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.

The immobile chrome is heading to the junk yard, get that 455 rocket tuned up! https://video.search.yahoo.com/search/video?fr=mcafee&p=455+rocket+song+kathy+mattea#id=1&vid=a4557249fc2bdd6bf59fd474db01b952&action=click

Dry Wells and Tempests

Spiritual discernment is critical in this time of darkness when only the sharpest eyes can see the light.

Not a real happy sounding scripture there is it? You’re probably not going to find that embroidered on a pillow at grandma’s house or on a coffee cup in a gift store.

Don’t you love that phrase—“great swelling words of emptiness.” I’ve sat through a few sermons that could have been entitled that. . . and apparently, so has Peter.

Because if you read today’s chapter in preparation for the message, you know Peter is a little riled up and is apparently taking serious issue, as he ought, with what he calls, along with many other unflattering things, false prophets and teachers

Peter is making no bones about the fact that some among the church are teaching the wrong message. Some things never change…

Wells without water may look good, but they are useless, and clouds that promise rain but only bring wind and dust, are worse than useless, they are dangerous.

People are too easily lured away from the Living Water into what turns out to be a dry oasis. When that happens, they quickly perish, and they won’t even know why. They refuse to understand that the beautiful show being put on all around and above them, promising the life giving rains from the heaven, is only virga—all lights, bluster and shadows—but the rain never reaches them.

False teachers always end up leading others back into bondage, it may be a return to the old bondage, or it may be a new one.

You found Jesus, got set free from sin and shame, forgiven and made alive, but you are lured into new selfish ambitions—your walk becomes a lust for personal gain.

Or, you are given license to indulge the flesh—“go ahead, party hardy, jump into that strange bed, shake that thing—you got it, flaunt it! Focus on your bank account and spend all your time and money pursuing happiness—you deserve it!”But don’t forget to support the teacher who makes you feel so good about yourself, makes you laugh and cry, but never challenges you or leaves you feeling you had a touch from God that you cannot ignore.’

It’s disturbing to me, this seemingly new trend I see in the American church, to use grace as license to sin. If the only difference between the lifestyles of a believer and a nonbeliever, is that one goes to church—once in a while—and one doesn’t, than something is dreadfully wrong.

Drinking, cussing and fornicating on Saturday night and praising Jesus on Sunday morning, does not make you a liberated Christian saved by grace—Hallelujah— it makes you a believer who is still bound up by the sin that you were supposed to have been freed from and perhaps now even worse because you are deceived into thinking that you are free.

I pray Lord that I have not been guilty of that misguided teaching. I have seen way too many people whom I have ministered to over the years, reveling in satisfying their flesh while giving little thought to what it cost Jesus to give them their freedom. And I just shake my head in sadness and ask, “Am I that inept at teaching God’s ways, or are people truly that weak that they would trade the Living Water for empty wells that even those who have never tasted life know cannot satisfy?”

The devil is a wily one and the flesh is incredibly weak.  You have to be constantly seeking truth, constantly going to the source, drinking from the living waters of God’s word, praying in and for the Holy Spirit of God to keep you strong, to keep you free, to satisfy and protect your soul from deceit and despair.

God wants you to be free, and to be safe—it’s called love.

I have a real hard time pretending everything is fine and just patting my adult daughters on the head when I know that something they are doing is wrong and will end up hurting them. Why would our Father God be any different? Unfortunately, some parents just go along to get along with their kids and they end up either spoiled or in serious trouble.

I never stop loving or accepting them, but I am determined to be a light and to share and show the way. The most important thing is to give them the tools to make wise choices as they are growing up. We are all still growing up in the Lord and he is offering us the tools to make wise choices also.

You have to pray for and practice wisdom and discernment, the ability to know something in your head and in your gut. We all have an innate God given ability to recognize when something is amiss or flat out wrong, what we lack is the wisdom and courage to act on it.

