The Enduring

We are all doing this now, what is wrong with you? How dare you question authority and collective wisdom.”

“For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality.” Acts 15:28—29

Do this

Those words from the book of Acts represent the final verdict that came out of the Jerusalem council, presided over by James as to what the Gentile believers in the Jewish Messiah should do to remain in good standing. This was the extent of the religious requirements placed on those who had confessed Jesus as Lord and turned away from their demonic false gods.

Simple, concise and easy. But these simple requirements made the former pagans stand out like sore thumbs—because everyone else was doing them and expected everyone to participate. If you refused you were seen as ignorant, judgmental, narrow minded and deemed a threat to society. We are all doing this now, what is wrong with you? How dare you question authority and collective wisdom—we have a consensus!

The same was happening in Jerusalem where the followers of Jesus no longer supported the temple worship and threatened the power and financial base of the priests and Pharisees. Things were getting ugly, you didn’t just buck the system—not the Roman system nor the Jewish religious system—without paying dearly. The church was forced into civil disobedience as they had to choose over and over again whether to listen to God or to man.

So this called for endurance, as they were often beaten, imprisoned or worse.  

Proclaiming “Jesus is Lord and there is no other way to the Father but by him” was not okay. They were constantly swimming against the current, but this just served to make them stronger. When Jesus is all you have, you learn that Jesus is all you need. And then you are fearless and unstoppable. Even your death becomes a witness that cannot be stopped and a testimony that cannot be silenced.

Job

You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord”

—Job’s patient endurance in the face of his misery, robbed of everything he loved by the devil himself, his health, his wealth, his children and his dignity live on as a testimony equal to none. But he refused to give in to the temptation to forsake his God and concede that maybe he was wrong about a loving and merciful God who seemed so far away in his pain. But he didn’t. He was counted among the enduring and was ultimately blessed beyond measure.

James is telling his church; ‘Don’t despair, don’t give in to the shrill voices of the deceived and ignorant who demand that you condone and accept their debauchery and corruption. Don’t succumb to their insistence that right is wrong and good is evil. Don’t sell your soul for the false peace promised to those who fall in line with the ever changing norms of a culture that has no set standard by which to measure good from evil aside from how the mob feels that day.’

Don’t set aside who you are to conform to who they demand you be. Be patient—be patient and endure.

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. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. James 5

Establish your hearts, strengthen them, defend the hill on which you stand and watch and be ready for the coming of the Lord.

The more things change, the more things stay the same. James could have written his yesterday and it would all mean the same thing. God’s word is truly eternal and the enemies’ tricks are always the same.

Societal Pressure

All of this, this pressure on the early church to conform to the norms of a sick culture, should sound very familiar.

If you are trying to live by the basics of right and wrong, to honor God and his word, to abstain from the lewdness, rudeness and crudeness—from the drunkenness and the pervasive everybody must get stoned mindset that is being openly and aggressively promoted, then you will stand out like a sore thumb and you will be targeted and attacked as ignorant, judgmental, narrow minded—and deemed a threat to society.

And this is no longer just on a street level, this mindset is now pervading mayors offices, governors mansions, judge’s chambers and the halls of congress.

So this call to endure and persevere is no longer just an abstract concept that we have to manufacture perceived slights, and feign offense at whispered back biting, to relate to. It is now very real and it is being codified into law and popular culture.

I’m going to say this once, and I’m going to say it plainly. The only firewall we have right now between us and the spirit of the antichrist legally obliterating the church in America— is sitting in the Oval office.

Very few Christians know or care how many arrows our president has taken for the church and frankly, it is shameful that we are not more appreciative and supportive.

Is he perfect? No, he’s a Celtic barbarian from the mean streets of New York and he behaves as his blood and his upbringing dictate. But he is God’s chosen warrior, the one who stepped up, to buy his church time to repent and regroup. And we either have 5 months or four more years to do that. Trust me on that as a pastor who pays very close attention to all of this, and to what the Spirit is saying.

I don’t say this lightly because I know it will offend many people and probably cost me some readers. But, that is what happens when you speak honestly in the name of the Lord.

