Monday, January 27, 2014

Profit and Loss

These two terms are very basic terms used in business every day.  They relate to the bottom line.  In business, when you profit you are making money and when there is a loss you are losing money.  But for those of us dealing with life issues, profit and loss becomes less exact.  We weigh decisions ... we weigh choices ... we weigh life.  Does this decision or this choice make sense?  That might seem profitable but I must play it out to its end ... will the end of the story be profitable?  When I play out the events that might happen, will this be something good or something bad?  Will it bring life or take life away?  Will it honor God or cause God to be sad?

One day when I was a boy I was walking down through my back yard and I saw two doves sitting in a tree. They were at least 40 yards away and a thought came through my mind.  "I wonder if I could hit one of them with a rock i saw on the ground."  I wasn't planning to use them for food.  I wasn't planning some noble thing.  I just wanted to know if i could "make the shot," ... "hit the target."  So I picked up the rock, aimed and threw ... and hit both doves with that rock.  They tumbled to the ground any my exhilaration turned to horror and shame.  I had taken the life of something beautiful, not for any good purpose, but because I could do it.  My power over the life of these two birds caused their death and at that moment I felt hurt, shame and guilt (all deserved).

I have thrown other rocks in my life.  They have flown into the hearts of people I did not want to hurt.  Some of them may not have been ill-intended but they hurt others and I felt the same feeling of loss, hurt and guilt.  I guess life is a learning experience of following what Jesus taught and doing what Jesus leads us to do.  In Matthew 16 Jesus reminds us that "profit" is when we learn to "turn from our selfish ways, take up our cross and follow Him."  Three actions ... turn, take up and follow.  "Lord ... show me the way through the places you have called me to carry that cross.  Bandage those I have hurt and bless those who you send my way. Let me never have power over anything or anyone except that I may express love as you have loved me." Randy

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Broken and Holy

Human life is a paradox.  The human condition is, Biblically and daily, filled with a constant state of brokenness.  Paul recounted that he did the things he didn't want to do and failed to do the things he should do.  David asked God to clean his heart becaues he knew that the human heart is, above all else, deceitful. Romans tells us that we have all sinned and fallen short of what God has planned for us.  2 Corinthians 4 says we are broken clay pots ... yet we are treasures that carry in us the light of Christ.

Paul writes these beautiful words because he understood that while we are broken we carry in us the capacity to hold, reveal and express Christ.  A Caedmon's Call song says that we are as fallen as angels and as holy as prayers.  We live lives that are, in one sense, shattered by the reality of our sin.  Yet, because of the power of Jesus, we can live, act and love in ways that become light to the dark world because inside us we have a treasure ... his name is Jesus.  That light shines out at unexpected times.  It shines when we truly worship and allow God to convict and change us.  It shines when we give love to others knowing that because of God our supply of love is endless.  It shines when one human gives up life for another.  It shines when we pray for a friend or someone we might not even know.  It shines when we forgive others.  And it shines, in a way that heals us, when we kneel and tell God the truth about ourselves, trusting that he will change that truth to something better.

In Luke 18:9-14 we find the familiar story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.  The Tax Collector kneels at the altar expressing the reality that he is broken and that he must rely on God's love, mercy and forgiveness to restore him to something of worth.  It is a great story and it is the story of every single one of us.  Go look in the mirror.  Tell yourself and God the truth, however ugly that truth really is.  Ask for God's mercy and then ask for one more thing.  Ask for His grace.  It is available in unending measure.  In fact, that spring of living water was released on every human at the Cross ... already working and already able to forgive all the sins before and after.  The story in Luke 18 tells us that two men went to the altar that day. One gave God his resume' of human goodness (the Pharisee) ... he went home the same way he came ... broken, vile and still heaping refuse on the garbage pile of his life.  The other, the Tax Collector, went away justified (forgiven) because he saw himself honestly, confessed his brokenness and asked for and received God's forgiving grace.

