Whatever Happened to Hell?

“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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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

Teach Truth

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

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

Teach Truth

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

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

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

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

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

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

Right is wrong

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

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

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

I will speak

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

sound doctrine

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

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

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

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

Be that warrior, you are God’s chosen.

Eph 6 memeBarbarians in the Kingdom by Dan Swaningson

 

I am Xander (Still the Voices)

I am the one who hears the one.

Slide1

 

Jesus drew crowds, yet he always saw the one hurting face in the crowd who needed him. This often got him into trouble.

Jesus was always stopping to pick up the broken pieces of humanity that most deemed unworthy of their trouble. Eventually it would be one of his own followers who would turn against him for this as Judas wanted a populist revolution, and he wanted it now. While the Pharisee’s and religious leaders only saw that the ones he seemed to stoop over to help up were the very ones they had kicked aside.

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I say to you that likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15

Indulge me a bit here as I take a little creative license and get into the head of one of those lost lambs that Jesus had come to save.

Slide2

My name is Xander and I was born in a large city east of the Jordan river. My father was a silver smith who made his fortunes making idols for wealthy clients, little figurines of the many and varied gods that the Greeks had worshiped for millennia.

He was not a kind nor caring man, all he cared about was his silver. His clients were not kind either and the people, having been influenced greatly by the Greek culture brought here by Alexander the Great long ago were a perverse and gregarious lot. My childhood innocence was short lived as I sometimes found myself left alone now and then with one of my father’s clients who abused me in ways I had no words to describe even if anyone did care to hear—no one did.

Early in my teen years I left my father’s home and never looked back. I went North to one of the nearby cities of Decapolis and lived by my wits with other rogues and scam artists on the streets. We survived and the thrill of taking from others, whether it be with our rigged shell games or bogus fortune telling booths, was always a great source of stories as we spent the nights drinking away our ill-gotten coin.

But eventually this life started to seem more and more empty and pointless. There was a restlessness in me that I could not contain, a stirring to find deeper meaning and purpose to my messed up life. I swore I would never have anything to do with the gods my father had exploited as he made his all-consuming wealth by casting their images but there was a temple in this city by the shore that beckoned me—it was the temple of Poseidon, a sea God.Difference-between-Neptune-and-Poseidon2

I went to the temple and was met by a priest who led me inside to worship at the feet of the imposing figure standing within, a bearded giant holding a large fishing trident. This figure, and the feeling of power that the magnificence of this place instilled in me, made me believe that I had found my answer, surely this was a god  that I could relate to.

 

The priest told me that if I placed a silver coin at his feet and prayed the incantation that he revealed to me, my prayers for purpose and guidance would be heard. I did as he instructed. As I lay there prone on the floor before this image I felt a coldness creep into the back of my neck and into my core and I began to hear a voice. It was disconcerting at first but the voice assured me that there were great things in store if I obeyed.

I left there and rejoined my friends but I was a different person; still troubled but no longer alone. The voices guided me and I became the greatest street magician on the plaza and was soon the envy of all my peers. But soon the voices started telling me to do things that seemed just wrong, even for a rogue like me. And they got worse every day until one day I hurt someone in the same way I had been hurt as a child, but this time I was not unseen—everyone was soon shouting for my arrest.

Slide3

They seized me as I struggled, they threw me into an underground cell and chained me. But in that dark hole the darkness inside me grew stronger and eventually I broke my chains, beat my guards senseless and ran—I ran to the seashore, to be close to the home of my god. The only shelter I could find there, the only place I could be away from the others was among the tombs of the dead.

And I lived there for years, taunted by the voices night and day. They were no longer my friends, but now they were my tormentors, telling me night and day that I was not fit to live and driving me to attack all who dared come near and to even hurt myself, cutting myself with sharp stones just to watch the blood flow and to punish myself for being so evil. Strangely I relished the pain because it offered temporary distraction from the pain within.

Slide4

Anointed One

Then one day I found an inscription on one of the tombs in the small Jewish quarter of this graveyard. Chiseled in the stone at the entrance to the tomb were the words:

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The words were ascribed to a prophet named Isaiah. (Isaiah 61)

I didn’t know who this Isaiah was or who this Lord was. But I had heard that there was a great temple built to him in Jerusalem. But that may as well have been a million miles away from me. The voices in my head and the people of the city would not let me leave the tombs where I lived on fish heads left behind by fisherman and whatever I could steal from the occasional merchant who dared land here unguarded.

