Monday, October 26, 2015


When the New Testament (especially Paul) makes reference to the saints I ask three questions.  Who are the saints?  What makes them saints?  How does this apply in my life?

In the movie "Saint Vincent" Bill Murray is an irreverent, cursing, seedy old man who weasels his way through life on the edge of every situation.  He gambles, drinks, chases women and doesn't mind taking money from a single mother in need.  Yet, a little boy in the movie takes the time to see past the warts and finds a war hero who had traits worthy of what the boy called "sainthood."  It was "cute" but in the church we call this works righteousness.  Biblically, the saints are those who are God's redeemed (Revelation 5 calls them "purchased for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.").  So, first clue ... sainthood is not earned, it is conveyed by the work of God.  And the saints are those who have received and acknowledged God's great gift to them.  Sorry Vincent ... you didn't mention God's work or grace a single time so (though my vote doesn't count) I wouldn't grant you sainthood even if your good works outweighed your bad works.  That isn't the point.

What makes people saints is their connection to the God that has purchased them from everywhere for God's good purpose.  The purchase was made at the cross when God's offer of forgiveness and salvation were enabled by the sacrifice of Jesus, the lamb who was slain in Revelation 5.  Again, God's work has enacted the chance for salvation, and sainthood is enabled by our acceptance of this gift.  Saints have realized their fallenness, understood their separation from God, seen God's action and plan on their (and all people's) behalf, accepted God's gift by acknowledgement to God and accepting Jesus' Lordship, repentance that leads to becoming a new creation and submission to God's sanctification (a continual process of God bringing us from who we are today closer and closer to the likeness of Jesus).

How does this apply to me?  There are several clues to this in Revelation 5.  1) There is the expectation of God bringing all things into alignment with His final plan.  John weeps when he thinks God's plan cannot proceed ... 2) There is the vision of John seeing God's work happening in spite of what we perceive from an unreal and untrue world (faith is belief in God's true but often unseen things) ... 3) There is willingness to hear and sing a new song (yep, the ultimate and permanently-appropriate music from the throne of God) ... 4) There is acknowledgement/acceptance/participation of God's sufficiency and authority to get His plan rolling and send my plan packing, ... 5) There is understanding that as God's chosen "kingdom of priests" we must continually be a place where people connect with God (those tribes, peoples and nations meet Jesus through God's saints), ... and 6) We worship (that is the reaction of the 24 elders to what is happening ... submission in worship).  So saints ... what is competing with your following the actions above?  Is it your schedule, your plans, your recreation or just your stubbornness?  For me it can be all of the above, but if I want the fullness of life in God's plan, life in sainthood seems to be a way to that plan.  And all of your movie goers ... Jesus didn't say emulate Bill Murray ... Jesus said "follow Me!"  Randy

Monday, October 19, 2015


That is how I feel a lot of the time in ministry.  It should have started sooner but I am a little dense, so when I arrived at Seminary I felt like I had a pretty good grasp on things.  My calling was clear and I was motivated to jump into studies and ministry with both feet.  Two things happened that changed my view forever.  The first was meeting Dr. Bauer.  He was teaching Matthew and as he taught I realized the vast expanse between his level of knowledge and mine.  I was completely inadequate and ill-equipped for the ministry I had jumped into.  The second thing that happened was my first church-related death.  I walked into the hospital room and everyone looked at me for what I thought were words of comfort and hope.  I was totally inadequate.

Over time I learned some things about inadequacy.  The first thing I learned is that inadequacy is a good place to look up at God.  In Revelation 4 we find worship around God's throne by a group of inadequate servants.  They are worshiping around God's throne and John (a totally inadequate scribe) is describing a scene where only one is worthy of "glory, honor and power."  They are all looking to Jesus and expectantly wait for what will happen next.

The second thing I learned about inadequacy is that when we realize we are inadequate we seek guidance, leading and help from a God who has a handle on what should/must be done.  John says, "You created all things and by your will they existed and were created."  That kind of God can give us leading during all times of our lives and can equip us for every good task He has planned for us.

Finally, I learned that my eloquence and perfect words were not what is needed in a hospital room full of hurting people.  They don't need the perfect prayer, the perfect cliche' or the perfect preacher.  They need Jesus, hopefully clothing and wrapping me in His presence as I come in and offer them the only adequate thing, Christ.  They need a Jesus that listens to them, weeps with them, places a hand on them and uses every moment to start the healing process.  They need mourning, grieving and stories shared through tears and laughter.  They need a God who is so mighty that all of His children can stare death in the face and sing, "Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices."  Paul wrote some great words on the subject ... "He said to me 'My grace is sufficient for you for power is made perfect in weakness.' So I will boast all the more gladly of my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me." [2 Cor. 12:9-10] ... I think those words say it all.  Randy

