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.

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

Really? Rahab the Harlot?

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

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

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

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

Rahab

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

Really? Rahab the harlot?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Test the Spirits

Funny how scriptures take on a new sense of relevance and urgency when the world as you know it is being challenged—don’t they?

False Prophets

The Apostle John tells us to test the spirits. Pay attention church!

We all want desperately to hear from God right now, to be encouraged, to be let in on what He’s doing and to know that he is indeed still in control and hasn’t forgotten about us. This can lead to a lot of deception and bad information as everyone wants to hear from God and many want to speak for God, or at least appear to be speaking for God.

In short, that can lead to a lot of false prophets. False prophets are generally motivated by one of two things; the desire to be heard and get attention, or the more sinister desire to deceive and thwart God’s true plans.

If you read carefully the 4th chapter of 1 John  you’ll see that those who, speak fake news in the name of God to use a term from the current vernacular— are being used by the devil to mislead and distract from what God really wants us to know. “Speak oh great and mighty Wizard of Oz… hey wait, who is that behind the curtain?”

Spirit of the Antichrist

What I have discovered is that many who think they are prophets, or put themselves forth to be, are not. And many who are, do not know it. God can only use the willing, and he does, but the humble are usually the ones God prefers to use. That humility can prevent them from speaking any more than they feel absolutely compelled and certain of. That’s why I always put a lot of stock in those of few words when they believe they have a word from the Lord.

And there are those few who speak boldly and often for the Lord, yet they do speak truth, but only because He has taught them that fear of speaking out is not an excuse, and humility cannot be a cover for disobedience. They have learned that to not speak God’s truth is, as Jeremiah learned, is like trying to contain a burning fire within the heart and shut up within the bones, that one grows weary from trying to hold it in, and in the end they cannot.

The fire within

If God has truly pegged you to speak for him you have that desire in your heart and it will not give your head any peace until you obey. Trust me, I know. Those who answer the call must not be afraid to play with fire.

The Faithful

I believe we are in a season where God will be culling the herd. That those who have been speaking only what they believe itching ears want to hear for the sake of filling seats and coffers will suddenly find themselves irrelevant, while the called who have been laboring in obscurity and wondering why they seemly travail to no avail, they will be the ones God uses to bring in the harvest.

Those who have been speaking truth, preaching the word of God, standing firm against the winds of perversity and cultural pressure to compromise, those who have been listening to the Spirit of God, they will not have to play catch up, and they will not have to fear being blown away with the chaff as the Lord continues his threshing.

Those who have been faithfully planting seeds of truth and praying for the rain of the Spirit to fall will see the fruits of their labor being brought in to the master’s granaries. Those who have been storing their treasures in heaven will be the ones who see the return on those treasures tomorrow even while many are watching the enemy steal away their treasures.

What is your calling?

God calls to all of us, and those who turn their eyes to him are given gifts that suit the plan he has for them and calls them to do things in ways and places that no one but you can. Too many false prophets and wishy washy preachers have risen to prominence because the called are sitting on their hands and because the faithful are not practicing discernment—they are not testing the spirits.

Discern

There are many gifts and callings and many ways to preach the gospel with words and actions. But our title verse here Test the Spirits, is talking specifically about those who deign to speak on the Lord’s behalf.

(If you are totally lost here you need to find a preacher who is not afraid to teach on the Baptism  of the Holy Spirit, because you are living in the love but not the power)

Like anything we do or don’t do for Jesus, obedience is key. If God tells you to speak, speak, if he does not reveal to you a message to deliver, than don’t. But, ultimately, the truth and the source of the message, that has to be determined by the hearer.

That’s what John is  largely about in this section of scripture (1 John 4:1-11) discerning truth from useless fluff or outright lies.

Trust me I would rather preach fluff, fluff is fun and doesn’t offend anyone, it doesn’t get you in trouble, at least not with man. But, then again, as I have told you before, I am just a barbarian with a bible and barbarians just don’t do fluff.

I tell you truth

The Holy Spirit will give you the ability to discern between spirits and between what’s just feel good stuff and what is if the Lord. But you have to choose to want to know the difference. You have to choose who you are going to listen to, and what you hear.

