Heal this Land

We have to trust and seek the Lord to heal us of this pandemic, and give him the glory for the healing that has begun.Heal the Land

I believe the healing has already begun. We did not experience near the horrors that were predicted or expected, and we cannot take all the credit for that.

In reality, hiding from this virus will only prolong it. Left to it’s own devices, this virus, as all do, will spread to as many people as it can reach so long as there is still one person in the world who has it. It will not go away until all who have survived it outnumber those who have not had it and break the chain of the spread.

I mean, that’s just reality. Historical epidemics bear that out.

And we all know how ineffective the annual flu vaccines have been, I wouldn’t put too much stock in that solution.

But we serve a God who is not bound by our reality, the reality in which we are all subject to the curse and can only wait in fear for our turn to suffer.

Our God has overcome the curse by dying for our sins and he carried our infirmities, through His Son Jesus Christ so we do not have to be subject to the whims of microscopic invaders and destroyers of the living.

And we do not have to fear the death that inevitably comes to all living things, regardless, because for us it is only the beginning of eternity, free once for all from all death and sorrow.

Last weekend an old friend showed up in our just reopened church, Bill, I don’t know how old he is but he’s up there.

After service he insisted on shaking my hand and said, “My daughter tells me that I should be careful because I am one of those who is at risk. I told her getting out and living my life is a winwin. If I don’t get sick, I wasn’t stuck at home alone and enjoyed my last days, and if I do get sick, I am going home to glory where I will no longer be old and frail.”

Amen and praise God for that.By his stripes

Thanks to Jesus Christ we do not fear death. But we do not need to live in fear of this virus either. Even centuries before Jesus died for our sins and healed us by his stripes. God promised his people that if they as a nation would turn to him, they would be healed.

13 When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, 14 if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land. 2 Chron 7:13—14

And notice that in this promise from Chronicles he specifically mentioned pestilence. So there is a promise we can stand on, and thank him for.

God has begun the healing, I believe that during the Easter and Passover season as all of God’s people were holed up in their homes, collectively praying, perhaps like they have never prayed before, that God heard our prayers and stopped that virus in it’s tracks.

And that is what it’s going to take to keep it from regaining steam and wreaking the havoc it was advertised to wreak. No more wreaking wreaker! In Jesus name! As Dora the Explorer might  say; ‘Wreaker stop wreaking!’

We cannot stop praying, seeking the Lord’s face, humbling ourselves. We cannot stop thanking the Lord for our health and well being, for the life and the blessings that we enjoy and for the challenges that teach us valuable lessons and keep us looking to the Lord who is always there to help us through.

Pray that the perverseness and the wickedness that has run rampant in our land for far too long is recognized for what it is and that the light of the world scours it from the land like the sunshine does this virus.

All of us need to pray for forgiveness for our parts in letting this nation get to the wicked state, that much of it is, by our own willingness to compromise, to go along to get along, to allow our morality to be subjective and relative to anything other than the word of God.

And we all need to repent of our own sins, our own failings and seek to be holy just as he is holy. Then, this pestilence will be no more forever and we can began the harvest the Lord has promised in earnest.

uproot them

Because if we don’t, if we continue to turn to other Gods, the kind we bow down to and the kind we lust after, America, at least as we know it, will be no more. And our children’s children will tell stories of a long ago and far away land where people once lived free and were blessed beyond measure with things kings of old could only dream of. Camelot lost, Atlantis sunk, just another legend of a place to fantastic to be believed.

 

Guard your soul

guard your soul

But we are not going to let that happen. We are going to guard our souls, possess our souls. There again is that admonition we keep running into lately to safeguard our souls, our inner being, our hearts, from outside influence and harm.

You cannot train up a child, let alone a nation, in the way they should go if you are not guarding your own soul.

