Category Archives: The Gospel

Two witness stands

For the wrath of God is revealed from Heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.  For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.  For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.  So that they (all people) are without excuse.  Romans 1:18-20

witness stand

It would seem from these big verses that there could be two possible scenarios of putting someone on the witness stand.

⇒ The first scenario would be God putting all people on the witness stand.  God is sitting as a judge in these verses, and if He were to come down ask you how you would plead when it comes to the case of whether or not you knew He existed, and that He created the world–you would have say, if you were honest, “Guilty, your Honor.”

That tells me that deep down everyone really knows that evolution or the Big Bang Theory isn’t true.  Verse 18 says that we know it, but we have surpressed the truth through our unrighteousness.  In other words, we have pushed it down, drowned it out, or kept it from being known.  It’s like that tiny voice of our conscience that calls out inside of us tells us something we’re doing is a bad idea, or wrong. But we don’t want to hear it.  So what do we do?  We turn the music up, or we get busier, or we stay away from the people that might tell us we’re wrong.

In talking with people who have alternative theories of creation, in my experience, it seems that it they end up with more emotional rejections in the end, rather than intellectual ones.  Now this isn’t thousands of conversations, but dozens. Let me say that there are some that just want to do their own thing and don’t want to anyone tell them what to do.  It comes down to an issue of ‘what right does God have to tell me what to do?’  They deny God’s existence and creation because they don’t want Him to mess with their lives.

But the next category of people are those who end up with an emotional catch.  Here it seems that most of the discussions have led to hard personal topics where the statements begin with the question: “Well then, how could a good God let —- happen?”

⇒ That’s where I get to the second scenario witness stand.  It’s like they’re putting God on the stand.  This is what Job did.  In fact, God called him on this in Job 40:2, Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  He who argues with God, let him answer it.  Job’s question was about why he would lose his children and all of his riches, plus why he would be afflicted with boils.  Yes, that would cause me to wonder why my Friend would turn on me too.  And I would want some answers.

The whole book is filled with Job and his friends spinning their wheels, especially his friends.  But I think Job had a more genuine heart.  He was really wrestling with God, and God answered him.  God didn’t tell Job about His wager with Satan about how Job wouldn’t deny his faith in God if he took away everything.  God was proving to Satan that Job was following God because God was worth it, not because of all of his riches and blessings.  He didn’t tell Job that part, but He did show Job how big He was and how little Job was in comparison.

I love some of God’s questions to Job like Where were you when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 38:7 and Have you commanded the morning since your days began and caused the dawn to know its place? 38:12 and Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or have you seen the storehouses of the hail? 38:22.

In 40:8 God said, Will you condemn Me that you be in the right?  Isn’t that what people do when they question God’s goodness or His justice?  Aren’t they putting themselves in the right and condemning God?

For those who have had hard things happen that cause you to wonder about why such hard and even horrible things could come from the hand of a good God–go ahead and wrestle with God as Job did.  But do it with a genuine heart that wants to know Him and trust in Him.  God will meet you just as He met Job.  But get ready for Him to answer you in ways that you might not expect and show Himself in ways that go deeper than you can imagine.

Just don’t put God on the witness stand with a condemning heart and expect to win.  And don’t use the line, “If God is good, then why is there suffering?” as a red herring to point a finger away from your own call to submit to God’s right to set the rules in your life.

Job ended up with a repentant heart.  In Job 42:6 he said, I repent.  Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.  In Acts 3:19 Paul said, Repent and turn back, that your sins may be wiped out, so that seasons of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord.

That just could be the answer for all of us when we turn from trusting God and when we suppress the truth because we want to do things our own way.  When we stop trusting God because we think He has wronged us, we come up with alternative ways of living our lives that doesn’t include trusting Him and putting Him first.  We find other idols to fill our lives with that make our heart kind of crowded.

Some might hide it better than others, but if we’re not trusting in God, we’re still guilty.  And the answer is still the same: Repent.  In Job’s case, the outcome was a good one.  His fortunes were restored doubly.  God is that kind of a God.

Isaiah 30:18 says, Yet the Lords longs to be gracious to you; therefore He will rise up to show you compassion.

 


The Three “I am’s” of the Gospel Charge

I am under obligation both to the Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.  So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  Romans 1:14-16

Paul lists three “I am’s” in these three verses that have gripped me for a long time.  I underlined them to make it easier to catch.  I say gripped me.  I could use the word driven.  Paul used the words “gospel ambition” in Romans 15:20-21: And this I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of Him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’

I became a Christian through and evangelist that came to my rural farming community through a Vacation Bible School ministry.  She and her ministry partner would come from hundreds of miles away for a week each summer to present the gospel to me and my community, a place where there was not a gospel witness.  It was there, from the age of four on up to the age of seventeen, that I sat under their teaching and heard the good news of Jesus and was discipled by the two.

