See Her



There is an amazing and even startling story in the gospel of Luke (chapter 7:36-50) about a “Sinful Woman” most likely even a prostitute, who crashes a dinner party. She is desperate to find and somehow thank the man who had made her feel human again for the first time in as long as she could remember, the carpenter from Nazareth who was passing through her town.

She brings along her only possession worth anything, a bottle of perfume she had saved up  her illicitly earned money for, but when she arrives she doesn’t know what to do. Everyone is staring and whispering, she doesn’t care, here he is, she starts to sob. Her tears are falling on his feet as he reclines at the table so she does the unthinkable, she gets down and wipes his grimy feet with her own hair and kisses them. —Scandalous.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

Everyone is embarrassed and offended, but not Jesus, and not the woman.

There is something very powerful going on here as she finds herself on the floor intimately washing his feet with her own tears and she now knows what she can do with the perfume, it wasn’t silly after all to lug this bottle along, and suddenly feeling overwhelmed with the love that had compelled her to bring this gift to Jesus, even at the risk of humiliation, she completes the spontaneous act of love by doing something she had never imagined doing for anyone, she willingly kisses his feet.

He has not pulled away in repulsion and she does not want this moment to end, she feels a love welling up in her breast that she has never experienced before. So she lingers face down at his feet, still too ashamed to look him in the eye yet too overwhelmed by her feeling of love to care what anyone else thinks.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman?

Jesus turned and looked at the woman, Jesus saw her, he had no doubt seen her before and that is why she was now here. He had seen her as the person she knew in her heart that she was, the person she wanted to be, and that had empowered her to become that person. His seeing her had set her free.

And that is why this scenario playing out before them now is not scandalous at all to Jesus. Jesus is in no way being lecherous and allowing a woman to embarrass him along with all the self-righteous sensibilities of everyone there. Jesus Is not bound by cultural biases, Jesus is not tainted by the perverted carnal lust of the flesh, he doesn’t see with the eyes of generations of fallen man who sexualizes everything possible about the opposite sex. He still sees the beauty and purity of what God had originally created to be beautiful and perfect.

Jesus was seeing this woman with his heart, his heart is pure therefore there is no lust involved. Remember the garden, what Genesis says about Adam and Eve? “they were naked and unashamed?” Man was not created full of selfish lust; we took that on ourselves later. As the perfect man, Jesus was seeing her with a heart of purity, and he could see her heart, she was beautiful, she was loving—she was a person. And now he is challenging Simon to do the same. “Simon, do you see this woman?” Stop looking at her with the eyes of your flesh, with the eyes of judgement and perverted perceptions, stop seeing her with disgust and thinly veiled lust—see her heart!

‘She is doing what she is doing out of love, she is doing what you failed to do because you failed to see who it is here before you, you failed to see me—she has not, and because of that, her many sins are forgiven, she has found peace.’

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

‘She sees me because I saw her.’ – Isn’t that what saving faith is, him knowing me, and I knowing him?


Jesus tells her: “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Now this sends the religious in the room into a tizzy. “Who does he think he is and what has she done to deserve forgiveness!?”

Well, he is God, that’s who. And she has not done anything, really, she has not proved her loyalty, her obedience, she has not submitted or done any penance, she has not even confessed or spoken a word that we know of for that matter—yet she was forgiven, more than forgiven, saved. Because what she did do was show her love and gratitude in the most sincere and honest way she knew how.

She has given up on pretending long ago. We don’t know her story but it’s not hard to guess. It is likely that she was forced into this lifestyle, an adolescent girl who may have been assaulted and left soiled rendering her unfit for marriage in a culture who placed a young girl’s virginity at the top of the list for marriage criteria, as Jesus’ own mother found out. She may have been sold into prostitution by her own parents who valued money more than her. She may have been forced into the companionship business as an indentured servant or even outright slavery in this Roman province, in the Roman Empire if you were not a citizen proper, you were just as likely to be a slave.  She may have even stolen this perfume from her master, more holy irony.

Either way, she felt left with no other options, no one would ever see her again as anything other than a sinful woman. She was just an object to be used for selfish pleasure or to be scorned as beyond redemption and surely deserving of reproach—the more reproach the better—she doesn’t deserve anything more.

Then comes the teacher from Nazareth. He sees her, he sees the scared little girl that has long ago hidden behind the painted eyes and exotic dress of her trade. He sees beyond the mask of lewdness forced through a tincture of stubborn hardness and anger. He sees the pain and humility—he sees the tenderness that has looked desperately for an outlet, for a heart that would return the love she longed to set free—that cried at night when no one was around and she could no longer ignore it; ‘What have I done to deserve this? Why won’t anyone help me, why can’t anyone see the real me?’

