Pulled From Darkness

I know, let’s write him a letter telling him how disappointed we are, and all the things he did wrong. That’ll help.

If you have read the gospels you know who Peter is; the headstrong fishermen who followed Jesus faithfully and wholeheartedly for the three years of his ministry, and whom was counted among the first to recognize just who Jesus of Nazareth was; You are the Christ, the Son of God.

But Peter was also somewhat rash and compulsive, often finding himself in over his head, quite literally. Like when he decided to walk out on the water to Jesus in the storm. He was doing quite well until he realized just how crazy and frightening what he was doing really was, and then he sunk like a rock. But Jesus reached down and pulled him up.

This would not be the last time Jesus reached down to pull Peter up from certain doom. On the night of Jesus’s arrest Peter would find himself again sinking into a pool of despair as he realized that the courtyard he had followed his Lord into was full of people who wanted to destroy those who followed the Lord they were now openly mocking and beating.

Peter became overwhelmed by the waves of fear brought on by the storm of hatred he found himself surrounded by and when he found himself denying his Lord to save his own skin he knew he was doomed to drown. He ran out into the night to be consumed by the darkness as his own heart and a rooster mocked him. He ran straight into an outer darkness that the rising sun over the hill of Golgotha would only intensify.

But just a few days later Jesus would reach down once again and pull Peter back into the land of the living, into the light. His heart would be rescued by his Lord on the shores of the same lake that had nearly swallowed him on that dark and stormy night so many months ago.

Peter would devote the rest of his life to serving and following his Lord wholeheartedly, fearlessly and sacrificially. Sharing the hope and the life that he now knew and had eternally secured. He knew the living hope, his name was Jesus and his Spirit lived within. He desired nothing more in life than for everyone to know this also, to know his Jesus.

Called men and women ever since have had the same desire, to have all people know the Lord who pulled them out of darkness—I know, I am one. It’s the heaviest burden that can ever be borne, but one that is not carried in one’s own strength, and that is why we do it.

The Loneliest Job

Trust me on this, for all their business and interactions with others, most pastors are the loneliest people in the world. Everyone assumes that everyone loves them and that they have nothing to do but hang out with people. When they are “hanging out”, they are always still on duty, still ministering, being quizzed and challenged and expected to have all the right answers to make your day better.

But few understand or even care about the burdens the pastor carries—alone, expect for maybe his or her amazing spouse, whom the pastor tries not to overburden lest they be destroyed by the weight. They also often carry an unbearable burden—but for the grace of God— all their own. Being married to a pastor means you carry a burden for them, and for all they love.

I’m not saying this for my sake, this is the life I have chosen to follow the Lord into, and I knew going in that that was what was required. I wasn’t ready for all the heartache of having so many feel I let them down, (see my last blog) but there is nothing else I would rather do. I was created to do exactly what I am doing and I thank God every day that he entrusted me to do it.

I am saying this for your sake and for the sake of all the leaders out there who are feeling like failures left alone to sink in the dark waters of despair wondering where Jesus is and why they are no longer walking on the water with him. If you are in the boat don’t just say “tsk tsk, poor Peter, I guess he didn’t have what it takes” Pray for him,! Lord, reach down and help Peter, he is just trying to reach you!

Better yet, get out there with him. There were at least 11 people on that boat. What were they doing? ‘That Peter, there he goes leaving us here in this storm tossed boat, I guess he didn’t care about us after all.’ “I know, let’s write him a letter telling him how disappointed we are, and all the things he did wrong. That’ll help.

Don’t do that. . . never do that.

You are a disciple of Jesus Christ, the pastor is your brother, or sister, stand with them, pray for them and love them.

And if you are that “Peter”— Jesus has your back, he always has your back.

Are You Not entertained!?

“A warrior needs to be taking on the enemy in a battle that means something, not in an arena.”

A couple of weekends ago I was in our small church building trying to get the lights just right so that attendees and the camera could see the folks up front without them being blinded, adjusting monitor; trying to work the bugs out of the sound, both in the house and on the live feed, is a constant ongoing battle, the Power Point programs and the background pictures I use on the screen to enhance the message and the verses in a way that all can see them, thinking about the placement of the worship team and facilitating all of that both for those in house and the camera, the slow internet speeds and on and on.

