Born Again and Then Some

A quick study of the Holy Spirit’s work in us.

Holy Wind

Complete

It’s too easy sometimes to forget how miserable life was without Jesus—without his Holy Spirit—when we have been following for a while, serving, and perhaps getting too far ahead even, of Jesus.

We get tired, discouraged and disillusioned—even cynical. It’s often because we lost focus. We stopped focusing on Jesus, started doing things in our own power, or we just simply allowed our joy to be stolen away and allowed the lies of this world to overshadow us.

This story told in the book of Acts, especially in the opening chapters, reminds us of the stark difference of life before and after the Holy Spirit, before and after being born again and then baptized in the Spirit. Rescued from death and despair, born again into eternal life and then supercharged by an immersion from head to toe with the same Holy Spirit that has just given us new life—if we’ll accept it all.

The story of the gospels and Acts is the story of our return to oneness with our creator. It is the restoration to wholeness, to completeness for mankind—the completeness that is still available to us. There is a stark black and white difference between the people who sought to know God, who longed for truth, before Jesus’ resurrection, and after, when the Spirit became available—when they could be born again, and then empowered.

We are privileged to live as recipients of the grace purchased by the blood of Jesus, of his giving the Holy Spirit to his church, to us, so that we are again able to be the people God created us to be. We are no longer just an empty shell full of echoes of what could have been.

“Adam, where are you?” (Genesis 3) We no longer have to hide, we are no longer outcasts. We have been restored.

We see that being played out in the first followers of Jesus, and it is something that is still being played out today.

Let’s talk about this born again thing before we get into the baptism of the Spirit because I believe the scripture makes a clear distinction between the two. One is life—the other is power. Life, is of course the first and perhaps most important thing.

So that has to be the starting point.

Remember when Jesus told Nicodemus that he had to be born again to see the Kingdom of God?

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

. . .  “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

. . .‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes. . .

John 3:3—8

That rebirth had everything to do with the Spirit.

So we see at the end of the same gospel of John, the fulfillment of that—the wind of the Spirit being blown where it wills by the mouth of God, right into the hearts of his disciples.

 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.

John 20:21—22

This happened in the room where Jesus met the Apostles as they were still hiding out after the resurrection.

They had the very breath of life blown into them by Jesus. The Son of God through whom for whom and by whom all things were created (Colossians 1) was breathing life back into his beloved. Just as he had done when he created Adam so long ago, making him a living being, created in his image. That was the life that was lost when Adam and Eve ate the fruit that they had been commanded not to eat, when they disobeyed and then hid from God.

They died. God had told the; “…on the day you eat of it you shall surely die Well, they did, thus their spirits died, the breath of life from God replaced with emptiness and longing. Leaving them seeking restoration and life from there on out. Jesus, the Son of God, came to restore that.

Those who were dead inside could now be born again. All who believe in and accept that Jesus is Lord and that he rose from the dead, who recognize the emptiness and death inside caused by their sin— those who seek him—they receive the Holy Spirit, what we often call receiving Jesus. They are born again.

And what a feeling it is. When the Spirit comes in and breathes life into our weary and lonely souls, fills our hearts and our heads with joy and peace, a feeling of invincibility—that no matter what, I am his and he is mine and will be forever!

I remember well that feeling of suddenly knowing that I knew that there was a God in Heaven who loved me, of having that nagging doubt and emptiness in me replaced with the security of knowing and feeling alive again. I was thirteen years old and just reading the gospel accounts of Jesus on my own. I believed and was born again.

It would be several years later that I would be baptized in the Holy Spirit, but the life that was breathed into me started me down that long, and very crooked, path to that point where I would trust the Lord enough to allow him to fill and empower me completely. But when I did get to that point, there are simply no words to describe. It is indeed power, it is so much more than just life—it is. . . —but we’ll get into that next week.

And Then Some

I just want you to understand that the Holy Spirit is not a one trick pony. The life he gives you is just the start.

It’s simple really—At the end of the gospel of John, after the resurrection, mankind is saved—they can be born again. But on the day of the feast of Pentecost—fifty days later, the church would truly be born; born of those who had been born of the Spirit, and now empowered to be the church, to be the bearers of good news, the champions, of the Kingdom of God.

And the world would never be the same.

I think it no accident of chance that John’s gospel immediately proceeds the book of Acts. Because it puts the two subsequent works of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of the believers, one right after the other as they should be.

 “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. —John 20:21—22

He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”— Acts 1:4—5

Those same apostles who have received the breath of life, received the Holy Spirit from Jesus, are told to return to Jerusalem and wait for the power.

And the disciples of Jesus Christ, men and women both, have no idea what is about to happen to them. They are about to go from happy but timid born again believers who just want to be left alone as the gaze heavenward and wait for Jesus to return, to radical Jesus freaks who look at the Roman Empire, the entire known world for that matter, as one big revival meeting tent, and they will lead that crusade with a zeal that cannot be stopped except by pain of death, and even that, just stokes the flames of the Spirit.

Because death is no longer a factor. And if there is no fear of death, there is nothing that can stop you.

Stay tuned—it’s just getting good.

Rolling Away the Stone

“I felt like I was trapped in a tomb. . . All I had in there with me was a bag of weed, a bottle of whiskey and a bunch of good time friends to help me consume it.

“Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large. 

Mark 16:3-4

How often do we focus on the stone, beat our heads against it, rail at it, pray about it. And finally just camp out on it because—well, it’s not going anywhere.

The Marys and Salome knew that there was death behind that stone—but they didn’t believe they could do anything about it so they just focused on the stone. ‘Stupid rock! If only we could have done this the other day, before they sealed the tomb, we wouldn’t have to come back and worry about it now.’

If only Jesus hadn’t come back to Jerusalem, if only the Priests had listened to Jesus, if only he had been nicer to them, played their games. If only. . .  there is always an if only isn’t there? But we cannot go back in time, what is done is done. So now all we can do is worry about this big rock that is blocking the way.

Am I talking about the ladies or us? Both.

I can’t really get to my Lord because this stone is in my way.