“Simon—do you see this woman?”

No doubt this startled the woman, her first instinctual reaction would have been at this point; “No, don’t look at me, I can’t stand the way people look at me!” Jesus changed that.

Who is he asking you to see?


Love Protects

Deliver us from fear-16daylovechallengealwaysprotects

It has always considered it my highest purpose in life, driven by my most basic instinct as a man, to make sure my wife and daughters knew, and know, they were safe; to provide for them and instill in them a sense of security, to be their protector. That is also the heart of your Father in heaven. That is why he sent Jesus, and that is why he provides his Holy Spirit and still continues to call out— “follow me. I am perfect love and ‘perfect love casts out fear.'”

My desire is strong but my abilities are sometimes limited, fortunately our God is not limited.

Wally World

The other day I went to Walmart to pick up a prescription and standing in line I remembered a day a few years earlier when I had stopped in to pick one up, a simple stop that turned in to a serious stress for me.

My daughter Jessie had stayed home from school to have her wisdom teeth pulled, I think she was 17 or so. For some reason I didn’t have to work that day so I took her to the dentist while Donna was at work. After the procedure they brought Jessie out to me in the waiting room, still kind of groggy and feeling no pain from the anesthesia. They prescribed some pain meds and I asked if they would call it in for us so I could pick it up on the way home. “Sure, where would you like it filled?” – “Walmart on the west end.”

Big mistake. I put Jessie in the truck and off to Walmart we go. I park and tell her, I’ll be right back. So I go in, stand in line, get to the pharmacist and hear; “oh, we don’t have that ready yet, we haven’t had time to listen to the messages on the phone.” Doing my best to sound patient while the panic and anger was rising in me as I remembered well how much pain I was in after I had had my wisdom teeth pulled and just wanting to get Jessie home safe and sound before the hurt set in on her, I calmly yet determinately explained the situation to the pharmacist.

Okay she said; “but it’ll probably be a half hour or so.” I can’t even begin to explain to you how frustrated, angry and helpless I felt. Like I said, it’s my most basic instinct, as it is for all men who love their families the way they should, to protect those we love from pain. I went back to the truck to explain to Jessie that we would have to wait a bit.

Fortunately, the anesthesia hadn’t worn off yet and she was doing just fine comfortably dozing in the truck. As I was sitting there stewing over my foolishness for choosing the busiest pharmacy in the state of Montana while the minutes ticked by tortuously slow, I noticed a little drama playing out in the parking lot near us. Two young woman appeared to be searching the parking lot, gesturing here and there while looking under cars until one of the ladies finally walked away.

Meanwhile the thirty minutes was finally up and I went back into the store just to find out that it still wasn’t ready. You’re kidding me!  —I’m thinking; —don’t you understand that my little girl is in pain!? “Give us another 20 minutes or so.” Again I went out to the truck, Jessie is still asleep, (apparently I was the only one freaking out)—me and the young lady I had noticed in the parking lot earlier.

She was still searching the ground and looking very distraught. I told Jessie, I better go see what’s going on. So I went over and said; “Can I help you with something?” She said; “Oh yes, thank you so much, my other help gave up. I lost my wedding ring when I was here earlier and I am pretty sure I lost it in the parking lot, I was parked right about here. I have only been married a few months…  I can’t lose that ring!”

So I helped her look, trying to think of all the places a ring might roll to. She had already talked to the store manager and no one had turned one in and she had left her phone number. Anyway, after a thorough search I convinced her that the ring just was not laying around here and tried to assure her that it was the relationship that was important, not the ring, and she had done all she could.

She had seemed to calm down some and was just so grateful that I had stopped to help her. She dried her tears and asked if she could give me a hug and reluctantly left to go home.

I went back into the store and finally, after a few more minutes’ wait, and a sympathetic clerk finally pushing my prescription through, I got to take Jessie home— well over an hour later. The frustrated hero just wanting to take care of my daughter and even a random stranger. I ultimately helped both but not to the extent that I wanted to, if desire and effort account for anything, I guess I did pretty well.


God doesn’t have that issue; He doesn’t just do pretty well—no one can thwart his plan and he doesn’t fail. And as great as my desire to help and protect is, his is many times greater.

The Lord wants nothing more than to deliver us from fear—hear that—deliver us from fear, to assure us that we are safe, to give us the tools to keep us safe and to recognize the power and the authority we have in him and to know that we have nothing to fear. We never have to doubt his love for us, his desire to deliver us from evil and to heal us from the times when we have fallen prey to that evil.

