No Mere Servants

In the eighth chapter of Acts we meet Philip. Phillip is one of those, as was Stephen, who was appointed and anointed to distribute the groceries to the widows of the church. A mere servant, yet one like Stephen, who will be used to do powerful things and make great strides in advancing the Kingdom of Heaven.

It would seem there are no mere servants in the church of Jesus Christ. Perhaps because servants go where they are asked to go. And Philip is about to do exactly that, even as the Apostles, who had received the command known as the great commission from Jesus, remain in Jerusalem. Probably feeling obligated to stay and care for the flock who was unable for whatever reason to flee the persecution.

So Phillip goes on to have some real adventures starting in Samaria, the hated land of the cross bred remnant of the northern tribes of old Israel.  They even make celebrities out of sorcerers. In Acts 8 we read:

But there was a certain man called Simon, who previously practiced sorcery in the city and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great,  to whom they all gave heed, from the least to the greatest, saying, “This man is the great power of God.”  And they heeded him because he had astonished them with his sorceries for a long time.  But when they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, both men and women were baptized. Acts 8:8-12

The Samaritan’s are used to grand shows but they have never seen anything like what this religious refugee  from Jerusalem is bringing. Philip is making causing no small stir in Samaria, even the famous Simon is astonished by his Spirit filled acts and preaching.

Remember, Philip was nobody in the eyes of the world, and perhaps much of the church. As one of those from what was called the Hellenists, a Greek speaker in a church full of diehard Hebrews, there were likely those who looked down their noses at him.

That’s important to note. Because it seems to me that we are entering a time in our day where the obscure, unknown and even often scorned servants of the Lord will be the ones God uses to bring on the next revival and outpouring of the Holy Spirit we so desperately need right now, as big churches struggle and high profile leaders seem to be falling left and right.

It’s time for the scattered to pay attention. Because those who are paying attention know that their scatter matters. God is not on vacation, or wringing his hands perplexed, he is always at work.

 To be honest with you, I always read this in the past thinking that Philip was an apostle. This book is called, the Acts of the Apostles after all. But so far, we are seeing ordinary disciples, if there is such a thing, making some pretty big waves here. And, in my defense, there is an apostle named Philip. But  this Philip is just another servant disciple who is determined to keep serving his Lord.

You would think that after the stoning death of his good friend and brother Stephen that he might want to keep a low profile. But, and you may have noticed this, being filled with the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ is not real conducive to keeping a low profile.

You are going to be noticed, and you will either be targeted or drawn to, either way you will be noticed. A light on a hill in the dark of night will be seen, unless hidden under a bushel basket.

If that’s the case the Spirit will just move on and work with someone who will shine. When the big production spotlights go dim the smaller flickers of the faithful who kept their lamps full of oil seem much brighter—and genuine.

And that’s what Philip is doing; being a light of truth that all are drawn to.

Keep shining on my brothers and sisters–God sees you, and so will the world.

The heart of the Lord is for you, for your heart and for your mission. —Carry on.

The Men in White

It’s like ‘Come ‘on people, pay attention!

 Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”

Acts 1:1-11

Olivet

Angels

Obviously, the ascension of Jesus is the focus of this opening chapter of Acts, but let’s picture this scene for a moment. The Men of Galilee, as they are addressed here by the strangers in white, are standing there on the Mount of Olives slack jawed, staring up into heaven, probably somewhat in shock as they have just witnessed Jesus, who appears to still be as human as them, though they know better at this point, has just floated off of the face of the earth and disappeared into the clouds. Leaving them alone–so they thought.

They suddenly they hear a voice and turn to see two men in white apparel asking them, seemingly somewhat incredulously, ‘Why are you standing here gazing into nothingness?’  It’s kind of like the young man in white who earlier had asked Mary; “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” It’s like ‘Come ‘on people, pay attention!

In both these cases these angels, as we now know them to be, appear, or are at least described as simply menmen in white. To me that sounds like they could be mistaken for just another person—who happens to be in the right place and just happens to have the right answers, in the moment.

I have to wonder how many times these men in white have inconspicuously stood by us with an answer we needed at just the right time and we failed to realize who they were—until much later, if at all. Paul reminded us of this in one of his letters.

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some have unwittingly entertained angels. Hebrews 13:12

There are many great stories of spectacular angelic rescues to be heard, but often, they are just bringing a word in time, to save a weary soul.