When your righteous soul is vexed—it may be time to stand up, or just run the other way.

and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the licentiousness of the wicked (for by what that righteous man saw and heard as he lived among them, he was vexed in his righteous soul day after day with their lawless deeds), then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, 2 Peter 2:7—9 RSV

You get the impression when reading the story of Lot and his family in Genesis that Lot thought he was pretty cool living in the woke city of Sodom, but eventually he started getting pretty disgusted. Yet it took a visit from two angels to convince him to get out of there, to rescue him. But he did listen.

Do you?

Listen to the still small voice of the Spirit within, your own heart will guide you, and the heart of the Lord residing in you will guide you.

Don’t just follow the crowd, just because everyone else is doing it does not make it right. A herd mentality, social pressure and cultural norms derail real discernment quicker than anything else, except for maybe the lust of the flesh.

Before you drink the Kool-Aid, maybe ask yourself, ask the Lord, is this really what I am supposed to be doing? It just feels wrong. . . Yep, it’s wrong.

As believers we have something that Lot did not have-we have the Holy Spirit of the Living God within us-listen to Him!

We need to be very careful in this season of turmoil and uncertainty because prophets are going to be coming out of the woodwork all claiming to have the answers and teachers and preachers are going to be exposed and start falling like flies as their great swelling words are exposed to be empty wells that leave people powerless against the evils that are befalling this generation.

I would never be so presumptuous as to say that I have it all figured out, or to render judgement by standards that I do not wish to be judged by myself. But I have some pretty good ideas as I look at others in light of the scriptures, the fruit that they produce, and what I feel in my own spirit when I hear their words,—all things that we must use to weigh the words of those who would deign to speak on God’s behalf. We are told to test the spirits so the onus is really on the hearer as to whom they chose to listen to.

Look for the fruits of their teachings, the scriptural basis, and use the gift of discernment given you by the Holy Spirit. And keep praying; Open the eyes of my heart Lord, that I may see with your eyes and not be deceived.

Trading In Fear

“…the more things you fear the more respected and with it you are. You are woke.

Photo by Swaningson “Weeping rock”

“…do not be frightened.”  Now there’s something we need to hear!

We live in a time of fear —don’t we? It seems that is the currency of the day. We are told to fear, we collect fears, and the more things you fear the more respected and with it you are. You are woke. If you don’t fear you don’t care, and if you don’t care you must be a hater and if you are a hater, ‘Well… we can abuse you however we see fit!’

That’s the culture and the mindset that is being pushed on us by a very loud and influential minority who somehow acquired way too much power over us.

Fears

But no one ideology or group has the monopoly on fear. There is plenty to go around on all sides, and we play right into it.

We are hounded constantly with things to fear. You are supposed to fear a virus. You are supposed to be afraid to go out and live a normal life because of that virus. You are supposed to fear the authorities who suddenly seem to have way too much power and use fear to justify their actions and threaten and belittle you if you do not accept the premise of fear.

You are supposed to fear being found out as a racist, a bigot, a homophobe—whatever—and we now need to fear having our businesses and neighborhoods burned and looted, being dragged from a car and beaten, having our kids snatched by traffickers.

We are supposed to fear what will happen if the wrong person gets elected depending on which side of ever widening political chasm you are on. You are supposed to fear China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Sharia, space aliens and ghosts. Fear the demons that cause every malady known to man who run roughshod over weak Christians who are afraid to take authority over them.

Fear the vaccines and the evil agendas behind them, the medications and doctors who cannot agree on anything concerning this supposed pandemic. Fear the coming of the Antichrist, micro-chips, Antifa, George Soros, Bill Gates, the latest NIV revisions, the governors of liberal states, and most of all—fear each other and stay away from one another.

Just bury your heads in your phones and live your whole existence online from the safety of your homes.

At least until the looters come and you can’t defend yourselves because you are supposed to be afraid to own a gun and you can’t call the police because now we are afraid of them. So—I guess we are all just . . . screwed.

This would all be hilariously absurd if it wasn’t all true and just the tip of the iceberg of the fears that are being shoved down our throats by the insane and evil world we live in. A world that yes, does have plenty to fear—life has always had challenges, and has since Adam and Eve met that fun loving serpent in the garden of Eden, but would probably not seem nearly so scary if all of this was not being propagated and encouraged by a news media, and every living and breathing soul with a Facebook or Twitter account, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

So, we are all trading in fear. At least if we succumb to those fears, contrary to the often repeated words of our God not to.