The onus of truth is on the hearer. People either hear what they want to hear, or they hear what they need to hear, the choice is up to them. And in the case of determining whether a teacher, preacher or  prophet, often all one in the same, is speaking truth, that responsibility falls back on the hearer.

My mother used to ask us kids on occasion if it was clear we weren’t paying attention to her; “Are your ears painted on?” In other words; ‘I can see you seem to have ears there, but they don’t seem to be functioning properly, because surely you are not just choosing to ignore what I say.’

When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Luke 8:8

Servants the prophetsStay awake church, choose you this day whom you shall serve.

No Hitting, No Spitting…

“Mom she’s touching me! She stuck her tongue out at me.” “Ow! She hit me! Well she spit on me!”

Boffalo abide

My wife Donna and I went to Yellowstone Park last weekend to celebrate our 32nd anniversary.

We love the park, winter or summer, and have been there many times, from our honeymoon on. It’s our backyard after all–just over a few mountains.

Too bad we have to share it with the rest of the world.

But, then again, that’s part of what makes it so unique. I always love seeing people experience it for the first time, we can start to take it for granted so it’s good to see it through the eyes of others sometimes.

Snow Coach resize

We took a snowcoach into Old Faithful and there was a young couple in our coach who had a couple of kids—8 year old twins; a boy and a girl. They were very well behaved but they were still kids and kept their parents on their toes, especially walking around the geyser basins where you have to stay on the boardwalks, out of the boiling water and away from the buffalo.

Of course this reminded Donna and I of the many times we took our girls to the park. Keeping three little girls from getting lost, gored, boiled or eaten was always a challenge, as was keeping them from killing each other after too many hours in the car.

At one point last weekend as Donna was laughing to herself at the antics of our 8 year old companions she said, just loud enough for me to hear; “No hitting, no spitting, no fighting no biting.”  She was quoting the Swaningson family rule that our girls now know well. This rule was actually born on one our trips to the Park when the girls were young, no doubt after the umpteenth squeal of “Mom she’s touching me! She stuck her tongue out at me.” “Ow! She hit me! Well she spit on me!”

If you’ve ever been a road trip with more than one child in the car you know what I mean, right? Finally in exasperation, somewhere between Canyon Village and Yellowstone Lake I declared, in what Donna refers to as my scary dad voice, which always became the final answer— “No hitting no spitting, no fighting no biting!”

It’s that simple. Follow that rule and we’ll all get along and have a great trip, and life for that matter.

I don’t think I had intended it to be a rhyme but it turned out that way and turned out it pretty much covered all the basics and was fun to say, so it eventually turned into a joke, a joke with meaning, because I meant it and more importantly, it was not a suggestion, it was the law. If you are a part of this family, those things will not be tolerated. And what’s left? Respect, kindness, patience, gentleness—love.

It’s quite simple, abide in the rules, abide in Daddy’s word, and you will continue to abide in this family as a happy camper.Geyser basin resize

Now, I would be tempted to say here of this family rule, that it was—Abide by the rules—’No hitting, no spitting, no fighting, no biting.’, And you can continue to abide in this family!”—but that’s not entirely true. Nor is it true of the Family of God. We are not children of God, we are not brothers and sisters, by virtue of having kept all the rules. We are family by blood, and love–the blood of Jesus and the love of the Father.

My girls know now, and they knew then, that they will always be a part of the family, the Swaningson family. ‘This is the family that gave you your name and your genetic makeup. The family abides in you, it’s in your blood, it’s in your DNA and you carry the name.’

‘You cannot make me stop loving you, and you cannot make me stop caring for you, but if you want to be at peace in this family, if you want to be trusted and enjoy the blessings of a real relationship with me, and others in this family, you need to abide by the rule.’

The rules make the family a safe place. A place where we can abide in love.

Keep my commands water fall

Our family rules were condensed into one easy to remember principle. So is the word of God—all the rules handed down from generation to generation, as revealed in great specificity to make sure we had no excuses to do harm to one another, were boiled down and condensed into one easy to remember all encompassing rule, a new command that could only be given by the Word of God become flesh, the only Son of the one true God and that is “love one another as I have loved you.”

