The Fire

Baptized with Fire 4

Nothing refines and purifies like fire. In scripture, God’s word is often called a fire, a consuming fire.

“Because you speak this word,
Behold, I will make My words in your mouth fire,
And this people wood,
And it shall devour them. Jer 5 :14

So in that sense, the power of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of fire, is the word of God empowering our hearts, coming alive in us, becoming real and irrepressible.

It gives the words of God that we speak of God, the words that we speak for God, an anointing that cuts to the hearts of those listening, that sets the captives free and gives hope and healing to the broken hearted, God’s word in the mouth of a Spirit filled believer is life being spoken to a dying world that desperately needs to hear it.

Jesus had said; “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses . . . to the ends of the earth.” 

And that irrepressible message, that irresistible fire is what Peter was speaking.

On the day of Pentecost Peter spoke about a five minute, off the cuff sermon, and people were cut to the heart and ready to give their hearts to Jesus, the same Jesus whose execution they had demanded just a few weeks earlier.

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
    until I make your enemies your footstool.”’

 Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers, what should we do?” 

Acts 2:35—37

That only happens when you are speaking in the power of the Holy Spirit as he is opening ears to hear and hearts to receive the words that he inspired. Now that is an irrepressible fire.

And one I want.

Content or contender

A few years ago Donna was texting back and forth with a gal from our church and she got a text back that really troubled her. We were driving somewhere together so she read me the text. “Content not supported.”  The last thing a pastor and his wife want to hear is that someone in their flock does not feel supported. But why would she be content in that?

Then it suddenly hit me—“Let me see that!” She showed me the screen and I realized what was going on. It was an error message that said, Content not supported” You gotta love the English language. Apparently she was trying to send a photo or an emoji that was not being recognized between the phones. And my not so tech savvy wife misunderstood—to our relief.

Are you content with your content?

To me it comes down to a simple question. Are you content to just be born again? Being born again is indeed wonderful and very real. Having the breath of life breathed back into you as a free gift of grace when you recognize your need for a Savior and realize that Jesus is that Savior.

You are made alive from the inside, sealed by the Holy Spirit for salvation, and there is a joy and a peace that comes with that. But there is more available—and that’s the real question. Are you really content with just being saved—knowing you are going to heaven, that you are loved by God as you do your best to try to live the life his word encourages you to live while you do your best to get along in a world that seems dead set on undoing everything you believe about, and try to do, for Jesus?

Or are you going to seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit as well? To not just be saved, but to be empowered, to not just have the light, but to emanate the light. To not just survive, but to thrive—to make a difference in this world, to not just have a reason, but to have a purpose and a mission, a fire and a passion, a power and a whole selection of gifts to supplement the talents you were born with?

Are you ready to be a warrior for Christ, on the offense instead of the defense? Are you content? Or do you want to be a contender?

Are you ready to receive power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth. Because Jesus is ready for you.

But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8

If nothing else, you should desire the power to live a life that is pleasing to God, to love like Jesus does, because trying to do any of that in the flesh is usually a losing proposition.

The power makes our message irresistible.

One Word–Divorce

Hard lessons learned

I refused to condemn and stop loving and welcoming anyone.”

I’m going to lay it right out there— two or three years ago we had over 40 people here pretty consistently in our small rural church, and there were times when we were looking for extra chairs to put out. Today 20 seems like a lot.

What happened? One worddivorce.

I hate to admit that because it doesn’t seem to speak well of a ministry. But we cannot hide from the truth and pretending that it was something else does not fix it nor heal it. There are no dark corners here to hide things in.

We had a handful of divorces and a broken engagement or two all within a two year span. In a small tight knit church family, that is devastating and has immediate and long lasting ripple effects on everyone.

And honestly, all things considered, especially that they involved the worship team and my own family, I don’t think many churches could have survived the devastation, period. But God is good and he led us through as best as possible and we are now rebuilding wiser and stronger and I hope more in tuned to, and certainly more dependent on, the Holy Spirit and his presence here than ever.

But the casualty rate was high. I don’t blame anyone but the enemy—and he is a clever and wily one. He just started peeling people off– How?

For starters, in a divorce—everyone takes sides and soon one side has to leave because they cannot be in the presence of the other side.

Then some people feel condemned and judged—so they leave.

Others feel the tension and the pressure—and they leave.

There is a fear that it is contagious and fear for their own marriages—so they leave.

Others do not like the way the pastor handled it—so they leave.

