Stay on Task

This nasty cold subzero weather we have been enduring lately has me praying often for ranchers who are calving. I used to calve in February and remember well the struggles of keeping calves alive and well when these cold fronts hit. You just did what you had to do, no matter the cost in sleep, comfort or resources. The life of every calf is precious, not just for money but because you love your animals—the money could never be enough to motivate all that you endure for these critters.

If you visit or talk to any rancher who is calving in weather like this, if they had time to talk, you would find that they have or have had brand new wet calves in the cabs of their pickup trucks, in their kitchens, even in their bathtubs, sometimes all at once and at all hours of the night and day. While the ranchers themselves are emanating the pungent aroma of old and new afterbirth, manure and sour milk as they guzzle coffee and try to thaw out their feet in time to go catch the next calf.

I have an old black and white photo hanging in my church office, counting my years as a children’s pastor it has been in my office for almost 20 years now. I found in at the big museum in Cody WY years ago and instantly fell in love with it because it so captures that spirit of doing whatever it takes to care for your animals, staying on task no matter the cost.

Charles Belden circa 1920-1930

It’s a picture of a Cowboy taken in the 1920’s near Meeteetse Wyoming. The cowboy is on a horse in a blizzard, bundled up as best he can against the cold, and he has a new Herford calve draped across his lap as his horse struggles up a hill against the wind driven snow. It hangs in my office as a reminder to me that ministry is not always easy nor fun. That reaching the lost and caring for the flock is seldom convenient nor is it a part time, yeah, I think I’ll stay in tonight, everyone will be just fine without me kind of assignment.

What does that have to do with end times? Everything. But when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be troubled; for such things must happen, but the end is not yet. 

No matter what you hear, no matter the forecast, the rumors or the challenges—you need to keep trusting in me and the strength that I will give you to complete your task of reaching the lost.

If you read through all of this chapter 13 of Mark and catch the heart of what and why Jesus is telling the disciples of the storms to come, it is so that they are not caught off guard, that they know he expects them to keep seeking the lost, to stay on task and no give up no matter the struggles and difficulty of the times and places they find themselves. And that goes for all of us who follow Jesus and are called according to his purpose.

Every life, every soul, is precious and worth facing the storms for.

Are you ready to face the storms? How have you been holding up in the storms? These are important questions and are exactly why Jesus warns us of them, so that we do not get discouraged and thinks it’s all over, that this is our end. It is not, remember, there is no past tense for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Mark 13 is an entire chapter devoted to Jesus’ warnings of the tribulations to come.

The big scary end times, death and destruction, persecution and tribulation, desecration and desolation, Jesus is coming and the angels are going to gather the elect from the four corners of the world chapter.

“For in those days there will be tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the creation which God created until this time, nor ever shall be. 20 And unless the Lord had shortened those days, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake, whom He chose, He shortened the days.Mark 13:19-20

It’s scary both to read and to try and teach on because Jesus gives us just enough detail to let us know scary big events are coming, but not enough detail to know exactly when and how they are going to happen. And Mark, as per his usual style, just records the facts and leaves the commentary and analysis to the many generations of preachers and scholars to come.

It’s not scary to me personally, I actually love that Jesus gives us these words of warning and encouragement, detail wrapped in mystery. An eternity altering mystery whose clues will not entirely be understood until they all fall into place as they happen and we who knew the clues say, “yes, yes, yes,—that’s it, that’s what it all meant, the prophecies were true and God is in control!”

But as a pastor it’s scary to teach on because so many have such strong opinions as to what it all means and will argue it as though their salvation depends on it.

That’s just wrong. Your salvation does not hinge on how you interpret end times prophecies—on when you think you will be whisked away, from bliss to bliss or from tribulation to bliss. Nor does it depend on where you think we are in the timeline of God’s plan for the last days. Your salvation depends on one thing, or one person rather, and that is Jesus Christ and whether you have accepted him as Lord and Savior—period.

Jesus is not concerned with how good we are at solving prophetic riddles, he is concerned with how seriously we take the need to stay on task no matter the chaos and challenges around us—Chaos and challenges we were promised and warned would come.

But he also promises to ride the storms with us, giving us the strength and the passion to complete our mission. Don’t give up cowboy, the big roundup is still to come.

Is it Time to Panic Yet?

This whole Covid thing has only brought to light just how little peace we truly do have with our own mortality.”

“Both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.

Talk about global warming. T’aint no Paris Accord, wind farms or Swedish teenagers that are going to stop that one—“How dare you!”

You won’t need an arctic expedition to go study the polar ice caps to see if they’re melting. You’ll see the steam of their boiling into oblivion from here—that is if you can see through the smoke of melting rock.