The Lord has been calling us to holiness, I have told you that over and over again these past two or three years. Holiness is a guarding of the soul. It’s turning away from the lusts of the flesh, the pursuit of worldly goods and pleasures at the expense of our relationships with Jesus and in place of answering our call to whatever it is the Lord has called and purposed you for, not to mentioned gifted and equipped you for.

Some have taken that challenge seriously, many have not.

Well, here we are, mission critical as the time is upon us, the time for all who have answered the call, who have prayed and fasted, sought and cried out to God, devoured his word and loved his people, now is the time to pray and seek like never before; “God, what would you have me do now? How can I be a vessel of your love in this time of harvest? Pour out your Spirit, let your glory be known and seen by all, and give me the strength and the courage to be a part of it.”

Help me to train up a nation, forgive and heal this land and help us to build something real, something good, something beautiful and blessed on the foundation that you have laid, in my life, in my home and in my nation.

And start right here today, in my heart. Help me to guard my soul, the soul that you died to bring back to life, not the living dead life of darkness and emptiness that I knew before I knew you, but the eternal ‘nothing can touch me, no one can steal my joy or my hope’ kind of life that only you can give.

In the name of Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life, Creator Savior and Lord, I pray these things and I thank you for the healing.

Blessed are the people whose God is the Lord!Blessed Nation

The Holiness Fight

This is the beginning of the end. The beginning of the final battle and I want to stay in the fight.

Ax victory

I just read an article on the state of the American church and it cited a study done by the  Barna Group that looked at 70 different moral behaviors and could find no statistical difference between Christian and non—Christian behaviors in any of these areas. That can only mean one thing—There’s no holiness, there’s no respect or gratitude for the price that was paid for their forgiveness.

And there’s no witness.

How can we expect anyone to believe a word we say about a God who saves, a God who redeems, who changes us from the inside out freeing us from the snares of sin, addictions and emotional turmoil when we behave like animals with no control over our flesh or our emotions. Yes none of that is easy, but it takes you desiring to be free, not just forgiven, and it takes a real relationship with Jesus.

He’s not going to wade through a swamp of sin to spend time with you if you are content to wallow in filth and then wonder why you don’t hear Jesus and why you are not being blessed.

Maybe the enemy is not harassing you there, why would he? You’re no longer a threat to him. But you may end up in his goat pen in the end.

Outer Darkness

Depart from me, I never knew youMat 7:24

How do you like me now?

The Robe

I’m just urging you to take your relationship with Jesus seriously. Take your invitation seriously.

“See, I have prepared my dinner; …”  But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business. the wedding

This last year was a challenge for many Christians I know. It seems like the battles just keep ramping up and the hits just keep coming. The strong are being stretched and the weak are falling away. We cannot give up. The Lord is calling us to holiness. I have been saying this since last year and I have seen the Lord putting his people through the refiners fire and the faithful being strengthened.

This is the beginning of the end. The beginning of the final battle and I want to stay in the fight. I want to see the victory and wield the weapons the Lord is pouring out on the faithful who have not given up or given in.

I still believe we are going to see God use people you least expect to do miracles and unleash the power of heaven in places you least expect. I see it already happening.

Pray for our president. Despite his flaws he is the first president we have had in many decades who is fighting for the church, not just talking about it. Pray for your pastor. He lives to fight for you-and it is a battle. Pray for your children and grandchildren. They are the warriors of tomorrow and the enemy would love to take them out before their fight begins. And pray that you have the courage and the faith to be used by God to advance the kingdom in ways you never imagined you would be used by God to do.

Many are invited but only those who take it seriously will be still standing in the end. God will only use the Holy.

many invited

It seems that all are invited but  it will not be the big name —everyone look at me —flashy church celebrities that are left standing to fight the battles ahead. It will be those who quietly and sometimes bewilderdly stood apart while the world seemed to go mad around them.

And they will win.

few chosen

Who will be allowed to stay in the wedding feast? The question in the end will always be, do you know Him?

