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.

Good Friday

It is finished Jesus

The crucifixion of the Christ was an act of love so outrageous and unprecedented that Satan himself was duped into facilitating it, ignorant to the fact that he was sealing his own destruction. The ancient serpent, that oh so experienced and practiced purveyor of hate and deceit from of old, could not comprehend an act of love so unselfish and sacrificial that it would completely obliterate his claim to all of us whom the Father loved.

Satan thought he was destroying the Son of God, destroying love itself, on the cross. He was too foolish to see that he could never defeat the author of life—the Word of God, the light of the world—by destroying his flesh. the flesh of the sinless Son of God, the physical manifestation of God himself, come for all the world to see and know.

He was the perfect sacrifice that would end all sacrifices and nullify the curse by which Satan, and all whom he would deceive with the spirit of the antichrist, had previously sought to condemn and destroy all of God’s children.

abide in him

And now, all of that is done, in the words of Jesus—It is finished. And now we can abide in love and look forward to the day when we too will see him face to face, unashamed and loved. And we will one day see the new Jerusalem as it comes down from heaven. Coming down to the recreated earth, for all who loved his appearing, to dwell in forever.

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. Rev 21:2,3

John did indeed get to see that glorious city and describe to us what his eyes beheld, what we get to look forward to.

But first John had to learn how to abide in love.

And we know that John did learn all this because he writes to tell us, his dear little children, years later after experiencing a life of fellowship with his Lord despite all the hardship and pain he has had to endure, as he fights a different kind of battle then what the younger Son of Thunder had anticipated; he was fighting darkness with light, death with life, hatred with love.

John was fighting for the souls of those whom the enemy would like to keep in darkness while John looks forward to the day when he will see his Lord again and feel his embrace, the physical embrace of the love in which he has abided, a perfect love that casts out all fear.

Spirit bears witness doveWe find ourselves today in a time of impending darkness and fear. Fear of what tomorrow might bring, fear of pestilence and death, fear of what our neighbors will think if we dare break away from the social mandates we suddenly find ourselves bound by even as they seem to change daily.

But just as the enemy of our souls thought he was gaining a victory over those loved of the Father as His only Son hung dying on that cross, but only sealed the ultimate victory of love over hate, so we today are going to see God bring victory from this dark day in America. The sun will come up tomorrow, and the Son is still victorious even when we do not understand the pain of the day.

In the meantime, keep loving your neighbor, without breathing on them, and get ready for great things to come for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.

God is LoveBe blessed my brothers and sisters, you are loved.

Jesus Knows

Jesus tells an eye opening story one day about two men who enter the afterlife– to much different ends.

Lazarus gates

One of them is known only as “a rich man” and the other is Lazarus. Lazarus is a man down on his luck–big time. He is laid, apparently immobile, hungry and covered with sores at the gate of this rich man. He is ignored by all but the dogs who see him as a chew toy covered with sores that they find quite tasty–insult added to injury. While the rich man within the gates feasts daily in his opulence and revelry. Mindless and uncaring about the beggar dying  in the shadow of his mansion. The rich man never new his name.

Jesus knew.

And his angels were watching. Lazarus had barely closed his eyes for the last time when they swooped in to carry him off to paradise to feast with Father Abraham. The “rich man” then dies also, surrounded by luxury, and is buried in a tomb of great value–leaving his treasure behind. He is carried off as well, more like cast down–straight into Hades.

bosom of Abraham

The rich man then begs from his place of torment for Lazarus, whose name he suddenly remembers, to be sent back to warn his brothers–but it ain’t happen’. They, like him, had their chance. Now justice is served.

cast into darkness

What I see here in this story is hope. Hope and a challenge. The challenge is—if we were to die tomorrow would we wish we could go back and tell those we love that there is more to this life than satisfying the flesh, more to this life than this life—so don’t waste it you only get one shot? Would we be satisfied that we had told everyone we could about Jesus so that they didn’t end up in a place of torment, from which there is no relief or recourse?

Have you lived your life with the mindset of storing up your treasures in heaven as a priority over building your own stores of wealth? Or have you been faithful with your blessings to use them to also bless others, to help those left at your gates as though in so doing you are helping Jesus?

‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Mat 25:40

Because in the end there is always justice. The piper always gets paid. As the line from old theme song from the 70’s cop show  Baretta used to say; “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

And the hope is—no matter how badly this world and this life treats us, we can look forward to an eternity of joy in a place, in a kingdom where all our tears are wiped away, where there is no more sickness and no more death, and where the wicked can no longer mistreat, abuse, mock or use us.

So long as your heart is right.

Jesus was addressing the hearts of those who despised and neglected Lazarus and those like him here. And because this nobody in the eyes of the world became somebody in the Kingdom of our God, we know that his heart had to be right. He didn’t rail against the oppressors and seek ways to steal or deride those who had what he did not.

He didn’t covet their wealth and curse his neighbors or blame God for his misfortune, he only longed to eat and made himself available to be helped by someone who could. But he had put himself at the mercy of a hardened heart, at least in this life—His soul was safe in the hands of his God.