‘I have to deal with it, or, I guess, just live on this side of it. Scared, alone and hopeless. Just as well, the situation is all hopeless anyway, there’s nothing on the other side but decay.’

That is just a lie, a distraction to keep you from even going to the tomb. At least the women had the faith to go to Jesus, even expecting little when they got there—’all we need is the stone removed—please?!’

Their mustard seed of faith was rewarded, and they realized that their stone, just like the ones Jesus had rolled away from their hearts when he was here, was gone.

Your stone can be drugs, eating, money worries or money clutching. It can be gambling, emotional scars, drugs, alcohol, pornography, physical pain and sickness, family issues, job issues, the cares of the world, the love of the world, fear, anxiety, depression—all of them huge stones that we push and push on to no avail—they are just there, keeping us from our Lord. And true life.

My biggest stone was being stoned. I spent years running around, running my own life, seeking everything that I thought my flesh needed and wanted, but got farther and farther away from my Lord until I felt like I was trapped in a tomb with no escape. All I had in there with me was a bag of weed, a bottle of whiskey and a bunch of good time friends to help me consume it.

But I was seeing and feeling more and more that I was dead and empty inside, and no amount of dope—not weed, not mushrooms, not cocaine, not acid, not speed—whiskey, beer or Tequila could cover it any more. And all the parties always seemed to end in heartache leaving me more lonely and empty than ever. Even the good money I was making in the welding trade that I had worked so hard to excel at was not rewarding in the least.

Then I started to hear the Lord call from the other side of the rock—’I’m here, waiting for you.’ I began to hear preachers preaching about a plan that the Lord had for me. I could no longer stand it—I had to get past that rock. But who will roll the stone away? I tried doing it myself. I tried quitting the drugs.

No smoking, no drinking, no snorting— nothing for a month! I declared. I am pushing that stoned stone aside.

Hah, it didn’t hardly budge an inch. I didn’t make it until the end of the first day and I was not only not moving that stone any farther, it was rolling back over the top of me.

I cried out “Lord, I do not want to be this way! I want to follow you, I want to really know you! I will do whatever it takes, go wherever you ask, I’ll read and study, pray and preach, I’ll make a fool of myself, go to the deepest darkest jungles—whatever—just roll away this stone—I can’t even breath anymore, I can’t stand to live this way!”

 ‘Out of my distress I called on the Lord, he answered me and set me free.’” The words of Psalm 118 that jumped out at me that night of my desperation from the old bible I hadn’t opened in years.

Those words became the messenger from God—the angel—that crashed to the earth like lighting in my soul and shoved that stone away like it was made of paper mâché. It turns out the stone wasn’t the issue.

The stone, the drugs and drink,  were hiding the death inside that was caused by my distrust in the Lord and my desire to maintain control. My real issue, the real stone, was the emptiness that came from running from God, from living for the flesh. I was worrying about the stone of addiction being rolled away when inside I was a rotting corpse.

When I decided to take that walk to the garden where I had last seen my Lord, to express my deep and unwavering love and devotion to him, when I declared that I would trust him, if he only rolled that stone away—that stone was obliterated.

When the words of that Psalm opened my eyes to see that I needed to trust Jesus and stop worrying about satisfying the desires of a never satisfied flesh, that I needed to stop worrying about what all my good time party friends thought of me, to see that I would never be free unless I cried out to Jesus—I knew I had to trust him, Trust him with my life, my heart and my soul. And he came crashing out of that tomb I had locked him in, in the dark recesses of my heart, and set me free.

The love and freedom I felt, the peace and the joy I felt, all of this came in an instant that night as I was kneeling on my living room floor with withdrawal cravings wracking my brain and body. On a cold January night the resurrection power of Jesus who walked out of that tomb and embraced me, set me free.

And I have never looked back.

And I have never regretted it for a minute. I have a freedom a purpose and the power of God Almighty backing me up. Because I finally believed—really believed. When I finally gave in and quit running from Jesus, decided to trust him with my heart and my life, the desire to dull my senses with dope disappeared. I did not want to miss a thing.

The stone was rolled away, and it was glorious.

I had been focusing on the stone, wanting it to be removed, but it was the death inside that needed addressed. But overcoming that was more than I could hope for–until I did. The miracle I got that evening was more than I could ever hope for, more than I expected. But we serve a God who overcame death–the stones are easy.

Turns out, Jesus didn’t want my promises of sacrifice and devotion–He just wanted my heart.

Crucified

There is just no good way to communicate all that happened when Jesus was crucified, no adequate words to describe nor explain, and surely, it is beyond human comprehension and description, all that happened that day on the cross, in the heavens, on the earth, below the earth, and most importantly and significantly —in the heart of Jesus, the Son of Man, Son of God.

We cannot fathom the depth of the love that held him to that cross and kept him on mission, thus we cannot fathom the depth of the pain he experienced in the depths of his soul as that intense and never faltering love was rejected, scorned and mocked—as those he loved, from his followers, to his people, to his own Father, turned away and rejected him, leaving him to suffer and die misunderstood and unappreciated.

The few who did still love and feel the pain of his ordeal in their souls were left without hope. And this only added to Jesus’ pain. No one seemed to understand that this was all necessary and foretold. Yet, if they had, it wouldn’t have happened; a plan and scenario only His Father could have foreseen and used for good—taking advantage of man’s ignorance and susceptibility to evil influences, to save him from those very things.

Even in their taunts they proclaimed truth, yet failed to understand the words. In three days this temple would indeed be rebuilt. But it would not be a temple built with hands. The large heavy curtain that separated the Stone Temple Sanctuary from the world was torn in two, perhaps because the Spirit of God had left the building— perhaps as a sign that the way was now open for all who wished, to come before the Father—through Jesus Christ who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

 There would be no more need for a temple made of stone for the Spirit of God would soon be residing in the hearts of those who loved him, a new temple was being prepared that day, and would be completed on the resurrection day—a temple rebuilt in three days.