I was trying to work through all of that when it all just kind of overwhelmed me a bit (I have no tech people) and I threw up my hands and shouted at the back wall–

“Are you not entertained?”

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In my mind at that moment I was Russel Crowe playing Maximus,  in the movie Gladiator holding up my blood dripping sword after having lobbed the heads off of all of my technological issues and not having any fun whatsoever doing it. In fact I was rather frustrated because it is not what I want to be doing, but it just seems necessary, expected and required.

Like fighting and killing just for show. Fighting and sometimes killing is necessary at times to protect what and who you love and cherish from harm but when it becomes a sport to be cheered it no longer serves a noble purpose.

 A warrior needs to be taking on the enemy in a battle that means something, not in an arena.

Maximus was a noble warrior who is forced to fight for show. He had been a respected general leading a Roman legion, fighting against the barbarians in the north for an Emperor he loved, for what he perceived to be a noble cause, when he was betrayed and found himself in the hands of slavers and sold to a purveyor of the gladiator arena.

After having been forced to fight in several different arenas, using his extensive military experience and skill to become a money making crowd pleaser he is becoming more and more disgusted at the whole system so one day he walks into some backwater arena where he is facing six opponents by himself and he becomes a flurry of steel and sinew as all six opponents are quickly dispatched within a matter of seconds.

As the crowd sits in stunned silence at the display of efficient, no nonsense swordsmanship, Maximus turns to them and sarcastically shouts—“Are you not entertained? –are you not entertained!?”

His trainer and owner then derides him after the show for not putting on a show—”if you want to become truly famous, if you want to make it to the Colosseum in Rome, you have to put on a show, that’s what the people want.”

Frustration

 

Maximus was right in being frustrated that he had to put on a show when the end goal was to dispatch the enemy. For the most part, those in the arena who were put forward as gladiators were captured enemy soldiers or criminals sentenced to death. A quick and efficient execution would have sufficed but they made it into a sport to appease the citizens who needed some distraction from the shortfalls of the leaders and the misery of their day to day.

And once that system, that show was started, the more they demanded and the more creative they had to be in turning killing into entertainment. And it was all about keeping the people happy and pacified.

How many pastors and evangelists feel the same way; ‘Why can I not just get up here and slay the enemy, stomp the devil and his demons and release those he has deceived and put into bondage with the sharp sword of the word of God and release the power of grace in the hearts of God’s children by the life changing, life giving Holy Spirit?

Why the song and dance? Why the multimillion dollar gilded stadiums, the Broadway worthy stages and actors, the lighting and effects, sound and video technologies, that would make any high dollar Rock band feel right at home if they were dropped onto the stage? Why the special events and carefully planned activities that would make a cruise ship director proud?

Are you not entertained?!

recieve with meekness

We are asked to receive the word with meekness. Should it not be sufficient also to deliver the word of God to be implanted in your souls with meekness as well? Meekness means with humility, gentleness, quietness, it certainly doesn’t mean with as loud and as grand a show as you can afford or imagine.

And receiving the word with meekness means not demanding that you be entertained, that your ears be tickled, in the process. The churches feel the pressure to put on a show because the people have come to expect it, and to expect even more. —”Otherwise I’m going golfing—wait, that church on the other side of town, I hear they have an amazingly talented worship team and the drama team, Wow, they are top notch!”

Meanwhile the rest of us are just trying not to lose the remote to the PowerPoint slide show while hoping that no one trips on the mic  cord to the phone we are using to try and keep our church service on Facebook, and that those who run Facebook don’t shut us down because we are preaching the whole gospel and not just the ‘aren’t we all wonderful parts.’

Jesus is Lord and he loves us so much that he died on the cross because of our sins. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. And the Holy Spirit is also alive and well and wants to indwell, heal and lead you, but you must be obedient to his voice and his word if you want to be used of him to make a difference. And you must be willing to get out of your comfortable little happy bubble and be Jesus to a sick and dying world because he is coming back. And then it will be too late to do all that we had put off.’ —That’s the whole gospel.

doers and hearers

We are to be doers and not just hearers.

