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.

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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.


Posted in Culture Matters, Spiritual Gifts | Leave a comment

Simplicity and Art

Following a recent sermon featuring exhortations to embrace the spiritual discipline of simplicity a friend at Hope Chapel raised an interesting question, which I will put in my own words, “If we are supposed to live so frugally, saving all we can, what will become of artists trying to sell their works?”

 Another way to pose the question is ask, “Can a committed Christian buy works of art?”  Shouldn’t all the money I save from my exercise of simplicity be given to support God’s work in the earth?

 Following the logic of ‘Earn all you can, Save all you can, Give all you can’ to absurdity will yield this result.  What John Wesley was laying out in his sermo, was a way to think about the resources and the strength God gives to each one of us…that we should develop a Spirit-inspired vision for to use of our wealth.

 I believe one of the most important aspects of moving away from a rote obedience to the tithe as a form of Christian discipleship is that God wants us to partner with Him (and vice-versa) in ever-deepening relationship.  He wants us to ask him what to do with our lives and our resources…constantly, consistently.  This will keep us praying and listening.

 So my first reply to this seeming conundrum is to challenge people with the resources for purchasing art or expensive cars or any display of wealth is to pray.  Go to Jesus, say, “All I am, all I have is yours.  What do you want me to do with it?”  He will guide you.

 The second bit of advice I give to people with wealth who ask me what they should do in giving stuff away is this:  follow your heart.  I believe when we walk in harmony with God He gives us understanding into our own hearts.  I also believe he is pleased to put desires into our hearts, to break our hearts with the things that break His.  When we observe this work in our lives, then we are beginning to receive direction from His Spirit.  In taking time to learn what breaks our own heart…and also breaks His, then we can begin to spend our resources in ways that relieve that burden and please God.

 We can also understand those things that thrill God’s heart and begin to support initiatives that honor God and bring Him glory.  Artists and their work reflect the creative nature of God and reveal something of His character in the excellence and beauty of their work.  Their works should be purchased for that reason alone.

 The math is simple here.  In order to create more beauty an artist must be supported either through the sale of her art or in outright gifts of support.

 There are many other reasons for purchasing art or even expensive cars.  This blog is not designed for such in-depth discussion.  But suffice it to say that the spiritual discipline of simplicity should not be wielded as a club against the God-honoring work of supporting artists by purchasing their work.  Each believer should consider it his highest duty to ask God how He wants to use the resources placed at our disposal…and then simply obey.  God will direct.

We can be both frugal and patrons of the arts.  These things are not incompatible.


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I Hope You Had Fun During The Austin Marathon

In what has become an annual event at Hope Chapel, about half our adult population and a significant number of our teens and children cheered several hundred Austin Marathon runners as they whizzed through our neighborhood.


Led by Suzi Raines and Jennifer Boltz, this yearly effort has become a highlight for many of us at Hope Chapel.  We hold our Sunday worship service on Saturday night and then turn out as many as possible on Sunday morning to hand out water and Gatorade, cheer on runners, and just have fun together.

Marathon 3

Because we are an official charity and water stop along the route, Hope Chapel also has the privilege of setting up a ‘booth’ at the Parmer Expo Center where each of the 10,000 or so runners must obtain their official ‘bib’ which displays their participant number and other gear.  While there we told runners who stopped by that we would pray for them, is that was something they preferred.  34 said, “Yes!” to that offer.

We also offered to cheer runners by name.  107 gave us their bib number and we were able to help energize each participant by shouting their names and encouraging them in this personal way.  Several were so delighted they stepped out of the race to give us hugs.


I enjoyed the entire weekend.  It started while I was helping Jennifer staff Hope Chapel’s booth at the Expo where we handed out packets of EmergenC with Hope’s business card stapled to it while talking to runners about cheering them on or praying for them.

I took a break during a slow spell and walked around the expo gathering swag and talking up other exhibitors.  At the GEICO tent I won a cool t-shirt and a runner’s massage in perpetuity and got a photo with their mascot.

2016-02-12 16.53.33-2

On Sunday morning I participated in the shortest of all runs–the 5K (3.2 miles), where I clocked a smooth 39.02 minutes (just under 13 minutes per mile).  I was pleased.  I was trying to break 15 minutes per mile which is only a fast walk.  Here is what your intrepid runner looked like just after crossing the finish line.


Whether you participated in the event in some form, or just enjoyed a Sunday off, you should know that Hope Chapel has built and continues to enjoy a great reputation in the city for being a group of people who love others, finding ways to substantively serve others.


I look forward to serving Christ by serving others in our city with you all during the Marathon next year.


Here’s a video shot by Suzi Raines for your viewing pleasure:





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Common (Financial) Sense

In his book Money, Possessions and Eternity, (Tyndall House publishers, rev. ed. 2011) Randy Alcorn listed 10 ‘Practical Guidelines to Control Spending’.  I thought it might be wise reproduce that common-sense list here.  They include:

  1. Realize that nothing is a good deal if you can’t afford it
  1. Recognize that God isn’t behind every good deal
  1. Understand the difference between spending money and saving money (no ‘savings’ on purchasing $80 sweater for $30—saving is setting aside money for future use)
  1. Look at the long-term cost, not just the short-term expense
  1. Pray before you spend (God may want to supply this need / want for free or at a greatly reduced cost—TIME cover with C.S. Lewis)
  1. Examine every purchase in light of its ministry potential (could money be better used to preach gospel or help poor)
  1. Understand and resist the manipulative nature of advertising
  1. Learn to walk away from things you want but don’t need
  1. Realize that little things add up
  1. Set up a budget and live by it
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Responses to ‘Why No Ash Wednesday Services at Hope’

Kevin Daniel 2-3-16:

I will agree this is an unsatisfying response ;-) , but unsatisfying because it leaves unsaid what I feel is a minor point only… but worth saying nonetheless.

