Will The Church Destroy Herself?

Luther’s ’95 thesis nailed to a church door couldn’t have caused more of a stir than a mask sign does.

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. The enemy is using this season of turmoil to destroy us. When this all started I was calling it a dress rehearsal for the coming of the Antichrist, how to totally alter and mollify a population of freedom loving, God fearing people, into bending to your will while rendering the church impotent, irrelevant and willingly shut down.

Well, if it started out as a dress rehearsal, it is no longer a drill. It’s Tora! Tora! Tora! The North Tower has collapsed and Portland is burning. We are at War. If that all went over your head you need to learn history and start paying attention to current events because play time is over.

We have shut down the world and given up our freedoms at the highly subjective and varied whims of governors, shunned our families for fear, and put our very livelihoods into the hands of unelected officials all for the sake of a virus with a 99% survival rate—plus or minus, depending on which political party the person doing the math belongs to.

And it has become the most contentious thing to hit the church since the reformation—seriously. Luther’s ’95 thesis nailed to a church door couldn’t have caused more of a stir than a mask sign does.

As of August the survival rate of the American church, according to Barna Group who surveyed pastors, is 80%. So 20% of the churches in this country are likely going to shut their doors for good. Why? Because of fear, fear of illness, and animosity towards one another over how we should react.

Divide and conquer. Just in our little church we have people who will not come to church unless everyone wears a mask, and we have people who will not come because we do have the mandated sign on the door asking you to wear masks and everyone in between walking on eggshells.

This divide and conquer tactic started back in March with—you have to close the church contingent pulling the church one way, and the you cannot close the church contingent pulling us the other way. Suddenly everyone is a medical expert or a master theologian.

This fight over—

“close or don’t close, mask or no mask, distance or no distance, people are dying in drovesno it’s all a farce!— what did the experts really say this week and who can we trust?— we have to address racial injustice, we have to tell people who to vote for

—is a fight that is happening amongst every body of believers in the country if not the world. And I’ll tell you what—if there are any pastors left standing a year from now, they need to receive purple hearts and Sainthood.

And just in case the pastor’s job is not hard enough, and the sheep not scattered for enough, suddenly, everyone is a prophet also.

Be careful who you listen to. Everyone with a Facebook page or a YouTube channel who claims to be, or is said to be, a prophet—is not. Weigh EVERYTHING against scripture.

The Lost World

And that’s just the church, we who should know better. Imagine how scary this is for the world at large, people who do not have the Morning Star rising in their hearts.

Untold and incalculable damage and death has occurred because of the shutdown and breakdowns of social norms, jobs, families, and support groups. And have no doubt, this rioting in the streets that is burning down our cities is a result of the fear and anger incited by having been locked down and force fed fear. Fear without hope, fear without end.

Now we are being told that the normal flu season that is coming upon us is reason to continue all this, they can keep this going indefinitely.

Even the hope of a vaccine, supposed to be available real soon, the thing that has always been touted as the only thing that will allow us to return to normal, is being discredited and maligned before it has even been released just as long used and well established medications have been.

People need hope, people need you, people need Jesus—they need the truth, the truth of the words of the prophets we know we can trust—the words in the Holy Scriptures. If this is the beginning of the death throes of this present world and the day of the Lord is at hand, the world, and the Lord, need us to be courageous, and engaged like never before—together.

So, let’s get past this, hang on tight to the Lord and each other, keep our eyes on the Morning Star which is rising in our hearts—if we’ll allow, and reflect his glory.

Bottom Line

So, because I love you and want all of you to do be free to do whatever you believe in your heart the Lord wants you to do, If you come to my church, I cannot and will not force you to wear what many believe is the equivalent of a petri dish on your face and put your health at risk.

Nor can I ask you to be around others who are not wearing a mask if you believe it is putting your health at risk.

That is a choice I am going to let you make, I am a preacher of the gospel not an agent of the state. It is not my job to enforce man’s laws, it is my job to preach God’s laws. And, as I have been saying since this started, we need to respect each other’s choices in this even if it means you stay home for a while until we get through this latest apparent uptick in illnesses (in Montana).

For why is my liberty judged by another man’s conscience? 30 But if I partake with thanks, why am I evil spoken of for the food over which I give thanks? 31 Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. 1 Cor 10

Whatever you decide, mask or no mask, make sure your heart is right and you are doing it for the right reason.