20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. . . . 24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. Luke 16

In the end the one who showed no mercy was the one begging for it.

I can’t help but think of Job when I read  this. Job had lost everything he had. His children had all been murdered in the raid that destroyed his farm and he was left stricken by a horrible disease and a wife who despised him. He was covered with sores and had nothing left to do but put on sackcloth, cover himself with ashes and morn his fate.

the book of Job

 

His friends also came and told him we was a rotten sinner or surely he would not be stricken so—just curse God and die and get it over with.

He would not. And because of his continued faith in the God who was his righteousness, he was restored and he finished his life more blessed than he had ever been before. And his friends were put to shame for their ignorance.

Lazarus too, had lost everything, but he held on to his integrity. We don’t know the back story—only Jesus did. And only Jesus was able to see his final reward, which was of immeasurable worth. Very few knew and certainly no one remembered his name… Jesus did.

But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus,

Jesus knew his name.

He knows my name

He knows yours as well

Jesus knows. . .

Whatever Happened to H#%l?

“The truth is still the truth, sin is still sin, Hell is still hot and the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and the road narrow that leads to its gates”

king's invite

We’ve all been invited to a royal wedding. Yet, there are still those who think it no big deal nor worth preparing or being inconvenienced for.

The ever expanding culture of anything goes and every deviant behavior is normal and good that’s all around us has permeated the church and had a devastating effect on the Bride of Christ. Very few churches preach holiness any more. I mean, living a life that is different from the world around us, living by God’s standards regardless of what the world is telling us we must believe say and do. Just the fact that I have to explain holiness is a sad testimony.

Many of those who go to church, who want to get that invitation, that ticket to heaven, just want to get their assurances that they’re fine; ‘Jesus loves you no matter what so just do whatever.’

Sin is not confronted, Hell is not preached let alone believed in—If you’ve ever read through the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) you may have noticed that many of the stories Jesus told end up with people in outer darkness, weeping and gnashing ,and feeding the worms with their burning flesh—apparently Jesus believed in Hell!

Outer Darkness

Here’s the question we need to ask those who argue otherwise; “If there is no hell then why did Jesus pay such a heavy price to redeem us from it?” Why suffer rejection and humiliation, dying a bloody naked torturous death on the cross where a person basically suffocated to death after they became to weak to pull themselves up against the nails in their hands in order to take the pressure of their diaphragm in so they could inhale?

What could be so terrible that the Son of God himself would allow himself to be subjected to that horror in order to save us? Oh wait, I know—Hell. And then there’s the whole wrath of God being poured out in him thing as He who knew no sin became sin while he hung there in the darkness that struck the earth in the middle of the day as the creator was being destroyed, as the author of life was being killed.

And then Jesus asks us to take up our cross and follow him. What do you suppose that means? What did it mean to him? What did it mean to those who heard him? They all knew what a cross was; a cross was an instrument of death. We know what that means because Paul would tell us—we must crucify the flesh and it’s evil desires and live for the Spirit.

crucified the flesh

But that’s not a popular message is it? People want to be patted on the head, entertained and not made to feel like they have to change anything in their lives; ‘just show up, put a few dollars in the plate and bring your friends next week and we’ll promise we won’t offend them. We’ll only use scriptures about love and blessings, if we use any scripture at all, and we’ll make sure we have you out of here in time to make the playoff games. You have beer to drink after all.’

You can have it

You know what? If that’s what it takes to build a big church where I can have a full time salary and a staff that does all the tedious or messy work of ministry while I just write fun sermons and get all the acclamations—if that’s what it takes to have enough tithing members that I don’t have to work like a dog in the mud, the dirt, the cold or the heat all day every day, well, I’ll just keep my construction job for as long as this tired old body keeps moving.

And I’ll keep preaching truth to those who show up here serious about going to that wedding. Because if I am responsible for one person getting booted out of the feast because they showed up in their filthy clothes and had no good answer as to why, then I deserve to be cast out with them.

invited to the wedding

You can have it. I was made for this.

I don’t want your fancy suits and your retirement packages. I’d rather work shoulder to shoulder with someone who is desperate for truth and hope and doesn’t know where to begin looking because none of those people from the big fancy churches ever bothered to get to know them, listen to them and love them. They had to get ready for the next retreat where they could teach or hear about how God has a plan for them that no doubt includes abundant blessings.

I am here to make disciples, not converts. I am here to make soldiers for the Kingdom of Heaven, not camp followers. I’m here to turn barbarians loose who will now turn their passion for adventure and overcoming all obstacles into a passion to overcome the prince of darkness and take this world for the King of Kings unashamed and unapologetic. Pillaging the world for Jesus still wild eyed and fiercely determined behind shields of faith but now wielding the sword of the Spirit, no longer being deceived by the lusts of the flesh and the lies of the enemy that once drove us to self-destruction.