A few years ago I was a little discouraged—okay, a lot discouraged. I had been toiling away at the church here in Red Lodge Montana for years, still working full time —at that time actually working on a project in Miles City during the week—and the church seemed to have hit a wall, or at least I had.

So I was sitting on a park bench overlooking Red Lodge, up by the airport in a little park area and I was praying, or should I say whining, to the Lord. “Lord, what am I doing here. My vision of a thriving church that supports a ministry of healing and restoration, drawing people from all over to be refreshed and recommissioned for the callings and passions you had given them to make a difference in this world for you; it just doesn’t seem to be happening.”

Not to mention my vision of having a church big enough to allow me to quit my construction job and focus more on ministry—”Lord? What am I doing here? Did I miss something?”

Suddenly I noticed an older gentleman in a jogging suit and a pair of sneakers, walking down the trail that ran right past the bench I was on. He greeted me with a big smile and said; “Nice place for some R and R!”  “Yes it is.” I replied. And he just kept on walking. I sat there and thought; Yes, indeed it is, as his words seemed to reverberate in my soul.

I wish I could say the man was wearing white, I don’t remember— But he spoke the words of God to me just as surely as if the heavens had parted and Jesus had hollered down at me—’Hey! This is why you are here—remember?’

I am convinced that he was an angel.

That one sentence confirmed in me and reminded me exactly why God had sent me here, and reassured me that the vision and call to be here was still valid.

God sent me here with a very clear mission to build a church of refuge and rest, a place to recoup, rebuild and refit for wounded soldiers who are weary of the fight, who feel scorned and cast aside or who just need a little R and R. And what better place for a ministry like that then in Red Lodge MT at the foot of some of the grandest and most beautiful mountains in the world?

Red Lodge -Swaningson

The very nature of a ministry like that, by design, is that people might stay for a while and then move on into the plan God has for them. Healed, forgiven, forgiving, and empowered by his Spirit. And it has been happening.

God never told me how many it would be happening with at a time—he just asked me to come. And to claim and cling to my own healing along the way.

And if it takes an occasional visit from the men in white to remind me—than thank you Jesus, I’ll take it. Why are you standing here gazing into the heavens? —’Why are you sitting here on this bench whining?’ Okay Lord, I get it. I’ll go back and do what you asked me to do.

And you know what? Anything I have ever done with and for the Lord, no matter how difficult, is still better than my old life without Jesus.

Angel is a word that simply means messenger. Are you listening to the messages?

No Past Tense

There is no past tense in eternity.

18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. . . .  23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

Long story short– ‘Okay Jesus, This woman was widowed seven times, at the resurrection snicker, snicker, whose wife will she be?’

24 Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? Mark 12

The Sadducee’s had their own version of the truth, (There is a lot of that going around these days) but Jesus was not about to let them get away with that.

Jesus has just told them in no uncertain terms that their version of truth is wrong. Telling someone they are greatly mistaken may not sound very loving—but letting them continue in their misconceptions is not loving either, because these were very destructive lies they were buying and selling—as Sadducees they believed there was no resurrection—just a long dirt nap in the end.

So he destroys their lies with truth—the truth of who God is and our place in eternity with him.

And all who put their faith and trust in that truth, will always be among the living.

There is no past tense in eternity. We serve an eternal God who created us as eternal beings. The death thing, we brought on ourselves. But he offers us the truth that overcomes that death, restoring our eternal nature. Thus we will never be past tense either.

Remember what God told Moses his name was from that burning bush so long ago? I Am That I AmYahweh in the Hebrew. Not ‘I was but now I’m not’ or ‘I will be that I will.’ Simply—I Am. “Yesterday, today and forever.”

Jesus claimed that eternal nature and name of God for himself when he declared to those arguing with him in the gospel of John about his true nature: “Before Abraham was, I Am.”

So Jesus is arguing here, with those who denied the resurrection of the dead, that there must surely be a resurrection from the dead, that death is not final for those whose hope is in the Lord, that they are not bound by time, and are in fact alive and eternal with the great I Am.

am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’

There is no past tense for those who die in Christ. The Lord would tell us: ‘I am the God of your departed spouse. I am the God of those Christians slaughtered by ISIS. I am the God of that child you never got to hold, or held all too briefly. I am the God of that Mother or Father you said good bye to.

I am the God of the living and not of the dead. And that is truth.

That is the hope that the world needs and is desperate to hear. It is the withholding of that truth, that lack of hope that has the world living in the grip of fear and turmoil, that has allowed the enemy to wreak havoc on our society, our lives, our hearts and our churches.