We have this dire warning, and then a question is posed—Therefore what manner of persons ought you to be? That would probably not be your first thought if you picked up your morning paper—which no one does anymore I know—and read the headlines: “The Heavens and the Earth Will be Dissolved With Fire in Three Months — scientists agree.

‘Honey! We only have three months left to live on this earth. What manner of persons shall we be?’ For the most part, that’s not how most people are going to react. When faced with predictions or diagnosis of doom it’s usually fight or flight, panic or despair—not introspection and attitude corrections.

In fact, we already know how people react to news like that because we have doomsday prophets all around us, and have for some time.

“Let’s Panic! –Why aren’t you panicking, don’t you care!”

Reactions

How do people really react? They stock up on guns and ammo. They beat each other up in the grocery store Isles for the last package of toilet paper. They irrationally cling to every shred of hope the authorities might toss them, and tremble at every word of the dire predictions the experts proclaim.

They build bomb shelters and stock them with crackers and bottled water, or buy mountain retreats in Montana—which is really dumb because our state carries a good part of the world’s nuclear arsenal and is full of coal, oil, lumber and precious metal reserves —certainly we’re not in anyone’s crosshairs (He says sarcastically). Not to mention the really long winters—there’s a reason why much of this state is largely uninhabited.

Another response to impending doom is the party like it’s 1999 response. They run out and indulge the flesh as much as possible just in case it’s the last chance, or simply because they might be able to get away with it. During hurricanes, massive fires and now riots, as most are fleeing or hiding, there are those who decide ‘Let’s take advantage of the chaos and go loot a shoe store, and then the liquor store—free stuff!’

During the German Blitzkrieg on Britain as large parts of most major English cites burned illicit affairs were rampant because the beleaguered people were determined to enjoy what might be their last moments on earth.

It’s the natural inclination to seek first the needs of the flesh in times of perceived impending doom. But as believers, those who have an eternal viewpoint and know that this life is just the beginning, we know that we must seek the protection and wellbeing of the soul, and the souls of those around us, first and foremost. At least we are supposed to know that,

So the question, “what manner of persons shall we be?” becomes a critical and urgent one, and one that we no longer must answer just hypothetically believing that our generation will never face what the bible thumping preachers of old have been proclaiming for many, many years.

We are in a global pandemic—admittedly one that pales in light of past pandemics, but one that has wreaked havoc nonetheless, particularly economically and emotionally, on an unprecedented scale.

And the church is being persecuted and attacked in our own country, and around the world, like never before on such a large scale. As we speak most churches across the country are severely limited in how they gather, if they are allowed to gather at all.

All across the land of the free and the home of the afraid churches and synagogues in this country’s biggest cities are banned from meeting at all. And there are those who take great delight in reporting infractions. Neighbors are turning against neighbors.

Currently, in this one nation under God, we have the representatives of an entire political party, viciously attacking a women who has been nominated for the Supreme Court because she dares to profess that her faith is important to her. Their biggest concerns being that they might lose the federal protection on killing the unborn and same sex marriage, that in their twisted minds have become the most important rights we have.  

Around the world, Christians are still being murdered, enslaved and driven underground, and the spirit of the Antichrist is driving people mad in their hatred for anyone and anything that dares espouse any moral values that remotely resemble the laws of God.

And very few care or take any of this seriously—even within the church.

But my point is—it looks like maybe, just maybe, the day of the Lord may be drawing near, and the fiery cleansing that comes with it—because, things they are a changing at an alarming pace and the red flags of warning are going up everywhere.

And if this is what we see with our eyes, you can bet the spiritual battles raging around us are beyond intense.

So what manner of persons shall we be? 

What Manner?

What manner of persons are we to be?

We are to be people who are diligent, who are looking forward to these things, who are spotless and blameless, at peace and conducting ourselves in Godliness and holiness. ‘Huh, can’t I just buy more ammo and toilet paper and avoid my ignorant neighbors at all costs? Except to belittle and provoke them on Facebook?’ –Um. . . No!

Be found by him at peace. Are you at peace? Are you at peace with your neighbor? At peace with your family—with yourself, with your God? When you lay down your head at night do you sleep the sleep of the redeemed or are you worried and anxious? Do you handle stress by giving it to your Father, or do you dilute it with drugs or drink, or any other manner of addictive behaviors?

Are you at peace with the fact that you could die tomorrow—today even? This whole Covid thing has only brought to light just how little peace we truly do have with our own mortality, and death is the very last thing we who have eternal life should fear. We cherish life and do what is prudent to preserve it, but it cannot become our obsession and prevent us from following our Lord.

Following Jesus is the death of the flesh, that is the very definition. Peace comes with laying down our lives and our fears and placing them in his hands. That peace is reflected in our attitudes toward one another.

