A Christmas Reading

Dearly Beloved,

I have encouraged Hope Chapel to share the Christmas story with someone before Christmas day.  Or, in lieu of the Christmas story, to share the gospel of Jesus or one’s own testimony of salvation.

Just in case you desire to bear witness to Jesus in this season, but have not found an opportunity to do so, all is not lost!

I have developed a document I have prepared for my family’s use which includes the main portions of the Christmas story and a list of characters with both speaking and non-speaking roles.  You can find the Word.docx here and the .pdf file here.

My hope is that in your family time on Christmas day you will find time to read the story as a group, passing around the task of serving as the narrator, and finding small figurines or statuettes or even paper cut-outs to serve in place of the characters in the story.

The idea is a simple one:  as the narrator approaches a speaking role someone assumes that part and reads out the words of that character.  This can be accompanied by the holding up of the symbol for that character.  A very large group of people can be included in the story with this methodology.

Feel free to conduct the reading in whatever way suits your family unit.  This will be a blessing to all and, perhaps, will morph into a cherished family tradition.


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Not Silent About Sex

(Note: Betsy Cruz, a long-time Christian leader and friend from Hope Chapel, recently published a blog entitled ‘Sex and the Christian College Student.’  I thought it was so good that I am reproducing her note on HopeMail and the link to her article.  Enjoy.  –geno)

Hello Hope Friends,

I just wanted to share a Crosswalk article that I wrote recently on a totally new-for-me topic: “Sex and the Christian College Student.” So important for young people in our world today, and sometimes it’s so hard for us to talk about it. :) This might encourage you if you work with young people or have teen/young adult kids. I so hope we can be the kind of people young adults can talk with about anything and feel safe and loved. Just wanted to share in case this helps anyone.

Betsy de Cruz


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Where Do We Go From Here?

Several people have expressed in person as well as in writing the sentiment that it would be a shame after last weekend’s conference with Sally Gary that we would not follow up with some way to continue the conversation.

I agree.

Many of us are still in the process of reflecting on all that has been said.  At the staff level we have not yet had an opportunity to thoroughly debrief our collective experience of the conference weekend or air our own thoughts about how to proceed with a church-wide discussion about same sex attraction.  Also, our elders and board have just begun their own discussion on the matter and are praying through various points of view that have been shared thus far.

Here are a few suggestions about continuing the conversation that I have begun to mull over.  Please add yours as the Spirit gives you ideas.

  1. Host a series of congregational gatherings for folks to speak to the issue and perhaps ask questions that embody their concerns.
  2. Host a small group focused on the subject of same sex attraction where people could go deeper in a relatively ‘safe’ environment.
  3. Start a family support group focused on learning how to help people interact faithfully and gracefully with their family members who have come out or who have begun to talk about their own same sex orientation.
  4. Start a book club of sorts and begin reading and discussion one or more recommended books on the subject.  As an alternate, one or more already-established small groups could do this.
  5. Ask a brave member of our congregation who wrestles with same sex attraction to come to your small group and discuss what it has been like to be ‘out’ at Hope Chapel.

To be clear–I am committed to continuing this conversation in a grace-filled manner.  I believe that Jesus wants us to walk openly in a welcoming manner with Christ-followers who wrestle with same sex attraction while seeking to remain faithful to the Gospel.

 Hopefully, we will become evermore a place where all manner of disaffected people far from God, may draw near to Christ Jesus and find salvation.


Posted in Culture Matters, Discipleship, Homosexuality | 3 Comments

Sally Gary Book Recommendations

Dearly Beloved, below you will find several book recommendations that Sally Gary made during our conversation over this past weekend.  I have taken the liberty to add my own notes to each recommendation.  –geno

Messy Grace, by Caleb Kaltenbach.  Caleb was raised in a home where both of his birth parents experienced same sex attraction and split up when he was very young.  He was subsequently raised by his mother and her same sex partner.  His book chronicles the story of his becoming a follower of Jesus, experiencing a painful separation from his mother and then a much-later reconciliation.  I like this book because Caleb very clearly articulates a traditional view of marriage while at the same time maintaining a mercy-oriented view of the homosexual community.  I think we can learn some things from Caleb.  

