Compliance

(morning Star Rising part 2)

What are you so afraid of?

We are in the situation we are in in this world, not because of an illness—we have always had illnesses. And until the Kingdom of God comes in all its glory and casts the prince of the power of the air into the Lake of Fire to which he has already been sentenced—we always will have sickness and death.

Of course we still get tastes of the glory to come through the healing power of the Holy Spirit as believers pray for one another and as we claim that healing—but you know what? So far no one has gotten out of this life alive—except for maybe Elijah and Enoch—even Jesus suffered the pain of death. But what did Jesus do? He took away the sting of death.

Yes God can and does heal. I have experienced and witnessed it many, many times. But this flesh—this tent is temporary, and praise the Lord for that.

Because it’s getting pretty worn out, and I get to look forward to a new day; the day when this life is over and I am free from this tattered tent and looking forward to the resurrection day when I get a new body that does not get sick, does not wear out and cannot die—just like the glorified body of our Lord.

So no, I do not fear death, I do not fear illness, I will not cow tow to the demands of this current evil system that I refrain indefinitely from gathering with the saints, hugging my family, breaking bread with others, smiling for them to see, and living the life the Lord has given me to its fullest extent and seizing the opportunities he puts before me.

We are called to be a light to the world, not a quivering candle hiding under a bushel lest we get snuffed out by an errant wind. The only wind I fear and respect is the wind of the Holy Spirit, the wind that will carry me straight into heaven as a bright and blazing fire that has been fanned into a fire in my heart that cannot be contained so that I am weary from holding it in and indeed I cannot.

When did we become so afraid of death that we became afraid to live? Perhaps this life for us American Christians has just become too easy. Have we gotten so comfortable and complacent that we love this life more than we fear God?

12 For this reason I will not be negligent to remind you always of these things, though you know and are established in the present truth. 13 Yes, I think it is right, as long as I am in this tent, to stir you up by reminding you, 14 knowing that shortly I must put off my tent, just as our Lord Jesus Christ showed  2 Peter 1

We have to remain established in the truth—the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that in this world we will have trouble, but we need not fear, for he has overcome the world.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to be stupid and careless, I still wear a seat belt when I drive and I wear a safety harness when I’m working on a roof. But I don’t let the very real possibility of a car wreck keep me from going about my business and I don’t let the very real possibility of getting hurt at work keep we from pursuing a living and building the things the Lord has gifted me to build.

We have to keep things in perspective and not live in fear, that’s my point here. Fear will not be my new normal. When the world says new normal, it means concede defeat and give up more control to me—trust me, it’s for your own good!

The book of Revelation is full of new normal.

Well, that sounds pretty handy, since the forehead is about all you can see of people anymore.

I’m not saying wearing a mask is the mark of the beast, but this prophecy is sure becoming more and more likely as everything becomes digitized and people more willing to accept large social changes in record time.

We need to be paying attention, keeping our eyes on Jesus and not losing sight of what’s important.

God’s word is a light that shines in this present darkness. It is a light we must heed—pay attention to—until the light fully comes, when Jesus, the Morning Star, rises in our hearts. We have to heed the light and focus on it, not fear the dark.

Keep your eyes on Jesus. There is no place for fear in the heart of a believer, only love and Hope.

Escape from…

There are a lot of things that people can escape from—work, responsibility, slavery, abuse, prison… The first thing I think of, and is kind of what inspired this title is Escape from Alcatraz, a movie title from 1979 based on the true story.

Then there was the more noble escape attempt from a German POW camp in 1944 during WWII, that has become known by another movie title The Great Escape. The camp was deep in the heart of Nazi occupied Poland.

It seems pretty much the entire prisoner population was in on the escape and they spent a year digging nearly 400 feet of tunnel to get past the outer fence and guard towers—but they didn’t quite get far enough.

This, their third attempt at tunneling out, got them just past, but dangerously close, to a guard tower where they popped out. But once they broke the surface they were committed—it was now or never— so they went for it.

76 prisoners made it through the tunnel and into the woods before the 77th man was spotted emerging from the ground, sparking a massive man hunt and prison shakedown. All but 3 of the prisoners, were recaptured and, sadly, 50 of those were executed. The other three, with help from forged papers and sympathetic civilians, made it into allied territory and lived to tell the story of their harrowing and daring escape from the clutches of the enemy.

Their story would become the inspiration for the popular ‘60’s sitcom called Hogan’s Heroes. A show I loved as a kid by the way. In the TV show version the Germans are all bumbling idiots who have prisoners coming and going at will via their underground network of tunnels by which they pull off all sorts of espionage and sabotage against the Nazis.

Of course the hapless commander of the camp, the monocle wearing Colonel Klenck, believes his camp to be unescapable and delights in declaring so to anyone and everyone, usually just after a caper has been pulled off right under his nose by the unflappable American saboteur and supposed prisoner—Colonel Hogan—’There’s no escaping Stalag 13!

Que the credits and play the music. Leaving the audience laughing to themselves—”’No escaping Stalag 13?’ That’s what you think!”

That is of course what anyone who holds someone else against their will wants their captives to think.

It doesn’t matter the type of captor, prison camp commandant, prison warden, jail guard, abusive spouse, drug pusher, porn peddler, the devil himself—if they can convince you that there is no escaping, their job of keeping you enslaved and imprisoned in much easier. Because a hopeless captor is one who is much easier to manage.

Corruption

“he has given us, … his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may escape from the corruption”— Peter here is largely talking about us escaping the most destructive captor of all—our own flesh, a flesh corrupt and all but dead by virtue of our having been enticed and ensnared by the lust for things the enemy throws in front of us to lure us to our destruction.

