Justice, and a Cowdog?

Hank the Cowdog by John R Erickson, Image by Gerald L Holmes

Justice is an unalterable law of God’s universe

We serve a God of Justice. Lately we have been tracking along here in this blog with the biblical book of James. He is a no punches pulled kind of preacher and towards the end of his letter he lays in to the “rich”.

Not a lot of happy aren’t you all wonderful preaching in the book of James. But if you dig into his mind a bit and follow his train it truly is encouraging. Because it’s about truth and justice. Something we all inherently yearn for.

James’s words of rebuke and condemnation for the oppressive wealthy are given, not so much as a warning to the rich, as they are not his primary hearers, but as an encouragement to those who are oppressed. This is meant as an assurance that the Lord see’s the plight of the poor and oppressed in his church, and is their vindicator. He is reminding us that final judgement and vindication belongs to the Lord of Hosts and to him alone.

It should be comforting to all who love justice, who have been mistreated and hurt by being treated unjustly or aggrieved at the mistreatment of others, to know that there is ultimately justice. In that is our peace.

Our God is a God of justice, that is where our sense of fairness and justice comes from and why it bothers us so to see it miscarried.

We all do our share of stupid things and we must extend the grace that we receive.  The God who knows everything, does not hold it all against us. Our sins are not ignored but they are forgiven because of Jesus.

Justice must be served and that is an unalterable law of the universe God created that cannot be ignored, but it can be delayed and even satisfied by a proxy.

And we as Christians know that that proxy was Jesus. Justice was satisfied—it was served on Jesus. The one who took the punishment for our sins.

But what about all those who seem to get away with so much, lying cheating, stealing and the really heinous things like sexual assaults and murder, or the rich and powerful whose actions and greed hurt thousands and even millions of people?

Their day is coming.

the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.  You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you. James 5:4-6

Hank the Cowdog

Our God loves us too much to turn a blind eye to those who hurt us and he does not forget or disregard those hurts or those who inflict them.

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. James 5

My daughter Jessie used to love reading Hank the Cow Dog books when she was a kid. A champion for rural justice.

One day when she was in second or third grade I suppose, all the kids got to go to school dressed up for Halloween. Jessie decided to go as Hank the Cow Dog. So my wife, Donna, rigged up some sort of costume with ears, a tail and painted whiskers on the face. It was pretty cute.

When I got home from work that night Jessie was not in a happy mood, which was pretty unusual for her, and Donna told me that she had had a really tough day because some kids made fun of her for going to school as a dog.

This broke my heart and made me furious all at once. I wanted to go find those kids and tell them, “You little punks, you just wait fifteen years or so and I’m going to find you and kick your butts!”

Of course I didn’t, nor have I, but I never forgot that slight against my little girl. You can’t love someone that much and not feel their pain, maybe even more than they do. Which, I think in this case may have been so.

A couple of years ago we were in some shop somewhere with Jessie, who is all grown up of course, and in the back we find a rack full of old books. I hear Jessie exclaim “Hank the Cowdog! Look, they have Hank the Cowdog books!” Instantly all the hurt and anger I felt that Halloween day so many years ago came back and I hesitantly asked Jessie; “You still like Hank the Cow Dog?”

“Of course I do, why wouldn’t I?” “I guess I thought all the trauma you experienced when you went to school dressed as Hank spoiled it for you.” She looks at me funny and says, What? I don’t remember that?

Apparently if wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I thought it was. Or she forgave and forgot, I’m glad for that, but still—stupid kids . . .

That’s what James is saying here. God loves you and he sees the pain and injustices being inflicted on you, and it may not always seem like it, and you may wish for swift justice and all things to be set right—but be patient, they will.

Your Father who loves you knows all of it, he sees all of it and he will not forget all of it. He hurts when you hurt and cries when you cry and those who cause you pain, if they do not repent, and hopefully they will—which is why God is patient, they will have to answer for what they do to his precious children.

You just keep living your life, investing in heaven and let the Lord worry about the unjust and the oppressors. Life is too short to live it angry and indignant or fearful and anxious.

The precious fruit is coming with the latter rains.

A Man’s Pay

I handed it to him and said, that’s how you do it. The other hand said “Hey Dan, take it easy on him, he’s just a kid!”

A few years ago I was doing a remodel on an elementary school in Billings. One of the guys I had working under me was the teenage nephew of the owner of the company I worked for. I had him and another more experienced guy removing all the ceramic floor and wall tile in the bathrooms.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I got them lined out and went to do other things. A couple hours later I came back and there wasn’t a whole lot accomplished yet. The more experienced hand was popping tile off the walls with a little seven bar and a hammer, making a little progress, but here was the bosses’ nephew sitting on top of a short ladder with his Leathermen tool, basically an expensive Swiss Army knife—in case you don’t know— and he was using the little flat screw driver attachment to pry the tiles off, one agonizingly slow tile at a time.

I said, what are you doing? I gave you a spud bar and a floor scraper. He says, “Oh, I don’t need those, I have all the tools I need right here in my Leatherman.” I said, “No, put that away, we don’t have forever to get this done.” I then grabbed the spud bar and attacked the walls with it scraping off scores of wall tiles from the concrete backer board in a matter of a few seconds.

