The End Is Always Near

What can I do, what can I do to secure me, me, me! I just need more ammo, that’s the ticket.’

Give to those in need

If Jesus were to preach the sermon on the mount today it might include something like this. ‘If you have a closet full of toilet paper and your neighbor comes to you begging for a square to spare, give him a package or two.’

‘If the government compels you to pay your sick employee’s wages, pay his rent also.’

‘If your single parent neighbor comes to you as you are holed up in your house for fear, begging for you to take care of her three children for a while so she  can take her sick baby to the doctor, do not turn them away and do not withhold anything else they might need.’

It’s not about you, it’s about seeking first the Kingdom of God and letting God worry about your well-being. It’s about God being glorified as others see him in us.

light shine bible

As the Apostle John would say Little children, love.

 

“But the end is near!”  The end is always near. Survival at the expense of your soul is not survival.

I am old enough to have lived through several end of the world scenarios by now. As a child in the 60’s we were all about to get nuked by the commies at any moment. The cold war and the Cuban missile crisis kept that very real. In the 70’s there was an ice age coming. Then the hole in the Ozone was going to allow the sun to scorch us all into melanoma ridden wretches.

Acid rain was going to kill off all living things. Killer Bees were going to invade North America and kill us all off by 1980.

Jesus was prophesied to return and the tribulation to begin on specific dates too numerous to recount now. Not too many years ago there were billboards in Billings giving us the date. That day came and went.

In 2012 we were supposed to all die because the Mayan Calendar ran out. Coincidentally this was about the time they discovered that Yellowstone Park is one big super volcano that can kill most of us in a single eruption. At least we’re close enough to not suffer long.

And much scarier diseases were going to kill us all off nearly every other year. Aids, Anthrax attacks, Bubonic plague, swine flu, West Nile Fever, Mad Cow Disease, Monkey Pox, Zika Virus to name a few.

Viruses are never anything to take lightly and there were real people who suffered, but my point is, we cannot succumb to fear and live like tomorrow is totally in our own hands to secure. —’What can I do, what can I do to secure me, me, me! I just need more ammo, that’s the ticket.’

I didn’t mention my favorite world ending virus, the one that was going to shut down the worlds banking systems, the entire power grid, make cars stop running and our toasters attack us, knocking us all back into the stone age—that was the Y2k bug.

That was the computer virus that was going to be spontaneously generated by all the internal calendars of all the worlds computers suddenly believing it is the year 1900 because all of a sudden at the turn of the year 2000 the date reads 00 according to their digital coding which had been programmed with two digit date memories to save valuable memory space.

Like somehow the computer chip cared what century it existed in and knew that in 1900 there were no computers.

But people panicked. They stocked up on—you guessed it—toilet paper. Everyone bought kerosene heaters and generators. They stocked up on food and water, suddenly everyone was a prepper.

Some people even sold everything they owned and moved to the mountains to live like a bunch of Jeremiah Johnson’s while the rest of the world looted and plundered one another after the lights went out and all the bank vaults flew open at the stroke of midnight.

toilet paper Apocalypse

And of course, many people stocked up on guns and ammo. We have to protect our hoard you know!

“Are you truly going to kill someone over a cracker?”

I’ll never forget hearing those words from our pastor at the brink of the year 2000. As Y2k was fast approaching and people were getting more frantic.

17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 1 John 3

Pastor Stan reminded us who we were and what we are called to do, much as we are being reminded today through the words of John, and he asked that pointed question.

My old pastor basically said—words that are as relevant today as they were twenty years ago—All of you who are stocking up, emptying the store shelves of food and ammunition as fast as they can stock them. Are you truly planning to shoot a hungry neighbor because he is trying to get some of your food? Do you truly want to stand before the Lord one day and explain to him why you killed a man to save your crackers?

That hit me right between the eyes and I never forgot it. Yes we have to right to defend our families and you know this barbarian certainly will, but we do not have the right to not share with a person in need when we have the means to help—even yes, if it is the last of what we have.

love your enemies

 

“But, it’s not my fault they didn’t prepare, that they didn’t stock up!” Well you know what? Not everyone can afford to stock up. Many people live check to check, most people live check to check, and are happy if they can afford to buy groceries for the week ahead, let alone weeks down the road.

And now that those with money have bought everything, when they do get their next check, there is nothing to buy.

Blessed are the poor

And even then, most of those people would share what little they have. I have seen it over and over again, the people who have the least are often the most generous. I suppose because they know what it’s like to be without and they do not want others to feel that pain.