The enemy wants us imprisoned in the hopelessness of the corruption of our flesh so that we either cannot, or believe we cannot, be freed. He wants us to believe that even if we were free there would  be nowhere for us to go and to be ignorant of the potential for greatness we have by virtue of us being created in the image of the creator himself, an image that was corrupted by sin.

The enemy, and those he uses to speak for him, wants to keep us excluded from participating in the divine nature that we should be a reflection of. Paul said much the same thing to the Church in Corinth.

If we accept the redemption, the forgiveness available to us by the blood of Christ and strive to be those who live in the freedom of the spirit rather than in the bondage the flesh would keep us in, we will one day be free of this corrupt flesh entirely and be resurrected just as our Lord was—incorruptible.

We will be changed in an instant from spiritual beings living in a dying and depleted body and into eternal beings that are now clothed with eternal, regenerated and perfect bodies of flesh and blood—just as Jesus now is—the heavenly Man who has gone before us to prepare the way for us in his Father’s house.    

Yes Colonel Klenck, there is escape from your Stalag, it happens all the time and we are in the process ourselves.

God’s grace is our exoneration and our pardon all at once, and in that our peace is multiplied. And we have it in writing.

This promise  that we can escape from the world’s corruption, through God’s divine power and partake of the divine nature, is a promise that is ours by virtue of the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  Knowledge is power. Especially when that knowledge is of God.

And how do we get that knowledge?

Primarily from the scriptures. The Holy Scriptures are our official pardon, signed, stamped and dated by the Supreme Judge of the universe and we need to know what is in those papers because the enemy of our souls does everything he can to keep us from reading and knowing what is written there. And if we do, he wants to recapture or at least dishearten us so that we cannot lead anyone else into the light of freedom.

The Germans executed those 50 recaptured prisoners of war, against the laws of the Geneva convention, to send a message of discouragement to all the rest, that attempts to escape are not worth the consequences of failure. But it had just the opposite affect because the knowledge that three men had gotten free inspired the entire POW population and word spread like wildfire.

The story of escape to freedom of even one person can inspire thousands to keep hope alive.  We who know Jesus have those stories. And if you do not, you need to know the story—the message of freedom and hope found in the scripture that can and will set you free as well—free from the prison of corruption so that you can write yourself into that story.

The enemy, the devil, has and is slaughtering thousands— millions—of freed prisoners to stop them from spreading the message that there is escape, but his attempts to silence have always served to inspire others. If one is willing to die for something then it must be greater than this life or anything it offers, it must be eternal—and eternity is worth dying for—and living for.

Just the irrational killing of so many simply to stop a story being told tells you how dangerous and powerful they think that story is. We have a dangerous faith—dangerous to those who would control and enslave us because it reveals and releases us to our true nature—the divine nature.

If you are to be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust, you have to know the words of life. The words the enemy is bent on destroying and discrediting.

We have to know, know and believe, that everything we need to live a life of freedom, to live a life of purpose, peace and meaning—all that we need to live a life of godliness—free from the corruption that would destroy all of that—can be found in the scriptures—the very words of God.  

We have the words of freedom, we have the hope and the assurance of final victory, we have been declared free and we must live as those who have that hope and that promise and not give up and give in. We should rejoice and find great comfort and hope in the words of freedom that are ours to claim.

Our redeemer lives–and so shall we.

Wasted Time

“’Hey man, if it feels good—do it!’ …it has long since transcended that Woodstock seed-stock and become the cultural norm. ”

How much time do we waste? All of us begin looking back at some point in our lives and realize just how much of our lives have slipped by like water under a bridge and have a sudden sick feeling of “Oh my, what have I accomplished? Where am I headed? Why have I not spent more time moving myself into where I want to be?”

If you are a believer the question might be; “Why did I spend so much time on stupid things like partying and chasing when I should have been pursuing God’s plan for me?” I know that’s the question I have asked myself often. I know the years I spent drinking, smoking and snorting—running with the party crowd and trying to find or throw the best parties and worrying about who was dating who—set me back more years than I can ever know in following the Lord’s perfect plan for my life.

I feel like I have been playing catch up ever since. Of course God is able to use us for his glory and bless us from wherever we are when we choose to start living for him, to stop living to please the flesh and impress all our good time buddies. But even then you still have to be on guard because the old ways are always there calling you; Remember how much fun we used to have? ‘Remember how popular you were? How cool you were? Wouldn’t it be easier to just give up the fight and go with the flow?’

If it feels good…

In the sixties when I was a kid, the phrase that was coined by the hippie—LSD, free love—crowd was “Hey man, if it feels good—do it!”

That was a subculture philosophy that belonged to the dope smoking, acid dropping fringe who drove VW busses with peace signs on them, wore bell bottom blue jeans, long hair and no shoes. But it has long since transcended that Woodstock seed-stock and become the cultural norm.

We might not express it that way but that is how we now live and base our morality. You can’t judge me! I have needs, this is just the way I am, this is who I am, if there is a God I’m sure he’s fine with this. How can it be wrong when it feels so right? I’m sure I’ll be forgiven, or, more likely today— I have nothing to be forgiven for!

It’s my body… And thus the argument is closed.

You know what? I’m just gonna lay it out here—It’s all lies, it’s all wrong and it’s all a huge waste of precious time.

And if you are in Christ, no, it is no longer your body. You were bought at a price, the blood of the very Son of God. Your indulgences have no eternal value, make no one else’s life better and take you farther and farther away from God’s grace and blessings, and derail his plan for your life.

You all know that verse right? Do you believe it? Or are you still trying to figure out how the if it feels good do it philosophy fits in there?