Do that and you will be abiding in my word, my word abiding in you and you will have my joy abiding, remaining, in you.

What a promise; just, love.

Here’s what the Holy Spirit told me as I was working on this message:

Abide in me as I abide in you, and your love will never fail. Do not grow weary, just love, keep on loving, never stop loving.

annointing buffalo

When in doubt, love. When in doubt, receive love.

Abide in love. Let the Holy Spirit bear witness to your Spirit that you are loved. That’s what that anointing that John talks about is, (“But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things.” 1 john 2:10) it’s the Holy Spirit telling us that he is in us, that Jesus is Lord and that he loves us. It is our salvation and our joy, our hope and our strength. The Holy Spirit is our guarantee.

Real Love Fire Hole River

Which brings us once again to the key verse of my recent blogs, and the core principle behind the Apostle John’s writings, the one thing he desires more than anything for us to do, as those who love and are loved by the Son of God, Jesus Christ.

 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.

1 John 3:18

No hitting no spitting, no fighting, no biting. Wouldn’t the church be a wonderful place if we all abided by this?

little children love 1 John

And if you look deep inside where the Holy Spirit resides, (If you have invited him to do so) you’ll know that it is true that you are loved— Jesus loves me…. And you cannot make him stop loving you.

Lord I believe, help me in my  unbelief !

book cover

Claim your place in Christ!

Not Created for Nothing

We have Jesus, the light of the world, the one who commands the darkness to flee. He is with us and in us. We are totally immersed in his light. We just need to keep our eyes and our hearts open to it, to walk in it.

light of the world

Jesus is the light of God come to deliver us from darkness.

Darkness is merely the absence of light. Even in the natural world, darkness cannot dispel light, the light has to be removed. But light can dispel darkness. You can’t walk into the light and turn on darkness, but you can walk into the dark and turn on the light.

Light is something, darkness is nothing. Interesting—by that token the prince of darkness is the prince of nothing.

In fact, if you do a quick word search of the New Testament for the word darkness and transpose all the references to it with the word nothingness it actually means virtually the same thing and communicates the futility and emptiness of shunning the light.

Just a few examples:

dark nothingness

So, darkness is nothing, and nothingness is a state we surely do not want to be in. We were not created for nothing.

Illuminating

So, what is light? Light, or visible light is defined as “electromagnetic radiation within the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum that can be perceived by the human eye.” Wikipedia 

 Clears it right up huh? Without turning this into a physics class, light is a thing we really cannot see. . ., or can we? Do we actually see light or do we just see the result of its presence as it is reflected off other objects or is contrasted to darkness? Do we see a light beam or we just see the dust or whatever other particles may be present as light passes through?

Honestly, I don’t know the answers to that question and I never thought about it before, light is just light, unless you’re an Albert Einstein type and it’s all relative somehow to how time is measured and perceived. I’m not even going to go there here. They say mathematics is the language of the universe. If that’s the case then the universe has nothing to say to me because I speak fluent gibberish by contrast.

I am a conceptual and philosophical kind of thinker and what I understand about light is that without it you cannot see anything, no forms, no colors, no textures—nothing. All you can see then, when the lights go out, is what is in your imagination, in your mind’s eye. Even then, you are likely picturing things that you originally had revealed to your eyeballs by light.

What if you had never seen anything; say you were born totally blind, or in utter darkness, would you even have pictures in your mind? What would your dreams be like? It’s a scary thought. Figure that one out with math you junior Einsteins.

Thank you Lord for creating light. Light is illumination, without which it’s a much different world, a much altered existence inside and out, an empty world of nothingness.

So, if God is light, if Jesus is the light, then he is illuminating, allowing us to see, altering our existence both inside and out, if we allow him—and even if we don’t. Because the alternative is darkness and without the light we would not know that darkness even existed and that is certainly an altered, and unnatural, existence. You cannot perceive the lack of something if you never knew it existed in the first place.

You would never know what evil was if you never experienced good. You would never know sadness was bad if you didn’t know that there was such a thing as joy. We would not be appalled by hatred and violence if we had never experienced or witnessed love and mercy.