I handed it to him and said, that’s how you do it. The other hand said “Hey Dan, take it easy on him, he’s just a kid!” I replied, “He’s getting paid a man’s wages here, he needs to do a man’s work.” (Yes I know that’s not politically correct–so sue me) Production increased dramatically after that.

Just a few months ago I happened to run into his Dad at a supply house in Billings and he recognized my name as he was taking my order. He said, “Hey, I’m Kyle’s dad, my son worked with you a few years ago and he talked about you a lot, he really liked you and he learned a lot that summer! Thank You.”

I said “Thanks, that’s really good to hear.”

I have always believed that you are not doing anyone any favors by not teaching them how to work and expecting more out of them then they expect out of themselves. Being fair, yes, but expecting one to do their best. That’s the way I was raised, that’s the way I came up in the trades and that willingness to work hard and the wisdom to work efficiently and productively has always served me well.

It has kept me working and garnered me more responsibility, and a bigger paycheck as I have been entrusted with more and more over the years.

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. James 3:13

That’s what James is doing here, trying to teach us how to work, to garner more responsibility and trust so that we can have greater rewards.

The apostle James is laying out for us in his letter, the way to obtain wisdom, the fruit of righteousness, even grace; telling us it is in our willingness to let go of ourselves, our selfish ambitions, lusts, our need to be somebody in the eyes of the world and in humbling ourselves, repenting of our arrogance and selfishness.

In fact, he is quite adamant and passionate about it, true to his ‘no holds barred’ style he is even calling us out as being adulterous for seeking our own advancement over that of the Kingdom, which has implications of we the bride cheating on the groom. James is calling us out for going after the false gods of self and the desires of the flesh.

Bottom line here, I believe, in this section of James’ letter is that our arrogance, pride and apathy is disqualifying us from the full measure of grace and the power that goes with it that God so desperately wants to give us.

How-ya liking James now?

“Hey, I’m just a kid, leave me alone!” No. you are being fed meat, you need to work like an adult.

God yearns jealously for our spirits as only a first and true love can. And we are truly the ones our God yearns for as his first love, the crown of his creation made in his image. To love and be loved with the kind of love only a being created like the creator, who embraces that love, can.

The spirit is our inner being, the very core and heart of who we are, and God wants nothing more than to connect with us on an intimate personal level. Too often we let our mouths get in the way. There’s an old saying; “Don’t let your froggy lips overload your tadpole ass.” In other words. Don’t let your mouth get you into more trouble than you can handle.

A little humility goes a long way. Especially with the Lord.

Pride always gets us into trouble. It just sets you up to fail.

I have little patience at work, as I have mentioned to you before, for someone who spends more time telling me what they can do and how good they are, than they do working. Less talk, more work. Talk is arrogance, work is humility. When the task at hand is done, then we can talk. And even plan what’s next, based on what you did, not what you said you can do..

Let the boss catch you working, head down, mouth shut, hands busy. And when it’s time for layoffs, you’ll look up and see that the talkers are gone and you are now somebody—somebody trusted, somebody with favor, more responsibility, more authority—but most importantly, still employed.

That scenario has happened to me more than once in my construction career. God’s economy works the same way. Yeah we could all go on unemployment or welfare and make it to heaven in the end, presuming on grace as citizens of the Kingdom by virtue of the blood.

But then you are not living up to your potential, you are wasting the talents given you and you are missing out on the joys of seeing the fruits of your labors and the honor and security of being a diligent trusted worker with the opportunity, by virtue of your position, to help others and even bring them into the fold as well.

The reward for faithfully working is often those greater works you seek.

Greater Works Amidst Chaos

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

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

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

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

And we, the church, all just roll over.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greater works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As The Tongue Goes -part II

You will not dictate what I say, and you will not dictate what I cannot say.”

The message of freedom that has kept this country so, has traditionally been propagated by preachers. We must not shirk that responsibility- that must include all believers in these dark days of increasing threat to freedom.

Jesus once said “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.”  That is the very heart of the gospel and teachers have a sacred to be true to that. That too is a huge responsibility and we must be thankful for and protective of the freedom to do just that.

James tells us that those who endeavor to preach the gospel, to teach the word of God are held up to a higher standard by God—and God alone. We can allow no man, woman, or government official to dictate what and how that message is preached and only the bravest and truest messengers for God will be unyielding and uncompromising in that sacred duty.

But, James warns us, mistakes will be made. So those who listen must listen closely and even choose to listen to another if it is determined that the one preaching is no longer listening to nor being faithful to the word and the Spirit. But know that we will all stumble so give us some grace.

But the point is, the freedom to preach, teach—and stumble is a right and a privilege that comes from God alone and must be protected and cherished so long as there are people on this earth who call themselves free. And the freedom for all to speak their mind while respecting the rights of others to do the same, no matter how vehemently we disagree, is just as vital.

Once you start outlawing speech, subject it to the lawmakers, and the elites, only the ones holding the power will be free—and even those will fall prey to their own convoluted premises in the end.

We have been blessed to be part of this grand experiment called the Land of the Free where all are supposed to be equal and to have a voice.

It is our constant fight to perfect and adhere to that principle that has made this a good place to live. God honors that desire to be a society where all can speak their conscience in regards to their conviction and religion. That’s what has made this nation largely a good and blessed land.