Jesus only spoke truth, difficult truth, but truth that prepares, strengthens and assures us that we will get through this:

“In the world you will have trouble, but fear not for I have overcome the world.” —“Do not fear those who can kill the body but cannot kill the soul.” —“I have come that you may have life, and have it more abundantly.” —“Anyone who loves this life more than me is not worthy of me.” —“But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave the power to become children of God.”

That’s the truth we need to remind ourselves of and the truth that the world needs to hear—from us!

They need to see it in the way we live, the way we react, the way we stand up for what is right and shine the light on what is wrong. They need to hear the truth in the way we love—boldly, fearlessly, and unfailingly.

Love God and your neighbor above all else, and then the people will listen when you speak the truth.

30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Mark 12

Speak as Jesus did

Speak truth, speak in love, speak boldly. The common people will hear you and the powerful will fear you.

We, none of us, fully understands or appreciates fully the power of the weapons we have to affect change, to affect good, to right wrongs and expose the lies that kill and destroy—none of us fully understands the power we have at our disposal if we will simply speak truth, fearlessly, boldly, in love and in season, as the Spirit brings to our remembrance all that he has taught us and gives us the words to speak.

Read his words, know his heart, heed the voice of his Spirit and walk humbly with your God, we are a nation of Kings and Priests to our God. And we cannot be silenced.

And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,
10 And have made us kings and priests to our God;
And we shall reign on the earth.” Rev 5:9,10

And we shall reign on this earth for and with our King.

Jesus loves you–right now! There is no past tense–or future tense–in his love for you.

Sow What you Want to Reap

Notice the emphasis on hearing here. We must hear the word, receive the good seed, before we can plant it. The eagerness and seriousness with which we hear and accept the word will determine whether we are entrusted with more, which will give us seed to sow, which will lead to harvest.

26 And He said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground, 27 and should sleep by night and rise by day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he himself does not know how. 28 For the earth yields crops by itself: first the blade, then the head, after that the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4

I have always found this to be a fascinating and challenging little parable. Perhaps because I love to be in control. I’m the barbarian—if it moves and is not supposed to—kill it. If it does not move and it is supposed to—poke it until it does.

I’m the builder and the fixer—if I need it I’ll build it, if it’s broke I’ll fix it.

I’m the daddy and the pastor—if you’re broke I’ll fix you.

That’s my default M.O.

So, what do you mean just scatter the seeds and go to sleep not knowing how it grows? I want to know, I want to help, I want to do. . . I need to be in control!

And therein lies the problem. I have had to learn how to let go, and that’s what this means. Jesus is essentially saying– Use what I have entrusted you with to plant some seeds that I can bless and use to produce more fruit, so that I can get more seeds and entrust more people to sow. It’s really a simple concept, and a whole lot less stressful.

If you have planted good seeds, you have to let them grow. Only God can do that.

You can’t force a seed to geminate on demand and you can’t hurry the growth along by driving your tractor around in the field everyday just because you have to be doing something. You will end up destroying the crop.

The greatest and hardest example of that—where we all have or are struggled?  If you’ve spoken truth into your kid’s lives, you have to let them grow—and let them go. If you’ve planted good seeds there will one day be a harvest. But first come thunderstorms and days of scorching heat.

That concept of reaping and sowing, and leaving the growth up to God applies to every aspect of our lives. And the big part in the middle, the part between the sowing and the reaping—the very long and patience demanding grow part—that has to be left to God. There is no way around that.

So it is of utmost importance what you are sowing– what you are scattering.

What are you throwing out there?

There’s an old tongue in cheek superstition amongst construction workers in this Montana land of Big Skies and big winds—Don’t say wind.

It’s a beautiful fall day to frame, lay block, roof, set trusses— whatever and someone—usually the new guy— will pipe up with; “Sure hope the wind doesn’t come up—yesterday was miserable!” And before you know it, the wind is blowing, and everyone blames the guy who used the “W” word.

I don’t know if there’s anything to that, but I always seriously wonder—and so does everyone else.

Words have power, words spoken into the hearts of others and words spoken to the heavens have immense power and far reaching ramifications of which we will never fully know.

As believers, created in the image of God and enlivened and empowered by His Spirit—all we do, say and think, ultimately has some effect on what we can harvest when the season comes. Which brings us to the last part of the equation.

Hear the word, sow the word, trust the one who spoke the word—and then harvest.

