The Power of Grace

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If the church is to survive, if the gospel is to continue to bring people to a place of recognizing their need for, and access to, a Savior, she must continue on in the truth of the scriptures and in the power of Grace.

Grace is more than just a nice word to describe mercy, it is the power of God, it is the catalyst of freedom, it is the door through which his Spirit moves.

Grace is the spilled blood of Jesus, enlivened and commuted by God’s love to become the portal through which the kingdom of this earth and the Kingdom of Heaven move to mesh and become whole again. Our hearts are that place of meshing which quickens our very souls and becomes an unlimited source of power and life.

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That is something that all the scholars, astrophysicists, mathematicians, psychologists, theologians, philosophers and mystics have been trying to understand and explain for as long as man has drawn breath, and we get to own it simply by claiming it with a childlike faith.

“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” And Jesus is God, so—what else do you need to know?

Stick that in your PHD pipe and smoke it.

The mystery is revealed.

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Still the doubts…

But it’s hard, isn’t it? As time goes by and things don’t always go the way we hope and pray that they will. When people you love are sick and dying, relationships decay, when the enemy seems to pick off those you thought were secure, when doubt and questions start creeping into your mind and seem to be in a constant war with your heart—your heart wants to just give up and give in. That’s where the power of grace comes in.

11 This is a faithful saying:

For if we died with Him,
We shall also live with Him.
12 If we endure,
We shall also reign with Him. 2 Tim 2:11,12

We need to remember the rest of that saying, v 13:

13 If we are faithless,
He remains faithful;
He cannot deny Himself.

 

“If we are faithless, he remains faithful, he cannot deny himself.” So long as we do not deny him, intentionally renounce, speak against and reject Jesus outright, ‘making a shipwreck of our faith’ as Paul wrote to the Hebrews, then we are still covered by grace and if we endure, if we do not deny, if we keep looking for and seeking the Kingdom that our hearts know is there, we will see it. Our doubting mind will have the confirmation it needs to keep on keeping on.

I have been doing my best to follow the Lord for many decades now and have been in ministry of one form or another for many of those years, since 1985 anyway, and I have seen God do miracle after miracle.

I have experienced miracle after miracle. I have seen countless lives transformed and felt the power of God move in and through me in ways that my flesh can barely withstand. Yet, my flesh still wants to convince me that it’s all in vain, that it’s all a fantasy. And when that fails it wants to convince me that I have done my share and it’s time to rest on my Laurels, just go fishing and let someone else carry the load.

I mean, how much can be expected of one man?

That’s where that endurance thing comes in. We only have a few decades to effect eternity for good or bad, every minute is a gift we must use wisely, time does not give us any redos.

We cannot compromise, ‘I’ll go through that door later, I’ll harvest that crop later, I’ll fight that battle later’, when the sun sets on any given day, that day is gone forever.

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Make your hay while the sun shines.

No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, . . .And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. 2 Tim 2

Our day is coming, we will see the harvest, if we endure.

Farming without compromise. Ministry without compromise; playing by the rules, not getting distracted by the affairs of the world. This game of life is for keeps and it is a marathon, not a sprint, so to make it to the finish line takes discipline. Discipline and diligence lead to endurance and keeps us moving forward even when our faith may falter.

Continue to stand my friends, today is a gift and the sun will come up tomorrow.

That’s the power of grace.

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Mediocre? No More!

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We have a holy calling. Do you believe that? Do you receive that?

Or do you just want to skate along and hope you can hold out long enough, and be good enough, to get into heaven in the end and maybe get a few blessings along the way. Well my friends, those days are gone. That apathetic brand of mediocre Christianity was a lie from the enemy that has sucked all the power and the very life out of the church and the Holy Spirit is not going to sit idle any longer, He’s on the move. The chute has been opened, the bronc has been spurred, and I intend to stay on the hurricane deck until the buzzer sounds. And I pray that you do also.