Canceled

And now we are cancelling ourselves. Ironic that we find ourselves in a time when we have chosen to take that right of free speech away from ourselves, or allowed others to take it from us, without hardly a fight. If not in law certainly in our popular culture.

The—me too, no wait, not you! —those words offend me, cancel culture full of imaginary racist dog whistles and micro-aggressions—ever changing rulebook of what is acceptable and what is not according to the self-appointed dictators of speech and behavior has become impossible to keep up with. And those who beat us over the heads with it would all be laughable in their absurdity if they were not literally destroying the lives of so many people whose only crime was thinking they still possessed the right of free speech.

It seems the only truly free speech anymore is that being exercised by those who wish to destroy everyone who has a viewpoint that goes counter to their own as deemed appropriate by the whims of the day. We have turned into a nation of verbal cannibals. It’s disturbing and dangerous beyond measure and we have example after example in recent history of how this ultimately ends; Lenin, Mao Stalin, Hitler, Kim, Castro—but alas, the safe zone dwelling destroyers of free and diverse thought and speech have destroyed and rewritten history so– doubtless we have to repeat it all over again.

Hell Fire

As the tongue goes, so goes the body.

With our tongue we can destroy the created and good order of things and turn it into just another vestige of Hell.

That’s some pretty heavy stuff James is laying down here. Maybe we ought to pay attention. The loudest voices in our nation right now are not speaking out of love, heaven is not being represented in our public discourse and society altering articulated hate is ruling the day and it is destroying us.

Just the sheer vulgarity of it all should make that obvious to any decent person. But decent people are not cool any more are they? They don’t get the news coverage and the viral video status our narcissistic society craves.

Demonic hatred and vileness rules the day; always offended, always indignant, always angry, always looking for something or someone to destroy. It’s doing nothing but turning us against one another.

We can change that, and we must. How? By speaking truth, by speaking love and by speaking boldly. And really, that is what James is telling us here. It starts with us, your heart and your tongue. Honestly—your own tongue is the only one you can and should control, or at least try to. Most people have stopped trying. They are letting anything and everything fly out of their mouths. Or they are letting others dictate what they speak—or don’t speak.

We as believers cannot be that way. You will not dictate what I say, and you will not dictate what I cannot say. We cannot make people listen to us nor should we. You have the right to not hear me just as I have the right to speak. That right to not hear is practiced by removing yourself from the speaker, not by silencing the speaker. That is where we are getting it wrong today.

The enemy is not happy with just turning people away from the church. He wants to silence the church, he wants to silence you. And he is succeeding—little by little over the decades and by leaps and bounds of late.

There are mayors of large cites and governors of entire states who have openly declared that they do not want churches to be open and have threatened to arrest those who go, and even to destroy the buildings. We are under assault people. But, we have to power to reclaim what was lost or to destroy what is left. And that power is in our tongues and ultimately only we can reclaim what our tongues allowed us to lose.

We have to speak up, we have to speak out, we have to pray, and we have to teach the next generation what freedom truly means. I have to wonder where my generation went so wrong that the next generation no longer knows the value of freedom let alone care about it.

We must recognize that God has given us a mighty tool, or weapon, depending on how you choose to wield it, and ultimately, cancel culture, 1st amendment or any other outside influence notwithstanding, we get to choose in the end the words we use.

And those words affect who we are, and according to James, they are who we are.

As the tongue goes, so goes the body, and ultimately, the nation.

I’m sorry, I usually try to be more positive with these posts, but I am scared to death for this nation and I really think we are running out of time to save it. I’ll just say this before I close—pray for this nation, pray for yourselves, and vote.

Vote for those who fight to defend your freedoms. Once they are gone we will not get them back, there will be no America out there to rescue us.

It was only 80 years ago that churches in Nazi Germany replaced the crosses on their altars with swastikas and remained silent as their neighbors were systematically slaughtered, because they dared not speak up or speak out. America freed them and woke them up, at great cost in blood and treasure. Who will help America?

God help us before it’s too late—for our sake and for the world.

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

As the Tongue Goes. . .

As the tongue goes—so goes the body-and the nation. Our words are so important and we see that over and over again in scripture. Our words have power, power to affect the heavens themselves through our prayers, blessings and curses; the power to affect the lives, hearts and souls of other people—and to affect who we are becoming and to make plain for the world to see, who we are.

As the tongue goes, so goes the rest of us. This lines up with what Jesus said, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks… But James is expanding on that a bit and telling us that not only does the mouth reveal what is in our hearts, it also dictates where the heart is going.

If you are speaking hate—you will have a heart full of hate. If you are speaking love, you will have a heart full of love. If you don’t speak at all, you will probably become bitter and hard because we were created to speak, to communicate freely with one another and with our God.

The measure to which we are who we are is immeasurably tied to what we have had communicated to us, and to what we have been allowed to communicate to others. Ideas, wisdom, lessons learned, questions that need answered, emotions that need addressed, hurts that need appeased and rights that need wronged, prayers—none of those can be transferred from one to another if we cannot speak to one another.

That amazing ability to do all of that is a huge gift to mankind and you could argue is what makes us human. But it is also a huge responsibility because the tongue is something we are all prone to lose control of. And it can get us into trouble pretty fast. With our tongues we can do great good, but our fallen nature often leads it to do great harm.