Us vs. Us, by Andrew Marin (Marin Foundation).  Sally noted that the Marin Foundation has done some of the most important work on understanding the gay community in the U.S.  She included their statistic that 86% of people in the homosexual community have come out of conservative church backgrounds.  I still find that hard to believe, but she maintained it to be true.

Torn, by Justin Lee.  Justin does, in fact, have a strong evangelical background as Sally noted.  In his book Justin notes how the Body of Christ has torn itself apart in acrimonious disputes over how to approach Christ followers who experience same sex attraction.  His title also references his own feelings and the feelings of others who have experienced rejection and confusion over their own homosexual orientation.

God and the Gay Christian, by Matthew Vines.  Matthew also has a strong evangelical background in the Presbyterian church where his father was an elder.  Matthew is the leader of a movement of mostly young Christ followers who are urging the church to accept homosexual marriage and same sex relationships as a norm.  He marshals a cogent set of arguments for his position.  If you want to read a book that will catch you up on the position for this non-traditional view of marriage, this is the book to start with.  I should note that I disagree with Matthew’s position.


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Never Going Back

(Note: Annette Christopher read her testimony one recent Sunday at Hope Chapel before the worship team introduced the song ‘Never Going Back’.  It was a very powerful and moving moment for me and others.  She has graciously agreed to allow me to publish her words here.  –geno)

Christopher, Annette

When I first heard the song, Never Going Back, it had such a connection to my personal story that I felt I could have written the song.

In my childhood, I had to deal with complex emotional issues such as abandonment,abrasiveness and no sense of belonging to anyone or anything.

“Faithful one no matter how far I run. You lead me home. You extend your love. Patiently fathering the orphan in me, you say I’m your own.”

Although my family was once Catholic and then just culturally Catholic, by the time I was child our spiritual digression sank into a strong antiChristian sentiment.So I learned that the idea of a savior was more of a fairytale and needing one was sign of weakness. The way I moved through the world was based on fear and performance. And if you would have asked me at the time, I thought I needed nothing. I didn’t know there was more.

A very unlikely candidate to come to Christ, before I even came, I realize, now, He maneuvered situations in my life all along the way. He knew the beginning from the end.

It was always Him. He found me.

Many years ago a member of this church (Hope Chapel), and my then-coworker, literally sought me out. Like the most extreme cold call you’ve ever heard of,she tirelessly pursued me and sought a way onto my radar and showed a blind person how to see what she saw.

“Righteousness found only in your face.you see my heart, you extend your grace. Eyes open, falling in love again, you say I’m your own I never am alone.”

He found me…like a needle in a haystack.

It’s not easy to convert as an adult into a completely new and foreign thought life. Its relearning everything you’ve always known. And maybe I’ve been surprised by what this choice means at times. And maybe I don’t always like it. It’s a paradigm shift.

But one thing I’ve always known is I’m never going back. Because I know there is nothing “back” to go to. A mystical transaction occurred in my heart when I said yes to Jesus. And previous places I’ve roamed or even lived ,are no longer inhabitable.There is only forward now, even when I can’t see 2 inches in front of me. It’s not only better than the alternative, it’s the best alternative.

About 5 yrs ago, I found myself inexplicably in the hardest place I’ve ever been.Everything was upside down in my thoughts,in my life and in my day to day functioning. I was so overwhelmed with fear and despair, I didn’t think I would come out of it.

But I made up my mind. And I’m glad and grateful for that grace. I’m never going back. I now know, as I’m slowly coming out of my worst bout of refining fire to date, that all His promises are real and true.

“It was always you. You found me.”  Stuff I’ve only read or heard about turns out to be true.