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Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began 2 Tim 1

Following Jesus, being a believer, being a Christian, was never intended to be about making life easy and carefree. It was never about what we can get out of it or getting what we deserve simply by virtue of ‘being us’ and allowing God to be our God. It is about recognizing that we don’t get what we deserve—eternal death, and that we have long failed to fully recognize how sinful and empty we are because we don’t fully appreciate who our God is.

Following Jesus is about repentance, acceptance and obedience.

When we do recognize who our God is, we gladly suffer for his name and no longer feel the shame of being different from the rest of the world, because he has removed our shame as sinful creatures and made us his children, by virtue of His love and grace, not our own.

Then his purpose becomes our purpose and our life has meaning and our heart is filled with hope as we answer his holy call.

Power

But he doesn’t just ask us to answer his call and suffer needlessly and impotently—he gifts us and equips us to truly make a difference. His power becomes available to us. Seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

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Those of you who have been blessed to have been in Spirit filled churches or prayer groups that are not afraid of the Holy Spirit are well aware of the gifts and have a pretty good idea what your own gifts are. But there are those of you who have not yet had a chance to really understand or explore your gifts.

 1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant. . .

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. . . . But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 1Cor 12:1,4

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There are many types and categories of gifts from the supernatural, wow gifts, as we see listed above, to the office, this is who you are gifts, to the everyday, aren’t you talented gifts. Some of these gifts are only released when you are baptized in the Spirit through the laying on of hands or as you are subsequently anointed for a specific task or position.

All the gifts,  whether gifts of encouragement, gifts of service, craftsmanship, teaching, healing, words of wisdom, spiritual discernment, prophecy, our prayer languages, seeing into people’s hearts— He does all this so that we can bless people.

God has called and equipped  you, do not fear nor neglect your gifts. Using your gifs to answer your Holy calling is truly living. The alternative, mediocre Christianity, is numbness.

To live comfortably numb, not using our gifts, not taking the risk of getting into trouble with them, not having to stretch ourselves, to work and put ourselves out there, may sound like a pretty safe strategy just to survive this life intact till the Master returns, but in doing that we miss one very  important aspect of the gifts made available to us— they are given us for the express purpose of investing in and growing the Kingdom of Heaven.

That is the point of Jesus’ parable of the talents.

“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Mat 25:20-21

Jesus wants us to make a difference in this world, that is why he left us the gifts in the first place. We are Jesus to this dying world and we are equipped and we are expected to take our place and function as part of his body in whatever capacity he places us or calls us to.

Our mediocrity could very well come back to bite us.darkness.jpg

But we are not of those who shrink back for fear, are we?

It may be that you are afraid of your calling so you ignore it- it may have been stolen away from you by a church leader who told you that you were not qualified or ready- or you may be waiting for someone, anyone with authority, to recognize and release you.

You are responsible for you and only you can answer to God for you. Get your barbarian on and just do it.

Check out my latest book Barbarians in the Kingdom

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Soul Satisfaction

Is there a hole in your soul?

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I hate to keep using my own life as an example of living with a hole in your soul but it’s all I really have, that is my testimony—my story is Jesus’ story. Until I was willing to let go of my own destiny, to let go of my rebellious, ‘you can’t tell me what to do, I am free to do as I choose and these are the things that give me satisfaction’, attitude I was never truly satisfied, I had no soul satisfaction.

Quite the contrary, the more I pursued the partying, the emptier I became as the feelings of camaraderie and euphoria of the first time highs continued to be just beyond my grasp.

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When I was finally willing to trust the Lord to be my peace, to be my contentment without the drugs or drink that had just ensnared me I found out what real contentment—soul contentment was.

But it’s easy to forget that isn’t it? Throughout my life other things start to creep in promising contentment. We start getting anxious for other things worrying that we may never achieve them or be able to hang on to them if we do.

I have told many a worried young person who desperately wants to be married that God will most likely not fulfill that desire until you learn to be content with just Him. That also makes for a much healthier marriage because if you are depending on someone else to bring you contentment you will be disappointed, no one can live up to that, only God can do that.