Jessie never doubted my love and commitment to her security and well-being. For all my anxiety—wanting to make sure she was taken care of and feeling as little pain as possible—Jessie wasn’t worried in the least, she knew she was in a safe place— with her dad.

And I know that the woman who lost her ring, or at least thought she did, was reassured by the kindness and perspective of a friendly stranger, when she left she had been largely delivered from her fear that her ring was just lying in the parking lot—if it was there we would have found it. After quizzing her a little more about when she last had it I suspect she probably found it later at home.

But my point is—and I know that not all of you can relate to a father who really cares about your wellbeing—if I, an imperfect human dad who’s love and desire to protect is but a dim reflection of the heavenly Father’s love for you—then we should not live in fear either. Rest easy knowing that things are being taken care of by someone who not only cares, but has the power to take care of things in a perfect way. You will get out of the parking lot and you will get home safe and sound.

Get safe

What if you are in that parking lot with someone who does not care? If you have been saved from evil, even found new life in Jesus but have fallen again into the clutches of the dead and allowed yourself to be deceived by them into trusting them—Run. If you are not safe, you need to get safe, it is not the will nor the desire of the Lord for you to live in fear or pain, to tolerate or excuse, or to take the blame for someone else’s evil.

You do not deserve to live in pain, you do not deserve to live in fear and if you are now a follower of Jesus—you will recognize that evil just as surely as Jesus did when he confronted the legion of demons who had taken possession of that poor man on the far side of the lake in the Bible story (Mark 8) Remember the story? “What is your name?” The demons could not lie to Jesus and had to admit that there were many of them— “we are legion” please let us go live with the pigs. How pathetic is that?

And that didn’t last long, Jesus arranged a little burial at sea. This wasn’t Jesus’ first rodeo; he knew what to look for. Once we have been victimized, and rescued by the Lord, so do we.

Love always protects…




Quiet the Voices

We are afraid, not because we forget, but because we cannot forget.

 “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said
to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Mark 4

The Illustrationwoman_looking_dejected_1

I was racking my brains trying to come up with a good illustration for my church this week as I was teaching about Jesus calming the storm as the disciples feared for their lives on the Sea of Galilee. I wanted to make the point that we need to let go of the past even if it does not want to let go of us, but most of my experiences pale in light of what I know so many in my church, and what many of you reading this have experienced. Abuse, manipulations, neglect, rape and incest—betrayals by people you love, people who were supposed to protect you or at least love and cherish you— those are by far the worst, especially if there is a sexual component
because then the whole being is affected, body, mind and soul.

The sexual betrayals outstrip them all but they can be overcome as well by the same principle of letting the dead bury the dead (As I talked about last week) and recognizing that you are in a safe place with Jesus, so all of this is relevant no matter what haunts you.

I have told my church many stories of my childhood in the past, and have recounted many in my books as well, so I wanted to look in another direction. There are many things and many people that can call from our pasts and can destroy our present if we allow them to; stealing our peace, stealing our joy, our faith.

It usually takes time to really damage someone’s heart and it can be cumulative. There are the —drip, drip, dripmanipulators that over the long term destroy your soul, your self-worth, your confidence, while at the same time convincing you that you cannot live without them, that you owe them. Then I remembered my former employer—

You can’t come back

Years ago I worked in a welding shop. I started there as a young man of 18 and spent twelve years there. It was a family operation, I was hired by the father and ended up working with and ultimately for his two sons. A very neurotic family, I came to discover, who thought they were superior to most everyone else, especially the oldest Son whom I would end up working for exclusively after he drove his meeker brother to quit.

Anyway, I stuck it out for several years, it was the 80’s and you were lucky to have a job in Billings at the time, and I was young and naïve. I liked the work but it was a real tough place to work. I could tell you story after story and I have told you a few in the past but one that comes to mind that kind of sums up my experience happened on a cold winter day towards the end of my tenure there.

The shop was heated with overhead gas furnaces but, to save money, they just set the thermostats above freezing so the pipes wouldn’t freeze. We had a coal burning stove that we primarily used to heat the place during the day. The problem is, the boss really resented the time we would spend tending the stove to keep it going and he didn’t want to spend much money on coal either.

Every fall he would send one of us to the coal mine in the town of  Round Up, with the old 4-yard dump truck we had, to get a load of coal. $20 dollars’ worth, that was our yearly coal allotment. I know this sounds like a story I stole from A Christmas Carol but I swear it’s true. “Marley, you ingrate, don’t you dare burn more than one lump of coal today! ‘Yes Mr. Scrooge.’”