If you do you will be given the white robe and you will be allowed to stay.

Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’ ” Rev 19

So go into this new year ready to fight, and win—you were made for this! -(Carolton on YouTube)

 

Prophetic Praying

(Closed circuit for those who believe the Holy Spirit still moves in us today.)

In 1st Timothy we see a short but telling verse that has been neglected by too many of us.

14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 1 Timothy 4

A gift given by the laying on of hands and a word of prophecy.

Paul, encouraging Timothy to be the encourager, to keep laboring and bearing reproach from those who would discredit and despise him for his youth is reminding him of the importance of setting a good example and not “neglecting the gift that he was given” supernaturally by both Paul and then the elders who also spoke prophetic words over him as they laid their hands on him.

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A model the church, at least the part of the church that still embraces and welcomes the Holy Spirit, still uses today. I have had many people lay hands on me as they prayed and spoke words from the Lord over me on various occasions and they have set me on the course to who and where I am today.

I hope you have been so blessed as well. If you have you may not have even realized it was the Holy Spirit speaking to you at the time but if they were words that hit home and stuck with you, challenging you, encouraging you, making you sit up and take notice, then it was probably a prophetic word and not just your pastor or elder speaking. Honestly, when I prophetically pray for someone I don’t always know when it is no longer I speaking, and when it is the Lord.

If you do not neglect the gifts in you, and are not shy about moving in them and use them often, they come so naturally to you that you sometimes just lapse right into them without realizing it or making a concerted effort. Just like any other natural gift that we have, music, art, writing—the more you practice the more naturally it comes and the less obstructed by clumsiness it will be.

Your own spiritual gifts were given you by the Holy Spirit, most likely, when someone somewhere laid hands and prayed a propheticor Spirit led if you prefer—prayer over you. That is perhaps a better way to put it into terms that make it less intimidating. A Spirit led prayer. It’s just asking the Lord for wisdom as you are praying so that you are praying His will and not the will of the one seeking prayer, or even your own. If you want to pray prophetically you must keep an ear open to the Spirit.

Prophetic prayer—In practice that usually involves The Spirit putting the words or an idea into our heads and leaving it up to us to speak it. At first we might even think it was just us talking until we see the impact it has and realize that we are not that clever or insightful on our own. It may even be something we could have had no way of knowing.

Sometimes, whether you are praying or being prayed for, that means you have to shut up and listen I don’t need long explanations of your problems and just the right things to pray for you. If you have it all figured out you can pray that yourself, you don’t need a prophet. If you come to a Pastor or an elder for prayer and you truly want God’s will to be done and his purpose to be accomplished then you need to largely trust the Holy Spirit to lead the prayer.

Got your attention don’t I. . .

Let’s back up a bit here to the 1st paragraph of 1 Tim 4:

Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, 1 Tim 4:1,2

We are in this ironic season of humanity, at least in Western culture, where we are quick to believe in, and seek the supernatural in nearly any form except for when it comes to the only supernatural that is not counterfeit and meant to deceive and destroy.

That’s because the enemy does not want us to move in the power of the Lord because he knows that when we do the pathetic nature of his tricks becomes evident.

I think the 1st paragraph has been happening—Deceits and hypocrisy abounding— because we have been neglecting the last paragraph. We are falling for the Devil’s tricks because we neglect the gifts we have from the Holy Spirit.

Hands

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Paul admonishes Timothy to not neglect the gift given him by prophecy with the laying on of hands of the elders in the church. And then later, Paul reminds Timothy to stir up the gift of God that was given him when he, Paul, laid hands on him.

Now, for those who might be new to all this, the laying on of hands as used in scriptures both Old and New is a way of conveying a gift from God through a person who is willing and qualified by God to do so. Generally it is anyone who feels compelled by the Holy Spirit to do so, or one who is in a position of authority in the body of Christ.

