Small Things, Big Results

He was breathing garlic, sweating garlic, and s*#%ng garlic. 

They are a couple of short parables, one right after the other, that Jesus used to describe the Kingdom of Heaven that share something real obvious else in common. They are about small things with a huge impact. -A tiny seed producing a large tree; a small bit of leaven affecting a whole lot of dough.

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Let’s think about the mustard seed thing for a minute. Yes there are bigger trees, but Jesus isn’t talking about trees, he’s talking about herbs. What is an herb? You don’t make a meal of herbs, have you ever said ‘let’s sit down and enjoy a big bowl of mustard!’ (If you have you are very strange)

Or have you ever dined on a plate of rosemary and thyme? You can try it but you’ll probably be sorry. I know there are people who smell like they have eaten nothing but herbs—”eew-wee, did you eat a bowl of garlic for breakfast?” But that’s because it only takes a small amount of most herbs to make a huge smell– and it’s never good second hand.

Garlic Boy

I worked with an electrician once who ate a whole jar of pickled Costco garlic. He told me it was so good he just couldn’t stop eating it. As you know, nothing that comes from Costco is small so this was a good sized jar. I had the misfortune of having to work around him the next day.

That garlic was determined to make its presence known. He was breathing garlic, sweating garlic, and he had to run to the bathroom several times that day to more directly vacate that garlic. He was miserable, and so was anyone who got near him—or that bathroom.

I nicknamed him Garlic Boy after that day.

But the point is, herbs are meant to flavor something, to change the palatability, the taste, to enhance, alter or even preserve food.

Yeast does pretty much the same thing. So when Jesus compares the kingdom to a mustard seed, he’s talking about an herb that flavors and alters whatever it’s put in to, but yet when planted and allowed to grow, unlike other herbs that generally grow on fast growing and low lying plants that whither and die fairly quickly or can easily be trodden underfoot, the little tiny mustard seed is an herb that grows into a strong sturdy long lived tree that cannot be overlooked and draws in, and sustains, life.

“…but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

Remember the point of these short parables—they are conveying what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. So the Kingdom of heaven, though it may seem like these are just insignificant stories of a faraway fantasy place, in the face of other things of this world that seem to undeniably slam into you like Jalapenos and Habaneros making your eyes water and your lips burn, this kingdom is real and it can change the world like nothing else can, it just works differently—diligently, consistently, sometimes imperceptibly.

Until you have a tree that produces more mustard seeds than you can possibly use or plant alone and withstands the storms, the droughts and the changing seasons.

Sounds like the kind of kingdom I want to belong to, sounds like the kind of church I want to belong to.

Are you letting the kingdom take root in your heart? Are you trusting the still small voice, the leaven of the Holy Spirit that continues to give rise to good things if you’ll just give it time and keep it in the proofer of your soul.

leaven Bread

Hide God’s word in your heart, plant his love in your soul, and watch the fruits of joy, peace and hope take root and turn your new year into the most blessed year ever.

Affecting the world for the Kingdom of heaven starts with the small things, it starts often times just with your smile.

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Worth It?

Such are the dreams of the bi—vocational small town pastor.

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For all it’s challenges, I love pastoring a small church. We had such a wonderful and sweet Christmas eve service just gathering together with old friends, and new; seeing the kids have such a wonderful time as they acted out the nativity story, learning the real meaning of Christmas in the process while reminding and blessing the rest of us at the same time. All this on the heels of Sunday morning and having the kids, all ages together to make up a small chorus, to sing a few Christmas songs.

Props were handmade or came from the Goodwill store and special effects consisted of an illuminated star ornament hanging off the light fixture above the stage, and a halogen work light hidden under a chair to illuminate the angels.

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But I can guarantee that everyone left  leave here last Sunday and Christmas eve with a heart full of joy and memories that a professional high budget mega church presentation could never replicate.

I know I was blessed. I’m still replaying the events of those two services over in my mind, it was just so rewarding in so many ways.

But you know, it’s a lot of work, and that’s what I was thinking about between Sunday afternoon and Christmas eve service. Pastoring a church while working full time besides, is a lot of work and takes a lot of discipline and commitment–and then you throw in an extra service?