I have said it often over the years and I am not going to change my message now, because the word of God does not change—whatever you do, your motivation has to be love—love for God and love for your neighbor.

Because everything our God does for us is motivated by love.

Little children… love.

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.

Leadman

As a good leader you know that everything that happens under your watch is your responsibility.

Years ago I was working on a project at Rocky Mountain College in Billings. It was an addition on the Student Union building. I showed up shortly after it started to help form the walls for the foundation and quickly realized that the guys who were doing the work did not have all the stuff they needed, namely whaler brackets, and they did not really know what they were doing —the hundred foot of wall they were forming was as crooked as a dog’s hind leg.

The foreman was off getting some parts at the yard so I made a phone call to the shop to try and catch him because the guys had told me what he was after and I knew it was not what we needed.

I was no expert but I had been on a couple of big concrete jobs by then and had learned from the best. This was long before everyone carried cell phones so the best I could do was call the office and hope someone could run out to the yard and give him the message.

I missed the foreman, he had come and gone, but somehow I ended up talking to the big boss and I explained to him what was going on and he agreed that ‘yeah, you need some whaler brackets to straighten that wall— why don’t they have any?’  

We soon had some whaler brackets. Of course then I was worried that the foreman would be angry that I had seemingly gone over his head to get the right parts. Instead he was grateful that I had set the wall and the crew straight—he admitted that he was not very experienced in doing concrete foundations. I had to admire his humility anyway.

As the job progressed it wasn’t long before the crew was looking to me for guidance on how to form the walls that got higher and more complicated as we worked around the building. I was just a carpenter, same as everyone else, but one day the foreman came to me and asked, “Dan, I would like you to run the concrete crew.”

I said, “That would be fine but if you want me to push these guys I need to get paid to make it worth the push back.” (Actually I said it in more blunt construction terms; “If I’m going to be an asshole, I need asshole pay”) He said he would talk to the big boss and see what he says.

A day or two later the big boss came out to take a look at the job and he came over to where I was working and looked at a corner in the twelve foot tall foundation wall we were forming. He saw some bracing he thought was inadequate and said, “You know the hydraulic pressure of that much concrete is probably going to blow out that corner the way it’s done there.”

I looked at it and said, “Well, yeah, you’re probably right. I didn’t form this corner, Randy and Monty did.” At this —and I’ll never forget this—he turned and looked me in the eye and said; “A foreman has to take responsibility for everything his crew does.”

I looked at him for a moment and simply replied; “I’ll make sure it gets taken care of.”

That was his way of telling me that I was now the official leadman and I did get an extra dollar an hour on my paycheck. And a couple years later I got promoted to foreman.

We all have those moments when something changes the way you think and set’s you on a better course that leads to favor and blessing—if we’ll humble ourselves and listen.

I remember that day well, standing there in that hole on a hot summer day some 25 years ago, covered in form oil, dust and sweat, and it was a lesson I never forgot. And I still live by that rule to this day, as a Job superintendent and as a leader in the church. With authority comes great responsibility and everything that happens under your watch is your responsibility. And you cannot throw people under the buss to make yourself look faultless.

In the end that only makes you look small, and the people you lead will stop respecting you and the quality of the work will suffer greatly. Carrying the load of others’ mistakes or failures is never easy but that is what those who would lead, whether in business or in the church, are called to do.

It’s not just taking the responsibility, it’s striving to help others avoid those mistakes going forward and to recover and recoup from the mistakes already made.

Heavy is the Head

There’s an old saying that was popularized by William Shakespeare in Henry the IV; “Heavy is the head that wears the crown.”

Everyone wants to be in charge, until they are. True leaders know that they are servants who get others to follow by showing them the way, not just telling—carrying the burdens with them, not just demanding that they be carried. True leaders have been there and done that which they are now expecting of others while knowing that if the job is not done he will likely have to do or fix it himself.

Am I talking about construction or ministry? —both. Heavy is the head that wears the crown whether it’s a white hard hat or the anointing oil of ordination. And the older you get, and the more you understand the significance and the reasons why, the greater the burden becomes and the more valuable your leadership.

If others will listen. It’s the fool who despises the words of their elders.

Which is why we are told to submit.

