Escape from…

There are a lot of things that people can escape from—work, responsibility, slavery, abuse, prison… The first thing I think of, and is kind of what inspired this title is Escape from Alcatraz, a movie title from 1979 based on the true story.

Then there was the more noble escape attempt from a German POW camp in 1944 during WWII, that has become known by another movie title The Great Escape. The camp was deep in the heart of Nazi occupied Poland.

It seems pretty much the entire prisoner population was in on the escape and they spent a year digging nearly 400 feet of tunnel to get past the outer fence and guard towers—but they didn’t quite get far enough.

This, their third attempt at tunneling out, got them just past, but dangerously close, to a guard tower where they popped out. But once they broke the surface they were committed—it was now or never— so they went for it.

76 prisoners made it through the tunnel and into the woods before the 77th man was spotted emerging from the ground, sparking a massive man hunt and prison shakedown. All but 3 of the prisoners, were recaptured and, sadly, 50 of those were executed. The other three, with help from forged papers and sympathetic civilians, made it into allied territory and lived to tell the story of their harrowing and daring escape from the clutches of the enemy.

Their story would become the inspiration for the popular ‘60’s sitcom called Hogan’s Heroes. A show I loved as a kid by the way. In the TV show version the Germans are all bumbling idiots who have prisoners coming and going at will via their underground network of tunnels by which they pull off all sorts of espionage and sabotage against the Nazis.

Of course the hapless commander of the camp, the monocle wearing Colonel Klenck, believes his camp to be unescapable and delights in declaring so to anyone and everyone, usually just after a caper has been pulled off right under his nose by the unflappable American saboteur and supposed prisoner—Colonel Hogan—’There’s no escaping Stalag 13!

Que the credits and play the music. Leaving the audience laughing to themselves—”’No escaping Stalag 13?’ That’s what you think!”

That is of course what anyone who holds someone else against their will wants their captives to think.

It doesn’t matter the type of captor, prison camp commandant, prison warden, jail guard, abusive spouse, drug pusher, porn peddler, the devil himself—if they can convince you that there is no escaping, their job of keeping you enslaved and imprisoned in much easier. Because a hopeless captor is one who is much easier to manage.

Corruption

“he has given us, … his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption”— Peter here is largely talking about us escaping the most destructive captor of all—our own flesh, a flesh corrupt and all but dead by virtue of our having been enticed and ensnared by the lust for things the enemy throws in front of us to lure us to our destruction.

The enemy wants us imprisoned in the hopelessness of the corruption of our flesh so that we either cannot, or believe we cannot, be freed. He wants us to believe that even if we were free there would  be nowhere for us to go and to be ignorant of the potential for greatness we have by virtue of us being created in the image of the creator himself, an image that was corrupted by sin.

The enemy, and those he uses to speak for him, wants to keep us excluded from participating in the divine nature that we should be a reflection of. Paul said much the same thing to the Church in Corinth.

If we accept the redemption, the forgiveness available to us by the blood of Christ and strive to be those who live in the freedom of the spirit rather than in the bondage the flesh would keep us in, we will one day be free of this corrupt flesh entirely and be resurrected just as our Lord was—incorruptible.

We will be changed in an instant from spiritual beings living in a dying and depleted body and into eternal beings that are now clothed with eternal, regenerated and perfect bodies of flesh and blood—just as Jesus now is—the heavenly Man who has gone before us to prepare the way for us in his Father’s house.    

Yes Colonel Klenck, there is escape from your Stalag, it happens all the time and we are in the process ourselves.

God’s grace is our exoneration and our pardon all at once, and in that our peace is multiplied. And we have it in writing.

This promise  that we can escape from the world’s corruption, through God’s divine power and partake of the divine nature, is a promise that is ours by virtue of the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  Knowledge is power. Especially when that knowledge is of God.

And how do we get that knowledge?