They continued to pray for me and influence me well into my adult life.  The evangelist had a strong gift of teaching as well.  I secretly wanted to be with her at her death so I could receive her mantle (or cloak), much like Elijah/Elisha, even though she lived states away from me in a retirement home.  I didn’t find out that she had gone to be with Jesus until about a month later, but then God gave me a wonderful dream that I did get to walk her into the sunset off of a dock on a lake to go be with Jesus.  It was like He was saying that He did give me her mantle.

Along with that has come the passion that Paul describes in Romans 1:14-16.  He sums it up by saying: I am obligated to share the gospel with anyone and everyone; I am eager to come to you, whom I haven’t met yet; and I am not ashamed of the gospel because I know it is the power of God for salvation.

I am kind of like Clark Kent.  I don’t wear my cloak (cape) so everyone can see it, like a pastor or a missionary does.  I keep it under my principal’s clothes.  But it’s there.  It drives me and pulls me to places like the County jail, and to women’s homes that would never come to church–He calls me to go to them.  One time I was meeting with a gal who was just desperate for help and so she went to the phone book yellow pages and went to the church list and the church I attended was at the top of the list.  She called the pastor and said she was a mess.

He asked me if I would go meet with her, which I did.  In talking with her, I asked if she would like to know Jesus.  She said she would.  So I explained how she could do that and she said she would like to pray, so we prayed together.  We began to meet weekly for quite awhile.  We were at her house one day, and she had three unruly young boys–plus an unruly big black lab.  She firmly told the boys to keep him out of the house while we sat at the kitchen table and studied the Bible together.

Before we knew it, the boys let the dog in the door, which was right by the kitchen table.  The fiercely barking dog lunged straight for my face and jabbed his mouth at my cheekbone, just below my eye.  He had just been barking and his mouth was open, but yet when he got to my face, it was like it was slammed shut.  I firmly believe that God shut his mouth.  If He hadn’t, I would have a huge dog bite scar on my cheek.  God shuts the mouths of lions and black labs!

I think of this story just to say, you never know where God’s gospel ambition will take you, and how He will enable you to share with those who haven’t heard before to hear.  What a privilege.

Thinking about the three “I am’s,” why would we be obligated, especially since we’re saved by grace?  When we receive grace–the good news about how to escape from a common misery, then we owe it others to tell them the same good news of how to escape.  If I had cancer and someone shared a cure for cancer with me, I would feel a debt of gratitude to that person for sharing the cure and for being healed.  I would want to share it with everyone else who have cancer out of an eagerness to see them be healed, just as I was.

Paul found grace, so he was a debtor to tell everyone else the good news of grace too.  If I really get the gospel of grace, that I don’t qualify for it, and I got it–I would cherish it and gladly pass it on.  I would be obligated and eager because he has transformed my life with it.  God has also given me a reason to live and a hope for life after death.

How many people do you talk to that don’t really have that reason to live and that hope for life after death?  You have it, but maybe you don’t share it because you think they don’t want to hear it.  That would mean you’re ashamed of it.  It’s so easy to keep quiet because of that.  I have to remember to not be ashamed because the gospel is what people need, not anything else.

If I’m not ashamed of it, it means:

  • that I know that the gospel of God changes lives and there is no other way to find hope in life and death.
  • that I know I cannot rely on anything else to see change come about–not my personality, not a fancy presentation, not emotional stories, not cool music
  • that I must get the gospel out to whomever will listen

So, my thought is to be like Paul.  We are all debtors because of grace.  We have found the sin cure.  Because of that, we ought to be eager to share the good news of the gospel to a lost and dying world.  Remind yourself not to be ashamed.  Being reconciled to God through Jesus is the very thing that everyone needs because all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  The payment for sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus (Romans 6:23).

Go+for+souls+and+go+for+the+worst.+Some+men+s+ambition+is+art.jpg


God’s Enabling Grace

Through Jesus we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among all the nations.  Romans 1:5

So I moved on from reading 1 John all the way through every day to studying in Romans. As Paul is introducing himself and the Gospel of God, promised long before it happened to the prophets, written about in the the Holy Scriptures about His Son Jesus…he quickly gets to grace.

Paul wrote that through Jesus we received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of His name among the nations, including you who are called to belong to Jesus Christ.  That’s us!

In picking that apart, I was hit with the idea that grace isn’t just the gift that we get that is our entry point into salvation.  That’s a great thing and I don’t ever want to take it for granted.  But Paul links grace to apostleship and him being an apostle.  It’s God’s grace that woke him up on the road to Damascus.  Apostle means “sent one.”  So, in a broader sense, he isn’t just talking about the grace or enabling power that God gives him to be an apostle, but through Christ we get the enabling power to be sent to do whatever it is that He sends us to do.

That’s the only way I can do what it is that God wants me to do.  I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit lately.  There are two parts to what I’ve been thinking about.