Harvest

29 But when the grain ripens, immediately he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4

What will you be harvesting? What are you harvesting?

You can only reap what you sow.

In the real world, no matter how fancy your bread or where you bought it—someone had to plant a seed to get the grain that made the flour that made that bread. That applies to everything we eat. Someone had to put the very thing that could be made into the food we eat into the ground to die, in order to produce more of it, so that we could eat tomorrow.

You can’t grind your seed crop into flour. Even if you have to go hungry today, it may be necessary to ensure tomorrow, for you and many others.

Bottom line—If you want something you need to be willing to give it up.

What does that mean?

If you need healing? Be a healer. Need courage? Be an encourager. Need prayer? Be a prayer warrior. Need mercy? Be merciful. Need money? Give what you have.

You get the point.

How does any of that make sense? It only makes sense in the kingdom of God, but that is where you live—if you dare. It’s called faith.

Jesus has so much in store for you, if you’ll just trust him. If today is to be the day of your blessing, be a blessing.

Nothing that we cling to in this life compares to the riches to come.

How Are You Doing?

Grace under pressureMany in this season of uncertainty and change are feeling the pressure of stress and disappointment. The stress of the unknown and uncertainty and the disappointment of ruined plans and dashed hopes. You may even think God’s plans for you have been stymied, and that is hugely disappointing. I know, I have been there, more times than I care to admit.

But God is not so easily thwarted and he only sees opportunity where we see dead ends—we need to learn to do the same.

If God has called you, gifted and equipped you for a specific mission, ministry, career or given you a passion to affect change somewhere, to make a difference in the world, in people’s lives—whatever it is that you feel God was leading you into to be a light and an instrument of change—that has not changed!

Sovereign

God is still sovereign.

Do you really think a Governor or a county health director can stop God’s plans? Do you really think God is not bigger than a virus that only picks on the old and compromised?

Do you really believe that God is sent into a panic and mere survival mode by a hyperventilating news media or confused by ‘he said, she said, it’s your fault, nuh-ah it’s your fault’ bickering and power hungry politicians?

Do you think God is stopped short of finishing what he has started by a lack of funds because of lost jobs and the fact that his offering plates aren’t getting passed because the big houses of worship are closed? —NO!

He is in fact seeing what we are all made of in all of this and using this time to refine his church. We are all in the pressure cooker right now and our preparedness for his service is being expedited like has not happened in a long time.

crown of life

Those who persevere will be rewarded, they will receive all that God had and has planned for them.

Those who were only in it for what they could get will be cast aside like yesterday’s chicken bones.

The Call

God is not done with you, God is not discouraged, and God cannot be stopped.

gifts from above

That calling, that equipping, those talents and experiences and the wisdom to know how to use those all together, or at least were beginning to have an inkling of, as the Lord was leading you step by step—those things were from God. That was, and is, the Holy Spirit leading you, encouraging you, giving you a vision.

“Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of heavenly lights.” You didn’t conjure up and develop those gifts on your own or for no good reason.

You did not acquire that “fire in your heart and shut up in your bones” (Jer 20:9) just to have your plan and purpose stymied by  a sickness induced political and social shift.

Schools may be shut down, travel made nearly impossible and social interactions limited, but God is not.

Businesses may shut down and many most likely for good as they fail after months of no revenue meaning lost jobs and opportunities, but God is not worried.

Weddings and funerals, birthday parties and graduations cancelled, funerals banned and still, the uncertainty of whether or not we are even safe yet from this virus as many of the so called experts and those in power are all screaming we’re all going to die if we dare get on with life! while others are calling it all one big conspiracy designed to strip us of our freedom and our identity— hangs over all of our heads, but God is not worried.

We don’t know what all the agendas are behind all the hype and seemingly over the top power grabs and irrational controls, and what is truly necessary and what is just human foolishness swayed by demonic deceptions and intrigue, but God is not worried.

We don’t know a lot of things in this season as a nation and as citizens of a world that has gotten very small in our lifetimes.

What we do know— is that our choices are severely limited right now as are our options and opportunities. This is truly causing a deep societal anxiety that has us all under a great amount of pressure, that cannot be overstated or ignored, it’s very real.

It seems that all our hopes and dreams, our plans and schemes are all in jeopardy of crashing down, as are the plans that God had for us.

But are they? Are God’s plans for you thwarted? Is your life and purpose forfeited because God was caught off guard by this upheaval? Are your opportunities to serve, follow, growto fulfill the dreams and chase the plan he has for you wherever it may lead— are they all gone?

