Propriety in Prayer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Decorum

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

loved

 

 

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.

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Teach Truth

Disclaimer up front here—at some point in this blog you may be offended, I may have even offended myself.

But seriously, if you have a preacher who never offends you, you need a new preacher. (I am a preacher by the way) And an offense is just a challenge taken the wrong way.

Teach Truth

Paul warned Timothy of this issue long ago, this ‘do not offend me because I’m voting with my feet’ issue that would overtake the church one day. And as the time goes by and we are racing towards the final showdown between good and evil, pastors, teachers and leaders are become more and more afraid of the people to whom they minister, and less and less afraid of the God whom they serve.

Most pastors today will trade a full church for a full gospel any day. “Just preach the feel good stuff pastor so I can invite all my friends and show them what a progressive and cutting edge church we have. Otherwise, I’m outa here.”— “Oh, and you had better have top notch entertainment also, you know, drama and professional musicians and stage effects.”

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth… 2 Timothy 4:3—4

I’m going to spend the next few weeks looking at Paul’s letters to Timothy, a young pastor. Because I think the church, has gotten to a place where people are not answering the call any more. Those who have not just flat fallen away from the church and the faith, as many have in this age as we see church numbers dwindle across the board, are just not answering the call, they are not stepping up and they are not desirous of truly living a life worthy of their call even if they did have an inkling to do so.

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There is this weird paradigm happening where people can claim to be, and even truly be, madly in love with Jesus but not willing to live according to, or denying the truth and relevance of his word and his ways, they are in fact, unwittingly and in some cases, denying truth in favor of experience, emotion and cultural norms.

History shows that cultural norms are a dependable basis for determining God’s truth—no wait, that never works.

Right is wrong

I can hardly even keep up anymore as to what’s acceptable and what’s not in public discourse and cultural acceptance, not that I want to.

It would be downright comical—if it were not so frightening in its implications—watching the myriad of presidential candidates trip all over each other trying to outdo one another in embracing and doubling down on whatever absurd notion the other candidates happened to get attention with even if it is a total contradiction to what they claimed to believe and support just last week.

The spirit of delusion seems to have fallen on the whole lot of them as wrong becomes right and everything we have believed in becomes yesterday’s ignorance, as they all sit in their political and media circles and cheer each other on while the rest of us go,—’what? Who are you people, am I trapped in a bad episode of the Twilight Zone?  Or is this all just a bad dream’— no, it’s just the enemy playing with his puppets to destroy all that is good, the little that is left anyway.

I will speak

The point is—truth changes daily—you want to base your standing with the Lord on that? People don’t even know where to turn anymore, which statues we are tearing down this week, what heroes are no longer heroes, what history can no longer be taught or acknowledged; ‘Can I use a straw in my organic, sustainably grown coffee mixed with milk voluntarily given up by free range cows even if it’s offered to me by a transvestite barista? Or is this just a test to see if I really care about mother earth and all her multi gendered children?’

And that had all better be okay with you or you will have a milk shake thrown on you just before we beat you for being a hater.

What is acceptable, what is right, what is truth?

People are willing to go bonkers defending and promoting their political agendas and the latest scheme to save the planet from evil humanity but won’t give a moment’s thought to the one who created it all or bother to open the instruction manual he gave us, the Bible.

‘Maybe we can get truth from music?’ Yeah, that always works well. We went from drugs sex and rock and roll, to; I kissed a girl and I liked it, to whatever foul and perverse thing I can get to fall out of my mouth with something we call music behind it.

Thank goodness we have Christian radio—yeah, right. Let’s get our truth, our theology, from skinny jean wearing, young, rad worship leaders who got their theology from watching faded Levi wearing young cool worship leaders who got there theology from watching big haired, bell bottom wearing, key board banging worship leaders who got their theology from the young hip bearded bible study leader who showed up on campus one day with a Living Bible—“Cool man, finally a bible I can understand!”