Primarily from the scriptures. The Holy Scriptures are our official pardon, signed, stamped and dated by the Supreme Judge of the universe and we need to know what is in those papers because the enemy of our souls does everything he can to keep us from reading and knowing what is written there. And if we do, he wants to recapture or at least dishearten us so that we cannot lead anyone else into the light of freedom.

The Germans executed those 50 recaptured prisoners of war, against the laws of the Geneva convention, to send a message of discouragement to all the rest, that attempts to escape are not worth the consequences of failure. But it had just the opposite affect because the knowledge that three men had gotten free inspired the entire POW population and word spread like wildfire.

The story of escape to freedom of even one person can inspire thousands to keep hope alive.  We who know Jesus have those stories. And if you do not, you need to know the story—the message of freedom and hope found in the scripture that can and will set you free as well—free from the prison of corruption so that you can write yourself into that story.

The enemy, the devil, has and is slaughtering thousands— millions—of freed prisoners to stop them from spreading the message that there is escape, but his attempts to silence have always served to inspire others. If one is willing to die for something then it must be greater than this life or anything it offers, it must be eternal—and eternity is worth dying for—and living for.

Just the irrational killing of so many simply to stop a story being told tells you how dangerous and powerful they think that story is. We have a dangerous faith—dangerous to those who would control and enslave us because it reveals and releases us to our true nature—the divine nature.

If you are to be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, you have to know the words of life. The words the enemy is bent on destroying and discrediting.

We have to know, know and believe, that everything we need to live a life of freedom, to live a life of purpose, peace and meaning—all that we need to live a life of godliness—free from the corruption that would destroy all of that—can be found in the scriptures—the very words of God.  

We have the words of freedom, we have the hope and the assurance of final victory, we have been declared free and we must live as those who have that hope and that promise and not give up and give in. We should rejoice and find great comfort and hope in the words of freedom that are ours to claim.

Our redeemer lives–and so shall we.

Really, here in Plevna?

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

one of many churches in Plevna

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

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

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

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

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

The first thing you see coming into Plevna

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Obscurity

And take care of that with which you are entrusted.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Hidden Person Within

You are truly beautiful

Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3 to let the hidden person inside be your adornment. Think about that for a second. For the hidden person to be your adornment, it can no longer be hidden. You have to let you out.

What is adornment? It’s accessorizing, accenting, beautifying, highlighting and drawing attention to the beauty. If you are in Christ, have his Holy Spirit and the fruits thereof, if you are created in the image of God, by God and for God—what you have inside of you is the most beautiful part of you.

And you must let it shine. It cannot remain hidden. It must not be hidden behind, or outshone by, gaudy and excessive external accessories such as gold jewelry, elaborate hairstyles, or expensive clothing. It must not be hidden behind a spiteful or boisterous persona. It cannot be hidden behind, or overcome by, bitterness, anxiety or fear.

All of those things are things of the flesh and must give way to the spirit, a gentle and quiet spirit.

Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted so you must allow him to do so. Jesus died to free us from fear and anxiety so you must claim your freedom. Jesus calls us out of the waters of baptism into a resurrection of the soul, as a new creation in Christ Jesus for whom there is now no condemnation, no shame, and no reason to fear anyone or anything that cannot harm the spirit. Your hidden person of the heart is now safely and securely in the hands of the Father.

It is no longer hidden, in fact it never was from him. He has longed for and sent his Son to die for the rebirth and health of that heart which was created to be loved by him. So let that love, let that light and the beauty that is you shine forth like the glorious daughter of the king that you are.

But don’t get caught up in the I must look and dress like plain Jane because makeup, nice hair and jewelry are forbidden notion. Look at the wording; Do not let your adornment be merely outward. So it’s saying don’t just work to make the outside look beautiful, work on the inside where your true beauty is hidden.

This is not a ban on nice clothes, hairstyles and jewelry, but rather an admonition to make your focus on the inner person. The heart must be your priority; the heart, rather than the flesh or the outward appearance.

