Back to Basics

Hope Chapel welcome

I have come to appreciate more and more Jesus having entrusted me to pastor in a small church in a rural community. It is, by necessity and choice, church in its simplistic basic form. Having been involved in much larger ministries this has been a learning process for me. I always thought I wanted to be somebody in a large church—needed to be—to really impact the Kingdom of God.

Reality check; “the last will be first, and the first last. For many are called, but few chosen.” —Jesus

We need to be humble and we need to keep it simple—real. I think that is vital because church has to be more than just a program, it has to be a place to hear from God and to be refreshed and strengthened in and by his presence. There has to be room for the Holy Spirit in our gatherings. That’s why I love more and more our little church in Red Lodge and appreciate all those who labor in and are committed to the many small churches across our land. Church is family knowing and loving one another and always having room for more.

I have been blessed to have been promoted through my ministry years from serving in a church of thousands, to a church of hundreds to a church of dozens as the Lord has entrusted me to personally shepherd a handful of his sheep in a very personal and powerful way as he prepares and uses them to storm the gates and advance his kingdom in ways that masses of casual Christians never could.

Small churches are the special forces of God’s army and only those who are dedicated to the cause of Christ our King, and disciplined to seek him out on a personal level without being spoon fed their faith by professionals multiple times a week will survive the cuts.

Christianity isn’t complicated but it isn’t easy either.

The older I get the more I appreciate just the simplicity of the gospel, of our walk with God. Don’t get me wrong; life is far from simple, but the basic tenants of the gospel are. God loves me so much that he sent his Son Jesus Christ to die for me so that I would not have to. He took my punishment so that I could be with him forever and he sent his Spirit to live in my heart the day I chose to believe with my heart and confess with my lips that Jesus Christ is Lord and that God raised him from the dead. Simple, even a child can understand and believe.

And if I believe with a childlike faith, not outsmarting myself or complicating things beyond understanding I am saved, I am right with God, plain and simple.

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In spirit and in truth

And because of that I can worship him anywhere, anytime, in spirit and in truth. And I can walk as close to… or as far from him as I want. Now, you would think, I would never not want to walk close to God, but you all know as well as I do that it’s a lot harder than it sounds because it seems that the whole world, including our own flesh is trying it’s hardest to not allow that to happen.

We look at the world reveling in its delights of indulgence and wonder why we should not be also. In the 60’s the mantra. “If it feels good do it” was coined. And as the culture has thrown out godly values in place of that mind set the new mantra of today is “Don’t judge me.”

Well, fine, I am not supposed to judge you anyway, only God can judge. But I will not condone or celebrate the flaunting of sin as we are being called upon to do nor will I participate because I know that there is a better way, that God’s word does not change even if societal norms do, and there will come a day when all are called to account. Then God will look into the hearts of all and he will either see hardness and rebellion toward him and his ways, or he will see Jesus in a heart that yearns for him.

I prefer to be that tortured soul of whom it is said, like Peter wrote of Lot—Abraham’s somewhat hapless nephew from way back in Genesis—that he was vexed in his soul by what he saw.

2 Peter 2:8 tells us that Lot was a “righteous man, living among them day after day, …tormented in his righteous soul by their lawless deeds that he saw and heard.”

We know what happened there, right? God showed up, Lot was spared and those in the “If it feels good do it, don’t judge me” crowd were not.

I mean, seriously, it had gotten so bad that when the angels showed up to deliver those who remembered the true God the men of the city tried to rape them.

So, that little jaunt to ancient Sodom aside, I’m not here today to talk about judgement, I’m here to talk about deliverance. Jesus is still on the throne, he is coming and he is here even now in each and every one of you who has called on his name.

So hang on and don’t give in, it might get darker before it gets lighter but it will, the light of the world is returning for his bride. In the meantime, be the church.

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We need each other more then we need a big building full of expensive furniture, high tech gadgets and polished preachers.

Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:28

I think there is a word in there for the church of today that I am hearing echoed amongst many believers from the pews to the pulpits; lift up your heads, look away from the glitz and glamour of the big production, entertain me, bless me, smoke machine, laser light, ear splitting worship concert, churches and just gather with the saints to make a joyful noise unto the Lord.