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  I think maybe light, at least as it’s referred to here,  is God’s love radiating through the space between us and him in a way that we can see.  We are drawn to light, we crave light, we need light. Unless you want to hide or have something to hide, but that is a miserable state to be in and one that never ends well.

Darkness is nothing, but it can be almost feel like a physical thing. If you have ever been any place else where you are not just in total darkness, but far removed from any light source, the darkness can almost be felt. I remember going to Lewis and Clark Caverns, near Three Forks, Montana where of course they did the turn out the lights thing, and I was glad it was short lived. When they do it you are afraid to move because you become disoriented to the point where you feel like you are losing your equilibrium.

Lost

The tour guide told us a story that stuck with me. Apparently way back in the 19th century when they were first exploring the caverns and they were little known, a camp cook for a nearby cattle ranch decided to go exploring on his own one day. Somehow or other as he was wandering around in there his lantern went out leaving him in total darkness and disoriented.

Luckily for him there were people who went looking for him in the caverns and they found him. Apparently he was so disoriented after a few days in total darkness that when they came across him he was laying down, but he thought he was standing, and was surprised to learn that he wasn’t. Can you imagine darkness so intense that you can’t even tell up from down any more?

If only there was a verse like that. . .?

Darkness felt Egypt

A darkness that can be “felt”, an oppressiveness that can make one loath to even get up and move around. ‘I think I’ll just sit here and wait for the lights to come back on—wait, am I sitting!’

But that’s not where we are. We are not those who have to dwell in nor hide in the dark. We are not subject to, nor victims of the dark nor do we fear the dark. In fact, as I have told you before, the dark fears us, because we have the light living within us and He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world. (1 John 4.4)

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I do not fear the darkness, the darkness fears me!

The world and the one who thinks he rules this world would have us living in fear, thinking the darkness can overcome our hearts and leave us defenseless. Remember what darkness is—it is the absence of light—it is nothing.

Why would we fear nothing? Not when we have everything.

I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. John 12:6

God is Light woman walking

Jesus came to restore that which was lost, the light of God’s love on this earth. Jesus came to illuminate the truth, to illuminate God’s word, so that we could see the truth of who God really is. And to show us the way.

We were not created for nothing, we created to walk in the light, to enjoy and bask in the light. Pray for the light to fill your heart today. Jesus is that light.

Broken

“That cup in its state of scarred repair is more beautiful than it ever was.”– So are you!

A year or two ago our daughter Cally was over for our annual Christmas morning potato pancake breakfast. A tradition that started somewhat by accident as I enjoyed making breakfast for my girls when they were little and as I perfected the elusive perfect potato pancake. Enjoying a cup of coffee and the company of family gathered, she somehow chipped her coffee cup, the one with a real cool Currier and Ives type Christmas scene on it, that she was using. I heard the clink but didn’t see the damage and I said half-jokingly, “Oh don’t break that, that’s Mom’s favorite cup, she picked that up at the Christmas stroll.” A few minutes later, amidst the chaos of many little ones playing and adults visiting, she’s frantically searching the house for super glue—she wanted to fix the cup.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

It wasn’t until later when she was explaining to her mom in tears that she had broken her cup that I realized the tragedy I had exacerbated. She felt horrible about it. And then I felt horrible because I had just made things worse with my off handed remark.

My wife, Donna, of course told her not to worry about it, she loved Cally more than any cup. Donna later fixed the broken cup.

Can you tell it was once broken? Yes, but it is more valuable now than it ever was because of the incredible love and emotion that was poured back and forth over that cup, because of the accident and the heartache it caused.

That cup now says to Donna, “My daughter loves me so much that she was broken over having chipped what she knew was something that I valued.” And that glued together cup also now says, “My mother loves me so much that she was more upset over my heartbreak than she was about her once beautiful but now broken cup.”

That cup in its state of scarred repair is more beautiful than it ever was.

Jesus tells several parables in his last days, many of them aimed at the religious hypocrisy of the Priests and Pharisees of his day. And the end of one such story he warns:

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Sounds dire, unless you know a little more about the nature of our God and the symbolism of his word built  in the scripture over time.