A couple of years after giving my life fully over to the Lord and experiencing real freedom I was starting to worry that I would never get married. At 26 I had never even had a serious girlfriend; Thank the Lord for that, it no doubt saved me a lot of grief! But I was starting to think there was something wrong with me, that I was doomed to perpetual bachelorhood.

For one, I was way too shy to even really know how to pursue a relationship that may end in marriage, and there just didn’t seem to be any likely candidates crossing my path, there probably was but I was clueless as to how to pursue them. I was terminally shy and I was very intent on not getting into any relationship that God did not ordain for me or would likely not end in marriage. Dating for fun is one of the stupidest things you can ever do, especially if it’s done in the world’s model of dating, (unless of course you enjoy heartache and lifelong complications.)

Oh Lord, the world would be such a better place if everyone just lived by your standards and pursued godliness instead of just presuming on grace while letting the flesh run roughshod over their hearts. I used to be embarrassed to no end that at 26 I was a still a virgin, but the more I experience life and ministry and see the messes caused by giving away your most sacred gift willy nilly, the more grateful I am to the Lord that I was too awkward, shy and respectful of women to give in to demands of the flesh and the invitations of others.

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But I desperately wanted to get married, I wanted to have a family, to be the dad and to yes, end my life of celibacy. But I knew I couldn’t just make it happen, there are no guarantees in this life so I had to reconcile to the fact that I might be perpetually single, and that was that.

I had to come to the place where I knew I would be okay, that I would be content if I never got married. I had Jesus, I had a mission to share him with the world, I had eternal life and the Holy Spirit residing in me and I was never truly alone. Life is good.

And then the Lord told me to court and marry my friend Donna. My eyes were opened to the one I was supposed to love and, long story short. Less than a year later we were married. It was a pursuit— which is what courting is—because even though God had told me that I was supposed to marry her, God hadn’t bothered to tell her that she was supposed to marry me.

But the point is, when I had come to the place where I decided I did not need to married to be happy, as long as I had Jesus, then he blessed me with a wife. And I am forever grateful and appreciative of, and for her, because of that.

That same principle has been repeated over and over again in my life. My first house—after striving and conniving to try to buy a house with no credit and no money I had to confess to the Lord my frustration and repent, telling him I would be happy living in a tent as long as I had him. The Lord then did a miracle and a couple weeks later (Literally) I was signing the papers for my first house.

Pastor?

For years I fought and fretted, trying to figure out how to fulfill my call of being a pastor when I could not take the time nor the money to go away to school, long before everything became available on line. And no one seemed to be willing to facilitate my desire to climb the church ladder into a pastoral position.

And then one day, at least a decade after I had decided I would never be a pastor in this lifetime, and that I was okay with that, more than okay with that actually—who in their right mind would want to be a pastor? —the Lord opened the Yellowstone Valley Bible institute which was accredited with the very Bible college I had been trying to figure out how to get to years earlier, in my own backyard, or at least in my home church.

He then told me to sign up. But Lord, I am content just being a Sunday school teacher, making hay, raising cattle and kids, and…—’no, you need to go to school.’ Okay Lord. —But if I’m going to start a church, which I knew was where he was taking me, it had better be in a big town so I can have enough people to pay me a good salary and make it all worth the effort.

Boy did I have a lot to learn.

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‘Red Lodge? That’s not a big town!’ But you know what? By the time the Lord got me here, I had had more than my fill of church attitudes that took a business approach to ministry—‘How can we get more customers— I mean tithing members? How can we improve the product—I mean make the gospel more appealing?

How about you just let God be God, preach the word, the whole word, and allow the Holy Spirit to draw—or repulse—sinners and saints? Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from having fully grasped how to get away from this church marketing and growth strategy mindset but I have learned to stop stressing about it also—something that I think makes my fellow pastors worry that I have lost the vision.

No, I have just stopped listening to the lies of the enemy that keeps dangling that golden ring out there for all to chase right into his trap.

