Five Barn Burners

 

“Barnburning for Dummies”

There are some who may not understand the term, but back on the farm in Wisconsin, “barnburning” meant one of two things:

1. A person who burns down a barn, (obviously literal.)
2. Something amazing or noteworthy. To be strong, impressive, or of interest, (metaphorical.)

The following verses have made a tremendous influence on me. Here are five “barn burners” — incendiary verses that have directed me and given me support in challenging times.  I hope at least one will fire up your heart.

It is a challenge to limit myself to just these five, so much has blessed me over 40 years–I should have at least 500.  Scraping up five was really not the problem, there could be so many more.

So here are five which have made a definite impact on my thinking. (I reserve the right to change my mind as necessary, LOL.) All verses are from the English Standard Version (ESV), such as it is. Get ready for some “spiritual napalm.”

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ONE: “Strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

This is a very precise chapter in my mind.  A great deal of attention is given to Paul and Barnabas’ relationship to the people.  At first, they are deified, but moments later the crowds pick up rocks to stone him.  However Paul’s message to the local church was impressive.  He strengthens, and he encourages.  The reality of difficulty and tribulation has become the very doorway for them to come into the kingdom.  This encourages me, and helps me in the conflicts I deal with.

 


 

TWO: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Luke 12:32

This verse tells me of God’s commitment to me.  First, I’m part of a little flock.  Nothing of any significance.  The world evaluates me, but I’m just a simple guy involved with a simple group of people, nothing more.  However in this verse, fear is the primary issue.  “Fear not, little flock.”  Our fear is supposed to be eradicated and extracted.

The word “pleasure” is an interesting choice of words.  We understand pleasure, or at least we think we do.  This verse implies that the Father has put into play His intensity. Pleasure is often a way of doing intensity.  God is “ultra-involved” and is exceptionally extravagant in His treatment of us.  We are brought into this place of grace, by His kindness and grace.  He can’t wait to pour out his love on us.

 


 

THREE:   “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”  Phil. 1:6

What confidence!  That is a vital ingredient in our lives,  this confidence and boldness.  Our God is active in bringing us to a deeper place of  maturity.  Paul understands this, and uses God’s diligence as the basis for his growth.  This verse is a real confidence builder for me.  A promise that He will continue His work in me, no matter what.  This is a great promise for young Christians.  I often look at my own issues, and I give up after I accrue a certain frequency–a certain “sin-ratio.”

Shortly before I became a Christian, I spent a lot of time with Fred Tsholl who was the night-shift announcer at a nearby Christian radio station.  He was so patient and kind to me.  I would sit with him in the studio, all night long.  When it was time for me to leave he would quote this verse to me.  Looking back, this verse became quite significant.  I would take it as a promise from the Lord Himself.

 


 

FOUR:  “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” 2 Cor. 4:7

‘Jars of clay,’ really nothing more than this.  We are weak and vulnerable, we so easily can be broken.  But a treasure, I don’t think we grasp the value of treasure.  But, if it resides in us, we become a repository of great significance.  This magnificent work is not of our own effort.  It belongs to God.  It is nothing we can claim from any working on our part.

 


 

FIVE: “Who is that coming up from the wilderness,
   leaning on her beloved?” Song of Sol. 8:5

This world is a tangled place, it is a dense and difficult wilderness. There doesn’t seem to be a smooth road anywhere.  We make our way slowly, through much suffering and personal doubt.  This particular verse gives me an assurance of His presence, even in the middle of hardship and challenge.  He is present with me.

We come up out of this ugliness, precisely because of that close presence.  We lean on the Lord, as we traverse this hard place.  His dear presence will bring us through this darkness, He gives me the amazing strength to do this journey.

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The Breath of Jesus

“When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

John 20:20-22, ESV

We have an eye-witness account of the most fantastic and amazing event in all of human history!  The risen Jesus, who definitely is not dead flesh, appears in a room that the disciples have hid out in.  He is flesh and blood, as real as you or me.  The disciples are pretty much freaked out by this.  “What is this–who is this?”