That word there, similitude, that just means we are created in God’s image, that we have attributes like the creator, among them— according to James here—is in the gravity and power our words hold. God created the world and all that is in it with his word and for better or worse, he gave us, as those created in is image, the ability to affect change with our words as well—to create or destroy, not on the same level as God obviously, but probably a lot more powerfully than any of us realize.

What do we do with that power? That’s the question.

Looking at that concept from a political and societal point of view, we are blessed to live in a nation that recognizes the importance and God given power of the words we speak. Our founders fought and died to ensure that we had, and retained, that right, as have many who have come after them.

One of the great constitutionally protected freedoms we enjoy as Americans and the very basis and mark of a free people is the freedom of speech, the right to speak our minds, to express our concerns, to criticize or boast about our leaders and each other, and to communicate our thoughts without fear of arrest or persecution from the law.

As with any freedom, the responsibility for the proper use of that freedom falls back on the one who exercises that freedom. I remember the late great Paul Harvey used to say, “With great freedom comes great responsibility.”

Do you all remember Paul Harvey? “Hello America, I’m Paul Harvey. Stand by for news!”

Up until a decade or so ago he did a morning and afternoon newscast every week day that pretty much the whole country listened to, and looked forward to listening to. Try to find a single newscaster today that you could get everyone in any work place to sit around a radio to listen to without someone being offended or storming out of the room while muttering obscenities.

Objective journalism and fair minded reporting and observation is a thing of the past—on both sides. And that’s the problem– we have all chosen sides. And those sides are far apart.

I just want to be on Jesus’s side, and on the side of freedom, because the first casualty of any lost freedoms always seems to be the freedom to think, move and speak as one would believe God wants him to.

That has always been the founding principle, and what the very notion of freedom is that this nation fought so earnestly for and enshrined in our charters from the Magna Charta to the Declaration of Independence to the Bill of Rights to the Emancipation Proclamation. The true definition of freedom is the freedom to be who we believe that God wants and destined us to be. And the freedom to fall short of that because of our own choices.

The freedom to verbalize the reasons behind what we do and think, to debate, teach and listen to various reasons and thoughts is truly an invaluable and necessary freedom for the health and advancement of the human condition.

Our founders were truly inspired by God to establish those rights for us as the basis for the freedom we have enjoyed. It is literally how the gospel has, and is, spread—freely speaking and teaching truth. Not always perfectly and unfortunately not always lovingly, but always freely. And everyone has had the freedom to argue with or reject the word as it was spoken by those who endeavored to teach it.


We, all of us who believe, get to choose whether we speak with the fire of the Spirit or spread the flames of hell’s fury and destruction. We get to choose whether we are fonts of fresh living water or whether we are spewing destruction. Those outside of Christ don’t really have that choice, they are woefully deceived and speak only the lies that the father of lies, the devil, has planted on their lips.

We have to counter that, we have to lead them to freedom by speaking the words of freedom. We must be springs of living water.

We must remember and realize that the world is not our enemy, the world is only deceived by the real enemy because we have stopped up our springs of living water, we have quenched the fires of the Spirit found in the word of God.

The voices of evil have gotten louder because the voice of the church has gotten quieter.

The hell fires burn hotter when the fire of the Spirit is quenched. Do not let that happen!

Really? Rahab the Harlot?

“…her words and her actions bore witness to a God given, front loaded, heart of faith.

In the second chapter of James we are given two examples of those who proved that their faith was real by their actions. Abraham and “Rahab the Harlot”.

Unarguably, Abraham’s actions as found in Genesis were a testament to his faith and a fitting seal of a long life of faithfulness and nearly everyone knows who he is still today.

But then, there is Rahab. She is just dropped into the picture out of the blue, a woman with no known history of faithfulness and no long recorded history of interactions with God for us to marvel at. Yet she ends up with a lead role in the story of the making of Israel.

Rahab

You have to wonder, of all the people in the Hebrew scriptures— Noah, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, King David, Elijah, Ruth, Solomon, Jeremiah, Esther—great heroes, prophets and examples of integrity and tenacity—of all the possible examples, to put on par with Abraham as examples of those justified by faith in action, James uses Rahab the harlot.

Really? Rahab the harlot?

Obviously her last name wasn’t harlot but that was her designation, a title actually. Like Builder Bob or Sam the butcher. James makes it clear in that way just to whom he is referring, there is no mistaking—but still, Rahab the Harlot?

You all know that means she’s a prostitute right? Not exactly a career choice that a woman who wants to become a beacon of light and an example of faith in the Kingdom of God, should draw to—let alone even go and stay with, as the spies that Joshua sent to her hometown of Jericho to check out did. Really guys, you went straight to a prostitutes house to find sanctuary?  

I just love the realness and grittiness of the bible. God uses real people to do his greatest works, and he doesn’t gloss over their flaws. It gives me hope.

So, why Rahab? Why would God lead the spies there and why would James use her to make his point?

Easy—She was able to show them the money. She probably didn’t talk a lot of bible speak or come across as a religious person, she was, after all, a harlot in a pagan city. But when it came down to it, she was able to show the fruits of her faith in the one true God by her actions.

In that regard I think James was quite ingenious in using her as an example of what he is telling us here when he says that we are to show our faith by our works. There was nothing else about her,at least not that we are aware of, that would have merited her a place in the family of God, as a recipient of what was apparently a saving faith totally apart from the law and any religious expression in regard to Yahweh.