But these words on this stone about this anointed Lord, they somehow comforted me and I took to sleeping in the mouth of this tomb. The voices seemed to leave me alone when I was there and I even started to pray to this unknown Lord as best I could as I had no idea what he demanded of his followers, only that I wanted the liberty and healing those words promised.

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The he came, the one from across the sea.

It had been a fitful night. I had dreamed of a great storm at sea with great waves pounding a fishing vessel while lightning bolts crashed all around it as though just taunting the fisherman aboard who dared sail into the night. I saw the spiteful god Poseidon rising above the boat and thrusting his razor sharp trident at the hapless boat and heard the laughter of the voices in my head as they shrieked Kill them, kill the anointed one!  

Then I heard the words, “Peace, be still!” And I awoke with a start as I heard one last great thunderclap in the distant west over from the direction of the sea carried to me by a powerful wind—and then silence, no more thunder, no more wind—and a strange gasp from the voices within.

I spent the rest of the night awake, pondering those words, “Peace be still.” Then, with the sunrise I saw them, the fishermen from my dream and one who stood among them who seemed somehow separate from them.

He didn’t look much different from the countless other fisher and tradesman who had come across Poseidon’s sea, those who survived his storms were usually quick to get ashore and to hurry into the town. Those who didn’t were fair game to the voices in my head who drove me to attack them. But this group was different, they had no goods nor any fish and they seemed unsure of where they were going, except for that one—he just looked in my direction like he was expecting something, ‘well, here I am, I’ll show you whose beach this is.’

Grasping the length of chain still dangling from my wrist and swinging it over my head so that it whistled in the wind, a sound I had learned sent terror into the hearts of men, I ran straight at him. Suddenly the voices in my head started screaming, “No!, turn away!” But another voice, this one seeming to come from deeper within, in my heart, said, this is the one you have been looking for, this is the anointed one.

And when I came within striking distance of him I threw myself at his feet and worshiped him suddenly feeling that same peace I felt when I read those mysterious words on the Jewish tomb.

Free

Deliverance

And then all hell broke loose, the voices in my head screaming in terror that this was the Lord using that same odd Jewish name I had seen inscribed on that tomb. From there it was all a blur as it felt like my soul was being rent in two and I hear the anguished cry of demons and pigs squealing. But the next thing I know I am sitting at his feet, no longer bleeding, no longer naked, and he is telling me how much his Father loves me and how he was sent to find his lost lambs, and to set the captives free.

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This man from Galilee who had commanded Poseidon’s waves to be still, had stilled the voices in my head and freed my spirit with a word.

As he prepared to leave I begged him to let me come with him but he told me I had a new purpose now, to tell everyone what the anointed one had done for me.

And I have devoted my life to sharing what the Lord did for me with everyone. And every time I tell the story, the painful days seem farther away. And the one who saved me seems closer.

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Jesus Saw beyond the madness, the nakedness, filth and threats and saw a good heart waiting to be rescued

No one loved him, no one cared a whit about himno one that is, except Jesus. Jesus left the 99 to rescue the one.

Love the one.

Just before Jesus and his handful of followers had gotten into the boat to come to this eastern shore of the sea of Galilee he had been surrounded by hundreds, maybe thousands of adoring followers many of whom were proclaiming that they wanted to follow him, they were as enthusiastic as they come: “Here’s our messiah, here’s our leader—our King.

If nothing else, Jesus had an instant Mega church, all he had to do was pitch a big tent and keep telling them stories to make them feel good about themselves, do a few healings, take an offering and go rent a room at the inn and come back tomorrow, he was set —yet he left them and sailed off to find one man— not even an Israelite— who needed him.

the one xander

For those in ministry it’s easy to get caught up in thinking ‘we have to minister to the crowd’. We measure our success by turning around and counting how many people are following us (that Is if you dared turn your back on them in the first place) and then we plan and scheme, we have meetings and take survey’s; “How can we keep all these people coming back and how do we get more?”

Yet time and again we see Jesus leaving and even discouraging the crowds from following. Jesus wasn’t looking for crowds, Jesus was looking for people. Jesus didn’t hear the clamoring choruses of voices singing or crying out in unison all caught up in the momentum of the emotion or excitement, Jesus heard the silent breaking of hearts, the cries of a man living alone in a graveyard. Jesus heard the desperate plea to a God he wasn’t even sure existed from across a sea.

