Monday, March 28, 2016


As we leave the Lenten and Easter seasons, we never leave the images they project and the truth they brand into our faith walk.  Struggle, journey, opposition, false praise, betrayal, painful prayer, torture, false accusation, execution, true forgiveness, universal availability, a lowly burial, a glorious resurrection and true victory are just a few of these images.  It almost seems distant and disappointing to return to study of the Revelation.  But wait ... I think you will find it very appropriate.

As we finish chapter 11 ans enter chapter 12 there is a stark image we all associate with the Revelation ... the pregnant woman, her baby and the dragon.  We will flesh out these images on Sunday, but I want to stop on one image that is very appropriate for this week during which we have worshiped and celebrated the Risen Christ.  That image is one of a messianic figure (the baby) being snatched away from Satan.  That is truly a post-Easter image.

As the power of God brings Jesus to new life and His resurrection body we sometimes fail to think about God snatching Jesus out of the hands of Satan ... out of the grip of death ... out of the grave ... out of that sealed tomb.  John, in verse 12:1, calls it "an event of great significance."  That is not only amazing ... it is so applicable to us as we walk through this day and every day.

This was my first Easter without my dad.  Others share that emotion as they go through significant seasons of the year without those that they have loved for so long.  That thought could bring sorrow.  It could bring us a touch of depression and feeling sorry for ourselves.  But ... let's think about that "significant event."  When God snatched Jesus out of the grip of all those negative things I listed earlier in this blog and, ultimately, the power that many fear every day (death), He didn't just snatch up His son.  He also took all of those who claimed His Son with Him.  While we share in Jesus' humanity and many of the negative things He faced on this earth, we also share in that beautiful thing called resurrection.  As we sang "I'm alive, I'm alive, because He lives" I remembered singing that song with my friend Jackie (now with God because of that "significant event").  So Buddy, Lowell, and, of course, Fulton ... I hope you are rejoicing over what Jesus did for you.  I hope you are asking Jesus to put in a good word for those of us still messing up from time to time.  I am expectantly laughing about the look on your faces when heaven was so much better than our image-pool allows us to imagine.  And I look to the day I will see you again and, in a very significant event for Randy, see Jesus face-to-face.  AMEN!

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Big "Why?"

This is a question that can either free us or imprison us.  Why did I end up in this situation?  Why did I make that choice?  Why did a God of goodness and grace allow that to happen?  The permutations of this question can be as numerous as our fleeting thoughts or our deepest hurts.  Why?

Michael Card asks this question about the events of Holy Week.  The triumphal entry, the cleansing of the temple, the cursing of the fig tree, the parables about judgement and the end times, the "New Covenant"of the Last Supper, the betrayal, the trials, the torture, the condemnation of Jesus to the cross, the crucifixion, the death of Jesus and the events of Easter morning.  No eggs, no fuzzy bunnies, no plastic grass, no baskets ... just WHY?

I won't attempt to completely answer this question today.  Anyone who would tackle the 'why' question and say they have it solved is, I believe, delusional.  But what I will do is take some personal shots at sorting out things I have had to face.

Why did I end up in a bad situation when I desired to do something good?  The answer to this one is remarkably easy.  First, when we immerse ourselves in the dangerous water of relationships we might get hurt, persecuted, misunderstood and just plain in 'over our heads.'  Yet, we minister, love and serve anyway.  Being in ministry is dangerous ... Jesus knew this well.  It took Him to death on the cross. 

Second, we can control our own choices but not those of others.  Other people make choices that might seem good to them but might harm me.  So, as Christians, we love them through the danger if we can. 

Finally, while God keeps His promises, people are fickle.  I wish I could explain this but I will leave it as I say to myself ... "they just are ... deal with it."

Why does God let bad things happen?  This is a big one and I will only touch on an answer.  What comforts me about this one is to realize God's agenda and my agenda are different.  I desire smooth sailing, no pain and total victory over ever problem I face.  God is into growing us up so that when we come to live with Him we will be good citizens of our real home (read 1 Peter 2:2-5 and Hebrews 13:14).  There is an old theory about "why is evil in the world?" called the Irenaean Theodicy.  It describes God's purpose as 'soul-making' in this world so that people will be prepared for, happy in and expectant of our eternal home with God.  C.S. Lewis touches on this in a book called the Great Divorce.  It, for me, is comforting to know that this world isn't all there is and that I can have a better tomorrow if I (as John describes it) abide in Jesus.