Blessed are you poor,
For yours is the kingdom of God.
21 Blessed are you who hunger now,
For you shall be filled.”  Luke 6

If you are blessed, bless others, whether they love you or not. If we do that God will take care of our tomorrow and we will always be blessed. Our hearts will have no reason to condemn us and we can sleep well at night knowing that we are loving as we are loved and that God will hear our prayers.

21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. 23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, 1 John 3

I would rather have an empty stomach and have to use something other than Quilted Northern to wipe my behind than have a heart that condemns me. And if we are keeping his commandment, which is what? —believe in Jesus and love one another, all we have to do is ask and we will receive from him. We get what we truly need from God.

In this day, while it is still called today; remember who you are and rest assured that God has a purpose in all this, that it cannot be thwarted and that love is always the underlying motive in all his dealings with his people. Let your hearts rest assured.

Hearts conmdemn us hands

God is greater than our hearts, to me that says; don’t trust your feelings. Trust the promises of God, trust his love.

We are going to be okay.

What Manner of Love?

‘And the chickens all pecked to death the one who didn’t look like them and the rooster crowed his approval.’

death to life

Do you ever feel like you have never gotten out of middle school? Like, why do people still belittle and mock one another, why do they disparage me? I hate this, and I hate how it makes me feel, I just want to be left alone, I just want the world to grow up!

If you are truly in Christ, you are different; bottom line.

The world hates everything that is not just like it, that does not think like it, look like it and behave like it because the world is darkness right now, controlled by the devil as he scrambles relentlessly to stop all who have the light in them from shining and dispelling the dark he depends on to keep as many deceived and lost people in the dark as he can until it is too late for him, and for  those he kept away from the light.

Darkness permeates our culture masqueraded as social justice.

‘Conform, submit, cancel this person, shadow ban that person, panic now because we said so, hate that person, protest, boycott, stay away from these people and those places, it’s just too risky and it’s all so and so’s fault. Don’t you agree?How dare you have another opinion—hater, denier!’

And the chickens all pecked to death the one who didn’t look like them and the rooster crowed his approval—And things were good in the coop until another Peacock dared to show up.

I’ll let you sort that one out.

What manner of Love

So what

The world hates us? So what? The world has no idea who we are, they have no idea what manner of love we have lavished on us, the joy of knowing the love of a Father that cannot be destroyed by anything this world can throw at us, they cannot even imagine what we know we get to look forward to when this weak flesh perishes and our spirits are set free to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The world cannot fathom the marvel and excitement we have of looking forward to discovering what manner of being, perfect in every way, as we get to rejoin our regenerated, resurrected, flesh on that glorious resurrection day when the trumpet sounds and it is revealed fully what we shall be.

What we shall be

The world hates us because it hated Jesus, the Son of God, because it refused to give up the artificial joy that comes from living in rebellion, seeking to quench the unquenchable thirst of the flesh with the temporary thrill of hurting those they think are a threat to their pursuit of guilt free debauchery.

Nothing has changed. People still prefer to live in what they think is freedom, that is until they get a taste of true freedom, as we who have turned over our hearts to Jesus, have. People prefer to live to love themselves, ‘me, me, meI want more, I deserve more, you owe me more’until they experience a bit of real love, a love that saturates and satisfies the soul.

The only way they will ever draw near enough to Jesus to get a taste of the manner of love that is available, is if we, the children of God keep it on display, for them and for one another, no matter what manner of evil they inflict on us or accuse us of. We cannot stop loving or we become like Cainthe son of Adam and Eve who killed his brother—the world is Cain, Cain is of the Devil, don’t be like Cain, deceived and ignorant, full of hate. We are of the Father, full of all wisdom and love—love that never fails.

Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3

Do not let anyone deceive you into thinking you are anything less than perfectly loved, into thinking you have anything to prove to them or your Lord.  This fear of failure and this perception that you do not, nor cannot, measure up is a lie from the devil and leads to sin.

Leave the sin to those who are his, don’t get sucked into it. Their most destructive sin is in tearing others down to build themselves up. And they cause you to sin by making you think you have to do the same, by making you loathe the person you are, the person God created. They make you sin by convincing you that you cannot accomplish anything worthy for the Kingdom of God and that you are not worthy.

They steal your fruit, the fruit that you are supposed to be bearing and sharing for all the world to see, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. And they leave you with that which they are full of Lust, uncleanness, lewdness,  idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, angry outbursts, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness—party, party, party, (from Galatians 5) —the works of the flesh which run contrary to the spirit and leave you feeling rode hard and put up wet.