Preparing this message I prayed “Lord, help me to communicate the significance and gravity of this event, what the cross means to us and what it meant to you. Help me to communicate the price you paid for our sin, for our redemption through your words, from your Spirit, from your heartLord, I hesitated (dare I even say it) help me to see the crucifixion through your eyes.”

But then I knew, that’s what I had to do. To try to take you there, to the cross on that horrific and reality altering day, through the eyes of the Savior. As I said, words can never fully explain, nor minds comprehend, the things of the Spirit that were happening simultaneously in history and in eternity that day. But we have to try.

After all, we were there. It was our sinful flesh that was being crucified that day, the evil that dwells in our hearts was being transposed from us to Christ in those dark hours. His death was our death, his hellish nightmare experience should have been ours.

20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Galatians 2:20

When Paul said he had been crucified with Christ, it was not word play, that is the reality of the believer in Christ. So, since Jesus became us on the cross, maybe it is not so radical to try and see the cross through his eyes. It is after all, not we who live, but Christ who lives in us.

Through His Eyes

Jesus, the Nazarene, teacher, prophet and miracle worker, is being nailed to a rough hewn and heavy wooden cross, the kind the Romans use to cause a slow and hideous death that becomes a fear inducing spectacle for all to see. The sight of a cross struck fear and revulsion in all, because they knew what it was for—so did Jesus, and it loomed large in his vision just before he was forced to lie on it.

His arms are lashed to the cross beam with ropes and he turns to look at the soldier who has placed a sharp spike against his wrist. He sees the hammer rise and fall and he cries out in pain. He is startled by the sudden intensity of the pain that manages to override momentarily even that of his lash torn back pressed against the wooden beam, and the new puncture wounds being made in the back of his head, as he is forced to lay his thorn crowned head against the cross beam.

But what he sees as he looks through swollen eye lids at the soldier who is swinging the hammer is a man who has no idea the evil he is perpetrating and who it is that he is piercing with the nails. He is just a soldier following orders to execute what he believes to be just another Jewish rebel. Jesus looks at him, the one who sees him as just another worthless Jew to be rid of, and loves him, him and his fellow soldiers; and prays, “Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”

The next thing he sees is the soldier reaching over him to nail the accusation against him to the cross above his head. He feels the vibrations of every blow painfully transferred through the three nails holding his hands and feet.

He sees the dusty sandaled feet of those passing close by as they mockingly read the charge on the sign—“King of the Jews” And they laugh as they begin making jokes among themselves at his expense. He sees the hobnailed sandals of the soldiers as they push back the jeering mockers lest someone grab the pile of clothing that Jesus’ had just been stripped of—the sum total of his earthly belongings, now spoils to be gambled for.

To his left and right, he sees from the corner of his eye, other crosses and hears pained and hoarse voices alternating between curses and taunts as they too–mock him.

Lying on his back it is hard to see anything really, as He is forced to squint his burning eyes against the glaring overhead sun, a sun seemingly intent on adding to his misery. Suddenly his vision is swimming as he is quickly hoisted upright in one swift, well practiced maneuver, and he finds himself looking down on his world as the cross is lifted up and dropped with a flesh tearing thud into a hole in the ground.

Looking down

His vision soon clears as his dehydrated and blood loss weakened head stops spinning. He can now see the whole crowd, the same that has jeered and hissed at him all the way to this hilltop. He sees through the blood and sweat that flows unchecked into his tortured eyes, the Chief Priests who are now defiling themselves by looking upon the blood of a man who will soon be dead. Yet Jesus knows they must be there, the Chief Priests are the ones who must oversee this offering of the final Passover lamb.

Mark 15:31-32 Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”

Yet the taunts of the priests are like a knife to his heart, because he knows that they will suffer greatly for what they do, and they don’t have to —if they had only listened and believed. They were the first ones to be shown the truth; from the prophets, to his visit to the temple as a boy, and his many visits to the temple. God was speaking, and they were scheming.

He looks at the gathered crowd; he sees the faces in the crowd, and he sees into their hearts.

He sees the angry man who just lost all he owned to a crooked steward. He sees the hurting woman who just lost a baby girl to sickness and is despairing beyond words. He sees the horrified child peering out from behind his father. He sees the disappointed rabbi who really believed that he could be the Messiah, but is now angry that he was apparently duped—yet again.

Their taunts and jeers, rage fueled by disappointment and hopelessness, tears at his heart.

He sees the women who followed and cared for him looking on from a distance, horrified and confused. Their faces a mask of disbelief and pain as they weep into their hands and try in vain to comfort one another. He aches to be able to comfort them and tell them to not give up hope, ‘this is not the end’—but he knows that all they can see and hear now is death and despair.

Then he sees a sight that horrifies him more than all the rest—his mother, Mary,  standing next to his good friend and devoted follower—John. She desperately reaches out to him but is held back by John and the gleaming points of Roman spears.

The pain and anguish he sees in her eyes as they search his for some kind of answer, is another knife in his already aching and straining heart. “Mother,” he croaks between labored breathes “behold your son” referring to John. He then admonishes John —’this is now your mother’–care for her.

Everywhere he looks he sees and hears human pain, anguish, anger, fear and rage. All directed at, and magnified by his body pinned to this pagan cross.

But through it all, through the pain induced haze that causes his eyes to dim and nearly black out at times, through the taunts, cries and jeers, he still has a strength and a measure of peace; a strength and a peace that has been with him through all the years of his ministry, a presence he felt even as a child and recognized as a presence that he had known even long before that—a presence and oneness that had been his for eternity past—it was the presence of his Father.

His Father’s Will

He knows he has to do this. He knows the prophecies and the promises, that he is the promised one, the suffering servant, the seed of Evethe Lamb of God, he knows he is in his Father’s will. And that is what gave him the strength and the will to face this day in the first place, to come back to this city knowing it would be his end.

His cousin John had confirmed his mission at his Baptism—”Behold the Lamb, who takes away the sin of the world” and his Father had sent his Spirit to affirm and empower him in his human and frail form. But what happens now, as he hangs there on that fated cross, he is not prepared for.

