Leadman

As a good leader you know that everything that happens under your watch is your responsibility.

Years ago I was working on a project at Rocky Mountain College in Billings. It was an addition on the Student Union building. I showed up shortly after it started to help form the walls for the foundation and quickly realized that the guys who were doing the work did not have all the stuff they needed, namely whaler brackets, and they did not really know what they were doing —the hundred foot of wall they were forming was as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

The foreman was off getting some parts at the yard so I made a phone call to the shop to try and catch him because the guys had told me what he was after and I knew it was not what we needed.

I was no expert but I had been on a couple of big concrete jobs by then and had learned from the best. This was long before everyone carried cell phones so the best I could do was call the office and hope someone could run out to the yard and give him the message.

I missed the foreman, he had come and gone, but somehow I ended up talking to the big boss and I explained to him what was going on and he agreed that ‘yeah, you need some whaler brackets to straighten that wall— why don’t they have any?’  

We soon had some whaler brackets. Of course then I was worried that the foreman would be angry that I had seemingly gone over his head to get the right parts. Instead he was grateful that I had set the wall and the crew straight—he admitted that he was not very experienced in doing concrete foundations. I had to admire his humility anyway.

As the job progressed it wasn’t long before the crew was looking to me for guidance on how to form the walls that got higher and more complicated as we worked around the building. I was just a carpenter, same as everyone else, but one day the foreman came to me and asked, “Dan, I would like you to run the concrete crew.”

I said, “That would be fine but if you want me to push these guys I need to get paid to make it worth the push back.” (Actually I said it in more blunt construction terms; “If I’m going to be an asshole, I need asshole pay”) He said he would talk to the big boss and see what he says.

A day or two later the big boss came out to take a look at the job and he came over to where I was working and looked at a corner in the twelve foot tall foundation wall we were forming. He saw some bracing he thought was inadequate and said, “You know the hydraulic pressure of that much concrete is probably going to blow out that corner the way it’s done there.”

I looked at it and said, “Well, yeah, you’re probably right. I didn’t form this corner, Randy and Monty did.” At this —and I’ll never forget this—he turned and looked me in the eye and said; “A foreman has to take responsibility for everything his crew does.”

I looked at him for a moment and simply replied; “I’ll make sure it gets taken care of.”

That was his way of telling me that I was now the official leadman and I did get an extra dollar an hour on my paycheck. And a couple years later I got promoted to foreman.

We all have those moments when something changes the way you think and set’s you on a better course that leads to favor and blessing—if we’ll humble ourselves and listen.

I remember that day well, standing there in that hole on a hot summer day some 25 years ago, covered in form oil, dust and sweat, and it was a lesson I never forgot. And I still live by that rule to this day, as a Job superintendent and as a leader in the church. With authority comes great responsibility and everything that happens under your watch is your responsibility. And you cannot throw people under the buss to make yourself look faultless.

In the end that only makes you look small, and the people you lead will stop respecting you and the quality of the work will suffer greatly. Carrying the load of others’ mistakes or failures is never easy but that is what those who would lead, whether in business or in the church, are called to do.

It’s not just taking the responsibility, it’s striving to help others avoid those mistakes going forward and to recover and recoup from the mistakes already made.

Heavy is the Head

There’s an old saying that was popularized by William Shakespeare in Henry the IV; “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.”

Everyone wants to be in charge, until they are. True leaders know that they are servants who get others to follow by showing them the way, not just telling—carrying the burdens with them, not just demanding that they be carried. True leaders have been there and done that which they are now expecting of others while knowing that if the job is not done he will likely have to do or fix it himself.

Am I talking about construction or ministry? —both. Heavy is the head that wears the crown whether it’s a white hard hat or the anointing oil of ordination. And the older you get, and the more you understand the significance and the reasons why, the greater the burden becomes and the more valuable your leadership.

If others will listen. It’s the fool who despises the words of their elders.

Which is why we are told to submit.

People who have earned their authority didn’t get there by being lazy or foolish.

It is not for naught that Jesus gives certain persons the gift of leadership and then has them earn their crown—pay their dues so to speak. Those who don’t are more likely to fall, or more likely be knocked off their high horses.

Grace and favor come to the humble.

Our humility today, our humble and faithful service, will gain us the crown of glory. We do not get to lord over anyone today as if we have already been glorified and all must look up to us. We have our greatest example of that, of course in Jesus. Jesus set aside his glory and became a servant, a suffering servant.

Exaltation through Humility. Jesus literally took the blame for everything mankind has ever done, he bore all our sins on that cross, exemplified love, grace and selflessness and is now wearing the crown of the king of glory over all the universe.

Certainly, his was a heavy head as it was crowned with thorns. But he did it because he knew that the end result was worth it, the end result being the redemption of those he loved.

The same thing that should motivate us.

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.

IMG_0361.JPG

(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.

2 Timothy speaks of these days:2 Tim 3.jpg

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?

progressing

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.

power dove

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.

Ax victory

Victory is ours my friends.