You were made for more, you are somebody, you are a child of God! And he sent his Son to destroy the works of the devilJesus came to destroy the works of the devil—in you!

The enemy cannot steal your salvation, he cannot steal your joy, he cannot steal you away from the Father—your status as a favored child of God—unless you let him.

Behold what manner of love the Father has given unto us, that we should be called the children of God! (1 John 3:1) The manner of love is such that it cannot be stolen away, shattered or even diminished.Pure in Christ

Jesus won the victory, tricked the devil into killing him, making him the blood sacrifice that became the price for our redemption. We are pure.

So–

Don’t hate me because I’m Beautiful

The Apostle John asks us the question in his letter: “Why did Cain murder his brother?”

Cain and Able

 

Cain hated his brother thru no fault of Abel’s, Cain hated his brother because he was righteous. Wow

If the world has a problem with you, hates you as both Jesus and then John warned us it would, it is likely not because of any deficiency on your part. It is most likely because you exude a joy and a confidence, —the light of Jesus shines forth from you, even when you don’t think so—making you beautiful.

The world is threatened by that.

The Holy Spirit within you gives you gifts and enhances your God given talents, blessing that which you put your hand to, and the world is threatened by that.

They are threatened because it exposes the falseness and futility of their selfish and frustrating attempts to stand out, to be somebody. Your light makes their darkness seem especially dark and they desire to destroy you, to drag you into darkness with them so they can rule over you and be your better.

In short, the world hates you because you are beautiful.

But don’t let them change you. Because whether they are ready to admit it or not, they want to know if what you have, if who you are  is real, because no one is truly happy living in the dark.

Fearfully Made sheild maiden

1 Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God! Therefore the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 1 John 3:1

Keep this in mind; if it seems others hate you, it is born of fear, fear of the unknown  and you are an unknown to them.

The world does not know us, but our Father does, and he calls us child.

What can be better than that?

book cover

Set the beautiful barbarian in you free!

 

 

You Are . . .

Everyone has a little barbarian in them, a heart that years to be free and uncluttered by anything that hinders us from being all that God created and called us to be.

Fearfully Made sheild maiden

Barbarians do not connect their self-worth to what others think of them. They do not care if everyone does not like them. Barbarians know what is inside of them, what is in their hearts, because they have been taught what is right and wrong, it is written on their hearts and the person laughing at you, calling you stupid and ugly does not, cannot, know what is in your heart—only you can. With the exception of one other Person; Jesus.
‘For it was you who formed my inward parts;
“You knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works” Psalm 139:13, 14

You are wonderfully made, embrace it.

Read the rest of the story here

Barbarians ad copy axe

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!

Where Are You Walking?

If you are not walking in love, It’s time to turn around!1 John Walking in darkness

Too many believers go along claiming and even believing they are walking in the light, being perfected in God’s grace and power when they are actually clinging to the shadows on the edges of the light; lurking in the shadows of hatred that, if not dealt with, can lure us back into total darkness where we lose all sight of the light.

Abiding in Jesus means walking in the light of his love, and living out that love. Refusing to keep his word, hating our brothers, means we are not in the light, we are walking in the dark, and we are blind—lost and, worse than lost, unaware that we are lost. It’s easy to forget the way and get turned around thinking we are on the right path and missing the voice trying to tell us otherwise.

Turned Around

       Last fall I went hunting with my daughter Jessie on her and her husband’s ranch. We have been hunting together for years and we both love the hunt and the time we get to spend together. During our hunt we got ambitious and climbed up on top of this huge bluff that dominates the whole area and where there are ample places for deer to hide out.Me 'n Jessie(Jessie and I on a more successful hunt–the next day)

It was very cold and windy that day, and snowing sideways— perfect hunting weather. Any day you get to be out hunting is a perfect day right? At least that’s the way my family looks at it. After hiking for a mile or so we came across some fresh tracks—as hard as it was snowing we knew they were very fresh—and followed them up and away from the rim of the bluff we had been working along and we did actually catch up to them, but all we saw was does. (This was a Muley bucks only district)

Jessie had been telling me that she thought we might be straying into the neighbors land but it was hard to tell because of all the open range and falling down fences making boundaries unclear. So after determining that there were no big bucks with these girls I said, “We should work our way back towards the truck.” By this time, between the snow storm and my old knees giving me fits, my truck seat and my thermos of coffee were calling my name.

So I started hoofing it back towards what I thought was the edge of the bluff we had walked to get us there. After walking a ways across the open field on top of the bluff Jessie said to me; “I’m really not comfortable being this far into what I think is the neighbor’s property, I think we should go back.”