 The first part of God’s enabling grace has to do with His actual grace in sending us out and how that works.  Have you noticed that there is only a small percentage of Christians that are actually about the Father’s business?  The rest seem to be busy with their own agendas, not really in tune with spiritual things.  2 Timothy 3:16-17 talks about how all Scripture is breathed out by God and is profitable for training, correction and training.  Then verse 17 tells us that being in the Word makes us complete and equipped for every good work.

grace.jpgIf you are not in the Bible on a consistent basis, you don’t get that equipping and then you don’t get that sending out.  Or, as Paul put it in Romans 1:5 the apostleship part of grace, the “sent one” part.  There is a woman in her early 40’s who has been in my Sunday School classes through the years.  Last year she reflected back on how I called her out at one point (I don’t remember it) when she talked about not having time to get into the Bible.  She said I pointed at her and said firmly, “That has to change.  You must get into the Word.  You need to make daily time for God.”

She told of she began to get up at 5:30 in the morning to meet with God, which is a commitment with three young children and a demanding job as a physician’s assistant.  She said it is now a pattern.  The interesting thing is her family now has made the commitment to be foster parents over the last year or two.  What I see is that their hearts have changed because God has pressed that on their hearts as they have been in the Word as a pattern.  They have become “sent ones.”

If you don’t have a real sense of a mission from God, stop and think about your time in the Word with Him.  Are you sitting at His feet?  Do you spend time soaking in the Bible and meditating on it, or are you whizzing through a five minute devotional written by someone else?

My second thought about God’s enabling grace is about his prevailing grace.  It is His grace that enables us to continue to do what He calls us to do over the long haul…when the going gets tough…when there is no one to run with…when you walk by faith and not by sight…when you are broken and weary.  It is God’s enabling grace that holds us by His right hand, that is our faithful Shepherd that makes us lie down in green pastures, leads us beside still waters, and restores our soul.  He does that.

I have been praying this Christmas season that He would appear with His enabling grace to me just like He appeared with the angels to the shepherds and to Mary and Joseph.  It is a Titus 3:3-7 appearing with goodness, loving kindness and mercy poured out richly because that is the kind of God that He is.

Finally, He visits us with this grace not so we can be fat and happy, but as Romans 1:6 says “for the sake of HIs name among all the nations.”  It drives us beyond ourselves to the nations.  He puts that in our hearts when we get close to His heart.

Paul said it in Romans 15:20-21, We make it our ambition to preach the Gospel not where Christ has already been named, but so those who have never been told of Him will see and those who have never heard will understand.

What  a joy I had my last two jail visits to tell a 50 something Native American woman the Christmas story.  She had never heard it before and had never read the Bible before or been to a Bible study or church.  This was the first she had heard the Gospel.  I didn’t have to go far, just 18 miles to a place where Christ had not been named to find someone who had never been told of Him–because I had been sent–because I had spent time with Him in the Word.  Don’t forget that!


Experiencing God More Deeply

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.  James 5:17

I’ve pretty much quit watching TV, with the exception of a football game once in awhile, and Jeopardy (one day I’ll be a contestant on there–really).  So I watch a lot of Youtube videos of sermons and get news from current event things from there.

Lately I’ve been blessed by Francis Chan videos.  They have fed my soul during some tough times.  He has encouraged me to stick to the core truths of the Gospel even when it’s tempting to water them down.  And he has given me a renewed passion for Jesus and for the Bible.  

If you’re looking for a good one to start with, here is a link to the one I’m referring to today, “Experiencing God Deeper 2018.”

If you’re like me, I always mean to get back to the link that someone shares, but it either takes me a long time, or I never do.  So I’m going to share some of his points and add some of my own (artistic license).

You experience God when you’re put in front of authorities and God gives you words when you don’t have them.  Francis gave the example of the 23 South Koreans who were missionaries in Afghanistan and were taken by the Taliban.  That was in 2007.  They were held for about two months.  The leaders of the group actually argued over who was going to get killed first: “Kill me, I’m the pastor.”  A second guy stood up, “No, I’m a pastor too and I’m older–so kill me.”  A third man stood up, “No, I’m ordained, so you have to kill me first.”  The third man was actually one of two killed, the rest were released.  

Years later, Francis met with one of the guys who was a captive and he said that he wished he was still back there because of the intimacy he had with Jesus.  Others in the group expressed the same thing.  We fear something like this, but yet we experience God in closer and more sure ways when we are put on the spot, like Elijah.  We grow.  We are no different than Elijah.  He was a man just like us.  We feel more peace when we are in danger, yet we resist danger at all costs.  

We try not to have show downs like Elijah had, but if we want to experience God more deeply, we need to know this: Do not put your trust in money or freedom.  We have Christ and He alone is sufficient.  We don’t need to go out and try to suffer, but we should stop trying to avoid it.  

Not only is Elijah a man just like us, but God is still the same God that made the altar start on fire (1 Kings 18) even after Elijah doused it with water.  

You experience God when you get comfort when you need it–not when you’re comfortable.  When we do something that scares us, we experience God more deeply, like when Peter stepped out of the boat.  