Are you at peace with your brothers and sisters in the Lord or are you bickering over all of the things I have talked about here and offended by some of what I’ve said?  —I know many are. Which is why my peace, and the peace of anyone who fearlessly preaches truth from God’s word, is constantly threatened, and why most preachers just preach ear candy.

Peace is a rare commodity these days. And this, from Peter, is not an offer of peace, it’s not a recipe or a formula for peace, it’s at best a reminder and at most a command to be found at peace.

Jesus is coming like a thief in the night. Be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless. Knowing Jesus and following his commands—that is your peace, it is a gift and a birthright of the redeemed that can only be lost or frittered away by us, his children.

Is it time to panic yet?

No, it’s time to keep our eyes on heaven and our hands to the task at hand. It’s harvest time.

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.

Rapture or Rupture

Everyone who has an opinion of how things are going to shake out in the end is often so adamant that they are right, that there is really little use in arguing with them—kind of like arguing politics on Facebook, a losing battle and a total waste of energy. Too many people just accept what they hear, assuming that it must be in the bible somewhere, when often it isn’t, at least not in an inarguable form.

Rapture or rupture

I have been taught a lot of end time theology by a lot of really smart people and have studied it extensively myself, and the more I learn the more I am convinced that the only way the arguments are going to be settled is by living through the times spoken of, and then looking up one day and seeing Jesus coming in the clouds of heaven.

If that happens before, during or after all the stuff hits the fan?— we’ll all find out together won’t we.

Most of God’s people missed the Messiah’s first coming because they were convinced they knew how it was all going to happen, it seems much of the church is determined to make the same mistake.

There’s big money that has been made by having the most popular and convincing interpretation of the end times—books, movies, seminars, even end time communal wilderness compounds complete with bomb shelters. (I live in Montana, a haven for preppers, cultists and hermits) But the ones that irk me the most are the ones, well respected evangelical teachers, that say if you do not believe what they do then you are not saved.

I’m sorry but being convinced that you are going to get raptured before times get bad during the final battle for the souls of this world is not a prerequisite to salvation, anymore then hiding in the mountains like a hermit so you can survive the tribulation is will absolve you from your responsibilities in the last days or save your sorry butt.

Believing that Jesus Christ is Lord and that God raised him from the dead, confessing with your mouth and believing with your heart, is what gets you invited to heaven. And we are called to be witnesses, and to speak on behalf of the Lord in good times and in trouble. And you cannot do that if you are not in the midst of things for whatever reason, rapture or ruptureraptured from the earth or ruptured from society.

The Battle is here

I plan to be ready for anything that happens, because, in case you haven’t notice, we are already involved in a battle and either you were prepared and you are fully engaged or you were napping in your comfy tent and now you are running back and forth in the camp and wondering where the mortar fire is coming from and how could we possibly be under attack!?

Blood moon

And, I’m afraid some are just sitting on their cots folding their socks hoping the trumpet sounds the retreat before the platoon leader notices that you haven’t responded to the call to arms.

Wherever we are in our walk with the Lord and wherever we are on God’s big calendar, we should always be ready, always be expecting trouble and always engaged in the battles before us. Those times when the Lord does call us to go up on the mountain with him are for rest and refitting are so that we can continue in the battles ahead, not hide from them.

The important part is that we do not fear the fight, because, in reality, that is the only real weapon that the enemy has anymore. And he is real good at striking fear into the hearts of men, and he is especially adept at finding ways to neutralize the Lord’s army by finding things for them to fear as well. It’s usually subtle things disguised as reason and wisdom, tolerance and judiciousness.

We can’t offend anyone, we can’t stand out or seem different or weird. Just keep a low profile when it comes to things of the Spirit but exude wisdom and learning in religious matters along whatever theological bent gets us the most accepted and brings more people under our influence.’

Polished preachers preach politically correct sermons book ended between professional performers specializing in tweaking the emotions. And the house is full.

Where does that leave you when your cushy world is threatened? Scared and clueless, shocked and confused—impotent and spiritually bankrupt.  We must keep our souls strong, sound and secure.  By your patience possess your souls.”

Possess your soul

10 Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. 13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony. 14 Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; 15 for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents and brothers, relatives and friends; and they will put some of you to death. 17 And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. 18 But not a hair of your head shall be lost19 By your patience possess your souls. –Jesus  Luke 21

betryaed accused

This little exercise in total fear induced government control we are experiencing is probably just a foretaste for us of what may come—unless we are diligent and keep praying, standing for truth and reaping the harvest while it is still ripe.

This is a time for God to shine, for his church to pray for, and see the sick healed, to speak truth to power and to trust and follow. That’s what the early disciples did and that is why so many came to the Lord. They took the commands of Jesus to heart and fearlessly went forth in his power—they possessed their own souls.

