A Girl Named Hope

Nothin yet

Is your church more than a seeker sensitive message, loud music, trained official greeters and ushers and a fantastic coffee bar with gluten free, sustainably grown goodies?

(note-this message was written for my church in Red Lodge MT but I think it is a question we all need to ask of our own houses of worship.)

I will lift up my eyes to the hills—
From whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.

It’s not random chance that the church the Lord called me to start was established in Red Lodge. I could have, and was willing to go anywhere the Lord would send me. As a kid I lived in 5 different states so I know how to make my home wherever I would find myself, and though I had been in Yellowstone County for 34 years I was not rooted so deeply there that I was not unable to leave. This earth is not my home, home is where the heart is and my heart belongs to heaven.

Yet I feel blessed that the Lord sent me to familiar territory, neighboring Carbon County, where the mountains meet the prairies.. It’s all the best of Montana and if heaven looks just like Montana I will not be disappointed at all.

The point is, this church was strategically placed in Red Lodge by the Lord. Placed here to be a place where people would be drawn, from near and far, to be refreshed and healed, challenged and equipped— restored to effective Kingdom readiness status as a warrior for Christ, strong and confident in their call and in their worthiness to move in the power of the Holy Spirit— in the power and security of his love.

A ministry established at the base of some of the most majestic hills in all the earth, the Beartooth Mountains. People come here from all over the world, not just because it’s on the way to the most famous park in the world, there are much easier routes, but because it is the most beautiful and awe inspiring drive there is, by many estimations, in the country.

And right here, on the edge of paradise, is Hope Chapel Red Lodge—a place of Healing Restoration and Hope. Are we perfect in fulfilling our call? No. Have we had any success in our mission? Much that I am aware of and probably much that I don’t know of, I hope.

No matter the call and our willingness to hearken, we are still imperfect people who are going to make mistakes, maybe let some people down and offend others, but by the grace of God and a willing heart we will do the best we can—and God blesses that.

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Hope

That reminds me of something that happened just a few months ago. A young couple was here that I didn’t recognize, at first. They had a baby with them that was just a few months old. I said ‘hi’ and introduced myself then we had worship. Then during worship I started to think, “They look familiar”—then I remembered that they had been here before, I remembered because they had been real interested in my late grandfather’s creation, a steel eagle sculpture that stands next to the platform where I preach. The young man was himself a welder and he recognized the skill it took to create this.

So during the greeting time I went to them again and said, “You were here before weren’t you? Aren’t you from Worland WY?” They got big smiles on their faces and said “Yes, we were here one year ago on our honeymoon. Today is our anniversary and we knew we just had to come back here.” I said “To Red Lodge?” “No, to this church. We drove up just this morning to be here for church”

“I” the young lady then said, “was pregnant and very scared for our future when we were here last but we were so blessed and encouraged when we were here that we decided that we were going to name our baby after this church—her middle name is  Hope, Kash Hope, because that is what the Lord gave us here at Hope Chapel.”

I was blown away, what do you say to that? God is good—all the time. And he is always doing something and we often have no idea. We didn’t know what was going on in this young couples’ lives and hearts when they were here, bi-racial by the way, but the Lord used each and every one of you (our church family) to touch them. They could have heard the best sermon ever—and not felt loved and accepted by this church family, and left still scared of the future and desperate for hope.

Or—they could have been loved and accepted, heard a great polished sermon and a professionally produced worship set—yet not felt the Lord’s presence, because we didn’t invite him in or leave room for him to work because it’s all about uswhat we can do, how we have the right training, the right people skills, the seeker sensitive message and trained official greeters and ushers—and a fantastic coffee bar with gluten free, sustainably grown goodies.

No, even if we had all of that, if Jesus isn’t here, moving amongst us, touching hearts, healing hurts, speaking words of encouragement and love, filling the air with an unexplainable energy and a peace that passes understanding—then we are just a feel good program with no meaningful or lasting impact on a person’s heart, let alone anything eternal like—oh, I don’t know— their very soul!

