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.

Test the Spirits

Funny how scriptures take on a new sense of relevance and urgency when the world as you know it is being challenged—don’t they?

False Prophets

The Apostle John tells us to test the spirits. Pay attention church!

We all want desperately to hear from God right now, to be encouraged, to be let in on what He’s doing and to know that he is indeed still in control and hasn’t forgotten about us. This can lead to a lot of deception and bad information as everyone wants to hear from God and many want to speak for God, or at least appear to be speaking for God.

In short, that can lead to a lot of false prophets. False prophets are generally motivated by one of two things; the desire to be heard and get attention, or the more sinister desire to deceive and thwart God’s true plans.

If you read carefully the 4th chapter of 1 John  you’ll see that those who, speak fake news in the name of God to use a term from the current vernacular— are being used by the devil to mislead and distract from what God really wants us to know. “Speak oh great and mighty Wizard of Oz… hey wait, who is that behind the curtain?”

Spirit of the Antichrist

What I have discovered is that many who think they are prophets, or put themselves forth to be, are not. And many who are, do not know it. God can only use the willing, and he does, but the humble are usually the ones God prefers to use. That humility can prevent them from speaking any more than they feel absolutely compelled and certain of. That’s why I always put a lot of stock in those of few words when they believe they have a word from the Lord.

And there are those few who speak boldly and often for the Lord, yet they do speak truth, but only because He has taught them that fear of speaking out is not an excuse, and humility cannot be a cover for disobedience. They have learned that to not speak God’s truth is, as Jeremiah learned, is like trying to contain a burning fire within the heart and shut up within the bones, that one grows weary from trying to hold it in, and in the end they cannot.

The fire within

If God has truly pegged you to speak for him you have that desire in your heart and it will not give your head any peace until you obey. Trust me, I know. Those who answer the call must not be afraid to play with fire.

The Faithful

I believe we are in a season where God will be culling the herd. That those who have been speaking only what they believe itching ears want to hear for the sake of filling seats and coffers will suddenly find themselves irrelevant, while the called who have been laboring in obscurity and wondering why they seemly travail to no avail, they will be the ones God uses to bring in the harvest.

Those who have been speaking truth, preaching the word of God, standing firm against the winds of perversity and cultural pressure to compromise, those who have been listening to the Spirit of God, they will not have to play catch up, and they will not have to fear being blown away with the chaff as the Lord continues his threshing.

Those who have been faithfully planting seeds of truth and praying for the rain of the Spirit to fall will see the fruits of their labor being brought in to the master’s granaries. Those who have been storing their treasures in heaven will be the ones who see the return on those treasures tomorrow even while many are watching the enemy steal away their treasures.

What is your calling?

God calls to all of us, and those who turn their eyes to him are given gifts that suit the plan he has for them and calls them to do things in ways and places that no one but you can. Too many false prophets and wishy washy preachers have risen to prominence because the called are sitting on their hands and because the faithful are not practicing discernment—they are not testing the spirits.

Discern

There are many gifts and callings and many ways to preach the gospel with words and actions. But our title verse here Test the Spirits, is talking specifically about those who deign to speak on the Lord’s behalf.

(If you are totally lost here you need to find a preacher who is not afraid to teach on the Baptism  of the Holy Spirit, because you are living in the love but not the power)

Like anything we do or don’t do for Jesus, obedience is key. If God tells you to speak, speak, if he does not reveal to you a message to deliver, than don’t. But, ultimately, the truth and the source of the message, that has to be determined by the hearer.

That’s what John is  largely about in this section of scripture (1 John 4:1-11) discerning truth from useless fluff or outright lies.

Trust me I would rather preach fluff, fluff is fun and doesn’t offend anyone, it doesn’t get you in trouble, at least not with man. But, then again, as I have told you before, I am just a barbarian with a bible and barbarians just don’t do fluff.

I tell you truth

The Holy Spirit will give you the ability to discern between spirits and between what’s just feel good stuff and what is if the Lord. But you have to choose to want to know the difference. You have to choose who you are going to listen to, and what you hear.

The onus of truth is on the hearer. People either hear what they want to hear, or they hear what they need to hear, the choice is up to them. And in the case of determining whether a teacher, preacher or  prophet, often all one in the same, is speaking truth, that responsibility falls back on the hearer.

My mother used to ask us kids on occasion if it was clear we weren’t paying attention to her; “Are your ears painted on?” In other words; ‘I can see you seem to have ears there, but they don’t seem to be functioning properly, because surely you are not just choosing to ignore what I say.’

When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Luke 8:8

Servants the prophetsStay awake church, choose you this day whom you shall serve.

Where Are You Walking?