You see where I’m going here? We need to keep grounded in truth. We cannot keep walking in ignorance. If you are going to endeavor to teach, or to be taught, you have to stay in, believe in, be submersed in, God’s word. You need to know the doctrine of grace and love found in the New Testament and the Law that preceded it and showed us the need for the grace in the first place.

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Because if all we are doing is presuming on grace and not caring a whit about how much of God’s law we are flaunting in our new found freedom, we are going to be in trouble, we are not carrying the torch that lights the way for all to see, the torch that keeps us from being swallowed by darkness as we await the sunrise of a new day in the Kingdom of our God.

Don’t get me wrong, there is some great Christian music out there, but that is what it is, music—an alternative to the garbage the world throws up. We cannot heed it as though it is gospel and every catchy tune with a clever chorus is not a word from God. The same goes for the beloved hymns. Even the oldest hymn was written many hundreds of years after the Bible was canonized and the word completed.

We can be inspired, blessed and encouraged by music from Christian artists, I certainly am, but we cannot stand on it. The only thing we can solidly stand on is the word of God.

We are entering a new season of the church, the great falling away is coming to an end and those who are still standing are being called back to holiness and will see the power and grace of God move in and through them like they never imagined possible.

Be that warrior, you are God’s chosen.

Eph 6 memeBarbarians in the Kingdom by Dan Swaningson

 

Forgiven Much

“‘love covers a multitude of sins.’ I love that, don’t you? —I can do that.”

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Anyone forgiven much? —Do you love much? That’s a little harder question isn’t it? We all know we are supposed to love, love the Lord our God with all our hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves. But where the rubber meets the road, it’s a lot harder to do then to say.

I don’t care what anyone says, we’re all pretty good at loving ourselves, even the woe is me, I’m a pitiful wretch I hate myself, person who claims they need to learn to love themselves is focused on what? Themselves. “Look at me, help me, love me.” We all want to be loved, if we didn’t love ourselves we wouldn’t care if anyone loved us.

Jesus didn’t make any disclaimers when he told us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He didn’t say, “Unless of course you don’t love yourselves.” Selfishness is rooted deep in the human psyche. We might not always like ourselves, but fallen man always puts himself before anyone else and anything you put above all else is what you love the most.

Jesus is asking us to put others before ourselves, and especially to put God before ourselves. That’s true humility, not drawing attention to ourselves with our own woes but being willing to put ourselves out for others, to even humiliate ourselves. That’s what the woman we studied last week, the sinful woman who washed Jesus feet with her tears did, and why Jesus was so moved by her love that he declared her forgiven—she got it.go in peace

 

The last thing she needed to do, and would have wanted to do, was to come into a room full of people who loath her, downright despise her as wicked and dirty, and make a spectacle of herself for the sole purpose of thanking one man for showing her respect, for treating her like she mattered, who loved her for no other reason than that she came to him seeking something beyond herself—seeking redemption.

And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, 38 and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; Luke 7

She went away pure, and at peace, because Jesus declared her so—forgiven much.

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Preparing my sermon last week and spending much time thinking about the woman who was so overwhelmed by a feeling of love for Jesus that she ended up washing his feet with her tears, I knew I wanted to spend more time on those words that Jesus spoke to Simon the Pharisee and the rest of the room concerning the woman whom they could only see as sinful and shameful;  “Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”

I have pondered that verse many times over the years and am always astounded at how I have seen it proven true over and over and over again. It’s somewhat of a sad testament to the human condition that those who seem to have fallen so far, gotten so far away from a life that honors God and his ways, are the ones who, if and when they are willing to receive the healing touch from Jesus, are the ones who ultimately become the most passionate about their relationship with him.

You would think it’s the ones who never strayed that would be the most passionate in their love for Christ but I guess it makes sense that the one who has been the most hungry for the longest time is the one who is most grateful for the bread when they find it.