Anyway, we had some really cold winters in the 80’s and trying to work steel all day was tough when your fingers were frozen and you were always on the verge of hypothermia. One day I was stoking the fire and the boss came into the shop from his nice warm office as I was closing the door to the stove and he stormed over and started berating me for wasting time.

Even though I had been brow beat there for years I still wasn’t always shy about defending myself, something which did not endear me to him much but he depended on me to keep the shop running well so he put up with it. It was hard to keep help when you treated people like they were all idiots and demanded they work massive overtime as well.

Anyway, as I was telling him we couldn’t work if we were all frozen and it only took a minute to throw in another lump of coal, he suddenly reached out and grabbed the collar of my welding leathers and proceeded to yell in my face how he was sick of arguing with me. He was a big dude, actually taller that I am, but honestly, the main thing that was running through my mind was, I should deck him right now—but his other arm was in a sling because he had just had hand surgery so I really didn’t want to go there, and with a wounded hand I knew he couldn’t hit me either.

As soon as he had grabbed me I had instantly reacted by grabbing the wrist of the hand he was holding me with and put an iron worker death grip on it. I was in shock and I’m sure his hand was probably falling asleep but there we stood nose to nose as he finished his rant and I just glared at him.

He let go and left and I went back to work. I don’t think I have ever been so angry. He had been pushing my buttons for years; he delighted in it. But this was over the top. He made a feeble attempt an hour or so later to smooth things over but I was still too angry to care and told him as much.

That was the beginning of the end for me. I started looking for another job. I was getting worried that this place was destroying my soul. I had spent a childhood listening to stepfathers belittle and humiliate me and now I was putting up with it at work.

Long story short, I got a job at Fisher Construction through connections with my new brother in law Charlie and have been grateful to have a job where I am respected and appreciated ever since. I’ll never forget when I told my former boss I was leaving he said; “Okay, but you have to understand that once you leave here you can never come back.”

Boy does that sound like a text book manipulation tactic or what. That’s something a father says to a child, an abusive husband says to a wife, a boyfriend, girlfriend— not an employer— but that’s the way he thought. I mean; I should be see how lucky I am to be there and if I am so foolish as to leave this wonderful place I can never come crawling back.

In my Dreams

The day I walked out the door for the last time was a feeling of freedom and relief I will never forget. But you know what? He was wrong. I have gone back, over and over and over again, in my dreams—nightmares where I am back working there and I don’t want to be there but I cannot leave. It’s like the attack of the zombies, you bury them and say goodbye but they just keep crawling out and coming after you.

But keep burying the dead— leave them behind. I know God got me out of there and he has blessed me with so much, and over the years, and in him, I have renewed the self-esteem the dead spent so much time and effort taking away and I have even gone beyond that and found a peace and security in the Lord whom I know loves me and made me unique, giving me gifts and abilities to do things I love and am passionate about.

He has blessed me beyond anything I deserve and I now know that I am a treasure in his sight and he has surrounded me with people who love me and even appreciate me. He has done so much more than just restore, he has gone way beyond that and taught me how to be the person he created me to be, not the person the voices of the past insisted I was.

It takes time, it takes recognizing who you are in the boat with and that you are now in a safe place. Even in the midst of a storm, if you are with Jesus you are in the safest place you have even been.

I still dream about that shop once in a while but the dreams have changed. I am no longer imprisoned there, I’m just kind of there helping them out of a tough spot and I can leave anytime I want. I have buried the dead but I have also forgiven them.

We can never forget, but we, through the power of Christ, can be free. Keep praying, keep trusting, stay in the boat and keep your eyes on Jesus. God is a God of miracles and can change things in an instant but real long lasting healing takes time, not because you are still bleeding— but because the enduring, nightmare ending, heart healing that prevents those zombies from the past from catching up to you to bring on the heart pain—much of that healing comes from the redemption of your past, not forgetting your past but letting Jesus redeem it, just as he redeemed you.

We do that by using what the enemy intended for harm for the glory of God.

“Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Jesus would say to you now; Fear not for I am with you.



No Turning Back (Kenworths and Zombies)

I find this statement from Jesus  about not looking back kind of perplexing and frankly a little disturbing but I have recently come to see it in a new light. An encouraging one at that.

fog-mist-walking-journey-path-400w-tn“I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”

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

Years ago I was Elk hunting up in Paradise Valley south of Livingston MT. It had been a long weekend of early mornings and very long hikes, unsuccessful unfortunately, so no, this is not really a hunting story. Driving home in my ’77 Chevy short box with my hunting partner Dale, it felt good to be on the road sitting in a soft seat and moving at a pace faster than a trudge up a mountain in the snow.