We are truly treasures in clay jars, broken so that when God's light is placed inside it shines through the cracks and lights up the world around us.  Leonard Cohen (quoted recently by both John Riley and me from the song 'Anthem') was right.  "ring the bells you can ring, forget your perfect offering, everything is cracked, that's how the light gets in."  Randy

Sunday, January 12, 2014


This blog is a bit different than some.  I am usually highlighting a sermon message, giving insight past the usual Sunday message or just venting on a needed subject.  Our subject this coming week is choosing.  I have made some good choices and some bad choices.  But this week humor me in choosing to be thankful

I want to stop and give thanks for a few things.  For a church that wants to really get what the Bible is saying, I give thanks.  For friends who accept me in my infirmity, I give thanks.  For family that loves me knowing my faults, I give thanks.  For all of the gifts at Christmas, given to Lee and I, I give thanks.  For the chance to serve God with whatever giftedness I have, I give thanks.  For life and breath in a free country, I give thanks.

I think in Deuteronomy 30 Moses is both focused on the future and thankful for the mission God has given him.  His work has been a long, painful and fulfilling ride.  He has seen his people saved from slavery in Egypt and ensnared by themselves.  God called them peculiar, a treasure, a kingdom of priests, stiff-necked, disobedient and rebellious.  They were a paradox ... one that sounds similar to the church of today.  But Moses was thankful for his journey to be nearing an end and thankful that God would somehow, in spite of the behavior of the people, fulfill his promise and send the people into the land He had promised them.  He had fought the good fight, accomplished his mission, and Moses would die as one of the greatest men who ever lived.

John Wesley talked about three goals for each day.  Do all the good that you can, do no harm and stay in love with God.  I think Moses was thankful he, on most days, did just that.  I pray I can do the same and go off into that good night having done something good for someone.  How about you?

Monday, January 6, 2014

Getting Serious

I used to go to a church where the people prided themselves in being all the right things.  They were all staunchly devoted to the principles that they said "made this country great."  They went to Sunday School and some of the leaders taught.  They upheld all of the liturgical and seasonal practices that had gone on for many years in that congregation.  They were everything they were expected to be in a church in that community and in that region.  But at church meetings, you had better lock down all the furniture!  They were spiteful, abusive and they were ready and willing to demean other people to get their own way.

As a new person I asked myself several questions.  How could people who followed Jesus behave like that?  How could a 'church' support the hurting of other people?  How could Christians be so quick to assume bad motives, assert accusatory rhetoric and assail other people?  I think there is a very good reason these things happen and they stem from a passage everyone of those so-called Christian people could quote on the spot.  John 3:16 (you know it) says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life!"  You might ask, "Randy, what does that have to do with misbehaving church people and nasty board meetings?"  Glad you asked!

There is a little word in John 3:16 that we miss.  It is short, of little consequence and it gets lost in the bigger and more important words.  It is the word "in."  In the Greek this word can be translated in or into and we (to be correct in the English) should maybe translate it 'into', because that is what Jesus means here.  "Don't just believe I exist ... believe into my teaching, leading and ministry!"  "Don't just think I was a great teacher in 1st century Israel ... believe I am God's one and only Son!." "Don't memorize my words and think you have done something ... apply them, suffer for them, bleed for them, struggle with them and wrap your arms around them as you would hold a child you love!"

Do you believe Jesus is the truth?  Then apply His words by loving, being gentle, edifying the Church.  Do you believe Jesus is the way?  Then follow Him to inevitable suffering, inevitable pain and inevitable eternal life (I love that last one).  Do you believe Jesus is the life?  Then give the words He taught more power in your life.  So we speak to other people with grace and we treat other people with kindness, gentleness, self-control, joy, patience, peace and love.  My former church taught me all the wrong things about being a follower of Jesus but, thank the Lord, Jesus didn't quit teaching and leading me.  I still get it wrong sometimes and have to eat my words, go to another person and tell them I have been a bonehead or ask another person to forgive me.  But I am letting these episodes teach me so they become fewer and fewer.  I long for the day when they are no longer part of my life ... I hope you do too!  Randy