Some of the most challenging ministry and spiritual battles I have ever fought happened in the midst of all that.

If I did everything everyone thought I should do, everything that the flesh demanded I do—the carnage would have been horrendous and our building would be a Hair salon or a Yoga studio right now.

And the flock would all be somewhere else telling everyone what a judgmental bible and head thumper I was.

As a result some people were upset because I refused to condemn and stop loving and welcoming anyone. (You would not believe the backlash that created.) That is a battle that still continues, the dysfunctions caused by divorces are long lasting and far reaching.

Dysfunctions

But I refuse to play those games. If you have read either of my first two books you know why, I’m just done with accommodating other’s issues—done.

I have spent my entire life either being a victim of, or trying to minister to, other victims of those games. And what truly makes me angry is that it’s usually the children who suffer most. So whenever I find myself standing at dysfunction junction again deciding which track to follow—I will go down the road of the heart that functions fully in love.

It is the hard heart that always leads to destruction.

And Jesus answered and said to them, “Because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you this precept. Mark 10:5

God only allowed Moses to write a provision for divorce into the law because of man’s stubborn and self-seeking nature. But the heartache is then only exacerbated by the heart hardening that follows and demands that everyone else follow suit.

That doesn’t mean I condone or turn a blind eye to sin and bad choices, it just means that I love, as Jesus loves, unconditionally.

I will not be an enabler of your dysfunctions.  But neither will I stop trying to love you back into wholeness. And that, my friends, is a very fine and hard line to walk—apart from the Holy Spirit.

And if the trials of the last few years have taught me anything, it’s that nothing is more important than being completely sold out and 100% obedient to God no matter what or who is coming against you.

We must continually recognize that our enemy is not flesh and blood and that we are all susceptible to making mistakes and just outright foolish choices. And all I can do as a pastor is to keep loving you and inviting you to follow Jesus—for real, not just with lip service. This blog will always encourage and challenge you in that.

Love

The Lord gave me a real simple mandate in the heat of these battles, and he reminded me of it repeatedly as I struggled with—’what do I do?I feel like I need to rail on the virtues of marriage, to call people out, to bang some heads together—how do I make everyone happy, how do I appear in charge and make sure everyone knows just how I—I mean God—expects them to behave? “Lord, what am I to do here? How do I make these people see?”

You know what he said to me? “I have called you to love people. You let me take care of the rest—Just love people.”

 I cannot tell you how freeing that was to my weary and tortured soul. ‘Yes Lord, I can do that. Just love people.’ If that makes those who believe I need to come down on some, and vindicate others, angry to the point of leaving—then so be it.

The angry people needed to leave, or just get over them bad selves. Because, honestly— It was the tension and the whispering and the rumors between the various camps that did the worst damage—more so than the actual divorces.

Jesus’ love is unconditional—and so is mine. And anything and anyone that gets in the way of that love being known by his beloved will be dealt with in no uncertain terms.

If you have suffered the violence’s that that divorce does to your heart and soul, or picked up the pieces of the damage done, you know what this means and why God hates divorce. He hates it because of the violence it does to the hearts of those he loves. If you are that bruised soul–HE DOES NOT hate you, he hates what has happened to you, and he only wants to heal and restore you–just trust him. You are loved child.

On the Mountain part 2

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

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

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

Yellowstone Park Dan Swaningson

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

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

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

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

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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

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

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

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

Sow What you Want to Reap

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

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

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

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

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

That’s my default M.O.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What are you throwing out there?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harvest

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

What will you be harvesting? What are you harvesting?

You can only reap what you sow.

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

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

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

What does that mean?

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

You get the point.

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

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

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

Reset

Today, Sunday, October 25th, marks the tenth anniversary of Hope Chapel Red Lodge. The humble little church my wife Donna and I planted in the little town of Red Lodge MT in 2010.

Hope Chapel Red Lodge’s old rugged cross

It was meant to be a day of celebration with our church family, a day of reflection and prayer for the season ahead. Instead, for the first time in those ten years, we had no church service, no one at the church, not even a livestream Covid shutdown type message. Pastoring in a mountain town in Montana snow storms are more the norm than not it seems, and I have never not had services, nor been unable to make it myself because of weather. But this weekend we just flat could not make it and I did not want to encourage anyone else to be out on the treacherous roads as we had an unseasonably nasty snow storm, a series of storms actually, blast their way across our state this week. And as I write this it is only 7 degrees Fahrenheit outside my door-in October!.

