Prison of Pain

If you are living in unforgiveness you are living in a world the one who wronged you created for you.

In the ministry I have seen it over and over again, people living in a prison of their own making, a prison of pain, tortured by a wounded heart, a heart that could be healed, a prison from which they could escape but for one thing—an unwillingness to forgive the one who hurt them, the one who owes them.

 

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I can never forgive them! Do you know what they have done? Usually, yes, but God doesn’t put any exceptions out there for this principle. His grace, his forgiveness, as illustrated by the story of the unforgiving servant for example, (Mat 18:22-35) is unlimited and unconditional—unless we fail to reciprocate it. That’s not His doing. That’s a heart becoming hardened by unforgiveness to the point where it can no longer even accept it, can no longer receive healing, no longer feel love, no longer heeds the Holy Spirit—and the Spirit is grieved.

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I often struggle with this as a pastor. It’s real hard to tell someone whom you know is bound up, tortured in their very souls by the bitterness of unforgiveness, to forgive. When you know how badly someone was hurt, how wronged, mistreated and abused someone was by someone who still may have no remorse and take no responsibility. It’s hard to let go, and it’s hard to tell someone they need to.

But I do, because I have seen the incredible healing and transformation that takes place in a person when they do finally forgive.

Think about it. That bitterness in only poisoning your own soul. That hatred, the thoughts of revenge, the fantasies of repaying them that replay in your mind over and over, the obsessing over the injustice of it all—no matter how much energy you put into your desire to repay or be repaid, you are not harming that person, you are only perpetuating your own hurt.

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And if they truly are as bad as you imagine, they are probably relishing in the misery of your grudge burdened heart, they are probably flattered in their perverted arrogance that they live in your mind rent free. You are hurting no one but yourself.

You have to let it go. Be free of the prison of your own making. Only you hold the key—that key is forgiveness. If you cannot do it alone, ask the Lord for help. He desires nothing more than to set you free so that you can fully experience the joy of his forgiveness for you.

 

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Jesus was sent to set you free. That’s a flat out promise not hidden in a parable but stated plain and clear.

If you want to be a free and functioning citizen of the Kingdom of God you must forgive as you have been forgiven.

Now, as a note of caution, forgiveness if not the same as trusting. If someone has abused you, hurt you and has not proven to you that they are able or willing to stop, you do not have to allow them a chance to hurt you again. Forgiveness happens in your heart, it doesn’t have to happen to their face. It can, and it can be beneficial, but do not put your self at risk.

If Jesus has set you free by giving you the grace to forgive, then let him restore your sight also that you may see the dangers and avoid them in the future.

There’s a big exciting world out there waiting for you to conquer and explore if you’ll just open up that prison door and step out into it.

Institutionalized

‘But I like it here, I know what to expect and I have good reasons to stay in my little corner of the world where others can care for me and keep trying to teach me things. There’s a word for that, it’s called being institutionalized. There are people who have been in prison for so long that they are afraid to get out. There are those who are afraid to leave school, they have no concept or desire to get out into the real world. They go from preschool to kindergarten to 12 more years of public school to several years of college to then working at or teaching in that college and their whole world is that campus.

I remember when I was in Job Corps, there were guys who were afraid to graduate and go back to the real world. They came there from high school to learn a trade so they could get out and make a living but the thought of being out in the big wide world where you have to buy you own food, pay your own rent, get up and go to bed when you want, have to be responsible for your self—that’s scary!

I would think;Are you kidding me? I can’t wait to get out of here and be free to find my own way, to make a living and make my own choices and decisions.”

I want to live in the real world—it’s a challenge and an adventure, an opportunity waiting to happen, life is what you make of it. Unless you choose to stay confined in one someone else made for you. If you are living in unforgiveness you are living in the world the one who wronged you created for you.

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Be free. Step out of the prison of pain and into the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a real world, it is the real world, and you need to get out there into it. God has a plan for you and freedom is just a prayer away.