Refuse

Swaningson Glacier Park

So, for those of us who refuse to live in fear, who refuse to accept any new normal that includes fear and intimidation as a motivator, who are not afraid of death or even suffering in the flesh as a result of just living, or for doing what is good and right in the eyes of the Lord no matter how out of step it may be with the on-line trolls or the sign carrying snarling people in the streets, we need to be ready—ready to give an answer as to why.

‘Why are you not afraid? Why are you not pandering and kowtowing to our demands? Why are you not stressed and frenzied, angry or vengeful? Why? What is the hope that is in you that gives you such strength and peace?’

Do you have the answer? Would anyone even ask you that, or are you living in a state of fear and anxiety just like we are expected to do? A state where we can be controlled and manipulated and ready to compromise what we know to be true and right?

Does the light shine from your eyes? Do you have a clear conscience and a solid place to stand? Are you standing on the rock? That is your answer right there. The answer to the hope that is in us is Jesus Christ, the stone the builders rejected and the rock that makes them fall.  

Swaningson Glacier Park

He is the foundation upon which my life is built and I am secure in him. I have nothing to fear and my hope is infallible–because my Lord is.

Eyes open

Am I aware of and careful of all those things we have had foisted on us to fear? Yes, I most certainly am, and of much more than that. But I refuse to trade in the currency of the day, I refuse to live in fear. I refuse to be a sheep being led to slaughter by the Judas goats of the enemy. All of my days are numbered in the Lord’s book, he is my shepherd and I shall not fear—I fear God and God alone. And so long as I obey his commands and heed his voice, as long as I revere Christ as Lord,  (1 Peter 3:14) I do not fear finding myself in his presence whether at my going to him or him coming to us.

For I am loved, forgiven and redeemed. And all the suffering this world can and will throw at me is but a minor irritation in the light of what I have in him. Even walking through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. When did we all become so afraid of death that we became afraid to live?

My eyes are wide open and I keep praying for spiritual discernment because to really see what’s going on in all this fear peddling takes the eyes of the Spirit and ears to hear because the spiritual battle that is being waged in and around all of this, is much fiercer and consequential than anything our eyes of flesh can see today.

But we are on the side that wins. We have read the end of the book and seen the victories to come. So today, stand firm, ready to give an answer for our fearlessness and hope, in the humility of one who knows that what we have is a gift—a gift of unparalleled mercy and grace from a God who holds our hearts and keeps it safe.

It is not blissful ignorance, it is the power and the wisdom of the God of Creation, and in knowing the answers because we have a book that gives all of them. It’s called the Bible. Read it. If we don’t it may very well be taken away from us by those who twist it to use it against those who cannot give the right answers even though they claim it’s promises of redemption.

Biblical illiteracy is exactly what is wrong with this nation.

So, what is the reason for the hope that is in you? -Jesus is the answer, he has conquered death and set you free. So trade in your fear for hope.

Swaningson Glacier Park Hope in you

Greater Works Amidst Chaos

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last several months (kind of sounds good right now) you may have noticed that much of the nation is descending into chaos. We have the National Guard protecting the Lincoln Memorial from American Citizens who want to destroy it and have already tried. We have cities burning and police departments abandoned to violent mobs. City Centers surrendered to Anarchists. We still have thousands of Churches and small business that have been shut down for months. We are not allowed by most local authorities to celebrate our freedom on Independence Day.

We have people killing, burning and looting live on social media and not being arrested. Everyone is racist and all are turning against each other for simply being the wrong color in the wrong place, or wearing the wrong color hat. And we are all expected to wear face masks so no one can even exchange a smile anymore let alone have any color of face.

And that’s just my off the cuff rant, the whole truth is much worse and a lot more disturbing than that.

Was the virus something to take seriously? Yes. Was the brutal and unjustified killing of a man at the hands of law enforcement horrific? Yes. But undeclared Marshall law followed by out and out riots is not the way a civilized and God fearing society reacts. Unless they are totally duped by the enemy.

And we, the church, all just roll over.