People who don’t cause offense don’t suffer and need no patience. But that is not us is it? If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ve learned critical thinking, how to question everything and not to accept everything just because someone else said so. And you’ve learned not to be offended by truth or challenges to your spiritual status quo.

Barbarian

There’s no contented stagnant pools in my church because I’m always stirring the pot with my sword to keep it fresh. I told you, and them, long ago I’m just a barbarian with a bible and God keeps challenging me to keep that straight forward—fight the enemy in front of you—spirit, while living in total obedience to my king.

Barbarian prophetic preachers don’t draw big crowds or get invited to preach in big churches. But then Jesus only had a handful of people left in his group after three years, and they changed the world—forever.

We are the fruit of their sufferings and patient endurance and we are far from done. We will endure.

I referred earlier to the only firewall between us and the true church being outlawed as sitting in the White house.

There is another firewall, a spiritual firewall, that must be built up and reinforced because the Law is only as good as the people who adhere to or enforce it. The president can only buy us time. That time must be used to reclaim this country and this culture for Jesus.

That will take patient endurance yes. It will take boldness and may involve suffering, yes. It may involve civil disobedience as we are forced to choose between obeying God and obeying man, yes.

But none of that will have a lasting or meaningful impact unless we become people of prayer.

God had shut up the heavens when ancient Israel turned its back on him and it did not rain for 3 1/2 years. It took the fervent prayers of just one man, a man who was willing to stand in the gap between blessings and curses, right and wrong, God and idolatry, and pray for blessed rain.

He alone prayed because he alone heard God speak to him, Elijah, it’s time—pray for rain.

Elijah was just a man, one with a nature like ours, who had bad days, lots of bad days, and good days. Imagine if there had been an army of Elijahs? There is, we are they.

We are the people called by his name. We are the enduring.

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.

1 Peter 1:23

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As the Tongue Goes. . .

As the tongue goes—so goes the body-and the nation. Our words are so important and we see that over and over again in scripture. Our words have power, power to affect the heavens themselves through our prayers, blessings and curses; the power to affect the lives, hearts and souls of other people—and to affect who we are becoming and to make plain for the world to see, who we are.

As the tongue goes, so goes the rest of us. This lines up with what Jesus said, that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks… But James is expanding on that a bit and telling us that not only does the mouth reveal what is in our hearts, it also dictates where the heart is going.

If you are speaking hate—you will have a heart full of hate. If you are speaking love, you will have a heart full of love. If you don’t speak at all, you will probably become bitter and hard because we were created to speak, to communicate freely with one another and with our God.

The measure to which we are who we are is immeasurably tied to what we have had communicated to us, and to what we have been allowed to communicate to others. Ideas, wisdom, lessons learned, questions that need answered, emotions that need addressed, hurts that need appeased and rights that need wronged, prayers—none of those can be transferred from one to another if we cannot speak to one another.

That amazing ability to do all of that is a huge gift to mankind and you could argue is what makes us human. But it is also a huge responsibility because the tongue is something we are all prone to lose control of. And it can get us into trouble pretty fast. With our tongues we can do great good, but our fallen nature often leads it to do great harm.

That word there, similitude, that just means we are created in God’s image, that we have attributes like the creator, among them— according to James here—is in the gravity and power our words hold. God created the world and all that is in it with his word and for better or worse, he gave us, as those created in is image, the ability to affect change with our words as well—to create or destroy, not on the same level as God obviously, but probably a lot more powerfully than any of us realize.

What do we do with that power? That’s the question.

Looking at that concept from a political and societal point of view, we are blessed to live in a nation that recognizes the importance and God given power of the words we speak. Our founders fought and died to ensure that we had, and retained, that right, as have many who have come after them.

One of the great constitutionally protected freedoms we enjoy as Americans and the very basis and mark of a free people is the freedom of speech, the right to speak our minds, to express our concerns, to criticize or boast about our leaders and each other, and to communicate our thoughts without fear of arrest or persecution from the law.

As with any freedom, the responsibility for the proper use of that freedom falls back on the one who exercises that freedom. I remember the late great Paul Harvey used to say, “With great freedom comes great responsibility.”