‘”Lord forgive me my sins as I forgive those who sin against me’— and help me to forgive them.”

You are a citizen of the Kingdom of heaven, you can do this.

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Don’t be institutionalized in your unforgiveness and anger, there’s a whole new Kingdom out there to explore.

 

Kanye?

“Seriously, there was no twelve step program, no months of therapy or self-help books or seminars, I was changed in an instant”

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Kanye recently bought a ranch just down the road from us near Cody WY and much to everyone’s surprise held a large outdoor church service. Thousands of people showed up and hundreds got saved.

Go figure…

Everyone’s a little perplexed by this Kanye West thing. I don’t know why?

Since then many have asked me what I think about him. Honestly I wouldn’t know Kanye if he sat down next to me in a coffee shop and started singing his biggest hits, but I’m starting to pay a little attention to him now…

Okay church, here’s my answer:

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Do we believe that? Have we experienced that? Have you been born again? It happens instantaneously—when you suddenly realize just who Jesus is, when you recognize just how sinful you are in light of his holiness as his presence knocks at the door of your heart and tells you, ‘it’s all right, just let me in, we’ll take care of this mess—just allow me to—“Lord I believe, come into my heart, forgive me for running from you for so long, I want you, I need you—I trust you!”

In that instant, whatever the words, perhaps no words, it’s a heart thing, you are changed, you went from being dead to being alive. And you are a new person. —Right?

I know it happened to me. And all my friends and family were a little freaked out by the change—’What are you talking about, what happened to you? Have you slipped of the tracks here?’

I was not the same person I was just the day before. Yeah, I had a lot to learn and a lot of garbage that still needed dealt with, but I wanted to share my new found faith, I wanted to share Jesus with everybody—’How can you not want to know Jesus?’ I thought.

I was somewhat famous for throwing great parties, having and selling the best weed, I was game for about anything and I lived for the party—stoned all my waking hours… at the same time I was miserable because it was never enough and I felt like all my friends only used me to try to fill their own empty souls—until I allowed the Holy Spirit of Jesus Christ to renew and regenerate me.

In an instant, I was changed. Seriously, there was no twelve step program, no months of therapy or self-help books or seminars, I was changed in an instant, alone in my living room with a bible and Jesus. It was an outright miracle.

So, what’s the difference between that and what happened to Kanye West? Nothing—except he was not just famous for his exploits amongst a bunch of potheads in Billings, he was famous on a world stage.

Now he wants all the world to know the Jesus he just met, “How can you not want to know him?” It’s the same thing we all ask when we first meet Jesus. Does he have a lot to learn and some garbage to deal with yet? I have no doubt. But man, look at what God has done—do not discount this—the world is looking at him and saying “Wow, maybe I want some of that!”

Either it’s real or it’s not. Either we are born again, renewed, regenerated by the Holy Spirit whom God has poured out on us abundantly—or we are not.

Because if we are just a religious sect that is striving for a ticket to heaven by being good enough, saying doing and believing the right things in the right order—than we need to shut Kanye down and to fear what he is doing. And if that is the case, I want nothing to do with any of this religion stuff.

I’d rather be stoned in the morning and drunk in the afternoon and living to fish in the mountains and “ya’ll just leave this long haired country boy alone.”

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But that’s not who I am anymore. I am not foolish, deceived, serving various lusts and hating to be around people that don’t just want to party or fish with me.

I was created to do good works, I am a child of the living God and he has a plan for me, to prosper me and not to harm me. I prosper in his love and grace and he blesses everything I do for him. I fear no harm for I am his and he is mine, and I am never looking back.

I am a fisher of men and I have a peace in my heart that drugs and drink can only dilute.

Jesus is Lord, His Holy Spirit is within me and my righteousness comes from him and him alone. And if you want to argue with, or add to that, well, trust me, many have tried, talk to the hand because the heart belongs to Jesus.

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I know who I am and I know him whom I serve.

What then shall we do? Whatever Jesus tells us to do.