Although he knew it had to happen, there was just no way of being prepared for it—the Holy one, the one through whom, for whom, and by whom, all things were created—he who knew no sin, had no way to comprehend, or scale by which to measure, the darkness that He was about to become—in the eyes of his Father.

And he feels the darkness as much as sees it approach.

He turns his eyes heavenward as the bright sun that had earlier tormented him now inexplicably dims until he can see nothing, not with his eyes—but his heart and soul are witnessing things he had never been forced to look upon before, he is feeling things he had never felt, and hearing voices of pain, vileness, condemnation and curses in his head that drown out and overshadow the mocking voices and the angry and anguished cries that have besieged him all day.

But then, the worst pain of all—the heart ripping, spirit killing, bone chilling feeling of sudden emptiness, scorn and abandonment, as all things good, all things right, his very sense of self and his very identity is suddenly ripped away—his Father has turned away—all of heaven, has turned away.

He has become sin, he has become darkness, he has become death. He is totally and utterly alone as all the heinous and vile things mankind has ever done or imagined doing is now in him. He is living it, breathing it, it is emanating from his very pores like the blood he had sweated out just the night before as he anticipated this moment.

He who knew no sin—has become sin. And his Father has forsaken him for it.

He looks down for a moment, forced back into the present by the painful reality of having to pull himself up against the nails just to take a breath as the pressure on his hanging torso makes it impossible to breath normally, and he sees, in the light of a few hastily acquired torches, the faces of his sheep—the ones he has promised to shepherd even if he has to go looking for them, and he knows—he knows, a sense from somewhere deep in his tortured core, that he has to endure this—for them.

But the anxiety, the rising feeling of panic, the bottomless pit of despair that has taken the place of the fullness and love he had always sensed from his Father is almost more than he can bear, and before he even realizes he has decided to speak, the anguished words of his ancestor King David are ripped from his cracked and bleeding lips—spoken in the language he learned at his mother’s knees “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” — “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

And still, the darkness grips him. He vaguely sees a sponge lifted before his face, he smells the sour smell of wine but it is soon withdrawn as those below shout something about Elijah.

He sees in his minds eye the brief image of Elijah as he was on the day that he and Moses had come to prepare him for this day, on the mount of transfiguration. And he is reassured just a bit, just enough to keep him from cursing the day he was born into this vile planet.

And he continues to fight to remember why he is here. To bleed for the sins which continue to course through him, and he understands the darkness of the sun. The Father had turned away from the sin he has become and the light of the world has departed, the Father has looked away and the Life and the Light of men is being extinguished.

Then suddenly, it is done. Three hours of torturous outer darkness separated from the love that is his Father, eons of compiled sin—blasphemies, perversions, murders, greed, vile and heinous acts of every nature, all crammed into the longest three hours ever lived by anyone on this earth—has ended.

He is still on the cross, he is still bleeding and fighting for every breath, still racked with pain and heartbroken for those he loves—but he sees the sun began to shine again and he hears the voice of his Father as coming from a distant place, and it whispers—it is finished.

‘It is finished Son’— words that Jesus quietly repeats. He looks down and sees the wide eyes and expectant faces of the now silent crowd and he knows that he has completed his mission. He senses his Father drawing nearer and he cries out— a cry of triumph mixed with pain and fury as from a warrior who has vanquished his foes yet still bleeds from the fight that was fueled by a need to finally and utterly destroy the enemy.

The body still wants to fight, his muscles quiver with the effort and his mind races with the implications of it all but he knows he is finished—for now. There is nothing left to do here and he releases himself from his battered flesh, he gives up his spirit, with the words, “Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit.”  

 He is leaving his battered body behind, the shell of the man he had become for thirty three years, but he knows he will return because he knows he has defeated death on that Roman cross—no one else knows it yet—but they will—soon, very soon.

 Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid. Mark 15:46-47

Heart Love

This wordless expression of love had to have been a gift that Jesus’ heart desperately needed as he was about to face his final rejection—alone.

We can probably assume that because of the very similar recounting of the story of anointing in the gospel of John that this woman is Mary of Bethany—Lazarus’ and Martha’s sister. The  Mary who had so controversially sat at Jesus’ feet to listen as her sister served, and who would later see her brother raised from the dead. She certainly has reason to be grateful, but more than that, she has allowed herself to be changed, change by love deep in her core.

What we see here is an act of pure unselfish love and devotion as she pours out on Jesus what would have been a very expensive, rare and special jar of ointment called spikenard. Probably brought there all the way from India by camel caravan along the infamous Silk road.

It may have even been an heirloom. But Mary, despite what others may think, or the cost to her, breaks the neck of the costly and beautiful flask, hand carved from alabaster, and pours it on the head— and according to John’s gospel—even the feet of Jesus, and then wipes it in with her hair. Quite unbecoming really, especially for a young woman from a respected household.

But she did not care what others thought, how they would respond. She was not just pouring out scented oil—she was pouring out her heart. She desperately wanted to pour out her heart, to express her barely contained love for this Messiah, and this was the most lavish and sincere way she could think of to do that.

And her heart won the day; her heart was listening to the Spirit and her mind came in line and complied.

And she was derided for it by those who saw with their eyes but not with their hearts. But she was blessed by the one who mattered, the one who saw her heart—Jesus.

It would probably be the only true and pure expression of love and devotion he would receive that entire tumultuous last week of his life. It had to have been a gift that his heart desperately needed as he was about to face his final rejection—alone.

No words

And this love was expressed without a single word spoken. Words are necessary, yes, but they are but a trigger and a reminder of what cannot truly be expressed by mere words.

Love is felt, not heard. Best expressed with the eyes—through which one can see into the soul. It is best received with a look or a touch when the words cannot come because the feeling is too deep. The deepest and truest expressions of love are communicated heart to heart. That’s what Mary was doing here for Jesus.

You all know that look, that feeling, the depth of emotion and conviction that can only pass between a husband and wife, a child and a parent or grandparent, between brothers and sisters in the Lord—those who share a common heart, a like mind and a spiritual bond—when there is something powerful between you that no one else can understand or know but the two who share it.

