The Altar Call

“We get down to the stage and he introduces me to a young man in a suit saying, ‘this is my nephew Dan, he wants to ask Jesus into his heart.’  Well now, imagine my surprise!”

Jesus water believe

Many seek to elevate their authority and power over people by diminishing Jesus.

We can’t have people just going to God on their own, just praying random prayers whenever they want and thinking they can understand the bible just by reading it. You need me to teach you this, to absolve you of that, to minister to you and to tell you when you are good or bad.

‘Then maybe you’ll be saved, then maybe God will pay attention to you and reward you.’

That’s not the way it works. God has no secrets that only the ruling class or priestly class or a secret society can understand and pass on to the ignorant masses.

God’s redemptive work, his dealings with mankind and his incredible acts of love are always done in full view of all who care to see and have ears to hear.

The only thing you need to do to be saved is to believe. And to believe you have to hear the truth. God’s Holy Spirit does the rest.

Altar Call

I first met Jesus when I was 14.

It wasn’t at a church, a camp, a concert or a confirmation class. In fact, there was no one else involved and no one to lead me in prayer or tell me what to do or not do. I was hungry for God, my heart was longing for truth, for answers so I started reading the Bible my dad had given me years earlier.

I read though the gospels, I had originally started in Genesis when I was younger but soon got bogged down in the heavy books to come and gave up. But when I finally just read the gospel accounts of Jesus life and teachings, everything clicked and something inside of me came alive.

From then on I just knew that I was going to heaven, that God was real and that he loved me. I had a peace in my heart that had never been there before.

I know now that it was the Spirit bearing witness to my spirit (Romans 18:6) that I was saved. At the time I just knew that somehow Jesus was in my heart and I resolved to do my best to follow his ways.Spirit bears witness

A year or so later I was staying with an uncle who took my sister and I to a Lowell Lundstrom concert. I had no idea what it was all about but it turned out to be a squeaky clean family of evangelists who sang gospel songs and preached the gospel—cool, kind of lame but all right.

We were in a big auditorium and near the end of the show they did an alter call. I had no idea what was going on but my uncle stood up and motioned to me with a questioning look on his face, I couldn’t hear what he was saying over all the hoopla but I got the gist that he wanted me to go with him. I thought ‘all right, he wants to go forward and he wants me to accompany him—cool.’

We get down to the stage and he introduces me to a young man in a suit saying, “this is my nephew Dan, he wants to ask Jesus into his heart.” Well now, that was a surprise. The stranger before me says “is that right?” At that all I can think is, I already know I have Jesus in my heart—why do I need you?

But I loved my uncle and I didn’t want to embarrass him so I just played along—I nodded my head and said sure. My uncle then disappeared and left me standing there awkwardly with this stranger. He instructed me to bow my head and I repeated what I have since come to learn is the sinners prayer.

When he was done I only felt embarrassed and phony, but this young counselor was very happy, as was my uncle when he finally reappeared to rescue me. All I knew was that I still had Jesus in my heart, I was still saved and apparently this was the official way to do it—whatever.

Turns out, the reason my uncle was going down was because he was a volunteer counselor—ironic that I thought I was going down to support him.

Now, I have no problem with evangelists or alter calls, I have been involved in facilitating that myself many, many times and I know many have met Jesus that way. My point is, in the end, it is the testimony of God’s word and the witness of the Holy Spirit that tells you how and if you are saved. Man can only point the way.

But when the Spirit seals that in your heart—no one and no thing, can take that away or add to it. If you are a child of God you know it, and if you are not, you won’t know it, there will just be an empty spot in your heart where the Lord should be.

Can a child of God be cast into doubt? Yes, the devil is a wily one, but please, listen to the Spirit and be assured of your place in God’s family. That is the whole point of 1 John letter, and most all of the bible for that matter.

witness Jesus woman

Spirit bears witness

Don’t let your head talk your heart out of the joy of your salvation. The flesh and the devil will mess with your head, Jesus witnesses and ministers to your heart— your spirit.

The Apostle Paul wrote: The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. Romans 8:16

And John confirms that in his letter.