If you find yourself saying, “Remember when I did this…” a lot, then it’s time to change it to the present tense.  I did a lot of faith adventures in my youth.  But I want to be like Caleb in the book of Joshua.  In chapter 14 he went to Joshua at the age of 85 and reminded Joshua of his inheritance promise and then said, I am still as strong today as I was in the day that Moses sent me; my strength now is as my strength was then…So now give me this hill country!

When God called Moses and Jeremiah, they both had excuses about what they couldn’t do.  Isn’t that our tendency–to tell God what we can’t do when called?  “I can’t speak,” or “I’m too young.”  But instead of looking at what we can’t do, we need to look at what God is calling us to.  First of all, God is the one who is calling us, and that call has been from before we were born (Jeremiah 1:5; Ephesians 1:4; Eph. 2:10).  

So instead of reciting what you can’t do, know that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Philippians 4:13) and 1 Thessalonians 5:24: He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.

Whoever abides in Him ought to walk as Jesus walked.  1 John 2:6

In our rock star driven culture, we have Christian leaders who don’t necessarily walk as Jesus walked.  Maybe they are just good communicators or good singers.  Francis Chan talked about how we need to play, “Follow the Leader.”  Our leader is Jesus.  We shouldn’t just memorize Bible verses about telling others about Jesus, crossing cultural boundaries to do so, or helping those in need, or obeying Him, getting rid of unforgiveness, etc.  We just need to do it.

We need to change our definition of success.  If I know Jesus, I should just be like Him.  I’ll walk like Him, love like Him, and others will know that they’ve been touched because being around me might be a little like being with Jesus.  I don’t know if that’s the case always.

This has challenged me to read through 1 John over and over for a month.  I hope it sinks into my pours enough that it changes me to the core.  I want to not say “I love Jesus” but to “Just do it.”  This has produced some change in me already.  I wrote in my last blog how it triggered a chain of events (giving money and an unfortunate car accident on the way to do so) that was a whirlwind.  But it has also unearthed some unforgiveness in my heart that God has pointed out.  May He do much more in the weeks to come!

May you experience God more deeply as you head into the new year.  

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word, and My Father will love  him, and We will come to him and make our home with him.  John 14:23


There is wonder working power in the blood of the Lamb!

But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for all sins, He sat down at the right hand of God…for by a single offering He has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.  Hebrews 10:12,14

It has been awhile since I have posted.  It has been because life has been moving at the speed of sound.  God has been moving in and amongst things, much like He was with Elijah when he took on the prophets of Baal, Ahab and Jezebel, and then he took off and ran, depleted and alone.  And then God came to  Elijah in a cave and he heard God speak in a still, small voice.  God told him he wasn’t the only prophet left and God had him get up and go anoint Jehu to be the next king over Israel.

When I read 1 Kings 18-19, it makes my head spin for Elijah because of the great showdown at the Mt. Carmel corral and then his emotional turmoil that followed–and then for me because I can so relate.  I too have been in the midst of many such spiritual showdown’s and roller coasters lately.  I would like to cry out with Micah 7:7-8 this battle cry: But as for me, I will look to the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me.   Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me.

For the sake of brevity, maybe I’ll get to those in another post…But for now, I will get to my verse for today.  At jail ministry this last Sunday night, where God ministers to my heart just as much or more than He does to the women, I was blessed to share with three  women.  Two were Native American, one Caucasian, if that means anything.  Two of the three have been changed by the Gospel in visible ways over the last months of being in the Bible studies while being incarcerated.  Praise God for new life!

I started the study with the quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  It’s along the lines of continuing the same sin patterns and wondering why they end up in jail again and again.  That’s opposed to allowing Jesus to break the chains of rebellion–doing things now God’s way instead of our way–taking the narrow path and not the broad path, from Matthew 7:13-14.

No one talks about the narrow path–not on TV, not in books, not on Jimmy Fallon or Oprah, or Ellen.  I remember a time on “The View” where they censored a gal who said she lost 15 pounds on her diet and said, “Praise Jesus,” and they bleeped out Jesus.  But later in the show someone else used the name of Jesus in a profane way and they didn’t censor it out.  That’s the broad path.  Everyone is on it, and everyone talks about it.  Not the narrow path.  They shut you down.  So you have to go to jail to learn about the narrow path.  What an irony.

Then the Holy Spirit got all warmed up and fell on us.  I began to share about how much God loved them and quoted Psalm 103:8-13 about how God is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love, how He does not treat us as our sins deserve and He does not accuse and does not harbor His anger forever.  As high as the Heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for us and as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our sins from us.

I went on to say that the enemy, Satan, wants to steal, kill and destroy; BUT God knows the plans He has for them and they are for a future and a hope and not calamity and despair.  One of the gals talked about how she keeps feeling shame and guilt for her past and she can’t get past that.

That’s when I began talking about the blood of Jesus–hence today’s verses.  This is when the power really kicked in.  We went to the verses in 1 John 1:7 and 9 and 1 John 2:1-2 about how the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin and that if we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to please us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 2:1-2 talks about if we sin, we have an advocate, a defense attorney–Jesus Christ the righteous one who is the propitiation, the mercy seat, the covering, for our sin.