Perhaps it’s that “You never know what you had until you lose it” principle at play. Those who think they are just always in right standing with the Lord, who say in their hearts, “Well I’m certainly doing a lot better than those messed up people over there so I must be worthy.” are the ones who end up bitter and ungrateful because they always believe they are getting the short end of the stick.

“I deserve better than this! Why am I not getting a ring and a fatted calf?” —to use a prodigal son reference. While those who have failed miserably and know they will probably get nothing short of scorn and judgement, are so grateful when they receive loving graces from the Father that they can only rejoice, and they cannot wait to share with others who are still in the same miserable shoes that they were in.

Listen! I am standing at the door

I have often said of myself when people express thanks to me for teaching or preaching the gospel, “I’m just a beggar telling other beggars where I found bread.” It’s a line I stole from an old gospel song I heard years ago and it just sums it up for me. I’m no one special, just someone who was starving for truth and meaning and stumbled upon a treasure trove of both in Christ, in his word and by His Spirit.

I just had to be willing to receive it when it was offered. And there is plenty for everyone. Why so many prefer to go through life starving when they can have the bread of life is beyond me but I am determined that it won’t be for lack of me trying to point the way to the pantry.

Really, that’s what it comes down to, that has been the motivating factor in my walk with Christ ever since he rescued me from my own self-induced famine and filled me to the top with his love and forgiveness.

The night in 1985 that I fell to my knees a trembling convicted mess and arose a man overwhelmed, filled to overflowing with love and joy, is a night I will never forget.

After several years of running from the Lord and life, after years of doing what I knew I should not be doing but unwilling to let go of my own destiny and trust Jesus, only giving the Lord a little bit of my heart, only living by his word when it didn’t interfere with what my flesh wanted. I had finally had enough of the frustration and loneliness that comes from a life separated from God by willful disobedience and dove into God’s word searching for an answer— anything to help me overcome my addictions and anxieties and he infused his word with such a power that I was unable and unwilling to close my heart to its truth any longer.

I was unwilling and unable to close my heart off to his Holy Spirit’s offer of love, joy, peace and patience any longer and I simply said yes, ‘yes Lord. I trust you, yes Lord I am yours, Yes Lord I will follow you wherever you lead.’

I gave him my life and he gave me my life back. “Go in peace, your faith has saved you.”

At that point I knew I was truly forgiven much and I loved much as a result. And I still try to do my best to do so, in his power, and he is always faithful. It doesn’t always make me popular, much of the church doesn’t understand how I can love some people, how I can accept some people, how I can keep an open heart and open arms.

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I am only doing what Jesus did for me and what I continue to see him doing. I am called to love all, both the unbeliever who doesn’t even know they are a sinner and the believer who is entangled in sin but is unwilling or unable to face the truth of how it’s hurting them, and breaking the Lord’s heart. I know, because I feel his heartbreak, that’s what is there when you get past the anger and offense, neither of which serve any good purpose, a love that is willing to bear pain is a love that is hard to hold.

But it is the kind of love we are given, and called to share.

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If we are doing our best to love much, we will not scorn others, nor will we be scorned, for love covers a multitude of sins. I love that, don’t you? —I can do that.

 

 

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.

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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…

 

Bury the Dead

“They made their choice and if they are inflicting pain, … you need to leave them behind and let them bury one another.”

bury teh dead

Early in Jesus’ ministry he is traveling around teaching people, healing many and drawing huge crowds. He ends up at Peter’s house; probably to eat and rest. But they arrive to find his Mother in Law is sick so he touches her and heals her. Word quickly gets out— ‘Jesus is at Peter’s house’; and people are flocking to him for healing and deliverance and he heals them all and drives out many demons.

After a while as the crowd was growing alarmingly large, he gets up and says to his closest disciples:  “Come onWe’re going to go to the other side of the lake.”  Jesus apparently turns to another and invites him along, but this man hesitates for reasons only Jesus can see.

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God.”