Lift up your heads and see the person standing next to you who is hungry for something real, not just a charismatic speaker who can make people feel good about themselves without offending or challenging anyone to the point of feeling uncomfortable. This seeker sensitive modus operandi has emptied the churches of their true power and left us irrelevant in, and to, the world. If your preacher never offends anyone he is not being true to the word.

I’m sorry but Jesus offended nearly all of his followers at various points to where the thousands who followed him were down to one man and just a couple of women who stood by the cross as he breathed his last.

And in that moment he turned to one the sinner dying next to him and offered him salvation because he lifted up his head, saw a bleeding Savior who was shedding blood that he knew he didn’t deserve to shed, and he called out to Jesus—“Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus promised he would.

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We need to lift our heads to heaven, to lift our eyes to see and open our ears to hear, to escape the noise of cyberspace, interface and in your face and see the hands that were pierced for us reaching out and beckoning us come, follow me, we have things to do, challenges to face and overcome, battles to win and people to love. The days are short and the time is near.

Keep it simple, keep it real, keep it Jesus.

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Lift Up Your Heads

 

Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:28

Do you ever look around and ask; “What in the world is going on here?” Why is everything so hard, why do the challenges seem to keep getting bigger and more frequent? For a while I thought it was just me and my family but I have come to see more and more that it isn’t. It is indeed my family but it is my family on a much larger scale—my family in the Lord. And I am bone weary from the fight.

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We are being tested, stretched, targeted, challenged, maligned and just outright attacked from what seems like every quarter. The church is being tested by both the Lord and the enemy. One is testing us to strengthen and refine us for the battles ahead and the other is targeting us to destroy us before the battles ahead.

It seems as if the world has gone plumb mad and forces beyond our comprehension our driving the narrative of this world.

You are not imagining things and you are not alone in seeing it, it is a fulfillment of prophecy which tells me, although this is not from God but rather from the enemy, God was not caught off guard and he is still on the throne.

But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power… 2 Tim 3:1-5

So now you, each of you, has to decide; which side am I on, the side of one who has the victory in the end and can get me through today’s challenges, even using them to further his ultimate plan of redemption? Or am I going to choose the side of darkness so that I can escape the present wrath, stop swimming, let go and go with the current hoping that the drain it’s running towards isn’t as bad as we think it is, that it was all just fairy tails told us by our parents to scare us into being good—this heaven and hell, Jesus and the devil stuff.

It seems we have a choice between a challenging life of purpose or an easy life of emptiness. Sounds like a no brainer to me, I’ve tried both, the latter doesn’t advertise the emptiness but it becomes painfully obvious once you’ve tried it. Funny, those who are living for the flesh and the world will scream at those who are trying to live for the Lord that they are fools to be scorned and mocked while they flaunt their perceived freedoms and enlightenment. They will tell you how superior and fulfilled they are while at the same time succumbing to mind altering addictions to fill the void, and when that no longer works, suicide is all that is left.

Another victory for the enemy as he has prevented another tortured soul from fulfilling their destiny.

It’s time for the church, the true church to wake up, to rise up, to be heard.

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.  Eph 5:14—16

We, those who cling to the Lord despite the challenges, despite the doubts we are afraid to admit even to ourselves, despite the seemingly never ending onslaught of obstacles and outright attacks from places we would least expect them, we will soldier on, keep fighting the good fight of faith for it is the only fight worth fighting and the only fight with a guaranteed victory.

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34 “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. 35 For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.” Luke 21

 

Jesus is returning and we who are left standing will stand before him. Even if the enemy should strike us down, we cannot fall for we are in Christ and he is eternal and our death is our victory because Jesus has overcome the grave.

Stand strong my brothers and sisters, our day is coming and I believe I my spirit, more than I have ever believed anything, that this evil day will soon become the day of the last great outpouring of the Holy Spirit and those who weather the storms will be the ones who reap the great harvest to come.

Do not give up, do not give in, your redemption draweth nigh.

27 Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.”

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Barbarians ad copy axe

Barbarians in the Kingdom 

Awaken

Nothing good ever comes after the words, “Here, hold my beer” are uttered.

This will probably not be one of my more popular blogs, but teaching God’s word, despite what many believe, was never meant to be part of a great marketing strategy or an ace in the hole of life’s popularity contest…

A crash course from Ephesians 5

“Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.” Eph 5

It’s time for the church to wake up and start acting like the body of Christ again, to behave like dear children of God. We can no longer get away with claiming ignorance nor act as those who have no power. And we must stop presuming on grace to cover us for sins that we have no intention of even trying to avoid, we all love the grace part of the gospel but forget the repentance part.