In the English Standard Version, the language seems to be more graphic.  I like that.  Like in the Old Testament when the Holy Spirit comes upon Saul, David, Samson and Gideon, it says that He rushed upon them.  I really love that picture.  Well in Leviticus 3:1-2, I really love this picture:  If his offering is a sacrifice of peace offering, if he offers an animal from the herd, male or female, he shall offer it without blemish before the Lord.  And he (the priest) shall lay his hand on the head of his offering and kill it at the tent of meeting, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall throw the blood against the sides of the altar.

Oh God, throw Jesus’ blood against wherever it is You throw it to cover me from all unrighteousness!  We prayed on Sunday night that God would throw His blood to cover the ladies’ sins and wounds and scars and to bring healing and freedom.  It was Susan Powers from the 90’s that used to yell “Stop the insanity!”  I yell “Stop the insanity in Jesus’ name!”  All because of the blood of Jesus!  Throw His blood against the altar to cover those of us who are being sanctified.

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace.  Ephesians 1:7

*Image from ‘The Bleeding Temple”


Full of the Spirit

But during the night an angel of the Lord opened the doors of the prison, led them out, and said ‘Go stand in the Temple courts and proclaim to all the people the words of this life.’  Acts 5:20

This is what has stuck with me throughout this week, along with a few other thoughts.  It was the apostles that got tossed into jail for telling about Jesus and new life in Him.  The religious leaders were filled with jealousy, which is what 5:17 tells us.  It wasn’t any complicated scheme–just jealousy.  Anyway, an angel let them out and told them to go back to the Temple court and keep teaching.

What catches me is that the angel told them to teach about ‘the words of this life.’  The whole first few chapters of Acts are flooded with the accounts of the Early Church–about how the Holy Spirit has come and landed on them like tongues of fire.  And how when they prayed the place where prayed shook with power and everyone was filled with boldness.  And then there was so much Holy Spirit power that people brought the sick and they passed by Peter’s shadow and they were healed.

Acts 5-20So when they went back to the Temple Courts, they talked about Jesus being risen from the dead, exalted to God’s right hand as a Founder and Savior to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.  And we are witnesses of these events and so is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.  

I’m sure the apostles didn’t just mumble a sorry testimony and invite them to Temple too.  No, they were convincing witnesses about the resurrection of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to change lives.  That’s what I’ve been thinking about.

Go on to Acts 6 and read about Stephen.  He was described as being “full of the Spirit,” “full of faith and of the Holy Spirit,” and “full of grace and power, who was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people.”  Now that’s an eye catcher.

People are looking for something to fill the holes in their empty lives, something big enough to occupy the space that they’re filling with things like their fascination with technology, the NFL, materialism, sex, drinking and other addictions.  If we offer a wimpy version of the Christian life, it is no more appealing than picking up an old textbook, or visiting their grandmother’s church.

But if you show them the real Jesus, and the “life that is truly life,” as 1 Timothy 6:19 says, or the abundant life that John 10:10 talks about.  And 1 Corinthians 4:20 it says that the kingdom of God is demonstrated in idle talk but in power.  

Last Sunday night I was at our County Jail for Bible study.  There were 6 Native American women and another jail chaplain and myself.  We talked for a bit to catch up on how they were doing, and as I began the study, there was a male inmate calling out loudly the whole time.  I stopped and asked what that was.  The women said it was a man in the holding cell.  They felt bad for him and said he had been yelling out all day in about ten different voices.

I asked if any of them had been at church with me the last summer when one of the women did the same thing and we stopped and prayed–and she stopped yelling out.  The women immediately begged me, “Please stop and pray.  Please pray.”  So we stopped.  The other gal with me prayed out loud first and me second.  We prayed that the spirits that were oppressing him would be bound and that the peace of the Holy Spirit would rest upon him.  Within one or two minutes the man was totally quiet.

I said, “Hey, do you hear that?”  And they said, “Hear what?”  I said, “My point exactly. It’s dead quiet out there.  Jesus did that.  He hears our prayers and has the power to work.  He will do that in your life.”  We got back into the Bible study and the jailers were stirring up a mighty commotion out in the hallway.  I mean it was like a circus out there.  It went on and on.

Finally I stopped and said, “I’m praying again.  This circus has to stop.”  I prayed that God would silence the commotion in the hall and that it would be so quiet that they could hear a pin drop.  Again, within a minute the noise stopped.  And again, I said: “Do you hear that?  Jesus did it again.  That’s what He wants to do for you.”

Today I met with a Native American gal that just got out of jail and treatment.  She came to church and is resolute about “doing the next right thing.”  She is making a break from the bonds of meth and alcohol.  I told her the story of what happened in jail last week.  Her brother is in prison, but God has gotten a mighty hold on him and he is a living, walking evangelist everywhere he was been incarcerated.