No, they most certainly are not. The one who gave you those gifts to use, develop and to make a difference, to advance the Kingdom of Heaven and to storm the gates of hell, setting the captives free and bringing sight to the blind and healing to the broken hearted, He does not change like shifting shadows.

And  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth,” God’s word does not change, it does not perish, it is never wrong and it is what he used to place that fire in you, to cast the vision in your heart, and it will not return back to him empty and unfulfilled.

And the pressure you are feeling and experiencing today may very well what God is using as the catalyst for your tomorrow, to perfect you and move you into your destiny.Jeremiah 20.9How are you doing?

Trials and Tests

“I’m not good at the patience thing when I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Test of Faith

We don’t always think about faith and patience being intertwined but they really are. What is faith if it’s not waiting for something that we have not yet achieved or possessed? And what gets us through hard times?—trials, if it’s not patience; patiently waiting for the manifestation of that which we hope for, believing that it is coming.

The Long Trial

Ten years ago I was going through quite a trial. Two years earlier we had bought twenty acres and financed the purchase of a beautiful modular home, built a garage, new fences, we were set up pretty well there. I had a good job in Construction with a company I had been with for many years, plus another job as the children’s pastor at a church in Billings that brought in a few more bucks—and then the bottom fell out of the economy.

Construction took a major hit and to top it off we got a new field manager who seemed to have a set of favorites (drinking buddies) who got the few good projects we had, and I was not one of them. I ended up getting laid off for months at a time over the next two years and with a brand new and substantial mortgage payment due every month the finances were looking grimmer and grimmer.

I was really feeling the pressure as the bills came due every month and we would have no idea where the money was coming from. Long story short, God took care of us and we never missed a payment but I knew I had to do something. We had barely recovered from years of financial hardship caused by a major back injury—and here we are again—’I need a steady income! I have to take care of my family!’

I started my church in Red Lodge in the middle of all that also by the way, because the Lord was asking me to—‘sell my house and move to Carbon County? Right after the housing market has crashed and the big mortgage companies gone bust?’

Now there was a trial—I can’t say I was counting it all joy—but I had to remain faithful. Nervously, impatiently faithful, but faithful nonetheless, and here we are.

But, I was determined to fix my own lot in the midst of this; ‘I have to be working, I can’t sit home and keep waiting and hoping for this months’ miracle to get our bills paid and unemployment benefits are not enough.’

 So I started looking for another job, no one was willing to pay me a full time salary to preach, and I had been called to start a church from scratch in Red Lodge anyway and I only know how to do two things, preach and build things.Preacher Dan

So I started looking for another job. Turned out there was not a lot of commercial builders looking for a Job Superintendent with a bad back in the middle of a recession.

I went to see an old friend who had a construction company in town, someone I had actually worked with years earlier when he was a foreman with the company I was with,  but he had built up a pretty good company of his own since then. He was more than happy to talk to me, he’s a fellow believer also, but he said he just didn’t have enough work to put on another foreman at that point.

“Dan, I would love to have you and I might have more work soon, but I gotta tell you, knowing what I know about the outfit you’re with, I would just be patient for now and stick it out there. You are a good superintendent, the estimators like you, and there are some changes coming that will greatly improve your lot.” “Some of the older supers are going to retire soon and you will find yourself at the top.”

 

When I told my wife Donna what he said, she looked greatly relieved and said, he’s right. She didn’t like the idea of me jumping ship in the midst of a storm, and honestly, neither did I but I’m not good at the patience thing when I can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But my old friend was right, soon the construction market in Eastern Montana picked up, largely thanks to the Bakken oil field money, Our house sold and we didn’t loose any money on it and the field manager who couldn’t seem to keep me working was let go and eventually the old guard of the top foreman, did retire.

I was blessed with great favor translating into raises and more importantly, steady work. And last year, when the bottom suddenly fell out from under the company I worked for for nearly three decades, that favor and blessing all rolled over into an even better job doing the same thing with most of the same people and for better money still, with a company that truly appreciates me.

IMG_2954

And the church we started in Red Lodge has been changing lives and healing hearts throughout. And that is an ongoing and blessed story of trails and victories.

Bottom line in the whole scenario—I just had to be patient, and have faith. God had never stopped working on my behalf.

joy

So now, when the trials come—and there have been many since then in various shapes and forms—I do not worry and fret anymore. I count it all joy. Not the giddy, ‘devil may care, but I don’t’, kind of joy, but the ‘I know this is going to be alright and that God is going to use this to accomplish something good, something I cannot see  or even imagine right now kind of joy.