And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth. 1 John 5:6

I love that, I keep coming back to that and so does John, it is really the assurance that we have— the only real assurance—that we are saved. That is God’s testimony to us, the one that seals the deal for us in our hearts.

Words are only words without the Holy Spirit bearing witness of their true meaning to us. There has to be power behind the words—a witness confirming them to your heart—to make them real.

Monkey

I could spend hours, days, years, trying to convince you that you are a chimpanzee. I could give you books about it, have experts tell you why it may be so and make up a whole history as to why you are a chimpanzee descended from chimpanzees. But unless your heart tells your head that you really are, unless something inside of you bears witness to your psyche that you are a chimpanzee, you will never believe it.

You can swing from trees, eat bananas and look for fleas in your best friend’s hair to eat, you can identify as a chimp all you want, but at some point you are going to realize that you are just going through the motions, that you are not really a monkey after all.

So it is with being a child of God, being a Christian. Either you are and your spirit tells you so or you are not no matter how much someone teaches you about it or no matter if you are going through the motions.

If you are truly a believer, the Holy Spirit tells you so.

“And it is the Spirit who bears witness, because the Spirit is truth.”

evil sway

There is nothing more assuring, no greater strength, than knowing that you are right, that you are innocent and that no one can honestly testify otherwise. When you heart is secure in truth, no one should be able to talk you out of it.

In these uncertain and frightening times, we need that witness, that assurance, more than ever. That assurance that we are saved, safe and loved, that we are going to be okay.

We have to know, we need to be reminded, lest the enemy snatch away our faith, we need assurance.

You have it, let the Spirit speak to your heart. If you don’t call on the name of Jesus, now.

And then read the Gospel of John–or Matthew, or Mark, or Luke– from the Bible.

And let the Spirit be your witness.

Stuck in Galilee

From the Vatican to Red Lodge MT, from Grandma’s backyard to the White house lawn, this Easter is resoundingly quiet, and reflective. A huge and unsettling departure from what we are used to. We are all stuck in Galilee.

strike the shepherd hammer

“The flock will be scattered” When Jesus said this he knew he was fulfilling what the prophet Zechariah had said, he knew the horror that he was about to be struck with and the terror this would strike in the hearts of his flock. But even so, he was giving them hope, if they would just listen—After I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.

Galilee, why Galilee? Have you ever wondered about that statement?

What was in Galilee? The homes of the disciples.

That was where Jesus met them, that is where Peter was reinstated, forgiven and given another chance after his dismal night of betrayal at the trial of Jesus.

Their own homes

We are in Galilee right now, listening, seeking, being reassured and assured by the risen Lord that he does have a plan for us. He is giving us a chance to repent, be reinstated, recommissioned and then he is going to tell us to come back together to be anointed afresh because we have work to do.

Work to do with boldness and in power because when we gather again it will be those who did not fall away, whose faith was proven to be real because it stood the trials of the storm that has befallen all of us no matter what station of life, faith or lack of faith, we are all in the same boat wondering if the next wave is going to roll right over us and suck us to the bottom of the sea.

But those who recognized that they are not in that boat alone, who did not depend solely on church programs, smooth talking, smiling preachers and professional performers to lead them in a sing along where you can’t even hear yourself sing—they will be the ones who come back to that big room in Jerusalem, gather with the faithful who listened to the Lord in their days of exile, who see, hear and taste the glory of the Lord in Spirit and in truth.

It will be a glorious day church, and it will be a new day for God is doing a new thing and all that was first will be last and all that was last will now be first.

And those who have toiled in obscurity, those whose righteous souls have been vexed by the state of things as they were, all those who have loved and longed for truth and recoiled at the ear tickling ‘you are all wonderful and nothing bad will ever befall you’ name it and claim it preaching that promises earthly wealth while ignoring the poverty of the soul, they will be the ones rejoicing as we bring in the sheaves.

Those who have been listening have been told over and over the last couple of years  that there is a great harvest coming. Well get ready because here it comes! But harvests don’t bring in themselves.

We need to be here–gathering to be fed, we need to be ready, and we need to be out there being the church.

We need to be Jesus to a scared and anxious world. People are seeking answers right now, people are reevaluating what is important—’who and what do I trust, what if I die tomorrow, who is the God I will meet on the other side and am I ready to stand before him?’

