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 Mad Prophet

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“. . . clumsy, uncouth, crude, unsophisticated, redneck— that’s the words, those don’t bother me so much as the condescending looks and attitudes do. ‘

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
Make His paths straight.’”

Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Mat 3:3—4

I think we can learn a thing or two from John the Baptist that is relevant to where we are as a church family today. Just as John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus, prepared hearts for the message of Jesus and the subsequent outpouring in his day, the last days will need harbingers as well—they could very well be alive today, they could even be you.

Chew on that for a minute. —If you are mentoring or teaching, encouraging or equipping someone, you may very well be preparing the next John the Baptist, or you are the next John the Baptist. Don’t discount that idea or think it could never be someone like you.

11 “I baptize you with water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Mat 3:11

“I am not worthy”  Biblical prophets never considered themselves worthy, they were seldom well known until they went mad in the eyes of the world, and most often those who thought themselves superior to them didn’t take them seriously and told them to back off.

We cannot make either of those mistakes, we cannot discount others and we cannot discount ourselves—in fact, we are all called to prophesy.

I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I would rather have you prophesy. 1 Cor 14:5

It’s what your prophetic role is that becomes the question and whether or not you are bold enough to fulfill it.

The Lord likes to call those who, to the rest of the world, seem the least likely to fulfill the role he has in mind for them. It’s like God looks through High School yearbooks to find those voted least likely to succeed and chooses them. It might not be officially written in our year books but we all get labeled, classified, nonetheless. No matter our station in life at any given time we always seem to be either running from or trying to live up to a label.

I only recently embraced and became proud of what I call my barbarian side but it is something that has followed me all my life. Since I was a kid I have been labeled at various times as clumsy, uncouth, crude, unsophisticated, redneck— that’s the words, those don’t bother me so much as the condescending looks and attitudes do. We are all very adept at pegging people and being pegged, often times without a word and it is always very evident.

welder

Construction worker

I have worked with my hands all my life and never saw a lot of benefit to just putting in time in a classroom if they are not teaching something relevant or new.

Because of that I quit school at the start of my junior year to go into Job Corp to learn a trade that would make me a living. I had always done well in school but by the start of the 11th year it seemed like we just kept relearning the same stuff so I decided to stop wasting my time trying to stay awake in a classroom and do something more constructive. So before my classmates got that piece of paper and a tassel to hang on their car mirror for sticking it out I had gotten a GED, completed a heavy equipment operating course with over a thousand hours of operating time and was certified in three different types of welding.

While my former High school classmates were either going to work for minimum wage or going into debt to fund a college education they would spend much of their lives trying to repay, I was running back hoes, bulldozers and cranes and welding on pipeline jobs making decent money. But in most of the world’s eyes I was, and am, an uneducated construction worker.

Those of you who get dirty for a living know what I am talking about. There is often a little bit of an air of superiority in the way those who wear suits and ties to work relate to you—if they even bother to try. People assume you work with your hands because you are too stupid to do anything else.

This stigma carries into the church also. It’s not overt, but it is there. This is relevant because it is often a factor in who we choose to invest in as leaders. Surely the educated sharp dressed handsome man or the tastefully dressed young woman from the upstanding church family with no tats or piercings is the best candidate for the salaried position of her dreams in the big church.

I’m just saying, we need to stop looking at people like we are choosing the next cover model for GQ or Vanity Fair, we need to stop judging people by whether or not they have grease under their fingernails or letters after their names. And that goes both ways. Not all suits are snobs, many wish they had my job and my skills, they ae going insane sitting behind a desk all day.

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We cannot judge a person by outward appearances and the church establishment is probably the biggest offender. It goes all the way back to King David, and King Saul. Saul won the people’s choice award and David wasn’t even invited to the party, yet David became the king whose throne would endure forever.

And for you, don’t ever think you have to somehow look or act a part to win that part in the Kingdom of God. If you are called to be the preacher, the teacher, the evangelist, the prophet, the harbinger of the coming of the glory of the Lord—then don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

Forge on my barbarian friends.

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Barbarians in the Kingdom

 

Stop Spinning

How do you fly this thing?-old-fighter-plane_gyrm-wk_

The standard question in the days after Christmas is: ”Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?” I’m to the point in my life where I don’t care so much what, if anything, I get for gifts for Christmas. Yes it’s nice to get things, mostly because it means a lot to me that someone cared enough to make the effort, but to me I cherish much more the time spent with people I love, time is always a priceless gift.

And, if you’re like me, you probably get a lot more satisfaction out of being able to bless someone else with a special gift. That’s something that’s drilled into our heads as kids: “It’s better to give than to receive!” But seriously, how many of you when you were say; 10 years old, really believed that? How many nights did you lie awake dreaming of what you were going to find under the tree on Christmas morning, or start pestering your parents weeks before your birthday to make sure they knew exactly what you wanted for your special day.

That sense of excitement and anticipation is something you never forget and have a hard time replicating as an adult, where reality replaces fantasy and Santa Claus gives you the bill. But what a joy it is to help make holidays special for others, especially kids, not just with presents but by building traditions and memories that kids will treasure forever. The presents may soon lose their luster but the time you spent with them never will.