For seven years we have had others come to “our home” and lead us in a form of worship which many of us have enjoyed.

They have now invited us to “their home” in which the celebrate and enjoy this sacrament for the first time.

Geno mentioned we could go to a local church nearby. Why not continue the relationship thus far fostered and, as a community, make a show of “housewarming” Christ Church Anglican by attending their service specifically?

Did you know that after Brentwood Church of Christ sold Hope Chapel its building it later came back and enjoyed pick nicks in the park with Hope Chapel?

Yet, honestly, not sure I am one to speak either: I myself may not attend CCA’s Ash Wednesday service due to other factors.

Just my thoughts.

Tommy McIntosh 2-3-16:

Excellent, excellent response Pastor.

Steve Hawthorne 2-3-16:

I support this decision. I had long anticipated that we would come to this. We have been a huge influence for united prayer and worship in our city, country and the world. And we must aspire to a great vision of all peoples worshiping as one people before God in Christ. But following particular liturgical traditions, especially those with little or no biblical grounding, is not something we need to do because it is an ancient practice or that the practice is trending well.

Your note was wisely written. Let’s keep pursuing greater glory for God!

LaVerne Johnston 2-3-16:

I like your suggestion in the last paragraph and have already thought of friends who go to St. George and St. Francis.    Perhaps we’ll join them.

Leigh Adams 2-3-16:

If I’m not mistaken, Hope Chapel had Ash Wednesday services prior to CC’s partnership in them. But they were led under David Taylor and attended well by our Catholic friends who have since left. Donna Haskins invited me to my first. It was very powerful.

My first Ash Wednesday service was early on in my Hope days prior to Cliff even being back in Austin. Just thought I’d bring this up. It was always my understanding that we partnered with them b/c it was something we had both been doing previously. I do think they lead us into a Maundy Thursday service. I don’t have a strong opinion on the matter, though it does sadden me that we won’t be doing it anymore. It’s been an amazing piece of crossing the denominational lines… something Hope’s history is so rich in. We are getting more “normal” and probably focused so to speak. And maybe that’s God’s doing.

However, I will add that I’m saddened to see our efforts going toward something like the marathon rather than an Ash Wednesday service. The marathon is not my favorite thing… as a church-wide effort. It’s my issue, Nothing sinful on anyone’s part.

I try to rarely speak up about grievances. I know your job is not an easy one. I do respect that you and the staff do not feel comfortable leading in something you are not prepared for (your words :)

Blessings Geno as you hear from all the cats.

Yes, I just texted DT and he began our Ash Wednesday services in 2001. Just thought this was relevant to the discussion. Doesn’t change the outcome though, I realize.

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Why No Ash Wednesday Services at Hope?

(Editor’s Note: I sent this letter out by HopeMail earlier today, but wanted to also post it here in case anyone wanted to see its contents again.  –geno)

Dearly Beloved,

I have been asked on a number of occasions why Hope Chapel will not be holding Ash Wednesday services this year. The answer is a simple one, but may not be satisfying.

Put simply, our leadership, beginning with me, is not prepared theologically or liturgically to lead Ash Wednesday services (or Maundy Thursday services). Our long-standing Lenten practice has been to emphasize only Good Friday and do it in a now-typical Hope Chapel style, which is very different from the way liturgical communions celebrate these special worship services.

A little background may be helpful to understand my reasoning. Hope Chapel is theologically a descendent of the 16th-century movement called the Protestant Reformation begun by Martin Luther’s protest against papal overreach which he famously detailed in 95 theses he nailed to the village church door in Wittenberg in 1517. As this reform movement gained popularity across Europe it developed into a number of different streams. Hope Chapel is most closely descended from the Anabaptist movement (see the Wiki link below for more information).

Among diverse matters of church polity and forms of worship, reform leaders began to question to what degree the church calendar should be followed. As you can imagine, many different answers emerged. One stream determined that there were only five ‘feasts’ that evangelical congregations should follow: Christmas, Ascension, Good Friday, Easter and Pentecost (see Wiki link below for more information). Hope Chapel has historically followed four of the five through most of her history (all except Ascension Day).

An argument can be made that Hope Chapel can observe any day she deems appropriate to observe. And we have done so, as we have seen fit. So when our dear friends at Christ Church Anglican asked to use our building until they could acquire their own, my response was, “Yes, of course. And let us celebrate the liturgical celebrations of Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday with you in your traditional manner. And you can join us on Good Friday in our traditional manner.” We followed this course for seven years. I found it refreshing.

Now Christ Church has purchased her own building and will be joyfully celebrating the Lenten season in all the glory of their tradition. Cliff has issued an invitation to anyone from Hope Chapel that wishes to do so to join them for their Ash Wednesday services and Maundy Thursday service.

Because Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday are a theological and liturgical stretch for our leadership I do not think we should continue them without the leadership and support structures of Christ Church Anglican.

Additionally, I think it might be a good practice for those who wish to observe these Lenten practices to find a church nearby and join their congregants for Ash Wednesday and Maundy Thursday celebrations. This has the potential to promote goodwill across church boundary lines and open us up to the ways our brothers and sisters worship Jesus in different traditions.




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