You, church, have the answers, we know the truth, that Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life, is risen and we can be as well. We do not fear and we do not bow to anyone but our God.

take heart

Many are going to show up in church as soon as the doors are open again because they have found truth, they have found answers, they have found hope on-line by watching those who have been preaching truth in a way that all of a sudden hundreds and thousands of people who have never been to a house of worship are able to hear.

A new church

I’m gonna be brutally honest with you here, I have been preaching here to a near empty building for the last several months as the church has been drifting away, finding excuses to not be here, finding other places where they have more to offer in the way of programs or events, taking offense in me or in others, and I was starting to wonder how much longer my church would be viable.

But I kept clinging to the promises and standing on the word. And now, suddenly we have hundreds— literally hundreds—of people watching our humble little church services on Facebook over the course of the week as it sits there beckoning people, and I believe it is the Holy Spirit beckoning people, come, click on this and listen to truth. Listen to hope, be renewed and reborn by the word of God.

And when the storm passes, and it may take some time, Lord I hope not, but it may be a storm that lasts longer than any of us hope or dare believe because there may have to be some real pain before many are ready to turn their hearts to the only one who can get them through the storms.

But when God’s purpose is accomplished in this, when the enemy, who is playing this for all it’s worth and thinks he is defeating us by striking us and scattering the flock, all away from the shepherds and back to their own fearful corners of the world, people are going to come back to church, many for the first time, seeking the love and the peace that they felt in their hearts when they stumbled upon those faithful servants who still speak truth in Jesus name.

And you, church, those who have been feasting at the troughs that the shepherds of the Lord’s flocks—shepherds that the enemy has been striking over and over and over again, yet have refused to fall—you who have been feeding at the troughs that they have toiled to keep full for you— you will need to be here to show them that the love and the joy that they felt is real, and that one of the greatest joys of being a part of the family of God is being a part of the family of God.

Little children, love.love in deed

The Lord is indeed doing a new thing, but he can only give us the opportunities, we must still do our part.

How long will this pandemic hysteria last? Probably until we have learned what we are supposed to learn, and or, until enough of the church contends through fasting and prayer, repentance and humility, for the healing of our land, of our hearts, our hands and our bodies.

When he see’s that we commit to seeking first the Kingdom of our God over our own, that we live for the fruits of the Spirit not the works of the flesh, that we are willing take up our cross daily rather than looking for ways to shirk it, that we answer the call instead of putting God on hold. If we can do that, this world would be a different place tomorrow. A place of health, blessings, and joy.

When the disciples finally burst forth from their homes they changed the world with those words—He is risen. It was a game changer for the entire world.

But that was that generation, God is now calling on us, getting our attention, it’s time to get serious about following Jesus again, taking up his command to go and make disciples of all the world. “Disciples”—not pew sitters or simple converts who never mature but always demand to be fed more milk.

God is going to do it, it’s time, perhaps the last time. Whether we are part of it is our choice.

If God does it in spite of us, it will be so that he can raise up a new army who will take him seriously and who will heed his command to take the good news that he is risen to the world while the old guard seeks out entertainment centers called churches. They will return to pat you on the head and tell you you’re wonderful preachers and then wonder why the next round of tribulation woes has not spared any of them a lick.

Happy Easter! Yeah, I’m a radical, but so is the Lord I follow.

But don’t miss the point; The disciples were all scattered for fear, when they came back together they were much different people with a much different outlook. That should stir your soul.

Game Changer

Everything is always different after a true Resurrection.

Now more than ever, you need to release your inner barbarian for Jesus!book cover

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.”

shutterstock_252139381

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

The Brink of . . . What?

The shepherd does not just feed the flock, he also protects them.”

In this day of great uncertainty as we seem to be teetering on the brink of either the full blown start of the great tribulation or a great awakening, (I believe we the church will be the deciding factor) it seems more urgent than ever that we are hearing the voice of God clearly and taking our cues from Him. As I wrote to you the other day, we must be careful to discern truth from lies, we must test the spirits. (1 John 4:1)

Spirit bears witness dove

But, how do I know truth from lies? How do I let the Spirit bear witness to me? 