Do you all remember Paul Harvey? “Hello America, I’m Paul Harvey. Stand by for news!”

Up until a decade or so ago he did a morning and afternoon newscast every week day that pretty much the whole country listened to, and looked forward to listening to. Try to find a single newscaster today that you could get everyone in any work place to sit around a radio to listen to without someone being offended or storming out of the room while muttering obscenities.

Objective journalism and fair minded reporting and observation is a thing of the past—on both sides. And that’s the problem– we have all chosen sides. And those sides are far apart.

I just want to be on Jesus’s side, and on the side of freedom, because the first casualty of any lost freedoms always seems to be the freedom to think, move and speak as one would believe God wants him to.

That has always been the founding principle, and what the very notion of freedom is that this nation fought so earnestly for and enshrined in our charters from the Magna Charta to the Declaration of Independence to the Bill of Rights to the Emancipation Proclamation. The true definition of freedom is the freedom to be who we believe that God wants and destined us to be. And the freedom to fall short of that because of our own choices.

The freedom to verbalize the reasons behind what we do and think, to debate, teach and listen to various reasons and thoughts is truly an invaluable and necessary freedom for the health and advancement of the human condition.

Our founders were truly inspired by God to establish those rights for us as the basis for the freedom we have enjoyed. It is literally how the gospel has, and is, spread—freely speaking and teaching truth. Not always perfectly and unfortunately not always lovingly, but always freely. And everyone has had the freedom to argue with or reject the word as it was spoken by those who endeavored to teach it.


We, all of us who believe, get to choose whether we speak with the fire of the Spirit or spread the flames of hell’s fury and destruction. We get to choose whether we are fonts of fresh living water or whether we are spewing destruction. Those outside of Christ don’t really have that choice, they are woefully deceived and speak only the lies that the father of lies, the devil, has planted on their lips.

We have to counter that, we have to lead them to freedom by speaking the words of freedom. We must be springs of living water.

We must remember and realize that the world is not our enemy, the world is only deceived by the real enemy because we have stopped up our springs of living water, we have quenched the fires of the Spirit found in the word of God.

The voices of evil have gotten louder because the voice of the church has gotten quieter.

The hell fires burn hotter when the fire of the Spirit is quenched. Do not let that happen!

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

Are You Not entertained!?

“A warrior needs to be taking on the enemy in a battle that means something, not in an arena.”

A couple of weekends ago I was in our small church building trying to get the lights just right so that attendees and the camera could see the folks up front without them being blinded, adjusting monitor; trying to work the bugs out of the sound, both in the house and on the live feed, is a constant ongoing battle, the Power Point programs and the background pictures I use on the screen to enhance the message and the verses in a way that all can see them, thinking about the placement of the worship team and facilitating all of that both for those in house and the camera, the slow internet speeds and on and on.

I was trying to work through all of that when it all just kind of overwhelmed me a bit (I have no tech people) and I threw up my hands and shouted at the back wall–

“Are you not entertained?”

maximus

In my mind at that moment I was Russel Crowe playing Maximus,  in the movie Gladiator holding up my blood dripping sword after having lobbed the heads off of all of my technological issues and not having any fun whatsoever doing it. In fact I was rather frustrated because it is not what I want to be doing, but it just seems necessary, expected and required.

Like fighting and killing just for show. Fighting and sometimes killing is necessary at times to protect what and who you love and cherish from harm but when it becomes a sport to be cheered it no longer serves a noble purpose.

 A warrior needs to be taking on the enemy in a battle that means something, not in an arena.

Maximus was a noble warrior who is forced to fight for show. He had been a respected general leading a Roman legion, fighting against the barbarians in the north for an Emperor he loved, for what he perceived to be a noble cause, when he was betrayed and found himself in the hands of slavers and sold to a purveyor of the gladiator arena.

After having been forced to fight in several different arenas, using his extensive military experience and skill to become a money making crowd pleaser he is becoming more and more disgusted at the whole system so one day he walks into some backwater arena where he is facing six opponents by himself and he becomes a flurry of steel and sinew as all six opponents are quickly dispatched within a matter of seconds.