“There’s nothing that I have need of. There’s nothing you haven’t done.”  This kind of restoration takes lifelong deeply rooted thought destruction and makes it a nonissue.

Where once an unsurpassable obstruction stood; He removed it and gave life to a fortified, better, newer version of me. I’m not the one who says such things. But I’ve experienced it.  So now it’s real.

“You make my soul alive. You put your love inside.”

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God Picks our Battles

(Editor’s note: I received this encouragement following this past Sunday’s sermon (June 5).  Thought I’d pass it along.  –geno)

Thank you for your exhortation Sunday! You encouraged us to listen to and obey what The Lord tells us to do in a given situation, to seek counsel, but to stand firm in what He tells you. You said that if we’re looking for a fight with a chip on our shoulder, that’s not The Lord. If we are seeking Him, He will pick our fights for us. Amen. This has been my experience. I would add this; that when we find ourselves in a fight God has picked for us (or picked us for), the sword that comes from His mouth is double-edged. It cuts at my heart, too. In the fighting He calls us to, the wounds we incur doing His will are faithful.

Posted in Community Life, Discipleship, God's Sovereignty, Nature of God | 1 Comment

Giving With a Generous Heart–A ‘Plunder’ Story

(Editor’s Note: I have shared Bonnie’s story a couple of times publicly to encourage people as we continue to pray about helping to fund repairs to Hope’s main building complex this summer.  When presenting the need as our Sunday night service, Bonnie exclaimed, involuntarily ‘Ah!’ out loud, and then told us the following tale and how the Holy Spirit was stirring her that night.  It’s a great God story.  Be encouraged…and ask God for your own plunder.  –geno)

At Sunday night service May 1, Geno shared with us the Restoration Plan for Hope and the Biblical background in Exodus of giving from “a generous heart” that Moses gave to the Israelites for the building of the Tabernacle. No taxes. No tithes. Just giving what God put on their hearts: “an offering of the Lord: gold, and silver, and bronze…onyx stones and stones for setting…” (Ex 35: 5,9, ESV). The best part was that all the provision had already been made when they fled Egypt years before. The Israelites were told that they would have “favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry….So you shall plunder the Egyptians” (3:21-22).

Then my heart turned over a couple of times! That very morning I had taken out of my drawer yet again a small, but heavy, velvet pouch of elaborate rings of silver and gold and every type of precious stones inherited from my mother and Dan’s mother years before in 2008 and 2009, as well as other rings they had given me as gifts over many years. Ring count: 39, more than enough for all my fingers, almost 4 times over. Long ago, I had chosen my favorites to wear. This pouch was the overflow of the “plunder” of a time when women wore more elaborate, ornate jewelry than my current tastes or the current fashion. Dozens of times over these seven/eight years I have taken that pouch out, set it on my dresser, resolved finally to find the time to research and to get them to the right person to sell them. Each time they went back into the drawer. Not the right time.

Sunday night, I was certain the right time has come!

Now, I know that in today’s word, the “plunder” may come in other less literal forms than actual gold and silver and jewels, but for me, this was a crazy, cool moment that our God could also have provided years before the literal word of his Scripture for my provision in the exact for as that of the Israelites. In addition, nothing could be more pleasing and honoring to my mother, who took me to church as a child every Sunday (although I strayed far from that upbringing) or to Dan’s mother, who spoke to us night and day of the Lord, prayed for us, and when we did finally return, had in depth Bible studies and prayer for the family at her house.

The right time has come for the gold, silver, and jewels to be poured into the Tabernacle. Now I understand why I waited. Symbolically it’s only sweeter that seven years is a biblical number of completion.

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Repairing Hope Slide Presentations

Dearly Beloved,

Since Hope’s building was significantly damaged on May 25, 2015, a great deal of work has gone on behind the scenes.  Initially Sharon Kern, and others, met with a bevy of insurance claims adjusters who studied the damage done by ground water flooding the lower floor of our children’s wing.

