Worth It?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blow it off?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Secret Things

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

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

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

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

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

We may never know.

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

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

Parables and mysteries

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Kingdom of heaven is like. . .

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Matthew 13

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

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I Am

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

 

 

Prison of Pain

If you are living in unforgiveness you are living in a world the one who wronged you created for you.

In the ministry I have seen it over and over again, people living in a prison of their own making, a prison of pain, tortured by a wounded heart, a heart that could be healed, a prison from which they could escape but for one thing—an unwillingness to forgive the one who hurt them, the one who owes them.

 

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I can never forgive them! Do you know what they have done? Usually, yes, but God doesn’t put any exceptions out there for this principle. His grace, his forgiveness, as illustrated by the story of the unforgiving servant for example, (Mat 18:22-35) is unlimited and unconditional—unless we fail to reciprocate it. That’s not His doing. That’s a heart becoming hardened by unforgiveness to the point where it can no longer even accept it, can no longer receive healing, no longer feel love, no longer heeds the Holy Spirit—and the Spirit is grieved.

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I often struggle with this as a pastor. It’s real hard to tell someone whom you know is bound up, tortured in their very souls by the bitterness of unforgiveness, to forgive. When you know how badly someone was hurt, how wronged, mistreated and abused someone was by someone who still may have no remorse and take no responsibility. It’s hard to let go, and it’s hard to tell someone they need to.

But I do, because I have seen the incredible healing and transformation that takes place in a person when they do finally forgive.

Think about it. That bitterness in only poisoning your own soul. That hatred, the thoughts of revenge, the fantasies of repaying them that replay in your mind over and over, the obsessing over the injustice of it all—no matter how much energy you put into your desire to repay or be repaid, you are not harming that person, you are only perpetuating your own hurt.

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And if they truly are as bad as you imagine, they are probably relishing in the misery of your grudge burdened heart, they are probably flattered in their perverted arrogance that they live in your mind rent free. You are hurting no one but yourself.

You have to let it go. Be free of the prison of your own making. Only you hold the key—that key is forgiveness. If you cannot do it alone, ask the Lord for help. He desires nothing more than to set you free so that you can fully experience the joy of his forgiveness for you.

 

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Jesus was sent to set you free. That’s a flat out promise not hidden in a parable but stated plain and clear.

If you want to be a free and functioning citizen of the Kingdom of God you must forgive as you have been forgiven.

Now, as a note of caution, forgiveness if not the same as trusting. If someone has abused you, hurt you and has not proven to you that they are able or willing to stop, you do not have to allow them a chance to hurt you again. Forgiveness happens in your heart, it doesn’t have to happen to their face. It can, and it can be beneficial, but do not put your self at risk.

If Jesus has set you free by giving you the grace to forgive, then let him restore your sight also that you may see the dangers and avoid them in the future.

There’s a big exciting world out there waiting for you to conquer and explore if you’ll just open up that prison door and step out into it.

Institutionalized

‘But I like it here, I know what to expect and I have good reasons to stay in my little corner of the world where others can care for me and keep trying to teach me things. There’s a word for that, it’s called being institutionalized. There are people who have been in prison for so long that they are afraid to get out. There are those who are afraid to leave school, they have no concept or desire to get out into the real world. They go from preschool to kindergarten to 12 more years of public school to several years of college to then working at or teaching in that college and their whole world is that campus.

I remember when I was in Job Corps, there were guys who were afraid to graduate and go back to the real world. They came there from high school to learn a trade so they could get out and make a living but the thought of being out in the big wide world where you have to buy you own food, pay your own rent, get up and go to bed when you want, have to be responsible for your self—that’s scary!

I would think;Are you kidding me? I can’t wait to get out of here and be free to find my own way, to make a living and make my own choices and decisions.”

I want to live in the real world—it’s a challenge and an adventure, an opportunity waiting to happen, life is what you make of it. Unless you choose to stay confined in one someone else made for you. If you are living in unforgiveness you are living in the world the one who wronged you created for you.

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Be free. Step out of the prison of pain and into the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a real world, it is the real world, and you need to get out there into it. God has a plan for you and freedom is just a prayer away.

‘”Lord forgive me my sins as I forgive those who sin against me’— and help me to forgive them.”

You are a citizen of the Kingdom of heaven, you can do this.

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Don’t be institutionalized in your unforgiveness and anger, there’s a whole new Kingdom out there to explore.

 

Poop Pants

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You know what? You can walk through the valley of the shadow of death all day long, all night long, and you shall have nothing to fear. In fact, while you’re there why don’t you stomp out some darkness and free those who have fallen along the wayside or got deceived into reveling in the darkness and are now afraid to step out into the light.