That was an encouraging testimony, but that’s just one of the ones who came back to share how they were touched by the Lord through being in this house, with this family.

Keep being Jesus to the stranger and to those who you have come to know, who have confided in you, or that you have come to see as an imperfect human who needs a lot of help—oh wait, that’s just a mirror…—don’t stop believing, hoping, praying, contending and believing for more and more because I truly believe that the best is yet to come and that we have not seen anything yet.

To use the grammatically disastrous but yet very effective phrasing: You aint seen nothing yet.

That goes for each and every one of you who are called by the name of Jesus!

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The Word Behind You

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Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying,
“This is the way, walk in it,”
Whenever you turn to the right hand
Or whenever you turn to the left. Is 30:21

When us Spirit filled Christians think of the word behind us we tend to think of the voice of the Holy Spirit. And this is certainly a valid thought. But remember what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do, he will not only teach us all things but he will also bring to our remembrance all that Jesus has taught us as well. We who do not have the benefit of having walked with Jesus know His word via the written word, the Gospels.

25 “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. John 14

I think this applies to the whole of scripture as we know that all scripture is God breathed and that Jesus is God, as he claimed to be on numerous occasions—”Before Abraham was, I am”—and that he was the very embodiment of the word, and he is the word—”In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God”

When we’re walking along, traveling the trails of this life the Holy Spirit is there to guide us, to teach us the way. We have big decisions to make and a verse comes to mind, a story from the Bible, something we just read this morning or something we learned in Sunday school as a kid.

We have small decisions to make, at least what seems small to us, and a bible character comes to mind, something they said or did, and we are inspired to do a certain thing as a result. That is the voice behind you—the scriptures that were written so long ago, way back there between two thousand and four thousand years ago, made alive and brought right up behind us like a GPS unit telling us to ‘take a left here, stop there, turn around.’ It is the scriptures made alive in us by the Holy Spirit in front of us leading us from in front with his words to our hearts and encouraging us from behind with the voices of the past.

In order for that to work, in order for Jesus to remind us of his words, we have to have known them in the first place. You cannot be reminded of something you never knew in the first place.

How can you be inspired to courage in the face of the giants of this life when you never read the story of David and Goliath? How can you know how to pray for God’s will to be done in your life when you never read Jesus’ prayers and his teaching on prayer? How can you trust God to do the impossible when you don’t know the Story of Abraham and Sarah, Elizabeth and Zechariah?

How can you have hope that this life is not all there is and that Jesus will one day return for his church if you have never read the book of Revelation or the myriad other references to heaven and the return of our King scattered throughout his word?

How will you not fear the evil that is rising seemingly unhindered and without end if you have not read those books of the Bible, Daniel, Ezekiel, Revelation, the words of Jesus in the Gospels that tell us how we win in the end? And on and on and on.

I find my greatest inspirations to continue the fighting in the stories of Jeremiah, Isaiah and of course the Apostles. People who were maligned and even martyred yet never stopped because they were obedient to the truth, they hearkened to the voice of the one who called them. And because they listened and obeyed—he kept leading them.

Their words still speak to us and their stories inspire millions, today. ‘Lord, let my life be a witness of your love and power. Let me have the Spirit of  a Jeremiah, the courage of a David, to be as bold as John the Baptist, as clever as Isaac and as patient as Job. And most of all, let me love like you Lord, laying down my life for my friends and taking up my cross to follow you no matter where you lead—Not my will but yours be done!’

‘My life is yours because you redeemed my life from the pit and there is nothing else in this world that compares to you.’

When you have tasted freedom after having been ensnared by hopelessness and despair, addictions and the sin which do easily entangles, nothing else matters but keeping that freedom and leading others to it.

That is where Jesus is taking you, that is why we need to follow Jesus, because others are watching to see where we’re going and if it indeed leads to freedom—freedom and joy.

Everyone in this life wants to be happy but few are. That leaves us with a lot of desperate people. We know the way. They only way we can show the way is if we are willing to keep following ourselves, every day, every minute.