I looked at her kind of puzzled and said. “What do you mean go back, isn’t the truck just over the edge of the hill over there?”

She said “No, we are on the opposite side of the bluff, don’t you hear the wolves?” I then heard the wolves carried on the wind from the wolf sanctuary down below, which I knew was on the total opposite side from where we had parked. The yipping and howling told me that she was right. I was dumbfounded, how did I get so turned around? I said, “Why didn’t you tell me?” She said “I did a couple of times but you just kept going so I figured you just were determined to keep hunting over here.”

I did hear her but I assumed I was taking us back the right way. I heard her but I wasn’t really listening and she wasn’t being very assertive—she has spent much of her hunting career following Dad around, not leading him. She was the quite voice behind me saying, this is the way, walk in it. (Is 30:21) But I wasn’t perceiving what she was saying.

Finally I did. I couldn’t believe it. I was tired, thirsty and sore and had just walked about a half mile in the wrong direction. We turned around and walked, straight into the wind and snow back, the way we had just walked and finally came out where we were supposed to be and got back to the truck.

After consulting Google Earth it turns out that bluff wasn’t shaped anything like what I had pictured in my mind, I didn’t know the big picture, so where I was going was nowhere near where I thought I was going. That’s what the Apostle John is talking about here:

walk in the light Jesus

          Thots

You might think you know where you are going—you are going there with gusto and following your instinct—but if you are not listening to the word, not listening to the still small voice of the Spirit and paying attention and just going where the wind blows you, you are going to end up lost in the dark. The sun will set and time will run out on you. And that’s not a good place to be—Outer darkness.

Or you end up in trouble for trespassing, something the law in Montana takes seriously, not to mention ranchers. Gives new meaning to the prayer— Forgive us our trespasses. . .

Anyway, that’s what hatred does. Gets us into trouble and can ultimately destroy us.

And, this is just an observation or a conclusion that dawned on me, it seems that biblically, pretty much any human interaction with other people that is not based is love, is hatred.

That may be taking it a little too far but the very least we can safely say is that hatred is the polar opposite of love and thus should be the very last thing we want to harbor in our hearts as it goes against everything God is and asks of us.

Hatred

Hatred can take on many forms. One of the most destructive is the hatred of unforgiveness—”You wronged me and now you owe me. I will never be okay with you and I will secretly—or openly—take pleasure in any misfortune that comes your way.”

The hatred of unforgiveness is the deepest and foulest poison the human soul can fathom. It is a darkness that leaves the heart empty and open to hatred, bitterness and spite, leaving little room for love and joy. No love can bear fruit in a bitter heart nor can it have fellowship with a God who has loved us in spite of our sins, things we did not deserve to be forgiven for, yet were, because he sent his Son who was willing to lay down his life, suffer the agony of the cross for us.

Jesus, by his own admission, could have commanded 12 legions of angels to come down and destroy those who betrayed, beat, tortured and shamed him for no crime other than loving people for the Father, for keeping the word, for being the word.

But he did not, he left judgement day for its appointed time (we must do the same) and carried out his mission of sacrificial love, love perfected, and begged his Father forgive those who ignorantly murdered the author of life.

forgive them Jesus

 

But what about those who do know what they do? Surely we can hate them!

That is the hatred of righteous indignation—”You know better, you messed up, or are messing up, and I cannot treat you with love or respect until you change your ways and come crawling to me and prove that you are now as righteous  as me.”

He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 1 John 2

They are exactly the ones whom John is telling us here we cannot hate—our brothers. The word brother here means fellow believers. Those whom we deem should know better. ‘You call yourself a Christian! You had better straighten up before you expect me to stop reminding you how sinful you are!’

Well, for starters, who are you to judge the heart of another believer? And who made you the Holy Spirit?Spirit Come cross

The Helper is the Holy Spirit and according to Jesus it is his job, and his job alone, to convict others of sin. It is your job to walk in the light, to not give your brother or sister cause to sin, to rebel or run away from God and his word.

Because it is only by coming to the light, allowing God’s word to search their hearts, that they will come to reject any sinful behavior and have love perfected in them as well.

Seeing your light go dark, hidden behind your scorn, whenever they are around you will certainly not encourage them to come into the light. Jesus loved people into the kingdom. And the only time you see him angry is when he saw others judging those he was trying to love into his Kingdom—the Priests and Pharisees who deemed others dirty and sinful.