If they are afraid of the light it is only because they have not seen the true light. You have that light, you be that light. The only thing that dispels darkness is light. It’s as simple as that. Jesus didn’t suffer and die just so we could cower in fear and hope that the devil doesn’t notice us.

If the devil is not noticing you than you are not fulfilling your ministry and you are not a threat to him. You do not have to fear the darkness because the darkness fears you.

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And until the church wakes up and fully realizes and grabs a hold of that fact, the enemy will continue to enslave way too many of God’s beloved children. They have been lured away from the truth, left powerless and hapless, confused and vulnerable—easy pickings.

Too much of the church has turned away from the truth. If you still don’t know what the truth is, read your bible. Plain and simple.

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I was told by a pastor once in my early days of preaching not to use so much scripture in my sermon. His thought I suppose was that it would bore or confuse people.

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Well, I didn’t listen so if you’re bored or confused I’m sorry, there are plenty of other Christian blogs where you can get more pop psychology, feel good fluff and entertaining stories. But make sure you are wearing your poop pants. Because you are going to be in it, because in my humble opinion, it’s all BS.

What, you don’t know what poop pants are?

On the ranch when our girls were young they had poop pants. I’m not sure how that phrase got started, it was just a lot easier then saying, “Take off your good clothes and put on your old jeans before you go out to play in the pasture or the barn because you don’t want to get manure on your good clothes”—Hence, “put on your poop pants before you go out.”

That has become kind of a joke at our house since those days because of the little friend of my daughter Jessie who came over to play one day— we’ll call her Sylvia. She live in the fancy suburb down the road from us, and she came over in some nice clothes to spend the day with the girls and play.

The girls decided that they wanted to play outside so Donna told the girls, “Find Sylvia some poop pants she can wear before you go out so she doesn’t ruin her clothes.”

As the girls were heading off to their rooms to find an extra pair of play pants they noticed that Sylvia was crying. What’s the matter Sylvia? She then blurted out through quivering lips; “I don’t want to wear poop pants!”

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Photo by Tetyana Kovyrina on Pexels.com

It was then everyone realized that she thought poop pants were pants that came already pooped on. I can only imagine what she imagined she was going to be forced to wear.

Truth

There is a time and a place to wear poop pants. When you are out in the world where it gets pretty deep and you need knee high boots just to keep wading through it. But you have too because that is where the people are who need what you have to offer, the truth. No BS, no stinking cow pies or prairie muffins,  just pure Jesus is Lord and he loves you too much to leave you wallowing in this filth truth. The world has enough empty feel good words. They need truth.

And church is the last place you should have to worry about if you are getting feel good noise and if you should be wearing your poop pants. Sure they may dress it up and make it look fun and appealing—Well we have to teach this or people will stop coming, we have to give them what their itching ears want to hear—well maybe their ears are itching because they have gotten parasites from the cow pies you are flinging at them.

A lot of people just honestly don’t recognize a cow pie when they see it. It has to be pointed out.

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Photo by James Wheeler on Pexels.com

Back when I was in Job Crops we were doing a construction project in the mountains north of Butte. One day we were all standing around on a grassy hillside and a couple of guys started playing Frisbee with some dried and hardened cow pies. They were just having a good ole time flinging these at each other and watching them crumble on themselves on impact. Finally  I realized that they probably had no idea what they were playing with—they were from New York City.

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“Hey, do you guys know what that is?” “No. it’s just something that grows here isn’t it?” No, those are cow pies—look of bewilderment— Cow pies are dried up cow poop.

Their reaction?-— priceless.

 

You want people you love to get out of the manure? Show them  a better way, tell them the truth, and they may see just what it is that they have been playing with.

That has to start with you, check and see what you are standing in.

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To My Fellow Warriors

Do you ever feel like you are laboring in vain? Lord, what am I doing here? What is this all about? Am I doing the right thing—in the right place?

Road Ahead

To really commit to something, especially for the Lord, you have to know that you are called to do it and that you are within God’s plan for you.

Nine years ago this week I planted a church from scratch in a small tourist town that seemed to be firmly in the grip of the enemy. Knowing I am called here has been my strength here; knowing that I am doing what the Lord wants me to do, where He wants me to do it—and here’s the hard part I’m still learning—doing it in His power and allowing Him to do it through me, for me and sometimes in spite of me.