It’s the very same way that you know you are saved! That you are born again! You just know, you can feel it, it’s a faith and a knowledge that comes from somewhere deep inside and it just becomes your reality. Because the Holy Spirit bore witness to your spirit.

That’s as deep down—I feel it in my gut, I feel it with every fiber of my being— good of a confirmation of truth as you are going to ever find.

You just know that you know. That’s the way you determine false prophets from real. Truth from lies, power from wishy washy.Hear God's words

Too put it bluntly, you feel it in your gut. God is love, his truth always stirs the soul and releases that feeling of– ‘yes, I want that, I need to hear that’– love put into words, a love that drives out all fear and leaves no room for doubt and anguish.

You need to learn to hear the Lord by pressing into Him regularly, I can only give you an example.

I Need To Hear You Lord!

Three weeks ago I was struggling mightily, as I’m sure many pastors across the nation were, trying to decide what to do about church in the face of national panic.

A week earlier I had never imagined that I would be in the situation, where I would be feeling the incredible pressure I was feeling to close the doors of the church, because Uncle Sam was suggesting it, and because public pressure was demanding it.

I mean, let’s get real here, that is “’All hail the Antichrist’, we are in the midst of the tribulation” kind of stuff. But here we are, and there I am, “Lord, what do I do?”

On the one hand it made sense, but then, the wiles of the enemy always do on the surface, and on the other hand it seemed to fly in the face of everything I believed as a bible preaching, red blooded American—’you cannot stop me, nor should I let you stop me, from gathering to worship my God the way I see fit!

It cannot just be that easy to shut the doors to every church in America overnight.

We the people

The barbarian in me was screaming no—I will not do it! And the co dependent I must please everyone and subject myself to the authorities gentle shepherd of the flock in me wanted to just say, ‘okay, whatever you think is best.’

Am I really putting people’s lives in danger? Do I give the enemy this victory and tell my flock they cannot gather to be fed and worship for a while? Which is more dangerous? And all of you have all the arguments on both sides running through your heads right now and some of you are screaming at me, this is real! People are dying!

And others are saying, where’s your faith? How could you just shut down church? This was my struggle, I could think of nothing else from that Sunday afternoon when everything seemed to hit the fan with this pestilence in this nation all at once, and Thursday Evening when I knew I had to make a decision to let you know.

Seriously, 2020 was supposed to be the good year after years of struggles and challenges—our year of rebuilding. But, God is still threshing, the refining continues, it’s just real hard to tell hell fire from refining fire sometimes.

So I sat down at my desk and prayed. “Lord, what do I do?” I started praying in the Spirit asking the Lord to speak to me as to what I should do.

Many things ran through my mind, conflicting thoughts that I suspected were just me. But there was a message starting to take shape through the noise. Now, my desk is covered with, among other things, pictures of my grandchildren and I am always glancing at them, as they are all around my computer screen.

So as I sat there ready to begin drafting an email for my little flock and as a word from the Lord was desperately trying to rise to the surface of my troubled mind, I glanced at the picture of my granddaughter “Doodles” as we call her, and I suddenly hear clearly, “Protect me”

Raelynn

 

Suddenly all other noise stopped and the phrase, The shepherd does not just feed the flock, he also protects them.” Was in my thoughts. As soon as those words formed in my mind I was suddenly overcome with an intense feeling of Love, love for me from my Lord, and love from me for those the Lord has entrusted me to pastor—love for you.

There is no good way to describe it, the intensity of love that can only come from God brought me to tears and I knew in that moment, because I knew it was the Holy Spirit bearing witness to my spirit, as to what I was to do.

I needed to make an announcement that the church would be closed to the public for the next two week to protect the flock the Lord had entrusted me to pastor.

 

God is love

You might be saying, well sure, you love your grandkids so you just felt that. No, in that moment I was seeing the church through the eyes of Jesus.

I was seeing you, the children of god whom the Father loves more than we can ever fathom.God is Love

I knew this word was from God because of the love that overwhelmed my soul as it was spoken, because God is love.

I needed to protect my flock, my church family, from this virus in this way for now and I needed to protect the church, this way—for now.