Little children . . . love!little children love 1 John

I love all of you. Have a blessed week!

Perfected in Love

The Apostle John, in his letters, challenges us to love, even to perfect love. Now there’s a challenge to be sure!  Have anyone of you perfected love? If you answered yes, I would like to talk to your spouse, or family.

love perfected mom child

I am called as the pastor of my church to love people. I will always preach the word, the uncomfortable parts and the ones that may offend some people, but I will always do so in love, and I will always welcome and love everyone who comes seeking truth.

Speak the truth in love and if you cannot come across that way then don’t speak at all. Loving one another is our overarching command, the one that all others point to.

love one another dove

Love is hard

None of this is easy, loving our rivals is hard, loving people who mistreat us is hard. Loving people whom we believe need to be taught a lesson, who have disappointed us, is hard. Loving people whom no one else loves is hard.

If love was easy we wouldn’t need almost 800 Old testament laws and hundreds of pages of stories to teach us how to love. We wouldn’t have needed Jesus to come and live it out for us, die for us, and then send his Spirit to illuminate it for us. We wouldn’t need the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to empower us to love—not if it was easy or natural for us.

It’s hard because our sinful fallen nature is selfish, jealous, competitive, indignant and petty. But God is love and those who love him and desire to love have to look to Jesus for that love, for the desire and the ability to truly love. If we truly love and walk with Jesus and in his ways we find that we have no choice but to love and to do otherwise runs counter to the new creation that you are in him and will leave you empty, casting you back into the darkness.hates his brother

You just loved me

There was a young woman who was part of our fellowship for a while here. She showed up at some of our first services with her very young son, no husband, no questions, we just loved her.

She disappeared for a while and reappeared with a guy who had a young daughter, no questions, we just loved them.

They disappeared for a while and her and her son reappeared, alone again. There were a few questions, no condemnations, we just loved her. Week after week, year after year, hit and miss sometimes, but we just kept loving her and her son.

I didn’t think we were doing anything extraordinary really, she was pretty easy to love and we love, or try to love, everyone who comes through these doors. Yes we are all human and none of us has yet perfected love and occasionally someone, including me, does something to offend or hurt—but we try, I try, I try to love like Jesus loves, unconditionally and unselfishly.

One day I asked this young lady if she would serve in a particular place in the church; a place of responsibility and trust. As she considered what I had asked her she became visibly shaken and finally blurted out through her tears words that cut straight to my heart, “I can’t do that. . . I am not a good person!”

The reason this cut to my heart is because I was heartbroken for her that she saw herself this way. But I also sensed that this was the Holy Spirit blasting open a whole in her heart for the light to shine in. So I asked her why she didn’t believe she was a good person. She confessed to me some sin areas in her life, and I didn’t gasp and say ‘man, you’re right, you are a rotten sinner!’ No, I assured her that Jesus loved her, the Father loved her and that I loved her, and if she wanted me to, I would pray for her.

I did, right then and there. I prayed that the Lord would give her the strength to overcome the things that she was struggling with, things that the Holy Spirit, not me, not anyone in this church, was convicting her of, and then I told her my offer still stands.forgiven light ocean

But I was going to leave it up to her—it was between her and the Lordto let me know when she was ready to serve. I told her I knew it would not be long because I knew that she could do this.

I was right. A few months later she told me she was ready, she had overcome. Love—the love of God and the love of her brothers and sisters in the Lord—was bearing fruit in her.

At one point she told Donna (my wife) and I how grateful she was for this church family. She said, “Time and again I showed up here still reeling from the night before, barely able to look myself in the mirror and you guys just kept loving me and welcoming me like I was somebody special.” And that was why she kept coming back. —That’s what love does.

She told us this as she was getting ready to move to another state, as she had married a godly man and was going to start a new life– heartbroken to be leaving–but thrilled to be walking in God’s plan.

She was perfected— by love.

walk in the light Jesus

 

Know that you know him

Do you know him? Do you know Jesus? If you are walking in love you do.

He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. 1 John 2

So, let’s wrap this up by answering the question we asked at the start; How do you perfect love?

This seems like a complicated statement requiring deep thought and study but it is really quite simple and rather neatly sums up what the gospel is all about. God gave mankind his word, the commandments and the law, the prophets and the psalms, the wisdom writings and the stories, to show us how to love and live—to live in perfect love, no sin, no selfishness, no rebellion. But we could not do it—bottom line—should have been the end of the story.