We are in extraordinary times and I don’t believe for a moment that it is anywhere near over. The enemy is not going to just give up when he has gained so much ground in such a short time. He will divide us, slander us, panic us and outlaw us. Not “will”— is.

But God is using this to accomplish His purpose as well, to empower and purge, strengthen and cull, the church must get serious about the gospel message, return to its roots and stop compromising and prophesying falsities and misrepresenting the truth of God’s word and His Holy Spirit.

Red Lodge in the good old days when we could celebrate freedom!

In the last days of Ancient Israel and Judah there were many prophets who claimed to speak for God who assured everyone over and over again that they could not be defeated and that God would never remove his hand of blessing and protection from them.

The few who did speak truth were banished, beaten, imprisoned and executed. Gee, where do I sign up. Oh wait, I already did!

Both Israel and Judah were destroyed for their failure to heed the warnings and repent.

But we live in a different time and under a new covenant of grace. Yet, our God does not change. What has changed is that now we, all of us, can be cleansed for our failures and shortcomings by the blood of the perfect sacrifice, Jesus Christ, and are given chance after chance to get up and start fresh, picking up our cross and follow our Lord.

Each and every one of us who believes in the Son and asks for the Holy Spirit can be a conqueror and more than a conqueror—we are children of the King, heirs of the promise and we can, each and every one of us, do the works that Jesus did and even greater.

That’s what is needed, that’s what is going to win the battles we face and take this nation and the church back from the brink of the abys.

Greater works

Both Jesus and James talk about “works” as being a part of faith, a sign of faith and a result of faith. We all assume that James is talking about doing good stuff like feeding the poor, taking care of widows and orphanswell, he says as much. But, so did Jesus.

Yet, we just assume that Jesus here, in John 14 is talking about miracles when he says “Greater works than these will he who believes in me do.” And he most likely is, that is after all, how he validated all the radical and world changing things that he taught. But remember, he said this just after having washed the feet of the apostles. He humbled himself to do a work that was usually performed by only the lowest servants. And then he says, greater works than these shall we do.

So just what is Jesus talking about? I think he is talking about both; works is doing practical “here let me serve you and help you” get your hands dirty and humble yourself to help another, kind of works and here let me lay hands on you and pray for your healing, deliver you from the enemy and even raise the dead, kind of works. Both kinds are certainly considered good works and I think the later is predicated on the former.

If you are not willing to humble yourself, to seek first the wellbeing of others before yourself, to lay down your life for a friend, swallow your pride, be a peacemaker and yield to God and others, you will not be used to do the greater works.

If you love me you will keep my commandments. Jesus said that immediately after he told them that if they ask anything in his name they will receive it. These are not isolated and separate statements. If you love me you will keep my commandments—love your enemy as yourself, do unto others as you would have them do unto you, love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind—and I will pray the Father and he will give you another helper, … the Spirit of truth.

Then you will do the greater works that Jesus did, you will command the mountain to be cast into a sea and it will do so.

You will cast demon spirits into the abyss, you will resist the devil and he will flee, you will lay hands on the sick and they will be healed, you will speak in the tongues of men and angles, utter the mysteries that have been hidden from mankind for ages, prophecy and have dreams that come straight from God, and you will reap the harvest of the righteousness that was sown in peace.

But if you are seeking these things, these greater works, for selfish gain and glory, you will receive nothing.

So many believers think that if they just do the lip service, lot’s of talk and little or no action, if they pray for and receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that everything will just automatically fall into place in their lives. And voila! Miracles, prophetic words, healings, words of wisdom— look at me I’m super spiritual person!

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. James 4

If you are not willing to do the good works, you will not do the greater works. If you are not willing to seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, to get dirty helping others while keeping your spirit clean—staying holy; I’m sorry, but you are not going to receive the more grace that is needed to alter the laws of the physics of this world to walk on water and bring sight to the blind.

A double minded man receives nothing. James told us that earlier in his letter. You have to have a kingdom mindset, and clean hands.

Keep fighting the good fight and keep your eyes fixed on Jesus.

Greater works are for those who are not afraid to work, and who are strong-hearted and humble. —Thus says the Lord.