Sunday, October 11, 2015


The story of the church in Laodicea (Rev. 3:14-22) unfortunately mirrors God's understanding of a human trait that is pervasive, universal, destructive and evil.  I believe it is the reason Jesus seems so upset and angry at the people of Laodicea.  This trait is reflected on the playground where one boy lords over another saying "I am bigger, stronger or faster."  It is found in the cafeteria as girls talk about who is prettier, more cunning, more popular or just better.  It is found in corporate America and radical Islam alike as pecking orders are established for manipulative reasons.  It is in India in the caste system and Brazil as luxury high-rise apartments look out on slums of unimaginable poverty.  It is even found as street gang members one-up other members to establish superiority.  You can call it what you like.  Snobbery, elitism, prejudice ... but it lives in the back of all of our minds, trying to express itself in our daily lives.

A church in an affluent town tries to do just enough so that they can be looked at as "good."  They believe they are rich and they are sure to dress for the part.  They believe they are visionary and see their world clearly.  They have all they need.  "Church" is the thing to do and the place to be.  They are "better than" those people who are not as blessed, not as rich, not as smart, not as socially adept, not as sharply dressed and not as connected.  But Jesus says they are "poor, miserable, blind and naked."  The good news here is 1) we can learn from this church (our faith must never be lukewarm or watered-down [v.16]), 2) we can realize God's love for even these snobby pretenders ("I discipline ... everyone I love" [v. 19]), 3) we can listen for Jesus knocking on our door so we can open it and let him in ("I stand at the door and knock" [v:20]) and 4) we can learn we can only get things of eternal value from God ("I advise you to buy from me!" [v. 18]).  That is part of the good news.

The other part of the good news here is encouragement I get every week from you.  I watch many of you immerse yourselves in the lives of people who are less fortunate than you.  You don't seem to care where those people come from.  You serve them, invite them into fellowship, laugh and cry with them and I believe you show them the Jesus who loves them through you (and God loves you dearly for loving those "other" people).  New Jerusalem (the place God has made for His people) has been, is being and will be a place where you will gladly serve God and worship with fervor and favor.  For Laodicea the door is closed and Jesus is asking them to open it so He can come in (v.20).  For many of you, the opportunity to dine, fellowship and listen to Jesus is a daily blessing.  New Jerusalem is challenging, uncomfortable, beautiful, real and true life with/in Christ!  Randy

Monday, October 5, 2015

Trials and Love

In the Bible there seems to be a direct connection between the presence of trials and the assurance of God's love.  Moses experienced God's love thru the trials of his calling to lead a stubborn nation through desert, battles, 40-years of time and numerous demonstrations of faithlessness.  Gideon bravely led the deliverance of his people but he did it through the horrors of war and battle.  Disciples struggled past unbelieving people, misleading Jews, harsh Pharisees and angry politicians to travel the road God planned for them.  This is part of the reason why I appreciate the encouragement God gives the faithful churches in Revelation.  They are the most praised and yet the most persecuted. Maybe God knows something we should know but refuse to hear.

Here is my take regarding the things we don't want to hear or just refuse to see.  First, I must repeatedly remind myself that (as God tells the church in Philadelphia) there is more on God's side of the open door than there is on the world's side of that door.  Jesus tells us He has opened a door that no person will shut.  What is on God's side of the door?  For Philadelphia it is blessing that is both the struggle of the life in Christ and the joy of sharing God's love in the dangerous world of the Roman Empire and the Jewish leadership.  It is peace in the storm of a messsed-up world.  It is having Jesus both now and later.  It is living in freedom and living toward an eternity that is filled with the beauty and vastness of God.  It is Job perceiving the love of God that is high, wide, deep and unfathomable.  There is New Jerusalem both now and in eternity.

Second, there is a certainty that God is bigger than my struggles and, in fact, is glorified by our perseverance.  Jesus is proud of this little church that has little power in worldly terms but has great power from God's view.  And I will bet that the people of Philadelphia find numerous and overflowing blessings in just doing the work of God out of the limelight, immersed in meaningful relationships, involved in worthwhile ministry and in tune with God's plan which happens on God's side of that door.

Finally, it is telling that all of the accolades above (Philadelphia, Gideon, Moses, Disciples) come IN (not preventing) the crises endured by the churches and people.  We ask, as we hear the news, "What is the world coming to?" That answer is, "Our world is coming to God.  It isn't ever about us.  It is always about how God's glory happens through God's people.  It is coming to a decision at an open door.  We can live and serve and love on God's side of the door (New Jerusalem), or we can complain, isolate ourselves, protect our stuff, dole out our doctrine and pine for the 'land over yonder,' as we live in Fallen Babylon." To the seven churches God provide a chance for a decision to serve and an opportunity to repent.  But remember ... that offer has an expiration date.  Hope to see you on the good side of that door!