That’s the unvarnished, life changing, soul saving, devil slaying gospel of Jesus Christ.

What are we going to do with it? How do we become doers?

The Sheep and the Goats

James gives us the answer—get out and change the world, one hurting person at a time, without letting the world change you.

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It’s the same thing Jesus told us. Who is it that he recognizes at the judgement seat as he separates the sheep from the goats? Those who remembered and visited him when he was sick and in prison, who clothed and fed him when he was naked and hungry.

He recognizes the doers, not those who were only hearers—and talkers.

And why would you not want to make a difference in this world? If you truly have the heart of Jesus, know the love and hope he offers and know the depths of his love, how can you look at those who hurt and not love them like Jesus does? And if you truly love, you will act.

I don’t blame the church for the state of apathy and spiritual arrogance. I blame the leaders who teach what they think will bring people in instead of what will truly save them from missing out on all that God has for them. For allowing them to wallow in filth.

The Holy word that was planted in your heart to the saving of your soul is also your strength and your call to cast aside “the sin which so easily entangles” (Heb) and walk in the freedom of his grace as doers of the word and not just hearers only.

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Worth It?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Blow it off?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

foolish virgins

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.

You Old Guys!?

You can either have a person’s back and know they’ll have yours, or you can stab a person in the back and expect to be stabbed.

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Don’t be a grumpy old man. At 58, I’m starting to understand why some old men get grumpy—it gets wearisome sometimes when all the been there done that’s under your belt keep coming up against all the haven’t been there and haven’t done that yet—‘but let me tell you how it is’ —punks who want to have the same old fights with you that you’ve dealt with a hundred times.

Just imagine how God feels, the one who has always been there and knows all things, when we try to tell him how to fix things— how to answer our prayers. One thing I’ve figured out along the way is to always pray the Lord’s will be done, my prayers are suggestions, unless the Lord shows me specifically how he wants me to pray, and my faith is in the fact that God hears and knows how to handle my petitions, he doesn’t need me to give him a step by step fix it list.

That’s just an aside; the point of these instructions are to tell us older guys not to be grumpy old men.

Older men be sober, reverent, patient and loving. Sounds pretty basic. But how many are good at that? As one who is now falling into the “older men” category I become ever more mindful of how I relate to other guys because a lot of them are now younger then me. I had kind of a reality check a year or two ago on my construction job.

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I was getting on a plumber on my job one day about getting his under–slab rough-in done so we could pour the floor slab on schedule. He was a young guy with an even younger helper and struggling a bit to figure things out. So I, apparently not so patiently, explained a couple things to him; *“Let me explain the situation here, A. you’re getting me down. B we got us a leash law here and C. You’re in the wrong town.” (Okay, only you fellow baby boomers out there will get that one) and he looks at me and says: “You older guys need to be patient and help us out a bit, we don’t know everything yet.”

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I was kind of convicted by that—I try to be patient but job pressures sometimes make that tough—but what really struck me was that designation; “Old guys”. I didn’t think of myself as an old guy—the old guys are the old guys—wait, my old guys are dead or retired, I am the old guy!

I’ve tried to change my outlook a bit since then. Instead of getting frustrated at having to deal with the same things yet again and teach yet another green hand how to do things, I remember all the “old guys” I learned from and respected along the way and I want to be one of those guys. It takes on a whole larger and more critical aspect when you are also representing Jesus.

I did change my attitude toward that young plumber, made it a point to teach him a few things by helping he rather than riding him, and as the project progressed we ended up having some real good conversations about the Lord.

It’s hard to witness to someone whom you just belittled or got short with because they irritated you with their ignorance or lack of apparent motivation. You can be patient and respectful while still being firm in making sure the task at hand is being done to the best of everyone’s ability.

I learned a long time ago that a hand that respects you will do their best for you while someone whom you treat with disrespect will be looking for ways to get away with doing the minimum required and may even look for ways to make you look bad.

It’s about having one another’s backs. You can either have a person’s back and know they’ll have yours, or you can stab a person in the back and expect to be stabbed.