Luke 9:59—60

Walking down to the nearby shore Jesus then gets into the boat with those who have decided to leave it all behind, probably the twelve, who are surely thinking about now; “Man, we are the chosen few, the ones who are going to ride this train to glory!”  You can almost hear Willie Nelson sing in the background: “Blue skies shining on me, nothing but blue skies do I see.”

They cast off with visions of the Kingdom Come in their heads —and sail— right into a storm. “Where’s Jesus? Asleep? Ahhh, we should have stayed behind with those others who are safe and dry in their own beds tonight!” “Lord don’t you care that we are about to drown?”

They chose to follow the one who was bringing wholeness and life to those he touched, they left behind the dead—all who refused or were unwilling to give up their pasts—the things they had always counted on to be their provision—and now they had sailed right into possibly one of the worst storms these men who had grown up on this inland sea had ever seen.

Woman and tornado

‘What kind of a deal is this? Did you bring us into the desert to see us perish of thirst?’ No wait, that was Moses. ‘Did you take us from our homes and our families just to see us drown in the sea?’

Storm

I have never been in a storm at sea but I can imagine how frightening it must be. Sitting in a small wooden ship, about half the size of a Viking long ship and not nearly as flexible, getting drenched by the rain and the waves as the wind drives you farther and farther from shore. And the only place to go? Into the churning water that holds only darkness and death, a merciless and terrifying tomb that hungers for the living like a doorway to Hades itself.

That’s what these guys are facing. ‘I thought following Jesus, the miracle man, the Messiah, our long awaited king, would make us impervious to harm, where did this come from? I want my money back!’

So here are the followers of Jesus, who left all behind, now thinking, “This is it! We’re going to be swamped and drown.” A fisherman’s worst nightmare. But what they still didn’t understand was just who it was that they were with. This storm was nothing. They were still thinking as those who were still back in the past, who were still living with, subject to, and even one of —the dead. We’ll never overcome this, we’ve been told all our lives to be careful, to not get caught out too far from shore when a storm is brewing—why are we even here?!’

But they are no longer amongst the dead nor one of them. They were now counted amongst the living, in the very presence of life itself, the creator and giver of life, yet they still feared death. How quickly they had forgotten., how quickly they had lost faith.

Where’s your faith?

be still

The disciples had just spent the day with Jesus seeing one miracle after another. And that very same evening they are in a storm fearing for their lives and what do they do? They panic— “We have to wake up Jesus! How can he possibly be sleeping at such a time as this?  “Don’t you caredon’t you care that we are going to drown?”

“Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” That’s a huge question.

Why are we so afraid? We forget what we are leaving behind, we forget the impossible hopeless situations we have seen God take care of with just a word and we forget who we are with. We are afraid of things that now have no power to hurt us.

Demons, people who have hurt us, financial difficulties, we get bogged down in fear and doubt by worries and unforgiveness— voices and faces that come back to taunt us—the dead. We fear the dead.

The dead keep taunting us, their voices alive in our heads. Which is why Jesus told the disciple back in Capernaum; “Let the dead bury their own dead.”

“Lord, don’t you want us to take care of our families, don’t you want us to honor our fathers?” Yes, but nothing can excuse disobedience and here was God in the flesh telling this man to come with him and here is this man making excuses, using what seems a noble task as an excuse for disobedience.

Jesus was asking this man to put him first, to not be dissuaded from following him by those who choose not to follow, to listen to his voice over the voice of man—even his own father. The man was worried about security, about his inheritance, let me be a diligent son and heir and I’ll catch up with you later…

Get Safe

Listen to this—Those behind us, whether it’s family, friends, employers, teachers, even church leaders—anyone who has pulled at you, planted seeds of doubt in your mind, outright hurt you with words, or blows that bruised more than your flesh, who left wounds that pain you to this day—they are the dead that we must leave behind.