Well, it doesn’t. But you know that. You just have to decide what you want—a life of pursuing an elusive high that never seems to satisfy like it once did, or a life of meaning and purpose that makes tomorrow worth fighting for?

I tried both ways and I tell you what, following Jesus is never the easy road, but it’s a heck of a lot less miserable. I have a hope, and a future, and I no longer need your dope. I now have the mind of Christ.

I don’t want to waste another minute of this way to short life lusting after things that destroy and will be destroyed. I want to live for the will of God. The one who not only died to forgive me for those lusts of the flesh but also set me free by the power of his Holy Spirit simply because I asked him to. When I asked sincerely, not halfheartedly—’Lord I trust you, I want to live your plan for  my life, my own plan is only leaving me hopeless and confused—help me to overcome!’

And thus began a life of adventure—real adventure, not the empty— well now what —kind.

Wasted Time

So, again I ask, how much time do we waste satisfying the lusts of the flesh on things that have no value in making a difference in this life, in making the world a better place for others, and for advancing the Kingdom of God? Are you using the gifts God gave you? Are you ministering to one another in love? We can’t keep putting things off until tomorrow or hoping or thinking; this season is for me—tomorrow I’ll get serious and live for the glory of God.

There may not be another season. None of us knows the number of our days or when those trumpets will sound and time is up for all of us.

 I think the admonition of Peter to stop wasting time living for the flesh like the pagan’s do is becoming more urgent by the day. It would seem the days of devil may care it’s all good, bless me Lord in my revelry and fleshly pursuits, are coming to a rapid close and the sides are being chosen and the evil less and less subtle.

There’s no subtlety in trying to rip a US senator and his wife limb from limb in front of a guillotine as they were leaving the White House at the end of a presidential speech or shooting young children for the crime of being white. This is truly an evil day.

But, at the same time, the Spirit is moving for those who care to listen and the Lord is urging and warning us—pay attention, this is the hour of decision. Are you going to choose wrath or blessing, life or death, lies or truth. Because we can either have a revival or a tribulation—and I would much rather have a revival. And yes, as I have told you before, I think the choice is ours.

We are being warned and the alarms are going off for those who are awake and aware.

We don’t have to go there, not yet. Keep praying, stay awake and trust the one who holds your soul. He loves you.

The world will think you’ve lost it. Who cares. You are actually the one who found it–found Him, found freedom.

The Pure Milk

Instinct

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is not.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is the gospel? It is as follows:

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

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

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

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

All else is rubbish.

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

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

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

Pulled From Darkness

I know, let’s write him a letter telling him how disappointed we are, and all the things he did wrong. That’ll help.

If you have read the gospels you know who Peter is; the headstrong fishermen who followed Jesus faithfully and wholeheartedly for the three years of his ministry, and whom was counted among the first to recognize just who Jesus of Nazareth was; You are the Christ, the Son of God.

But Peter was also somewhat rash and compulsive, often finding himself in over his head, quite literally. Like when he decided to walk out on the water to Jesus in the storm. He was doing quite well until he realized just how crazy and frightening what he was doing really was, and then he sunk like a rock. But Jesus reached down and pulled him up.

This would not be the last time Jesus reached down to pull Peter up from certain doom. On the night of Jesus’s arrest Peter would find himself again sinking into a pool of despair as he realized that the courtyard he had followed his Lord into was full of people who wanted to destroy those who followed the Lord they were now openly mocking and beating.

Peter became overwhelmed by the waves of fear brought on by the storm of hatred he found himself surrounded by and when he found himself denying his Lord to save his own skin he knew he was doomed to drown. He ran out into the night to be consumed by the darkness as his own heart and a rooster mocked him. He ran straight into an outer darkness that the rising sun over the hill of Golgotha would only intensify.

But just a few days later Jesus would reach down once again and pull Peter back into the land of the living, into the light. His heart would be rescued by his Lord on the shores of the same lake that had nearly swallowed him on that dark and stormy night so many months ago.

Peter would devote the rest of his life to serving and following his Lord wholeheartedly, fearlessly and sacrificially. Sharing the hope and the life that he now knew and had eternally secured. He knew the living hope, his name was Jesus and his Spirit lived within. He desired nothing more in life than for everyone to know this also, to know his Jesus.

Called men and women ever since have had the same desire, to have all people know the Lord who pulled them out of darkness—I know, I am one. It’s the heaviest burden that can ever be borne, but one that is not carried in one’s own strength, and that is why we do it.

The Loneliest Job

Trust me on this, for all their business and interactions with others, most pastors are the loneliest people in the world. Everyone assumes that everyone loves them and that they have nothing to do but hang out with people. When they are “hanging out”, they are always still on duty, still ministering, being quizzed and challenged and expected to have all the right answers to make your day better.

But few understand or even care about the burdens the pastor carries—alone, expect for maybe his or her amazing spouse, whom the pastor tries not to overburden lest they be destroyed by the weight. They also often carry an unbearable burden—but for the grace of God— all their own. Being married to a pastor means you carry a burden for them, and for all they love.

I’m not saying this for my sake, this is the life I have chosen to follow the Lord into, and I knew going in that that was what was required. I wasn’t ready for all the heartache of having so many feel I let them down, (see my last blog) but there is nothing else I would rather do. I was created to do exactly what I am doing and I thank God every day that he entrusted me to do it.

I am saying this for your sake and for the sake of all the leaders out there who are feeling like failures left alone to sink in the dark waters of despair wondering where Jesus is and why they are no longer walking on the water with him. If you are in the boat don’t just say “tsk tsk, poor Peter, I guess he didn’t have what it takes” Pray for him,! Lord, reach down and help Peter, he is just trying to reach you!