So rejoice in the trials of the day.  In this trial—you are being perfected.

Train up a Child

Well, here we are, Mother’s day all of a sudden. And mom’s everywhere are suddenly finding themselves spending more time with their children the they ever would have imagined was possible, or required, just a few short months ago as they are all suddenly not just mom, but teacher as well.  I know this is all very stressful, as parenting in general is, but please, cherish this time and make the most of it, without beating yourselves up! -You are doing great!

School House

Been a weird year hasn’t it? It seems like one day we were planning our Easter celebration when the world suddenly hit pause. And now just in time for Mother’s Day its hit play again, sort of, it’s more like a tentative slow motion play, and we are just hoping we can make it to the end of the movie without hitting pause again. Like a kid under the covers watching a movie on their tablet, hoping to see how it ends before their parents discover they aren’t asleep.

Of course life didn’t really stop and we did have Easter, Jesus is still alive and we still all celebrated that— it just wasn’t anything like what we were used to. And many things were different these past two months so it seems weird to be here at Mother’s day all of a sudden, more grateful then ever to be together, (at least we are here in Montana) and more thankful than ever for family, while praying that the Lord keeps us safe and healthy.

But then, isn’t that what a mother has always done?—Worried and even obsessed about the health and safety of her kids and grandkids, of all she loves?

So, welcome fearful and anxious world—striving to keep everyone you know and love safe and healthy—to the world of mom’s everywhere for all time.

A mother is the definition of love and nurturing, often to the point of driving themselves to distraction, and driving those they love into an eye rolling,Yes mom, I know. I’ll put on my coat and call you when I get there, I won’t pick up any strangers and I’ll wash my hands and behind my ears, state of—okay I’ll humor you, just let me go already!

But where would we be without our mothers to worry about us? Actually if we really listened to our mothers we wouldn’t have need for all this CDC, WHO, governmental expert advice on how to live our lives during a virus outbreak.

I mean really, what has mom always said? “Wash your hands before you eat. Wash your hands when you are done in the bathroom. Don’t put that in your mouth, that’s dirty. Don’t lick that, you don’t know where it’s been. Don’t use the table, I haven’t cleaned it yet. Wash off the top of that pop can before you drink that.”

“Get your fingers out of your nose, don’t wipe your nose on your sleeve—that’s gross, get a Kleenex.  Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Stop rubbing your eyes. No you can’t go there, you’re sick, or no you can’t go there, they’re sick. Can’t you wait till you get home to use the bathroom?”

I’m sure you could add several more to this list but you get the idea.

Moms have been on a concerted war against germs for as long as we’ve known there was such a thing. So, on this mother’s day, we give mom’s everywhere permission to proclaim one big collective “I told you so!” And we all roll our eyes and say; ‘Fine, love you mom, I’ll be careful, I promise.’

Which brings us back to our title verse, one all mothers, and fathers for that matter, cling to in the fervent hope that it is a promise they can count on. Because the only thing a God fearing mother fears more than sickness for their child, is that their souls are not safe in the hands of the Lord —that they are not taking care of their own souls

train up a child

The Promise

I’ve had many a mother over my many years of ministry, earnestly seeking assurance from me that this promise is one they can count on, always tinged with the fear that they did not bring up their child in the way that they should go. No mother is ever confident that they are really a good mother and that they are not doing more harm than good.

Mothers, just the fact that you have that fear means you are a good mother and that you do care about the souls of your children and the Lord will honor and bless your efforts to raise them up to be healthy, whole and equipped with the foundation and the knowledge to choose on their own, as we all must do, to follow the Lord in a real relationship with Jesus.

If you have planted the word in their hearts as little ones, that will be there forever. And if they have you praying for them, the Lord will chase them to the ends of the earth, and until they breathe their last breath, before he lets one of his precious lambs, one who is dear to you and him, stray beyond rescue.

And if they have your unfailing love as an example, and God’s unfailing word quickened by his Spirit of power and your prayers, that will prove ultimately to be irresistible.

So take heart. You are the mother God chose for your child.

 

Don’t Look Down

Lord! I’m afraid to take another step! Come and get me, my knees are wobbling and I’m getting vertigo!”

love overcomes crown

1 John 4:18— a verse that will no doubt be familiar to many of you, at least in part—says:

 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment.