She told me about when he was back at the County jail and was with a guy I’ve known since he was a kid.  He was telling this other guy about Jesus and the other guy kept saying that he was a Native and believing that.  Her brother was telling him that it wasn’t helping his life and that  Jesus is the only way, and that He’s real and wants to save him too.

The guy said, “Well, if Jesus is real, I’ll pray for something sweet.”  Maybe he was being sarcastic, because it was 10 at night and he knew it wasn’t going to happen.  But they prayed that S— would get something sweet and that S— would see that God is real.  Not even 5 minutes later a jailor came to their pod where 5 other guys were, at 10:00 at night and said, “S— I have a cupcake for you.  I just thought you’d like it.”

This guy S— got down on his knees and started sobbing and said, “I believe, I believe.”

Now that’s proclaiming the words of this life!  Words of power, words that aren’t just words, but are about life changing abundance that people can grab onto and say, “Yes, He is real and can do things in my life.”

Now, I have to go stand in the town courts and speak words of this life…

*Image from Brittalafont.com

 


Real Change

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.  But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.  Titus 3:3-7

I was just at jail the other night, to lead a Bible study for interested women inmates.  I always pray that God would lay on my heart what to share. I’m never quite sure who is going to be there.  I can guess that a couple of the ones from the weeks before will still be in, but when I count on it, they either get switched out, or they don’t feel like coming.  But God knows.

Change was on my heart.  Plus God’s overwhelming mercy that shows up and brings about the change in our lives that we need.  If God doesn’t show up in my life to change me, I am stuck in the same old rut. And that rut doesn’t stay the same, it finds ways to get worse.  I am no different than the women in orange that I go to meet with.

I began the jail study by asking, on a scale of 1-10, to give a number of how much they really want to change–so they would never return to jail or prison, so they would be free from addiction, and so they would be with their kids again.  Each of the six ladies said it was definitely a 10. But then I said what was their reality of change score. They each said it was more like a 2 or a 3, maybe a 4. That’s why they are “boomerangs.” I have seen them again and again over the years.

Instead of lecturing them about knocking off their stupid ways, or not really wanting it bad enough, I turned to Titus 3, which God had put on my heart.  I shared how they only way we can really change on the outside is for God to change us on the inside. We are all like the description of verse 3–foolish, disobedient, and slaves to our passions.  All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God,  Romans 3:23  That’s the sin condition.  That’s why God had to send Jesus to save us.  We just can’t save ourselves, no matter how hard we try.

There is the account of Mephibosheth in 2 Samuel 9, which we read the week before.  David hunted down anyone he could show kindness to on the behalf of his friendship covenant with Jonathan.  Mephibosheth was Jonathan’s crippled son who lived in hiding because he deserved to die when his grandfather King Saul died in battle years before.  

When the king died, they wiped out all of the sons and grandsons, so there was no claim to the throne. So when now King David found him (appeared), it was Meph’s  day of reckoning.

But instead of pronouncing Meph’s death sentence, David showed the same incredible mercy God shows us: David took Meph to Jerusalem to eat at his table as his son for the rest of his life.  No longer a death sentence, but now treated like the king’s son and living in the palace.

¤ That’s exactly what God does for us.  We have all sinned, but instead of crushing us like ants, He appears in the form of Jesus and pours goodness and loving kindness out, because of God’s mercy.  Also it is because of His covenant love for us, just like David’s covenant love that he had with Jonathan. He saves us, just like Mephibosheth was saved, and gives us a seat at His table.  It’s not because of works done by us in righteousness–we don’t earn it or deserve it.

¤ The other good news–God washes us because we are dirty because of sin.  Not just people with a rap sheet, but all of us, because all have sinned.  And not just new believers, but all of us regularly. We all need washing. Jesus told Peter at the foot washing at the Last Supper that he was clean and he just needed his feet washed (John 13:10).  So the good news for believers is that we get washed with a cleansing that lasts. It is a part of our spiritual renewal and regeneration that takes place at our new birth.

Isaiah 1:18 reads, Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.  We get them washed away.  And then the Holy Spirit renews us.  Again, not just once when we are born again, but all of the time.  That is good news! It is this renewing that they need to change to not keep coming back to jail again and again.  It is what I need to break my sin habits and to keep becoming who it is that He wants me to be–not the fleshly me that craves self and not the things of the Spirit.         

¤ But that renewing of the Holy Spirit is also what keeps me going in my Christian life, some fifty years after my new birth.  Psalm 103:5 promises, He satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.  And Isaiah 40:31: But they who with for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.                 Image result for Titus 3:3-7

The renewing work of Holy Spirit is to keep changing me to be more like Jesus and it is to keep giving me the youth and energy that I need to enjoy life and to live it to its fullest!

¤¤I read a lot that we’re supposed to preach the Gospel to ourselves everyday.  Well, I did it at jail, and I’m doing it as I write this. The good news is that Jesus changes everything and He is changing me.  Without that I am toast. And without that x factor, so are those women that I spoke to in jail. He is the key to changing the heart and real change in our behavior and in our life.