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Guy’s, don’t discount this. I have worked with some of the same guys for years, guys who don’t know the Lord and would much rather sleep off a hangover on Sunday morning than sit through a church service. But because I have earned their trust and respect they will actually listen to me when a door does open to interject my faith into a conversation and, even better, they will even ask the questions that start those conversations.

Many of them have asked me for my books and even read my blogs (I know right?). On the other hand, I have worked with guys who let everyone know right up front that they are religious, ‘I go to church, I teach Sunday school, I only listen to Christian radio…’ and they have a special way of looking down on the dirty heathens they are forced to work with. ‘I’m going to be late coming back from lunch because I have a noon Bible study.’

They have  the effect of driving people farther away from Jesus.

Then all the tax collectors and the sinners drew near to Him to hear Him. And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” Luke 15:1—2

In short, don’t be a pharisee—be Jesus to the world. Don’t shun sinners, eat with sinners, and exemplify a better way. The sinners drew near to Jesus. Are they drawing near to you? Or are they speaking evil about you behind your back?

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*CW McCall Crispy Critters

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Soul Satisfaction

Is there a hole in your soul?

take nothing

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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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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!

Stand up Preacher!

The American church has forgotten that this world is not our home, and when we don’t get our little slice of heaven on earth, then we turn back to the world for satisfaction and solace.bible

We need Pastors, teachers and leaders who will remind us, who will be honest with us, who even know the word in the first place, that this life is full of big problems but we have a God who is bigger and who is more concerned with our hearts and our souls then with our comfort and happiness. We need preachers, biblically literate and Spirit anointed preachers, who will remind us that we are in a battle that we will win but there are scars yet to be earned on the way to victory.

And yes, we can find fulfillment and purpose in this life, but the fulfillment and purpose is found in preparing our souls for eternity and in preparing others to share that eternity with us.

So I charge you, Paul charges you—God charges you—to fight the good fight of faith, to know and teach truth and to stand firm on the rock, not letting your faith become a shipwreck that others get hung up on as well because you led them right into the rocks.

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This is our charge. The time is growing short and the enemy of our souls is getting more desperate and more blatant in his attempts to silence truth, to extinguish the light.

In much of the world he is just outright killing the church. I read a statistic just this week put out by Jay Sekulow that of all the persecuted people groups in the world, Christians make up 80%.

Quote— “An alarming study recently released by the British government described the current state of global Christian persecution as being “close to . . . genocide.” More than 80% of persecution victims globally are Christians.

In the Middle East and North Africa, Christians face horrific violence, abduction, torture, and murder for their faith. It’s genocide.”

“Christian children live in constant fear.” —End quote

And in America we are busy arguing about whether we should sing 500 year old hymns or contemporary music in our worship services or which English translation of the Bible was truly written by the Apostles and the prophets—none of whom spoke English by the way. There are places where you lose your head for singing any kind of Christian song and where people would give anything for even a scrap of God’s word written in their heart language.

We have a duty to speak the truth, to share the word, to be the light, while we still can, before the darkness consumes the entire world.

We don’t have time for petty arguments with believers with a slightly different approach or in house, ‘the preacher offended me I’m going somewhere else, maybe nowhere else,’ offenses.

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It’s time for the church of Jesus Christ that is still standing to get serious about the fight we are in, it’s not with each other. While we are arguing with each other about how literally to take the book of Revelation, how many years ago creation happened, and how wet we should get when we get baptized, our own government is slowly but surely outlawing the very bible we claim to stand on, declaring it offensive and hateful. And our culture, speech and public square is being systematically stripped of anything that could in any way be construed as Christian.

The PC police run roughshod over us all, silencing all honest discourse and somehow everything we now do and say is racist and homophobic. While we worry about plastic straws and which bathroom to use we ignore the high crimes and corruption in our highest offices and law enforcement agencies. We can no longer trust the IRS, the FBI, the CIA and the Justice Dept as they are all being manipulated by the rich and powerful for one another, against one another, and against us.

Our Constitution, the God inspired founding document of this nation under God which protected our rights to worship God as we so choose is no longer heeded nor upheld.

Christians and their leaders stand down and wring their hands, afraid to cause offense as perverts and pagans take over our education system twisting our children’s brains and stealing their innocence before they even get out of kindergarten, as communists and socialists take over our government—both of whom would regulate churches and synagogues right out of existence, take our paychecks and our weapons and leave us at the mercy of the state—which then becomes our god.

