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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The True Friend

If you can’t count on the one who holds your heart, you might have to take it back. And when you get it back it’s often very wounded.

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A true friend is a treasure isn’t it? Someone who stands by you no matter what. No matter what others may say or think of you, no matter if you are being difficult or even foolish at times—a friend who stays with you in the good times and the bad and can keep the intimate thoughts and feelings you entrust them with, just between you and them.

Nothing hurts more than being betrayed by someone you thought was that friend. Throughout my life I have had friends come and go for various reasons, usually because distance and changes in life circumstances separated us, but the great thing about a true friend is that even after years apart that trust and love can still be there or can be quickly rekindled as you share things between you that are yours and yours alone.

If you can have a friend like that in your spouse, one whom you know always has your back and will never betray your confidence, who has stood with you through many troubles, toils and snares, it is a relationship blessed without equal.  I am blessed to have that friend in my wife. In nearly thirty two years of marriage we have been through things together that only we know and have survived because we never lost faith in one another nor in the God who put us together.

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We are doing life together and there have been times when knowing that she is on my side and that she has my back has made the difference between total despair and the strength to go on, affirmed that I am not alone nor am I on the wrong side.

Being a pastors wife is no easy task as you see your husband attacked, challenged and questioned, often by himself—way too often. She never aspired to be a pastors wife but she has embraced the call and I am more grateful and heartened by that with every year that passes.

Aside from the ministry, just life in general, family, work or lack thereof, health issues, financial issues, disagreements, tragedies and hardships, that are too often common to all of us, can take a toll on a person and a relationship and tear it asunder.

And, sadly, many times it does happen for many people that it is too much to bear and a relationship crumbles. Usually because both parties are no longer standing with each other, but against. If you can’t count on the one who holds your heart, you might have to take it back. And when you get it back it’s often very wounded.

Fortunately there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother who not only will never stand against you, he will never wound your heart and he can, and will, fix that wounded heart.

 

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, Luke 4:18

No matter where you are in this challenging journey of life, Jesus is there, standing with you, just turn to him and trust him with your heart. All else is only window dressing to keep one from looking in and seeing the pain.

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Poop Pants

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You know what? You can walk through the valley of the shadow of death all day long, all night long, and you shall have nothing to fear. In fact, while you’re there why don’t you stomp out some darkness and free those who have fallen along the wayside or got deceived into reveling in the darkness and are now afraid to step out into the light.

If they are afraid of the light it is only because they have not seen the true light. You have that light, you be that light. The only thing that dispels darkness is light. It’s as simple as that. Jesus didn’t suffer and die just so we could cower in fear and hope that the devil doesn’t notice us.

If the devil is not noticing you than you are not fulfilling your ministry and you are not a threat to him. You do not have to fear the darkness because the darkness fears you.

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And until the church wakes up and fully realizes and grabs a hold of that fact, the enemy will continue to enslave way too many of God’s beloved children. They have been lured away from the truth, left powerless and hapless, confused and vulnerable—easy pickings.

Too much of the church has turned away from the truth. If you still don’t know what the truth is, read your bible. Plain and simple.

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I was told by a pastor once in my early days of preaching not to use so much scripture in my sermon. His thought I suppose was that it would bore or confuse people.

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Well, I didn’t listen so if you’re bored or confused I’m sorry, there are plenty of other Christian blogs where you can get more pop psychology, feel good fluff and entertaining stories. But make sure you are wearing your poop pants. Because you are going to be in it, because in my humble opinion, it’s all BS.

What, you don’t know what poop pants are?

On the ranch when our girls were young they had poop pants. I’m not sure how that phrase got started, it was just a lot easier then saying, “Take off your good clothes and put on your old jeans before you go out to play in the pasture or the barn because you don’t want to get manure on your good clothes”—Hence, “put on your poop pants before you go out.”

That has become kind of a joke at our house since those days because of the little friend of my daughter Jessie who came over to play one day— we’ll call her Sylvia. She live in the fancy suburb down the road from us, and she came over in some nice clothes to spend the day with the girls and play.

The girls decided that they wanted to play outside so Donna told the girls, “Find Sylvia some poop pants she can wear before you go out so she doesn’t ruin her clothes.”

As the girls were heading off to their rooms to find an extra pair of play pants they noticed that Sylvia was crying. What’s the matter Sylvia? She then blurted out through quivering lips; “I don’t want to wear poop pants!”

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It was then everyone realized that she thought poop pants were pants that came already pooped on. I can only imagine what she imagined she was going to be forced to wear.

Truth

There is a time and a place to wear poop pants. When you are out in the world where it gets pretty deep and you need knee high boots just to keep wading through it. But you have too because that is where the people are who need what you have to offer, the truth. No BS, no stinking cow pies or prairie muffins,  just pure Jesus is Lord and he loves you too much to leave you wallowing in this filth truth. The world has enough empty feel good words. They need truth.