I just spent two days driving back from Coeur d’Alene ID where my wife and I were blessed to have been able to attend the Foursquare Church North Western District conference. It would normally only take seven hours to drive back, but driving through numerous mountain passes in a snow storm tends to slow you down a bit–and, we spent the night in Belgrade (MT) as they closed the Interstate ahead of us. So, no church, no celebration, just icy roads and and the company of crawling semi trucks, grateful for every mile that we were still moving past the many who were not, as they slid into the guardrails, barro pits and snow filled mediums.

But we made it home and look forward to gathering with the church next week. Best laid plans. . .

But isn’t that the way it’s been lately? “Lord just help me keep moving forward, mile by mile, step by step, inch by inch. Keep me out of the ditch and don’t let this be my end!”

I just spent a few days in the company of 250 other church leaders, most of them pastors, (masked and socially distanced, kinda) and they all seemed to be in the same state of Lord, just get me through this and to the other side! Many, like myself, are feeling a little shell shocked and even, dare I say it, hopeless. It seems that every snowy mountain pass we get through just leads to another, and another, and another. For me, and many others, this started long before the Covid gift from the wise men in the east showed up.

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

The enemy has been running rough shod over the church, over my people, for a few years now. I have seen way too many marriages end, families torn apart and pastors crushed. Yes, there have been victories and yes, God is still on the throne. And I know that much of what has happened, including this year with it’s race riots, shutdowns, deaths and sicknesses, persecutions and general mayhem and panic, is not caused by God, but is being used by him nonetheless, to prune and refine his church.

The church that is still standing, if and when this time of trial is over, will be the true church of Jesus Christ. And they will be the ones used to bring in the great harvest that is coming and has already begun.

Across the board, and around the world, churches have been forced to decide what’s truly important, what being the church really means, and face the reality that much of what and whom they counted on were not real, were not true and were not truly of God. Many of those we thought we had discipled have turned against us and all the trappings of religion and all the programs people demanded have been stripped away.

And what’s left? Exactly what should be left. The resurrected Lord Jesus Christ who died on the cross to save us from the many sins we are all guilty of. The Holy Spirit who has been poured out on those who believed in that Christ to give us life, healing and the power to be his witnesses in all the world. The word of God, unchanging, eternal and absolute. And the peace and joy that comes only from a relationship with that Savior who died for us, found in this word, and made alive in our hearts by his Holy Spirit. So that we can come boldly into the throne room and be loved and blessed by our Father God.

And what is church? The gathering of two or more to celebrate, honor and worship that God who loves us so, to learn and be encouraged by his word and to be blessed and healed by the presence of his Spirit. PERIOD!

If that gathering has to happen in a building against the wishes of the authorities, than so be it. If it happens in a home, on a beach, in a catacomb, so be it. But it must happen.

The church is going through a forced reset. When all is stripped away, long enough that it cannot easily be brought back, and all that is left is us and Jesus, we will remember what it was all for in the first place–for HIM.

We love him because he first loved us.

I try to live by a simple mantra, I am after all, just a barbarian with a Bible:

Keep it simple stupid…

This is a picture of me 10 years ago, preaching my first sermon at our new church in Red Lodge. I had nothing but a bible, a guitar and a roomful of used chairs in a 900 square foot rented storefront-and a handful of good friends who believed in what we were doing there. Preaching the gospel and worshipping our Lord.

I preached that first message without notes. I simply told the story of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, dramatically acted out and as boldly as I could. As I told the story I literally built the cross that has adorned our sanctuary ever since. It was made from scrub Cedar logs that had been knocked down by heavy snows on our old ranch. I was making a statement, that Jesus would always be the center of all that we did there, that as Paul had told the Corinthian’s, “I come to you determined to know nothing but Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

That message is still central to our ministry, and always will be. There have been times when I have succumbed to the pressure to “do more” to please and attract the people. But now I see that the simplicity of the church I felt led to start and maintain is the model that has stood. We have not attracted the masses and gotten noticed by the important people, but we are still standing— focus on the road ahead, and a steady hand has kept us out of the ditches..

So, “Lord, as your church is being “reset” in this season of trial, please give me, and all my brothers and sisters in arms, the strength and grace to stand, and when all is finished, to still stand. And to prepare a people committed to you, to reap and welcome in the harvest of souls that you have prepared even in the chaos.”

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you have love for one another.” -Jesus

Little children, Love.