Listen carefully church, we cannot let the enemy use this to turn the world against us. When Rome burned Nero blamed the Christians and they were fed to the lions in the Colosseum as the crowds cheered. If Rome is burning again here, we cannot give the spirit of the Antichrist cause to point fingers at us. He may anyway, but for now— we need to keep that fiery dart out of his quiver.

Those who have ears to hear, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.

We will get through this the way God tells us to get through anything, one day at a time, trusting, listening and following.

Greater is he in you dove

He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world

If you are feeling doubt and anguish right now, you are listening to the wrong voices.

The End Is Always Near

What can I do, what can I do to secure me, me, me! I just need more ammo, that’s the ticket.’

Give to those in need

If Jesus were to preach the sermon on the mount today it might include something like this. ‘If you have a closet full of toilet paper and your neighbor comes to you begging for a square to spare, give him a package or two.’

‘If the government compels you to pay your sick employee’s wages, pay his rent also.’

‘If your single parent neighbor comes to you as you are holed up in your house for fear, begging for you to take care of her three children for a while so she  can take her sick baby to the doctor, do not turn them away and do not withhold anything else they might need.’

It’s not about you, it’s about seeking first the Kingdom of God and letting God worry about your well-being. It’s about God being glorified as others see him in us.

light shine bible

As the Apostle John would say Little children, love.

 

“But the end is near!”  The end is always near. Survival at the expense of your soul is not survival.

I am old enough to have lived through several end of the world scenarios by now. As a child in the 60’s we were all about to get nuked by the commies at any moment. The cold war and the Cuban missile crisis kept that very real. In the 70’s there was an ice age coming. Then the hole in the Ozone was going to allow the sun to scorch us all into melanoma ridden wretches.

Acid rain was going to kill off all living things. Killer Bees were going to invade North America and kill us all off by 1980.

Jesus was prophesied to return and the tribulation to begin on specific dates too numerous to recount now. Not too many years ago there were billboards in Billings giving us the date. That day came and went.

In 2012 we were supposed to all die because the Mayan Calendar ran out. Coincidentally this was about the time they discovered that Yellowstone Park is one big super volcano that can kill most of us in a single eruption. At least we’re close enough to not suffer long.

And much scarier diseases were going to kill us all off nearly every other year. Aids, Anthrax attacks, Bubonic plague, swine flu, West Nile Fever, Mad Cow Disease, Monkey Pox, Zika Virus to name a few.

Viruses are never anything to take lightly and there were real people who suffered, but my point is, we cannot succumb to fear and live like tomorrow is totally in our own hands to secure. —’What can I do, what can I do to secure me, me, me! I just need more ammo, that’s the ticket.’

I didn’t mention my favorite world ending virus, the one that was going to shut down the worlds banking systems, the entire power grid, make cars stop running and our toasters attack us, knocking us all back into the stone age—that was the Y2k bug.

That was the computer virus that was going to be spontaneously generated by all the internal calendars of all the worlds computers suddenly believing it is the year 1900 because all of a sudden at the turn of the year 2000 the date reads 00 according to their digital coding which had been programmed with two digit date memories to save valuable memory space.

Like somehow the computer chip cared what century it existed in and knew that in 1900 there were no computers.

But people panicked. They stocked up on—you guessed it—toilet paper. Everyone bought kerosene heaters and generators. They stocked up on food and water, suddenly everyone was a prepper.

Some people even sold everything they owned and moved to the mountains to live like a bunch of Jeremiah Johnson’s while the rest of the world looted and plundered one another after the lights went out and all the bank vaults flew open at the stroke of midnight.

toilet paper Apocalypse

And of course, many people stocked up on guns and ammo. We have to protect our hoard you know!

“Are you truly going to kill someone over a cracker?”

I’ll never forget hearing those words from our pastor at the brink of the year 2000. As Y2k was fast approaching and people were getting more frantic.

17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 1 John 3

Pastor Stan reminded us who we were and what we are called to do, much as we are being reminded today through the words of John, and he asked that pointed question.

My old pastor basically said—words that are as relevant today as they were twenty years ago—All of you who are stocking up, emptying the store shelves of food and ammunition as fast as they can stock them. Are you truly planning to shoot a hungry neighbor because he is trying to get some of your food? Do you truly want to stand before the Lord one day and explain to him why you killed a man to save your crackers?