The risen Lord walks in with 22 eyes fixed on him.  He is confident,  and walking with resurrection authority.  He holds out his hands–they see for themselves the wounds the nails made.  He lifts his robe, and they kneel down to see for themselves the holes.  In spite of His brutal wounds, He is still approachable and affable.  He indeed is Jesus!

The disciples are ecstatic!  They are emotionally overwhelmed, and are spontaneously laughing and crying and leaping around the room.  It’s like they just won the World Series!  Pure and unadulterated joy pulsates through them.  He is very much alive! He Lives!

In this intense moment, he speaks–they become quiet.  He “injects” peace into their hearts and minds with a simple command. Peace is a vital ingredient in the heart of a disciple.  It is quite valuable, especially coming off the lips of Jesus.  He directs them to complete the work–it is the work the Father gave him to do.  He extends the torch of responsibility and calling.

The excited emotion of the moment must now put on ‘work gloves.’

Jesus does something peculiar.  He leans over each disciple and exhales on them.  His breath is saturated with resurrection life, and they inspire into their lungs the life of a risen man!  They now carry his ‘life essence,’ and in the light of Jesus’ previous statement, they will need it.

When God created Adam, he gave him his life.  Life is more than existence, it is the energy to “live.” When you really experience the resurrected Jesus, you will need more than good and noble ideas.  You need him, you will rely on his breath.  Jesus breathes on his witnesses–those who have been picked to follow.  His breath fills our lungs, the oxygen enters our blood stream, it powers us on a cellular level.  You can never, ever be the same.  Never.

 

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Call To All Sons

12624 For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.”

Hebrews 2:10, ESV

“God is the One who made all things, and all things are for his glory. He wanted to have many children share his glory, so he made the One who leads people to salvation perfect through suffering.”

Hebrews 2:10, NCV

There is complexity embedded in this verse. But that shouldn’t stop us from understanding its scope and meaning, yet there is the compelling question.

How did Christ learn obedience through suffering when he was already perfect?

Christ was human and “tempted in all points as we are and yet perfect and without sin,” and thus Christ was sinless.  The humanity of Jesus can be seen throughout the gospels. He hungered, and he got thirsty. We see him very tired, and sleeping in the back of a boat in a storm, which reveals his humanity. However, “He committed no sin, neither was their deceit found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22).

Only humans need to learn obedience. And everyone of us have faltered. Yet he didn’t. He had to learn, but He didn’t fail. As a man, He met every issue and every obstacle with a solid and a profound obedience. He learned how to obey, but without any failure, or fault.

In every person’s life, we are challenged to obey. There are so many twists and turns, and each of us has stumbled. It can be quite painful. We are also learning “obedience through our suffering.” It seems our own trials and suffering are the tutors teaching us about our Father, and His kingdom.

This thought, “bringing many sons to glory” is of significant consideration. It reveals the intent and purpose of Jesus coming and doing all of this. He wanted to open the doors for all those who come to salvation. In a direct way, His intention was to become our escort, or safeguard to make a way for us into the Presence.

The words, “many sons,” shows the breadth and width of His work. It is considerable. The idea of “sons” is just as astonishing. We are not slaves, forced to labor in the quarries or mines. We are sons and daughters, His own children. Eternity is too short of time, I suppose, for us to hold and occupy this kind of glory.

“They strengthened the believers. They encouraged them to continue in the faith, reminding them that we must suffer many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.”

Acts 14:22, NLT

We Want to See Jesus

Seeing Jesus
Wanting Jesus.

20 “Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21 So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus.”

John 12:20-22, ESV

Chapter 12 is a critical point in the ministry of Jesus. Sometimes great doors turn on small hinges. So much is said and done here, and we can speculate on these significant moments. The Bible invites this curiosity.

The Greek’s arrival cues up a turning point for Jesus. His growing reputation and full ministry have become well-known. There is a “rock star” presence that draws in even the Greeks. Jesus has now become renown; a celebrity of some stature in their minds. Jesus doesn’t really respond directly to them; but He is alerted by their remarkable request.