God is on the move; you think this thing with Kanye is making ripples that the church doesn’t know what to do with? You just wait, it’s just beginning.

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God chooses and uses the willing. Not those we choose and are willing to accept. Bear fruit for the kingdom and use every tool at your disposal. And remember Him who is in you.

That’s all.

Do I Know You?

Do you want to know me, or just pretend to? 

 

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21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’   -Jesus  Mat.7

So this begs the question; what does it mean to know Jesus?

Anyone can know about him, know his story, his birthplace, his travels and teachings, his very detailed, execution narrative and resurrection witnessed by hundreds—I mean, his life and death and the politics and list of named characters that had a anything to do with his life, and the world stage that set up the scenario that facilitated the events of his life and death—the event that was Jesus Christ and the birth of his church is the most historically recorded event in human history by both biblical and non-biblical sources bar none.

Really, anyone who is willing to read a little can know about Jesus, they can join an institution that teaches them more about Him and even offers to make them a part of his church—’just sign here, sprinkle here, put money here, repeat after me and don’t let us catch you misbehaving—and you’re in. Here’s your wafer.’

But do you know me? Jesus asks, because I’m not recognizing you. . . have we met?

I’m afraid you fell for the lies…

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How?

So, how do we know the Lord? The best way I can illustrate it is by comparing it to a marriage. Which is after all, what Jesus does—we are his Bride.

It’s not just enough to know about the person you’re married to, anyone can do that. We have to become one with them—to have no secrets from one another, to spend enough time together, to be honest and forthcoming, to have shared experiences, to go through trials and share joys—we have to have all that, to eventually begin to be able to see the world through their eyes, and use that ability to serve and encourage that person as only someone who knows and shares a heart can.

Knowing Jesus is the ability to see the world through his eyes, to hear with his ears and feel with his heart. It is to have things between you that make sense only to you and him because you have those things between you that no one else has as he has been guiding you, teaching you, stretching and even rebuking you for years.

My wife Donna and I have things between us of great meaning, rich histories and connotations that can be communicated with just a couple of words, words that may mean nothing to anyone else listening. That’s the kind of relationship we must have with Jesus.

When Jesus told me a few years ago he sent me to Red Lodge “because he needed a barbarian here, not a politician” I knew exactly what he meant.

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I had to write and entire sermon series that later became a book (Barbarians in the Kingdom) to explain to you all what that one sentence wrapped around one word, spoken to me from Jesus meant to me. I knew what it meant because I had been allowing Jesus to turn this undisciplined, if it feels good do it, and if it doesn’t feel good, kill it barbarian, into a barbarian that could be used to advance his kingdom for many years. It was both a joke and a term of endearment between us when the phrase came to be my call sign, so to speak, according to Jesus who was now in the pilot’s seat of my life while I manned the torpedoes in the back.

Only a God who knows me because I have committed to knowing him, could turn being a barbarian into a good thing. He can do that for all of us, or whatever it is between you and him that has come to have great personal meaning because it comes from the one who knows you intimately. Are you tracking with me here?

I can’t tell you the specifics of how you have a relationship like that with Jesus, I can only point you in the right direction, the rest is up to you. It takes work and commitment just like a marriage does.

It’s walking with the Lord, praying and listening for the still small voice that speaks truth into your heart. Reading his words in the gospels and allowing the Holy Spirit to make them come alive in your heart. Learning to discipline the flesh so that those words move from your mind and into your heart.

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Knowing Jesus is knowing and acknowledging his presence in you by his Holy Spirit, seeking and allowing him to fully immerse you in the baptism of that Spirit and then not quenching Him nor expecting it to be some sort of new age phenomenon that that allows you to amaze and delight your friends and neighbors. It’s recognizing that the Holy Spirit is a person with a personality and a presence who desires to empower you for the Glory of the Father.

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He is not just an impersonal, or cosmic power that we tap into with the proper channeling or incantations.

