t fear you don’t care, and if you don’t care you must be a hater and if you are a hater, ‘Well… we can abuse you however we see fit!’

That’s the culture and the mindset that is being pushed on us by a very loud and influential minority who somehow acquired way too much power over us.

Fears

But no one ideology or group has the monopoly on fear. There is plenty to go around on all sides, and we play right into it.

We are hounded constantly with things to fear. You are supposed to fear a virus. You are supposed to be afraid to go out and live a normal life because of that virus. You are supposed to fear the authorities who suddenly seem to have way too much power and use fear to justify their actions and threaten and belittle you if you do not accept the premise of fear.

You are supposed to fear being found out as a racist, a bigot, a homophobe—whatever—and we now need to fear having our businesses and neighborhoods burned and looted, being dragged from a car and beaten, having our kids snatched by traffickers.

We are supposed to fear what will happen if the wrong person gets elected depending on which side of ever widening political chasm you are on. You are supposed to fear China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Sharia, space aliens and ghosts. Fear the demons that cause every malady known to man who run roughshod over weak Christians who are afraid to take authority over them.

Fear the vaccines and the evil agendas behind them, the medications and doctors who cannot agree on anything concerning this supposed pandemic. Fear the coming of the Antichrist, micro-chips, Antifa, George Soros, Bill Gates, the latest NIV revisions, the governors of liberal states, and most of all—fear each other and stay away from one another.

Just bury your heads in your phones and live your whole existence online from the safety of your homes.

At least until the looters come and you can’t defend yourselves because you are supposed to be afraid to own a gun and you can’t call the police because now we are afraid of them. So—I guess we are all just . . . screwed.

This would all be hilariously absurd if it wasn’t all true and just the tip of the iceberg of the fears that are being shoved down our throats by the insane and evil world we live in. A world that yes, does have plenty to fear—life has always had challenges, and has since Adam and Eve met that fun loving serpent in the garden of Eden, but would probably not seem nearly so scary if all of this was not being propagated and encouraged by a news media, and every living and breathing soul with a Facebook or Twitter account, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

So, we are all trading in fear. At least if we succumb to those fears, contrary to the often repeated words of our God not to.

Refuse

Swaningson Glacier Park

So, for those of us who refuse to live in fear, who refuse to accept any new normal that includes fear and intimidation as a motivator, who are not afraid of death or even suffering in the flesh as a result of just living, or for doing what is good and right in the eyes of the Lord no matter how out of step it may be with the on-line trolls or the sign carrying snarling people in the streets, we need to be ready—ready to give an answer as to why.

‘Why are you not afraid? Why are you not pandering and kowtowing to our demands? Why are you not stressed and frenzied, angry or vengeful? Why? What is the hope that is in you that gives you such strength and peace?’

Do you have the answer? Would anyone even ask you that, or are you living in a state of fear and anxiety just like we are expected to do? A state where we can be controlled and manipulated and ready to compromise what we know to be true and right?

Does the light shine from your eyes? Do you have a clear conscience and a solid place to stand? Are you standing on the rock? That is your answer right there. The answer to the hope that is in us is Jesus Christ, the stone the builders rejected and the rock that makes them fall.  

Swaningson Glacier Park

He is the foundation upon which my life is built and I am secure in him. I have nothing to fear and my hope is infallible–because my Lord is.

Eyes open

Am I aware of and careful of all those things we have had foisted on us to fear? Yes, I most certainly am, and of much more than that. But I refuse to trade in the currency of the day, I refuse to live in fear. I refuse to be a sheep being led to slaughter by the Judas goats of the enemy. All of my days are numbered in the Lord’s book, he is my shepherd and I shall not fear—I fear God and God alone. And so long as I obey his commands and heed his voice, as long as I revere Christ as Lord,  (1 Peter 3:14) I do not fear finding myself in his presence whether at my going to him or him coming to us.

For I am loved, forgiven and redeemed. And all the suffering this world can and will throw at me is but a minor irritation in the light of what I have in him. Even walking through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. When did we all become so afraid of death that we became afraid to live?

My eyes are wide open and I keep praying for spiritual discernment because to really see what’s going on in all this fear peddling takes the eyes of the Spirit and ears to hear because the spiritual battle that is being waged in and around all of this, is much fiercer and consequential than anything our eyes of flesh can see today.

But we are on the side that wins. We have read the end of the book and seen the victories to come. So today, stand firm, ready to give an answer for our fearlessness and hope, in the humility of one who knows that what we have is a gift—a gift of unparalleled mercy and grace from a God who holds our hearts and keeps it safe.

It is not blissful ignorance, it is the power and the wisdom of the God of Creation, and in knowing the answers because we have a book that gives all of them. It’s called the Bible. Read it. If we don’t it may very well be taken away from us by those who twist it to use it against those who cannot give the right answers even though they claim it’s promises of redemption.

Biblical illiteracy is exactly what is wrong with this nation.

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

Swaningson Glacier Park Hope in you