The state will provide, the state will decide, you do not need God.

I will not be silent and I will not be silenced. Too much is at stake.

I will speak

I know this sounds a lot like a political rant but I have a purpose here. We need people who are called to lead to stand up and lead, to speak out for truth and to stop running from leaders who are telling us the hard stuff even if what they teach makes us go against the grain of our culture.

I believe we are—you are— those leaders. Don’t fear the darkness, pick up your torch and lead the way through the darkness.

preachen'

 

Stigma (See Me II)

Simon

“No one wants to believe that their humanity and worthiness is being completely and totally disregarded”

The underlying theme of my blog these last several weeks has been sexual abuse. A topic much of the church is afraid to touch but one that is out there in a big way and sorely needs to be brought into the light. There is no dark so dark as that imposed by the church because that is a darkness with all hope of escape erased. This church is called to be a light and a place of hope. Stigmas have no lasting home in God’s family.

That said, there is an undeserved yet very real stigma that exists in the minds of the victims of sexual abuse. A stigma that is put there, intentionally by the perpetrator— and by those who take the perpetrators side; “You brought this on yourself, you encouraged it— you liked it!” and any number of horrible accusations. And victims are stigmatized unintentionally by everyone else from family to clergy as they just don’t want to deal with it, ‘just get over it, it can’t have been that bad.’

This causes the person to hide. They hide behind a pretense of everything being okay because they do not want people looking at them differently, they don’t want people picturing them in the abuse situation making them feel violated all over again. They don’t want people feeling sorry for them and they don’t want people asking and inferring things, like; “Why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you leave? What were you doing there in the first place; were you being a tease? How were you dressed?”

Without going into a lot of detail here there are very real psychological answers to these questions that the victim themselves may not even understand. A person’s instinctual defense mechanisms kick in and can cause what seems like rational thought to shut down. I think the bottom line is, people want to be seen as people, so even in the midst of an attack there is a level of denial.

No one wants to believe that their humanity and worthiness is being completely and totally disregarded by someone, especially if it was someone who just moments ago, was making you feel special.

So people get good at pretending because they soon discover—it’s part of growing up unfortunately— that most people cannot see past a person’s past to who they want to be. They pretend there are no hurts or failings, especially in a church, where everyone is supposed to be okay— all healed, temptation and turmoil free. And so all of us, to some extent and especially victims of abuse, pretend to be someone else to avoid being seen as anything less than a normal, well-adjusted person, who is worthy of love and respect.

Not one of us garnered Jesus’ love because we proved that we were worthy—Not one, and none ever have.

sinful woman

Did Simon the Pharisee? Did the sinful woman? No, “While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us.” Jesus loved both Simon and the woman and treated them with respect—equally; the man who had devoted his life to studying and living by the law of God to the nth degree and considered himself worthy—and the one who made her living by capitalizing on the carnal lusts of morally weak men in the city.

Yet—the one who thought herself the least worthy was the one who went away with the blessing and of peace and the gift of saving grace.

go in peace

Jesus made sure the Pharisee saw the hypocrisy in his attitude towards this daughter of his Father.  “Simon—do you see this woman?” Luke 7

Jesus saw her and she was forever changed. He sees the scared little girl that has long ago hidden behind the painted eyes and exotic dress of her trade. He sees beyond the mask of lewdness forced through a tincture of stubborn hardness and anger.

He sees the pain and humility—he sees the tenderness that has looked desperately for an outlet, for a heart that would return the love she longed to set free—that cried at night when no one was around and she could no longer ignore it; ‘What have I done to deserve this? Why won’t anyone help me, why can’t anyone see the real me?’

Jesus sees you–and so does this pastor. . .

Forgiven much meme

If you are ever in Red Lodge MT, stop in to Hope Chapel and be loved. Until then, call on Jesus, he not only sees you- he hears you.

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I challenge all of you church leaders our there to get real about this topic. You have no idea until you are willing to see, how many victims are hiding in your own pews waiting to be seen–and that’s all they really want. Trust me…

 

Awaken

Nothing good ever comes after the words, “Here, hold my beer” are uttered.