But the Father didn’t want our story to end there. So he sent Jesus, the only one who was able to do it—to perfectly keep God’s word, to become the perfect sacrifice so that we, who could not keep God’s word and thus perfect love, could be recipients of his perfect love. Now we have a new word by which to live, by which to be perfected, the only way by which we may be perfected and perfect love, and that is to believe and receive the Word of God  come in the flesh; Jesus.

And the proof of that? The evidence of our saving knowledge of the Word of God, of Jesus Christ the Son of God?

That we have love for one another

little children love 1 John

I am love, I am life, I am here. -H.S.

 

 Barbarians in the Kingdom

Barbarians ad copy axe

 

The Word Become Flesh

word become flesh

The Word of life came bearing the words of life. The mystery has been revealed.

This isn’t some unexplainable weird cosmic transformation where spoken words somehow all coalesce and take on a solid form; this is the one who had spoken, inspired and preserved these words, the word of God, this is God himself, become flesh and blood, all powerful, all knowing, all encompassing, I Am that I Am Spirit, taking on the flesh of his beloved children so that they may finally understand and  accept him for, at, and as, His Word.

Jesus is the Word and the Word is Jesus. And every word written about his life, death and return is also the Word of God, and is also Jesus.

He is called the word of God

His true name is so Holy, Ancient, powerful and precious that no one knows it but him, but that name is called the Word of God.

The implications of that are mind Boggling. You take this book, this Bible, Old and New Testaments, thousands upon thousands of words, and it is all for one purpose, it all explains and encapsulates one word, a name, that we cannot even begin to comprehend, it is the name of the Son of the most high God, the one who is one with the Father.

And the closest we can come to knowing what that name is, the best that the languages of man can come up with, that even comes close to revealing who he is—is to call him the Word of God.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. John 1:1

What is his name? Flip through the pages of your Bible, There is his name.

Indeed it takes all that to even begin to explain who our Lord is, there is no earthly name that can speak all of that.  

But we get to call him, in our language, a name that is easy to speak, a beautiful name that all of us know as no one other than the Christ, the Savior, our Lord and even friend. The name that we now know can mean none other than the one whose true nature, the depth of whose love, power and glory we can never fully comprehend— we get to call him Jesus.

Wow, how cool are we? Better yet, how loved are we?

little children love 1 John

 

and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full. 1 John 1:3—4

When you began to understand just how loved, and by whom you are loved, your joy is untouchable.

Words

A little different blog this week. . .

At the risk of being branded a heretic by the more religious and conservative among my readers, or just an outright loon by those with a secular humanist bent; I am posting a list of promises here. Promises, or words to use the biblical phrase, given to me by the Holy Spirit.

Yes, I hear God. It is the reason I no longer turn to drugs or alcohol for solace, it is the reason I can face life’s many trials and it is the reason I sacrifice so much of my own life to preach his word–it is the reason I can go on day after day with a heart at peace in a world that is not.

As a Holy Spirit baptized believer, it is one of the gifts I treasure and embrace.

But the manifestation of the Spirit is given

I don’t hear voices in my head and I have never come across a talking burning bush but I do believe God speaks to my heart and the words make it into my brain and are spoken to me in my own internal voice. This is the best I can do to describe a purely spiritual thing using the limited vocabulary this flesh affords me.

I find it curious that so much of the church insists that they have “a relationship (with Jesus) not a religion” yet balk at the idea of God speaking to them. What kind of a relationship is that?

rock mememy

So, that said, the following is a partial list I compiled, just on a whim, of words spoken to me as I was preparing sermons for my church (which become the basis of these blogs) over the last year. I always seek the Lord as I prepare a message on his behalf and sometimes I hear a specific word and sometimes I don’t. Either way he always speaks to me through his word as I study and prepare as well–as he does for all who believe.  

The HS after each promise or word is my designation for Holy Spirit, and I always place the promise for the week at the top of the message I’m writing, as a guide to keep me on the right track as I prepare my sermon so that I know I am going where the Lord wants me to go with whatever scripture he leads me to teach on. I hope you find encouragement in them as I believe they are for all of us who desire to hear his heart–He certainly hears yours, of that you can be sure.

herar me meme

So, “they who have ears to hear, let them hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.”