There is nothing about her, no moral witnesses, no history of her talking the right talk, saying the right words, praying the right prayers, no self-proclaimed rights to righteousness, seemingly nothing to merit her becoming listed as an ancestor to King David and thus to the Messiah, Jesus himself—she was not even Jewish! Let alone a worshipper of their God.

Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king. Mat 1

But when called upon to fulfill her destiny, to become a key player in the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people that he would deliver them from slavery and give them the land of Canaan, she acted with a courage that would set her apart as someone who truly had a faith in the God whose mighty acts she had only heard about. She had a faith in this unknown God who had apparently been whispering to her heart— that he was indeed real and loved her.

How do I know that? How do I know that God had been whispering to her heart? Because God does it all the time, and he has done it to me. And because her words and her actions bore witness to that God given, front loaded heart of faith.

Spies

Do you all know the story? From the book of Joshua?

The children of Israel had been miraculously delivered from slavery in Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, lived in the desert for forty years eating manna from heaven and were now finally ready to enter in and take the promised land under the leadership of Joshua.

But first, they have to get past Jericho. The fortress city that dominates the first region of the country the Lord is giving them as their new homeland, the very land he had promised hundreds of years earlier to Abraham, where he would become a great nation.

So Joshua, as any good military leader would, sends of a couple of spies to do some reconnaissance.  The spies make it into the city of Jericho largely unnoticed but word soon gets around that they are not just ordinary nomads coming to trade goat milk for pottery.

They are part of that very large group of former slaves from Egypt known as the Hebrews who have just crossed the Jordan river and are wreaking havoc on anyone who tries to stop them, and many have. So the spies seek out a place to hide, preferably someone who can give them a little insight as well, and somehow or other, I have to wonder at the thinking that led them there, but they end up in the home of a local prostitute named Rahab.

But, it turns out, little goes unnoticed in this town and word gets back to the King himself that there are enemy spies staying at Rahab’s house on top of the wall. So he sends troops to arrest them. But Rahab gets word that they are on their way so she takes the Israelites up on her roof where she has flax laid out in the sun to cure, and hides them underneath it. When the king’s men show up she tells them that the spies have already left and that if they hurry they might be able to catch them, so off they go.

After a time Rahab has the spies come out from hiding and tells them that she can lower them over the wall from her window, as her house is on the massive wall that surrounds the city, with a rope so that no one will see them leave and that they can then go in a different direction, avoiding those who are pursuing them.

But first she wants a promise. She has helped them at great risk to herself. But she realized that they were on the winning side, because she believed in an unseen God, heard the stories of his power to deliver those who serve him, and she fears him more than she fears the soldiers banging on her door.

She believes that the Israelites will indeed take the city she dwells in and that all their enemies will be destroyed. So she asks them to remember how she helped them and to spare her and her family when they return to take the city.

The spies tell her to tie a scarlet cord in her window as a sign and a reminder to the Israelite army that they are to spare her and all in her house. And indeed that is what happens. When the Israelites return and do their now famous seven day march around the city walls and blow them to smithereens with nothing but a shout and a trumpet blast, Rahab and her family are spared and become a part of the nation of Israel.

Now, thinking about this story, it seems that her part in the big picture conquest of the promised land was pretty small. I mean, Jericho probably would have been taken regardless of the spies eluding capture, but that is not the point.

The point of the story, the point of God’s favor and blessing on Rahab, and the point that James is making, is that it is not the significance or standing in man’s eyes, it is not the outward appearance or having a clean record of holiness and purity—it’s what are you doing today, it’s who are you when the chips are down, how do you respond when your hour comes and God is giving you an opportunity for action, calling you to fulfill your purpose, to make a real difference, to bless and help someone in a real tangible way.

Rahab literally saved the lives of two men and endangered her and her family in the process; two men she had never met before from a strange people she had only heard horror stories about—the Hebrew refugees from Egypt who are mowing down everyone who gets in their way. But, they have this God. . .

And what this God saw in Rahab the Harlot was a heart that wanted to do what was right, that said yes to him when it mattered the most, and when it was probably the hardest to say yes.

God said ‘show me the fruit Rahab’, and she did. And her faith saved her.

A faith lived out is a faith lived in. A faith walked out is a faith that will carry you home.

This is the Hour

A Prophetic Word

As we continue in this season of seemingly ever increasing insanity, fear, evil and uncertainty, all of us who love the Lord, and seek his wisdom, ways and understanding are wondering –What is going on and how do we respond?

I–as all of God’s people including his prophets and pastors, those who humbly seek his face–have been seeking a word from the Lord as we need to hear from him if we are survive–not just survive but overcome–in this hour of decision.

And this is what the Lord has shown me:

This is the hour–the hour in which we the church, and the people of this world, stand in the balance together yet on opposing sides. The group that prevails, that provokes the Lord and forces him to decide in favor of one or the other, life or death, judgement or favor, blessings or curses–that is entirely up to us now.

I see two cauldrons, bowls if you will, hanging over us in the heavens. One is the bowl of the wrath of God, a bowl of loathsome and terrible things that he has done all in his power, without destroying the free will of those created in his image, to prevent having to empty on mankind.