Better yet, get out there with him. There were at least 11 people on that boat. What were they doing? ‘That Peter, there he goes leaving us here in this storm tossed boat, I guess he didn’t care about us after all.’ “I know, let’s write him a letter telling him how disappointed we are, and all the things he did wrong. That’ll help.

Don’t do that. . . never do that.

You are a disciple of Jesus Christ, the pastor is your brother, or sister, stand with them, pray for them and love them.

And if you are that “Peter”— Jesus has your back, he always has your back.

I Will Let You Down

“…people can come to put too much of their hope in you. That’s a pitfall of ministry and of a life devoted to Jesus in general.

For years, prophets and God fearing people tried to piece together the means of our redemption, how would we ever be restored to a relationship with the creator who we spurned so long ago?

We now see the big picture, we know how the story ends, we have the box cover. But, it still seems our lives are one big attempt at trying to put together a puzzle complicated by the fact that someone keeps coming along and rearranging or undoing what we thought we had done. Some days it’s like; Please, whoever, stop messing with my puzzle, you’re not helping!

Years ago when our girls were little we were visiting my Dad and family in Minnesota and on one of our outings my Dad took us to see a cabin on a lake that belonged to his sister and her family. No one was there at the time but he knew where the key was hidden so we went in just to check it out.

In the middle of the main room a table was set up with one of those big 500 piece jig saw puzzles on it that was about half way put together. As us adults were getting the quick tour we didn’t realize that the girls had found their own entertainment and when I turn my attention  back to them I hear, “Look Daddy, we’re doing a puzzle!”

Well, much to my horror, they were not doing a puzzle, they were undoing a puzzle. Pretty much all the previously assembled puzzle had been disassembled. “AAAH! Girls, that’s not our puzzle to play with!”

We left shortly thereafter leaving me to only imagine what my cousins must have thought when they came back to the cabin to find all their previous work undone. Starting over. Hopefully it was not that big of a deal.

But in real life, when all we have accomplished, dreamed of and planned for gets undone, it seems like a big deal doesn’t it?

Our response is everything in those times. Because that is really what this life is, isn’t it? One big puzzle that we hope to get assembled into a beautiful picture before we run out of time, or the next unknown visitor comes along and “helps” us.

Look, we’re doing a puzzle! No your destroying everything!

But are they?

 What are they really messing with? If it’s this life, your plans, your schemes and dreams, your security, life and health—all of that is temporal and is not where your hope is supposed to lie. Remember what we learned from James, and Jesus recently? That to plan and think we have it all figured out, that our future is secure, eat, drink and be merry, we are arrogant fools and our very souls may be required of us before we even get to indulge in our hoard.?

Many of us have had the pieces of our lives rearranged or even stolen, probably more so lately than ever. But what is truly important, what really matters? How much of our lives do we waste worrying about things we cannot control?

These are the days in which we truly discover where our hope lies. We discover if it is living, if it is based on truth and planted in and by the Holy Spirit and faith, or if it was based on other things and other people.

Flawed Hope

We can grieve, if need be, but we must remember that in all of our trials, our lives, our souls, are secure in the hands of Jesus. We are kept, preserved, protected, secure, by the power of God. He is our living and perfect hope. All other hope is flawed and tenuous at best, including hoping in others.

One of the things that makes loving people for Jesus, the way Jesus loved, unconditionally and sacrificially, heartbreaking at times, is that people can come to put too much of their hope in you. That’s a pitfall of ministry and of a life devoted to Jesus in general.

It frustrates me more and more as the years go by and I build relationships with more and more people, and as my family grows, that I cannot be there for everyone as much as they nor I would like. I know there are people who are upset because they don’t feel that I pursue or keep up with them the way they would like.

Feelings get hurt and resentments build and it hurts, it hurts them and it hurts me. It hurts me because I have never stopped loving and caring for anyone whom I have ever invested in, and there have been many over the years; whether it’s blood family, married family, spiritual family, the many kids and grandkids, nieces and nephews I have spiritually adopted over the years, friends and fellow warriors from a multitude of ministries and churches—I love and cherish all of them and look forward to one day having forever to spend with all of them.

But today I just flat cannot. I may have eternal life, but today I am still on the clock.

I work 9 or more hours a day in construction, five days a week, I then go home and spend my entire evening working on my sermon for Sunday. I spend all day Saturday at the church finalizing my sermon, doing the bulletin and PowerPoint, these blogs and Facebook blurbs, taking care of whatever church business and building and yard maintenance needs done.

I go home and go over my sermon some more and then I spend most of Sunday getting ready for church, preaching, visiting with and praying for people, and then I go home, if I’m lucky, and take a short nap before I take care of whatever needs done at home.

In the few spare minutes I have around all of that I try to maintain a relationship with my wife, my daughters and my many grandchildren who are all the joy of my life. I also have a mother and father and various siblings that I seldom get to spend time with, and I feel guilty about all of that.

So if I don’t have a lot of quality time to spend with you, or pursuing a relationship or mentoring you, I’m sorry, I truly am, but that is my reality and I cannot change it unless I either quit my job and starve, or quit the church, and God has not released me to do that.

Now, I am not telling you this to make you feel sorry for me or brag about my busyness for Jesus, my point is, and this is the same for anyone; I will let you down. And if you are left feeling hopeless and alone, unloved and bitter, because I or anyone in ministry—anyone in your life— has disappointed you and not lived up to your expectations, than your hope is in the wrong place. Any hope that you derive from any human being is going to be flawed. Period.