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In loving the one, you are doing what Jesus did and being obedient to the one command Jesus added, Love one another.

Never grow weary of loving, never stop pursuing the lost, don’t step over the broken pieces of other’s hearts as you go to be with the crowds who seem to have it all together so that you can glean more blessings for yourself.

Pray to see others the way Jesus did, see the ones who are praying to be seen. And in that, find your true purpose and complete your own healing.

If you are that lost lamb, know that you are heard.

 

 

The Dead Ahead II

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It is not your lot in life, nor the Father’s desire for you, to live in fear of harm.

As a man, a husband and a father I consider it my highest calling in life to provide for and to protect my family, to ensure that they are, and feel, secure. I know that not all of you can relate to a father who really cares about your well being—But you indeed have one. We see him personified in Jesus and can know him through his Holy Spirit. It is His desire that you, His child, should not live in fear. that you can rest easy knowing that things are being taken care of by someone who not only cares, but has the power to take care of things in a perfect way.

Get safe

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But—what if you have found yourself saddled with someone who does not care? If you have sailed off to safety with Jesus, away from the dead in your past in that proverbial boat we have been studying, and been met on the opposite shore by the dead and allowed yourself to be deceived by them into trusting them. Like I said last week—If you are not safe, you need to get safe, it is not the will nor the desire of the Lord for you to live in fear or pain, to tolerate or excuse, or to take the blame for someone else’s evil.

You do not deserve to live in pain, you do not deserve to live in fear and if you are now a follower of Jesus—you will recognize that evil just as surely as Jesus did when he confronted the legion of demons who had taken possession of that poor man on the far side of the lake; What is your name?” The demons could not lie to Jesus and had to admit that there were many of them“We are legion” please let us go live with the pigs! How pathetic is that?

“Come out of the man, unclean spirit!” Then He asked him, “What is your name?”

And he answered, saying, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 Also he begged Him earnestly that He would not send them out of the country.

11 Now a large herd of swine was feeding there near the mountains. 12 So all the demons begged Him, saying, “Send us to the swine, that we may enter them.”

Mark 5

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And that didn’t last long, Jesus arranged a little burial at sea.

Once we have buried the dead—silenced the voices, we must not allow the enemy to stand in our way or saddle us with new demons and hurts. Not only must the dead stay buried, we must avoid future ensnarement.

That demon possessed man had come out to meet them. According to Matthew’s telling of this same story, these demons had been harassing and preventing people from passing here for some time now, disrupting people’s plans. But the demons quickly recognized that they were the ones who were about to have their plans changed and their day ruined. When Jesus showed up and their host carried them right into His presence they knew they were in trouble and could only beg for a little reprieve from their ultimate end.

This man had attacked everyone else and beat them mercilessly but he runs to Jesus and worships him. The spark of life, the glimmer of hope still alive in his heart recognized that God had heard his anguished cries and somehow knew his redeemer had come—just for him.

Jesus, nor those who love him are not subject to the whims and wiles of the enemy. The disciples had left the dead to bury the dead and they were not going to get bogged down by the dead ahead.

No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones. Mark 5

Free

No one was strong enough to subdue him, no one that is, except Jesus— with just a word. Everyone else was dealing with the man, binding him and avoiding the spirit, Jesus was dealing with the spirit and freeing the man.

Jesus Saw beyond the madness, the nakedness, filth and threats and saw a good heart waiting to be rescued, a heart that was so tormented and in such pain that he spent his nights crying out alone in the graveyards, who was in such anguish that he cut himself with sharp rocks and was so hopeless and forlorn that he only sought to hurt others while they only sought to bind him and keep him away from them.

No one loved him, no one cared a whit about himno one that is, except Jesus. Jesus left the 99 to rescue the one.

Jesus didn’t just protect the disciples from a demoniac, he delivered the demoniac—a man created in is image—he set him free and cured his heart. Because—Jesus is fiercely protective of his children; all his children.