People who have earned their authority didn’t get there by being lazy or foolish.

It is not for naught that Jesus gives certain persons the gift of leadership and then has them earn their crown—pay their dues so to speak. Those who don’t are more likely to fall, or more likely be knocked off their high horses.

Grace and favor come to the humble.

Our humility today, our humble and faithful service, will gain us the crown of glory. We do not get to lord over anyone today as if we have already been glorified and all must look up to us. We have our greatest example of that, of course in Jesus. Jesus set aside his glory and became a servant, a suffering servant.

Exaltation through Humility. Jesus literally took the blame for everything mankind has ever done, he bore all our sins on that cross, exemplified love, grace and selflessness and is now wearing the crown of the king of glory over all the universe.

Certainly, his was a heavy head as it was crowned with thorns. But he did it because he knew that the end result was worth it, the end result being the redemption of those he loved.

The same thing that should motivate us.

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.

A Proclamation to the Spirits

In 1 Peter there is a tantalizing and seemingly random statement that brings about all sorts of speculation as to what, exactly, Peter is referring to.

He went and preached to the spirits in prison

Most likely this refers to Jesus making a proclamation to the fallen angles, spirits, who were imprisoned during the building of the ark for the untenable crime of procreating with human women and polluting the human race.

Jesus’ preaching, his proclamation, was one of victory and triumph that by his suffering, death and resurrection, he has sealed their final fate, theirs, and all who have opposed the Father and followed their own selfish agendas and joined in the rebellion of Satan. This is reinforced with Peter’s assertion a few verses later that angels and authorities and powers have been made subject to Him. 1 Peter 3: 22

I see in this section of scripture from Peter and others like it a proclamation. A proclamation to all of mankind that we are free and have nothing to fear, that whatever suffering we endure today for the sake of doing what is right and good will soon come to an end and will not be for naught.

I see a proclamation by Christ himself to all the devils, demons, fallen angles, ghosts and goblins, whatever you choose to call them and in whatever form they come to taunt us, that we are now his and always will be.

Let me take a bit of license here, Spirit led and Scripture backed license—because that’s what preachers do.

I see Jesus, having been risen from the cold finality of the tomb. Made alive by the Spirit—The Spirit, the Holy Spirit of God—making a public proclamation. Preaching a sermon that was for the ears of every spirit of every kind and station in the cosmos—angels, principalities and powers—Jesus, the resurrected and glorified King of Heaven, the Son of God through whom and for whom all things were created things in heaven and on earth, (Col 1) standing up in all his glory in a place of prominence that we cannot even fathom at this point, a place where all can see and hear.

He has a proclamation for the spirits—those in prison and those still roaming the earth looking for those they can destroy, and those who are constantly coming before the throne of God with accusations against God’s beloved—those he created in his image to love and be loved.

They now hear this:

Hear Ye

‘Hear ye and know, from this point forward and forever more, death has been swallowed up, it’s sting and victory are no more. I, the risen Lord of Hosts—the Lamb of God, the Alpha and Omega—have overcome all of your wicked schemes, foiled all of your evil plans for the destruction of my people, and your power over them is hereby deemed devoid of any authority and your rights to those who stumble are revoked.’

‘You have been publicly and completely humiliated in what you thought was your greatest victory—seeing the Son of God, Son of Man, crucified and rejected, there was no victory in it for you, it was your doom.’

‘Henceforth you have no authority over any of those who call on my name, no rights of accusationyou are no longer welcome before the throne and your case will no longer be heard. The debts have been paid and the chains of sin have been removed.’

‘But those of you foul spirits who are chained, will remain chained until the great and terrible day of the Lord. Those who are roaming the earth—you can rail and bluster all you like, you can lie and deceive, roar and wreak havoc but only so far as those who know me will allow. ‘

‘For I have given my authority to all those who revere me and are made alive by the Spirit, and you are subject to them. Nothing can separate them from my love, and they have a mission and permission to proclaim that truth to all the nations until all have heard the good news I proclaim to you today. The news of your demise, and their victory.’

 ‘I have set the captives free, I have overcome death and I am the answer— the answer to all their fears, all their pain, all their sickness and all their hopes. I am freedom, I am healing, I am hope, I am life—I AM.’