And church is the last place you should have to worry about if you are getting feel good noise and if you should be wearing your poop pants. Sure they may dress it up and make it look fun and appealing—Well we have to teach this or people will stop coming, we have to give them what their itching ears want to hear—well maybe their ears are itching because they have gotten parasites from the cow pies you are flinging at them.

A lot of people just honestly don’t recognize a cow pie when they see it. It has to be pointed out.

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Back when I was in Job Crops we were doing a construction project in the mountains north of Butte. One day we were all standing around on a grassy hillside and a couple of guys started playing Frisbee with some dried and hardened cow pies. They were just having a good ole time flinging these at each other and watching them crumble on themselves on impact. Finally  I realized that they probably had no idea what they were playing with—they were from New York City.

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“Hey, do you guys know what that is?” “No. it’s just something that grows here isn’t it?” No, those are cow pies—look of bewilderment— Cow pies are dried up cow poop.

Their reaction?-— priceless.

 

You want people you love to get out of the manure? Show them  a better way, tell them the truth, and they may see just what it is that they have been playing with.

That has to start with you, check and see what you are standing in.

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Mediocre? No More!

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We have a holy calling. Do you believe that? Do you receive that?

Or do you just want to skate along and hope you can hold out long enough, and be good enough, to get into heaven in the end and maybe get a few blessings along the way. Well my friends, those days are gone. That apathetic brand of mediocre Christianity was a lie from the enemy that has sucked all the power and the very life out of the church and the Holy Spirit is not going to sit idle any longer, He’s on the move. The chute has been opened, the bronc has been spurred, and I intend to stay on the hurricane deck until the buzzer sounds. And I pray that you do also.

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Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began 2 Tim 1

Following Jesus, being a believer, being a Christian, was never intended to be about making life easy and carefree. It was never about what we can get out of it or getting what we deserve simply by virtue of ‘being us’ and allowing God to be our God. It is about recognizing that we don’t get what we deserve—eternal death, and that we have long failed to fully recognize how sinful and empty we are because we don’t fully appreciate who our God is.

Following Jesus is about repentance, acceptance and obedience.

When we do recognize who our God is, we gladly suffer for his name and no longer feel the shame of being different from the rest of the world, because he has removed our shame as sinful creatures and made us his children, by virtue of His love and grace, not our own.

Then his purpose becomes our purpose and our life has meaning and our heart is filled with hope as we answer his holy call.

Power

But he doesn’t just ask us to answer his call and suffer needlessly and impotently—he gifts us and equips us to truly make a difference. His power becomes available to us. Seek the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

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Those of you who have been blessed to have been in Spirit filled churches or prayer groups that are not afraid of the Holy Spirit are well aware of the gifts and have a pretty good idea what your own gifts are. But there are those of you who have not yet had a chance to really understand or explore your gifts.

 1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant. . .

There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. . . . But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, 10 to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 1Cor 12:1,4

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There are many types and categories of gifts from the supernatural, wow gifts, as we see listed above, to the office, this is who you are gifts, to the everyday, aren’t you talented gifts. Some of these gifts are only released when you are baptized in the Spirit through the laying on of hands or as you are subsequently anointed for a specific task or position.

All the gifts,  whether gifts of encouragement, gifts of service, craftsmanship, teaching, healing, words of wisdom, spiritual discernment, prophecy, our prayer languages, seeing into people’s hearts— He does all this so that we can bless people.

God has called and equipped  you, do not fear nor neglect your gifts. Using your gifs to answer your Holy calling is truly living. The alternative, mediocre Christianity, is numbness.

To live comfortably numb, not using our gifts, not taking the risk of getting into trouble with them, not having to stretch ourselves, to work and put ourselves out there, may sound like a pretty safe strategy just to survive this life intact till the Master returns, but in doing that we miss one very  important aspect of the gifts made available to us— they are given us for the express purpose of investing in and growing the Kingdom of Heaven.

That is the point of Jesus’ parable of the talents.

“So he who had received five talents came and brought five other talents, saying, ‘Lord, you delivered to me five talents; look, I have gained five more talents besides them.’ 21 His lord said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’ Mat 25:20-21

Jesus wants us to make a difference in this world, that is why he left us the gifts in the first place. We are Jesus to this dying world and we are equipped and we are expected to take our place and function as part of his body in whatever capacity he places us or calls us to.

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But we are not of those who shrink back for fear, are we?

It may be that you are afraid of your calling so you ignore it- it may have been stolen away from you by a church leader who told you that you were not qualified or ready- or you may be waiting for someone, anyone with authority, to recognize and release you.

You are responsible for you and only you can answer to God for you. Get your barbarian on and just do it.

Check out my latest book Barbarians in the Kingdom

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Soul Satisfaction

Is there a hole in your soul?

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I hate to keep using my own life as an example of living with a hole in your soul but it’s all I really have, that is my testimony—my story is Jesus’ story. Until I was willing to let go of my own destiny, to let go of my rebellious, ‘you can’t tell me what to do, I am free to do as I choose and these are the things that give me satisfaction’, attitude I was never truly satisfied, I had no soul satisfaction.