It all takes patience, faith, and humility—lots of each

Nine years ago I answered the call to leave Billings and a church and the people I loved, a church that I had poured my heart and soul into for 7 years, to come and  start a church in Red Lodge, Montana. A church with a clear mission to minister to those who have grown weary of the battle, those who have been kicked aside or left behind by the church because they showed weakness or were no longer considered worthy of attention except to be pitied or maligned.

A church that would restore dreams, callings and passions; that would offer healing for wounded hearts and bring hope where hope was lost. A church that would honor Jesus and those who came truly seeking him. A church that was not afraid of the Holy Spirit and sought to minister in his power. A simple church with a powerful God.

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(My first sermon in Red Lodge)

But this isn’t about where we are, or where we have been– it’s about where we are going.

My fellow laborers, I believe we are nearing the end of days but I also know that there will be at least one more great outpouring of the Holy Spirit—it has already begun (California revival)—that will be accompanied by a great harvest.

But we must be diligent.

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After reading through this a few times this is what this said to me.

If you are more full of yourself then you are the Spirit of God, you will be; powerless—ignorant—stalled out.

Throughout his letters to Timothy, and to the other churches for that matter, Paul has been dealing with—false teachers and apostles. People, who claim to have a deeper understanding of the truth and the way things should be done. They are all about religion, ‘do this, learn this, listen to me’ and they draw people away from truth, away from the power of the Holy Spirit.

If you leave the Holy Spirit out of the equation there are no fruits or gifts of the Spirit, only the fruits of the flesh; the flesh which is selfish and greedy no matter how you disguise it with religious trappings.

This paragraph isn’t just talking about people in general, it’s talking about the church—people who claim to be teachers and leaders, wanting to be somebody, to appear to be Godly and religious yet stop short of truth, stop short of the Power of the Holy Spirit, thus they miss out on true freedom, true healing, so they can progress no further.

What about us? Are we moving in the power of God or are we just religious? Are we just always learning or are we coming to a knowledge of the truth? Are we progressing, or are we done?

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Done?

I ask this because there are those who think we are done, my church and yours… That we have fulfilled our mission and that it is time to move on; maybe get out of the way for others. They may even be well meaning and, God bless them, but they are wrong. We have only just begun.

We have been engaged in a battle here in Red Lodge, a battle that we are winning but has inflicted some casualties along the way, heartbreaking painful casualties. No doubt the enemy has come hard after you as well.

But they were battles that needed to be fought to clear the way for what the Lord wants to do here because we are far from done. I still have a vision the Lord gave me for the ministry he wants to build here and we have now cleared the road to allow that to be fully implemented.

The first several years of this ministry were largely about clearing some huge obstacles to allow God to move unimpeded by the enemy, to take away the enemies claim to the land. I believe we have accomplished that. But that was not our mission, that was just the preliminary, kind of a clearing of the right of way, so that we can now build what the Lord has planned for us.

I, for one, haven’t been here just playing church and making motivational speeches interspersed with scripture, I am fighting for the souls of a community, for the church.

We do not have just a form of godliness, we have the power of heaven at our command and I will not deny it.

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I believe we are poised and placed here to be a place where those who are going to be seeking truth, as the Lord pours out his Spirit, in what may be the last great revival, can come to be fed and encouraged. I want to be a part of that harvest. Why would I give up now after all the hard work we have put in?

but they will progress no further, for their folly will be manifest to all, as theirs also was. 2 Tim 3

“Progress no further.” We must not be of those who resist the truth or we will progress no further and the truth is, we still have a mission and a call, individually and as a church family to advance the Kingdom of God. I intend to continue to preach the word of God from this pulpit and from anywhere else in where the Lord would lead me, until I draw my last breath.

I pray that you’re with me and continue to content for your community, for this nation, as well.

Harvest

The Lord reminded me this of the verse I taught on last Sunday, he made this come alive in my heart and I am claiming this for us:

 The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. 2 Tim 2:6

We have worked here for nine years now, sharing the word, proclaiming truth, fighting the enemy, bringing healing restoration and hope in the name of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit— why. . . why in the name of all things holy, would we quit now?

What farmer tills the fields, plants the seed, kills the weeds and the pests, prays for the rains and the sunshine, just to leave right when the harvest is about to start?

No farmer I know. And not this one either.

You my brothers and sisters in arms, have been placed where you are for a reason—don’t give up, strengthen your hands and prepare for the harvest—it is upon us.

Last year, at the end of an intense season of pitched spiritual warfare I had a vision as I lie in my bed one night of myself swinging a Viking war ax and splitting the skull of the enemy–as only a barbarian pastor could—very graphic and very satisfying.

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Victory is ours my friends.

Get your barbarian on for Jesus

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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.

Hay

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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