If you are not walking in love, It’s time to turn around!1 John Walking in darkness

Too many believers go along claiming and even believing they are walking in the light, being perfected in God’s grace and power when they are actually clinging to the shadows on the edges of the light; lurking in the shadows of hatred that, if not dealt with, can lure us back into total darkness where we lose all sight of the light.

Abiding in Jesus means walking in the light of his love, and living out that love. Refusing to keep his word, hating our brothers, means we are not in the light, we are walking in the dark, and we are blind—lost and, worse than lost, unaware that we are lost. It’s easy to forget the way and get turned around thinking we are on the right path and missing the voice trying to tell us otherwise.

Turned Around

       Last fall I went hunting with my daughter Jessie on her and her husband’s ranch. We have been hunting together for years and we both love the hunt and the time we get to spend together. During our hunt we got ambitious and climbed up on top of this huge bluff that dominates the whole area and where there are ample places for deer to hide out.Me 'n Jessie(Jessie and I on a more successful hunt–the next day)

It was very cold and windy that day, and snowing sideways— perfect hunting weather. Any day you get to be out hunting is a perfect day right? At least that’s the way my family looks at it. After hiking for a mile or so we came across some fresh tracks—as hard as it was snowing we knew they were very fresh—and followed them up and away from the rim of the bluff we had been working along and we did actually catch up to them, but all we saw was does. (This was a Muley bucks only district)

Jessie had been telling me that she thought we might be straying into the neighbors land but it was hard to tell because of all the open range and falling down fences making boundaries unclear. So after determining that there were no big bucks with these girls I said, “We should work our way back towards the truck.” By this time, between the snow storm and my old knees giving me fits, my truck seat and my thermos of coffee were calling my name.

So I started hoofing it back towards what I thought was the edge of the bluff we had walked to get us there. After walking a ways across the open field on top of the bluff Jessie said to me; “I’m really not comfortable being this far into what I think is the neighbor’s property, I think we should go back.”

I looked at her kind of puzzled and said. “What do you mean go back, isn’t the truck just over the edge of the hill over there?”

She said “No, we are on the opposite side of the bluff, don’t you hear the wolves?” I then heard the wolves carried on the wind from the wolf sanctuary down below, which I knew was on the total opposite side from where we had parked. The yipping and howling told me that she was right. I was dumbfounded, how did I get so turned around? I said, “Why didn’t you tell me?” She said “I did a couple of times but you just kept going so I figured you just were determined to keep hunting over here.”

I did hear her but I assumed I was taking us back the right way. I heard her but I wasn’t really listening and she wasn’t being very assertive—she has spent much of her hunting career following Dad around, not leading him. She was the quite voice behind me saying, this is the way, walk in it. (Is 30:21) But I wasn’t perceiving what she was saying.

Finally I did. I couldn’t believe it. I was tired, thirsty and sore and had just walked about a half mile in the wrong direction. We turned around and walked, straight into the wind and snow back, the way we had just walked and finally came out where we were supposed to be and got back to the truck.

After consulting Google Earth it turns out that bluff wasn’t shaped anything like what I had pictured in my mind, I didn’t know the big picture, so where I was going was nowhere near where I thought I was going. That’s what the Apostle John is talking about here:

walk in the light Jesus

          Thots

You might think you know where you are going—you are going there with gusto and following your instinct—but if you are not listening to the word, not listening to the still small voice of the Spirit and paying attention and just going where the wind blows you, you are going to end up lost in the dark. The sun will set and time will run out on you. And that’s not a good place to be—Outer darkness.

Or you end up in trouble for trespassing, something the law in Montana takes seriously, not to mention ranchers. Gives new meaning to the prayer— Forgive us our trespasses. . .

Anyway, that’s what hatred does. Gets us into trouble and can ultimately destroy us.

And, this is just an observation or a conclusion that dawned on me, it seems that biblically, pretty much any human interaction with other people that is not based is love, is hatred.

That may be taking it a little too far but the very least we can safely say is that hatred is the polar opposite of love and thus should be the very last thing we want to harbor in our hearts as it goes against everything God is and asks of us.

Hatred

Hatred can take on many forms. One of the most destructive is the hatred of unforgiveness—”You wronged me and now you owe me. I will never be okay with you and I will secretly—or openly—take pleasure in any misfortune that comes your way.”

The hatred of unforgiveness is the deepest and foulest poison the human soul can fathom. It is a darkness that leaves the heart empty and open to hatred, bitterness and spite, leaving little room for love and joy. No love can bear fruit in a bitter heart nor can it have fellowship with a God who has loved us in spite of our sins, things we did not deserve to be forgiven for, yet were, because he sent his Son who was willing to lay down his life, suffer the agony of the cross for us.

Jesus, by his own admission, could have commanded 12 legions of angels to come down and destroy those who betrayed, beat, tortured and shamed him for no crime other than loving people for the Father, for keeping the word, for being the word.