It’s a love that finds its origins in our God. And it is the love he has for us, the look he has in his eyes when he sees us, if we’ll only take the time to look back at him and respond with our hearts and not just our heads and lips.

26 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8

Because if we don’t connect on a heart and soul level with Jesus, we’re missing the whole point and our responses will be way off target.

She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” Mark 14

Because Mary followed her heart and did what she could. Because she did not let her head get in the way as some of the men were doing, and convince herself that this would be an extravagant and foolish waste that really accomplished nothing but making Jesus smell good for a while, embarrassing herself in the process—her mind knew it was a big gamble—because of this, she was fulfilling a prophetic and important act that no one could possibly know the significance of but Jesus.

She was anointing him for his burial a day or two later. And giving him what would be the last and only sincere measure of comfort and assurance he would receive at the hands of another human before his brutal arrest and execution.

Because Mary listened to her spirit and allowed herself to know the truth, she was moving in the prophetic without saying a word. Think about that… next time you are moved to act on something the head doesn’t understand.

This seemingly insignificant act of foolish waste was an anathema to the well versed chosen twelve. But Mary was one who knew what was important. She knew when it was time to talk and time to listen. She knew when it was time to work and time to sit. She was the one who was chided by her sister Martha for sitting at Jesus’ feet listening, while Mary fretted about the work to be done.

Mary was the one who unashamedly and passionately threw herself, weeping at Jesus feet, laying it all out there;  “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died!”

In that moment, hers was a broken, passionate and honest heart that moved Jesus to share in her grief and would spur him on to do his greatest miracle yet—raising a man long dead and buried from the grave.

Mary knew when it was time to connect with her Lord. And this day in the house of Simon the leper, was one of those times—not for her, not for her brother, but for her Lord—they both needed this.

We could all learn a valuable lesson here. If our relationship and time spend seeking and being with our Lord is always to see what we can get—then it is not a true heart response to the love we are so freely given. And it is not a response that is influenced or inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Everything Jesus says, is and does points to one thing–He loves you, right now, just as you are..

And when you realize it—when you understand and open the eyes of your heart to see that Jesus is ever standing before you beckoning you come, cheering you on, praying for you, holding your hand and always teaching you things that will make you wiser, stronger and prepared for the challenges to come in the courtyards of the priests, in the quiet moments when the enemy tries to whisper that you need to take things into your own hands because this Jesus and Holy Spirit stuff is just whatever—you fill in the blanks—when you recognize the love in the eyes that are looking at you from within your very heart—then you will respond like Mary did, and you will finally know what it truly means to be loved.

On the Mountain part 2

And now, here we are, on the doorstep of another year—wondering, praying and hoping that the new year is better then the old, forgetting that we can only live one day at a time anyway and that every one of those days is a gift from our creator until the day when we step into eternity, where a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years is as a day. Where we will be reunited with those who have gone before us, as has been the way of man since the beginning— pandemic or no pandemic.

So, since we insist on looking at individual years as somehow being a cohesive and cosmically manipulative unit—what do suppose the new one holds for us? I can just about guarantee you it will have plenty of both—mountaintops and valleys. The real question is; what are you going to do in those valleys?

We have all echoed the cry of the frightened father as he helplessly watches his son being tormented by evil—“Lord, I don’t know how you can fix this but I want to believe that you can! Have mercy!”

Yellowstone Park Dan Swaningson

We all believe. But when the valleys seem darkest, it’s hard sometimes to feel like you have enough faith to get out. And that’s when we can count of the faithfulness of our God.

I have prayed that prayer many times for myself—”Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief!” and the valleys are suddenly not so dark.

But you know, there are no true valleys for those who believe because Jesus is with us no matter the elevation or the obstacles in the path. Some places are just more challenging than others. Each day is what you make it. And if you pay attention, sometimes the valleys are the places where the real learning happens, where you truly see God at work.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the valleys, the low swampy parts of the valleys it would seem, and I have to be honest—2020 was not a valley for me, compared to some. And because I spent the year or two previously, fighting my way through some pretty dark valleys, seeing the enemy wreak havoc and attack my family and my church—if you think you know me—I can guarantee you, you do not know even a half of it. 2020 was a victory dance in comparison.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

But the lessons I learned and the bonds that were forged in those fires are priceless, indestructible—and eternal.

49 “For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. 50 Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.” Mark 9

And I am stronger and more appreciative of every day the sun rises and I am still walking with my Lord no matter what happens, because my God has proven himself faithful and present time and again. And that’s all I really need—Jesus.

Anything and everything else good in my life is just a bonus that I am immensely grateful for. Even the scars and aches are just reminders of battles I’ve survived.

Chrome

Jesus is Lord.

This is what you need to know, nothing else matters, all else is rubbish and just confusion if you do not know and believe in the Christ as presented and proclaimed in the gospel accounts, you are powerless, all show and no go. But in him, we are mighty!

Jesus was pretty controversial in his day–as he still is.

“What is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 And immediately His fame spread throughout all the region around Galilee. Mark 1:27,28

This was no new Doctrine, this was the word of God incarnate. And his fame now knows no bounds, so long as his story continues to be told. In this troubled day, that message must be loud and clear.

And all the unclean spirits say —bummer dude!

Chrome

And there are a lot of unclean spirits in our lives and in our world that need dealt with, aren’t there? That’s why we need to Gospel, why the simple gospel of Jesus Christ must always be front and center in his church and the core of our witness to the world.

All else is just chrome and paint, it’s what’s under the hood that gets us to the finish line. People are popping the hoods to many churches, and of their own lives, and finding there was nothing under the hood but an old dusty Chilton’s Manuel that says place engine here. Or they see an engine that is just collecting spider webs and mouse nests because it hasn’t run in years.

I bought my first car when I was 16. A 1960 Chevy Belair. A big blue beautiful piece of molded Detroit steel all highlighted with chrome, real chrome, not the phony stuff that flakes off the plastic grills of todays cars. It had a 350 engine under the hood that the guy I bought it from had just put in it.