We got past Livingston and onto the Interstate heading home and the fatigue started to set in. I knew I was tired but I didn’t realize I was also sleepy. I remember this well because it scared the snot out of me. As we cruised along I saw on the other side of the highway a Big ‘ol Kenworth coming down the road and as he passed I looked in my side mirror to get a last look at what I apparently thought was a real pretty truck.

Problem is, apparently I forgot to look back up from the mirror. Next thing I know Dale is yelling Dan! And I looked up to see that I was starting to drift off the road. I had fallen asleep and didn’t even see it coming. I quickly regained my wits and corrected course but I was embarrassed and stammered; “Oh, Sorry, I was just looking at that truck in the mirror.” But, as I came to the realization that I had fallen asleep and if I had been alone I may not have waken’ up—l was suddenly wide awake. That was probably 30 years ago now and whenever I start feeling sleepy while driving I still remember that experience and I pull over as soon as I can to walk around or take a nap.


An interesting statement: “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9 I used to always say, if you’re looking back while your plowing your rows will be crooked. But this seems to be much more serious than that. It’s not just a matter of doing a good job of plowing, it’s a matter of life or death. Jesus was essentially telling this guy; ‘I’m sorry but if you’re not going forward, looking ahead and not letting those who are not also coming along hinder you— then you may as well just behind stay with them. You are not following me.’

He looked back and it cost him his chance to follow Jesus, to know him, to find the eternal life he was offering to those who did choose to leave all behind and follow. Looking in the rear view mirror cost him his soul—Just as looking in the mirror that day at the pretty Kenworth Truck, a truck that reminded me of my father—nearly cost me my life

I was obsessed with trucks because my dad was a truck driver, as was one of my stepfathers—I had been raised by truck drivers. So I was looking back, lulled into sleep by shiny things and visions of the past. This man was standing there, eye to eye with Jesus, yet he was looking back at his father who was beckoning; “Son, stay here, take care of me, secure your inheritance, you can catch up with this Jesus fellow later.” If not literally then certainly this was the man’s thoughts.

I believe that’s the point Jesus was trying to make and why he was so adamant as to even have scripture record this on the heels of two other like encounters—you are either following me or you’re not, there is no turning back, there is no putting it off until later— this is the day of your salvation, this is the day I am calling you.

Praying about this I saw in my mind’s eye the things in my life that keep threatening to discourage me from following; things I did, said, or thought recently or even yesterday and thought; I am so unworthy of following. You all know the feeling; “Lord how can you love me, how can you use me when I am such a miserable sinner, when I keep getting lulled back into or deceived by the same old tricks. It wasn’t so much a picture as a feeling at this point, a feeling of frustration and doubt and I thought— here’s why people let go of the plow.

Frustration, shame, weariness of the battle, the pain of serving people you love and seeing them hurt, even being hurt by them— ‘I deserve this, who am I that I should be able to boldly follow the Lord, it would be so much easier to just turn back, let go and plop down in the dirt, have a beer or 6, and just give up and give in.’ And then I saw the picture, I don’t think it was a vision, it’s just the way my mind works, I think in pictures, I even see words as I think them. I thought about this section of scripture and I saw myself holding a great sword in my hand, I turned around and looked straight at these things which were yapping at me from behind, raised that sword and brought it crashing down shattering all these lies into oblivion.

I don’t have to worry about the failures of yesterday, I don’t have to pine away for the easy life of not having to have any discipline or responsibilities to anyone who’s not giving me something in return. I don’t have to worry that tomorrow the Lord may grow weary of me and cast me aside— today I can stand firmly and securely in the Kingdom of God knowing, that I am worthy because he is worthy—that as long as I choose this day to keep moving forward, to follow him and even keep wrestling that plow through the briar patches he seems to lead me through, I will be used by him and I will be victorious in my own life.


Every day is a new day and every day is a day that the Lord has made. Who wants to go back, who wants to be stuck in the past, the only ones who aren’t moving forward are the dead. Unless of course you’re a zombie and then you just move real slow and lose body parts on the way. That sword works really well on zombies too by the way, take of their heads and they stop chasing you.