Now I don’t do this alone, many are involved in making this church work, and we all have responsibilities and challenges, and that’s the point.

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Blow it off?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just say, the heck with it, I’m going to just pursue my own fortune, spend my time and money on myself, my own pleasure and just worry about me, me, me. Like all those other people. I don’t want to write another sermon, I just wrote one last week! (and every week before that) I don’t want to spend another Saturday alone at the church, I have a lot of better things I could be doing, camping, fishing, hunting, fixing up or even building myself a house.

Or I could just go home after putting in my time at work and just sleep in front of the TV with a beer or two while looking forward to a vacation in Vegas. ‘Been saving up all year, it’s going to be a blast!’ Or maybe something more noble like a trip to the Holy Land or my ancestral Scandinavian home lands.

I could at least try to get a job in a big church so I wouldn’t have to work two jobs and then I could travel to exotic places now and then and call it missions or at least earned sabbaticals.

Such are the dreams of the bi—vocational small town pastor.

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And just saying all that out loud makes me cringe because down in my heart I know—No, I wouldn’t rather do any of that. Because in the end, none of that matters. What matters is that I am serving my Lord, the bridegroom, in the manner and place he wants me to serve him. If it means standing in a dark place with my flickering lantern ready to be put to good use at a moment’s notice, so be it.

What matters is that you, are being fed, you are getting oil for your lamps. What matters is that those kids, my kids, your kids, are hearing about Jesus, that they know they are loved and that they are important to me, to you and to their heavenly Father.

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(One of my grand daughters, and a grandson in the background expressing his opinion of the music)

What matters is that I am ready for Jesus to come back at any moment and that I am not going to waste any time. I will keep doing what I can to prepare myself and others in the meantime.

And the joy I feel when I see the smiles of those kids, the treasures I have amassed in my heart at seeing those the Lord puts in my path have a little better day, a little more spark in their eyes and spring in their step and maybe a song of praise on their lips because we simply showed up here and did what the Lord called and gifted us to do, I wouldn’t miss any of that for all the gold in the world.

The world can have their gold, Gold won’t burn in a lamp or light the way to anything. It only weighs you down and adds to your burden. Only love will keep those lights on, those lamps burning. And I have a never ending source of that love, his name is Jesus.

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The NIV study bible suggests that those virgins were “perhaps bridesmaids charged with preparing the bride for the groom.” If that is the case, the church is the bride and I will do all I can to be a wise virgin so that the bride of Christ will be ready for her groom.

We need a lot more wise virgins I can tell you that. Because there are a lot of messed up brides out there who won’t even know who their groom is when he does show up. Because here’s the little secret about the oil—it has to come from the groom.

And once he is on the way, he’s not carrying his supply any more to give to those who ask, the time for preparation is over, the hour has come, it’s His wedding day.

Oil in the scriptures is often a representation for the Holy Spirit and perhaps that is what the oil in this story is. How do we get the Holy Spirit? How do we keep in tune with the Spirit?- live for the Spirit and not the flesh. We have to keep going to Jesus, and to the Father through Jesus. Spending time with him in prayer, in his word, in worship, meditating on his word, seeking wisdom, believing for miracles and intervention, trusting him for our needs while working with the hands and the gifts he gave us.

By seeking his Kingdom first and foremost and trusting that all else will be added unto us as we need, not as we desire.

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It’s living for the groom, not for ourselves. Keeping our jars full at all times.

Secret Things

Who am I, why am I, who put me here and where is he?”

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We all love to learn about things that have been kept secret right? Whether it’s the secrets of the universe we live in, the secrets of the government, the secrets of our neighbors or, more frighteningly, our kids—let me see that phone!

We hate having things kept from us and the more information we are entrusted with, the more valuable or important we feel.

We are a curious lot, insatiably curious; ‘Just what is on the dark side of the moon?’ ‘What is in a black hole?’ ‘What is dark matter?’ ‘Is there life out there?’ ‘What’s over the horizon?’ The questions are endless and our thirst for knowledge constantly leads to more and bigger questions. God created us with a capacity to dream up, explore and comprehend incredible mysteries.