As the crowd sits in stunned silence at the display of efficient, no nonsense swordsmanship, Maximus turns to them and sarcastically shouts—“Are you not entertained? –are you not entertained!?”

His trainer and owner then derides him after the show for not putting on a show—”if you want to become truly famous, if you want to make it to the Colosseum in Rome, you have to put on a show, that’s what the people want.”

Frustration

 

Maximus was right in being frustrated that he had to put on a show when the end goal was to dispatch the enemy. For the most part, those in the arena who were put forward as gladiators were captured enemy soldiers or criminals sentenced to death. A quick and efficient execution would have sufficed but they made it into a sport to appease the citizens who needed some distraction from the shortfalls of the leaders and the misery of their day to day.

And once that system, that show was started, the more they demanded and the more creative they had to be in turning killing into entertainment. And it was all about keeping the people happy and pacified.

How many pastors and evangelists feel the same way; ‘Why can I not just get up here and slay the enemy, stomp the devil and his demons and release those he has deceived and put into bondage with the sharp sword of the word of God and release the power of grace in the hearts of God’s children by the life changing, life giving Holy Spirit?

Why the song and dance? Why the multimillion dollar gilded stadiums, the Broadway worthy stages and actors, the lighting and effects, sound and video technologies, that would make any high dollar Rock band feel right at home if they were dropped onto the stage? Why the special events and carefully planned activities that would make a cruise ship director proud?

Are you not entertained?!

recieve with meekness

We are asked to receive the word with meekness. Should it not be sufficient also to deliver the word of God to be implanted in your souls with meekness as well? Meekness means with humility, gentleness, quietness, it certainly doesn’t mean with as loud and as grand a show as you can afford or imagine.

And receiving the word with meekness means not demanding that you be entertained, that your ears be tickled, in the process. The churches feel the pressure to put on a show because the people have come to expect it, and to expect even more. —”Otherwise I’m going golfing—wait, that church on the other side of town, I hear they have an amazingly talented worship team and the drama team, Wow, they are top notch!”

Meanwhile the rest of us are just trying not to lose the remote to the PowerPoint slide show while hoping that no one trips on the mic  cord to the phone we are using to try and keep our church service on Facebook, and that those who run Facebook don’t shut us down because we are preaching the whole gospel and not just the ‘aren’t we all wonderful parts.’

Jesus is Lord and he loves us so much that he died on the cross because of our sins. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. And the Holy Spirit is also alive and well and wants to indwell, heal and lead you, but you must be obedient to his voice and his word if you want to be used of him to make a difference. And you must be willing to get out of your comfortable little happy bubble and be Jesus to a sick and dying world because he is coming back. And then it will be too late to do all that we had put off.’ —That’s the whole gospel.

doers and hearers

We are to be doers and not just hearers.

That’s the unvarnished, life changing, soul saving, devil slaying gospel of Jesus Christ.

What are we going to do with it? How do we become doers?

The Sheep and the Goats

James gives us the answer—get out and change the world, one hurting person at a time, without letting the world change you.

helping hand

It’s the same thing Jesus told us. Who is it that he recognizes at the judgement seat as he separates the sheep from the goats? Those who remembered and visited him when he was sick and in prison, who clothed and fed him when he was naked and hungry.

He recognizes the doers, not those who were only hearers—and talkers.

And why would you not want to make a difference in this world? If you truly have the heart of Jesus, know the love and hope he offers and know the depths of his love, how can you look at those who hurt and not love them like Jesus does? And if you truly love, you will act.

I don’t blame the church for the state of apathy and spiritual arrogance. I blame the leaders who teach what they think will bring people in instead of what will truly save them from missing out on all that God has for them. For allowing them to wallow in filth.

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.

lay aside wickedness

 

Triggers

“Triggers are only the flesh trying to convince you that you are weak–you are not….”

Pressure is pretty much unavoidable in this life so avoiding it is not really an option nor a sign of godly character, actually quite the opposite is true—it seems the more you care about others and doing right, being responsible and loving, the more apt you are to experience and feel pressure. And the more you are entrusted with, the more apt you are to feel pressure.