Your joy and peace cannot be tied to whether or not I had time to visit with you or pray for you. Whether I called you when you were having a bad day or invited you to coffee. Whether I chased you to the ends of the earth when you decided to stop showing up.

I can only be in one place at a time and I can only spend quality time with one person at a time and there are people whom I have to prioritize that will get my time, and there are people who will try to hoard my time and prayers, making it even more difficult to share my time.

Everyone’s time is limited. But you know who does have all the time in the world for you? The Holy Spirit. He is your Living Hope.

And the Holy Spirit doesn’t get exhausted, he is the source, we are just vessels. And frankly I, and no doubt every pastor out there who preaches in the power of the Holy Spirit, is exhausted after pouring out his everything as he preaches the word of God, because this imperfect vessel of flesh is mostly empty by noon on Sunday. I know I am, because I have given you everything I’ve received. And I need the rest of the day to rest and recharge so I can start again on Monday.

Fortunately it’s not all up to me, that’s not the way Jesus established his church.

That’s why I have always encouraged people to hang around after church and visit with one another, pray for one another, because you have just been filled through the worship, the word and the Spirit. You are being equipped for the work of the ministry. Take care of one another—every day of the week— love one another, but remember, your hope must ultimately, and primarily, be in Jesus. That’s what all this is about.

I will let you down. Pastor fill in the blank will let you down, your best friend will let you down, your family will let you down. Your job, your banker, you car, your waitress, everything and everyone will let you down—if, and only if, you are putting the onus for your joy and sense of well being on them in a disproportionate way.

How do you like me now?

your faith and hope are in God. 1 Peter 1:21

Your faith and hope must come from God and God alone.

The living hope can only be the Holy Spirit, and only the Holy Spirit, can be your living hope.

Justice, and a Cowdog?

Hank the Cowdog by John R Erickson, Image by Gerald L Holmes

Justice is an unalterable law of God’s universe

We serve a God of Justice. Lately we have been tracking along here in this blog with the biblical book of James. He is a no punches pulled kind of preacher and towards the end of his letter he lays in to the “rich”.

Not a lot of happy aren’t you all wonderful preaching in the book of James. But if you dig into his mind a bit and follow his train it truly is encouraging. Because it’s about truth and justice. Something we all inherently yearn for.

James’s words of rebuke and condemnation for the oppressive wealthy are given, not so much as a warning to the rich, as they are not his primary hearers, but as an encouragement to those who are oppressed. This is meant as an assurance that the Lord see’s the plight of the poor and oppressed in his church, and is their vindicator. He is reminding us that final judgement and vindication belongs to the Lord of Hosts and to him alone.

It should be comforting to all who love justice, who have been mistreated and hurt by being treated unjustly or aggrieved at the mistreatment of others, to know that there is ultimately justice. In that is our peace.

Our God is a God of justice, that is where our sense of fairness and justice comes from and why it bothers us so to see it miscarried.

We all do our share of stupid things and we must extend the grace that we receive.  The God who knows everything, does not hold it all against us. Our sins are not ignored but they are forgiven because of Jesus.

Justice must be served and that is an unalterable law of the universe God created that cannot be ignored, but it can be delayed and even satisfied by a proxy.

And we as Christians know that that proxy was Jesus. Justice was satisfied—it was served on Jesus. The one who took the punishment for our sins.

But what about all those who seem to get away with so much, lying cheating, stealing and the really heinous things like sexual assaults and murder, or the rich and powerful whose actions and greed hurt thousands and even millions of people?

Their day is coming.

the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.  You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you. James 5:4-6

Hank the Cowdog

Our God loves us too much to turn a blind eye to those who hurt us and he does not forget or disregard those hurts or those who inflict them.

Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. James 5

My daughter Jessie used to love reading Hank the Cow Dog books when she was a kid. A champion for rural justice.

One day when she was in second or third grade I suppose, all the kids got to go to school dressed up for Halloween. Jessie decided to go as Hank the Cow Dog. So my wife, Donna, rigged up some sort of costume with ears, a tail and painted whiskers on the face. It was pretty cute.

When I got home from work that night Jessie was not in a happy mood, which was pretty unusual for her, and Donna told me that she had had a really tough day because some kids made fun of her for going to school as a dog.

This broke my heart and made me furious all at once. I wanted to go find those kids and tell them, “You little punks, you just wait fifteen years or so and I’m going to find you and kick your butts!”

Of course I didn’t, nor have I, but I never forgot that slight against my little girl. You can’t love someone that much and not feel their pain, maybe even more than they do. Which, I think in this case may have been so.

A couple of years ago we were in some shop somewhere with Jessie, who is all grown up of course, and in the back we find a rack full of old books. I hear Jessie exclaim “Hank the Cowdog! Look, they have Hank the Cowdog books!” Instantly all the hurt and anger I felt that Halloween day so many years ago came back and I hesitantly asked Jessie; “You still like Hank the Cow Dog?”

“Of course I do, why wouldn’t I?” “I guess I thought all the trauma you experienced when you went to school dressed as Hank spoiled it for you.” She looks at me funny and says, What? I don’t remember that?

Apparently if wasn’t nearly as traumatic as I thought it was. Or she forgave and forgot, I’m glad for that, but still—stupid kids . . .

That’s what James is saying here. God loves you and he sees the pain and injustices being inflicted on you, and it may not always seem like it, and you may wish for swift justice and all things to be set right—but be patient, they will.

Your Father who loves you knows all of it, he sees all of it and he will not forget all of it. He hurts when you hurt and cries when you cry and those who cause you pain, if they do not repent, and hopefully they will—which is why God is patient, they will have to answer for what they do to his precious children.