1 Tim 6:8 -And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. . . . 

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I know I am where I am supposed to be, smack in the middle of His plan for me. And in that I have soul satisfaction, and that is priceless!

 

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Find your freedom in Jesus!

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.”

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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

 

The Acts 2 Generation

“You are the generation that can and must speak truth to the world”

Well, here we are, in the last days. I wonder what we are supposed to be doing?

Acts 2

Oh yeah, Prophesying! Speaking, teaching, rebuking, encouraging—praying in the power of the Holy Spirit

Platitudes and canned sermons don’t work anymore. Comfortable stale religion does not give people hope in a world where evil reigns and gives us a fresh load every day.

We need Spirit empowered believers who are willing to use the gifts God gives them who will speak boldly and clearly that which the Lord speaks to you. This mindless repetition of things that someone else came up with, whether it’s quotes from popular pastors, songs or Facebook memes, things that are usually not even scriptural let alone prophetic, is largely a waste of time and just leads people astray.

I don’t want to hear pat answers, I don’t want to hear clever sayings and feel good slogans or see your pictures of European Jesus demanding that I repost “if I am not ashamed” and either does anyone else, because when stuff hits the fan we discover that those things just don’t hold true nor have any power.

I want to hear truth, I want to hear what Jesus has told you, what he has opened your eyes and your heart to see in the scriptures— what he has opened your ears to hear from his Holy Spirit. I want to hear from the sons and daughters of an Acts 2 church what they are having spoken to them from the Lord.

I want to know what the young men are seeing in their visions and I want to know the dreams of the old men as the Lord unfolds the future to them and puts a passion in their hearts to build a better place in the kingdom as he shares the dreams he has with those who have the energy and the gifts to make it happen.

I want to hear from the true servants of the one true God who have had the Holy Spirit poured out on them— I want to hear from the Jeremiahs. I want to hear truth—timeless, relevant, living, breathing, spoken in the language of today and delivered with the fire that burns in the hearts of those who have been called to advance the kingdom of God, to storm the gates of hell, to bring the living water to this dry and dusty land—truth.

And I don’t care if you are four years old or one hundred and four, if God is using you to reveal his truth to whoever it is he desires to deliver a message to— than I want to hear it.

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Set an example to the world as to how a true believer, empowered by the Holy Spirit and passionately in love him lives in in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity, and then tell your story, tell his story, and let the two be one in the same.

Look at what the world is doing to our young people right now. From Antifa thugs in the streets, to Berkley scholars—He’s turning them into mindless one size fits all propaganda machines who espouse tolerance while savagely trying to silence all who would dare have a different opinion then they do. And you are their primary targets, you who know the truth.

Make no mistake, the enemy is at work here and he is trying to silence a generation of Holy warriors.

Make yourself heard, do not be afraid to be Jesus in a world that is quickly turning all authority and power over to Satan as he sets the stage for the Anti-Christ to rule. You are the generation that can and must speak truth to the world, to those for whom Jesus died, who just need to hear the truth spoken in love and power. Be that generation, be that prophet.

 “‘In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy

The future of the church, belongs to those who are not afraid of the Spirit, who are not afraid of truth. 

Want to change the world? Embrace the power of the Holy Spirit.

 

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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Propriety in Prayer

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“Why am I wearing this? To show off my stuff, or to present myself as someone who cares about how I present myself to the world.”

As I work my way through the letters of Paul to Timothy, both for my church and for you, my faithful and beloved readers, we come to chapter two of 1st Timothy. A chapter I would much rather have ignored because it has been misused by elements of the church for centuries in a way I believe is not consistent with the whole of scripture and the heart of God. But that is why we need to tackle it, as it does carry some important principles that do indeed need to be heeded.

The following is a small part of what I shared with my church today on the role of women in the church from a section of scripture that really had to do with the behavior of both men and women in public services, the context of which gets lost once the admonition to women in particular jumps out at the casual reader of scripture.