This will probably not be one of my more popular blogs, but teaching God’s word, despite what many believe, was never meant to be part of a great marketing strategy or an ace in the hole of life’s popularity contest…

A crash course from Ephesians 5

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” Eph 5

It’s time for the church to wake up and start acting like the body of Christ again, to behave like dear children of God. We can no longer get away with claiming ignorance nor act as those who have no power. And we must stop presuming on grace to cover us for sins that we have no intention of even trying to avoid, we all love the grace part of the gospel but forget the repentance part.

deceipt

Entertainment focused churches and Christians who seek feel good messages from preachers who speak the empty words that deceive the children of disobedience into believing they are the dear children of God will be exposed as purveyors of half-truths selling ear tickling pop—psychology devoid of all power with no ability to set hearts free and to hold back the darkness.

The time is too short and the days too evil for God to allow that to continue unchallenged. And he challenges us to wake up and stand for truth, to preach the whole gospel and shun the deeds of darkness while claiming the full power of God’s word and Spirit.

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit

Don’t be a fool, redeem the time, and stay sober.

darkness

I have said it before and I will say it again here because it seems the church at large has slipped from total abstinence to total indulgence on this issue. The scripture makes it quite clear in both the Old and New Testaments in story after story, in admonitions, psalms and proverbs and even the example of Jesus that yes, it is okay to drink, but it is not okay to get drunk, nor to be a drunk.

And if you cannot make the distinction or stop the flesh from demanding more than just the occasional cup, then you should not even go there at all. You cannot function in the power of the Holy Spirit while drinking. You cannot be under the influence of a substance and the Holy Spirit at the same time because they are in direct opposition to one another.

That is why Paul ends the Ephesians 5 section of how to walk in love, to be imitators of God, and what the difference between deeds of light and deeds of darkness are with—don’t be drunk with wine.

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King Solomon wrote: “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” And all of these things that we are told not to do, to avoid even the appearance of— fornication, foolish talking, crude jokes and general filthiness—are encouraged in us when we are under the influence of too much drink. If you walk through a prison and ask people if they committed whatever crime they are in there for whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol nearly all of them will say yes.

Nothing good ever comes after the words, “Here, hold my beer” are uttered. You won’t find too many miracles, acts of service or prophetic words in scripture, or anywhere else for that matter, that starts with that phrase.

Hey look! There’s Jesus walking on the water in the storm. Peter, let John hold your wine and come out to me on the waves!” Wait, that didn’t happen.

‘And the disciples were all together in one place and they were all filled with wine and begin to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.’ No, that didn’t happen either, not quite like that.

pentacost

 

It was the Holy Spirit that was poured out on them and they went out from there and kicked the enemies butt and the world is still reeling from this group of Spirit filled believers who became the hands and feet of Jesus and turned the world upside down with his teaching, laying hands on the sick and casting out demons with a word.

Nothing has changed, Jesus hasn’t changed and his word hasn’t changed. “In the last days he will pour out his Spirit.” We are certainly still in those last days, the last days are surely running out and the days becoming more evil.

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Eph 5

Why? Why are the days becoming more evil? Perhaps because the church has fallen asleep, perhaps because the church has taken to drinking too much wine, perhaps because there are too many empty words being preached from the pulpits. Perhaps because the enemy is wide awake and he is fully aware that the day of the Lord is fast approaching and he wants to take us all out with him, suck us into the darkness so that in his demise he can gloat over all the dear children he deceived.

Perhaps it’s all of these things. But we can change the direction, we can redeem the time, if we do indeed wake up and start walking in, praying in, living in the light. Walk circumspectly—that means suspiciously, cautiously, kind of circling around something to make sure it’s safe before we just blunder right into it.

Time to wake up, for the church to rise from the dead and walk in the light.

awake

God has a plan and a purpose for you and you are here for such a time as this, stay awake and walk in the light. You will never regret it!

Taking ‘Me’ out of the Equation

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Phil 2

light shine

“That’s a lousy marketing strategy!”