You just keep living your life, investing in heaven and let the Lord worry about the unjust and the oppressors. Life is too short to live it angry and indignant or fearful and anxious.

The precious fruit is coming with the latter rains.

Really? Rahab the Harlot?

“…her words and her actions bore witness to a God given, front loaded, heart of faith.

In the second chapter of James we are given two examples of those who proved that their faith was real by their actions. Abraham and “Rahab the Harlot”.

Unarguably, Abraham’s actions as found in Genesis were a testament to his faith and a fitting seal of a long life of faithfulness and nearly everyone knows who he is still today.

But then, there is Rahab. She is just dropped into the picture out of the blue, a woman with no known history of faithfulness and no long recorded history of interactions with God for us to marvel at. Yet she ends up with a lead role in the story of the making of Israel.

Rahab

You have to wonder, of all the people in the Hebrew scriptures— Noah, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, King David, Elijah, Ruth, Solomon, Jeremiah, Esther—great heroes, prophets and examples of integrity and tenacity—of all the possible examples, to put on par with Abraham as examples of those justified by faith in action, James uses Rahab the harlot.

Really? Rahab the harlot?

Obviously her last name wasn’t harlot but that was her designation, a title actually. Like Builder Bob or Sam the butcher. James makes it clear in that way just to whom he is referring, there is no mistaking—but still, Rahab the Harlot?

You all know that means she’s a prostitute right? Not exactly a career choice that a woman who wants to become a beacon of light and an example of faith in the Kingdom of God, should draw to—let alone even go and stay with, as the spies that Joshua sent to her hometown of Jericho to check out did. Really guys, you went straight to a prostitutes house to find sanctuary?  

I just love the realness and grittiness of the bible. God uses real people to do his greatest works, and he doesn’t gloss over their flaws. It gives me hope.

So, why Rahab? Why would God lead the spies there and why would James use her to make his point?

Easy—She was able to show them the money. She probably didn’t talk a lot of bible speak or come across as a religious person, she was, after all, a harlot in a pagan city. But when it came down to it, she was able to show the fruits of her faith in the one true God by her actions.

In that regard I think James was quite ingenious in using her as an example of what he is telling us here when he says that we are to show our faith by our works. There was nothing else about her,at least not that we are aware of, that would have merited her a place in the family of God, as a recipient of what was apparently a saving faith totally apart from the law and any religious expression in regard to Yahweh.

There is nothing about her, no moral witnesses, no history of her talking the right talk, saying the right words, praying the right prayers, no self-proclaimed rights to righteousness, seemingly nothing to merit her becoming listed as an ancestor to King David and thus to the Messiah, Jesus himself—she was not even Jewish! Let alone a worshipper of their God.

Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab, Boaz begot Obed by Ruth, Obed begot Jesse, and Jesse begot David the king. Mat 1

But when called upon to fulfill her destiny, to become a key player in the fulfillment of God’s promise to his people that he would deliver them from slavery and give them the land of Canaan, she acted with a courage that would set her apart as someone who truly had a faith in the God whose mighty acts she had only heard about. She had a faith in this unknown God who had apparently been whispering to her heart— that he was indeed real and loved her.

How do I know that? How do I know that God had been whispering to her heart? Because God does it all the time, and he has done it to me. And because her words and her actions bore witness to that God given, front loaded heart of faith.

Spies

Do you all know the story? From the book of Joshua?

The children of Israel had been miraculously delivered from slavery in Egypt, crossed the Red Sea, lived in the desert for forty years eating manna from heaven and were now finally ready to enter in and take the promised land under the leadership of Joshua.

But first, they have to get past Jericho. The fortress city that dominates the first region of the country the Lord is giving them as their new homeland, the very land he had promised hundreds of years earlier to Abraham, where he would become a great nation.

So Joshua, as any good military leader would, sends of a couple of spies to do some reconnaissance.  The spies make it into the city of Jericho largely unnoticed but word soon gets around that they are not just ordinary nomads coming to trade goat milk for pottery.

They are part of that very large group of former slaves from Egypt known as the Hebrews who have just crossed the Jordan river and are wreaking havoc on anyone who tries to stop them, and many have. So the spies seek out a place to hide, preferably someone who can give them a little insight as well, and somehow or other, I have to wonder at the thinking that led them there, but they end up in the home of a local prostitute named Rahab.

But, it turns out, little goes unnoticed in this town and word gets back to the King himself that there are enemy spies staying at Rahab’s house on top of the wall. So he sends troops to arrest them. But Rahab gets word that they are on their way so she takes the Israelites up on her roof where she has flax laid out in the sun to cure, and hides them underneath it. When the king’s men show up she tells them that the spies have already left and that if they hurry they might be able to catch them, so off they go.

After a time Rahab has the spies come out from hiding and tells them that she can lower them over the wall from her window, as her house is on the massive wall that surrounds the city, with a rope so that no one will see them leave and that they can then go in a different direction, avoiding those who are pursuing them.

But first she wants a promise. She has helped them at great risk to herself. But she realized that they were on the winning side, because she believed in an unseen God, heard the stories of his power to deliver those who serve him, and she fears him more than she fears the soldiers banging on her door.

She believes that the Israelites will indeed take the city she dwells in and that all their enemies will be destroyed. So she asks them to remember how she helped them and to spare her and her family when they return to take the city.

The spies tell her to tie a scarlet cord in her window as a sign and a reminder to the Israelite army that they are to spare her and all in her house. And indeed that is what happens. When the Israelites return and do their now famous seven day march around the city walls and blow them to smithereens with nothing but a shout and a trumpet blast, Rahab and her family are spared and become a part of the nation of Israel.