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We are never satisfied; Just what is hiding in Area 51? Did Lee Harvey Oswald really act alone? Where in the world is Jimmy Hoffa’s body? What happened to Hillary’s Emails? Did Noah really forget to load up the unicorns? If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, where’s the peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked?

We may never know.

I mean, how can we? Just how many peppers make up a peck and just where do pickled peppers grow anyway? I do know this— two pecks make a kenning and four pecks make a bushel—and if you give me two bits I’ll stop…

Peter Piper—Now there’s a useless parable. I’m glad Jesus wasn’t just into telling nursery rhymes, tongue twisters and conspiracy theories.

Parables and mysteries

His Parables answered questions, revealed mysteries, that had been kept a secret from the very foundation of the world.

Here’s a head scratcher—If there is no one to ponder a mystery, is it a mystery? If there is no one to desire to know something that is being kept secret, if there is no one to keep a secret from, then are there really any secrets?

So, by that logic, there were no secrets to reveal about any mystery until there was a sentient being with enough self-awareness to ask the question, to seek an answer. And the greatest mystery of all, the most ancient secret, the first heart cry question— “Who!?” And it came from mankind. Who am I, why am I, who put me here and where is he?” It’s the question that reverberates in the heart of every man and woman who has drawn breath ever since.

And then, eons later, comes the answer, the answer with the answers. He is the embodiment of the answer to who we are, why we are and who put us here—Here I am—even before Abraham was, I Am. And he is also the one who illustrates the answers, reveals the mysteries of the Kingdom he brought, with his stories and with his life.

We are beings created by and in the image of God. We are created for good works, to love and be loved by God, and he is now here among us by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit. And we are now citizens of the Kingdom of our God, the King of heaven.

 

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Jesus is the answer to the most important questions ever asked, the eternal questions, and he reveals to us that He is the answer, in part through his parables. Descriptions of the kingdom within and the kingdom to come.

The Kingdom of heaven is like. . .

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Matthew 13

We get to know the secrets that people have longed to look upon since the fall of mankind back in the garden. When the Kingdom was lost to us and the restoration promised. That was a very long time to wait, but now we know the secret things of God.

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I Am

We now have the answers to all the mysterious promises made by God down through the ages. And they are even greater than Moses, who wrote these mysterious words from Deuteronomy could ever have dreamed. Because his I Am that I Am burning bush, rumbling mountain, all powerful and awesomely frightening God is now our personal Lord and Savior. The great I Am became a Son of Man and now we can say I am—His.

 

 

Help Me, Please?!

We can all remember a few people in our lives whose advice we treasured

Okay, last week I picked on us “Older guys”, now for you golden girls out there “the older women”– (he says while being careful not to look at anyone in particular, oh wait, you can’t see me-whew!)

older women

Paul has some important advice for the mature gals in the early churches of Crete:

the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. Titus 2:3-5

I love this exhortation here to the older women to teach the younger. One of the things we are sorely lacking in our culture is this generational connection and continuity. Each generation of late seems to despise the older as out of touch and clueless. Nowadays that often comes with a whole list of accused ‘phobics attached, as the younger, supposedly enlightened, generation thinks they have it all figured out.

The older I get the more I realize just how foolish I was when I was younger and how I treasure the wisdom of those who are older then I. I’ll bet, no matter your age, you can all remember a few people in your life whose advice you treasured because in spite of any youthful bluster we all know we are actually clueless and about half scared—even more scared that everyone may see how clueless we are. Life is hard.

I believe it is even harder for a young woman who is expected now to not just be and do everything only a woman can be and do, but to do everything a man can do also, and preferably without a man—’they’re just bumbling idiots who only want to keep you down. ‘Oh, and you had better look good while you’re doing it.’

 Most young women are pretty good at pulling this off, at least in appearances, and this can make some of the older women who should be encouraging them, despise them instead. We are all by nature very competitive and anyone who seems more assured and better put together is a threat to our place in life.

That’s not the way God desires us to behave and see one another. Which is why we need these admonitions in the scriptures. We all need to get over our bad selves and remember what Jesus said the law was actually all about, that we “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

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This is what the law and the prophets were all pointing us to, Jesus says.

So, be the mentor you wish you had.

