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.

Stand Firm

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Whether you sit in a pew or read my heart on line, I love you all. . .

 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. Rev 3:20—21

I’ve gotta be honest with you, it’s been really tough to focus on writing sermons and blogs lately. There have been so many family and ministry bombshell crisis all around me lately and pressures at work aside from my ministry that it’s been hard to not just despair and try to drag everyone into the pit of gloom that threatens me. But for the grace of God and the call and anointing I have to preach the good news to the people Jesus entrusts me to instruct, I know I would be somewhat useless.

So many people I love going through such challenges as it seems the enemy is coming at us from so many directions while at the same time great victories are being won for the kingdom of God. And that is in part what keeps me showing going, the strong need strengthened— a place to be fed and encouraged—and the weary need rest, a safe place to rediscover the power of grace. And, God’s greatest victory’s often come in the challenges we face. When Jesus shows up in the midst of the storm is when he is most evident and when we truly listen.

And I need to remember that it is not about me, it is about the children of God, those he died for, and he has entrusted me— he has entrusted all of us—with a message of hope, hope in a God who can do and change anything no matter how badly we mess it up—and yes, it is indeed we who mess it up. We can blame the enemy, we can blame God, but there is always a choice freely made somewhere by us, or those we love, who tipped the first domino to our disaster. We choose which voice to listen to, the voice that leads to destruction, or the voice that leads to life.

I choose to keep listening to the voice that beckons, “Open the door, I will come in and eat with you, and you with me.” In the vernacular of Jesus day that was an invitation to an intimate heart to heart conversation. Just the two of us. Accepting that invitation is the primary thing that keeps me going, that keeps the enemy from stealing my joy, my purpose, my very sanity.

I don’t need much to push me over the edge if I am operating in my own strength, doing what I want and taking the credit for whatever I accomplish while wearing the twisted crown that I keep wrestling away from the Lord.

But, if I am leaning on him, constantly depending on him, just looking to him, he is there and he is my rock. I will stand, I will keep preaching the good news and I will always be there, crying with those who hurt, rejoicing with those who rejoice, rowing when others can’t and sharing a meal belowdecks with Jesus when I’m too tired to row. I am going to that dinner party and I am taking you all with me.

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But you know, that’s what a pastor does, and this is nothing new. There have always been challenges and there always will be, until the day the Lord returns.

Because I love you, all of you, whenever any of you hurt, I hurt. But as one who is anointed and called to love and shepherd a flock for Jesus, he is my rock and I will not, we will not, be moved.

The Lord is doing a good work, whether in our Red Lodge, or extended via the internet, church family, he has been and he will continue to. Whether you sit in a pew or read my heart on line, I love you all. With the struggles there are many victories to celebrate as well and I get also to rejoice with you in those. We cannot be distracted and we must not fail to keep looking to the Lord for our joy and our strength, to accept the invitation to keep following him into the tomorrow he has planned for each and every one of us and for this body of believers as we continue to storm the gates of hell and add to the family till we have to knock out the walls to make room for those who accept the invitation to share in the feast of grace we get to so freely eat of.

Making sure we are accepting that invitation to spend time with Jesus that so often seems unimportant, insignificant, or something for another day.

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. Rev 2:10

It sounds like the most ridiculous and least productive thing to do in our struggles, to stop, listen for the still small voice inviting us to stop and share a meal, but it is the only thing that will get us through, and it is all the Lord asks of us; that we accept his offer of peace.

The alternative is chaos, in us and around us.

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But if I keep my heart full, and keep accepting, looking forward to and heeding the Lord’s invitation to keep following him, to sit and eat with him on occasion, the joy in the journey makes the fleeting and frustratingly hollow pleasures of the flesh less appealing and renders the attacks that threaten destruction powerless and moot.

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