Stay strong, and stay awake. We need you, this nation needs you, the Kingdom of Heaven needs you.

This is the Hour

A Prophetic Word

As we continue in this season of seemingly ever increasing insanity, fear, evil and uncertainty, all of us who love the Lord, and seek his wisdom, ways and understanding are wondering –What is going on and how do we respond?

I–as all of God’s people including his prophets and pastors, those who humbly seek his face–have been seeking a word from the Lord as we need to hear from him if we are survive–not just survive but overcome–in this hour of decision.

And this is what the Lord has shown me:

This is the hour–the hour in which we the church, and the people of this world, stand in the balance together yet on opposing sides. The group that prevails, that provokes the Lord and forces him to decide in favor of one or the other, life or death, judgement or favor, blessings or curses–that is entirely up to us now.

I see two cauldrons, bowls if you will, hanging over us in the heavens. One is the bowl of the wrath of God, a bowl of loathsome and terrible things that he has done all in his power, without destroying the free will of those created in his image, to prevent having to empty on mankind.

And the other is the overflowing vessel full of his Holy Spirit’s love and power. They are the blessings of life and freedom that we were created to enjoy, forfeited in favor of lies and deceptions from the evil one who hates all things good as they are of the Father he vainly tried to usurp. They are the blessings that are available to us because of the sacrifice of his only begotten Son.

Those cauldrons are hanging precariously over us, each tipped at an angle suggesting they are about to spill their contents entirely and once that happens there will be no stopping it. On is tipping to to east and one is tipping to the west. The direction is irrelevant geographically speaking other than to suggest that they must be poured out in opposite directions because they cannot be poured out together as they cannot mix or mingle–it is an either or set up.

Below the cauldron of wrath are those who stir up, celebrate and provoke evil. Darkness perpetuates evil and is now threatening to swallow the earth including the last vestiges of light and freedom, the land that once openly confessed Jesus as Lord and afforded all the freedom and opportunity to seek him as they so chose.

Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out the bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.” Revelation 15:7

Those who oppose that life giving gospel message of freedom, equality and redemption are actively provoking all of those who still embrace that message and the God behind it and in so doing they are prodding that cauldron of misery from below and by this reckless action they are causing the loathsome things within to splash on them and on all around them. Yet they only use that poison to further rile up those who choose to listen to the lies of their father the devil rather than turn to the creator and be healed.

That cauldron is being prodded to the point that it is about to be emptied on their own heads, and on the heads of every living thing on this planet. That will be the end and there will be no more chances, no more salvations, healings, or mercies. We will have brought on the final judgement and only the promise of the new heavens and a new earth to follow will allow those who have put their hopes in Jesus to escape the misery of this fallen and cursed world.

But there is still that other cauldron, the vessel of God’s love awaiting release to be poured out on this hurting world and bring fresh life and renewal, to give opportunity for this, and subsequent generations, to find redemption hope and healing.

“And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,
That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;” Acts 2:17

This Spirit generated renewal will overcome the darkness and cleanse the land of sickness, prejudice, hatred and anger. The Spirit of the living God and his word will rid the land of deceptions and lies. Deceptions and lies that have wreaked havoc in the hearts and now the streets of this land that was so blessed and held such great promise–and still can, if we will but turn from our evil ways, turn our hearts to Jesus and rise up as the Holy Army we are called to be.

We have a prod as well. A prodding stick that is reaching up for that cauldron of blessings and power and that has even hit it a few tentative times and released tastes of the goodness within. But as this point the prods are weak and ineffective as those who are prodding the cauldron of wrath are intimidating those below the blessings so that they are afraid to raise their prods to heaven lest they be called out for being bigots and racists, haters and ‘phobes.

This is the hour. We must choose which cauldron will be emptied in this, the last days, as the enemy makes his final last gasp desperate attempt to take all of God’s children with him to his destruction. We must choose to stand together as the church and proclaim healing for the brokenhearted, sight for the blind and release for the captives, because tomorrow will be too late.

We must pray like never before. We must stand on God’s word unapologetically and we must never kneel before evil.

