Tuesday, September 27, 2016


Google defines supernatural as "something attributed to a force beyond scientific understanding or the known laws of nature."  In the Star Wars series this was described as "the Force" and characters were quick to say, "May the Force be with you!"  but that was fiction.  There are lots of supernatural events described in the Bible.  Jesus, in response to John the Baptist's question, "are you the one?" said ... "Go with what you are observing.  The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear and the dead are raised." (Matthew 11).  Go with the supernatural.

When we talk about Biblical things that are supernatural we might wonder two things.  What causes these things to occur?  Why do they happen?  John 2 gives a little insight.

John 2 is where Jesus changes the water into wine at a wedding.  I have wondered about this supernatural happening.  It seems almost below Jesus' "standard" to perform a miracle that seems to only benefit people who want to keep drinking it up at a wedding.  Yet, He does this at the suggestion of Mary, His mother.  What is up here?

Let's go to my second question first.  Why do miracles and supernatural things happen in Scripture?  This one is pretty easy.  These things happen to glorify God ... to demonstrate something about God's power ... to teach us something about God's care ... to allow us to see beyond the "natural."  In a sense, watching a miracle and celebrating that it happened is akin to worship ... when we see these things we naturally want to point to God.  That is always good.  These happenings let us know that God is not absent from daily life ... He is here ... present ... involved.  God is shouting that he can take the common and transform it into the uncommon.  He is saying ... "Always look past what you think you see!  Follow me and I will show you things ... teach you things ... allow you to glimpse the power and compassion of a God beyond your understanding.  I will let you stand in the temple (currently the lives of God's people) and see a bit of who I am ... but you better be watching and you better be believing or it will go right past you."

The other question ... "What causes these things to occur?" is both simple and complex.  It is clear that they are "beyond nature" and are powered by a force beyond our understanding.  We want to know the mechanics of these miracles and we strive to fit them into our scientific understanding and our little minds.  My suggestion to you is ... stop.  Be still and know that He is God.  Put your haughty "I have a right to know"on hold and just enjoy that God has graced you with that moment when you are able to see His power and His provision at work.  God causes these things to happen.  And, like Job, "I place my hand over my mouth."  Randy

Monday, September 19, 2016

A Puzzlement

Something is and has truly been a puzzlement to me.  Let's set the stage. 

First scene.  A true, big, sovereign, all-powerful, merciful and perfect God exists.  That God is the same God we sin against whenever we choose to wander from God's path for us.  The sin can be omission or commission.  The Bible says we all (every one of us) sin and falls short of God's requirements here.  And the sins carry equal weight ... my sin is no more noble than your sin.  The just penalty for that sin is death.  We are ALL guilty.

Second scene.  We gather on Sunday, go to a Christian concert.  Attend a Christian movie.  We say and do all the right things.  We sing songs like "Jesus gave it all ... all to Him I owe" ... "Amazing grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."  You get the point.  We KNOW the jargon.  We say we get the point.  But do we?

Third scene.  Jesus is nailed to a cross, dying so that the penalty for our sin is paid.  By the way ... that is ALL of the sins of the whole world.  We read about this event in Scripture and all of us say, "Yes ... we get the point. This event is about God in Christ dying so I can be forgiven of my sin and so I can be invited to a life inside His Kingdom forever and so I can share this blessing by passing on the message and act of forgiveness to others." 

Fourth scene.  You say, "Wait a minute!  I am all good with the dying for my sin and being forgiven and living a Kingdom life in and with Jesus!  But come again with that "passing on" thing."  OK ... here it is again.  How can we say we get the point of forgiveness unless we understand it well enough to pass that message forward ... that is the message of the cross.  We even pray it when we say, "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."

Fifth scene.  We are rich young rulers.  We have lots of stuff, freedom and a legalistic view of God that we apply to others not as "religious"as we are.  We sin, but not like those other folks who commit those "terrible" sins.  We meet a man named Jesus who says ... "time to sell out.  Give away the ownership of your stuff.  Give away the pride that allows you to believe you are better than other people.  Give away your time and come and follow me.  Oh ... and one last thing ... give other people the kind of forgiveness I give you."

Sixth scene ... you  have a choice.  You can go away sad and saviorless.  You can follow and start by going to those people you have held to your "high" standards and say, "Please forgive ME for my lack of forgiveness.  Please give me the chance to throw my pride away and instead of dying on the hill of self-righteousness, let me die on the hill of Calvary where my savior forgave me."