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They made their choice and if they are inflicting pain, then they are not following Jesus, they are following their own flesh. If they claim to be following Jesus but are not bearing the fruit of that life in Christ, then they are living as those who are dead and—listen carefullyyou need to leave them behind and let them bury one another.

You get free, go and proclaim the kingdom of God to those who will hear it, among those to whom Jesus leads you. Staying in a place of hurt out of a sense of duty is not the will of God, is not an acceptable sacrifice, it is disobedience. Jesus is saying to you: “Come follow me. Get into the boat and let’s cross this big lake and get away from this clamoring mob who would drag you down and suck all they can out of you. Let’s get away from the voices of those who care only for themselves while pretending to love.”

get away

 

Make of that what you will— I will let the Holy Spirit fill in the rest in your hearts as only he can do.

 

Words are Real

“…here’s the deal; you have to want healing and deliverance.”

no tuning back

There’s an old saying we learn as kids; “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

That’s a lie, a lie we tell ourselves and the bullies in our lives to try and take away their power over us, the power of the words they sling. Because I will bet each and every one of you can remember nearly every mean and insulting thing that someone said about you when you were in grade school, middle school, High school, and beyond.

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And you hear those voices over and over again, when you look in the mirror and see whatever it was someone deemed irregular and weird about your appearance and just wish you could change the face you see. You hear those voices when you fail to live up to your own expectations of yourself because someone long ago labeled you as lazy, stupid, worthless, whatever—you are still trying to prove those voices wrong.

The bruises and scratches of sticks and stones will heal quickly, but the wounds inflicted by words never do. Well, that’s a lie also. We serve a God who gets the final say in our lives—if we’ll let him, if we’ll let him still those other voices.

We’re going to spend the next month or so revisiting a series of teachings I first did three years ago now, that had a powerful impact on many in my church and in my larger online ministry. I ended up labeling the series Still the Voices as it became evident that the Lord was using it to coax us away from the things of the past—the voices— the memories—that haunt us and taunt us, and to walk in the freedom of our healing; spiritual and emotional healing, one and the same in my book.

We are after all, spiritual beings housed for the time being in a body of frail and ever failing flesh. Flesh that also houses a heart that can be hardened, corrupted and deceived into doing foolish and even horrible things to another and can give us any number of reasons to give up either because of what we have done, or because of what has been done to us.

Because words are the primary weapon of the sexual predator–“Don’t tell anyone, no one will believe you, this is normal, no one else will love you…” –this series ultimately ended up dealing with the hard issue of sexual abuse and I was stunned by what I learned in the process and the prevalence of this evil in the lives of so many. One of the things that stunned me the most, or should I say troubled me the most, was in regards to the church overall and their refusal to deal with this hard issue. But, I was never one to shy away from a challenge, especially if it’s one others fear.

offend you

“Does this offend you? 62 What then if you should see the Son of Man ascend where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. . . .

67 Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?”

68 But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. John 6: 61—68

My prayer and purpose in this series is that the voices of the past, the voices of today, the voices that have shaped each and every one of us and echo constantly in our heads; voices—strange and complex creatures that we are—that God has used for good to encourage who he created us to be, that they take root.

But that the voices that have been used by the enemy to discourage and disturb, that they are indeed stilled. That those negative and poisonous voices would no longer have sway over us and prevent us from being all that God created us to be and has planned for us.

Words of the past planted deep within us can be as fresh and present as the day they were first spoken. Our souls are eternal and words that touch our souls have no past or present—they just are. But we have a God who is the Lord of the past as well as the present and the future. A God who calls us to follow, to not turn back and to trust as he leads us into our tomorrows and our ultimate victory in him.

There is no going back. Once you start following Jesus all else is meaningless apart from him.

But here’s the deal; you have to want healing and deliverance. Some people, sadly, prefer to be the perpetual victim. And no matter how much prayer, council and love they consume, they will always continue to cling to pain. It becomes their identity. You are created for better and the freedom is yours to claim—just do it. Be the messenger of good news, not the parasite on the backside of the messengers.

hear and be healed

Don’t be a butt parasite—hear and be healed.