The way I see this, this business about falling on the stone and being broken? Being broken can be a good thing. And if you are going to be broken, the rock is the place to do it because the rock is where you can be rebuilt, it is after all a cornerstone, the chief corner stone.

The commentaries and study Bible notes will tell you that the reference here to falling on the stone and being broken means you’re done. That’s just not consistent with scripture. Being broken is always a prerequisite to being repaired, fixed—born again. God loves the broken. In fact, it is the only sacrifice he requires.

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I think the more profound and certainly more encouraging message here, the secondary and more consequential meaning of this prophetic word first uttered by Isaiah and then claimed by Jesus, is that if you fall on the stone, purposely throw yourself on the stone, broken—broken down, brokenhearted, a broken soul who has realized just how empty, sinful, hopeless and lost you really are apart from the chief cornerstone, you will be rebuilt.

Repentance—repentance is the first step to becoming a citizen of the Kingdom of God.

Powder?

believe and recieve Jesus

Now, rejecting the rock, Jesus, out of hand and in the end having to be crushed by it, is certainly a bad thing–something that’s ground to powder ceases to exist. But something that is broken can be fixed. God loves a broken spirit, God loves a broken heart, because it is usually a heart that is open for him to repair, to rebuild, to remake—better, more resilient and more committed to remaining strong and whole than ever before.

I believe that for you! Yours is now a heart that now knows that if it falls, it can get up and go on, that if it breaks it can be restored and it is now in a solid place where it can be rebuilt to withstand the storms. The rock is a place to build, it is not a place of destruction.

The Holy Spirit told me as I was starting to work on the larger part of this message for my church Sunday–and it didn’t make any sense to me at first in light of what the parable says:

“The rock is here and it is a place to stand, a place to be strong and a place to grow.”

a son is given

To us a Son is given, the rock has come. Claim your healing, claim your peace.

Barbarians in the kingdom

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Preacher Dan

Have a most blessed and merry Christmas everyone!

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.

prisoned

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.

 

Disappointed?

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I heard a story years ago about a man who lost his job and was ashamed to tell his wife. So instead, every day he would get up, his wife would fix him breakfast, he would put on his suit and tie, kiss her goodbye and go to the park and feed the pigeons until 5:00, then head home and have dinner with his wife. He did this for a few months until his savings were all used up and he finally had to admit that he had lost his job and didn’t know what to do.

Flabbergasted that he had not shared his pain and struggles with her earlier she asked? Why didn’t you tell me sooner? He replied; “I was afraid that you would be disappointed in me.”

I have heard these words several times in the last couple of years from people I love. People who have been going through hell but were afraid to tell me because they thought I would stop loving them. The pain that caused me, that somehow my love could be perceived as conditional, is far more grievous than any fleeting disappointment I might have felt and that hesitation to be honest prevented me from being able to help in any way with the pain and grief that was being inflicted and experienced in the loneliness of a heart that is afraid to be forthright.

In each of those cases I said the same thing: Nothing you can do will make me stop loving you. I want to sit on the park bench with you and figure out together how we can move forward and away from the pain.

That’s all our God is asking of us, that we trust his love for us enough to come to him no matter how much of a failure we feel.

So how do we come see the Lord? How do we approach him? Quiet your heart, focus and listen—he’s waiting for you.

For thus says the high and lofty one
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with those who are contrite and humble in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the humble,
and to revive the heart of the contrite. Is 57:15

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No Turning Back

“…we all need something to keep us from kicking the cat once in a while— don’t we?”

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In my early days of following the Lord, when I finally decided to get serious about it—to trust the Lord with my life and my heart and not just for my salvation—I thought about this saying of Jesus a lot:  “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”

I believe the Lord had put it on my heart to encourage me to stay the course, to keep my eyes focused on him because at that time in the early days of my recovery, I was tempted often to reminisce about the days of no holds barred, party hardy and cure tomorrows hangover with the next nights party, guilt free ‘aren’t I the popular one’ lifestyle of altered consciousness.

It was indeed a miracle that set me free in a moment’s time from a years long life of substance abuse—pretty much any substance would do me for a while there, but weed and whisky were my fall back favorites—but even after the Lord set my heart on fire for him and surrounded me with his sustaining love, I still was not convinced I could stay free for the long term. It was a process of changing my way of thinking and letting my heart convince my head that I would never allow myself to be lured back into the embraces of Mary Jane, Jose, Jack or Johnny. If you don’t know who any of those are, God Bless you!