One the things I have heard here from younger folks in my church, especially the younger women—some of whom have come and gone now—is the desire for older women to mentor them in a real meaningful way. I have tried real hard to encourage this in recent times but it just was not happening and that is why some of those younger women have left—just being honest with you here.

I can’t make it happen, I tried and it backfired. The older women didn’t see themselves as qualified and the younger felt rejected. Thus the enemy used it to discourage everyone, including me, by making it look like my failure.

I’m sorry, I know by today’s standards, I could identify as an older woman and mentor the young women in my church myself, but, you know, I’m just one of those clueless old guys who still believes that God determined my sex when he created me, so that leaves you mature women, in years and in the faith, to be the ones to instruct the younger.

the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women

How many of you younger women—new mother’s, those trying to navigate the single life, trying to keep up with the bills and the challenges of work and life, trying to live a life pleasing to God—how many would treasure any time spent with you by a woman who has been there and done that and managed to survive?

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If you are an “Older woman” reading this, know that every young heart that read this just just cried out in their hearts–“Help me, hear me!”

I’ll let the Holy Spirit take it from there. That’s what I have learned regarding this issue. If it’s going to happen, it’s got to come from you, so. . . listen to that still small voice and obey.

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Find your freedom, release your inner barbarian

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Contentment

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What is contentment? It’s a freedom from fear, from anxiety, from restlessness, it is a soul satisfaction.

The Apostle Paul, who gave up his position of great honor and potential wealth as a Pharisee, to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth as an itinerant evangelist living in constant danger and often not knowing where his next meal will come from, or if the next beating or stoning he suffers will be his last, reminds Pastor Timothy to not get caught up in the greed that the world lives for. The world clamors for money, comfort, fancy clothing and rich foods and on and on. He cannot be that way.

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, 1 Tim 5

Godliness and greed cannot co-habitate, Jesus said: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Mat 6:24

Everyone wants something, dreams of something, that if they just had enough money—or credit—to acquire it, ‘then I will be content.’ There’s a country song out that says—”money can’t buy everything . . .but it can buy me a boat.”

“…money can’t buy everything. Well maybe so. But it can buy me a boat. To float. Down on the water. With a beer. I hear the Powerball lotto is sitting on a hundred million. Well that’ll buy me a brand new rod and reel. And it could buy me a boat it could buy me a truck to pull it. It could buy me a yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets.”

temptation

And everyone says, ‘yeah, sounds good to me’, and you have a country hit on your hands.

“If I just had a boat—and a truck and a rod and reel and a Yeti and a lot of beer”—then I will be content.’

Well, maybe, for a good day or so till you wake up the next morning sunburned and hung over. Then you’ll think of the next thing you’ll want to make you happy—a bigger boat, a house on the lake, four wheelers, snowmobiles, a better job with more vacation time, a prettier wife and a fuller head of hair—pick any obsession or passion in this life—hunting, horses, sports, looks, fashion, fitness, technology, fast cars, classic cars, fame, fortune and power—In fact, “you deserve it all!”—and you can chase it until you have caught every bit of it there is to catch—and it will still never be enough.

What if I just win it? Then I’ll be happy. I can dream can’t I? And buy tickets and hope and pray. . .More often than not people who win the big mega million lotteries say that it ruined their lives.

‘I just want to be somebody, I want power and respect.’ People who reach the pinnacle of power are often the most miserable people you ever meet. And they spend most of their time obsessing over how to get more power and how to destroy anyone who might be a hindrance to that happening.

Just look at the happy bunch of clowns we have in Washington DC right now. Most of them look like their heads are about to explode–they are all so angry and miserable. And, with all the power they have amassed, rather than spending their time trying to do something productive that will help bless us, the people they are supposed to work for, at great cost to us I might add, all they want to do is convince us to hate all the same people that they hate. Misery loves company I guess.american-gothic-pelosi-and-schumer.jpg

It’s never enough, we must have more. How many entertainment superstars who have devoted their lives to reaching the pinnacle of success have committed suicide in the height of their fame either outright or by way of overdose on whatever their drug of choice was as they tried desperately to fill the hole inside that they now saw could not be filled by attaining their dreams.

‘Godliness certainly isn’t the answer—is it? Isn’t godliness giving up everything we use to chase contentment?’ I ain’t doing that!