Offended yet? – Good, it means I’m hitting home. If not, I’ll keep trying.

Tired of being the victim? Stay tuned.

Barbarians in the Kingdom

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Read my latest book, break the chains of religion and follow Jesus

 

 

Still the Voices

No Turning Back

I want to talk over the course of the next few weeks about keeping our focus on the things in front of us, being determined to keep going forward, following the Lord and not letting anything hinder us; not our past, our fears, the failure of yesterday nor the demons of the past that continue to dog us— if we’ll let them.

Thinking about the teachings of Jesus that we are about to read and the burden the Lord  has put on my heart for his church, the family of God, I understand more and more that I have been, as I believe all of us who call Jesus Lord are, called to love people into wholeness. To do that we have to be a church family that is willing to go the distance, to follow where he leads, and not stop short of all that God has for us.

Keep that in mind as we read.

Verse 57

57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

59 He said to another man, “Follow me.”

But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9

I think a lot of people who set out to follow Jesus—at least to acknowledge him and ‘get saved’ as we put it—stop woefully short of being a follower -a disciple. If we take a good honest look at what is really a hard teaching here by Jesus, we see those people who are seemingly eager to jump on board the Jesus band wagon being discouraged and turning away before they even begin.

Jesus knew that they would not be able to finish the race, they would not go the distance so he wanted to save then the trouble. It’s not simply because they wanted to look back. We all have a tendency to look back. We look back at where we’ve been, at those staying behind. We look back at what we might be leaving behind and we often look either with a sense of sadness— longing for what we had—or we may look back with a sense of dread like the past is threatening to consume us.

But Jesus knew what was going on in their hearts and he said: you might want to think about this… they did and apparently stayed behind.  They missed it, they missed it because their hearts were not in it, and what does Jesus really want from us? -Our hearts.

Heads in the game

Jesus said: “All the law and the prophets hinge on these commands; the first and greatest ‘Love the Lord you God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.’  And the second like it; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Jesus wants our hearts, he wants all of us, he wants our heads to be in the game.

One thing the Bible makes clear—especially the teachings of Jesus—is the need to be in the present— while looking forward— with hope— to the future. Sure we need to build our monuments as we looked at recently; treasured personal or family memories that serve as touchstones and reminders of the goodness and faithfulness of God. But even that is for the express purpose of looking forward— having hope in today.

…a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

… He said to another man, “Follow me.”

… Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord…   Luke 9:57- 61

 

It’s interesting that we have three instances stacked up on top of each other here by the gospel writer—boom, boom, boom— of people who claimed they wanted to follow Jesus, yet Jesus seemingly shot them down. Now, we know that Jesus would never discourage anyone from following him and wanted all to know him and be saved, so that makes this all the more startling. So we can only come to the conclusion that there is a lot more going on here.

We have to remember that we are talking about Jesus, the Son of God whom—as the gospel writers pointed out on more than one occasion—knew the thoughts and the hearts of people he was dealing with. So certainly he knew the hearts of these men who came to him eager to follow— to make a good show of enthusiasm for his cause— but Jesus knew their enthusiasm would soon turn to disappointment and resentment when they began to realize the cost of following this itinerant preacher with no home and no intention of placating the demands of his followers, and who was ready to lay down his life both literally and figuratively and would expect the same of his followers.

So yeah, there is a lot going on here as Jesus looks into the eyes of these breathless people caught up in the moment and sees beyond the anticipation of quick rewards and change and he sees that they are not ready or truly willing to let go of the things behind them. I know this surely made Jesus sad because he knew that the things they were not willing to let go of were paltry and tenuous compared to what he was offering.

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Don’t be one of those who cannot let go, just take that step, and the next, as you began a new journey with Jesus. He will show you how to let go, as you learn to trust, and to still the voices.