But he did not, he left judgement day for its appointed time (we must do the same) and carried out his mission of sacrificial love, love perfected, and begged his Father forgive those who ignorantly murdered the author of life.

forgive them Jesus

 

But what about those who do know what they do? Surely we can hate them!

That is the hatred of righteous indignation—”You know better, you messed up, or are messing up, and I cannot treat you with love or respect until you change your ways and come crawling to me and prove that you are now as righteous  as me.”

He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 1 John 2

They are exactly the ones whom John is telling us here we cannot hate—our brothers. The word brother here means fellow believers. Those whom we deem should know better. ‘You call yourself a Christian! You had better straighten up before you expect me to stop reminding you how sinful you are!’

Well, for starters, who are you to judge the heart of another believer? And who made you the Holy Spirit?Spirit Come cross

The Helper is the Holy Spirit and according to Jesus it is his job, and his job alone, to convict others of sin. It is your job to walk in the light, to not give your brother or sister cause to sin, to rebel or run away from God and his word.

Because it is only by coming to the light, allowing God’s word to search their hearts, that they will come to reject any sinful behavior and have love perfected in them as well.

Seeing your light go dark, hidden behind your scorn, whenever they are around you will certainly not encourage them to come into the light. Jesus loved people into the kingdom. And the only time you see him angry is when he saw others judging those he was trying to love into his Kingdom—the Priests and Pharisees who deemed others dirty and sinful.

Little children . . . love!little children love 1 John

I love all of you. Have a blessed week!

Perfected in Love

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

love perfected mom child

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

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

love one another dove

Love is hard

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

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

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

You just loved me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She was perfected— by love.

walk in the light Jesus

 

Know that you know him

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

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

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

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

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

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

That we have love for one another

little children love 1 John

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

 

 Barbarians in the Kingdom

Barbarians ad copy axe

 

Words

A little different blog this week. . .

At the risk of being branded a heretic by the more religious and conservative among my readers, or just an outright loon by those with a secular humanist bent; I am posting a list of promises here. Promises, or words to use the biblical phrase, given to me by the Holy Spirit.

Yes, I hear God. It is the reason I no longer turn to drugs or alcohol for solace, it is the reason I can face life’s many trials and it is the reason I sacrifice so much of my own life to preach his word–it is the reason I can go on day after day with a heart at peace in a world that is not.

As a Holy Spirit baptized believer, it is one of the gifts I treasure and embrace.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given

I don’t hear voices in my head and I have never come across a talking burning bush but I do believe God speaks to my heart and the words make it into my brain and are spoken to me in my own internal voice. This is the best I can do to describe a purely spiritual thing using the limited vocabulary this flesh affords me.

I find it curious that so much of the church insists that they have “a relationship (with Jesus) not a religion” yet balk at the idea of God speaking to them. What kind of a relationship is that?

rock mememy

So, that said, the following is a partial list I compiled, just on a whim, of words spoken to me as I was preparing sermons for my church (which become the basis of these blogs) over the last year. I always seek the Lord as I prepare a message on his behalf and sometimes I hear a specific word and sometimes I don’t. Either way he always speaks to me through his word as I study and prepare as well–as he does for all who believe.  

The HS after each promise or word is my designation for Holy Spirit, and I always place the promise for the week at the top of the message I’m writing, as a guide to keep me on the right track as I prepare my sermon so that I know I am going where the Lord wants me to go with whatever scripture he leads me to teach on. I hope you find encouragement in them as I believe they are for all of us who desire to hear his heart–He certainly hears yours, of that you can be sure.

herar me meme

So, “they who have ears to hear, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.”

(I’ve thrown in some of my relevant memes also)

The Promises

It is my will that all would be saved, and receive my love. –HS

I am the one who hears the one—HS

Listen! I am standing at the door

I Am a high priest forever, and I will not fail you. Join me in suffering that we may conquer together. HS

Man or Woman, use the gifts I give you. Use them boldly, use them prudently. The time is short, we need all hands on deck. HS

Orohetic Prayer

I’m looking for the heart (that loves). A loving heart is not a rebellious heart, a heart that loves is a pure heart. HS

In me is freedom from fear. HS

The Spirit is being poured out and the dam is about to burst. HS

Your mission is to spread the word, advance the kingdom, to teach truth. My mission is you. HS

mystery

 

You are a people set aside for my glory. Fear no evil thing. HS

What does it mean to have Jesus stand with us? It means to have strength, it means to have peace, it means to have hope. HS

I am coming, indeed I am coming. Hang on, be strong and stay awake. HS

Awaken light of mine

The rock is here and it is a place to stand, a place to be strong and a place to grow. HS

You know the mysteries, teach the mysteries, never grow weary of sharing the mysteries. HS

2020 —The time has come. Use what I have given you for my glory—do not hold back. HS

few chosen