Fear does indeed involve torment, fear is torment. Often fear is what causes whatever it is you’re afraid of to come to pass. It becomes what we are focused on and it throws us off balance. Whatever you convince yourself is going to happen is often what happens. That’s why we need to learn to change our focus, to let perfect love become our guide, our focal point, leaving no room for fear.

Spoiler alert—that perfect love is Jesus.

The High Iron

As those of you who know me know, I work construction and have all my adult life in various forms. Whether moving dirt, welding, pounding nails or pouring concrete, I have always worked with my hands, and even though now I largely oversee that work as a project superintendent, I still like to get dirty and work with my tools when I can.

One of the things I don’t like is being way up in the air—unless I know I have something solid underneath of me or know that I have a safety harness on, which today is required by OSHA. When I started in this business safety was pretty lax and I was asked to do some pretty crazy dangerous stuff looking back—I think I kept my guardian angel on his toes, and even slipped thru his grasp a time or two, but I have survived—largely intact. (keyword being largely)

Still, you are not going to catch me walking any beams, harness or not, more than a couple of stories off the ground. I have jokingly said that one of the reasons I work in Montana is because we don’t have too many high rises.

My grandfather, on the other hand, was an iron worker who worked in big cities like Dallas and Minneapolis. He liked to walk the high iron, as they call it. I remember talking to him many years ago as he was recounting his work on a 60 story sky scraper in Minneapolis and he said he liked working up top because the foreman were afraid to go up there and everyone left you alone.

 

He told me something that has stuck with me throughout my whole construction career and although you are never going to catch me on an I beam 60 stories off the ground, it has come in handy many times as I have walked on top of a concrete foundation wall or the top of a framed wall, or even when stepping from stone to stone as I’m crossing a mountain creek for instance, and that is; “When you are walking the high iron, don’t look at your feet.”

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You have to have faith in your feet. You have to trust that your feet are going to go where your eyes go.

Think about it, when you are walking anywhere else you are not looking at your feet, your eyes are ten or twenty feet in front of you mapping out your path, and your feet just follow.

When you stare straight down at your feet you get nervous, you lose your balance, because your world just became very small and out of proportion, and the next thing you know you are tipping over. Not to mention if you are looking down at your feet you are focused on the dangers below them instead of where you are going.

But if you have faith in your feet and just keep walking to where you need to go next, you’ll get there just as surely as if you were strolling down the sidewalk on a sunny day.

eyes on Jesus

How are we doing? Are you keeping your eyes ahead, mindful of  where you are going, or are you worrying about whether or not you are going to lose control and fall to your death?

Walking the walls, hopping the stones, or walking the high iron, it’s all about what’s going on in your head, it’s having faith in your ability to keep putting one foot in front of the other and staying upright.

You do it anywhere else! Why would you suddenly just tip over because you are over a dangerous spot?

The same is true in life, we have to have faith in our ability to keep moving forward.

We trust Jesus to be with us and get us through our days when things are going well, when we are just strolling along, going where we have been a hundred times without any overriding fear of falling. But when things get challenging, when we look down and realize that we are walking in places we haven’t been before, when it seems that we could easily fall to our death if we make one wrong move; and we panic—”Lord! I’m afraid to take another step! Come and get me, my knees are wobbling and I’m getting vertigo!”

And he says, Child! Look up, keep your eyes on me and just keep walking, don’t look down and don’t look at your feet. I will lead you to where you need to go, but you must trust me, you must have faith in the feet I have given you for this day. I love you too much to let you fall for fear of moving—let my love overcome.

calm the storm

What Manner of Love?

‘And the chickens all pecked to death the one who didn’t look like them and the rooster crowed his approval.’

death to life

Do you ever feel like you have never gotten out of middle school? Like, why do people still belittle and mock one another, why do they disparage me? I hate this, and I hate how it makes me feel, I just want to be left alone, I just want the world to grow up!

If you are truly in Christ, you are different; bottom line.

The world hates everything that is not just like it, that does not think like it, look like it and behave like it because the world is darkness right now, controlled by the devil as he scrambles relentlessly to stop all who have the light in them from shining and dispelling the dark he depends on to keep as many deceived and lost people in the dark as he can until it is too late for him, and for  those he kept away from the light.

Darkness permeates our culture masqueraded as social justice.

‘Conform, submit, cancel this person, shadow ban that person, panic now because we said so, hate that person, protest, boycott, stay away from these people and those places, it’s just too risky and it’s all so and so’s fault. Don’t you agree?How dare you have another opinion—hater, denier!’