Basically it’s just putting your hands on someone and praying. It might be for conveying a gift, a healing, a deliverance or an anointing, which also determines where you lay your hands.

Paul is telling Tim that he needs to stir those gifts up, to not let them sit dormant out of fear or apathy as so many do.

Given that Timothy is a Pastor I would guess that those gifts include teaching, prophecy, evangelism and of course the main gift that everyone we see in scripture receiving the baptism of the Spirit receives, a prayer language.  Or as it is more succinctly called in scripture—tongues.

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Anointed

So Timothy, having been instructed in the things of the Lord by his mother and grandmother, having been prayed for to receive the baptism of the Spirit by the apostle Paul himself, as evidenced in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, is later prayed for again as elders in the Ephesus church lay their hands on him to pray for him either as an anointing to ordain him as the Pastor of this body giving him prophetic words as to the kind of leader he will be, affirming his leadership or releasing more gifts in him by speaking the words God wants him to hear as he is anointed for service.

Or it may be that the Spiritually gifted of the church felt compelled by the Holy Spirit to lay hands on Timothy and while praying received a word from the Lord that the elder spoke out prophetically in his prayer and thus released another gift in Timothy.

Gifts from the gifted

The Spiritually gifted being used by God to release Spiritual gifts in others. That’s all this is, this laying on of hands business. It is not the person praying imparting the gift, it is God. The one praying is just being obedient. And the one receiving the gift must be obedient to heeding the words that are imparting the gift and to stir up, and not neglect, the gift that is given—transferred to them if you will—by the laying on of hands.

Every believer wants to believe that when we are saved, born again as Jesus put it, that we have the Holy Spirit living inside of us, rejuvenating our own souls which were dead by virtue of sin. And we do. They believe that the Holy Spirit is God, the third person of the Trinity that is God, yet they struggle to believe that he can actually do something other than just go along for the ride. Quietly residing within us until we die so that he can get us to heaven.

That is a far cry from the Holy Spirit we see in the scriptures. The Holy Spirit is alive and well and wants to equip us, to encourage us, to empower us to be the representatives of Jesus Christ here on this earth—to love in his power, to boldly go where he sends us, do what he asks us to do and say what he asks us to say. He is God inside of us, why would he not speak to us?

We all like to say—”I don’t have a religion I have a relationship.” What kind of relationship is it if only one of you are talking and the other remains silent? Pretty one sided.

‘But, we have the word of God!’ —You may counter. Yes we do, and that’s the other part of Paul’s admonition.

13 Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 1 Tim 4

‘Keep reading the scriptures, listen to the teaching of the apostles and hang on to sound doctrine.’ Paul tells us, then in the very next breath, he says do not neglect the gift that was given you prophetically. In other words; it was spoken. A specific message just for Timothy from God through someone who prophesied whilst laying hands on him.

These two things together, God’s written word guiding and leading us, keeping us from being deceived, and God’s Spirit within us speaking to us in a very personal and intimate way, his thoughts meshing with our own if we’ll allow and desire it and even giving us words to bless others, what an awesome gift we have in both God’s written word and in the Counselor that resides within.

Do not neglect the gift—move in his power.Spirit baptism

Propriety in Prayer

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“Why am I wearing this? To show off my stuff, or to present myself as someone who cares about how I present myself to the world.”

As I work my way through the letters of Paul to Timothy, both for my church and for you, my faithful and beloved readers, we come to chapter two of 1st Timothy. A chapter I would much rather have ignored because it has been misused by elements of the church for centuries in a way I believe is not consistent with the whole of scripture and the heart of God. But that is why we need to tackle it, as it does carry some important principles that do indeed need to be heeded.

The following is a small part of what I shared with my church today on the role of women in the church from a section of scripture that really had to do with the behavior of both men and women in public services, the context of which gets lost once the admonition to women in particular jumps out at the casual reader of scripture.

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This chapter, (read 1 Tim 2) has everything to do with prayer and propriety in public worship services and Paul’s ongoing battle against false teachings and bogus apostles.