Get your barbarian on for Jesus

Barbarians ad copy axe

 

Poison Words

Funny how Christians can use supposedly, biblical labels that become just as hurtful as the labels the world uses.gwenny-art-fiole-props

Words of destruction, poison, can come from many places, even from those we seek out for words of encouragement. Years ago I had someone whom I looked to as a mentor, we met together regularly for years and I had received a lot of encouragement and sound advice from him. Then it took a subtle shift and I often left our meetings feeling more often angry and defeated than encouraged.

It got to where I started to dread our meetings. But I thought I needed his advice, and he mine, but it was usually pretty one sided and I often found myself having to repent of some slight he had perceived in something I had done or said to him or someone else. That was fine, I searched my soul each time and decided that somehow he was right and I was wrong.

But after a while it seemed I was always having to play defense as I was called out for things that I knew were not wrong, but were in fact things the Lord was showing me or developing in me. I was starting to have that old, ‘maybe I am worthless and lazy’ feeling that I had gotten away from so many years earlier, the feelings that the poisonous words of my two stepfathers has sown into my soul. This time it just had different labels. This time I was prideful and unwilling to submit—two things you cannot be if you want to be in good standing in church leadership circles.

Funny how Christians can use supposedly, biblical labels that become just as hurtful as the labels the world uses.

I had spent years, many years, discovering and developing my gifts and talents so that I could use them to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, I had learned how to be who I was, to use the personality God had given me to relate to people for him. I had overcome extreme shyness and the fear of public speaking to preach, teach and even lead worship in front of kids and adults of every background, and I was finding great fulfillment and great blessing in it.

It was all on the verge of being undone.

Finally I had to make a choice, listen to God or listen to man, answer the call or submit to the “Authorities”—I chose God, I fled that relationship.

Shortly after that the Lord gave me a new name, one that to many would seem like an insult, but to me, as only the Lord who knows me— my history, challenges and triumphs, who knows what moves and motivates me could have done, came up with a name that was a compliment, a challenge and a motivation all at once. He called me a Barbarian. That name changed my life, my relationship with him, with the church and set me free.

To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”’ Rev 2

But that is the power of his name for us, if we’ll just listen, if we’ll accept it.

I found my freedom, when I listened to the voice of the Lord first and foremost in my life. My freedom was completed when the Lord revealed to me his name for me, Barbarian with a Bible. That name as the Lord showed me means freedom, pure simple unchallengeable freedom. Freedom from the hurts of the past, freedom from the poison that has over the course of my life seeped into the very fabric of my heart and threatened my very purpose in this life, a purpose that came from God alone.

I am not worthless, I am not lazy, as my stepfathers told me. I am not unsophisticated, uneducated and inferior, as my former boss told me. I am not a prideful ingrate, as my former mentor told me. I am not ungifted and unfit for preaching as a former pastor said of me— I am a barbarian with a bible who has been given an assignment and nothing on this earth, seen or unseen is going to stop me from doing what God has called me to do for as long as he wants me to do it.

The sophisticated religious establishment does not appreciate barbarians, but I no longer care, which is what makes me a barbarian I suppose. I am through being manipulated, denigrated and brow beaten back into “my place”— that is, my place according to others. I know who I am, I am who the Lord of the universe created me to be, who he calls me to be and everything that falls short of that, my faults, He reveals to me in a healthy and loving way through his word, by his Spirit and through people he has put in my life who love me and him, more than they love themselves.

If I hang on to that and guard what is spoken into my heart, I will be built up, not destroyed. The words of God are life, always life, never poison. God will never speak poison into your soul. If you walk away from any encounter doubting your worth as a human being, keep walking and don’t look back. Keep your eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.

So I have to ask, who are you listening to; The voices of destruction, or the voice of love, the voice of Jesus? Freedom, that’s what my name means, what is he calling you? What is he calling you from, what is he calling you to?

Be very careful how you answer that, the answer will change your life forever.

 

Empty Trenches

Where is the next generation of warriors?

weary_warrior_by_jerseyrob-d4y6vyo

“. . . what did they have for a model? Big haired makeup slathered mega church pastors on TV who fell from grace like leaves on a Minnesota Maple tree in the fall?”

“Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’
For you shall go to all to whom I send you,
And whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of their faces,
For I am with you to deliver you,” says the Lord. Jeremiah 1

God said what?

The prophet Jeremiah was called, but he had to make a decision, in spite of his youth and inexperience, in spite of the unpopular messages he was being given as he preached repentance to the nation of Israel who thought themselves beyond reproach, he had to answer the call and obey his God. God did not allow excuses; “Oh gee, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize how young you werewhat, are you kidding me!? I formed you in the womb, I knew you before you even knew you existed, I set you aside for a special assignment and I had your life planned and I ordained you to speak to the nations on my behalf before you were even a twinkle in your father’s eye.’

‘So you are going to tell me you can’t handle this, that you’re too young? —I don’t think so. Here let me touch your mouth and give you the words, let me give you courage that you may go where I send you, let me give you an assurance of protection as I deliver you from your enemies and all who would seek to destroy you and your message. So please, no excuses, we have work to do.’

And, if you were to keep reading in the chapter, you would see that he started immediately. ‘Oh good, I see you brought your tools, let’s get started. Here’s your vision, here’s the words, here’s what they are going to do to you and here’s how I am going to deliver you.’

