Sunday, October 30, 2016


Fred Craddock writes a story about a close friend in the throes of terminal illness.  In his story he tells of a grim, dark figure that knocks on the door and delivers unwanted messages.  The first message is tests.  The second is radiation.  The third message is chemo.  The fourth message is relapse.  In all the messages the grim figure is perceived as death, an entity to be avoided and feared.  Each time a message is delivered the door is slammed in death's face.  But at the last death persists into the room.  But the story doesn't end here.  The ending of the story is the Church gathered to remember his friend.  They are singing "Now thank we all our God ... with hearts and hands and voices!"

I think this story is about a condition that we Christians share together.  It is the paradox of devastating events that Satan sets before our eyes to break our faith and a God that tells us to look past those events to Him.  Satan's message is that we are mortal, flawed and weak.  God's message is that our mortality, our flaws and our weaknesses only work to show God's strength.  His purpose draws His people even closer to a God that loves us.  That same God has overcome death and actually uses our death as a reminder of the goodness and grace He gave us during our lives.  Satan sings about the finality of death.  God sings about the newness of passing from this world into a new and eternal life with Him.

This Sunday is "All Saints Sunday" and we will read the names of those who have entered the Church Triumphant.  This will be a special time to come closer to the God who will sustain me on Saturday as I deliver my mom's eulogy.  We will all be reminded of lives lived in the reality of good times, bad times, joys, sorrows, successes and failures  These times are all part of the seasons and purposes of God.  I hope you will be there to be part of a Church that facing death squarely in the face can sing ... "Now thank we all our God, with hearts and hands and voices, Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices; Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way ... with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today."

Monday, October 24, 2016

Impressed or Indwelled?

October's sermons have centered on what Jesus' disciples said about Him.  We have heard words from Mary, John the Baptist and Philip.  Why did these people believe and what was their basis for belief?  How were they like us and how did their belief and faith go deeper to get to the very heart of Jesus? 

This week we will listen to the voice of Nicodemus as he compliments Jesus on the signs and wonders that Jesus has performed.  Nicodemus is obviously impressed.  This account from John's Gospel makes me think ... do I need signs and wonders to believe?  Am I caught up in the world's way of looking at life or does my belief in Jesus go beyond a feeling or an emotional expression about something that impresses me today but is out-of-mind tomorrow?

The magician impresses us till he runs out of new tricks.  Then we look for another magician.  The great orator impresses us till we find one better and go listen to him/her.  The Facebook video is impressive for a moment but we soon go looking for a new and better one.  These things are what happen in a consumer-based society where it is all about what we see, hear and get.

I believe we are called to something deeper.  In John's story about Nicodemus Jesus tells our secretive disciple that God operates in a way (in this case by the Holy Spirit) that has a way, path and mind of it's own.  We do not lead the Spirit ... the Spirit leads us.  God's way leads us to the impossibility of being born anew, being recreated as something starkly different than what we have been.  C. S. Lewis writes ... "God became a man to turn creatures into sons/daughters; not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man."  God does not simply want to be know as an outside force capable of producing miracles and wonders.  God wants to indwell us as an inside force transforming us into the greatest masterpieces of His new creation.  The dictionary defines indwelling as "be permanently present in something."  A temporary impression/feeling of God's presence does not constitute salvation ... God either has all of us or none of us.  To Nicodemus Jesus said, "You must be born again!" Are you impressed or indwelled? 

Monday, October 17, 2016


All of you know I love music.  I love hearing the praise band on Sunday morning, listening to Christian radio and hearing our choir practice and sing.  I love playing/singing songs with my friends and taking in Sandy's practice on Sunday morning as we share discussion about the music she has chosen for the day.  It is all beautiful to me. In that music there is a sharing of life itself because we sing to and for the God of the only eternal song.

In a Michael Card song he recounts the idea that our lives are truly songs that will resonate with joy when they find their origin.  Our souls were made by a God who leads us back to that rhyme and rhythm.  We were/are created to rhyme with His purpose.