Quite the contrary, the more I pursued the partying, the emptier I became as the feelings of camaraderie and euphoria of the first time highs continued to be just beyond my grasp.

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When I was finally willing to trust the Lord to be my peace, to be my contentment without the drugs or drink that had just ensnared me I found out what real contentment—soul contentment was.

But it’s easy to forget that isn’t it? Throughout my life other things start to creep in promising contentment. We start getting anxious for other things worrying that we may never achieve them or be able to hang on to them if we do.

I have told many a worried young person who desperately wants to be married that God will most likely not fulfill that desire until you learn to be content with just Him. That also makes for a much healthier marriage because if you are depending on someone else to bring you contentment you will be disappointed, no one can live up to that, only God can do that.

A couple of years after giving my life fully over to the Lord and experiencing real freedom I was starting to worry that I would never get married. At 26 I had never even had a serious girlfriend; Thank the Lord for that, it no doubt saved me a lot of grief! But I was starting to think there was something wrong with me, that I was doomed to perpetual bachelorhood.

For one, I was way too shy to even really know how to pursue a relationship that may end in marriage, and there just didn’t seem to be any likely candidates crossing my path, there probably was but I was clueless as to how to pursue them. I was terminally shy and I was very intent on not getting into any relationship that God did not ordain for me or would likely not end in marriage. Dating for fun is one of the stupidest things you can ever do, especially if it’s done in the world’s model of dating, (unless of course you enjoy heartache and lifelong complications.)

Oh Lord, the world would be such a better place if everyone just lived by your standards and pursued godliness instead of just presuming on grace while letting the flesh run roughshod over their hearts. I used to be embarrassed to no end that at 26 I was a still a virgin, but the more I experience life and ministry and see the messes caused by giving away your most sacred gift willy nilly, the more grateful I am to the Lord that I was too awkward, shy and respectful of women to give in to demands of the flesh and the invitations of others.

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But I desperately wanted to get married, I wanted to have a family, to be the dad and to yes, end my life of celibacy. But I knew I couldn’t just make it happen, there are no guarantees in this life so I had to reconcile to the fact that I might be perpetually single, and that was that.

I had to come to the place where I knew I would be okay, that I would be content if I never got married. I had Jesus, I had a mission to share him with the world, I had eternal life and the Holy Spirit residing in me and I was never truly alone. Life is good.

And then the Lord told me to court and marry my friend Donna. My eyes were opened to the one I was supposed to love and, long story short. Less than a year later we were married. It was a pursuit— which is what courting is—because even though God had told me that I was supposed to marry her, God hadn’t bothered to tell her that she was supposed to marry me.

But the point is, when I had come to the place where I decided I did not need to married to be happy, as long as I had Jesus, then he blessed me with a wife. And I am forever grateful and appreciative of, and for her, because of that.

That same principle has been repeated over and over again in my life. My first house—after striving and conniving to try to buy a house with no credit and no money I had to confess to the Lord my frustration and repent, telling him I would be happy living in a tent as long as I had him. The Lord then did a miracle and a couple weeks later (Literally) I was signing the papers for my first house.

Pastor?

For years I fought and fretted, trying to figure out how to fulfill my call of being a pastor when I could not take the time nor the money to go away to school, long before everything became available on line. And no one seemed to be willing to facilitate my desire to climb the church ladder into a pastoral position.

And then one day, at least a decade after I had decided I would never be a pastor in this lifetime, and that I was okay with that, more than okay with that actually—who in their right mind would want to be a pastor? —the Lord opened the Yellowstone Valley Bible institute which was accredited with the very Bible college I had been trying to figure out how to get to years earlier, in my own backyard, or at least in my home church.

He then told me to sign up. But Lord, I am content just being a Sunday school teacher, making hay, raising cattle and kids, and…—’no, you need to go to school.’ Okay Lord. —But if I’m going to start a church, which I knew was where he was taking me, it had better be in a big town so I can have enough people to pay me a good salary and make it all worth the effort.

Boy did I have a lot to learn.

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‘Red Lodge? That’s not a big town!’ But you know what? By the time the Lord got me here, I had had more than my fill of church attitudes that took a business approach to ministry—‘How can we get more customers— I mean tithing members? How can we improve the product—I mean make the gospel more appealing?

How about you just let God be God, preach the word, the whole word, and allow the Holy Spirit to draw—or repulse—sinners and saints? Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from having fully grasped how to get away from this church marketing and growth strategy mindset but I have learned to stop stressing about it also—something that I think makes my fellow pastors worry that I have lost the vision.

No, I have just stopped listening to the lies of the enemy that keeps dangling that golden ring out there for all to chase right into his trap.

1 Tim 6:8 -And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. . . . 

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I know I am where I am supposed to be, smack in the middle of His plan for me. And in that I have soul satisfaction, and that is priceless!

 

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Find your freedom in Jesus!

Contentment

contentment

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.

Abundant Life

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