Things have changed now. The Greeks have signaled to Him that time is running out. Jesus is now looking directly at the cross. Crucifixion is now ‘center stage.’ He is now energized as He must prepare for His death and resurrection. This is not a defeat, rather a glorious victory over our awful darkness. Knowing what season you are in is a tremendous blessing. Jesus knew.

But the Greeks still want to “see Jesus.” They have made a long journey. To see Him would be the pinnacle of this trip. Their combined passion, deflected as it was by Philip and Andrew, was quite real. Curious commentaries have wondered whether these Greeks ever connected with Jesus. None of us really know.

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.”  This hunger, and thirst is a deep emotion. I believe that there exists a profound passion that we could emulate. There is a real appetite that will only be staved by His presence. The Greeks had a vibrant spiritual inventory full of gods and philosophy galore. They could have tapped into any of them. But they didn’t and won’t. They travelled far to meet Jesus.

“Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Nothing can satisfy, or move a man or a woman like Jesus. He is to be our passion and focus. The Greeks didn’t ask for teachings, miracles or rituals. They would not be appeased with a surrogate or a second-in-command. Nothing but Jesus will really satisfy a truly seeking soul.

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Together, for Each Other

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“The Bible knows nothing of solitary religion.” 

–John Wesley

There isn’t really a place for the individual in our walk of discipleship.  This is a most exceptional truth.  You might say that our society here in the U.S. is expressed in the ‘Marlboro Man’ who rides alone.  “High Noon,” (my favorite Western) is based on a solitary man who stands when other won’t.  The message of individualism saturates this movie. Like Gary Cooper, I think I have to face the bad guys alone.

But I think we need to understand that we are connected to other believers.  In fact, I believe that the Holy Spirit works quite distinctly in ‘generations.’  Whether we like it or not, each of us is connected to our generation.  We are responsible for our own time and place. I’m a child of the Sixties, it’s what makes me tick.

Stellar individuals like Charles Spurgeon and D.L. Moody spoke directly to their generation.  They were voices in the late 1800s.  They connected to their particular milieu, but were surrounded by many praying believers.  Their ministries and sermons, were founded upon the prayers of many saints.  Their ministries were an extension of many people. They were surrounded by other believers.

We are connected with others who are also connected. We are organically related and that needs to be understood.  It’s funny about that, we are called a “body.”  This is a difficult concept for us to understand.  But we need to know that you are not so much solitary, but woven into the life of others. The Church is plural and it happens when believers join together.

We need to understand that the Christian life is not solitary.

If this makes you curious, check out the word “together” in New Testament.  We can reflect on this, and think out what that really means. Just a few scriptures:

“From whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.”  

Ephesians 4:16, ESV

“For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part.”

1 Corinthians 11:17-19

“Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Hebrews 10:24-26,

And there is at least a dozen or so more.  The idea– ‘together,’ is only a start, and we need to understand that the Christian life is not solitary. The Father melts our independence, and then molds us with each other to make us into something new.  Whether we like it or not, we are “together.”

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Riding the Underground, [with Jesus]

“And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.’

Mark 6:31, ESV

Our Savior would never drive us to do things with a whip.  He is not a taskmaster, and he will not insist or impose his will over us.  Nothing about him is brutal or demanding. (He could, really– if he wanted to.)  But no, we learn how to serve him from our loving hearts.

It is interesting that it was Jesus that was very careful, and aware of his disciples needs.  No one suggested a break from the work, but Jesus initiated the break from the massive press of the crowds. He knew intensely what his disciples needed.

 “Crowds of people were coming and going so that Jesus and his followers did not even have time to eat. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves, and we will go to a lonely place to get some rest.”

Mark 6:31, NCV

Underground-SymbolThe presence of so many people had put the disciples in a very hard place.  The NCV describes the crowds, as “coming and going.”  If you have ever been on the London Underground you will understand just the sheer number.  Everyday, 2.93 million people ride the trains.  I remember travelling from the backwoods of  Alaska, with just a backpack, and hitting the crowds on “the tube” in London, UK.