Cox

Speaking of toys that lose their luster. How many of you are old enough to remember the old Cox gasoline engine toys? Little scale model cars and planes that had little gas powered motors— great toys for little boys. The cars and trucks you just started up and set them down to watch them scream on until they crashed into something, no control whatsoever.

Then there was the planes. I remember walking through a department store with my Dad and seeing a P-51 Mustang  with WW II army paint and telling him, “That’s what I want for my birthday.” No doubt about it—he wasn’t so sure, a 12 inch long airplane with an internal combustion engine tied to a string didn’t strike him as the best toy for a kid turning 11 years old, and it was kind of expensive.

But sure enough, on my birthday, while visiting my Dad in Minnesota, I got my brand new Cox P-51 Mustang. I was thrilled beyond words and I couldn’t wait to try it out. I had to wait a few days till we could find a big empty parking lot that would make a sufficient airfield. So we break out the big bad airplane, squirt the fuel into the little bitty gas tank and start spinning the prop with a finger; Brbrbr, brbrbrr brbrbr—nothing, prime it again- Brbrbr, Brbrbr, Brbrbr Rmmmm, sputter Brbrbr. We did this for what seemed like forever until finally it roared to life.

Now the concept of the infamous Cox model airplanes was that you flew the plane on the end of about 30 feet of string, two strings tied to a handle which served as your control. If you moved your hand one way if would make the flaps go up and if you moved the other way it would make the flaps go down, making your plane go up or down.

And of course the only way you could do this was to stand in one spot and fly your plane around in a big circle until your plane ran out of fuel and you gracefully glided it in for a landing.

So while my Dad held on to my now running airplane I ran to my control handle carefully laid out thirty feet away, and my Dad lets go of the plane, as I skillfully manipulate the flaps sending my little P-51 about 15 feet into the air. Now these little gas powered things really cruise which means to keep up with it you have to start spinning in circles as this things flies around you on the end of your marionette style strings.

This is all good and well until you get dizzy. I don’t know how many times I spun around in circles but I was dizzy long before the plane ran out of fuel and I lost control causing my plane to make a very ugly emergency landing— a crash in layman’s terms. The plane was a little scuffed up but still intact and, as my head stopped spinning, we packed up my plane and went home.

Gee, that wasn’t near as fun as I thought it would bemaybe next time. A few weeks later back home in New Mexico I grabbed my best buddie and off we went with my treasured plane to the paved school yard determined to conquer the skies over the Land of Enchantment.

I fueled her up, spun the prop, Brbrbr, brbrbrsputter, sputter— this went on forever. I’ll bet it was a good 45 minutes before we finally got it to start, and keep, running. When it did my buddie held the plane while I ran to grab the controls determined to not let myself get dizzy this time but before I knew it I was wobbling and my plane was going up and down, higher and higher with each pass as I was losing all control of myself and my plane until it just nosedived into the asphalt.

That was the end of my pilot career. My precious P-51 was broken into several pieces. I literally spent years—it still crosses my mind now and then— wondering; “How in the world are you supposed to fly one of these things without getting dizzy?!” I still haven’t figure it out.

Maybe no one did, that might be why you don’t see them anymore.

Thots

Apply that to a church—how do you fly one of these things without getting dizzy? I hope I’m doing better with my church. How do you pastor one of these things without getting dizzy? Well, I guess the short answer is, stop spinning in circles. Most would argue you can’t do that with a Cox model plane or with a church, but the Lord tells me otherwise— at least with the church.

Preparing my sermon for the week—the first of the new year, a time when I like to look ahead at the year and seek the Lord for guidance, maybe a theme for the coming year— I was reminded of this scripture from Psalms:

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
Psalm 127

I can’t control this thing for very long any more than I could control that airplane for more than a few rounds, it’s beyond me, it’s supposed to be beyond me—it’s supposed to be Jesus— he is the pilot, and he has state of the art radio controls that allow him to fly this plane anywhere he desires—if we’ll just cut those strings and let it fly.

Most churches struggle with that, most pastors are afraid to do that, and I contend that is why most pastors at some point crash—trust me when I say this, I have witnessed it over and over again many times, they are getting dizzy and crashing, left and right.

We strive to be a Spirit led church— not program driven, not agenda driven. The Lord has given me an overall vision and direction for this ministry but the only way to be true to that is to follow Jesus step by step and day by day. Otherwise we will spend all our time planning and scheming and then stressing over implementing our plans.

Yes we need to do some planning but our plans must always fit into the mission the Lord has given me for our church to be a place of healing, restoration and hope, and all our plans have to be brought before the Lord in prayer and for guidance and wisdom.

Of course the best plans are the ones that develop as a result of the Lord planting something in our hearts.  In that case, more often than not, it’s a matter of being ready, and patient, at the same time, as the Lord works to bring his plans into fruition while we are ready to move when he says move.

Where is he taking you? Let go of the strings and just follow.