I think I paid about $100 bucks for it. In 1978 when minimum wage was $2.30 an hour, that was a lot of money. It was a great car. I towed it home and put it the field behind my folks house where it sat until I hauled it to the junk yard a year or two later.

You see, the engine was not hooked up, it had just been dropped in there and bolted down. I knew nothing about what it took to install a new engine in a car. I washed it, polished the chrome, bought a bunch of wire to maybe start wiring it—but I never heard it run. When I bought it the guy I bought it from promised me he would help me get it going, but he moved out of town after only spending an hour or so under the hood with me.

I ended up buying a beat up ’68 Delmont 88 with a 455 that ran like a top, and finally had to get rid of the shiny Chevy because the landlord was complaining. I basically got scrap metal prices for it because I didn’t even have a title—$30—which was what it had cost me to rent the tow bar to get it there.

No doubt somewhere in some classic car show my Belair lives on because I can’t imagine that this savvy junk yard dealer just crushed it. I kind of hope someone got it, it deserved a reset. But back then, it was just an old car cluttering up the neighborhood.

Dare I go there?

How many churches are just cluttering up the neighborhoods, all chrome on the outside but no life inside where it matters. They’re not going anywhere. I used to sit in that old car and dream of driving it. It actually had electric seats and windows and if I charged the battery they would work, for a little while. But it never roared to life—it was dead. All show and no go.

No road trips for me.

Reset

Last week we talked about the reset God is doing with his church. In the gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, is the reset story. The reset button between the Old and New Covenant, between fables and faith, between truth and pop psychology, between chrome and actual internal combustion.

In this season of reset for the church as all the chaff and trappings of religiosity are being stripped away, as the business of religion is going bust, glitzy halls of production stand empty, and all the crowd demanded programs cancelled, what is left standing is the word of God, the truth of the gospel message and the power behind it to heal, restore, and change lives forever.

That’s what we find in the Gospels. The beginning of wisdom, the final victory, the only thing that truly matters and will never fail. Jesus Christ as Lord. —The words of life, the words of truth.

If we want to be mighty for God, a mighty warrior, mighty in the Kingdom— putting the enemy to flight, wrongs to right, and bringing healing to the flesh and the soul, we must accept what Jesus offers and live as he lived; Spirit filled, prayerful–guided, emboldened and protected by the living word.

In the first chapter of Mark, which I will be teaching through for the nest several weeks, Jesus is filled with the Holy Spirit and immediately he follows the Spirit’s leading and go to fast and pray in the wilderness for forty days. He does battle with the enemy in those wilderness days and withstands him with the word, as we know from the other gospels.

Mark doesn’t record that, perhaps because he knows the temptations and the battle would continue until the final victory when Jesus walked out if the tomb three years later. His mission accomplished, his road trip completed.

He got there because he was Spirit filled, prayed up and he had the word hidden in his heart. He was indeed mighty. In this wilderness test he prevailed and  because of his faithfulness he was protected from the wild beasts and cared for by angels.

If you’ve ever spent any amount of time, especially alone, in the wilderness around here (Montana) you know how vulnerable you are to wild beasts. Bears, mountain lions, wolves, moose, badgers, snakes, Big foots, the Little people—don’t laugh, we’ve all heard stories or had experiences, there’s some weird stuff out there in our wilderness.

There’s even wild beasts that threaten us in our towns anymore, and the smallest one of all that has everyone hiding—viruses. We all need and must contend for protection, being mighty is of little avail if we live in fear and can be taken out by any mindless or malevolent beasts out there.

The point is, God protects those who are faithful and trust in him. We too can be mighty. There is no greater witness of God’s power and love than his willingness to heal. The healed will follow and serve him, knowing that there is indeed power under the hood, it’s not just promises and show.

The mighty pray for the sick and contend and believe for healing, they don’t shun them and hide from them or just mourn their demise

They bring their message to the streets, they drive their Chevies to the dry levies proclaiming that they know where to find the water that never runs out. They proclaim the message of the gospel.

Jesus’s message was simple, hear the good news I am bringing, believe it and turn away from your sin and follow me.

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Shamed Into Submission

We who love the Lord are the temple of God. Living stones built upon the chief cornerstone- the Nazarene, rejected and despised, Jesus the Christ.

The enemy of our souls knows that nothing knocks down a spiritual house quicker than shame. We are the living stones that God is building his spiritual house with, his dwelling place here on the earth. And the enemy is doubling and tripling down on his efforts to destroy that house, to destroy us, through several tactics, but perhaps most effectively recently, through shame.

The spirit of God lives among the dark and lost souls of this world through us, and the devil cannot abide that. This is his world to destroy and mankind is his to toy with and destroy as well—and we keep messing it up with this gospel business.

And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame. The enemy is using shame right now to silence God’s people. He has done it for years on a personal level. Convincing believers that they are unworthy and that God is displeased with them so they have no right to speak out for God.

But now he is doing it on a societal level, convincing the world, and us, that what we believe and hold dear is bigoted, racist, homophobic, hateful and outdated—and even if they cannot convince us that what we hold to be true by God’s word is wrong–because we know that, according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, that Jesus loves and died for all men and women— then he makes us ashamed to speak out.

They throw the sins of the past or the shortcomings of others who called themselves Christian in our faces– or give no reason at all. Too many have succumbed to their tactics– we’re just wrong and need to shut up unless it’s to accept their premise, mouth their mantras, and beg forgiveness.

If we aren’t ashamed, then we are afraid. And if you boil it down, our fear is based on shame. Because if you truly believed in the principles set forth by God and the message of the gospels of Jesus Christ, then fear could not stop you from speaking truth, from speaking with a wisdom given you by the Holy Spirit himself. From putting to shame those who oppose you.

If you are in Christ Jesus, Spirit filled, operating in the gifts and living the fruits of the Spirit—if you are going to the word of God and drinking of the pure milk, then there is no condemnation, no accusation, no charge that can stick to you in the heavenly court room.

If you abide in the word of God you are not a racist, you do not hate anyone, you do not have to apologize to anyone simply for being the color that God made you to be and you do not think less of anyone else for being the color that God made them to be.