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phillipians 2:1011

Kneel before God and him alone, that is the only thing that will save this nation, and this world.

We have an opportunity like we have never been given before–let’s release the power of heaven!

Let the Spirit bear witness to your spirit as to the truth of these words. -Pastor Dan Swaningson

Pentecost Challenge

“The Holy Spirit does does His greatest work when we are gathered together in one accord. If there was ever a time when we needed that, this is it.”

It disturbs me greatly as a pastor and preacher of the gospel of Jesus Christ how casual much of the church has gotten in their embrace of questionable behaviors. Or, to put it bluntly, why is sin not taken seriously anymore?

lay aside wickedness

James 1:21

Perhaps the church has gotten so good at loving the sinner that they forgot to hate the sin, and then got sucked into it. Perhaps we have become so focused on grace that we misplaced repentance. Perhaps we became so adept at hearing the word that we confused hearing with doing.

We threw out the baby with the bath water. Embracing the free gift of grace while forgetting why we needed that gift in the first place—because we have all transgressed the law of God from top to bottom—and needed to bathe in the blood of Christ and the waters of baptism.

But then we threw out the law entirely because it makes us uncomfortable. It reminds us of who we were and that at the same time we are not yet anywhere near where we should be in the holiness department by God’s standards.

We can’t repent of something if we don’t know it’s a sin. If there is no penalty for sin, then why worry about it? Well, there is a penalty for sin, and the Son of God suffered it. He suffered a horrendous and unimaginably horrible death that afflicted every nerve in his tortured body with pain, and he endured betrayals and injustices that tortured his psyche in ways we cannot fathom—all of this at the hands of the people he created and loved enough to endure it for.

So yes, your grace is a free gift to you, but it cost the one who purchased it for you dearly.

1 Cor 6 Jesus

So when you look in the mirror and see a hearer of the word and not a doer, (James 1:23) resolve to do something about it. You’ll be surprised at the power that comes with that free gift of grace.

Grace is not just forgiveness, grace is power, the power of God in your life to be holy just as he is holy, the strength to overcome and the catalyst for the renewing of your mind that gives you the desire to lay aside all filthiness and to overflow with living water instead of wickedness.

The Holy word that was planted in your heart to the saving of your soul is also your strength and your call to cast aside the sin which so easily entangles (Heb)and walk in the freedom of his grace as doers of the word and not just hearers only.

Today is Pentecost Sunday. GO TO CHURCH. The Holy Spirit does does His greatest work when we are gathered together in one accord. If there was ever a time when we needed that, this is it.
And if your church is not open–find one that is! Yes I said it.

‘The Holy Communion of the saints is essential for the life of the church and for the strengthening of the covenant.’ –HS

Pentacost Dove

Cross Welding part II

These are trying times and a lot of people have lost a lot in this season of social upheaval—jobs, businesses, freedoms, social lives, confidence, security. Many things have been and are being affected by this shutdown which we are just breaking out of and in many places is still in full force. And the full ramifications of it all are only beginning to be realized.

Enduring

It’s hard to be confident in the face of so much unknown; What businesses will survive? What freedoms will be restored? Will I or someone I love still get sick and maybe die? Will people who hate this country, hate the president and the church, use this to destroy as much or all of that as they can? Will we end up becoming even more divided as a nation as those who advocate a new normal come up against those who just want normal again?

Many want a choked down version of life as we knew it, a “new normal” which for most businesses is unsustainable and for most people induces great anguish.

Everyone just wants their lives back, but I’m afraid we are not going to get them back the way they were without a fight, as many are already convinced that we cannot go back.

Fine, I’m not going to argue that here and I only know what I know. The disturbing part for most is the unknown. What does the future look like? At what expense and who will suffer as a result long term and short? Will I? Will my family?

Those are the big scary questions and concerns that can make us want to give in to despair, that can push us over the edge and away from the Lord. Especially on the heels of whatever problems you were dealing with even before this shared upheaval started. Life is hard, isn’t it?

We have to focus on the good and we have to keep our eyes heavenward and we need endurance. And that is the message of Hebrews here.

yet a little while

Endurance

We need endurance if we are going to make it through this life and receive our enduring possession in heaven, that we may receive the promise. The promise of eternal life, the promise that Jesus is coming back, the promise that we will live—by faith.