Following their study the Hope Chapel board appointed a three-person panel, which we called the Building Assessment Team (BAT!), to look over the insurance reports and do their own study on the structure as a whole.  Their job was to make recommendations to the Hope Chapel board on where repairs needed to be made beyond the obvious damage due to flooding.

You can see their slide presentation here:  Building Assessment Team Report

Following the BAT report, Hope’s board then discussed the scope of the repair project to pursue.  Toward the end of that time of discernment we hired Scott McDonald to become project manager on major building repair and remodeling project.  Scott put several months of work into his own assessment of the project, following the BAT and Insurance Adjusters.  He then gave an overview of his proposed project at the Congregational Meeting on Wednesday, April 6, 2016.

You can see his slide presentation here:  Building Project Report

Finally, this past Sunday, May 1, I presented Scott’s proposal in summary and laid out a plan to finance the proposed repair/remodeling project.  I also suggested a way to pray for provision to support the project–by seeking ‘plunder’.  If you wish to listen to the sermon, you can find it here:  It’s About God, Not Us

You can view my slide presentation here:  Capital Campaign 2016

These three slide presentation, even though they come without words, will provide a clear understanding of the project we are undertaking together over the next 8 months or so.  Please pray, asking God to show you how to participate.  And also pray for Scott and the leadership of Hope Chapel, that we will receive from God wisdom and grace for the task.

Finally, please consider giving a generous donation to help fund these much-needed repairs to Hope’s main building complex.  Here is the link:  Pledge/Give Now.


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A Taste of Heaven

This past Sunday (March 6, 2016) Pablo and Maria Duran led Hope Chapel’s communion service.  They had a wonderful idea–that it would be great to hear multiple languages when the Scripture was read aloud.  So they recruited several friends, as you can see below:

2016-03-06 10.34.27

Here are the speakers from Right-to-Left, in order of their reading on Sunday:

  1. The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16a) (English – Maria Duran, from U.S.)
  2. The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Cor. 10:16b) (Portuguese – Martha Breternitz , from Brazil)
  3. Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (1 Cor. 10:17) (TurkishJohn Konacki,  from Turkey)
  4. Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. (1 Cor. 12:12) (Kannada – Shirin Naidu,  from India)Standing to her right is Avinash Naidu, her husband.
  5. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. (1 Cor. 12:13) (Spanish – Isabel Marin, from Mexico)
  6. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many. (1 Cor. 12:14) (Luo – Churchill Ojok,  from Uganda)
  7. Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Cor. 12:27) (EnglishPablo Duran, from Chile)

I found the experience to be, well, heavenly.  As each read the Scripture in his/her own heart language the words were projected behind them in English, so we could all engage in both the text and the sound.

This was super-appropriate as we approached the Lord’s Table because there will be some from every tribe, tongue, people and nation (Revelation 5:9-14) worshiping the Lamb.  One major difference between now and then–we won’t need a translator to understand our brothers and sisters when joined as one around the Throne.


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Beauty: Dami Im singing ‘This is My Desire’ before fame

Dearly Beloved,

Some time ago I came across the work of Australian singer Dami Im.  She had won Australia’s ‘X Factor’ contest in 2013 in stunning fashion.  What caught my attention is that in her first audition, she came across as a shy, young Korean woman who just wanted to make it in the big league of show biz.  In that very first interview she was asked where she had sung before and she said it had been in mostly small venues, churches in Korea mostly.

Very interesting.  So I went looking to see if there was evidence of her work singing in churches on the internet, and, indeed, there are quite a few videos uploaded.  I has been interesting to follow her career a bit, just to see how she would handle fame.  It seems to me that she has done very well with that after a fitful start.

Of all her videos, this is the sweetest, the purest, in my opinion.  It was recorded in her home studio about a year before she rocketed to fame.  It is obvious that she is not just singing, but worshipping.  I hope you enjoy it.  I return to it often for my own inspiration.


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