Now, thinking about this story, it seems that her part in the big picture conquest of the promised land was pretty small. I mean, Jericho probably would have been taken regardless of the spies eluding capture, but that is not the point.

The point of the story, the point of God’s favor and blessing on Rahab, and the point that James is making, is that it is not the significance or standing in man’s eyes, it is not the outward appearance or having a clean record of holiness and purity—it’s what are you doing today, it’s who are you when the chips are down, how do you respond when your hour comes and God is giving you an opportunity for action, calling you to fulfill your purpose, to make a real difference, to bless and help someone in a real tangible way.

Rahab literally saved the lives of two men and endangered her and her family in the process; two men she had never met before from a strange people she had only heard horror stories about—the Hebrew refugees from Egypt who are mowing down everyone who gets in their way. But, they have this God. . .

And what this God saw in Rahab the Harlot was a heart that wanted to do what was right, that said yes to him when it mattered the most, and when it was probably the hardest to say yes.

God said ‘show me the fruit Rahab’, and she did. And her faith saved her.

A faith lived out is a faith lived in. A faith walked out is a faith that will carry you home.

How Are You Doing?

Grace under pressureMany in this season of uncertainty and change are feeling the pressure of stress and disappointment. The stress of the unknown and uncertainty and the disappointment of ruined plans and dashed hopes. You may even think God’s plans for you have been stymied, and that is hugely disappointing. I know, I have been there, more times than I care to admit.

But God is not so easily thwarted and he only sees opportunity where we see dead ends—we need to learn to do the same.

If God has called you, gifted and equipped you for a specific mission, ministry, career or given you a passion to affect change somewhere, to make a difference in the world, in people’s lives—whatever it is that you feel God was leading you into to be a light and an instrument of change—that has not changed!

Sovereign

God is still sovereign.

Do you really think a Governor or a county health director can stop God’s plans? Do you really think God is not bigger than a virus that only picks on the old and compromised?

Do you really believe that God is sent into a panic and mere survival mode by a hyperventilating news media or confused by ‘he said, she said, it’s your fault, nuh-ah it’s your fault’ bickering and power hungry politicians?

Do you think God is stopped short of finishing what he has started by a lack of funds because of lost jobs and the fact that his offering plates aren’t getting passed because the big houses of worship are closed? —NO!

He is in fact seeing what we are all made of in all of this and using this time to refine his church. We are all in the pressure cooker right now and our preparedness for his service is being expedited like has not happened in a long time.

crown of life

Those who persevere will be rewarded, they will receive all that God had and has planned for them.

Those who were only in it for what they could get will be cast aside like yesterday’s chicken bones.

The Call

God is not done with you, God is not discouraged, and God cannot be stopped.

gifts from above

That calling, that equipping, those talents and experiences and the wisdom to know how to use those all together, or at least were beginning to have an inkling of, as the Lord was leading you step by step—those things were from God. That was, and is, the Holy Spirit leading you, encouraging you, giving you a vision.

“Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of heavenly lights.” You didn’t conjure up and develop those gifts on your own or for no good reason.

You did not acquire that “fire in your heart and shut up in your bones” (Jer 20:9) just to have your plan and purpose stymied by  a sickness induced political and social shift.

Schools may be shut down, travel made nearly impossible and social interactions limited, but God is not.

Businesses may shut down and many most likely for good as they fail after months of no revenue meaning lost jobs and opportunities, but God is not worried.

Weddings and funerals, birthday parties and graduations cancelled, funerals banned and still, the uncertainty of whether or not we are even safe yet from this virus as many of the so called experts and those in power are all screaming we’re all going to die if we dare get on with life! while others are calling it all one big conspiracy designed to strip us of our freedom and our identity— hangs over all of our heads, but God is not worried.

We don’t know what all the agendas are behind all the hype and seemingly over the top power grabs and irrational controls, and what is truly necessary and what is just human foolishness swayed by demonic deceptions and intrigue, but God is not worried.

We don’t know a lot of things in this season as a nation and as citizens of a world that has gotten very small in our lifetimes.

What we do know— is that our choices are severely limited right now as are our options and opportunities. This is truly causing a deep societal anxiety that has us all under a great amount of pressure, that cannot be overstated or ignored, it’s very real.

It seems that all our hopes and dreams, our plans and schemes are all in jeopardy of crashing down, as are the plans that God had for us.

But are they? Are God’s plans for you thwarted? Is your life and purpose forfeited because God was caught off guard by this upheaval? Are your opportunities to serve, follow, growto fulfill the dreams and chase the plan he has for you wherever it may lead— are they all gone?

No, they most certainly are not. The one who gave you those gifts to use, develop and to make a difference, to advance the Kingdom of Heaven and to storm the gates of hell, setting the captives free and bringing sight to the blind and healing to the broken hearted, He does not change like shifting shadows.

And  He chose to give us birth through the word of truth,” God’s word does not change, it does not perish, it is never wrong and it is what he used to place that fire in you, to cast the vision in your heart, and it will not return back to him empty and unfulfilled.

And the pressure you are feeling and experiencing today may very well what God is using as the catalyst for your tomorrow, to perfect you and move you into your destiny.Jeremiah 20.9How are you doing?

Stuck in Galilee

From the Vatican to Red Lodge MT, from Grandma’s backyard to the White house lawn, this Easter is resoundingly quiet, and reflective. A huge and unsettling departure from what we are used to. We are all stuck in Galilee.

strike the shepherd hammer

“The flock will be scattered” When Jesus said this he knew he was fulfilling what the prophet Zechariah had said, he knew the horror that he was about to be struck with and the terror this would strike in the hearts of his flock. But even so, he was giving them hope, if they would just listen—After I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.