That hit me right between the eyes and I never forgot it. Yes we have to right to defend our families and you know this barbarian certainly will, but we do not have the right to not share with a person in need when we have the means to help—even yes, if it is the last of what we have.

love your enemies

 

“But, it’s not my fault they didn’t prepare, that they didn’t stock up!” Well you know what? Not everyone can afford to stock up. Many people live check to check, most people live check to check, and are happy if they can afford to buy groceries for the week ahead, let alone weeks down the road.

And now that those with money have bought everything, when they do get their next check, there is nothing to buy.

Blessed are the poor

And even then, most of those people would share what little they have. I have seen it over and over again, the people who have the least are often the most generous. I suppose because they know what it’s like to be without and they do not want others to feel that pain.

Blessed are you poor,
For yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
For you shall be filled.”  Luke 6

If you are blessed, bless others, whether they love you or not. If we do that God will take care of our tomorrow and we will always be blessed. Our hearts will have no reason to condemn us and we can sleep well at night knowing that we are loving as we are loved and that God will hear our prayers.

21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. 23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, 1 John 3

I would rather have an empty stomach and have to use something other than Quilted Northern to wipe my behind than have a heart that condemns me. And if we are keeping his commandment, which is what? —believe in Jesus and love one another, all we have to do is ask and we will receive from him. We get what we truly need from God.

In this day, while it is still called today; remember who you are and rest assured that God has a purpose in all this, that it cannot be thwarted and that love is always the underlying motive in all his dealings with his people. Let your hearts rest assured.

Hearts conmdemn us hands

God is greater than our hearts, to me that says; don’t trust your feelings. Trust the promises of God, trust his love.

We are going to be okay.

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!

 

 

You Are . . .

Everyone has a little barbarian in them, a heart that years to be free and uncluttered by anything that hinders us from being all that God created and called us to be.

Fearfully Made sheild maiden

Barbarians do not connect their self-worth to what others think of them. They do not care if everyone does not like them. Barbarians know what is inside of them, what is in their hearts, because they have been taught what is right and wrong, it is written on their hearts and the person laughing at you, calling you stupid and ugly does not, cannot, know what is in your heart—only you can. With the exception of one other Person; Jesus.
‘For it was you who formed my inward parts;
“You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works” Psalm 139:13, 14

You are wonderfully made, embrace it.

Read the rest of the story here

Barbarians ad copy axe

Perfected in Love

The Apostle John, in his letters, challenges us to love, even to perfect love. Now there’s a challenge to be sure!  Have anyone of you perfected love? If you answered yes, I would like to talk to your spouse, or family.

love perfected mom child

I am called as the pastor of my church to love people. I will always preach the word, the uncomfortable parts and the ones that may offend some people, but I will always do so in love, and I will always welcome and love everyone who comes seeking truth.

Speak the truth in love and if you cannot come across that way then don’t speak at all. Loving one another is our overarching command, the one that all others point to.

love one another dove

Love is hard

None of this is easy, loving our rivals is hard, loving people who mistreat us is hard. Loving people whom we believe need to be taught a lesson, who have disappointed us, is hard. Loving people whom no one else loves is hard.

If love was easy we wouldn’t need almost 800 Old testament laws and hundreds of pages of stories to teach us how to love. We wouldn’t have needed Jesus to come and live it out for us, die for us, and then send his Spirit to illuminate it for us. We wouldn’t need the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to empower us to love—not if it was easy or natural for us.

It’s hard because our sinful fallen nature is selfish, jealous, competitive, indignant and petty. But God is love and those who love him and desire to love have to look to Jesus for that love, for the desire and the ability to truly love. If we truly love and walk with Jesus and in his ways we find that we have no choice but to love and to do otherwise runs counter to the new creation that you are in him and will leave you empty, casting you back into the darkness.hates his brother

You just loved me

There was a young woman who was part of our fellowship for a while here. She showed up at some of our first services with her very young son, no husband, no questions, we just loved her.

She disappeared for a while and reappeared with a guy who had a young daughter, no questions, we just loved them.

They disappeared for a while and her and her son reappeared, alone again. There were a few questions, no condemnations, we just loved her. Week after week, year after year, hit and miss sometimes, but we just kept loving her and her son.