 

Knowing Jesus is sharing a heart with God. It is feeling his grief at others pain and trouble. It is feeling his joy when you or those you love overcome the flesh, accept freedom from addictions, when chains are broken and hearts are touched by love, real love. Knowing Jesus is loving others with a love that can only come from him, loving when no one else does, standing with those who are being kicked by the world and by those who only know about Jesus but have stopped short of truth.

 

 

It’s hard

Knowing Jesus is hard because seeing the world through his eyes reveals how messed up, hurting and ensnared it is, but that pain is love motivating us to do something about it, and that something is something that only you and him can know—because he knows you and just what he has equipped and prepared you to do.

Knowing Jesus is trusting him with your heart.Heart n hands

He will never leave you nor forsake you.

 

 

Mushrooms, Beer and -Jesus?

“…there are few feelings of emptiness and disconnection from all things good, and all people  living, like there is when you are coming down from a drug induced high. Especially when you just want it to be over.”

A few years after graduating from Job Corp back in the 80’s my best buddy Bob and I, whom I had met in Job Corp, decided we were going to go visit another friend from Job Corp whom we hadn’t seen since he graduated and returned home to Aberdeen SD. So on a Friday evening after we got off work we jumped into the ’72 Pontiac Bonneville I had recently bought from another buddy. It didn’t have plates on it yet but oh well, we were driving at night and decided to take the chance.

So we grabbed a cold pack or two of Rainier Beer—and a bag of mushrooms we had just scored, not the kind you put on a salad—and took off, party time. We were jacked, the plan was to just party our brains out for the weekend on a whirlwind trip to Aberdeen and back. It was fun, a lot of fun—for an hour or so.

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We were cruising along Interstate 94 with Mollie Hatchet blaring on the 8 track stereo as the psychedelic mushrooms were starting to kick in and the beer was tasting better and better when all of a sudden the car just stopped running, about the same time I noticed the sweet smell of antifreeze permeating the car.

Bob and I looked at each other in disbelief as I turned off the music and coasted over to the shoulder. I popped the hood and peered through the steam at the massive 455. Pontiac engine—not much to see in the dark. The radiator cap was hotter than all get out and I knew better then to try to open that. As we were sitting there with the flashers on waiting for the engine to cool a car pulled up behind and asked if we needed help.

This was long before the days of cell phones when people still stopped for motorists in despair.

I had already tried to restart the car and it wouldn’t turn over so he offered to give us a jump. Still nothing (I later discovered that a radiator hose had burst and was too busy partying to realize that the car was overheating to the point where the engine seized up) The good Samaritan was anxious to get going so I asked if he would give me a ride to a phone.

I looked up and saw that we were sitting right next to a sign that said “Custer 10 miles”. I reluctantly left my car and my buddy behind as my new friend gave me a ride to Custer to look for a pay phone so I could call back to Billings for help. Well, Custer is one of those towns where they roll up the streets after dark—nothing was open, so we headed to the next exit, the Little Big Horn river exit, where there was a bar. At this point my new friend’s charity and patience was plum out so he told me he was going to drop me off here and leave. “Good luck, bye!”

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I thanked him for the ride and watched as he drove away leaving me in front of a strange bar in the middle of nowhere Montana. I walked in and several dusty cowboy hats with weathered faces under them looked my way. I mustered up my courage and asked the bartender if they had a phone I could use. I’m sure my pupils were as big as saucers about then but I did my best to be redneck. He pointed to the corner near the door I had come in and, wasting no words, said “Phone’s broke.” I turned and saw a pay phone hanging on the wall with a note taped to it that said “Out of order.”

I thought; “There has got to be a phone behind the bar!” But he wasn’t offering and between the drug induced paranoia I was feeling and all the love in the room for this long haired 20 year old kid in a cowboy hat, I wasn’t about to question him. Knowing I was now up the proverbial creek without a paddle I turned on my heel and vanished out the door.

Now what? I am totally abandoned, alone and stoned in the middle of Montana in the middle of the night. 50 miles from home, 12 miles from my worthless car and the only person in the world who even knows I’m out here somewhere, and he is stranded as well.