 


From Alienated to Reconciled

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, by making peace through His blood, shed on the cross.  Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation–Colossians 1:19-22 NIV

The story of the Bible starting in Genesis is that man was created to be with God.  Adam and Eve walked with God in the Garden in the cool of the evening. What fellowship, what perfection.  Then sin entered, disrupting that bliss. And boom! Separation, alienation, sin, finger pointing, blame, toil and pain.  Genesis 3:15 contains a promise that one day someone from Eve’s seed would come and crush Satan’s head. It’s been a long time in waiting…

The best news in all the world is that our alienation from God is ended and we are reconciled to the King and the Judge of all of the universe and of all time. God sent His Son, His only begotten Son Jesus, the One who would contain all of the fullness of Him in bodily form to come and be the perfect sacrifice for our sins.  In dying on the cross, shedding His blood, Jesus made peace. The result: God is no longer against us, but for us. His wrath is satisfied. How can it be?

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things.  That is what gave Jesus the authority to reconcile everything to Himself when He died on the cross.  When He shed His blood on the cross, He brought peace to everything and to everyone that was totally alienated from God.

When sin entered the world in the Garden of Eden, it alienated humanity from God, nature from God, humanity from each other, and humanity from ourselves.  That’s why we need counseling. We can’t even get along with ourselves. Romans 8:19 says that even creation is awaiting its redemption. It was thrown off by sin too.  Jesus came to bring reconciliation to all parties by shedding His blood on the cross.

Once we were alienated from God and were enemies in our minds because of our evil behavior.  That’s why people can’t stand Christians, can’t stand church, and can’t stand the name of Jesus.  It is really because they are enemies of God because of their sin. They don’t know that. John 3:19-20 tells us that men (and women) love the darkness because their deeds are evil.  That causes them to hate the light.

Some people can’t stand the idea of the Biblical God, so they just make up their own God.  They imagine God to be the way they would like Him to be, which is heavy on loving and very light on judging, except for the people that they don’t like.

But now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death.  Reconciliation Col 1-19involves a change in the relationship between God and man.  There has been a change from a state of enmity and fragmentation to one of peace and fellowship.  2 Corinthians 5:18 says that God reconciled us to Himself through Christ.  And now the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5).  It is all because of the blood of Jesus.  

Now we are found to be holy in God’s sight, without blemish and free from accusation.  In a jail Bible study, a woman said, “I am nothing but an old junkie.”  I said with a fiery determination, “You are not!” She said, “That’s what I feel like.  That’s how people treat me.” She has called out to Jesus to save her. She is earnestly attempting to leave her life of drugs behind her, but still has relapses.  

I took her and the other women to 1 Corinthians 6:9-11: Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor adulterers..nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.  And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

We were all washed, sanctified and justified by the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit of our God.  We are not old junkies, we are not just ‘sinners saved by grace,’ or anything else that would minimize this reconciled, changed and empowered position.  We are washed and clean, friends of God, ready for action!

*Picture from Google Images

 

 

 


First things first

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead that in in everything He might have the supremacy (first place).  Colossians 1:15-18

When I was in college there was this cult, “The Way International,” that was sweeping the campus.  This was in the late 70’s, so it was a while ago. They would prey on vulnerable students with the pick up line, “Do you want abundant life?”  Then they would invite them to a weekend retreat for $250 and brainwash them. Their main book was “Jesus Christ is NOT God.”

Two gals on my dorm floor were getting sucked in.  They hadn’t gone to the weekend retreat because they didn’t have $250, but they went to their so called Bible studies.  I kept saying, “It’s a cult. Get away.” I was like 19, so not a fully developed brain…I went with them to one of their meetings.  Of course, people from “The Way” drove and it was a snaggly route all over the city, in the dark. They went through this programmed Bible study, so to speak, and sang a couple of strange hymns, and one of the people spoke in tongues of some sort.  As soon as the meeting part was over they broke out wine and started downing it, which I thought was strange.

The other two young women and I were the only non-groupies in this apartment.  I was sitting on the floor chatting when one of the leaders asked me what I thought about the study.  I launched into a complete monologue about why Jesus had to be God, not taking a breath because I knew they would break in and this was my only chance.  The person who asked me was standing and I was sitting. He snapped his fingers and within seconds the whole group was standing encircled around me.

I kept talking, going through Colossians 1, John 1 and Hebrews 1.  Then I went through Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8 and Romans 6:23. As soon as I finished, they nodded silently not saying a word.  No one spoke a word in response. We were there for at least another half an hour and no one talked to me, only to the other two students with me.  As I look back, I’m fortunate that we got home that night! The good news is that the two young women that came with me joined my dorm Bible study and quit going there, which was my intent.

Colossians 1 proclaims the glorious truth that Jesus Christ IS God and He is the king and Lord of the universe.  After Jesus rose from the grave, He was alive on the earth for 40 days. He then ascended into Heaven.