So ... why did today not go like I planned?  Maybe I need a lesson.  Maybe a bad person placed me in a bad situation.  Maybe I made a bad choice and am living in the throes of consequences.  What I do know is I should look around me ... observe what is happening ... look for evidence of God's hand ... and see the roses blooming in the wasteland and life eternal emerging from the empty tomb! Randy

Monday, March 14, 2016

As We Are?

Epictetus observed something that I believe Jesus observed as he stood outside of Jerusalem and wept.  "What punishment is there, you ask, for those who do not accept things in this spirit?  Their punishment is to be as they are."

Jesus weeps for Jerusalem.  If only the people of Jerusalem would have seen that their salvation ... their peace ... their king, walked past them.  If only the people of Jerusalem would have seen their failed political and religious system that had run together toward the death of one who had come to lead them forward.  If only they would have seen and grasped that change was the path to the freedom they desired.  But as W. H. Alden said, "We would rather be ruined than changed."

Both of these thoughts are, of course, related to that day when Jesus begins the very last leg of the journey that has spread healing, teaching and light over the entire nation of Israel.  From north to south, east to west, Jesus had led this nation in a way that offered a path to change who and what they were.  But rather than change they, that Palm Sunday, lay their cloaks on the road and welcome the one who (they thought) had come in the name of the Lord to deliver them from Rome and restore their nation to its greatness.

Little did they know that Jesus had, in fact, come to renew, restore and bring them to the greatness predicted in Genesis when God tells Abraham he will be the father of people who will become a blessing to the entire planet.  Little did they know that this man riding the foal of a donkey was God doing what Israel and all of its kings, all of its majesty and all of its spiritual haughtiness could not do ... provide the one and only path of salvation.  Little did they know that by rejecting this true king they rejected the change that would bring them to God's great path and lead them past the mess they had become.

A few listened and heard the message.  Do you hear?  Do you see?  Do you understand that Jesus won't do things through our politics, our labels, our self-righteous demands, our "systems" or our national pride?  Jesus will send change through the Church that is filled with Jesus and empowered through God's own Spirit.  Don't look to the mountain ... our salvation is not there.  Don't look to your party or political label ... if you do you are destined to stay just as you are.  Don't look to an election to make radical change because God's plan for change might just be a little more radical.  "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey (Zechariah 9:9)."  Look to a God who not only predicted the Jews would become the source of His salvation.  He sent that salvation in the form of His own Son who lived, died and was resurrected.  My prayer is we seek His blessing (Jesus) and the change that is required to see that blessing. Randy

Monday, March 7, 2016

Still There

I was driving to Montgomery for a training session the other day.  I passed one of those control burns that gives me instant sinus issues and hides the road from view.  It is one of those necessary and annoying things that is part of life in the deep south.  As I drove along watching the center-line so that I stayed on the road I only slowed a little.  Just because smoke hid the road I had faith the road was still there.  I think this is what Voltaire had in mind when he said, "The burning of a little straw may hide the stars but the stars outlast the smoke."

Late last night I was lifting up prayers for our church and for individual issues that face our friends, relatives and neighbors.  A son in trouble.  Another son in the battle of his life.  Teens that ignore the obvious and run headlong into problems.  Cancer running rampant in our midst.  Financial woes.  The business of the Easter season.  Decisions that can either be God-focused or Me-focused.  Family struggles.  A friend recovering in Birmingham.  Smoke!

Remember ... though the smoke hides the road, the road is still there.  Though the smoke hides the stars the stars are there and are faithfully shining beyond the touch of the smoke.  And God is still there, watching events, turning all things toward Him and loving us back to His place (His ultimate goal for each of us).  Jesus,seemingly forsaken on the cross, sits at the Father's right hand, waiting till He can bring perfect resolution to all the smoke we face.  Thank you Lord for turning all things to You, our rock and our salvation.  Randy