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10

The thief of course is the devil and I think one of his best tricks is to set us up with the grand things we think we wanted and then to take them away from us to watch us squirm and blame God for our troubles. The he has stolen, killed and destroyed. First our dreams, then our faith and ultimately our souls.

‘Oh but God wants to bless us, to give us abundant life, to fulfill our hearts’ desires.” I hate to burst your bubbles people, but God is not talking about money, quite the contrary, he wants us to learn to be content with nothing; nothing but a knowledge of his great love for us and in having a relationship with his Son Jesus Christ. In Christ alone is there fullness of joy.

When Jesus said I want you to have life and have it abundantly he was talking about having Him, being full of Him, being one with Him because He is life. It doesn’t get any more abundant then that.

Abundant Life

He alone has immortality and he alone can give us abundant life. All else is but dust in the end, including your flesh, unless you have received that abundant life in Christ. Jesus Christ who is now glorified and dwelling in an unapproachable light, the glory of God which mortal man cannot look upon, that same Jesus is living in us by his Holy Spirit.

And if we can grasp that, if we can tap into that, into him, and trust him for our everything, let go of our own selfish need to control our own destiny, by pursuing everything the flesh demands of us, everything we are convinced our hearts desire to be content or to secure our own tomorrows, if we can only see the light that is in us, and let it shine, then—we will be content. 

Now godliness with contentment is great gainFor we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 1 Tim 6

When we learn to be content with nothing, then we have everything. And anything else that we are blessed with just becomes that much sweeter and much more appreciated–soul satisfying.

Got you

 

Prophetic Praying

(Closed circuit for those who believe the Holy Spirit still moves in us today.)

In 1st Timothy we see a short but telling verse that has been neglected by too many of us.

14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 1 Timothy 4

A gift given by the laying on of hands and a word of prophecy.

Paul, encouraging Timothy to be the encourager, to keep laboring and bearing reproach from those who would discredit and despise him for his youth is reminding him of the importance of setting a good example and not “neglecting the gift that he was given” supernaturally by both Paul and then the elders who also spoke prophetic words over him as they laid their hands on him.

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A model the church, at least the part of the church that still embraces and welcomes the Holy Spirit, still uses today. I have had many people lay hands on me as they prayed and spoke words from the Lord over me on various occasions and they have set me on the course to who and where I am today.

I hope you have been so blessed as well. If you have you may not have even realized it was the Holy Spirit speaking to you at the time but if they were words that hit home and stuck with you, challenging you, encouraging you, making you sit up and take notice, then it was probably a prophetic word and not just your pastor or elder speaking. Honestly, when I prophetically pray for someone I don’t always know when it is no longer I speaking, and when it is the Lord.

If you do not neglect the gifts in you, and are not shy about moving in them and use them often, they come so naturally to you that you sometimes just lapse right into them without realizing it or making a concerted effort. Just like any other natural gift that we have, music, art, writing—the more you practice the more naturally it comes and the less obstructed by clumsiness it will be.

Your own spiritual gifts were given you by the Holy Spirit, most likely, when someone somewhere laid hands and prayed a propheticor Spirit led if you prefer—prayer over you. That is perhaps a better way to put it into terms that make it less intimidating. A Spirit led prayer. It’s just asking the Lord for wisdom as you are praying so that you are praying His will and not the will of the one seeking prayer, or even your own. If you want to pray prophetically you must keep an ear open to the Spirit.

Prophetic prayer—In practice that usually involves The Spirit putting the words or an idea into our heads and leaving it up to us to speak it. At first we might even think it was just us talking until we see the impact it has and realize that we are not that clever or insightful on our own. It may even be something we could have had no way of knowing.

Sometimes, whether you are praying or being prayed for, that means you have to shut up and listen I don’t need long explanations of your problems and just the right things to pray for you. If you have it all figured out you can pray that yourself, you don’t need a prophet. If you come to a Pastor or an elder for prayer and you truly want God’s will to be done and his purpose to be accomplished then you need to largely trust the Holy Spirit to lead the prayer.

Got your attention don’t I. . .