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Entertainment focused churches and Christians who seek feel good messages from preachers who speak the empty words that deceive the children of disobedience into believing they are the dear children of God will be exposed as purveyors of half-truths selling ear tickling pop—psychology devoid of all power with no ability to set hearts free and to hold back the darkness.

The time is too short and the days too evil for God to allow that to continue unchallenged. And he challenges us to wake up and stand for truth, to preach the whole gospel and shun the deeds of darkness while claiming the full power of God’s word and Spirit.

“Awake, you who sleep,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will give you light.”

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil.

17 Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. 18 And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit

Don’t be a fool, redeem the time, and stay sober.

darkness

I have said it before and I will say it again here because it seems the church at large has slipped from total abstinence to total indulgence on this issue. The scripture makes it quite clear in both the Old and New Testaments in story after story, in admonitions, psalms and proverbs and even the example of Jesus that yes, it is okay to drink, but it is not okay to get drunk, nor to be a drunk.

And if you cannot make the distinction or stop the flesh from demanding more than just the occasional cup, then you should not even go there at all. You cannot function in the power of the Holy Spirit while drinking. You cannot be under the influence of a substance and the Holy Spirit at the same time because they are in direct opposition to one another.

That is why Paul ends the Ephesians 5 section of how to walk in love, to be imitators of God, and what the difference between deeds of light and deeds of darkness are with—don’t be drunk with wine.

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King Solomon wrote: “Wine is a mocker and beer a brawler; whoever is led astray by them is not wise.” And all of these things that we are told not to do, to avoid even the appearance of— fornication, foolish talking, crude jokes and general filthiness—are encouraged in us when we are under the influence of too much drink. If you walk through a prison and ask people if they committed whatever crime they are in there for whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol nearly all of them will say yes.

Nothing good ever comes after the words, “Here, hold my beer” are uttered. You won’t find too many miracles, acts of service or prophetic words in scripture, or anywhere else for that matter, that starts with that phrase.

Hey look! There’s Jesus walking on the water in the storm. Peter, let John hold your wine and come out to me on the waves!” Wait, that didn’t happen.

‘And the disciples were all together in one place and they were all filled with wine and begin to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.’ No, that didn’t happen either, not quite like that.

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It was the Holy Spirit that was poured out on them and they went out from there and kicked the enemies butt and the world is still reeling from this group of Spirit filled believers who became the hands and feet of Jesus and turned the world upside down with his teaching, laying hands on the sick and casting out demons with a word.

Nothing has changed, Jesus hasn’t changed and his word hasn’t changed. “In the last days he will pour out his Spirit.” We are certainly still in those last days, the last days are surely running out and the days becoming more evil.

15 See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, 16 redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Eph 5

Why? Why are the days becoming more evil? Perhaps because the church has fallen asleep, perhaps because the church has taken to drinking too much wine, perhaps because there are too many empty words being preached from the pulpits. Perhaps because the enemy is wide awake and he is fully aware that the day of the Lord is fast approaching and he wants to take us all out with him, suck us into the darkness so that in his demise he can gloat over all the dear children he deceived.

Perhaps it’s all of these things. But we can change the direction, we can redeem the time, if we do indeed wake up and start walking in, praying in, living in the light. Walk circumspectly—that means suspiciously, cautiously, kind of circling around something to make sure it’s safe before we just blunder right into it.

Time to wake up, for the church to rise from the dead and walk in the light.

awake

God has a plan and a purpose for you and you are here for such a time as this, stay awake and walk in the light. You will never regret it!

Weird?

“…don’t you speak in tongues or deliver prophetic messages in church—people might think you’re weird.”

Claim and accept everything God has for you, be whole again, feel again.

And then you will no longer have to chase after the wind, beating your head against the wall of futility and vanity.

No More Futility

17 This I say, therefore, and testify in the Lord, that you should no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, 18 having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.   Ephesians 4

The world, for all it’s advanced knowledge and sophistication, still clamors for and eats up anything it can to explain the inner need for soul satisfaction, to answer the questions that the heart yearns to know, to see past the flesh into what we know is out there but cannot grasp.