Putting others first, a simple and noble concept but one that flies in the face of human nature—now there’s a term to ponder; “human nature.”  Human nature as we generally mean it refers to the tendencies of the flesh, the base instincts of the human condition which left to its own accord is pretty much just about, first of all, survival and then, secondly, fulfilling the cravings of the fleshfeeding the beast.

But we are not subject to the flesh, enslaved by human nature. We are, at least we are supposed to be, subject to the Spirit. Because the flesh is corrupted by thousands of generations of sin and is deceitful beyond measure. An empty shell once created to house the spirit created in the image of God but killed by sin. But for those who have believed it has been remade, born again, even replaced by the Spirit of our God.

But, we still need to be asked on occasion:

Why do you do what you do? For whom do you do it?

Give it away

Let me give you an example.

When I wrote my second book, Hope For Families I had high hopes. Now here’s a book people need to read, will want to read, that will get me invited to places to speak, make me some  money so I can quit having to work construction. My name will be out there and my first book—To My Girls­— will take off because I am now an experienced author—“Lord bless this book!”

A few months after it came out, on the heels of a few disappointing book signings and virtually no response from the many organizations and church leaders I sent it to, Donna and I went to the Foursquare Conference in Anaheim, it was a rare opportunity for Donna and I, attending the annual convention, so I wanted to take full advantage. I brought along several copies of both my books determined to get them into the hands of people who may have some influence and get my name out there—all the Foursquare big wigs are at convention.

The second day of convention I was praying; ‘Lord show me who to give books to, give me opportunity’, and the Lord said; “Don’t give the book to people whom you think can bless you, give it to those whom you think will be blessed by it” Just give it away.

You know what I thought about that? “That’s a lousy marketing strategy!” No. I was actually relieved. I had been stressing about how to give books to the people that would ultimately generate book sales and forgetting why I wrote the books in the first place— to bless people.

The Lord had never promised that I would make the best seller list, he only asked me to write, to speak his heart and make it available—the rest is up to him. I suddenly felt free of the burden and was no longer disappointed that I wasn’t getting my investment back in dollars. And I had fun the rest of that trip just looking for people whom the Lord put on my heart to just give a book to, just for the sake of giving them a book—of sharing the message the Lord had put on my heart to write.

I got to give To My Girls to some very appreciative young ladies that were there serving on the worship team and as bus chaperones, hotel workers, and I got to give Hope For Families to total strangers, like a family from Uganda, to a youth leader I ran into at Starbucks, to a family in the airport whom we struck up a conversation with, to a frazzled woman in a fast food line who was asking Donna about her faith—the doors just started opening—it really was fun, because it was no longer about me—it was about other people—about being Jesus to the world.

Man and shadow
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

Really, what it boils down to, what made all the difference was, the “me” was taken out of the equation. I stopped worrying about what I could get out of it and then I found the joy of the experience, ‘the joy of giving’, to use the corny old saying.

I did the same thing when I was working on a construction project in Miles City a couple years ago, I made it my mission to give away a couple of books every week, and I did. I was always amazed that people seemed genuinely grateful to what seemed to me like something that was quite forward and maybe even creepy, but like I said, I was sensitive to the Spirit in the process so the hearts were prepared to receive.

I think people just want to be acknowledged, we are all so wrapped up in ourselves so often that we don’t notice those around us, so to walk up to someone, say, I would like to give you something,  what is your name? Write it in the front page of a book that you wrote, sign it, and hand it to them and say, ‘”I just wanted to give you one of my books, be blessed.” Leaves them thinking, ‘wow, someone noticed me, and maybe even cared.’

That just dawned on me as I was writing this message, if we all were looking for others to notice instead of working to be noticed, the world would be a much different place, wouldn’t it? That’s the message of our scripture today, and actually, the message of the entire gospel.

But it’s funny looking back, I was building a multi-million dollar addition on a Catholic church, responsible for everything that went on there, and I would drive home at the end of the week and reflect on what a great week it was based on the smiles of those I got to give books to. I gave a few away at the church there by the way, starting with the maintenance man.

Just give it away. I don’t know that any of those free books led to anyone buying any books but I have no doubt that many were blessed and encouraged by the ones I gave away—and that makes it worth any amount of time and money I put into these books.