Philip realized this in John 1:45 when he exclaimed ... "We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about.  His name is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth!"  Philip's realization brought his very being into a rhythm with God's plan ... an amazing and wonderful place to be.

Casting Crowns (the group) sing a song about this.  They sing ... "and now my lifesong sings!"  It sings in the opening of eyes.  It sings in the realization of God's ancient promises.  It sings in the fulfillment of God's present plans.  It sings best in knowing that we, who were lost, have now been found!  It sings because we realize that our lifesong is only realized in Jesus!  Now ... go out and find your rhyme!  Randy

Monday, October 10, 2016

Where is God?

In John 1 Andrew asks a simple but profound question.  "Where are you staying?" is Andrew's query.

Most of you are saying, "That is just conversation."  "That is just a normal part of greeting and interacting with anyone."  "Why is that profound at all?"

It is profound for two reasons.  First, this is a timeless question lots of people ask God.  "Where are you?"  Some asked that question yesterday.  "God ... where were You when Paulette Riley made her last steps on her final journey.  Where were you when I pleaded to be released from my addiction.  Where are you when I struggle through the day on decisions, deal with life and wrestle with sin.  Where are you when I am juggling overwhelming issues with ailing loved ones, entangled kids, money and a nation that seems to have lost its collective mind."  Jesus answers as He answers Paul ... "My strength is perfected in your weakness." Translation ... "Rely on Me, listen to Me, live in Me!"  This answer reflects God's constant call to leave self and find Him!

The second reason relating to the importance of the question, "Where are you staying?" is basic and simple.  "Jesus ... if I do seek you, where will you be staying?"  For sure God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18).  So go to the brokenhearted and you might just get a glimpse of Him.  God is also close to those He is blessing with a direct connection.  The meek, the humble, the peacemakers, the pure in heart and those who mourn.  David (in Psalm 139) says God is close to those who allow God to search and correct them.

Two ending observations about the places Jesus is staying.  Note that none of the above places include "the top."  They are more what our society would call the bottom.  Do we possibly seek "the top" more than we seek God?  Also, note that that the more we get away from self-serving things and self-edifying behaviors, the better chance we have of getting close to God.

I have a friend who says he is an atheist. He, beyond reason, seems to desire to be there for his friends when they need help and he gains great satisfaction and contentment from giving that support.  Does he ever wonder about the source of that satisfaction?  Might it be possible that when he leaves self behind and gets close to where God is working, God gives him a glimpse of Himself?  Randy

Monday, October 3, 2016

Are You the One?

In Matthew 11 John the Baptist asks an important question ... "Are you the One?"  Maybe John was onto something!

John could have been worried about his well being.  He was jailed, waiting for "justice" from Herod, possibly even concerned about the lives of his followers.  All of these worries were valid.  Jail was not the cake-walk it is today.  Herod's justice would be no justice at all as John would be beheaded on the whim of an evil woman.  His followers were certainly in danger.  Yet John, in his focused and single-purposed way, was more interested in getting a question answered.  Maybe this is not just "a" question ... it could be "the" question.  "Are you the One?"

As I watched an episode of Morgan Freeman's "Story of God" I considered that even today we ask that question.  Freeman is pursuing answers to questions about God, faith, theodacy, the afterlife and other deep theological questions.  Many of the answers on the TV show are hopeful expressions of faith and belief from people who cannot possibly all be right.  But John's question truly gets to the point ... "Are you the One?"

John understood that the answer to the God question isn't trees, nature, men who have lived and died, rivers, animals or "the force."  The answer is one God.  A God who is not altered by us but chooses to manifest Himself in ways that Scripture describes in both stark detail and maddening vagueness.  Jesus loved John so He gives John a tangible answer.  "Look at what is happening!  The blind see ... the lame walk ... the deaf hear ... the dead are raised."  I pray all of us will open our eyes to the miracles of this day and be able to escape the storm of daily issues, most of which have no cosmic importance.  I pray we will see God in this day ... powerful ... wonderful ... mysterious ... beautiful ... one.  Randy