(I’ve thrown in some of my relevant memes also)

The Promises

It is my will that all would be saved, and receive my love. –HS

I am the one who hears the one—HS

Listen! I am standing at the door

I Am a high priest forever, and I will not fail you. Join me in suffering that we may conquer together. HS

Man or Woman, use the gifts I give you. Use them boldly, use them prudently. The time is short, we need all hands on deck. HS

Orohetic Prayer

I’m looking for the heart (that loves). A loving heart is not a rebellious heart, a heart that loves is a pure heart. HS

In me is freedom from fear. HS

The Spirit is being poured out and the dam is about to burst. HS

Your mission is to spread the word, advance the kingdom, to teach truth. My mission is you. HS

mystery

 

You are a people set aside for my glory. Fear no evil thing. HS

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. HS

I am coming, indeed I am coming. Hang on, be strong and stay awake. HS

Awaken light of mine

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

You know the mysteries, teach the mysteries, never grow weary of sharing the mysteries. HS

2020 —The time has come. Use what I have given you for my glory—do not hold back. HS

few chosen

 

Jesus Knows

Jesus tells an eye opening story one day about two men who enter the afterlife– to much different ends.

Lazarus gates

One of them is known only as “a rich man” and the other is Lazarus. Lazarus is a man down on his luck–big time. He is laid, apparently immobile, hungry and covered with sores at the gate of this rich man. He is ignored by all but the dogs who see him as a chew toy covered with sores that they find quite tasty–insult added to injury. While the rich man within the gates feasts daily in his opulence and revelry. Mindless and uncaring about the beggar dying  in the shadow of his mansion. The rich man never new his name.

Jesus knew.

And his angels were watching. Lazarus had barely closed his eyes for the last time when they swooped in to carry him off to paradise to feast with Father Abraham. The “rich man” then dies also, surrounded by luxury, and is buried in a tomb of great value–leaving his treasure behind. He is carried off as well, more like cast down–straight into Hades.

bosom of Abraham

The rich man then begs from his place of torment for Lazarus, whose name he suddenly remembers, to be sent back to warn his brothers–but it ain’t happen’. They, like him, had their chance. Now justice is served.

cast into darkness

What I see here in this story is hope. Hope and a challenge. The challenge is—if we were to die tomorrow would we wish we could go back and tell those we love that there is more to this life than satisfying the flesh, more to this life than this life—so don’t waste it you only get one shot? Would we be satisfied that we had told everyone we could about Jesus so that they didn’t end up in a place of torment, from which there is no relief or recourse?

Have you lived your life with the mindset of storing up your treasures in heaven as a priority over building your own stores of wealth? Or have you been faithful with your blessings to use them to also bless others, to help those left at your gates as though in so doing you are helping Jesus?

‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

Mat 25:40

Because in the end there is always justice. The piper always gets paid. As the line from old theme song from the 70’s cop show  Baretta used to say; “Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time.”

And the hope is—no matter how badly this world and this life treats us, we can look forward to an eternity of joy in a place, in a kingdom where all our tears are wiped away, where there is no more sickness and no more death, and where the wicked can no longer mistreat, abuse, mock or use us.

So long as your heart is right.

Jesus was addressing the hearts of those who despised and neglected Lazarus and those like him here. And because this nobody in the eyes of the world became somebody in the Kingdom of our God, we know that his heart had to be right. He didn’t rail against the oppressors and seek ways to steal or deride those who had what he did not.

He didn’t covet their wealth and curse his neighbors or blame God for his misfortune, he only longed to eat and made himself available to be helped by someone who could. But he had put himself at the mercy of a hardened heart, at least in this life—His soul was safe in the hands of his God.

20 But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus, full of sores, who was laid at his gate, 21 desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. . . . 24 “Then he cried and said, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue. Luke 16

In the end the one who showed no mercy was the one begging for it.

I can’t help but think of Job when I read  this. Job had lost everything he had. His children had all been murdered in the raid that destroyed his farm and he was left stricken by a horrible disease and a wife who despised him. He was covered with sores and had nothing left to do but put on sackcloth, cover himself with ashes and morn his fate.

the book of Job

 

His friends also came and told him we was a rotten sinner or surely he would not be stricken so—just curse God and die and get it over with.

He would not. And because of his continued faith in the God who was his righteousness, he was restored and he finished his life more blessed than he had ever been before. And his friends were put to shame for their ignorance.

Lazarus too, had lost everything, but he held on to his integrity. We don’t know the back story—only Jesus did. And only Jesus was able to see his final reward, which was of immeasurable worth. Very few knew and certainly no one remembered his name… Jesus did.

But there was a certain beggar named Lazarus,

Jesus knew his name.

He knows my name

He knows yours as well

Jesus knows. . .

Worth It?

Such are the dreams of the bi—vocational small town pastor.