You do not kneel to, or for, anyone but Jesus Christ and you are never ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God for the salvation of your soul.

And one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. We will not and must not be shamed into silence because to not speak truth is to allow the enemy to win, and Satan’s idea of victory is destroy to all those who are created in God’s image.

We have the words of life, we have the keys to the kingdom and we shall overcome.

Never forget who you are, there is no shame in the Kingdom of God among those who walk in the light.

Do not let anyone keep you from proclaiming the praises of our God and do not let anyone keep you away from the word of God, from the pure spiritual milk that you and all people need. (1 Peter 2:1-3)

I used to raise beef cattle (see my last blog) and occasionally I would have a cow who would reject her calf, kicking her off when she would go for the milk it knew it needed to survive. In that case I would bottle feed the calf or graft it to another, more accommodating cow.

You know what happens to cows that reject their calves and don’t let them get to the milk , who kick the calves away when they try to nurse? They go to town and end up at McDonalds, not for lunch—as lunch.

Jesus is a stumbling stone and an offense to those who refuse to listen to truth.

Let people be offended by you all they want, you are building on the Rock and you will be the one left standing when the Rock returns to crush his enemies.

The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone’?

18 Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” —Jesus

Luke 20:17—18

That my friends, is true justice.

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The Pure Milk

Instinct

One of the things I miss most about not ranching anymore is the adventure of calving. It can be one of the most challenging and stressful times in a ranch operation but also the most rewarding because, that is after all, the whole reason that you do what you do as a rancher—to bring those calves into the world to either sell in the fall, or use to build the herd that your whole operation and much of your life is centered around.

But each calve that hits the ground on your ranch is more than just a paycheck, it is a miracle—another life, vibrant, warm and curious, looking at the new world with big dark eyes, and within minutes struggling to stand up and get on with the business of life.

The most fond memories to me to me are of the ones who came in the middle of the coldest and darkest nights. Memorable because I had a nice cozy barn where I could get them in if I knew a cow was about to calve. I would herd an imminent mother into a stall where there was warm straw on the ground and enough light that I could keep an eye on them.

No matter the weather or the lateness of the hour it always seemed warm and safe in the barn. There is just no way to describe the feeling of being alone in the quiet of a barn in the night with an animal who trusts no other human in the world besides you.

To either witness and assist, as in the case of a heifer having her first calve, or to find the new born calve of a seasoned cow struggling to it’s feet shortly after being born, it’s always wonderful and amazing to behold.

One of the things that never ceased to amaze me about the whole calving scenario, and to me speaks volumes to the undeniable fact that there has to be a creator, is the fact that every calf within minutes of hitting the ground knows where to find the milk.

Think of it. Here is a calf who has just seen the world for the first time, has no experience in anything whatsoever except being shoved through a tight dark tunnel and dropped unceremoniously onto the cold hard ground in a heap of slime that moments earlier had been it’s whole world, it gets licked off by this giant four legged creature with a familiar sounding moo.

And the next thing you know it is pushing its hind end up on wobbly legs followed by first one, then two front legs, being perfectly placed under the front shoulders to push the calf up the rest of the way. And what is the first thing it does? From there it could go in any direction or no direction at all. It could fall down and decide it’s just too much work to do any more.

But no, it heads straight for the tiny little space just under the belly of the giant creature standing nearby, and latches onto the even tinier little spigot tucked underneath and makes the prefect sucking motion with its never before used mouth to get the pure milk that will give it everything it needs to keep it alive and strong for the next few hours, and will sustain it for the next several months as it grows by several hundred pounds.

You can’t tell me that that little pea brained calf who doesn’t know a barb wire fence from a chokecherry bush, or an ice cold creek from a bed of straw at that point, yet knows exactly where to go for it’s first meal, was not given that knowledge by the God who designed and created her.

How about you? With all your vast knowledge and life experience, do you know where to go for milk? Is that calf smarter, more blessed than you? You know where to go, you just have to guard your heart against thinking that you have had enough or that there are other things that will help you more.

There is not.

The calf, knows right where to go, if it doesn’t—it dies.

And once that calf starts in on that milk, I have seen it happen again and again, you can see the energy start to flow through and into the body of that calf, the life giving colostrum rich milk warming from head to toe, the nutrients and antibodies surging into and through the blood stream and affecting and protecting every cell of it’s being.

You can see the lights coming on in the glazed and dazed eyes as they start to shine with life and the sucking becomes more voracious, the head starting to butt the bag above it, stimulating even more milk to be dropped down into the milk filled bag that will be her sole source of life for a good long time.

And she will come back again and again, each time more aggressive and needing more and more—”Milk, I need, I want, milk! I have tasted and seen that the milk is good and I need nothing more!”

That’s what Peter is telling us here. If you have tasted the pure unadulterated and unaltered milk of the word of God, been given life itself, you should want nothing more than to keep coming back to it for more nourishment, so that you can grow thereby.

The pure milk of the word that has given you life, pulled you from darkness to light, death to life, has to be—and this should not even be a question or something you need to be reminded of—your continuing source for strength, for healing nutrients and immunities.

As long as I have walked with the Lord it has continued to baffle me how a person can receive Jesus, be born anew, forgiven and regenerated, and not absolutely fall in love with the word of God and desire more and more of it.

As long as we walk this earth we are still growing and maturing in the Lord and we must keep going back to the place our hearts just instinctly know it must go, to find what you need to sustain that new life.  If not, perhaps you heard the wrong gospel and never truly tasted that the Lord is gracious. — IF indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious -Peter says.

There are a lot of false or incomplete gospels out there.

What is the gospel? It is as follows:

Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs . . . you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. . . .

36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”. . .

38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” -Acts 2

That’s the gospel, direct from the Holy Spirit through the lips of Peter mere moments after the church was born on the day of Pentecost . The pure gospel.  That is the pure milk of the word of God. That’s the colostrum that gives you life and delivers you from the old world of darkness and ignorance to the world of light and enlightenment. You want to be woke, live in and for the word of God.

