Monday, September 28, 2015


When I worked in Louisiana I had a shop foreman named Alfred.  Alfred could cook as well as anyone I ever met, but as a shop foreman Alfred did not bear witness to good habits.  He was cranky, lethargic and lazy.  While work went on outside of his little cubicle (cluttered, unkempt and air-conditioned) ... Alfred would live out each day in relative comfort.  Meanwhile his employees were in 98 degree heat, 98% humidity and working beside a levy of the Red River ... bugs, heat, sweat, and general discomfort.  The employees (though not stellar themselves) resented Alfred.  But the worst thing Alfred was prone to do was take numerous daily naps.  He hated to get awakened by things like broken down equipment, a mechanical crisis or a visit from the General Manager (me).  That is probably why I loved to visit Alfred frequently, usually making enough noise to wake the dead (it was sometimes hard to determine if Alfred was living or dead).  So it was with a little church in Sardis, Revelation Chapter 3, verses 1-6.  Jesus judged that little church as being dead (though they talked as if they were very alive).  I remember reading a book by Jim Cowart in which he described many of our churches as "livin the life" on a long cruise filled with food, fun and play.  In his book Jim reminded us that we are not designed to be a cruise ship.  We are structured to engage the enemy, rescue the sick and lost and be a place of healing.  We can choose to be like Alfred (asleep), like Sardis (dead), like that cruise ship (oblivious) or like Jesus' Church (engaged and involved).  It's our choice!  Randy

Sunday, September 20, 2015

From Within

It is notable that when we review history we find that the majority of civilizations don't fail because they are destroyed by some outside enemy.  They are, instead, destroyed by something that comes from within.  Growing up in the 60's I understand this as I think of the music idols that have lived and died while the world watched.  Jimi Hendrix ... a gifted and immense talent ... died from a drug overdose.  The list of other musicians dying of drugs is vast.  Rudy Lewis from the Drifters.  Jim Morrison from the Doors.  Gram Parsons from the Byrds.  Elvis Presley, the king of rock and roll.  Whitney Houston ... and I could go on and on.  Fame, money, attention, worldly honors were just not enough.  All of these musical giants were brought down from within.

 So it was with the church at Thyatira.  While it wasn't drugs, immorality and idols were the issues for Thyatira.  A woman in the church led some of the people astray by telling them she possessed "deep secrets" that were hidden to others.  This Gnostic theme would plague the Church for decades and it would bring suffering and pain to those in that congregation in Thyatira.

C. S. Lewis writes the best treatise ever about the workings of internal evil as his "Screwtape Letters" describe the daily work of a demon and that demon's apprentice.  Lewis' demon advises ... "Keep his mind on the inner life. He thinks his conversion is something inside him and his attention is therefore chiefly turned at present to the states of his own mind ..."  All of those artists, and possibly the Christians at Thyatira, were caught up in thinking about how they could feed their internal desires ... the desire to know more than the next person, the desire to allow their bodies to feel the pleasures they deserved and the desire to believe in something they could control (idols).  Maybe we should learn from them and remember that when we focus on God and others we fulfill our purpose and mission in life, and we find peace and fulfillment.  I think the Great Commandment was right!

Monday, September 14, 2015


I will admit to hating conflict to the point of sometimes failing to deal with it.  This is a hard admission for me because I love people and sometimes conflict and confrontation are the path to good outcomes.  On Thursdays our Celebrate Recovery meetings include 8 principles based on the Beatitudes.  If you read the Beatitudes closely they are immersed in the conflicts we face in life ... submission to a greater good/power, properly expressed grief, placing ourselves in a position of humility, giving up time and energy to seek God's path of righteousness, having mercy when our spirit wants revenge, choosing purity when more pleasing options exist and (a biggie) making peace when other actions are more natural.

Our Revelation church this Sunday is Pergamum.  The people of Pergamum have many of the conflicts listed above.  They live in a place Jesus calls "Satan's home."  One would think that Satan would embrace and promote an atmosphere of conflict.  But often Satan leads us to just do nothing about issues that internally destroy us.  For example, Christian Life Resources reports that since 1973 there have been over 50 million abortions.  There have been 200,000 drug overdose deaths in the US since 2000 ... some of these have impacted people right here in Abbeville.  The US ranks (in Ranking America) 14th in Education and 23rd in Science Scores among ranked countries.  Do we ignore and tolerate these issues or do we oppose them? Pergamum chose the path of tolerating sinfulness within the midst of the Church.  Maybe they choose to say "Why can't we all get along?" or  "I just don't want to get involved."  I see a lot of that these days.  And what Jesus reminds the Church at Pergamum is that we can oppose these things now (when they are small) or have greater conflict later (when Jesus personally comes to oppose them with the "sword of His mouth"[v. 2:16]).  I remember the old Fram oil filter commercial that says "you can pay me now or pay me later." 

I wonder if we have (in our families, our state and our nation) decided that the path of no conflict is, in itself, a solution.  My dad told me something very wise about this.  He said, inaction is, in itself, a path of action.  Some things are worth conflict.  Let's remember that Jesus found our salvation and redemption worthy of conflict and a "hill worth dying on."

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Sharing Christ's Journey

How can we share Jesus' journey?  We talk about sharing the Bible ... God's Word, and that is good.  But remember what John 1 said ... "In the beginning was the Word (meaning Jesus) and the Word was with God and the Word was God."  So ... when we share God's Word, aren't we supposed to share Jesus?  And how can we share Jesus if we are only observers of His journey?  Here is my point.

I hear people say "I love the Bible!" or "He/she really loves Scripture!"  This might be true, but do you grasp what the Bible and Scripture are asking of us?  These are not words on a page to be solely read, memorized and observed.  Jesus desires that we participate and live in them.  For if we share His journey, we walk His path, live His life, see through His eyes and hear through His ears.

The people of Smyrna got this loud and clear.  They understood that God's purpose and Jesus' plan did not deliver us from suffering and struggling for our faith.  In fact, they are commended for their following Jesus (as is expressed in Hebrews 13) "outside the camp."  Here are the words of that passage ... "So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by means of his own blood.  So let us go out to him, outside the camp, and bear the disgrace he bore!" [Hebrews13:12-13].  As I think of all of the pop-theology and "land-over-yonder" thinking about God anesthetizing our pain as a primary part of His plan, I am reminded of John 17's prayer of Jesus in which He asks God NOT to remove His followers from the world but to protect them from Satan.  In this prayer and the words before and after, Jesus tells His followers they WILL have pain, suffering and heartache, but that He has overcome all worldly things on their behalf.  There is nothing the world can throw at us that Jesus cannot redeem.

If you love the Bible and Scripture, remember that our love for God's Word means we love Jesus enough to understand that following Jesus means we do suffer, struggle and strive, because we will eventually arrive at our home with/in Him.  Thanks be to God!  Randy