And, it again goes back to the need to be respectful and honoring of others Peter is addressing in the context of his letter. If you are going all out to draw attention to yourself, ‘Look at me; I’m hot stuff! Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?’ You are no longer beautiful, you are conceited and a distraction and worse. If you are all about being sexy, you are causing others to sin in their inner beings. Men’s hearts are prone to lust after what their eyes are drawn to. And the scriptures, and Jesus especially, had much to say about both sides of that coin. Do not sin nor cause others to sin.

And, I have often noticed that those who seem to go out of their way to dress ‘sexy’ have sadness and hurt emanating from their eyes. And it makes my spirit hurt for them as I know the Father’s does. So please, stop hiding behind the flesh and let the Spirit of the Living God set your heart free.

You are called to shine–forever.

But Peter is also coming at it from this viewpoint, the viewpoint of a social disparity amongst the believers that was very evident in the dress and attitudes of the haves and the have nots.

There were women in this day, as there is today, who had considerably more wealth than others and they delighted in flaunting their wealth, and their husband’s position and status. So this admonition has as much to do with leveling the playing field among the persons of the church as it does the pridefullness of position. In the Kingdom all are equal, God is no respecter of persons, he is not impressed by money and position.

It has always been very off putting to me–as a simple man who works hard for every dollar I make, knowing that most people do–to see big name evangelists and preachers on TV or elsewhere who wear clothes that cost more than the pickups I have owned, and have rings on every finger, hair and makeup that must have taken hours to perfect and teeth that are so perfect and white that they are blue.

Like, who are you trying to impress? —because you are just making me feel like a bum.

And, think about how we must look to the rest of the world. We—all Americans—are wealthy by the standards of much of the world, especially the church in persecuted or developing nations. They see us all bling’ed out and plastic pretty and they have to wonder—’Why do they have money to blow on baubles and I cannot afford a decent place to live or the medicine my child needs to live– let alone get enough food to eat? Where’s the justice Lord?’

“They had all things in common.” This was what was said of Peter’s home church in Jerusalem in the early days. That is what he is speaking to here. ‘Don’t be walking in here with your diamonds and gold flashing like a neon sign saying look at me, while your brothers and sisters are begging for bread!’

Brothers and sisters, be one in the Lord, having compassion, you were called to this.

You are called and the Father’s eyes are on you, his ears are open to your prayers, you are beautiful, loved and blessed.

Yes, life can be challenging, but you were called to this, let the beauty of the hidden person of the heart outshine all of it.

Shamed Into Submission

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke 20:17—18

That my friends, is true justice.

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The Pure Milk

Instinct

One of the things I miss most about not ranching anymore is the adventure of calving. It can be one of the most challenging and stressful times in a ranch operation but also the most rewarding because, that is after all, the whole reason that you do what you do as a rancher—to bring those calves into the world to either sell in the fall, or use to build the herd that your whole operation and much of your life is centered around.

But each calve that hits the ground on your ranch is more than just a paycheck, it is a miracle—another life, vibrant, warm and curious, looking at the new world with big dark eyes, and within minutes struggling to stand up and get on with the business of life.

The most fond memories to me to me are of the ones who came in the middle of the coldest and darkest nights. Memorable because I had a nice cozy barn where I could get them in if I knew a cow was about to calve. I would herd an imminent mother into a stall where there was warm straw on the ground and enough light that I could keep an eye on them.

No matter the weather or the lateness of the hour it always seemed warm and safe in the barn. There is just no way to describe the feeling of being alone in the quiet of a barn in the night with an animal who trusts no other human in the world besides you.

To either witness and assist, as in the case of a heifer having her first calve, or to find the new born calve of a seasoned cow struggling to it’s feet shortly after being born, it’s always wonderful and amazing to behold.

One of the things that never ceased to amaze me about the whole calving scenario, and to me speaks volumes to the undeniable fact that there has to be a creator, is the fact that every calf within minutes of hitting the ground knows where to find the milk.