He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high and from there He upholds the universe by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3).  Colossians 1:15 tells us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, Hebrews 1:3 words it that He is the exact imprint of His (God’s) nature.  

Moving on in Colossians 1 it says For by Him all things were created.   In other words, Jesus created everything.  John 1:3 tells us the same thing: All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.  So get this “Mother Nature” thing out of your vocabulary.  It is a slap in the face to Jesus every time you say it! He made everything and is behind what takes place in nature.  In Him all things hold together.

All things were created for Him.  Everything, even Satan and demons.  They were created to bring glory to Jesus.  Have you ever thought of it that way? They are under Jesus’ authority, so whether we can wrap our minds around it–they are Jesus’ pawns.  World leaders were created for Jesus, mosquitos were, everything.

Jesus is the head of the church.  If we diss the church, then we are disrespecting the head of the church, which is Jesus.  The church is the agent which God has chosen to carry His great name and to fulfill the great commission.  It is not perfect, but it has a perfect head. Ephesians 1:22-23 tells us, God placed all things under Jesus’ feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.  

foam fingerSo that in everything He might have the supremacy (first place).  You wouldn’t say to your spouse, “You’re in my top five.”  Same with Jesus. Jesus must be our number one. If you put Him first, according to Matthew 6:33, everything else will fall into place.  I’ll never forget when the Arizona Cardinals won the Super Bowl and they stuck the microphone in front of Kurt Warner asking him how he did it.  He said, “First things first. I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He now has a ministry called “First things first.”

That should be all of our taglines.  

 


By Your blood You ransomed people from every tribe

For from the rising of the sun to its setting My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense will be offered to My name, and a pure offering.  For My name will be great among the nations, says the Lord of Hosts.  Malachi 1:11

Worthy are You to take the scroll and to open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.  Revelation 5:9

Back story: I live sandwiched between two Native American reservations.  When I  moved here just over 25 years ago, I cried out to God that a Gospel witness would be raised up with the Native community.  It seemed so dark.  The longer I’ve been here, the more I have seen the darkness grip the lives of families in the school system, and more closely in the lives of women I am able to personally interact with about Jesus in the County jail.

thumb_IMG_1683_1024.jpgOver 75% of the women that I have met with over the past 18 years at the jail have been Native.  So many are gripped with addictions, mainly alcohol and meth, but also heroin.  They study the Bible in jail, but once they get out, they fall so quickly back into the old party ways.  And then they are back in jail again, or prison.

Last fall the outreach committee from our church began to dream and plan to bring in a group from Minneapolis, the “Heart of the City” Band.  A woman on the committee heard the leader share their story on the radio about how the group had been going to reservations in South Dakota and God had been using them to reach the Native Americans with the good news of Jesus.

The leader, Dan Adler is a gifted song writer,  just “happens” to be from this area.  He grew up just down the road from the one reservation and learned to play the guitar in the tiny church down the road from the reservation where we have held prayer meetings in years past that God would raise up a Native church.  I called Dan, a cold call, and said: “Dan, come home.”  I explained how we have a heart to see the Natives reached just like he told of how they were reaching the ones in South Dakota.

He has written music with Native flute and drumming music and one of the ladies in the group is a Native American who God has rescued from a life of bondage to drugs and trauma from an early age.  She has a powerful testimony.

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Last weekend, our dreams came to fruition.  The multicultural “Heart of the City” band did a two hour concert on the tribal grounds amphitheater, powerfully and beautifully proclaiming the truth of the Gospel to the land that Jesus is Lord and the one true way to God.  They proclaimed healing to this land and to their hearts because of the Jesus way.  Jesus is not a white Jesus or a black Jesus, or a Native Jesus.  On earth He was from the small tribe of Judah, in Israel.  But He is for all people everywhere.

This was to a place where this has never been done!  About 150 people were there.  While not many Natives were in attendance, this was a first fruits, a leading out in worship.

In 2 Chronicles 20 Jehoshaphat and all of Judah faced an attack from the Moabites and the Ammonites.  He called out to God, who told him not to be afraid or dismayed, “For the battle is not yours but God’s,” vs. 17.  All of Judah bowed in worship to the Lord and praised God in holy attire.  And when they began to sing and praise the Lord, God set an ambush against the attackers.  The two opposing forces turned on each other and they were routed.

There were so many spoils that it took three days to carry it all off.  On the fourth day they assembled in “The Valley of Berucah” which means the Valley of Blessing, for they blessed the Lord (really, the Lord blessed them).

So Jehoshaphat led the battle simply by worshipping and God did the work.  “The battle is not yours but God’s.”  The battle for the hearts and lives of the Native peoples is not ours, but it is God’s.”

The weapons we fight with are not of the flesh but have divine power to demolish strongholds.  2 Corinthians 10:4  May strongholds be demolished because mighty weapons of mass destruction were dispatched last night!

May this lead the way for a harvest of souls amongst the people of the St. Croix Chippewa Indians.

This is one of their songs:“We Speak Life” Heart of the City”

Check it out!  It’s a powerful song.