35 Then they went out to see what had happened, and came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had departed, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. 36 They also who had seen it told them by what means he who had been demon-possessed was healed. Luke 8:35,36

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You are safe with Jesus, there is no need to fear the dead, nor the demons, that taunt from behind and will keep trying to cut you off in your journey with the Savior. Keep pushing forward, keep trusting, be as innocent as lambs and as wily as coyotes and as bold as lions as you traverse the many trails ahead. The road is wide that leads to destruction while the path that leads to salvation is narrow, but it is a path that is well lit and secured by Jesus, the one who will never leave you nor forsake you.

Find your freedom. Embrace the barbarian in you!

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Awaken

Nothing good ever comes after the words, “Here, hold my beer” are uttered.

This will probably not be one of my more popular blogs, but teaching God’s word, despite what many believe, was never meant to be part of a great marketing strategy or an ace in the hole of life’s popularity contest…

A crash course from Ephesians 5

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” Eph 5

It’s time for the church to wake up and start acting like the body of Christ again, to behave like dear children of God. We can no longer get away with claiming ignorance nor act as those who have no power. And we must stop presuming on grace to cover us for sins that we have no intention of even trying to avoid, we all love the grace part of the gospel but forget the repentance part.

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Entertainment focused churches and Christians who seek feel good messages from preachers who speak the empty words that deceive the children of disobedience into believing they are the dear children of God will be exposed as purveyors of half-truths selling ear tickling pop—psychology devoid of all power with no ability to set hearts free and to hold back the darkness.

The time is too short and the days too evil for God to allow that to continue unchallenged. And he challenges us to wake up and stand for truth, to preach the whole gospel and shun the deeds of darkness while claiming the full power of God’s word and Spirit.

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit

Don’t be a fool, redeem the time, and stay sober.

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I have said it before and I will say it again here because it seems the church at large has slipped from total abstinence to total indulgence on this issue. The scripture makes it quite clear in both the Old and New Testaments in story after story, in admonitions, psalms and proverbs and even the example of Jesus that yes, it is okay to drink, but it is not okay to get drunk, nor to be a drunk.

And if you cannot make the distinction or stop the flesh from demanding more than just the occasional cup, then you should not even go there at all. You cannot function in the power of the Holy Spirit while drinking. You cannot be under the influence of a substance and the Holy Spirit at the same time because they are in direct opposition to one another.

That is why Paul ends the Ephesians 5 section of how to walk in love, to be imitators of God, and what the difference between deeds of light and deeds of darkness are with—don’t be drunk with wine.

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King Solomon wrote: “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” And all of these things that we are told not to do, to avoid even the appearance of— fornication, foolish talking, crude jokes and general filthiness—are encouraged in us when we are under the influence of too much drink. If you walk through a prison and ask people if they committed whatever crime they are in there for whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol nearly all of them will say yes.

Nothing good ever comes after the words, “Here, hold my beer” are uttered. You won’t find too many miracles, acts of service or prophetic words in scripture, or anywhere else for that matter, that starts with that phrase.

Hey look! There’s Jesus walking on the water in the storm. Peter, let John hold your wine and come out to me on the waves!” Wait, that didn’t happen.

‘And the disciples were all together in one place and they were all filled with wine and begin to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.’ No, that didn’t happen either, not quite like that.

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It was the Holy Spirit that was poured out on them and they went out from there and kicked the enemies butt and the world is still reeling from this group of Spirit filled believers who became the hands and feet of Jesus and turned the world upside down with his teaching, laying hands on the sick and casting out demons with a word.

Nothing has changed, Jesus hasn’t changed and his word hasn’t changed. “In the last days he will pour out his Spirit.” We are certainly still in those last days, the last days are surely running out and the days becoming more evil.

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Eph 5

Why? Why are the days becoming more evil? Perhaps because the church has fallen asleep, perhaps because the church has taken to drinking too much wine, perhaps because there are too many empty words being preached from the pulpits. Perhaps because the enemy is wide awake and he is fully aware that the day of the Lord is fast approaching and he wants to take us all out with him, suck us into the darkness so that in his demise he can gloat over all the dear children he deceived.

Perhaps it’s all of these things. But we can change the direction, we can redeem the time, if we do indeed wake up and start walking in, praying in, living in the light. Walk circumspectly—that means suspiciously, cautiously, kind of circling around something to make sure it’s safe before we just blunder right into it.

Time to wake up, for the church to rise from the dead and walk in the light.

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God has a plan and a purpose for you and you are here for such a time as this, stay awake and walk in the light. You will never regret it!