‘And, lest there be any doubt—as to whom you are now subject to, you foul, lying and ridiculous spirits— their names are all written in my book, the Lambs book of life. They shall dwell in my presence forever and will never hear your lies again.’

 27 But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Rev 21:27

Jesus has the final word in all things.

So maybe, just maybe, we should stop living in and trading in fear and start living in and trading in victory!

And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, 1 Peter 3:14-15

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

Trading In Fear

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

Photo by Swaningson “Weeping rock”

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

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

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

Fears

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Refuse

Swaningson Glacier Park

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

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

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

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

Swaningson Glacier Park

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

Eyes open

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

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

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

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

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

Biblical illiteracy is exactly what is wrong with this nation.

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

Swaningson Glacier Park Hope in you

The Hidden Person Within

You are truly beautiful

Peter tells us in 1 Peter 3 to let the hidden person inside be your adornment. Think about that for a second. For the hidden person to be your adornment, it can no longer be hidden. You have to let you out.

What is adornment? It’s accessorizing, accenting, beautifying, highlighting and drawing attention to the beauty. If you are in Christ, have his Holy Spirit and the fruits thereof, if you are created in the image of God, by God and for God—what you have inside of you is the most beautiful part of you.

And you must let it shine. It cannot remain hidden. It must not be hidden behind, or outshone by, gaudy and excessive external accessories such as gold jewelry, elaborate hairstyles, or expensive clothing. It must not be hidden behind a spiteful or boisterous persona. It cannot be hidden behind, or overcome by, bitterness, anxiety or fear.

All of those things are things of the flesh and must give way to the spirit, a gentle and quiet spirit.

Jesus came to heal the brokenhearted so you must allow him to do so. Jesus died to free us from fear and anxiety so you must claim your freedom. Jesus calls us out of the waters of baptism into a resurrection of the soul, as a new creation in Christ Jesus for whom there is now no condemnation, no shame, and no reason to fear anyone or anything that cannot harm the spirit. Your hidden person of the heart is now safely and securely in the hands of the Father.

It is no longer hidden, in fact it never was from him. He has longed for and sent his Son to die for the rebirth and health of that heart which was created to be loved by him. So let that love, let that light and the beauty that is you shine forth like the glorious daughter of the king that you are.

But don’t get caught up in the I must look and dress like plain Jane because makeup, nice hair and jewelry are forbidden notion. Look at the wording; Do not let your adornment be merely outward. So it’s saying don’t just work to make the outside look beautiful, work on the inside where your true beauty is hidden.

This is not a ban on nice clothes, hairstyles and jewelry, but rather an admonition to make your focus on the inner person. The heart must be your priority; the heart, rather than the flesh or the outward appearance.

And, it again goes back to the need to be respectful and honoring of others Peter is addressing in the context of his letter. If you are going all out to draw attention to yourself, ‘Look at me; I’m hot stuff! Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me?’ You are no longer beautiful, you are conceited and a distraction and worse. If you are all about being sexy, you are causing others to sin in their inner beings. Men’s hearts are prone to lust after what their eyes are drawn to. And the scriptures, and Jesus especially, had much to say about both sides of that coin. Do not sin nor cause others to sin.

And, I have often noticed that those who seem to go out of their way to dress ‘sexy’ have sadness and hurt emanating from their eyes. And it makes my spirit hurt for them as I know the Father’s does. So please, stop hiding behind the flesh and let the Spirit of the Living God set your heart free.

You are called to shine–forever.

But Peter is also coming at it from this viewpoint, the viewpoint of a social disparity amongst the believers that was very evident in the dress and attitudes of the haves and the have nots.

There were women in this day, as there is today, who had considerably more wealth than others and they delighted in flaunting their wealth, and their husband’s position and status. So this admonition has as much to do with leveling the playing field among the persons of the church as it does the pridefullness of position. In the Kingdom all are equal, God is no respecter of persons, he is not impressed by money and position.

It has always been very off putting to me–as a simple man who works hard for every dollar I make, knowing that most people do–to see big name evangelists and preachers on TV or elsewhere who wear clothes that cost more than the pickups I have owned, and have rings on every finger, hair and makeup that must have taken hours to perfect and teeth that are so perfect and white that they are blue.

Like, who are you trying to impress? —because you are just making me feel like a bum.