So I initially set one month as my goal—drug and alcohol free for one month—and that was blown after only one week I when I gave in to a buddy who came over and convinced me to smoke a bowl or two with him. I was sitting in my living room minding my own business, my newly rediscovered bible sitting on the coffee table where my bong used to sit, when a friend came over, asked me about the Bible and wondered where my bong was—“I’ve got some good stuff here.”

“I don’t do that anymore, I’ve found something better—the Holy Spirit has filled me with everything I need.” “Well, that’s great. But what happens when you have a really bad day? You still need something to mellow you out once in a while don’t you? I mean, we all need something to keep us from kicking the cat once in a while— don’t we?”

That is literally what he said, and yes that was all it took to convince me to get stoned. I mean, I really didn’t like cats and I was tasked at the time with taking care of my roommates cat while he worked out of town.

The devil is a crafty one and the flesh is ridiculously weak.

So, since I didn’t produce the bong he was hoping to use, he pulled a pipe from his pocket, filled it up, lit it and handed it to me and I, probably from force of habit more than anything, took it and smoked that smoke. I got good and stoned, laughed with him for a while, then he left and I found myself alone—I mean really alone. I had never felt so alone. The presence of God that had been on me like a warm pair of flannel pajamas on a cold winter night for the past week—was gone.

I was stoned and the Spirit was quenched. So I vowed right then and there that I was not going to get stoned for a month if the Lord would only come back—I did not want to be alone.

You might be saying “A month? big deal.” But I took a vow to the Lord very seriously and I did not want to take a chance of being damned because of a broken vow to the Lord if my foolish and weak flesh could not resist more than a month—I mean I had already blown it after just one week. And, after having been stoned literally every day for five years—5 out of only 23—a month seemed like a very long time.

And I suspected that if I could go that long, I would be able to keep going on, weed free and Spirit filled, without the fear of a broken vow tempting the enemy to keep poking me with stupid cat analogies. It’s no wonder I don’t like cats. By the way, the Lord’s presence did embrace me once again and gave me the strength to keep, my vow, and then some. And the cat died just to spite me, and no I did not kick it.

I have been free from substance addictions for 30 years now.

No Looking Back

And another also said, “Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house.”

No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:61—62

The enemy is always looking for an opportune time to drag us back, even if it’s only in our minds. Just don’t go there.

Jesus is making with his response here I believe. telling those listening—’there is nothing back there worth going back for, pining for, or clinging to, if it means not answering my call to follow. . . now.’

Jesus calls us when he wants us to follow. It is not a preemptive call; ‘Get ready, I’ll be back in a year to lead you on.’ Or, ‘Go out and party hardy, make a bucket of money, eat drink and be merry, for tomorrow the work starts. Jesus knew that this particular gentleman’s final farewell was an excuse to postpone his call, a longing to cling to, or go back to, what he had, and it would probably have delayed him longer and longer until it was too late. His own heart disqualified him before he even started. Sad.

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Keep your eyes on the prize, no turning back. You have not missed anything that is worth more than the prize at the end of the road—not by a long shot. St. Paul would come to the same conclusion and said as much often.

…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, 14 I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil 3:13, 14

Forget those things back there, those technicolor remakes of black and white memories that our brains keep replaying in our heads.

Only the lies of the enemy make the parties we missed look attractive—“Oh the fun I could have had if I wasn’t a follower of Christ trying to live righteously” 

Ever thought that? ‘If I only knew now what I didn’t know then, the fun I could have had.’ Or more like; ‘If only I didn’t know then what I knew, I could have had a lot of guilt free fun and memories to cherish in my righteous doldrums today.’

Only a dog returns to it’s vomit—I know that’s gross but that’s the way the scriptures describe a fool returning to his sin after being delivered.  ‘Hmmm. It was good the first time, I sure miss it, hey there it is, let’s. . .’—I’ll stop there.

22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”

You were made for so much better.

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Check out my latest release; Barbarians in the Kingdom