The intense masses were way beyond anything I ever imagined.  Talk about a “culture shock!  I saw more people in just 3 minutes than in an entire year of living in Alaska.  It was like an amazing giant ant-hill; I would stop, and just stare. Nothing prepared me for this. But I knew His presence was with me.

Jesus is more concerned about the living freshness of his disciples.  He shuts things down in order to rest with his followers.  Often the tendency will be the opposite, especially when the leader is weak and immature.  “Work harder, and even more hours!”  Jesus did not have the need to be available 24/7.  And he certainly didn’t expect his disciples to.  His heart is committed to his followers.

He “orders” his disciples, come apart and let’s rest!

“But so many people were coming and going that Jesus and the apostles did not even have a chance to eat. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go to a place where we can be alone and get some rest.”

Mark 6:31, CEV

I don’t know if you can grasp the sensitivity, or see the nuances of Jesus shepherding his disciples.  He has a deep awareness of them; he doesn’t get lost by people pressing in from every side.  He loves the world of men and women, but his followers are his “specialty.”

He tunes in on their frequency, and knows our spiritual capacity.

What gives his followers strength, is to be close with Jesus, and to separate from the needs that were densely surrounding them.  We can be flattered by being needed, but that can be very corrosive or destructive.  I’m guessing but I believe that a few of the disciples may have been annoyed by this break in the action. They found it hard to remove themselves from the action.  Some may have been frustrated, perhaps maybe even slightly irritated by “Jesus’ retreat.”

When you are pouring out, you will find there is only a certain capacity before you run dry.  You may think this is “noble and praiseworthy” but it is nothing of the sort.  It is a form of arrogance and pride.  In order to really mature as a believer, we must shake this off and not to entertain our seeming indispensability to the cause.

We must keep on following Jesus into the quiet places.

 “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Matthew 11:28, MSG

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Our Post-Pit Life, [Choosing Well]

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“Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,
 3who forgives all your iniquity,
   who heals all your diseases,
  4who redeems your life from the pit.”

Psalm 103:2-4, ESV

You can’t help but respond to His deliverance of your soul.  Stop and think.

You have been lifted to a place of safety.  He has poured on you extraordinary blessings.  Complete forgiveness, total healing, and a secure redemption–you’ve been purchased off “the slave block.”  So much has happened to you since you met Jesus. Plus he loves you, present-tense. He has gifted you with the premium salvation package!

Our deliverance wasn’t just “once upon a time,” way back then. I suggest that it is for now, in this present moment. Do you remember when you first understood Jesus’ sacrifice for you? Can you recall the joy and peace when he “broke you out” of your miserable cell?

Dear one, a pit was dug to trap you.  If you’ve fallen into it, you won’t be able to escape on your own. It will do its work, grimly and completely.  Falling into it should not be part of your plan, it is a dark place. But there are many living who reside in this pit.  It most evil and desperate place, and fully destructive to the souls of men.

In the light of this “atrocity of the pit,” deliverance is monumental.  When we are lifted out of the darkness, we start for the first time living a life of worth and meaning.  This alone should generate an overflowing heart. If you will only start to walk in understanding, you will start to find victory!

Forgiveness, healing and redemption: This triumvirate bores into our heart.  These three words create salvation deep inside us.  Each concept shapes us into ways that could never happen unless the Father wanted it. And He delights in delivering people from their darkness.

He lifts us out of that wicked trap. Look! He is coming to free us!

Our simple response must only be to worship.  For many of us, it will take time and practice.  Worship needs to be learned, we simply don’t do it naturally.  But, thats ok.  Simply put, we just need to start, and not forget all that He has done.  Please, don’t forget.  But remember all that He has done for you!  Psalm 103 will teach you, and bring you to a special place.

Whom should we love, if not Him who loved us, and gave himself for us?

Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

 

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