Well, I’ll start walking, surely someone will pick me up. Across the interstate and down the ramp back to the east bound lane I went. I started walking, sticking my thumb out whenever a car zoomed by. Turns out no one is too keen to pick up a young man walking down the Interstate alone late at night. It was kind of cold out but I had on my favorite old Levi jacket and I was wearing my Tony Lama’s—not exactly the best boots for a long hike.

And hike I did, mile after mile, counting the mile markers knowing that I had to pass twelve of them to get back to my car. To this day when I see a mile marker on the highway I often think about how far apart they are when you are having to walk from one to another.

Somewhere in that hike I came across a rest stop and went in hoping to find a phone—seriously? No phone! I thought about approaching someone and asking for a ride but my courage alluded me again. The extreme shyness that I had not yet conquered coupled with the knowledge that I was still high on the mushrooms and probably pretty scary looking stopped me from approaching anyone.

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So dejectedly and resolutely I headed back down the highway. If you figure a person can walk 3 or 4 miles an hour I had a very long walk that night and it seemed like it took forever. After a couple of hours I was even hoping a Highway patrolman would stop and even though at least one drove by, none did. I was getting cold, my feet hurt and I was exhausted when I sat down on a guard rail post and started to pray—”Lord, no one will help me, I don’t know if I can make it, please give me strength!”

I was totally tapped out but as I got up and continued my walk I suddenly saw in my mind’s eye Jesus walking beside me. I know I didn’t physically see him but I know he was there and I can still see him in my memory just as though he was. I didn’t deserve his help, I had gotten my own stupid self into this mess but you know what? I knew at that point that he still loved me, that he cared and that he was there and suddenly the mile markers did not seem so far apart. And as I counted off number twelve I looked up and saw my car across the road.

A dead car never looked so good. I climbed in as Bob, who had been sleeping in the back seat asked what had happened. I told him I got abandoned on the Big horn and that I would tell him the rest of the story tomorrow. I then laid down and passed out on the front seat.

In the morning I flagged down another ride, much easier in the daylight when you are standing next to a stalled car, and got a ride to the gas station in Custer, called a buddy who came and towed us back to Billings.

So much for that road trip.

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That seems like another lifetime ago and I have long since given up the partying in favor of a real relationship with Jesus,  but I remember that feeling of Jesus’s presence like it was yesterday and it was a catalyst to me finally being willing a couple of years later to fully surrender myself to him because I knew that if I did, I would have that presence, my Jesus standing with me, more than just when I was desperate–and I do.

 

Why didn’t he just stop a car and get me a ride? Because then I would have just attributed it to luck, but even more importantly, I would not have had that hours long experience of having my Lord walk beside me through what had started as a very dark, cold lonely night of despair. And really, there are few feelings of emptiness and disconnection from all things good and all people like there is when you are coming down from a drug induced high, especially when you just want it to be over.

There was no reason Jesus should have paid me any never mind at all that night, but he did. He walked by me and got me through it safe and sound. And because of that, I know that no matter what, no matter how badly I screw up in this life, no matter how put upon, abandoned, lost or alone I might feel or be, I am never alone, and I can always count on Jesus to stand with me.

I have been through several long dark nights of near total despair since then, dark nights of the heart as the world seems to turn against me, but through them all, my Jesus stands with me.

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I am never alone and there is always hope.

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

The mornings are always brightest after the darkest nights.

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Contentment

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What is contentment? It’s a freedom from fear, from anxiety, from restlessness, it is a soul satisfaction.

The Apostle Paul, who gave up his position of great honor and potential wealth as a Pharisee, to follow Jesus to the ends of the earth as an itinerant evangelist living in constant danger and often not knowing where his next meal will come from, or if the next beating or stoning he suffers will be his last, reminds Pastor Timothy to not get caught up in the greed that the world lives for. The world clamors for money, comfort, fancy clothing and rich foods and on and on. He cannot be that way.