And, think about how we must look to the rest of the world. We—all Americans—are wealthy by the standards of much of the world, especially the church in persecuted or developing nations. They see us all bling’ed out and plastic pretty and they have to wonder—’Why do they have money to blow on baubles and I cannot afford a decent place to live or the medicine my child needs to live– let alone get enough food to eat? Where’s the justice Lord?’

“They had all things in common.” This was what was said of Peter’s home church in Jerusalem in the early days. That is what he is speaking to here. ‘Don’t be walking in here with your diamonds and gold flashing like a neon sign saying look at me, while your brothers and sisters are begging for bread!’

Brothers and sisters, be one in the Lord, having compassion, you were called to this.

You are called and the Father’s eyes are on you, his ears are open to your prayers, you are beautiful, loved and blessed.

Yes, life can be challenging, but you were called to this, let the beauty of the hidden person of the heart outshine all of it.

Shamed Into Submission

We who love the Lord are the temple of God. Living stones built upon the chief cornerstone- the Nazarene, rejected and despised, Jesus the Christ.

The enemy of our souls knows that nothing knocks down a spiritual house quicker than shame. We are the living stones that God is building his spiritual house with, his dwelling place here on the earth. And the enemy is doubling and tripling down on his efforts to destroy that house, to destroy us, through several tactics, but perhaps most effectively recently, through shame.

The spirit of God lives among the dark and lost souls of this world through us, and the devil cannot abide that. This is his world to destroy and mankind is his to toy with and destroy as well—and we keep messing it up with this gospel business.

And he who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame. The enemy is using shame right now to silence God’s people. He has done it for years on a personal level. Convincing believers that they are unworthy and that God is displeased with them so they have no right to speak out for God.

But now he is doing it on a societal level, convincing the world, and us, that what we believe and hold dear is bigoted, racist, homophobic, hateful and outdated—and even if they cannot convince us that what we hold to be true by God’s word is wrong–because we know that, according to the gospel of Jesus Christ, that Jesus loves and died for all men and women— then he makes us ashamed to speak out.

They throw the sins of the past or the shortcomings of others who called themselves Christian in our faces– or give no reason at all. Too many have succumbed to their tactics– we’re just wrong and need to shut up unless it’s to accept their premise, mouth their mantras, and beg forgiveness.

If we aren’t ashamed, then we are afraid. And if you boil it down, our fear is based on shame. Because if you truly believed in the principles set forth by God and the message of the gospels of Jesus Christ, then fear could not stop you from speaking truth, from speaking with a wisdom given you by the Holy Spirit himself. From putting to shame those who oppose you.

If you are in Christ Jesus, Spirit filled, operating in the gifts and living the fruits of the Spirit—if you are going to the word of God and drinking of the pure milk, then there is no condemnation, no accusation, no charge that can stick to you in the heavenly court room.

If you abide in the word of God you are not a racist, you do not hate anyone, you do not have to apologize to anyone simply for being the color that God made you to be and you do not think less of anyone else for being the color that God made them to be.

You do not kneel to, or for, anyone but Jesus Christ and you are never ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of God for the salvation of your soul.

And one day every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. We will not and must not be shamed into silence because to not speak truth is to allow the enemy to win, and Satan’s idea of victory is destroy to all those who are created in God’s image.

We have the words of life, we have the keys to the kingdom and we shall overcome.

Never forget who you are, there is no shame in the Kingdom of God among those who walk in the light.

Do not let anyone keep you from proclaiming the praises of our God and do not let anyone keep you away from the word of God, from the pure spiritual milk that you and all people need. (1 Peter 2:1-3)

I used to raise beef cattle (see my last blog) and occasionally I would have a cow who would reject her calf, kicking her off when she would go for the milk it knew it needed to survive. In that case I would bottle feed the calf or graft it to another, more accommodating cow.

You know what happens to cows that reject their calves and don’t let them get to the milk , who kick the calves away when they try to nurse? They go to town and end up at McDonalds, not for lunch—as lunch.

Jesus is a stumbling stone and an offense to those who refuse to listen to truth.

Let people be offended by you all they want, you are building on the Rock and you will be the one left standing when the Rock returns to crush his enemies.

The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone’?

18 Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” —Jesus

Luke 20:17—18

That my friends, is true justice.

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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.