We can and should have a heart full of joy in this life as we walk in the light of his love, but it is nothing compared to the hope we have, the knowledge that the best is yet to come.

Jesus is coming

Do not draw back, do not give up, endurance is what wins the day, and by patience possessing your souls. (Luke 21:19)

Paul gives the early Christians he is writing to here kudos for joyfully following Jesus, continuing in faith, enduring, even as their goods were being plundered. Many of those who chose to follow Jesus were severely persecuted, they lost jobs, homes and all their goods seized.

Yet they never gave up the one thing that could not be stolen, the one thing that was the reason they joyfully gave all to follow Jesus in the first place, and that is their souls. They had been illuminated from the inside, the Holy Spirit was witnessing to their spirits that they were now truly alive, and that the best was yet to come.

If they just endure a little longer, they will receive their enduring possessions, live forevermore in the kingdom of the one true God. They had put their trust in Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth who died on a cross and walked out of the tomb three days later and returned to heaven with the promise that one day all would see him return in just the same way, to collect his bride for the wedding feast—and we are the bride.

That cross which once represented a death that all in the Roman empire rightfully feared and had nightmares about, became the symbol of hope, of life everlasting, of their promise that there is something much greater than anything this world could offer.

They just needed to be patient, and to keep trusting the one with whom they had become one.

One

That cross that I welded on top of St Agnes (see my last blog Cross Welding) is still standing, it has endured for 25 years now, because the cross has become one with the steel structure inside of that steeple. All you can see from the outside is the cross and the shell of the steeple. What you can’t see is the important part, the part that keeps it standing, and that is the framework that is permanently attached to the foot of that cross—as I said, it has literally become one with it.

church cross Red Lodge(St Agnes in Red Lodge MT)
The unique thing about welding is—unlike screws, nails, bolts or glue, which hold two separate things together—when you weld two pieces of metal together they are literally becoming one piece of metal.

It happens at a molecular level. When you heat a piece of steel with a torch or an electric arc, the molecules that make up the steel get excited and start moving around, the hotter they get the faster they move, until the steel, once cold and hard, actually becomes a liquid.

So if you heat two pieces of metal that are touching each other to that state of liquidity, the liquid flows together, the atoms within the two pieces of metal mingle together.

If you introduce some more metal, in the form of a welding rod, than not only are you causing the two pieces of steel to become one, you are introducing even more steel to make that meeting point even thicker and heavier than it was before. That is why the weld, if done right, is often the strongest point on the steel.one in spirit welding

So you’ve got all these super heated steel molecules dancing around each other and getting all mixed together forced into whatever shape the skilled welder manipulates them into that suddenly cool off when the heat source leaves, and they are now solid—cold hard steel again— and nothing can separate them again without extreme measures—they are one.

Through the cross of Jesus Christ, we are one with the Lord who died on that cross; by faith, The just shall live by faith, we are one with Jesus. Faith is the weld that has joined us with him. His Holy Spirit is welded to our soul and nothing short of extreme measures can separate us.

And that cross that becomes the symbol of who we are, the strength of what is a reality inside of us, the endurance and strength that others may not see but we and our God know is there, that cross will hold up as we are lifted up, lifted to our rightful place in the Kingdom of our God.

And he who is going to lift us up is on his way, “For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry…” So hang on, be patient and endure.

IMG_0809

You are not among those who draw back–You are a child of the King, a son or daughter of the Father, a Spirit filled, born again—’I can do all things by him who gives me strength’—untouchable, unflappable, enlightened and enduring  believer and nothing anyone can do or say, not all the wiles and winds, treacheries and sorceries, not all the trials and tribulations, prosecutions and persecutions, ‘nothing can separate me from my God’—follower of Jesus Christ.

And you have an enduring possession.

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.

The Brink of . . . What?

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

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

Spirit bears witness dove

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

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

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

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

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

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

I Need To Hear You Lord!

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

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

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

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

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

We the people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Raelynn

 

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

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

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

 

God is love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Greater is he in you dove

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

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