So, with my next book, I just went into it with a different attitude. After the whole barbarian notion was developed, preached to my church and seemed to really strike a chord with people I thought; “I’ll make this my next book, this barbarian series, because it really seemed to bless people, because I believe the Lord wants me to, and because I believe it is a message that comes straight from him and the church needs to hear it.’

Where it goes from there is entirely up to Him. I will do what I can and actually mean what I have always said; if it blesses just a handful of people then it was worth it.

Get the (very affordable) Barbarians in the Kingdom!

book cover

Stand Firm

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Whether you sit in a pew or read my heart on line, I love you all. . .

 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. Rev 3:20—21

I’ve gotta be honest with you, it’s been really tough to focus on writing sermons and blogs lately. There have been so many family and ministry bombshell crisis all around me lately and pressures at work aside from my ministry that it’s been hard to not just despair and try to drag everyone into the pit of gloom that threatens me. But for the grace of God and the call and anointing I have to preach the good news to the people Jesus entrusts me to instruct, I know I would be somewhat useless.

So many people I love going through such challenges as it seems the enemy is coming at us from so many directions while at the same time great victories are being won for the kingdom of God. And that is in part what keeps me showing going, the strong need strengthened— a place to be fed and encouraged—and the weary need rest, a safe place to rediscover the power of grace. And, God’s greatest victory’s often come in the challenges we face. When Jesus shows up in the midst of the storm is when he is most evident and when we truly listen.

And I need to remember that it is not about me, it is about the children of God, those he died for, and he has entrusted me— he has entrusted all of us—with a message of hope, hope in a God who can do and change anything no matter how badly we mess it up—and yes, it is indeed we who mess it up. We can blame the enemy, we can blame God, but there is always a choice freely made somewhere by us, or those we love, who tipped the first domino to our disaster. We choose which voice to listen to, the voice that leads to destruction, or the voice that leads to life.

I choose to keep listening to the voice that beckons, “Open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you with me.” In the vernacular of Jesus day that was an invitation to an intimate heart to heart conversation. Just the two of us. Accepting that invitation is the primary thing that keeps me going, that keeps the enemy from stealing my joy, my purpose, my very sanity.

I don’t need much to push me over the edge if I am operating in my own strength, doing what I want and taking the credit for whatever I accomplish while wearing the twisted crown that I keep wrestling away from the Lord.

But, if I am leaning on him, constantly depending on him, just looking to him, he is there and he is my rock. I will stand, I will keep preaching the good news and I will always be there, crying with those who hurt, rejoicing with those who rejoice, rowing when others can’t and sharing a meal belowdecks with Jesus when I’m too tired to row. I am going to that dinner party and I am taking you all with me.

Called

But you know, that’s what a pastor does, and this is nothing new. There have always been challenges and there always will be, until the day the Lord returns.

Because I love you, all of you, whenever any of you hurt, I hurt. But as one who is anointed and called to love and shepherd a flock for Jesus, he is my rock and I will not, we will not, be moved.

The Lord is doing a good work, whether in our Red Lodge, or extended via the internet, church family, he has been and he will continue to. Whether you sit in a pew or read my heart on line, I love you all. With the struggles there are many victories to celebrate as well and I get also to rejoice with you in those. We cannot be distracted and we must not fail to keep looking to the Lord for our joy and our strength, to accept the invitation to keep following him into the tomorrow he has planned for each and every one of us and for this body of believers as we continue to storm the gates of hell and add to the family till we have to knock out the walls to make room for those who accept the invitation to share in the feast of grace we get to so freely eat of.

Making sure we are accepting that invitation to spend time with Jesus that so often seems unimportant, insignificant, or something for another day.

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Rev 2:10

It sounds like the most ridiculous and least productive thing to do in our struggles, to stop, listen for the still small voice inviting us to stop and share a meal, but it is the only thing that will get us through, and it is all the Lord asks of us; that we accept his offer of peace.

The alternative is chaos, in us and around us.

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But if I keep my heart full, and keep accepting, looking forward to and heeding the Lord’s invitation to keep following him, to sit and eat with him on occasion, the joy in the journey makes the fleeting and frustratingly hollow pleasures of the flesh less appealing and renders the attacks that threaten destruction powerless and moot.

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