Speak truth and walk in the light while it is still called today, tomorrow may be too late.

 

Find your freedom in Christ today, download my latest book.

Barbarians in the Kingdom

book cover

Be Ready (The slacker virgins)

Jesus himself said it numerous times, outright and in parables, I will return. In fact, the only thing he would say during his trial, and the thing that got him convicted of blasphemy, was his assertion that they would “see the Son of Man returning on the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus made this point well in the parable of the slacker virgins, (Mat 25)  —that we need to be ready. (Better known as the parable

10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming.

coming meme

Being a preacher is a lot like being a construction foreman in the respect that I have to keep warning people to be ready, to follow the rules, especially when it comes to safety. In both case, it’s not a matter of what we can get away with, it’s a matter of doing what is right because it is right and can keep you out of a lot of trouble.

About this time last year the company I work for, after forty or so years in this dangerous business of construction, had their first fatal accident. It was kind of a freak accident but the bottom line is, a worker was in a place at the wrong time. A place that the  foreman had told him that very morning not to be, and a very large chunk of concrete came loose from overhead, falling and crushing him. One minute he’s working and the next he’s gone.

Of course it hit all of us very hard. I got the phone call from the boss telling me the bad news and after I was able to process the news, pray, and get myself together I stopped work on my project and called everyone together to tell them the news and to have a safety meeting.

We do safety meetings every week but I wanted to let everyone know what happened before they started hearing rumors and because even though it was not my project that had had the accident, I expected OSHA would soon be paying us a visit as my job-site was only a few blocks away from where the accident took place.

I reminded everyone of the general safety rules and the need to be extra diligent because we might be getting a visit from an agency who has the power to fine the daylights out of us. That, and “I do not want anyone getting hurt on this job.” I have never had a serious accident on any of my projects and I intend to keep it that way. I also told them that I pray for their safety every morning, a statement that I could see in their faces that they appreciated.

You know what happened then? All my subs—the electricians, plumbers, tinners, framers—suddenly were throwing away all their damaged electrical cords and calling for new ones. The missing guards on tools suddenly were not missing and it no longer seemed necessary to stand on top of a ladder or to be on the roof without a harness on—weird, all the things I had constantly warned them about and argued with them over, were no longer an issue.

Why? Mainly because the possibility of that dreaded OSHA inspector showing up was no longer just a remote possibility, it was imminent, and the even worse cost of not playing by the rules, the death of a fellow tradesman, was suddenly large in everyone’s mind.

OSHA didn’t show up on my project after all, but they did a months long investigation into the jobsite that had the accident and found that there were no violations directly related to the accident. But they did find a couple of other things to fine us for. OSHA is like the IRS, if they want to find something, they will.

If you have ever seen an OSHA regulation book, you know that the rules are extensive and complicated, you are surely always in violation of something just by showing up every day. But, generally, if the inspectors know you are doing your best to comply, they will not bust you.

construction worker safety danger
Photo by Life Of Pix on Pexels.com

Slackers?

That’s what the Lord is asking of us, that we just do our best to comply with his ways. He has a very extensive set of guidelines and we are almost always in violation of something just by being human in this messed up world, and he understands that, he was here with us and as us for a while.

If we are doing our best, he will not bust us, he just asks that we act as though he can show up at any moment, that we don’t just see what we can get away with, throw caution to the wind for expedience sake and hope that we get some warning as to when he’s on his way so that we have time to straighten everything out.

Imagine if you are engaged and your fiancé, your pure sweet lovely soon to be bride in white, is running wild, collecting beads at Marti Gras and winning wet T shirt contests in Cancun during Spring break?  “Oh that’s fine sweetie, just make sure you gargle before the wedding to cover the smell of Tequila and vomit and let’s pretend none of that never happened. Tell your good-time boyfriends they need to go home now, I’ll wait here until you’re ready to just be mine.— Isn’t she wonderful?”

Or the groom who thinks the bachelor party is his last chance and excuse to. . .you know, be stupid. “That’s okay honey, boys will be boys, take a shower before you put on your tux.”

I’m sorry if any of that offends anyone but that is just wrong, just as putting off our commitment to faithfulness to the Lord is just wrong. Jesus wants and deserve a pure white bride ready when he’s ready, not when we feel like it. He deserves it because he offers it, he gives us the means to be pure and holy and just wants us to take it, to take him, seriously—to love him as he loves us.

i am his meme

That’s the bottom line—love. We want to be ready, we long to be ready, for him to return, because we relish the incredible love he has for us and want more than anything to be acceptable and pleasing to him long before and during the wedding feast that will surely come.

Don’t be a slacker.