We will make it home, just keep moving forward, stay focused and keep praying. The sun always rises, spring always comes and our God still reigns.

The Rise of the Morning Star

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reflection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Tuned. . .

A Proclamation to the Spirits

In 1 Peter there is a tantalizing and seemingly random statement that brings about all sorts of speculation as to what, exactly, Peter is referring to.

He went and preached to the spirits in prison

Most likely this refers to Jesus making a proclamation to the fallen angles, spirits, who were imprisoned during the building of the ark for the untenable crime of procreating with human women and polluting the human race.

Jesus’ preaching, his proclamation, was one of victory and triumph that by his suffering, death and resurrection, he has sealed their final fate, theirs, and all who have opposed the Father and followed their own selfish agendas and joined in the rebellion of Satan. This is reinforced with Peter’s assertion a few verses later that angels and authorities and powers have been made subject to Him. 1 Peter 3: 22

I see in this section of scripture from Peter and others like it a proclamation. A proclamation to all of mankind that we are free and have nothing to fear, that whatever suffering we endure today for the sake of doing what is right and good will soon come to an end and will not be for naught.

I see a proclamation by Christ himself to all the devils, demons, fallen angles, ghosts and goblins, whatever you choose to call them and in whatever form they come to taunt us, that we are now his and always will be.

Let me take a bit of license here, Spirit led and Scripture backed license—because that’s what preachers do.

I see Jesus, having been risen from the cold finality of the tomb. Made alive by the Spirit—The Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God—making a public proclamation. Preaching a sermon that was for the ears of every spirit of every kind and station in the cosmos—angels, principalities and powers—Jesus, the resurrected and glorified King of Heaven, the Son of God through whom and for whom all things were created things in heaven and on earth, (Col 1) standing up in all his glory in a place of prominence that we cannot even fathom at this point, a place where all can see and hear.

He has a proclamation for the spirits—those in prison and those still roaming the earth looking for those they can destroy, and those who are constantly coming before the throne of God with accusations against God’s beloved—those he created in his image to love and be loved.

They now hear this:

Hear Ye

‘Hear ye and know, from this point forward and forever more, death has been swallowed up, it’s sting and victory are no more. I, the risen Lord of Hosts—the Lamb of God, the Alpha and Omega—have overcome all of your wicked schemes, foiled all of your evil plans for the destruction of my people, and your power over them is hereby deemed devoid of any authority and your rights to those who stumble are revoked.’

‘You have been publicly and completely humiliated in what you thought was your greatest victory—seeing the Son of God, Son of Man, crucified and rejected, there was no victory in it for you, it was your doom.’

‘Henceforth you have no authority over any of those who call on my name, no rights of accusationyou are no longer welcome before the throne and your case will no longer be heard. The debts have been paid and the chains of sin have been removed.’

‘But those of you foul spirits who are chained, will remain chained until the great and terrible day of the Lord. Those who are roaming the earth—you can rail and bluster all you like, you can lie and deceive, roar and wreak havoc but only so far as those who know me will allow. ‘

‘For I have given my authority to all those who revere me and are made alive by the Spirit, and you are subject to them. Nothing can separate them from my love, and they have a mission and permission to proclaim that truth to all the nations until all have heard the good news I proclaim to you today. The news of your demise, and their victory.’

 ‘I have set the captives free, I have overcome death and I am the answer— the answer to all their fears, all their pain, all their sickness and all their hopes. I am freedom, I am healing, I am hope, I am life—I AM.’

‘And, lest there be any doubt—as to whom you are now subject to, you foul, lying and ridiculous spirits— their names are all written in my book, the Lambs book of life. They shall dwell in my presence forever and will never hear your lies again.’

 27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Rev 21:27

Jesus has the final word in all things.

So maybe, just maybe, we should stop living in and trading in fear and start living in and trading in victory!

And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, 1 Peter 3:14-15

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

Trading In Fear

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

Photo by Swaningson “Weeping rock”

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

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

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

Fears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refuse

Swaningson Glacier Park

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

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

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

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

Swaningson Glacier Park

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

Eyes open

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

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

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

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

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

Biblical illiteracy is exactly what is wrong with this nation.

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

Swaningson Glacier Park Hope in you

The Pure Milk

Instinct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the gospel? It is as follows:

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

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

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

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

All else is rubbish.

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

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

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

The Enduring

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

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

Do this

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

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

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

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

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

Job

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Societal Pressure

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Barbarian

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1 Peter 1:23

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