Everyone told Jeremiah he was crazy, a blasphemer, that he was not qualified, trained, from the right family—whatever. They threw him in prison, in a cistern, stocks and chains—but he never quit, and his God always delivered him and set him on the next mission. Why? Because he would do it. We don’t know how many others said no, how many others chose the cushy life of being one of the official prophets in the Kings courts who assured the king everything was hunky dory, how many broke God’s heart by choosing prestige and comfort, an office in the Temple, over obedience and purpose, but we know Jeremiah said yes Lord, I will go, and he is the one we remember. He wanted to say no, suffering is no fun, but he couldn’t because ignoring his call was worse.

Then I said, “I will not make mention of Him,
Nor speak anymore in His name.”
But His word was in my heart like a burning fire
Shut up in my bones;
I was weary of holding it back,
And I could not. Jer 20:9

Jeremiah is my hero. You can keep your mega churches, TV shows and national book tours as you hock your book with your smiling airbrushed portrait splashed across the cover, if your obedience to the Lord takes you there that’s between you and him, but I pray for a Jeremiah spirit. I choose to go where the Lord is, even if the road is hard and leads me only to a stockade or a muddy cistern, and today, the Lord has led me here to you. And he has a message for us. One first spoken through Jeremiah for Israel and now given to the Church.

10 See, I have this day set you over the nations and over the kingdoms,
To root out and to pull down,
To destroy and to throw down,
To build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:10

Back when I first got delivered from my addictions, set free and overwhelmed by the Spirit of the Lord as he spoke to me through his word, I was filled with a sudden passion to share the good news of the freedom and joy that is available through Jesus Christ.

I was 23 years old, just a pup, far from being ready to pastor, but I soon found ways to bring the good news to those who desperately needed to hear it. I started teaching Sunday school at church for little kids. The Sunday school teacher that I was helping as I got started, soon invited me to go to the Yellowstone county jail with him and help lead Bible studies. I found that these hurting lonely men who had hit bottom in their lives were eager for the hope that they heard in the message of Christ. So I kept going, every other week for many years, under the banner of Charles Colson’s Prison Fellowship.

One day I got a call from my partner saying that he had been asked by the local Christian TV station if he would come in for an interview. He was fearful of doing it so he asked if I would. ‘Sure, why not.’ I saw it as an opportunity to spread the word about the jail ministry and get more people coming in as it was hard to fill the slots available twice a week.

My only fear was that I would be overwhelmed with phone calls from people who wanted to help after they heard how fruitful and rewarding the ministry was. I expressed this concern to the folks doing the show and they said I could give the number for the TV station during the interview and they would field the calls. Thank you. The interview went great, I still have it on VHS somewhere, and I waited to hear about all the committed Christians who were calling the station for more information about this opportunity to share the good news—not a single person called.

This was about 1989 so it was not the millennials who were slacking, it was the baby boomers, the ones who are now bemoaning the fact that the next generation is not stepping up and getting into ministry—what did they have for a model? Big haired makeup slathered mega church pastors on TV who fell from grace like leaves on a Minnesota Maple tree in the fall?

Three times a week church goers who got together for banquets to prophecy about the big revival soon to come to town? Preachers who spent more time raising funds for their next building project then they did ministering to the sick and hurting? I don’t know—I know I was seriously disappointed and surprised to discover the lack of spine in the army of Christ.

Over the next few years I began to realize that wherever I went to share the good news with my guitar and my Bible, the jail, the mission, the women’s shelter, the youth detention center, I always saw the same handful of believers who were in the trenches getting dirty. I was just a punk kid with no formal training and big dreams of one day pastoring a church, a big church full of real soldiers for Christ, but in the meantime I was just a beggar who knew where to get bread and I was going to share it with the hungry—I was called.

download

Now, I am not bragging. I know I could have and should have done so much more and I know many who did, and still are, as far as reaching out to the least of these, of visiting Jesus in the hospitals, the prisons and the gutters. But life happened and there was never enough time and I never felt brave enough. And my dream of standing before thousands and equipping an army has been replaced by the plan the Lord had for me, of being here today and being your pastor, which I am very humbled and proud to be, humbled by your trust and proud of your commitment to Jesus.

He has also given me and helped me fulfill the dream He has given me of reaching the world through this ministry; through my writing both in print and on-line, right here from— “Lord why would you send me to Red Lodge? I can’t build a mega church there—right here from the top of the world, above the nations, at the gateway to Yellowstone Park.

And I am not giving up, I am not giving up on you, I am not giving up on the next generation and the one after that just being born because the kingdom depends on it and I am called to be a citizen of that kingdom, to be a soldier of that kingdom, and to equip the saints for the work of the ministry because the Kingdom is here and the world needs to know about it before it’s too late.

All I know is that the fields are ripe for the harvest and the workers are indeed few and in a blessed land of plenty there is little excuse for that. And whatever fields are not ripe need to be sowed.

We need to get back into the trenches before they are full of nothing but corpses.

gauntlet

 

There’s the gauntlet, who’s going to pick it up?