Is it aliens? Is it ghosts? Is it healing crystals and any other number of mystic powers? Is it drug induced nirvana? Maybe tapping into the spiritual realm and it’s power by chanting or performing rituals? Maybe it’s in ascribing power to the stars, assigning to ourselves certain constellations with cool names like Leo, Sagittarius and Aries that come with astrological prophecies ‘that just seem to fit us oh so well.’

Weird

Funny, people can walk around with healing rocks and herbs hanging from their necks, doing yoga stretches that are supposed to get them in touch with their inner selves, delight in having ghosts in their houses, familiar spirits to guide them, have friends who have been abducted by aliens, hear from dead relatives, be reincarnated from Egyptian princesses, take daily direction from star formations and pursue all sorts of legendary mystical beings to whom are ascribed supernatural qualities like Big Foot, Skin walkers, Moth man, Leprechauns, or our own local favorite; the Little Peoplebut don’t you speak in tongues or deliver prophetic messages in church—people might think you’re weird.’

No, I’ll tell you what’s weird, living in a world that is hungry for, thirsting for, dying for something, anything of the Spirit that will restore life, that will restore feeling, to a dead and dying spirit while denying the one true power for good in all the universe, the one true power that truly can bring dead hearts, Spirits, and even flesh back to life; the power of the Living God that is available from the Holy Spirit that dwells within us and that can be fully released in us by the Baptism of that same Spirit, the Spirit of the Living God, the Spirit of Jesus, the true worker of miracles.

I have put on Christ, I have put off the old self and I am alive in him, I move in the power of God in direct proportion to my willingness to exercise my gift and to facilitate them by living a holy life and striving for righteousness while at the same time knowing that Jesus and him alone is my true righteousness. And I have an incredible gift that is proof positive that my God is real, that he loves me and that he is in me—my prayer language.

Therefore tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophesying is not for unbelievers but for those who believe. 1 Cor 14;22

Why would anyone be ashamed of or think it weird or foolish? I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for it is the power of salvation for all who believe, and the gifts of the spirit, including tongues, are part of that Gospel.

And don’t tell me my gifts are from the devil. They are not from the devil. I am a child of the living God, not of the enemy. They accused Jesus of being an agent of the devil also, because when the power of God manifests itself through you, you either have to believe that the devil is playing mind games with you, or you have to believe that the Kingdom of God has indeed come in power upon us.

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The Kingdom has come to all who believe and I choose to move in His power, to hear His voice. I can pray for the sick and see them healed, I can tell you things about yourself that only you and God knows, because I do not move in the counterfeit; ‘let’s work myself into a trance, grainy footage on a shaky video, it worked for my friend John so it must be true, kind of power’. I do not need rocks or herbs, star charts or mediums, clairvoyants or thermal imaging cameras, I just need Jesus. I just need to ask my Father and believe that he answers prayer.  

Every day is Father’s day if we give ourselves to the Father every day, seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and stop walking in the futility of trying to do life apart from him and in our own strength.

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I do not walk in the futility of my mind as nonbelievers and believers who have had their understanding darkened do, I choose not to be ignorant nor pretend that I am. I am not alienated from God, because I have embraced truth, I have embraced his word both written and living. —In the beginning was the word, the word was with God and the word was God, all things were made through him and without him nothing was made that has been made, the word was the light of men …and the word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  -John

The word is living and breathing and sharper than any two edged sword, put on the sword, put on righteousness, put on the Holy Spirit, move in his power, live in his power, wield his power. —Be truly alive.

I implore you, if you have not been baptized in the Holy Spirit, please pray to be so.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” Luke 11:13

I’m just going to say it—If you are not walking in, seeking out and doing your best to implement the plan of God for your life, answering his call and moving in the gifts he has given you—then yes, your life is futile.

But I believe better things for you!

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Barbarians in the Kingdom

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Choose Joy

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Down in my heart

The other day I was driving home from work, honestly, my job is intense, both physically—making every joint in my body hurt—and mentally, as I deal with people who are all driven, busy and under pressure all day long. Running a multi-million dollar project, trying to keep all the pieces and all the players moving in the right direction at the right time, while still being a craftsmen working with my hands can be hugely stressful.

So I was driving home from work with all this stuff running through my mind, my back, knees and neck killing me, trying to shift my focus to the sermon I know I have to start writing when I get home. I already knew I was supposed to talk about joy and I’m thinking; I sure don’t feel very joyful right now.