But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, 1 Tim 5

Godliness and greed cannot co-habitate, Jesus said: “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” Mat 6:24

Everyone wants something, dreams of something, that if they just had enough money—or credit—to acquire it, ‘then I will be content.’ There’s a country song out that says—”money can’t buy everything . . .but it can buy me a boat.”

“…money can’t buy everything. Well maybe so. But it can buy me a boat. To float. Down on the water. With a beer. I hear the Powerball lotto is sitting on a hundred million. Well that’ll buy me a brand new rod and reel. And it could buy me a boat it could buy me a truck to pull it. It could buy me a yeti 110 iced down with some silver bullets.”

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And everyone says, ‘yeah, sounds good to me’, and you have a country hit on your hands.

“If I just had a boat—and a truck and a rod and reel and a Yeti and a lot of beer”—then I will be content.’

Well, maybe, for a good day or so till you wake up the next morning sunburned and hung over. Then you’ll think of the next thing you’ll want to make you happy—a bigger boat, a house on the lake, four wheelers, snowmobiles, a better job with more vacation time, a prettier wife and a fuller head of hair—pick any obsession or passion in this life—hunting, horses, sports, looks, fashion, fitness, technology, fast cars, classic cars, fame, fortune and power—In fact, “you deserve it all!”—and you can chase it until you have caught every bit of it there is to catch—and it will still never be enough.

What if I just win it? Then I’ll be happy. I can dream can’t I? And buy tickets and hope and pray. . .More often than not people who win the big mega million lotteries say that it ruined their lives.

‘I just want to be somebody, I want power and respect.’ People who reach the pinnacle of power are often the most miserable people you ever meet. And they spend most of their time obsessing over how to get more power and how to destroy anyone who might be a hindrance to that happening.

Just look at the happy bunch of clowns we have in Washington DC right now. Most of them look like their heads are about to explode–they are all so angry and miserable. And, with all the power they have amassed, rather than spending their time trying to do something productive that will help bless us, the people they are supposed to work for, at great cost to us I might add, all they want to do is convince us to hate all the same people that they hate. Misery loves company I guess.american-gothic-pelosi-and-schumer.jpg

It’s never enough, we must have more. How many entertainment superstars who have devoted their lives to reaching the pinnacle of success have committed suicide in the height of their fame either outright or by way of overdose on whatever their drug of choice was as they tried desperately to fill the hole inside that they now saw could not be filled by attaining their dreams.

‘Godliness certainly isn’t the answer—is it? Isn’t godliness giving up everything we use to chase contentment?’ I ain’t doing that!

The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10

The thief of course is the devil and I think one of his best tricks is to set us up with the grand things we think we wanted and then to take them away from us to watch us squirm and blame God for our troubles. The he has stolen, killed and destroyed. First our dreams, then our faith and ultimately our souls.

‘Oh but God wants to bless us, to give us abundant life, to fulfill our hearts’ desires.” I hate to burst your bubbles people, but God is not talking about money, quite the contrary, he wants us to learn to be content with nothing; nothing but a knowledge of his great love for us and in having a relationship with his Son Jesus Christ. In Christ alone is there fullness of joy.

When Jesus said I want you to have life and have it abundantly he was talking about having Him, being full of Him, being one with Him because He is life. It doesn’t get any more abundant then that.

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He alone has immortality and he alone can give us abundant life. All else is but dust in the end, including your flesh, unless you have received that abundant life in Christ. Jesus Christ who is now glorified and dwelling in an unapproachable light, the glory of God which mortal man cannot look upon, that same Jesus is living in us by his Holy Spirit.

And if we can grasp that, if we can tap into that, into him, and trust him for our everything, let go of our own selfish need to control our own destiny, by pursuing everything the flesh demands of us, everything we are convinced our hearts desire to be content or to secure our own tomorrows, if we can only see the light that is in us, and let it shine, then—we will be content. 

Now godliness with contentment is great gainFor we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. 1 Tim 6

When we learn to be content with nothing, then we have everything. And anything else that we are blessed with just becomes that much sweeter and much more appreciated–soul satisfying.