Think of it. Here is a calf who has just seen the world for the first time, has no experience in anything whatsoever except being shoved through a tight dark tunnel and dropped unceremoniously onto the cold hard ground in a heap of slime that moments earlier had been it’s whole world, it gets licked off by this giant four legged creature with a familiar sounding moo.

And the next thing you know it is pushing its hind end up on wobbly legs followed by first one, then two front legs, being perfectly placed under the front shoulders to push the calf up the rest of the way. And what is the first thing it does? From there it could go in any direction or no direction at all. It could fall down and decide it’s just too much work to do any more.

But no, it heads straight for the tiny little space just under the belly of the giant creature standing nearby, and latches onto the even tinier little spigot tucked underneath and makes the prefect sucking motion with its never before used mouth to get the pure milk that will give it everything it needs to keep it alive and strong for the next few hours, and will sustain it for the next several months as it grows by several hundred pounds.

You can’t tell me that that little pea brained calf who doesn’t know a barb wire fence from a chokecherry bush, or an ice cold creek from a bed of straw at that point, yet knows exactly where to go for it’s first meal, was not given that knowledge by the God who designed and created her.

How about you? With all your vast knowledge and life experience, do you know where to go for milk? Is that calf smarter, more blessed than you? You know where to go, you just have to guard your heart against thinking that you have had enough or that there are other things that will help you more.

There is not.

The calf, knows right where to go, if it doesn’t—it dies.

And once that calf starts in on that milk, I have seen it happen again and again, you can see the energy start to flow through and into the body of that calf, the life giving colostrum rich milk warming from head to toe, the nutrients and antibodies surging into and through the blood stream and affecting and protecting every cell of it’s being.

You can see the lights coming on in the glazed and dazed eyes as they start to shine with life and the sucking becomes more voracious, the head starting to butt the bag above it, stimulating even more milk to be dropped down into the milk filled bag that will be her sole source of life for a good long time.

And she will come back again and again, each time more aggressive and needing more and more—”Milk, I need, I want, milk! I have tasted and seen that the milk is good and I need nothing more!”

That’s what Peter is telling us here. If you have tasted the pure unadulterated and unaltered milk of the word of God, been given life itself, you should want nothing more than to keep coming back to it for more nourishment, so that you can grow thereby.

The pure milk of the word that has given you life, pulled you from darkness to light, death to life, has to be—and this should not even be a question or something you need to be reminded of—your continuing source for strength, for healing nutrients and immunities.

As long as I have walked with the Lord it has continued to baffle me how a person can receive Jesus, be born anew, forgiven and regenerated, and not absolutely fall in love with the word of God and desire more and more of it.

As long as we walk this earth we are still growing and maturing in the Lord and we must keep going back to the place our hearts just instinctly know it must go, to find what you need to sustain that new life.  If not, perhaps you heard the wrong gospel and never truly tasted that the Lord is gracious. — IF indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious -Peter says.

There are a lot of false or incomplete gospels out there.

What is the gospel? It is as follows:

Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs . . . you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. . . .

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”. . .

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” -Acts 2

That’s the gospel, direct from the Holy Spirit through the lips of Peter mere moments after the church was born on the day of Pentecost . The pure gospel.  That is the pure milk of the word of God. That’s the colostrum that gives you life and delivers you from the old world of darkness and ignorance to the world of light and enlightenment. You want to be woke, live in and for the word of God.

All else is rubbish.

And that is the message the world has and is rejecting and why this world is such a mess. And the world, who has not left the womb of ignorance and darkness, is now trying to shame us into turning away from the pure milk of the word.

They are not just rejecting us, they are not just rejecting the word of God, they are rejecting the Lord himself, the precious living cornerstone.

But we who do believe, who do not reject the truth will by no means be put to shame.

Pulled From Darkness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Loneliest Job

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t do that. . . never do that.

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

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

I Will Let You Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But are they?

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

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

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

Flawed Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you like me now?

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

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

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

The Enduring

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

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

Do this

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

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

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

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

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

Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Societal Pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Peter 1:23

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