Eph 6 meme

And those of you who have stuck it out with me and lived and preached the word of God as best we can, as honestly and as completely as we can— well, you will be, you and all in the few churches scattered across this land where the truth is still the truth, sin is still sin, Hell is still hot and the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, and the road narrow that leads to its gates, we will be a part of a celebration like the universe has never seen nor ever will again and then we will commence to rule with Christ.

faithful over a few

Our day is coming

And our day here in this life is coming as well. Check that– our day is here!

God will use the faithful few of this generation to wake up his called, to prepare the way and to usher in the Kingdom once and for all.

14 “For many are called, but few are chosen.” -Jesus Christ Mat 22

Barbarians in the Kingdom

Barbarians ad copy axe

Audience of One?

“You are given those gifts, those talents if you will, to invest in others, not to invest in yourself.”

As I was reading through the Parable of the talents  the other day I had a random thought pop into my mind when I came across this part about the wicked and lazy servant: And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’ Mat 25:25

What came to my mind was this; “I play for an audience of one.”

That’s an old worship leader adage. As someone who led worship for many years myself I had heard that many times. I think I have even had a shirt that said that once, but suddenly it dawned on me that that may be wrong, that playing, using your talent, with no consideration for anyone else, just playing or singing solely to impress or bless God, to just use it as a vehicle to bring yourself into his presence where, of course, you’ll expect to be blessed, is perhaps, selfish.

You are just giving back what the Lord gave you, no more, no less.

have what is yours

Now, don’t start throwing rocks at me here, I might be all wet, but we have to pay attention  to these random thoughts while we’re reading scripture because it is often the Spirit showing us things through his word.

Why does God give someone the gift of music? Why does God give someone a voice that others want to hear and try to emulate and sing along with and them give them an opportunity to use it to lead worship?— I’m talking about believers here—He gives you that gift to lead others into his presence, to give others the opportunity to worship and be blessed by coming into the presence of the Lord through that worship music.

Or, to encourage a group of people, people whom the Lord loves, to lift up their voices together, or to play their instruments together, to bless the Lord God Almighty the maker of heaven and earth.

You are given those gifts, those talents if you will, to invest in others, not to invest in yourself. God invested in you when he gave you those talents. Hiding your talent for fear of using it because you might be embarrassed, is the same as burying it in the back yard for safe keeping.

Or, if you are using your talents with no thought to how others are responding as long as you are being blessed, that is selfishness and may well warrant that—Jesus’ words not mine—wicked and lazy servant title.

invest his talents

My worship leading, all the years I spend playing guitar, learning new chords, learning and practicing song after song, many hours each week—none of that was for me, (at least it was not supposed to be, pride is another battle) that was all an investment into the lives of others. If you are a worship leader, you are someone who had been entrusted with a huge bag of gold, (What a biblical talent really is) so invest wisely.

The Master does not just want his money back interest free. “Here’s what you gave me, isn’t it beautiful?” So no, do not play for an audience of one. Do not preach or teach for an audience of one, do not witness for an audience of one, do not sacrifice and give all that you have for no other purpose than to try to impress God.

preciopus

Don’t just live in your underground caverns with your precious gift like Smeagol and his ring uncaring about anyone else.

You can do it for God, because you love him and want to share his love with others, but he is not your audience, He is your Lord, your inspiration and your power and he asks us to advance his kingdom, not our own. We advance the Kingdom, we always advance the Kingdom, by witnessing, blessing and encouraging others.

We do that with the gifts He gave us.

Invest in people

If you want to just keep your talents between you and the Lord then you might as well join a monastery, go live high on a mountain with no contact with the outside world in your own little holy bubble and make sure you don’t lose or desecrate your talent, keeping it safe and sound, no challenges to it, no stretching it, no wearing it out—nothing ventured nothing gained—or lost.

At least not until the master returns to see how you invested his investment in you. “What? No fruit, no interest, you could have at least put it in the bank where they could have done something with it and payed you a few bucks in return! ‘Take what he has and give it to someone who I know will invest it.’”

Take his talent.jpgMatthew 25:28-30

Give it to someone who will at least try to make a return.

You see, it wasn’t that this, the third servant in our parable, did anything wrong, it was simply that he did nothing.

So, if you are going to say I play for an audience of one, that audience of one needs to be a person who needs you to play for them, who needs you to invest what the Lord has given you into them.

did it unto me.jpg

So, a better adage might be, I would play for an audience of one.

Would you? –Would you play for an audience of one? Would you preach or teach for an audience of one? Would you use any of the things the Lord has given you, time, energy, wisdom, money—even give all of it—just to invest into three, two, even just one person? Will you be faithful over just a few?

The church has been dying off in the last couple of decades because too many people answer no to that question.

Be the one who says yes!

faithful over a few.jpg

You Old Guys!?

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

older men

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

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

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

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

IMG_3945

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

IMG_2519.JPG

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

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

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

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

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

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

have my back.jpg

 

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

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

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

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

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

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*CW McCall Crispy Critters

img_2941Barbarians in the Kingdom