And the other is the overflowing vessel full of his Holy Spirit’s love and power. They are the blessings of life and freedom that we were created to enjoy, forfeited in favor of lies and deceptions from the evil one who hates all things good as they are of the Father he vainly tried to usurp. They are the blessings that are available to us because of the sacrifice of his only begotten Son.

Those cauldrons are hanging precariously over us, each tipped at an angle suggesting they are about to spill their contents entirely and once that happens there will be no stopping it. On is tipping to to east and one is tipping to the west. The direction is irrelevant geographically speaking other than to suggest that they must be poured out in opposite directions because they cannot be poured out together as they cannot mix or mingle–it is an either or set up.

Below the cauldron of wrath are those who stir up, celebrate and provoke evil. Darkness perpetuates evil and is now threatening to swallow the earth including the last vestiges of light and freedom, the land that once openly confessed Jesus as Lord and afforded all the freedom and opportunity to seek him as they so chose.

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.” Revelation 15:7

Those who oppose that life giving gospel message of freedom, equality and redemption are actively provoking all of those who still embrace that message and the God behind it and in so doing they are prodding that cauldron of misery from below and by this reckless action they are causing the loathsome things within to splash on them and on all around them. Yet they only use that poison to further rile up those who choose to listen to the lies of their father the devil rather than turn to the creator and be healed.

That cauldron is being prodded to the point that it is about to be emptied on their own heads, and on the heads of every living thing on this planet. That will be the end and there will be no more chances, no more salvations, healings, or mercies. We will have brought on the final judgement and only the promise of the new heavens and a new earth to follow will allow those who have put their hopes in Jesus to escape the misery of this fallen and cursed world.

But there is still that other cauldron, the vessel of God’s love awaiting release to be poured out on this hurting world and bring fresh life and renewal, to give opportunity for this, and subsequent generations, to find redemption hope and healing.

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;” Acts 2:17

This Spirit generated renewal will overcome the darkness and cleanse the land of sickness, prejudice, hatred and anger. The Spirit of the living God and his word will rid the land of deceptions and lies. Deceptions and lies that have wreaked havoc in the hearts and now the streets of this land that was so blessed and held such great promise–and still can, if we will but turn from our evil ways, turn our hearts to Jesus and rise up as the Holy Army we are called to be.

We have a prod as well. A prodding stick that is reaching up for that cauldron of blessings and power and that has even hit it a few tentative times and released tastes of the goodness within. But as this point the prods are weak and ineffective as those who are prodding the cauldron of wrath are intimidating those below the blessings so that they are afraid to raise their prods to heaven lest they be called out for being bigots and racists, haters and ‘phobes.

This is the hour. We must choose which cauldron will be emptied in this, the last days, as the enemy makes his final last gasp desperate attempt to take all of God’s children with him to his destruction. We must choose to stand together as the church and proclaim healing for the brokenhearted, sight for the blind and release for the captives, because tomorrow will be too late.

We must pray like never before. We must stand on God’s word unapologetically and we must never kneel before evil.

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phillipians 2:1011

Kneel before God and him alone, that is the only thing that will save this nation, and this world.

We have an opportunity like we have never been given before–let’s release the power of heaven!

Let the Spirit bear witness to your spirit as to the truth of these words. -Pastor Dan Swaningson

Pentecost Challenge

“The Holy Spirit does does His greatest work when we are gathered together in one accord. If there was ever a time when we needed that, this is it.”

It disturbs me greatly as a pastor and preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ how casual much of the church has gotten in their embrace of questionable behaviors. Or, to put it bluntly, why is sin not taken seriously anymore?

lay aside wickedness

James 1:21

Perhaps the church has gotten so good at loving the sinner that they forgot to hate the sin, and then got sucked into it. Perhaps we have become so focused on grace that we misplaced repentance. Perhaps we became so adept at hearing the word that we confused hearing with doing.

We threw out the baby with the bath water. Embracing the free gift of grace while forgetting why we needed that gift in the first place—because we have all transgressed the law of God from top to bottom—and needed to bathe in the blood of Christ and the waters of baptism.

But then we threw out the law entirely because it makes us uncomfortable. It reminds us of who we were and that at the same time we are not yet anywhere near where we should be in the holiness department by God’s standards.

We can’t repent of something if we don’t know it’s a sin. If there is no penalty for sin, then why worry about it? Well, there is a penalty for sin, and the Son of God suffered it. He suffered a horrendous and unimaginably horrible death that afflicted every nerve in his tortured body with pain, and he endured betrayals and injustices that tortured his psyche in ways we cannot fathom—all of this at the hands of the people he created and loved enough to endure it for.

So yes, your grace is a free gift to you, but it cost the one who purchased it for you dearly.

1 Cor 6 Jesus

So when you look in the mirror and see a hearer of the word and not a doer, (James 1:23) resolve to do something about it. You’ll be surprised at the power that comes with that free gift of grace.

Grace is not just forgiveness, grace is power, the power of God in your life to be holy just as he is holy, the strength to overcome and the catalyst for the renewing of your mind that gives you the desire to lay aside all filthiness and to overflow with living water instead of wickedness.

The Holy word that was planted in your heart to the saving of your soul is also your strength and your call to cast aside the sin which so easily entangles (Heb)and walk in the freedom of his grace as doers of the word and not just hearers only.