I didn’t think we were doing anything extraordinary really, she was pretty easy to love and we love, or try to love, everyone who comes through these doors. Yes we are all human and none of us has yet perfected love and occasionally someone, including me, does something to offend or hurt—but we try, I try, I try to love like Jesus loves, unconditionally and unselfishly.

One day I asked this young lady if she would serve in a particular place in the church; a place of responsibility and trust. As she considered what I had asked her she became visibly shaken and finally blurted out through her tears words that cut straight to my heart, “I can’t do that. . . I am not a good person!”

The reason this cut to my heart is because I was heartbroken for her that she saw herself this way. But I also sensed that this was the Holy Spirit blasting open a whole in her heart for the light to shine in. So I asked her why she didn’t believe she was a good person. She confessed to me some sin areas in her life, and I didn’t gasp and say ‘man, you’re right, you are a rotten sinner!’ No, I assured her that Jesus loved her, the Father loved her and that I loved her, and if she wanted me to, I would pray for her.

I did, right then and there. I prayed that the Lord would give her the strength to overcome the things that she was struggling with, things that the Holy Spirit, not me, not anyone in this church, was convicting her of, and then I told her my offer still stands.forgiven light ocean

But I was going to leave it up to her—it was between her and the Lordto let me know when she was ready to serve. I told her I knew it would not be long because I knew that she could do this.

I was right. A few months later she told me she was ready, she had overcome. Love—the love of God and the love of her brothers and sisters in the Lord—was bearing fruit in her.

At one point she told Donna (my wife) and I how grateful she was for this church family. She said, “Time and again I showed up here still reeling from the night before, barely able to look myself in the mirror and you guys just kept loving me and welcoming me like I was somebody special.” And that was why she kept coming back. —That’s what love does.

She told us this as she was getting ready to move to another state, as she had married a godly man and was going to start a new life– heartbroken to be leaving–but thrilled to be walking in God’s plan.

She was perfected— by love.

walk in the light Jesus

 

Know that you know him

Do you know him? Do you know Jesus? If you are walking in love you do.

He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. 1 John 2

So, let’s wrap this up by answering the question we asked at the start; How do you perfect love?

This seems like a complicated statement requiring deep thought and study but it is really quite simple and rather neatly sums up what the gospel is all about. God gave mankind his word, the commandments and the law, the prophets and the psalms, the wisdom writings and the stories, to show us how to love and live—to live in perfect love, no sin, no selfishness, no rebellion. But we could not do it—bottom line—should have been the end of the story.

But the Father didn’t want our story to end there. So he sent Jesus, the only one who was able to do it—to perfectly keep God’s word, to become the perfect sacrifice so that we, who could not keep God’s word and thus perfect love, could be recipients of his perfect love. Now we have a new word by which to live, by which to be perfected, the only way by which we may be perfected and perfect love, and that is to believe and receive the Word of God  come in the flesh; Jesus.

And the proof of that? The evidence of our saving knowledge of the Word of God, of Jesus Christ the Son of God?

That we have love for one another

little children love 1 John

I am love, I am life, I am here. -H.S.

 

 Barbarians in the Kingdom

Barbarians ad copy axe

 

Not Created for Nothing

We have Jesus, the light of the world, the one who commands the darkness to flee. He is with us and in us. We are totally immersed in his light. We just need to keep our eyes and our hearts open to it, to walk in it.

light of the world

Jesus is the light of God come to deliver us from darkness.

Darkness is merely the absence of light. Even in the natural world, darkness cannot dispel light, the light has to be removed. But light can dispel darkness. You can’t walk into the light and turn on darkness, but you can walk into the dark and turn on the light.

Light is something, darkness is nothing. Interesting—by that token the prince of darkness is the prince of nothing.

In fact, if you do a quick word search of the New Testament for the word darkness and transpose all the references to it with the word nothingness it actually means virtually the same thing and communicates the futility and emptiness of shunning the light.

Just a few examples:

dark nothingness

So, darkness is nothing, and nothingness is a state we surely do not want to be in. We were not created for nothing.