And obey

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If you want God to continue speaking to you, you have to actually do what he asks. In my kid’s ministry days, in my classroom if a child refused to listen and obey, if he, or she, just became competing noise making it impossible for those who wanted to learn to do so, I would remove them from the classroom. “Go stand in the hallway until I come and get you.” When they are standing  in the hallway, they are not hearing anything, they are not participating and they soon become bored and frustrated.

Then the attitude usually changes; “Can I please come back in? I will listen, I promise!” I wonder how many times the Lord has put us in the hallway to stew but we were too wrapped up in ourselves to realize that the Lord may be trying to teach us something. “Lord, why aren’t you speaking to me?” Well, maybe because we didn’t do, or even bother to listen to, the last things he told us. —Just a thought.

Reminds me of another bit of wisdom I gleaned in my younger days that I have repeated many times to younger people coming up under me in the construction trades.

Do what the foreman tells you to do and you can’t go wrong. Because then, even if it is wrong, it is his fault. And, his way is a lot less likely to be wrong then your way in the first place. That’s why he’s the boss and you’re not.

You mess up enough times because you refused to listen and you will no longer be around to hear anything from the boss. You won’t have to worry about arguing with the boss anymore about how dumb his assignments are. Of course you won’t get paid anymore either.

The Kingdom of God works much the same way. We have to acknowledge; “You are God and I’m not.” That’s a hearkening.

We can have a hearkening today, or a reckoning tomorrow.

35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things. 36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment. 37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Mat 12

We are only given so many days in this life, don’t waste today by saying tomorrow you might listen, tomorrow may never come, at least not the one we expected.

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Mother’s Day Fantasy

“Can I just check myself into the nursery and sit in the corner with a sippy cup full of wine for an hour or two—or six?”

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The alarm goes off—it’s Sunday, Mother’s day.

You informed everyone the night before that they will all be going to church tomorrow lest there be any doubt. It’s Mother’s day and you are going to have a nice day with your family. You are going to church— let everyone see what a wonderful family you have, that you are the godly parent providing for their spiritual nourishment.

After church your family is taking you to a nice sit down restaurant and you are going to pretend that you are not stressing over how much this is taking out of your budget for the month.

So, the alarm goes off—way too early, you are the first one up and you were the last one in bed because you had to finish the laundry. You jump into the shower, throw on your robe and go wake up the kids. They are all in a state of suspended animation so this takes several attempts over a 25 minute period making you more frustrated and leaving you less time to do something with your still wet hair.

Finally they are all sprawled across the furniture out in the living room, hugging their blankets and making unpleasant mumbling sounds. A few moments later from the bathroom you know they are finally waking up because they are now starting to snarl at each other until one of them screams; “Mom, Johnny called me a poopy head!” You scream back; “Go brush your teeth and find something to eat!”

Your husband shouts above the sound of clanging pans, “I’m making oatmeal!’ Your youngest replies, “I want sketios.” Husband; “You can’t have Sketios for breakfast, you’re eating oatmeal, that’s what’s for breakfast.” The chorus continues as you close the bathroom door to focus on getting ready.

20 minutes later you emerge from the bathroom to make sure the kids are finding the right clothes to wear. Your youngest is wearing her oatmeal—as is the stove top. Johnny is just sitting at the table staring at his bowl determined to outlast his Dad who told him he is not moving until he eats and your teenage daughter is informing you that you are ruining her life by not allowing her to wear the outfit she came home from the mall with last week and she has already texted fifteen of her friends and posted three selfies on Facebook of her new tongue piercing, which is now swollen, possibly infected, and makes her lisp like Gopher on Winnie the Pooh.

You would laugh but you are convinced that she will probably die from the infection and you are already trying to figure out how you are going to get her into a doctor on a Sunday afternoon. But first, ‘we are having Mother’s Day!’ Fifteen more minutes magically disappeartime flies when your frantic—“Everyone in the car, where going to be late!”