So, the admonition to men and women to behave themselves respectfully and orderly in their gatherings and to not give room to false doctrine, which keeps rearing its head and apparently likes to speak uninvited, and often, is the basis behind Paul’s admonitions here. And is the context for his wanting women in these prayer gatherings to learn, quietly and submissively, dressed modestly and outstanding in her love for serving the Lord and her family.

There is a dynamic that the casual reader of 1 Timothy cannot be aware of as well. It’s what scholars call the ancient sexual revolution going on in Roman culture at the time. This spawned a whole other class of women that was quite a departure from the meek women of patriarchal Jewish culture the apostles came up in, she is called; “The new Roman woman.”

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This ancient sexual revolution was taking place and was finding its way into the churches of Ephesus and Corinth causing concern for Paul as to the image and respectability of the church which met publicly and was widely scrutinized by all from the Romans to the Jews.

The new Roman woman was very vocal and haughty, displaying her liberation with clothing that could be considered promiscuous. There was indeed a sexual component to this cultural shift as birth control and abortion played a role in the lifestyle of the liberated Roman woman. Yes, the Romans were very good at turning procreation into recreation with no consequences. Hmmm, sounds familiar.

Quite the departure from the biblical view of sex as being between a husband and a wife for the purpose of joining a man to a woman physically and spiritually as they became one before God and to bring children into the world, into a stable family whose anchor is the covenant made between a husband and a wife.

The emphasis Paul makes on childbearing, faith, love, holiness and self-control is a reminder to the women of the early church of God’s idea of sex and behavior in contrast to the vocal, disrespectful and loose woman of the culture they were in.

1 tim 2

Decorum

In the Apostle Paul’s day it was usually the wealthy women of stature, women who had fewer responsibilities as they had servants and slaves to do their chores affording them more leisure time to pursue their pleasures and money to adorn themselves with seductive and suggestive attire.

 

Jewelry and elaborately braided hair piled upon the head had been more commonly associated with prostitutes of the day but was now becoming fashionable among the high society ladies of the day. Quite the contrast to the simple dress and pulled back and covered hair of the traditional Jewish woman Paul was used to. This suggestive dress was becoming a huge distraction, as you can imagine, to the men of the church. Men haven’t changed.

We are still very visual–you have no idea–and easily distracted by clothing or lack thereof that a woman may not see any harm in. Men today don’t generally relate braided hair or jewelry with loose women as they did in Paul’s day but there are other things that you may not want to wear if you do not want to be a distraction in public church gatherings. The same goes for men. Dress nice but don’t dress like you are trying to attract a mate.

Men and women, this applies to both of you, when you get dressed ask yourself: Why am I wearing this? To show off my stuff, or to present myself as someone who cares about how I present myself to the world.

Dress for the job you want, as the old saying goes. If you want to be a street walker or a calendar model, then dress that way. Just don’t expect to be taken seriously if you do, especially while witnessing for Jesus. That’s all Paul is saying here.

 

So Paul is trying to head this night club atmosphere off, to restore some modicum of decorum and morality, to avoid even the appearance of immorality, as he states elsewhere, and to set a standard of decorum which will keep them in some measure of respectability amongst the common people of the city and amongst the Jews, all of whom Paul wants to reach with the gospel.

It is thought that some of these wealthy liberated women where teaching the heresy’s Paul warns about in the preceding chapter and he wants to put a stop to this

In Timothy’s church, just as he had to do in Corinth, Paul is trying to establish a respectable, presentable and productive order to things without quenching the Spirit.

And again, culture plays such a huge role in these discussions that looking at it in light of our western culture thousands of years and miles removed, it is nearly impossible to know exactly what Paul was referring to or trying to remedy.