But seriously, that’s what you need to do, keep moving forward and when that zombie hand of temptation, frustration, shame and fear reaches out to snag you— cut ‘em down. Take a sword to the things of the past that keep threatening to destroy your today. Crucify the flesh—don’t let yesterday’s failures ruin your today.

Clear the table and start fresh.

Don’t let anything stop you from following Jesus, he won’t stop you, he just asks that your heart be in it. The sure sign that it is, that your heart is in it,
is the very pain that your failures and doubts can cause you.

So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. Heb 10:35,36

Jesus Wept


Do you remember?

I remember in the weeks after the attacks on 9-11-01 the churches filled up. People were looking for answers, people were looking for comfort. There was a sudden realization that all that we knew, all that we took for granted, could be world-trade-center-cross-620x410gone in an instant and we all wanted to know that there was something, someone, bigger than all of that, a God we could trust. I remember asking my Mother in Law: “I know you were just a little girl then, but in the days after Pearl Harbor was there a revival— did the churches fill up?”

She had to think about it a little but she said; “Yes, they did, people turned to the church and the Lord.” Looking back now with a better sense of history and a few years removed from 9-11 I can see the big difference between Pearl Harbor and 9-11. Back then people largely kept going to church. The churches stayed full through the ‘40’s and ‘50’s. That’s why we have all these huge Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian church buildings — what we now call mainline churches— that our grandparents filled up every Sunday.

Those old buildings are now largely empty and today, even after our own Pearl harbor, the vast majority of Americans play golf or watch their kids do sporting events on Sunday mornings. We briefly turned back to God for our protection—and received it— but we have soon forgotten and become arrogant and I see that sovereign hand of protection slowly moving away once again. It’s evidenced in all the Allah-Akbar shootings we have had just in recent months.

I don’t believe in this age of the covenant of grace that God actively punishes us, but when we turn away from him and go our own way we remove ourselves from his protection and allow the enemy of our souls to do as he pleases. I think that’s what happened on 9-11 and I fear it is happening again.

Like all believers I did a lot of praying in the days after the attacks and I sought answers: Lord what has happened and why did this happen? I believe God answered me.

In the uncertain and anxious days after that attack, even as some high profile preachers were proclaiming this to be the Judgement of God, the Spirit told me that this was not judgement, it was a loss of protection. The hand of God’s protection and blessing had been withdrawn, not by his vindictiveness or desire to see us suffer to teach us a lesson, but because we had forgotten from where our help comes, we got prideful and we pushed the Lord away. We were not judged, we rejected the hand of protection and allowed evil a place to strike.

God did not delight in our suffering, in the loss of thousands of lives, the agony of countless families who never got to say goodbye to their loved ones, God did not delight in seeing anyone suffer, I believe God wept for the lost, grieved for the hurting, and ached to bring back his hand of protection once again. And he did, because people flocked to the church, people turned to him and we once again enjoyed the protection. Between his sovereign hand, and the strong if not short lived resolve of a nation to fight to stop those who would destroy us, we were safe once again.

Jesus weeps for us, we who call ourselves by the name of the Lord and those who have turned away. Just as he wept, and still weeps for Jerusalem;

41 Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” Luke 18

Jesus doesn’t want to withdraw his hand of blessing and protection from us anymore then he did when Jerusalem rejected their King-ultimately allowing the Romans to destroy them. But, as in the days before 9-11, we have again gotten arrogant and forgot from whom our help comes and stopped asking for his protection; that is no one’s fault but our own.  Evil is very real and hell bent on destroying us and is looking for any opening- in our personal lives or our nation.  I can tell you that day pained him and he grieved right along with us in those evil days as his children wept for what was lost.

We have enjoyed his protection and divine help throughout our history and in healing from the terrible September, morning but I fear we have lost that once again, the attacks have resumed and this nation is in danger of collapse both from without and within.  We are now farther from the Lord than we have ever been. Our elected leadership has proclaimed us to be no longer a Christian nation, the highest court in the land has systematically stripped away our freedoms and rights as Christians and the church has spent more time worrying about sound systems and coffee bars than they have about the evil that is running this government and the greater evil that wants to destroy it—and us.

I know most of you reading this looks to God and cries out to him for your deliverance and strength but sadly, as a nation, we have turned our backs on him and I fear what is coming. We, the church, must be diligent to do what we can to be the beacon of hope, to keep trusting and sharing our hope. To weep for this nation and be on our knees. “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!


if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14

We are certainly called by the name of the Lord. Christ-ian. We are targeted by Muslim Jihadists because we are called by the name of the Lord. They refer us—Americans— as people of the cross. Let’s, prove them right.

And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. Col 2:15


We were not saved to be victims.