Let’s back up a bit here to the 1st paragraph of 1 Tim 4:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 1 Tim 4:1,2

We are in this ironic season of humanity, at least in Western culture, where we are quick to believe in, and seek the supernatural in nearly any form except for when it comes to the only supernatural that is not counterfeit and meant to deceive and destroy.

That’s because the enemy does not want us to move in the power of the Lord because he knows that when we do the pathetic nature of his tricks becomes evident.

I think the 1st paragraph has been happening—Deceits and hypocrisy abounding— because we have been neglecting the last paragraph. We are falling for the Devil’s tricks because we neglect the gifts we have from the Holy Spirit.

Hands

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Paul admonishes Timothy to not neglect the gift given him by prophecy with the laying on of hands of the elders in the church. And then later, Paul reminds Timothy to stir up the gift of God that was given him when he, Paul, laid hands on him.

Now, for those who might be new to all this, the laying on of hands as used in scriptures both Old and New is a way of conveying a gift from God through a person who is willing and qualified by God to do so. Generally it is anyone who feels compelled by the Holy Spirit to do so, or one who is in a position of authority in the body of Christ.

Basically it’s just putting your hands on someone and praying. It might be for conveying a gift, a healing, a deliverance or an anointing, which also determines where you lay your hands.

Paul is telling Tim that he needs to stir those gifts up, to not let them sit dormant out of fear or apathy as so many do.

Given that Timothy is a Pastor I would guess that those gifts include teaching, prophecy, evangelism and of course the main gift that everyone we see in scripture receiving the baptism of the Spirit receives, a prayer language.  Or as it is more succinctly called in scripture—tongues.

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Anointed

So Timothy, having been instructed in the things of the Lord by his mother and grandmother, having been prayed for to receive the baptism of the Spirit by the apostle Paul himself, as evidenced in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, is later prayed for again as elders in the Ephesus church lay their hands on him to pray for him either as an anointing to ordain him as the Pastor of this body giving him prophetic words as to the kind of leader he will be, affirming his leadership or releasing more gifts in him by speaking the words God wants him to hear as he is anointed for service.

Or it may be that the Spiritually gifted of the church felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to lay hands on Timothy and while praying received a word from the Lord that the elder spoke out prophetically in his prayer and thus released another gift in Timothy.

Gifts from the gifted

The Spiritually gifted being used by God to release Spiritual gifts in others. That’s all this is, this laying on of hands business. It is not the person praying imparting the gift, it is God. The one praying is just being obedient. And the one receiving the gift must be obedient to heeding the words that are imparting the gift and to stir up, and not neglect, the gift that is given—transferred to them if you will—by the laying on of hands.

Every believer wants to believe that when we are saved, born again as Jesus put it, that we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, rejuvenating our own souls which were dead by virtue of sin. And we do. They believe that the Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Trinity that is God, yet they struggle to believe that he can actually do something other than just go along for the ride. Quietly residing within us until we die so that he can get us to heaven.

That is a far cry from the Holy Spirit we see in the scriptures. The Holy Spirit is alive and well and wants to equip us, to encourage us, to empower us to be the representatives of Jesus Christ here on this earth—to love in his power, to boldly go where he sends us, do what he asks us to do and say what he asks us to say. He is God inside of us, why would he not speak to us?

We all like to say—”I don’t have a religion I have a relationship.” What kind of relationship is it if only one of you are talking and the other remains silent? Pretty one sided.

‘But, we have the word of God!’ —You may counter. Yes we do, and that’s the other part of Paul’s admonition.

13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 1 Tim 4

‘Keep reading the scriptures, listen to the teaching of the apostles and hang on to sound doctrine.’ Paul tells us, then in the very next breath, he says do not neglect the gift that was given you prophetically. In other words; it was spoken. A specific message just for Timothy from God through someone who prophesied whilst laying hands on him.

These two things together, God’s written word guiding and leading us, keeping us from being deceived, and God’s Spirit within us speaking to us in a very personal and intimate way, his thoughts meshing with our own if we’ll allow and desire it and even giving us words to bless others, what an awesome gift we have in both God’s written word and in the Counselor that resides within.

Do not neglect the gift—move in his power.Spirit baptism

Holiness Embraced, Challenge Taken

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 God bless you warrior!

Find your freedom, release your inner barbarian

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