But what we do know is that God still cares about how we present, and represent, ourselves as dearly loved children of the Father and as witnesses for Christ. Your beauty lies within, just let it shine.

loved

 

 

The Substance of Faith

“nothing has never spawned something by the power of no one”

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     Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Heb 11

Faith. We all struggle with faith at times don’t we? Of course that can be a pretty broad statement, “I struggle with faith.” That can mean anything from struggling to believe that God will fulfill a specific promise to you, to believing that he hears your prayers, to believing that he even exists. Faith is always difficult if we think we have to muster it all up on our own—we really don’t, depending on what you are trying to have faith in or for anyway.

Faith is an interesting and even puzzling thing. The simple definition of faith is that it is a belief in something or someone. It helps of course to have evidence for our faith, like; I have faith politicians in Washington will be adamantly opposed to whatever someone from the opposite party comes up with because they always are—that’s a pretty sure bet.

I have faith that the sun will come up tomorrow and that winters in Montana will be cold—and way too long. Faith—it’s not complicated, usually, unless you are talking about faith that comes from the heart instead of the head because the head always wants to mess it up.

Yet, here we are, many of us, Sunday after Sunday, gathered together for one reason—faith. Faith in a resurrection that we didn’t witness, faith in a God that we have never seen and faith in a promise that we will one day be resurrected also. But why would we believe in something that we cannot see or feel? Why would we waste our time and mental energy dwelling on and clinging to something that we believe just because?

Because the faith we enjoy as children of God, as those who believe that God so loved the world that “He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”—is more than just a belief, it’s more then just a hope, it’s a gift from the God in whom we have put our faith.

When we take that small step toward God saying; “Lord I want to believe, I want to know you, I want to be have that hope of salvation, even resurrection kind of faith that knows that it knows”— he gives it to us.

It becomes real, it becomes tangible, it becomes a part of us—literally, because it is more than just a thought pattern, it is a Spiritual renovation that affects every fiber of our being. Jesus called it being born again. It’s a fresh start, a rebirth, a resurrection in it’s own right. A resurrection of the heart, a resurrection of the dead spirit that was killed off by sin and darkness, fear, doubt and rebellion—that spirit now replaced by the Holy Spirit of the Living God. You have to want faith to have it, “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief!”  at that point faith becomes real.

Real

My faith is just as real to me, just as tangible to me, just as undeniable as my own flesh and blood—even more so. I sometimes look at myself in the mirror and think, are you for real? How can you be so stupid, so weak, so easily angered, fooled and tempted? And how can you be so old all of a sudden—seriously—who are you?

My flesh and blood lets me down quite regularly but my Jesus never does. Jesus is real, his Spirit within me is real and he sees the real me that wants, that yearns to be with  him, to live in his will and ways knowing that in him my flesh will be and is overcome. As long as I cling to Jesus, keep the faith, his peace and joy is always within reach. And I can look in the mirror and even like what I see—because I see someone who is loved, just as I am.

I can look into the eyes staring at me from the mirror and see the life behind them that is Jesus.

For now I see but a reflection of Jesus as though in a mirror, dimly. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known. (1 Cor 13:12) But I can rest assured that I will one day see him face to face. Because our faith is real, our faith is alive, our faith is Jesus.

Evidence

Substance

I believe because my faith has substance. It has manifest itself in my life countless times. And my faith is my evidence, even in and of itself. Aside from all that just the wonder of this world, that there even is a world, is evidence. The one I have faith in created all that we can see. It only makes sense that it all had to come from somewhere—nothing has never spawned something by the power of no one—so it only makes sense that there had to be a beginning somewhere at which point nothing became everything at the word of someone.

Only God can speak substance into a vacuum and wind up with an entire universe, and only God can speak life into the vacuum of your heart and create hope. Our hope is found in Jesus, the Son of God, Son of Man.

Jesus gave his life to give you yours, claim your hope, claim Jesus as your own-he wants nothing more than to claim you.

Luke 4

You are Loved, just as you are.

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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