Illuminating

So, what is light? Light, or visible light is defined as “electromagnetic radiation within the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be perceived by the human eye.” Wikipedia 

 Clears it right up huh? Without turning this into a physics class, light is a thing we really cannot see. . ., or can we? Do we actually see light or do we just see the result of its presence as it is reflected off other objects or is contrasted to darkness? Do we see a light beam or we just see the dust or whatever other particles may be present as light passes through?

Honestly, I don’t know the answers to that question and I never thought about it before, light is just light, unless you’re an Albert Einstein type and it’s all relative somehow to how time is measured and perceived. I’m not even going to go there here. They say mathematics is the language of the universe. If that’s the case then the universe has nothing to say to me because I speak fluent gibberish by contrast.

I am a conceptual and philosophical kind of thinker and what I understand about light is that without it you cannot see anything, no forms, no colors, no textures—nothing. All you can see then, when the lights go out, is what is in your imagination, in your mind’s eye. Even then, you are likely picturing things that you originally had revealed to your eyeballs by light.

What if you had never seen anything; say you were born totally blind, or in utter darkness, would you even have pictures in your mind? What would your dreams be like? It’s a scary thought. Figure that one out with math you junior Einsteins.

Thank you Lord for creating light. Light is illumination, without which it’s a much different world, a much altered existence inside and out, an empty world of nothingness.

So, if God is light, if Jesus is the light, then he is illuminating, allowing us to see, altering our existence both inside and out, if we allow him—and even if we don’t. Because the alternative is darkness and without the light we would not know that darkness even existed and that is certainly an altered, and unnatural, existence. You cannot perceive the lack of something if you never knew it existed in the first place.

You would never know what evil was if you never experienced good. You would never know sadness was bad if you didn’t know that there was such a thing as joy. We would not be appalled by hatred and violence if we had never experienced or witnessed love and mercy.

fellowship with light

  I think maybe light, at least as it’s referred to here,  is God’s love radiating through the space between us and him in a way that we can see.  We are drawn to light, we crave light, we need light. Unless you want to hide or have something to hide, but that is a miserable state to be in and one that never ends well.

Darkness is nothing, but it can be almost feel like a physical thing. If you have ever been any place else where you are not just in total darkness, but far removed from any light source, the darkness can almost be felt. I remember going to Lewis and Clark Caverns, near Three Forks, Montana where of course they did the turn out the lights thing, and I was glad it was short lived. When they do it you are afraid to move because you become disoriented to the point where you feel like you are losing your equilibrium.

Lost

The tour guide told us a story that stuck with me. Apparently way back in the 19th century when they were first exploring the caverns and they were little known, a camp cook for a nearby cattle ranch decided to go exploring on his own one day. Somehow or other as he was wandering around in there his lantern went out leaving him in total darkness and disoriented.

Luckily for him there were people who went looking for him in the caverns and they found him. Apparently he was so disoriented after a few days in total darkness that when they came across him he was laying down, but he thought he was standing, and was surprised to learn that he wasn’t. Can you imagine darkness so intense that you can’t even tell up from down any more?

If only there was a verse like that. . .?

Darkness felt Egypt

A darkness that can be “felt”, an oppressiveness that can make one loath to even get up and move around. ‘I think I’ll just sit here and wait for the lights to come back on—wait, am I sitting!’

But that’s not where we are. We are not those who have to dwell in nor hide in the dark. We are not subject to, nor victims of the dark nor do we fear the dark. In fact, as I have told you before, the dark fears us, because we have the light living within us and He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4.4)

792164-armor-artwork-blondes-churches-fantasy-art-hero-swords-warriors-women
I do not fear the darkness, the darkness fears me!

The world and the one who thinks he rules this world would have us living in fear, thinking the darkness can overcome our hearts and leave us defenseless. Remember what darkness is—it is the absence of light—it is nothing.

Why would we fear nothing? Not when we have everything.

I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. John 12:6

God is Light woman walking

Jesus came to restore that which was lost, the light of God’s love on this earth. Jesus came to illuminate the truth, to illuminate God’s word, so that we could see the truth of who God really is. And to show us the way.

We were not created for nothing, we created to walk in the light, to enjoy and bask in the light. Pray for the light to fill your heart today. Jesus is that light.