Today is Pentecost Sunday. GO TO CHURCH. The Holy Spirit does does His greatest work when we are gathered together in one accord. If there was ever a time when we needed that, this is it.
And if your church is not open–find one that is! Yes I said it.

‘The Holy Communion of the saints is essential for the life of the church and for the strengthening of the covenant.’ –HS

Pentacost Dove

Are You Not entertained!?

“A warrior needs to be taking on the enemy in a battle that means something, not in an arena.”

A couple of weekends ago I was in our small church building trying to get the lights just right so that attendees and the camera could see the folks up front without them being blinded, adjusting monitor; trying to work the bugs out of the sound, both in the house and on the live feed, is a constant ongoing battle, the Power Point programs and the background pictures I use on the screen to enhance the message and the verses in a way that all can see them, thinking about the placement of the worship team and facilitating all of that both for those in house and the camera, the slow internet speeds and on and on.

I was trying to work through all of that when it all just kind of overwhelmed me a bit (I have no tech people) and I threw up my hands and shouted at the back wall–

“Are you not entertained?”

maximus

In my mind at that moment I was Russel Crowe playing Maximus,  in the movie Gladiator holding up my blood dripping sword after having lobbed the heads off of all of my technological issues and not having any fun whatsoever doing it. In fact I was rather frustrated because it is not what I want to be doing, but it just seems necessary, expected and required.

Like fighting and killing just for show. Fighting and sometimes killing is necessary at times to protect what and who you love and cherish from harm but when it becomes a sport to be cheered it no longer serves a noble purpose.

 A warrior needs to be taking on the enemy in a battle that means something, not in an arena.

Maximus was a noble warrior who is forced to fight for show. He had been a respected general leading a Roman legion, fighting against the barbarians in the north for an Emperor he loved, for what he perceived to be a noble cause, when he was betrayed and found himself in the hands of slavers and sold to a purveyor of the gladiator arena.

After having been forced to fight in several different arenas, using his extensive military experience and skill to become a money making crowd pleaser he is becoming more and more disgusted at the whole system so one day he walks into some backwater arena where he is facing six opponents by himself and he becomes a flurry of steel and sinew as all six opponents are quickly dispatched within a matter of seconds.

As the crowd sits in stunned silence at the display of efficient, no nonsense swordsmanship, Maximus turns to them and sarcastically shouts—“Are you not entertained? –are you not entertained!?”

His trainer and owner then derides him after the show for not putting on a show—”if you want to become truly famous, if you want to make it to the Colosseum in Rome, you have to put on a show, that’s what the people want.”

Frustration

 

Maximus was right in being frustrated that he had to put on a show when the end goal was to dispatch the enemy. For the most part, those in the arena who were put forward as gladiators were captured enemy soldiers or criminals sentenced to death. A quick and efficient execution would have sufficed but they made it into a sport to appease the citizens who needed some distraction from the shortfalls of the leaders and the misery of their day to day.

And once that system, that show was started, the more they demanded and the more creative they had to be in turning killing into entertainment. And it was all about keeping the people happy and pacified.

How many pastors and evangelists feel the same way; ‘Why can I not just get up here and slay the enemy, stomp the devil and his demons and release those he has deceived and put into bondage with the sharp sword of the word of God and release the power of grace in the hearts of God’s children by the life changing, life giving Holy Spirit?

Why the song and dance? Why the multimillion dollar gilded stadiums, the Broadway worthy stages and actors, the lighting and effects, sound and video technologies, that would make any high dollar Rock band feel right at home if they were dropped onto the stage? Why the special events and carefully planned activities that would make a cruise ship director proud?

Are you not entertained?!

recieve with meekness

We are asked to receive the word with meekness. Should it not be sufficient also to deliver the word of God to be implanted in your souls with meekness as well? Meekness means with humility, gentleness, quietness, it certainly doesn’t mean with as loud and as grand a show as you can afford or imagine.

And receiving the word with meekness means not demanding that you be entertained, that your ears be tickled, in the process. The churches feel the pressure to put on a show because the people have come to expect it, and to expect even more. —”Otherwise I’m going golfing—wait, that church on the other side of town, I hear they have an amazingly talented worship team and the drama team, Wow, they are top notch!”

Meanwhile the rest of us are just trying not to lose the remote to the PowerPoint slide show while hoping that no one trips on the mic  cord to the phone we are using to try and keep our church service on Facebook, and that those who run Facebook don’t shut us down because we are preaching the whole gospel and not just the ‘aren’t we all wonderful parts.’

Jesus is Lord and he loves us so much that he died on the cross because of our sins. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. And the Holy Spirit is also alive and well and wants to indwell, heal and lead you, but you must be obedient to his voice and his word if you want to be used of him to make a difference. And you must be willing to get out of your comfortable little happy bubble and be Jesus to a sick and dying world because he is coming back. And then it will be too late to do all that we had put off.’ —That’s the whole gospel.

doers and hearers

We are to be doers and not just hearers.

That’s the unvarnished, life changing, soul saving, devil slaying gospel of Jesus Christ.

What are we going to do with it? How do we become doers?

The Sheep and the Goats

James gives us the answer—get out and change the world, one hurting person at a time, without letting the world change you.

helping hand

It’s the same thing Jesus told us. Who is it that he recognizes at the judgement seat as he separates the sheep from the goats? Those who remembered and visited him when he was sick and in prison, who clothed and fed him when he was naked and hungry.