Galilee, why Galilee? Have you ever wondered about that statement?

What was in Galilee? The homes of the disciples.

That was where Jesus met them, that is where Peter was reinstated, forgiven and given another chance after his dismal night of betrayal at the trial of Jesus.

Their own homes

We are in Galilee right now, listening, seeking, being reassured and assured by the risen Lord that he does have a plan for us. He is giving us a chance to repent, be reinstated, recommissioned and then he is going to tell us to come back together to be anointed afresh because we have work to do.

Work to do with boldness and in power because when we gather again it will be those who did not fall away, whose faith was proven to be real because it stood the trials of the storm that has befallen all of us no matter what station of life, faith or lack of faith, we are all in the same boat wondering if the next wave is going to roll right over us and suck us to the bottom of the sea.

But those who recognized that they are not in that boat alone, who did not depend solely on church programs, smooth talking, smiling preachers and professional performers to lead them in a sing along where you can’t even hear yourself sing—they will be the ones who come back to that big room in Jerusalem, gather with the faithful who listened to the Lord in their days of exile, who see, hear and taste the glory of the Lord in Spirit and in truth.

It will be a glorious day church, and it will be a new day for God is doing a new thing and all that was first will be last and all that was last will now be first.

And those who have toiled in obscurity, those whose righteous souls have been vexed by the state of things as they were, all those who have loved and longed for truth and recoiled at the ear tickling ‘you are all wonderful and nothing bad will ever befall you’ name it and claim it preaching that promises earthly wealth while ignoring the poverty of the soul, they will be the ones rejoicing as we bring in the sheaves.

Those who have been listening have been told over and over the last couple of years  that there is a great harvest coming. Well get ready because here it comes! But harvests don’t bring in themselves.

We need to be here–gathering to be fed, we need to be ready, and we need to be out there being the church.

We need to be Jesus to a scared and anxious world. People are seeking answers right now, people are reevaluating what is important—’who and what do I trust, what if I die tomorrow, who is the God I will meet on the other side and am I ready to stand before him?’

You, church, have the answers, we know the truth, that Jesus Christ, the way, the truth and the life, is risen and we can be as well. We do not fear and we do not bow to anyone but our God.

take heart

Many are going to show up in church as soon as the doors are open again because they have found truth, they have found answers, they have found hope on-line by watching those who have been preaching truth in a way that all of a sudden hundreds and thousands of people who have never been to a house of worship are able to hear.

A new church

I’m gonna be brutally honest with you here, I have been preaching here to a near empty building for the last several months as the church has been drifting away, finding excuses to not be here, finding other places where they have more to offer in the way of programs or events, taking offense in me or in others, and I was starting to wonder how much longer my church would be viable.

But I kept clinging to the promises and standing on the word. And now, suddenly we have hundreds— literally hundreds—of people watching our humble little church services on Facebook over the course of the week as it sits there beckoning people, and I believe it is the Holy Spirit beckoning people, come, click on this and listen to truth. Listen to hope, be renewed and reborn by the word of God.

And when the storm passes, and it may take some time, Lord I hope not, but it may be a storm that lasts longer than any of us hope or dare believe because there may have to be some real pain before many are ready to turn their hearts to the only one who can get them through the storms.

But when God’s purpose is accomplished in this, when the enemy, who is playing this for all it’s worth and thinks he is defeating us by striking us and scattering the flock, all away from the shepherds and back to their own fearful corners of the world, people are going to come back to church, many for the first time, seeking the love and the peace that they felt in their hearts when they stumbled upon those faithful servants who still speak truth in Jesus name.

And you, church, those who have been feasting at the troughs that the shepherds of the Lord’s flocks—shepherds that the enemy has been striking over and over and over again, yet have refused to fall—you who have been feeding at the troughs that they have toiled to keep full for you— you will need to be here to show them that the love and the joy that they felt is real, and that one of the greatest joys of being a part of the family of God is being a part of the family of God.

Little children, love.love in deed

The Lord is indeed doing a new thing, but he can only give us the opportunities, we must still do our part.

How long will this pandemic hysteria last? Probably until we have learned what we are supposed to learn, and or, until enough of the church contends through fasting and prayer, repentance and humility, for the healing of our land, of our hearts, our hands and our bodies.

When he see’s that we commit to seeking first the Kingdom of our God over our own, that we live for the fruits of the Spirit not the works of the flesh, that we are willing take up our cross daily rather than looking for ways to shirk it, that we answer the call instead of putting God on hold. If we can do that, this world would be a different place tomorrow. A place of health, blessings, and joy.

When the disciples finally burst forth from their homes they changed the world with those words—He is risen. It was a game changer for the entire world.

But that was that generation, God is now calling on us, getting our attention, it’s time to get serious about following Jesus again, taking up his command to go and make disciples of all the world. “Disciples”—not pew sitters or simple converts who never mature but always demand to be fed more milk.

God is going to do it, it’s time, perhaps the last time. Whether we are part of it is our choice.

If God does it in spite of us, it will be so that he can raise up a new army who will take him seriously and who will heed his command to take the good news that he is risen to the world while the old guard seeks out entertainment centers called churches. They will return to pat you on the head and tell you you’re wonderful preachers and then wonder why the next round of tribulation woes has not spared any of them a lick.

Happy Easter! Yeah, I’m a radical, but so is the Lord I follow.

But don’t miss the point; The disciples were all scattered for fear, when they came back together they were much different people with a much different outlook. That should stir your soul.

Game Changer

Everything is always different after a true Resurrection.

Now more than ever, you need to release your inner barbarian for Jesus!book cover