Got you

 

Holiness Embraced, Challenge Taken

“God is speaking to you about something, challenging you about something, calling you towards something…”

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Nine years ago now I planted my church in Red Lodge MT. has it been easy? No, not by a long shot. Has it been worth it? Only God can answer that question but I truly believe it has. For one thing, out of this ministry-you are reading these words and I know God will use them to help accomplish his purpose in you.

I have been in a battle since I have been here for the very land, for the hearts and souls of Carbon County and all who come here seeking encouragement in their own battles. It is not a battle against flesh and blood. It is not a battle to be won by just doing good and being nice to people, it is a battle to be won in the heavenlies as our prayers affect the outcome of the battles we cannot see being waged all around us.

And each and every time a holy warrior acts in obedience to God’s word, to his Holy Spirit’s leading and with a heart devoted to God, another piece of ground is taken away from the enemy. Another seed is planted, another demon is bruised, another angel is strengthened and another heart is closer to being freed and healed.

We are warriors in a battle for the souls of humanity. It’s not about collecting brownie points from God like an obedient school child trying to earn extra credit so the teacher will let them go on the end of the year field trip. It’s not about avoiding judgement and scorn from God who is waiting to whack our knuckles with a ruler like an old time school teacher.

It’s about not giving the enemy a foothold in our hearts to discourage and accuse us and not putting up any barriers to the full power and blessing of our Father God so that we can go forth boldly and storm the gates of hell so that we can reclaim our neighbors and our families, our towns and our country.

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In 1 Timothy 3 we have a list of qualifications for servant leaders in the church. Being the person described in these two paragraphs isn’t about being able to say, “Well, look at me all you lowly sinners! I am somebody, kiss my ring and tremble in my presence for you are but worms compared to me.” It isn’t about being a stick in the mud who is not allowed to ever mess up or to have any fun; ‘squeaky clean and no caffeine, I have no emotions ‘cuase I’m a machine.’ It’s about being above reproach because you are doing your best and being honest about the rest.

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Because as soon as you start to think you are somebody, that you did it on your own and that God and those you serve are lucky to have you, you just fell into the devils trap. And nothing makes a more awful sound then one who was puffed up suddenly having all the air let out by the prick of the devils darts.

A servant of God who is worthy of honor is just that, a servant. A humble, obedient servant, who’s desire is to bless the one he serves and to be someone in whom others can see your King. You do that by being a person in whom they can see a heart of love. When they see that you love from a love that conquers all, a love that when received and believed removes all doubts and anxiety and leaves boldness in its wake, you are irrepressible.

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Holiness is a heart issue, you either want it or you ignore its call. It is not earned it is embraced. When you embrace holiness, nothing can touch your soul—NOTHING and No one, can touch your soul.

And I’ll tell you what, that is worth more than diamonds or gold, fame or fortune. It is far better than the best Scotch whiskey or craft beer. Better than having anything or anyone your foolish heart may lust after and better than having all your dreams and desires fulfilled.

Because all else is empty if you are not in a relationship with Jesus Christ and little will bring you peace if it is not your heart’s desire to be holy, set apart to serve your God and your King.

All of you who are here know what I’m talking about or you wouldn’t be here. God is speaking to you about something, challenging you about something, calling you towards something, but you are holding back, listening to the wrong voices—the voices of discouragement. Well, you know who you need to listen to, the one who resides in your heart.

That is my calling, that is my mission, to get you to embrace yours. There are lives and eternal souls in the balance, It’s not just about you, despite what this culture of me, me, me, says.

Because the world is living a life of discouragement, despairing often times even of life itself. And the only thing that is going to give them any hope that there is more to this life then the struggle, is Jesus Christ. And they have to see in us that we believe that, that we know that, and that he gives us the strength and desire to live a life devoted to him. Not because we have to, but because we want to.