Religious like that?




Christ-in-garden-of-gethsemaneMartha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better Luke 10:42

A few weeks ago at work I was talking to the mason on the church addition I have been working on in Miles City MT, and he asked me about my plans for the weekend. I told him I usually spend my weekends getting ready for and then doing church— “I pastor a small church in Red Lodge.” He looked kind of surprised, as everyone does when I tell them I’m a pastor, and says; “I didn’t know you were religious like that.”

I bristled a little when he said and I almost gave my standard reply; “I don’t have a religion; I have a relationship.” But I sensed that this wasn’t the time for this response. Perhaps it was the Spirit, perhaps it was instinct—more likely it was instinct guided by the Spirit—but I’m glad I listened because over the course of the next few weeks I had multiple opportunities, (especially as we were working on a Catholic church where all the trappings of religion are very evident), to talk to him about my relationship with the Lord in a natural way just in the course of conversation between two men working together, without having to seem defensive or patronizing.

I got to tell him why I was “religious” —as he put it. I have chosen what is better. Better than life with no one but me in control, better than life with drugs and drink in control, better than life with an institution, who claims to represent God, in control—and better than serving and striving to please the notion of a God, the knowledge of whom comes only from books and the interpretations of people who claim to have the answers that no one else seems to have.

I have chosen the better— I have chosen to have a relationship with the living God— but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better.

I am weak

I know myself well enough, I know my weaknesses well enough, my struggle with discipline and authority, even my inability to pay attention to someone, or anything, that is not that interesting to me. I know that I cannot have a religion and be diligent enough in it to have any meaningful and long term impact on my life— I have to have a relationship, and I suspect most of us do. That’s the way God made us— we are relational people.

Religion arises when people are persuaded that they cannot have a relationship with God and must defer to ministers for the guidance the Counselor, the Holy Spirit would give us—or people look to religion because they are afraid to submit to a God who wants to interact personally with them for fear of him dragging them out of their comfort zones.

“Just let me go to church, put my money in the plate, say a few Hail Marys, Hallelujahs, the apostle’s creed -or whatever, eat some crackers and juice or wine- whatever their serving, tell the preacher priest reverend rabbi that ‘you’re doing fine and you loved his message’ and then go on with life till the next mass service assembly meeting”— preferably as few as you can get away with attending without being called out for being a heretic or in danger if not being recognized at the gates of heaven.

Hopefully I’ll get enough heavenly brownie points to get me into heaven when it’s all said and done or enough people who do have a stack of brownie points prays— or lights enough candles— to push me over the threshold of them pearly gates.

That’s religion and I want no part of that, neither I believe, does our God. If that were enough Jesus would not have had to leave his throne in heaven and the prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane; “Father if there is another way let this cup pass from before me!” —would have been answered by the Father; ‘Yes, there is another way, forget about the cross, just tell people to never skip synagogue, keep the law flawlessly and don’t forget to tithe.’

But that’s not what happened because Jesus was not just another prophet come to warn and remind people to keep the law and to keep trusting their God for a redeemer— Jesus was the fulfillment of the law and he was, and is, the redeemer. He came in flesh and blood to prove that we could have a relationship with him, the creator, and he became the fulfillment of the law—the final sacrifice for sin—so that we could be in continual fellowship with him by his Holy Spirit.

Oh No!

I remember one day when my daughter Cally was about 5 years old I came home and found a grim scene.  Donna was looking worried and upset and Cally was looking terrified.  Donna said, “I told Cally you were going to be really mad because she knows she is not supposed to be messing with your stuff.”  She then pointed to my Bible which was sitting on my desk so I picked it up and leafed through it seeing that some of the pages were wrinkled.  Donna said “I tried to straighten them out but a couple of them are torn.” I just looked at Cally and said, “It’s ok, that’s what scotch tape is for. Now you know that you have to be really careful when you look at my Bible because the pages are really thin.”

They both looked at me like “who are you?”  They knew how important my Bible was to me and they were just sure I was going to be angry.  But you know what?  Because this book is in my heart and not just in my head, my love for my little girl was more important to me then the condition of this book—and it still is.  When I looked into her eyes and saw the fear, the fear that I was going to be upset with her, it just wasn’t in me.

That’s all Jesus is saying, it’s not just knowing the words that are important, it’s knowing the Lord who spoke them, and the love with which he spoke them— the intent of the law.