I thought of that new song from King and Country, kind of a play on the old children’s song I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart. . . and I remembered my daughters singing along to this song on a cassette tape they had full of silly Sunday school songs. I can still hear their high little girl voices singing, I think it was Cally, not really sure of all the words, but she would hardily sing the last few words “. . .down in my heart Tuesday” And of course the ‘Where!’

And I started to smile.

So I started to sing; I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy down in my heart, where, down in my heart, where, down in my heart. . . to stay.

After a few choruses of that I was actually laughing, how can you sing that and not be happy? Especially with everything that is associated with it, especially the truth that it espouses. A simple song reminding us of the most significant truth we can know as human beings.

I’ve got the wonderful love of my blessed redeemer way down in the depths of my heart. Where?. . .  Just singing about joy, about the Lord brought the lightness back to my heart. Light always displaces the dark.

Sing it with me; Now I’m so happy, so very happy, I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart! Yes I’m so happy, so very happy, I’ve got the love of Jesus in my heart!

If that did not make you smile, you could be a fuddy duddy.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Gal 5

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In praying about this message the Lord told me; “Joy is a byproduct of being loved.” Which explains why it is the second fruit of the Spirit right behind love. If you know you are loved by the one who created you and holds your fate in his hands, if you truly understand the depth and the significance of that love, how could you not have joy?

And if you have joy you will have peace and as a result of that joy and peace you will have no reason to be anxious, in a hurry, so you will be patient—long-suffering— and a happy patient loved person is more inclined to be kind and gentle, putting others before himself leading to self-control  which is simply telling the flesh to be patient and kind, that there are more important things than fulfilling it’s selfish demands.

Which means in a sense, a very real sense, that Love and joy has crucified the flesh with it’s passions and desires. The passions and desires that unchecked will leave us with no joy, no long-suffering patience and no self-control.

Wow, I never looked at the fruits of the Spirit as being dependent on each other like that before. The fruits are not just a list of virtues that God decided one day he would just give us if we asked for the Spirit, it is an understanding of who we are, who he is, our relationship with him leading to a chain reaction releasing one fruit after the other.

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Distress

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You;
Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them;
Let those also who love Your name
Be joyful in You.
12 For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous;
With favor You will surround him as with a shield. Ps 5:11,12

Joy can maybe be defined as a lack of stress. I mean, think about it, if you are not worried, if you are not losing sleep over an issue, fretting and anxious, what are you?

So, why are you not happy, why are you not joyful? —Because you are afraid, worried, stressed. And why are you these things? It boils down to one thing to me, something I come back to over and over again in my walk with the Lord and have since the very beginning because it really is the very definition of salvation—and that is trust, trusting his love for us.

We must trust the Lord for our salvation, with our hearts and with our lives. And if we are truly trusting him in all of these things, then why, pray tell, do we stress?

The Lord has been working on this with me lately, big time. If you want to discover a whole new level of potential stress try pastoring a bunch of people, real people with real problems and issues, whom you have come to love, who have become a family, not just a church. A church that is just a church can only cause you so much grief because you can walk away from it. But you cannot and should not walk away from family.

Not if you have a heart that is attuned at all to the Holy Spirit with the instinct he plants in all hearts to defend their own.

But, I have to remember that you, this church, and my family whether blood or spiritual, are not my own, it all belongs to Jesus—I am just a steward, a shepherd, a father, a husband, brother, uncle grandpa, friend—what have you—all titles I am proud of and take seriously, but if I am not trusting all of those whom call me by those various things to the one who loves and knows them better then I could in a hundred life times, then I will only drive myself to drink, or worse, trying to protect, build and nurture them all.

My church belongs to Jesus. My family belongs to Jesus. My future, my hopes and dreams, my vision for this ministry, my job, my finances, my health and well-being—they all belong to Jesus and he alone is able to care for all of them, to strengthen me, to guide me, to quicken my soul in the right times and still it when need be.

The more I realize that, the more I trust and let go of the stress, transfer the burden over to Jesus, the more joy I am able to feel in my heart, the better I can sleep at night and the more able I am to love those around me who need loved, we all need loved.

Love brings joy.Just ask my Granddaughter Jolene whose picture graces the top of this blog.

Joy by King and Country

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

voice behind

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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