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This chapter, (read 1 Tim 2) has everything to do with prayer and propriety in public worship services and Paul’s ongoing battle against false teachings and bogus apostles.

So, the admonition to men and women to behave themselves respectfully and orderly in their gatherings and to not give room to false doctrine, which keeps rearing its head and apparently likes to speak uninvited, and often, is the basis behind Paul’s admonitions here. And is the context for his wanting women in these prayer gatherings to learn, quietly and submissively, dressed modestly and outstanding in her love for serving the Lord and her family.

There is a dynamic that the casual reader of 1 Timothy cannot be aware of as well. It’s what scholars call the ancient sexual revolution going on in Roman culture at the time. This spawned a whole other class of women that was quite a departure from the meek women of patriarchal Jewish culture the apostles came up in, she is called; “The new Roman woman.”

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This ancient sexual revolution was taking place and was finding its way into the churches of Ephesus and Corinth causing concern for Paul as to the image and respectability of the church which met publicly and was widely scrutinized by all from the Romans to the Jews.

The new Roman woman was very vocal and haughty, displaying her liberation with clothing that could be considered promiscuous. There was indeed a sexual component to this cultural shift as birth control and abortion played a role in the lifestyle of the liberated Roman woman. Yes, the Romans were very good at turning procreation into recreation with no consequences. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

Quite the departure from the biblical view of sex as being between a husband and a wife for the purpose of joining a man to a woman physically and spiritually as they became one before God and to bring children into the world, into a stable family whose anchor is the covenant made between a husband and a wife.

The emphasis Paul makes on childbearing, faith, love, holiness and self-control is a reminder to the women of the early church of God’s idea of sex and behavior in contrast to the vocal, disrespectful and loose woman of the culture they were in.

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Decorum

In the Apostle Paul’s day it was usually the wealthy women of stature, women who had fewer responsibilities as they had servants and slaves to do their chores affording them more leisure time to pursue their pleasures and money to adorn themselves with seductive and suggestive attire.

 

Jewelry and elaborately braided hair piled upon the head had been more commonly associated with prostitutes of the day but was now becoming fashionable among the high society ladies of the day. Quite the contrast to the simple dress and pulled back and covered hair of the traditional Jewish woman Paul was used to. This suggestive dress was becoming a huge distraction, as you can imagine, to the men of the church. Men haven’t changed.

We are still very visual–you have no idea–and easily distracted by clothing or lack thereof that a woman may not see any harm in. Men today don’t generally relate braided hair or jewelry with loose women as they did in Paul’s day but there are other things that you may not want to wear if you do not want to be a distraction in public church gatherings. The same goes for men. Dress nice but don’t dress like you are trying to attract a mate.

Men and women, this applies to both of you, when you get dressed ask yourself: Why am I wearing this? To show off my stuff, or to present myself as someone who cares about how I present myself to the world.

Dress for the job you want, as the old saying goes. If you want to be a street walker or a calendar model, then dress that way. Just don’t expect to be taken seriously if you do, especially while witnessing for Jesus. That’s all Paul is saying here.

 

So Paul is trying to head this night club atmosphere off, to restore some modicum of decorum and morality, to avoid even the appearance of immorality, as he states elsewhere, and to set a standard of decorum which will keep them in some measure of respectability amongst the common people of the city and amongst the Jews, all of whom Paul wants to reach with the gospel.

It is thought that some of these wealthy liberated women where teaching the heresy’s Paul warns about in the preceding chapter and he wants to put a stop to this

In Timothy’s church, just as he had to do in Corinth, Paul is trying to establish a respectable, presentable and productive order to things without quenching the Spirit.

And again, culture plays such a huge role in these discussions that looking at it in light of our western culture thousands of years and miles removed, it is nearly impossible to know exactly what Paul was referring to or trying to remedy.

But what we do know is that God still cares about how we present, and represent, ourselves as dearly loved children of the Father and as witnesses for Christ. Your beauty lies within, just let it shine.

loved