So then the question becomes—how do you respond to pressure? It’s how we handle that pressure? That becomes the important thing as far as our emotional and spiritual health goes; and that is what the Lord is watching and hoping we learn because if we are not exuding grace under pressure, we are probably not handling it right, and that can get us into big trouble.

tempted drink

There are many things that can trigger us. Trigger us to do stupid things–to sin.

Pressure can cause us to sin through anxiety or fear. ‘Oh my gosh! How am I going to get through this—survive this? What if I don’t? How could you leave me here to suffer and deal with this? Why God, why did you do this to me?’ That is a total lack of trust and faith and borders on blasphemy, blaming God for our troubles as though we deserve nothing but sunshine and roses.

God does not cause our troubles. Nine times out of ten it is a result of our own bad choices, somewhere along the line. And the rest of the time it is the result of someone else’s bad choices—maybe even all the way back to Adam and Eve whose bad choices brought sin, sickness and death into this world to start with.

Another way we can give way to sin under pressure, fail the trial, is by turning to harmful substances or behaviors to distract and “help us forget our troubles.”

Now there is the biggest lie we have ever told ourselves. Drinking, smoking, snorting or shooting, however you feed your mind numbing addictions, only make the troubles loom larger and seem more overwhelming as you dull or alter your ability to deal with or resolve those problems in a healthy constructive way. And that quickly creates a whole new set problems—more unneeded, totally avoidable, bad choice pressure.

Everyone forgets that alcohol is a depressant until they drink to forget their woes and turn into the saddest whiniest fool in the room.

And marijuana just makes you stupid as you forget everything, including your ambitions, goals, and where you left your car keys.

All the other drugs just make you forget what your car even looks like and how to drive it—but that’s okay because eventually you will not have a car, or a license, a job, or any dignity—but you will have a purpose in life—getting more of your drug of choice no matter what it takes. Addicts are the most dedicated people around, dedicated to self-destruction and avoiding all responsibility and pressure.

Anyway, backing up just a bit from sleeping in a carboard box surrounded by empty cans of Schlitz tall boys—the lie that gets us there, to that ‘nothing else matters anymore except getting my fix’ state, is much more subtle and starts small. It’s a little here, a little there as the flesh is a many deceitful thing left to its own accord.

‘A little was okay yesterday so more must be okay today, and I need this.’

Part of the deceit is that the things we claim to be doing to forget our pressures, are things the flesh is pushing us to do anyway, pressure or not. And this latest pressure we may be experiencing, whatever it is— there will always be something— is just a convenient excuse to indulge the flesh. And whenever we dull our senses, we open ourselves up to even greater sins.

put off the old nature

The same goes for succumbing to lust, pressure is another excuse we use to indulge in things we know we ought not. I just need comfort, to relieve some stress, to be understood. This can lead to all kinds of unhealthy and grievous sin that only hurts our relationship with the Lord and damages our own souls.

Blessed

So, you probably get the point by now—withstand the test

Persevering under trial means not giving in to sin. Not giving in to temptation, not using it as an excuse or justification for sin, and not losing control of our emotions and lashing out to hurt others.

Grace under pressure, tapping into the power of grace under pressure, leaves us blessed—wiser and stronger—for the battles ahead.

We must allow the Lord room to work and give him the glory when he does—we are not in this, any of this, alone.

What do you do with pressure? Do you carry it alone thinking that you are alone, and you alone can fix it? Do you panic? Stick your head in the sand? Drug yourself until you are comfortably numb?

Or do you give it to God, seek him for wisdom and strength, and learn all that you can in the midst of it so you can be stronger and wiser the next time.

The answer is indicative of where you are in your walk with the Lord, your state of grace; whether you are walking the walk or just talking the talk, as James so poignantly challenges us with throughout his letter. God’s grace is fully available and accessible to all who trust in his Son. We must learn to trust in it and keep us in the fight growing and learning, don’t be deceived, you cannot be destroyed and God is not out to get you.

He loves you immensely and desires to bless, heal and equip you.

Triggers are only the flesh trying to convince you that you are weak–you are not, you are a warrior and a child of God.

Barbarian woman wolf

Free your inner warrior today; Read  Barbarians in the Kingdom

book cover