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Where’s your youngest? She’s in her room cutting the hair on her My Little Pony. She has already taken off her new dress and replaced it with her Toys R Us  Princess Anna dress, ‘Ughhh!” no time to change, you grab her and a pair of her shoes and head out the door only to find out half way to church that you grabbed the Minnie Mouse shoes and she wanted her Dory shoes and you are going to hear about it the rest of the way there. She won’t keep them on anyway so what does it matter?

Your husband and oldest daughter aren’t on speaking terms right now because of the piercing thing, but at least they’re quiet.

You walk into church half way through worship, send the kids in all the right directions, plop down in a chair way to close to the front because that is what’s left and pretend you are able to focus even for one minute on worship. You hear a phone ring and it about sets you off—“Who could be so inconsiderate!” Then you realize it is yours, you forgot to put it on silence.

‘Can I just check myself into the nursery and sit in the corner with a sippy cup full of wine for an hour or two—or six?’

And that’s just Sunday morning.

Happy Mother’s Day!? I am a miserable mother and I’ll be lucky if my children don’t grow up to be ax murderers.

It Is Enough

I bet if I could took a poll every mother reading this would say they feel or have felt this way. And you can bet your own mother’s often felt this way as well. You are tasked with raising little human beings with all the complexities of emotion and thought that anyone else has, each with a different and unique personality and way of thinking.

Yet, when you get them, they have absolutely no idea how to deal with any of those things. They have all the potential and none of the tempering experience, and you, probably have little or no experience being a mother. and training these needy helpless complex creatures on how to be a functional person in a world that few really understand in the first place now seems way beyond your pay grade.

You went into this with an idea in your head of how it would or should be. ‘Sweet little darlings to nurture and love, entertain and delight with crafts to do, cookies to bake together and eat, board games and activities with other wonderful kids from the neighborhood.’

You are going to teach them how to sew and garden, cheer them on in sports and be the 4-H mom that is able to volunteer for everything. Your kids are going to sing in the church choir and everyone will envy you for having such wonderful children and they will grow up and give you grandchildren who can’t wait to come over and spend time at your knee listening to the stories of your wonderful life and memorize Bible verses.

You might think that because that’s what you hear from your neighbors, you saw it on that Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel —or that’s what you remember from your own childhood. You just want to give your kids that perfect childhood.

There are no perfect childhoods—at least not by the impossible standards of our fantasy’s. But there are perfect memories. Not that things are remembered perfectly, but that in memory they become perfect.

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You think back and remember the good times you had as a kid, the things you learned, the adventures you had back when everything was new and exciting and you felt safe and loved because your Mom was always there and always cared. She probably remembers the chaos because while you were being covered in love she was being covered in bodily fluids. While you were learning about the wonders of the universe above she was being annoyed by your constant questions while she was trying to balance the check book and figure out how to pay the gas bill.

You get my point, all we can do is the best we can do and by God’s grace, if we indeed care, it is somehow enough, more than enough. You are not tasked with creating the perfect person, there is only one creator and he has already done the hard part and yet he never quits working on until the task is complete. What he is asking you to do is to help them build the foundation.

What you need to do is give your kids the foundation to build on, the corner stone, give them Jesus. How do you do that?—You do the best that you can and you keep caring. You build the foundation by caring, and you keep caring—always.

You keep standing on the rock, loving them, praying for them, being there for them, getting them here to church to hear about Jesus from a teacher who is devoted to teaching them God’s word and giving you the opportunity to be fed as well.

All the Lord asks of us as parents, just as he does in our relationship with him, is that we keep doing our best and never give up knowing that it is not entirely up to us.

You love them for Jesus, and keep knowing that you are loved as well, by him, by your kids and by us. And every day is a new day.

on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it.

Cherish this day

If there is one piece of advice I can leave you with—mothers—is this; enjoy this day, cherish the chaos and noise because one day you’re going to miss it. Trust me, my wife will tell you the same thing; each and every day with your kids is a gift, and one day your kids will look back and say the same. Your kids would never trade you for another, you are their mom.

Keep standing on and loving from the rock—you are immovable, and that’s all your kids really want anyway.

. . .you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,

“Behold, I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,
And the one who believes on Him will by no means be put to shame.” 1 Peter 2:5,6

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