Very simply put, your choice here is a decision to accept or reject the salvation Jesus offers every person in the whole world.  We all fall down ... only one can lift up.  David said it best ...  "He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings. And he hath put a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God: many shall see it, and fear, and shall trust in the Lord." [Ps. 40:2-4].

Monday, September 12, 2016


Friday morning I was out in my kayak at 6am.  I watched the ospreys, the herons, the swirls on the top of the water, the shadows of trees getting smaller as the sun came up and the breeze touch the water making small ripples.  The morning was a witness to the bigness of God.  I used to believe the world was big, but now news travels so fast that an event in China can transcend the globe in a matter of seconds.  An earthquake in Argentina elicits immediate response from relief agencies like the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).  While we marvel at the bigness of God we see the world getting smaller and smaller as travel times decrease, the internet increases, social media connects people for good and not-so-good reasons and we are reminded of what a commercial from the Olympics kept repeating ... "we are more alike than we are unalike."

In that context Isaiah shouts, "Bring forth the people who are blind, yet have eyes ... who are deaf, yet have ears!  Let all the nations gather together and let the peoples assemble.  Who among them declared this and foretold to us the former things?  Let them bring their witnesses to justify them, and let them hear and say, 'it is true'" [Isaiah 43:8-9].

Each Sunday this month Max and Ryan have been reading this passage as we gathered for worship.  It is a passage about how God can and will gather us all together and we will rightly witness truth, whether we are using our eyes and our ears.  God demands our witness to His greatness, His knowledge, His sole position as savior and His sovereignty as the one and only true God.

In this world where we are truly one species, a people who are alike, why do we get the idea we can somehow isolate ourselves?  C. S. Lewis reminded us that God created us as one people ... all being individual likenesses of our God ... all created to have the freedom of will to love ... all having special gifts to exercise for Godly purposes.  We are small but significant to God.  In Matthew 16 Jesus tells Peter "You are Peter (the rock), and upon this rock I will build my Church" [Matthew 16:18].  Tony  Evans rightly observes that the rock here is a small rock that is part of a big Church.  We are individual stones bound together by Jesus in a way that overcomes all that the world has to offer (both good and bad).  Jesus is telling Peter, though the world seems big, it is small in comparison to the greatness of God.  As Isaiah gathers all people together he is reminding us that a very big God will gather us and call us to either witness (tell about the great God that is our Lord) or unwillingly confess (the confession of those who do not claim God).  This "big" world will become very small and the God we have demeaned for a lifetime will be seen as He is ... larger than the universe.  Randy

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Caught or Released?

I have been accumulating fish for this Thursday's Celebrate Recovery special speaker and fish-fry event.  I will say, it has been tiring because there are several moving parts to this event.  The catching is fun.  The cleaning, the logistics of figuring out times when other people can be part of the catching and just the worry of "will we have enough fish?" has been heaver on my mind than it should.  Because in the midst of this project church life happens.  Charge Conference is coming fast (September 19).  Issues within the church family and my biological family are happening.  People are getting sick and going to the hospital.  Civic duties continue to unfold.  There are nuances and sub-plots to all that is happening.  There are lots of fun things in which to invest my energy.  Fact is ... I am way to stressed over these things.  Like those fish I am caught up in things that will do me harm.

Then ... maybe to clear all of our brains from the secular, the mundane, the unimportant, we hear Jesus.  We are on a hill overlooking the "Rio" of Jesus' time.  A campfire is burning.  All of our fellow campers know what is happening down there.  There are parties, drugs, what the world calls "fun."  It's just a few miles away, down the trail into Caesarea Philippi.  We could go and jump right into the "fun."  But Jesus asks a question ... "Who do YOU say that I am?" (Matthew 16).  It stops us short as we think about this question.  Our answer defines our actions (or should, something I fail at often).  Our answer decides whether we want to be caught (in the world) or released (into God's vast kingdom).  Jesus' question hits me hard because it is a decision I must address all through each day.  Who, really, is Jesus to me?  Does He make a daily difference that gives me freedom and wholeness?  If I am "caught" in life, wouldn't it behoove me to find a savior that could release me?  Wayne Watson asks (about His relationship to Jesus) "Would I miss You now, if You left and closed the door, would my flesh cry out? I don't need You anymore, or would I follow You, could I be restored? I wonder if I'd know You now?"  Great question!  Randy