He recognizes the doers, not those who were only hearers—and talkers.

And why would you not want to make a difference in this world? If you truly have the heart of Jesus, know the love and hope he offers and know the depths of his love, how can you look at those who hurt and not love them like Jesus does? And if you truly love, you will act.

I don’t blame the church for the state of apathy and spiritual arrogance. I blame the leaders who teach what they think will bring people in instead of what will truly save them from missing out on all that God has for them. For allowing them to wallow in filth.

The Holy word that was planted in your heart to the saving of your soul is also your strength and your call to cast aside “the sin which so easily entangles” (Heb) and walk in the freedom of his grace as doers of the word and not just hearers only.

lay aside wickedness

 

Triggers

“Triggers are only the flesh trying to convince you that you are weak–you are not….”

Pressure is pretty much unavoidable in this life so avoiding it is not really an option nor a sign of godly character, actually quite the opposite is true—it seems the more you care about others and doing right, being responsible and loving, the more apt you are to experience and feel pressure. And the more you are entrusted with, the more apt you are to feel pressure.

So then the question becomes—how do you respond to pressure? It’s how we handle that pressure? That becomes the important thing as far as our emotional and spiritual health goes; and that is what the Lord is watching and hoping we learn because if we are not exuding grace under pressure, we are probably not handling it right, and that can get us into big trouble.

tempted drink

There are many things that can trigger us. Trigger us to do stupid things–to sin.

Pressure can cause us to sin through anxiety or fear. ‘Oh my gosh! How am I going to get through this—survive this? What if I don’t? How could you leave me here to suffer and deal with this? Why God, why did you do this to me?’ That is a total lack of trust and faith and borders on blasphemy, blaming God for our troubles as though we deserve nothing but sunshine and roses.

God does not cause our troubles. Nine times out of ten it is a result of our own bad choices, somewhere along the line. And the rest of the time it is the result of someone else’s bad choices—maybe even all the way back to Adam and Eve whose bad choices brought sin, sickness and death into this world to start with.

Another way we can give way to sin under pressure, fail the trial, is by turning to harmful substances or behaviors to distract and “help us forget our troubles.”

Now there is the biggest lie we have ever told ourselves. Drinking, smoking, snorting or shooting, however you feed your mind numbing addictions, only make the troubles loom larger and seem more overwhelming as you dull or alter your ability to deal with or resolve those problems in a healthy constructive way. And that quickly creates a whole new set problems—more unneeded, totally avoidable, bad choice pressure.

Everyone forgets that alcohol is a depressant until they drink to forget their woes and turn into the saddest whiniest fool in the room.

And marijuana just makes you stupid as you forget everything, including your ambitions, goals, and where you left your car keys.

All the other drugs just make you forget what your car even looks like and how to drive it—but that’s okay because eventually you will not have a car, or a license, a job, or any dignity—but you will have a purpose in life—getting more of your drug of choice no matter what it takes. Addicts are the most dedicated people around, dedicated to self-destruction and avoiding all responsibility and pressure.

Anyway, backing up just a bit from sleeping in a carboard box surrounded by empty cans of Schlitz tall boys—the lie that gets us there, to that ‘nothing else matters anymore except getting my fix’ state, is much more subtle and starts small. It’s a little here, a little there as the flesh is a many deceitful thing left to its own accord.

‘A little was okay yesterday so more must be okay today, and I need this.’

Part of the deceit is that the things we claim to be doing to forget our pressures, are things the flesh is pushing us to do anyway, pressure or not. And this latest pressure we may be experiencing, whatever it is— there will always be something— is just a convenient excuse to indulge the flesh. And whenever we dull our senses, we open ourselves up to even greater sins.

put off the old nature

The same goes for succumbing to lust, pressure is another excuse we use to indulge in things we know we ought not. I just need comfort, to relieve some stress, to be understood. This can lead to all kinds of unhealthy and grievous sin that only hurts our relationship with the Lord and damages our own souls.

Blessed

So, you probably get the point by now—withstand the test

Persevering under trial means not giving in to sin. Not giving in to temptation, not using it as an excuse or justification for sin, and not losing control of our emotions and lashing out to hurt others.

Grace under pressure, tapping into the power of grace under pressure, leaves us blessed—wiser and stronger—for the battles ahead.

We must allow the Lord room to work and give him the glory when he does—we are not in this, any of this, alone.

What do you do with pressure? Do you carry it alone thinking that you are alone, and you alone can fix it? Do you panic? Stick your head in the sand? Drug yourself until you are comfortably numb?

Or do you give it to God, seek him for wisdom and strength, and learn all that you can in the midst of it so you can be stronger and wiser the next time.

The answer is indicative of where you are in your walk with the Lord, your state of grace; whether you are walking the walk or just talking the talk, as James so poignantly challenges us with throughout his letter. God’s grace is fully available and accessible to all who trust in his Son. We must learn to trust in it and keep us in the fight growing and learning, don’t be deceived, you cannot be destroyed and God is not out to get you.

He loves you immensely and desires to bless, heal and equip you.

Triggers are only the flesh trying to convince you that you are weak–you are not, you are a warrior and a child of God.

Barbarian woman wolf

Free your inner warrior today; Read  Barbarians in the Kingdom

book cover