The mind is often our worst enemy

-It’s about midnigDepressionht on a Saturday and I am sitting in the living room of our duplex in Billings MT. My stepfather—a 6’8” truck driver, former bull rider and cowboy—comes home drunk, nothing unusual there. For some reason my mother is not there, I think she was out looking for him— again. He walks in and stops at my chair, towering over me he commences to berate me; “Look at you, just sitting there watching TV, you’re worthless and lazy, you have always been worthless and lazy and you’ll never amount to anything.”

I was barely 16, going to school, working part time cleaning a clothing store in the evenings and often working on a ranch during the weekends but that didn’t matter— I was worthless and lazy—and for some reason, in my heart I believed it. Perhaps because I had heard exactly the same thing for five years from my former stepfather.

A couple of years later after leaving home and school to go into Job Corps where I would learn the construction trades I would get a visit from another Father. Around midnight as I was lying in bed on a Saturday night in a dorm room surrounded by other snoring guys about my age, far from home and family —I was having a melt-down. I don’t even know why, extreme cabin feve
r in the midst of one of the worst winters on record, fear of the future and my own ability to face it? Looking back with a little more understanding and wisdom I know now that I was most likely in the grips of depression, an ailment that runs strong in my family.

But this time the Father who showed up had a different tone. I couldn’t see him, he wasn’t towering over me with whiskey on his breath, he was just a presence of love and peace so strong that I could feel it. I was having a close encounter with the Lord himself who revealed to me in the anxiousness of a dark winter night in the mountains outside of Anaconda—his love for me. Suddenly my childhood long, unending longing for a loving fulltime father, to be a real part of my life was gone, and I realized that I did have a Father who loved me and was proud of me.

It finally started to sink in that what my real Dad and my mother had been telling me was true, that I was a good person, and though it would take many more years for that to really sink in and bring me to a place of real healing— on this night in Anaconda, far from all of my family, the anxiousness that was consuming me as I was sinking into the death grip of depression and codependency was gone as my heavenly Father whispered to my heart that he was there for me, and would always be.

I heard him because I had cried out in desperation and opened my heart to hear. I had received Jesus years earlier but now I had accepted my adoption into the family of God, and though it would be a few years before I started hanging around with the Lord’s family in a church, at least now I knew who my true father was and that he loved me and was there for me in my darkest hours, not to berate me but to comfort me, to let me know that I was someone worth loving.

This realization is peace—this is happiness.

16Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?

17 Unless the Lord had given me help,
I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
your consolation brought me joy. Ps 94

Though this psalm starts with a need for deliverance from enemies, the focus of the psalm soon shifts to a song of thanksgiving for deliverance from inner demons so to speak. The writer (David) felt himself slipping into darkness, even the darkness of death— perhaps literally—as he feared the arrow of an enemy could find him at any moment as he was living as a refugee from the King and then as a King with many enemies who would like to see him gone— or the death like silence of a heart that has given in to total despair.

I believe David felt himself slipping into a despair from which death may even have been seen as a relief, a desperate and undesirable relief especially in light of the fact that the Hebrew notion of the grave before the doors of heaven were opened by Jesus, was a place below the earth, hades, where the dead waited for the resurrection, totally cut off from the living.

A heart that feared it was on a slippery slope of no return to the silence of death was an anxious heart indeed while at the same time an anxious heart that longed for the silence of death was a heart that was already in a kind of living death, either way, it is a bad place to be— it is a place with no love.

An anxious heart, a heart of despair, a heart that either fears or longs for death is a heart that has no love. David is plainly thanking the Lord here for delivering him from a heart issue. His heart was hurting, his heart was empty, his heart was about to give in and give up. It was perhaps a despair that was brought on by the relentless persecution of his enemies, but the real enemy soon became his own mind.

Then he receives consolation, and what is that consolation? The love of the Lord.

I believe the heart, the soul, the mind and the spirit are intricately
woven together in such complexity that only God can unravel and bring health and it is only by his word and by his Holy Spirit that we can even begin to understand it, and only through him that the damage that this fallen world and the sinfulness of the human heart has inflicted on it.

Love is the answer

We need love, we were created to be loved, and to give love. A heart that does not perceive itself as having love will not last for long, at least not in any kind of sustainable form. The ultimate deceit and victory of the enemy of our souls is convincing us that we are unloved— that we are unlovable—and that even God does not love us. He delights in isolating the human heart from any and all love but ultimately the love of God because then he has succeeded in not just destroying our lives, but also our eternal souls.

But rest assured, you Father loves you and he has a plan for you—A plan to prosper you and not to harm you, to give you a hope and a future. —Jeremiah 29:11

Look to him, he is waiting, he understands— he really does.