All else is rubbish.

And that is the message the world has and is rejecting and why this world is such a mess. And the world, who has not left the womb of ignorance and darkness, is now trying to shame us into turning away from the pure milk of the word.

They are not just rejecting us, they are not just rejecting the word of God, they are rejecting the Lord himself, the precious living cornerstone.

But we who do believe, who do not reject the truth will by no means be put to shame.

As The Tongue Goes -part II

You will not dictate what I say, and you will not dictate what I cannot say.”

The message of freedom that has kept this country so, has traditionally been propagated by preachers. We must not shirk that responsibility- that must include all believers in these dark days of increasing threat to freedom.

Jesus once said “If the Son sets you free, you shall be free indeed.”  That is the very heart of the gospel and teachers have a sacred to be true to that. That too is a huge responsibility and we must be thankful for and protective of the freedom to do just that.

James tells us that those who endeavor to preach the gospel, to teach the word of God are held up to a higher standard by God—and God alone. We can allow no man, woman, or government official to dictate what and how that message is preached and only the bravest and truest messengers for God will be unyielding and uncompromising in that sacred duty.

But, James warns us, mistakes will be made. So those who listen must listen closely and even choose to listen to another if it is determined that the one preaching is no longer listening to nor being faithful to the word and the Spirit. But know that we will all stumble so give us some grace.

But the point is, the freedom to preach, teach—and stumble is a right and a privilege that comes from God alone and must be protected and cherished so long as there are people on this earth who call themselves free. And the freedom for all to speak their mind while respecting the rights of others to do the same, no matter how vehemently we disagree, is just as vital.

Once you start outlawing speech, subject it to the lawmakers, and the elites, only the ones holding the power will be free—and even those will fall prey to their own convoluted premises in the end.

We have been blessed to be part of this grand experiment called the Land of the Free where all are supposed to be equal and to have a voice.

It is our constant fight to perfect and adhere to that principle that has made this a good place to live. God honors that desire to be a society where all can speak their conscience in regards to their conviction and religion. That’s what has made this nation largely a good and blessed land.

Canceled

And now we are cancelling ourselves. Ironic that we find ourselves in a time when we have chosen to take that right of free speech away from ourselves, or allowed others to take it from us, without hardly a fight. If not in law certainly in our popular culture.

The—me too, no wait, not you! —those words offend me, cancel culture full of imaginary racist dog whistles and micro-aggressions—ever changing rulebook of what is acceptable and what is not according to the self-appointed dictators of speech and behavior has become impossible to keep up with. And those who beat us over the heads with it would all be laughable in their absurdity if they were not literally destroying the lives of so many people whose only crime was thinking they still possessed the right of free speech.

It seems the only truly free speech anymore is that being exercised by those who wish to destroy everyone who has a viewpoint that goes counter to their own as deemed appropriate by the whims of the day. We have turned into a nation of verbal cannibals. It’s disturbing and dangerous beyond measure and we have example after example in recent history of how this ultimately ends; Lenin, Mao Stalin, Hitler, Kim, Castro—but alas, the safe zone dwelling destroyers of free and diverse thought and speech have destroyed and rewritten history so– doubtless we have to repeat it all over again.

Hell Fire

As the tongue goes, so goes the body.

With our tongue we can destroy the created and good order of things and turn it into just another vestige of Hell.

That’s some pretty heavy stuff James is laying down here. Maybe we ought to pay attention. The loudest voices in our nation right now are not speaking out of love, heaven is not being represented in our public discourse and society altering articulated hate is ruling the day and it is destroying us.

Just the sheer vulgarity of it all should make that obvious to any decent person. But decent people are not cool any more are they? They don’t get the news coverage and the viral video status our narcissistic society craves.

Demonic hatred and vileness rules the day; always offended, always indignant, always angry, always looking for something or someone to destroy. It’s doing nothing but turning us against one another.

We can change that, and we must. How? By speaking truth, by speaking love and by speaking boldly. And really, that is what James is telling us here. It starts with us, your heart and your tongue. Honestly—your own tongue is the only one you can and should control, or at least try to. Most people have stopped trying. They are letting anything and everything fly out of their mouths. Or they are letting others dictate what they speak—or don’t speak.

We as believers cannot be that way. You will not dictate what I say, and you will not dictate what I cannot say. We cannot make people listen to us nor should we. You have the right to not hear me just as I have the right to speak. That right to not hear is practiced by removing yourself from the speaker, not by silencing the speaker. That is where we are getting it wrong today.

The enemy is not happy with just turning people away from the church. He wants to silence the church, he wants to silence you. And he is succeeding—little by little over the decades and by leaps and bounds of late.

There are mayors of large cites and governors of entire states who have openly declared that they do not want churches to be open and have threatened to arrest those who go, and even to destroy the buildings. We are under assault people. But, we have to power to reclaim what was lost or to destroy what is left. And that power is in our tongues and ultimately only we can reclaim what our tongues allowed us to lose.

We have to speak up, we have to speak out, we have to pray, and we have to teach the next generation what freedom truly means. I have to wonder where my generation went so wrong that the next generation no longer knows the value of freedom let alone care about it.

We must recognize that God has given us a mighty tool, or weapon, depending on how you choose to wield it, and ultimately, cancel culture, 1st amendment or any other outside influence notwithstanding, we get to choose in the end the words we use.

And those words affect who we are, and according to James, they are who we are.

As the tongue goes, so goes the body, and ultimately, the nation.

I’m sorry, I usually try to be more positive with these posts, but I am scared to death for this nation and I really think we are running out of time to save it. I’ll just say this before I close—pray for this nation, pray for yourselves, and vote.

Vote for those who fight to defend your freedoms. Once they are gone we will not get them back, there will be no America out there to rescue us.

It was only 80 years ago that churches in Nazi Germany replaced the crosses on their altars with swastikas and remained silent as their neighbors were systematically slaughtered, because they dared not speak up or speak out. America freed them and woke them up, at great cost in blood and treasure. Who will help America?

God help us before it’s too late—for our sake and for the world.

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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.