 

Lift Up Your Heads

 

Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:28

Do you ever look around and ask; “What in the world is going on here?” Why is everything so hard, why do the challenges seem to keep getting bigger and more frequent? For a while I thought it was just me and my family but I have come to see more and more that it isn’t. It is indeed my family but it is my family on a much larger scale—my family in the Lord. And I am bone weary from the fight.

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We are being tested, stretched, targeted, challenged, maligned and just outright attacked from what seems like every quarter. The church is being tested by both the Lord and the enemy. One is testing us to strengthen and refine us for the battles ahead and the other is targeting us to destroy us before the battles ahead.

It seems as if the world has gone plumb mad and forces beyond our comprehension our driving the narrative of this world.

You are not imagining things and you are not alone in seeing it, it is a fulfillment of prophecy which tells me, although this is not from God but rather from the enemy, God was not caught off guard and he is still on the throne.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power… 2 Tim 3:1-5

So now you, each of you, has to decide; which side am I on, the side of one who has the victory in the end and can get me through today’s challenges, even using them to further his ultimate plan of redemption? Or am I going to choose the side of darkness so that I can escape the present wrath, stop swimming, let go and go with the current hoping that the drain it’s running towards isn’t as bad as we think it is, that it was all just fairy tails told us by our parents to scare us into being good—this heaven and hell, Jesus and the devil stuff.

It seems we have a choice between a challenging life of purpose or an easy life of emptiness. Sounds like a no brainer to me, I’ve tried both, the latter doesn’t advertise the emptiness but it becomes painfully obvious once you’ve tried it. Funny, those who are living for the flesh and the world will scream at those who are trying to live for the Lord that they are fools to be scorned and mocked while they flaunt their perceived freedoms and enlightenment. They will tell you how superior and fulfilled they are while at the same time succumbing to mind altering addictions to fill the void, and when that no longer works, suicide is all that is left.

Another victory for the enemy as he has prevented another tortured soul from fulfilling their destiny.

It’s time for the church, the true church to wake up, to rise up, to be heard.

“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.  Eph 5:14—16

We, those who cling to the Lord despite the challenges, despite the doubts we are afraid to admit even to ourselves, despite the seemingly never ending onslaught of obstacles and outright attacks from places we would least expect them, we will soldier on, keep fighting the good fight of faith for it is the only fight worth fighting and the only fight with a guaranteed victory.

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34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21

 

Jesus is returning and we who are left standing will stand before him. Even if the enemy should strike us down, we cannot fall for we are in Christ and he is eternal and our death is our victory because Jesus has overcome the grave.

Stand strong my brothers and sisters, our day is coming and I believe I my spirit, more than I have ever believed anything, that this evil day will soon become the day of the last great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and those who weather the storms will be the ones who reap the great harvest to come.

Do not give up, do not give in, your redemption draweth nigh.

27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

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Barbarians in the Kingdom 

This Little Light of Mine

“’If looks could kill…’” Well, after years and years in the ministry, let me tell you, they can.”

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If we have answered the call to follow Jesus it doesn’t take long to learn that we are called to love people, that is first and foremost what following Jesus is all about, it is after all, what he did–and does.

One way we love is to always speak truthPaul exhorts us in Ephesians;“…we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love,…” Eph 4:14-15

You can tell people some really hard things if they know that you love them. How do they know? Not because you said, “I love you—but…” They know because they can hear it in your voice, see it in your eyes, feel it in your embrace—love is the light of Jesus emanating from every fiber of your being even while the words of your mouth are speaking truth.

The eyes, seriously, the eyes are the lamp of the body. Watch— brothers and sisters—how you look at one another. What are your eyes saying? Remember when Jesus said don’t hide your light under a basket, to put it on a lampstand that all may see it?