And the chickens all pecked to death the one who didn’t look like them and the rooster crowed his approval—And things were good in the coop until another Peacock dared to show up.

I’ll let you sort that one out.

What manner of Love

So what

The world hates us? So what? The world has no idea who we are, they have no idea what manner of love we have lavished on us, the joy of knowing the love of a Father that cannot be destroyed by anything this world can throw at us, they cannot even imagine what we know we get to look forward to when this weak flesh perishes and our spirits are set free to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The world cannot fathom the marvel and excitement we have of looking forward to discovering what manner of being, perfect in every way, as we get to rejoin our regenerated, resurrected, flesh on that glorious resurrection day when the trumpet sounds and it is revealed fully what we shall be.

What we shall be

The world hates us because it hated Jesus, the Son of God, because it refused to give up the artificial joy that comes from living in rebellion, seeking to quench the unquenchable thirst of the flesh with the temporary thrill of hurting those they think are a threat to their pursuit of guilt free debauchery.

Nothing has changed. People still prefer to live in what they think is freedom, that is until they get a taste of true freedom, as we who have turned over our hearts to Jesus, have. People prefer to live to love themselves, ‘me, me, meI want more, I deserve more, you owe me more’until they experience a bit of real love, a love that saturates and satisfies the soul.

The only way they will ever draw near enough to Jesus to get a taste of the manner of love that is available, is if we, the children of God keep it on display, for them and for one another, no matter what manner of evil they inflict on us or accuse us of. We cannot stop loving or we become like Cainthe son of Adam and Eve who killed his brother—the world is Cain, Cain is of the Devil, don’t be like Cain, deceived and ignorant, full of hate. We are of the Father, full of all wisdom and love—love that never fails.

Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3

Do not let anyone deceive you into thinking you are anything less than perfectly loved, into thinking you have anything to prove to them or your Lord.  This fear of failure and this perception that you do not, nor cannot, measure up is a lie from the devil and leads to sin.

Leave the sin to those who are his, don’t get sucked into it. Their most destructive sin is in tearing others down to build themselves up. And they cause you to sin by making you think you have to do the same, by making you loathe the person you are, the person God created. They make you sin by convincing you that you cannot accomplish anything worthy for the Kingdom of God and that you are not worthy.

They steal your fruit, the fruit that you are supposed to be bearing and sharing for all the world to see, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And they leave you with that which they are full of Lust, uncleanness, lewdness,  idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, angry outbursts, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness—party, party, party, (from Galatians 5) —the works of the flesh which run contrary to the spirit and leave you feeling rode hard and put up wet.

You were made for more, you are somebody, you are a child of God! And he sent his Son to destroy the works of the devilJesus came to destroy the works of the devil—in you!

The enemy cannot steal your salvation, he cannot steal your joy, he cannot steal you away from the Father—your status as a favored child of God—unless you let him.

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the children of God! (1 John 3:1) The manner of love is such that it cannot be stolen away, shattered or even diminished.Pure in Christ

Jesus won the victory, tricked the devil into killing him, making him the blood sacrifice that became the price for our redemption. We are pure.

So–

Don’t hate me because I’m Beautiful

The Apostle John asks us the question in his letter: “Why did Cain murder his brother?”

Cain and Able

 

Cain hated his brother thru no fault of Abel’s, Cain hated his brother because he was righteous. Wow

If the world has a problem with you, hates you as both Jesus and then John warned us it would, it is likely not because of any deficiency on your part. It is most likely because you exude a joy and a confidence, —the light of Jesus shines forth from you, even when you don’t think so—making you beautiful.

The world is threatened by that.

The Holy Spirit within you gives you gifts and enhances your God given talents, blessing that which you put your hand to, and the world is threatened by that.

They are threatened because it exposes the falseness and futility of their selfish and frustrating attempts to stand out, to be somebody. Your light makes their darkness seem especially dark and they desire to destroy you, to drag you into darkness with them so they can rule over you and be your better.

In short, the world hates you because you are beautiful.

But don’t let them change you. Because whether they are ready to admit it or not, they want to know if what you have, if who you are  is real, because no one is truly happy living in the dark.

Fearfully Made sheild maiden

1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 1 John 3:1

Keep this in mind; if it seems others hate you, it is born of fear, fear of the unknown  and you are an unknown to them.

The world does not know us, but our Father does, and he calls us child.

What can be better than that?

book cover

Set the beautiful barbarian in you free!