So, to further that goal of being a light to the world as a church family, to root out the glory seekers who want the prestige of position without the sacrifice of obedience, who want homage without accountability, to head up servants without being the head servant, we must pay attention to God’s words.

If you are listening to and heeding his word, striving for holiness and trusting him for grace where you fall short, you will hear Him call you, and when you do—say yes, ‘yes Lord I will follow you wherever you lead—I am done living in fear! I accept the challenge–give me strength!’

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 God bless you warrior!

Find your freedom, release your inner barbarian

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Stigma (See Me II)

Simon

“No one wants to believe that their humanity and worthiness is being completely and totally disregarded”

The underlying theme of my blog these last several weeks has been sexual abuse. A topic much of the church is afraid to touch but one that is out there in a big way and sorely needs to be brought into the light. There is no dark so dark as that imposed by the church because that is a darkness with all hope of escape erased. This church is called to be a light and a place of hope. Stigmas have no lasting home in God’s family.

That said, there is an undeserved yet very real stigma that exists in the minds of the victims of sexual abuse. A stigma that is put there, intentionally by the perpetrator— and by those who take the perpetrators side; “You brought this on yourself, you encouraged it— you liked it!” and any number of horrible accusations. And victims are stigmatized unintentionally by everyone else from family to clergy as they just don’t want to deal with it, ‘just get over it, it can’t have been that bad.’

This causes the person to hide. They hide behind a pretense of everything being okay because they do not want people looking at them differently, they don’t want people picturing them in the abuse situation making them feel violated all over again. They don’t want people feeling sorry for them and they don’t want people asking and inferring things, like; “Why didn’t you scream? Why didn’t you leave? What were you doing there in the first place; were you being a tease? How were you dressed?”

Without going into a lot of detail here there are very real psychological answers to these questions that the victim themselves may not even understand. A person’s instinctual defense mechanisms kick in and can cause what seems like rational thought to shut down. I think the bottom line is, people want to be seen as people, so even in the midst of an attack there is a level of denial.

No one wants to believe that their humanity and worthiness is being completely and totally disregarded by someone, especially if it was someone who just moments ago, was making you feel special.

So people get good at pretending because they soon discover—it’s part of growing up unfortunately— that most people cannot see past a person’s past to who they want to be. They pretend there are no hurts or failings, especially in a church, where everyone is supposed to be okay— all healed, temptation and turmoil free. And so all of us, to some extent and especially victims of abuse, pretend to be someone else to avoid being seen as anything less than a normal, well-adjusted person, who is worthy of love and respect.

Not one of us garnered Jesus’ love because we proved that we were worthy—Not one, and none ever have.

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Did Simon the Pharisee? Did the sinful woman? No, “While we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us.” Jesus loved both Simon and the woman and treated them with respect—equally; the man who had devoted his life to studying and living by the law of God to the nth degree and considered himself worthy—and the one who made her living by capitalizing on the carnal lusts of morally weak men in the city.

Yet—the one who thought herself the least worthy was the one who went away with the blessing and of peace and the gift of saving grace.

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Jesus made sure the Pharisee saw the hypocrisy in his attitude towards this daughter of his Father.  “Simon—do you see this woman?” Luke 7

Jesus saw her and she was forever changed. He sees the scared little girl that has long ago hidden behind the painted eyes and exotic dress of her trade. He sees beyond the mask of lewdness forced through a tincture of stubborn hardness and anger.

He sees the pain and humility—he sees the tenderness that has looked desperately for an outlet, for a heart that would return the love she longed to set free—that cried at night when no one was around and she could no longer ignore it; ‘What have I done to deserve this? Why won’t anyone help me, why can’t anyone see the real me?’

Jesus sees you–and so does this pastor. . .

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If you are ever in Red Lodge MT, stop in to Hope Chapel and be loved. Until then, call on Jesus, he not only sees you- he hears you.

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I challenge all of you church leaders our there to get real about this topic. You have no idea until you are willing to see, how many victims are hiding in your own pews waiting to be seen–and that’s all they really want. Trust me…