Pastor Dan.jpg

For all it’s challenges, I love pastoring a small church. We had such a wonderful and sweet Christmas eve service just gathering together with old friends, and new; seeing the kids have such a wonderful time as they acted out the nativity story, learning the real meaning of Christmas in the process while reminding and blessing the rest of us at the same time. All this on the heels of Sunday morning and having the kids, all ages together to make up a small chorus, to sing a few Christmas songs.

Props were handmade or came from the Goodwill store and special effects consisted of an illuminated star ornament hanging off the light fixture above the stage, and a halogen work light hidden under a chair to illuminate the angels.

A Hope Chapel family Christmas .jpg

But I can guarantee that everyone left  leave here last Sunday and Christmas eve with a heart full of joy and memories that a professional high budget mega church presentation could never replicate.

I know I was blessed. I’m still replaying the events of those two services over in my mind, it was just so rewarding in so many ways.

But you know, it’s a lot of work, and that’s what I was thinking about between Sunday afternoon and Christmas eve service. Pastoring a church while working full time besides, is a lot of work and takes a lot of discipline and commitment–and then you throw in an extra service?

Now I don’t do this alone, many are involved in making this church work, and we all have responsibilities and challenges, and that’s the point.

IMG_2152.JPG

Blow it off?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just say, the heck with it, I’m going to just pursue my own fortune, spend my time and money on myself, my own pleasure and just worry about me, me, me. Like all those other people. I don’t want to write another sermon, I just wrote one last week! (and every week before that) I don’t want to spend another Saturday alone at the church, I have a lot of better things I could be doing, camping, fishing, hunting, fixing up or even building myself a house.

Or I could just go home after putting in my time at work and just sleep in front of the TV with a beer or two while looking forward to a vacation in Vegas. ‘Been saving up all year, it’s going to be a blast!’ Or maybe something more noble like a trip to the Holy Land or my ancestral Scandinavian home lands.

I could at least try to get a job in a big church so I wouldn’t have to work two jobs and then I could travel to exotic places now and then and call it missions or at least earned sabbaticals.

Such are the dreams of the bi—vocational small town pastor.

Awaken light of mine.jpg

And just saying all that out loud makes me cringe because down in my heart I know—No, I wouldn’t rather do any of that. Because in the end, none of that matters. What matters is that I am serving my Lord, the bridegroom, in the manner and place he wants me to serve him. If it means standing in a dark place with my flickering lantern ready to be put to good use at a moment’s notice, so be it.

What matters is that you, are being fed, you are getting oil for your lamps. What matters is that those kids, my kids, your kids, are hearing about Jesus, that they know they are loved and that they are important to me, to you and to their heavenly Father.

Christmas girl.jpg

(One of my grand daughters, and a grandson in the background expressing his opinion of the music)

What matters is that I am ready for Jesus to come back at any moment and that I am not going to waste any time. I will keep doing what I can to prepare myself and others in the meantime.

And the joy I feel when I see the smiles of those kids, the treasures I have amassed in my heart at seeing those the Lord puts in my path have a little better day, a little more spark in their eyes and spring in their step and maybe a song of praise on their lips because we simply showed up here and did what the Lord called and gifted us to do, I wouldn’t miss any of that for all the gold in the world.

The world can have their gold, Gold won’t burn in a lamp or light the way to anything. It only weighs you down and adds to your burden. Only love will keep those lights on, those lamps burning. And I have a never ending source of that love, his name is Jesus.

foolish virgins

The NIV study bible suggests that those virgins were “perhaps bridesmaids charged with preparing the bride for the groom.” If that is the case, the church is the bride and I will do all I can to be a wise virgin so that the bride of Christ will be ready for her groom.

We need a lot more wise virgins I can tell you that. Because there are a lot of messed up brides out there who won’t even know who their groom is when he does show up. Because here’s the little secret about the oil—it has to come from the groom.

And once he is on the way, he’s not carrying his supply any more to give to those who ask, the time for preparation is over, the hour has come, it’s His wedding day.

Oil in the scriptures is often a representation for the Holy Spirit and perhaps that is what the oil in this story is. How do we get the Holy Spirit? How do we keep in tune with the Spirit?- live for the Spirit and not the flesh. We have to keep going to Jesus, and to the Father through Jesus. Spending time with him in prayer, in his word, in worship, meditating on his word, seeking wisdom, believing for miracles and intervention, trusting him for our needs while working with the hands and the gifts he gave us.

By seeking his Kingdom first and foremost and trusting that all else will be added unto us as we need, not as we desire.

oil for my lamp.jpg

It’s living for the groom, not for ourselves. Keeping our jars full at all times.