33 “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. 34 The lamp of the body is the eye. Luke 11:33,34

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…”

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We all know the verse and the song but do we ever ask ourselves ‘how do we let it shine? How do people see the light? What is the light? The light is Jesus, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness,” (John 1) That light is Jesus in us and he’s asking us to let our light shine. We don’t put Jesus in a jar like a bunch of fireflies and set him on a table in a dark room. No, Jesus tells us right there in the very same breath from whence our lights shines—it shines from our eyes.

The Lamp

The eye is the lamp of the body. You want people to see the light in you, to know that you love them so that they will hear the truth that will spark the light back to life in their own hearts and behind their own eyes? Look at them and love them. Remember the rich man who asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life?

“one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “’Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’”. . .

21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:29

Jesus looked at him and loved him, and then gave him the hard truth. And the man went away sad because he wasn’t ready yet to give up that which kept him from his call to follow. The man wasn’t angry, he wasn’t defensive, he was sad.

That tells me that he heard Jesus and accepted what he said as truth. Why did he believe it?—again, he saw the love in Jesus’ eyes. Jesus’ demeanor, his gentleness, his forbearance and love was evident. We can only hope that later this man chose to live in that truth. But that was entirely his choice at that point. Jesus did his part, in warning and then facilitating his freedom by giving up his own for a time.

How could you say no to Jesus? Especially when he is right there speaking to you. People do it all the time sadly.

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(Painting by Alkiane Kramerik)

“Jesus looked at him and loved him”— I love that. I want people to see Jesus in my eyes looking at them and loving them. There is an old expression; “If looks could kill…” Well, after years and years in the ministry, let me tell you, they can. People can tell from the look in your eye if you are loving them or judging them. People can tell in an instant if you have already made up your mind about them and will not give them a chance to be heard, to seek help or grace, so they will shrink away from you, avoid you, become defensive and hard.

Then there will be no repentance if it’s needed, there will be restoration gentle or otherwise, and you may have just damned their soul to hell. Yes, looks can kill. I’m sorry if that offends you but this is serious stuff. There is a world that needs to hear truth. There are brothers and sisters who need to hear truth, and they are not going to the righteous potato heads who are wearing their angry eyebrows or who will not even look at them period.

People want, people need, to be seen. They need to know that God has not forgotten about them or given up on them. See people, love people, Jesus looked at people and loved them. We are his body, we must do the same. I am tired of hearing people say in anguish, “So and so will not even look at me.”

The gifts we are called to use and given to equip our call must be used in love or we are just a clanging gong or a crashing cymbal. When we learn to love like Jesus does, to speak truth in love, to see with Jesus’ eyes—then we can say we are no longer children chasing after whatever the latest popular preacher is laying down promising to make us happy, wealthy and wise.

14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together

The Kingdom of God is advanced by loving others, not by acquiring more notches in our guns. “Boy you told them, preach it brother, fire and brimstone, repent or die, grovel or burn…” There may be a place for that— wait, that was called the Old Covenant.

Breakfast

That doesn’t mean we don’t call sin, sin. People have to know they are loved or they will refuse to hear truth, it’s just that simple. Jesus was the master of that, of course he was God so Duh… But he is also our ultimate example. Jesus called people to repentance even as they were compelled to follow him, to listen to him, they knew they were loved when they were in his presence; Mary Magdalene, the woman caught in adultery, Zacchaeus the tax collector, Peter who flat out denied Jesus three times on the same night he swore he would die for Jesus first.

Jesus sought Peter out after his resurrection, fixed him breakfast and gently restored him, telling him the truth in love. Peter was convicted and restored probably more by the look in Jesus’ eyes then by the words that he spoke. “How can you look at me with such love when you know what I did? How can you want to spend time with me, to even give me an assignment, ‘Feed my sheep?’ When you know how I failed you?”

Peter was given three chances to say I love you Lord, one for every time he denied him. Jesus spoke truth to Peter, and to all the sinners who crossed his path whom he knew would receive truth, and he spoke it with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with them in love.

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love,” Eph 4:1-2

Wow, there’s a walk to emulate. Walk on.

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