Monday, January 29, 2018


Over the last two weeks I am hoping you are realizing we are in a battle for the hearts and souls of people.  I wonder if all of the zombie and distopia movies and TV shows express societal realization that something just isn't right.  There is a war going on out there!  We are all in a battle that goes deeper than what we see with our eyes!

Ezekiel, in Chapter 37, is taken by the Spirit to a valley.  It is filled with dry bones.  In Ezekiel's vision the bones represent the nation of Israel that had lost hope in exile.  They have been a battle but have given up and given in to their situation of exile.  They think they are lost and forgotten.

Again, I wonder if we feel lost and forgotten?  We, the Church, are God's people, yet we are oppressed on every side.  And we have contributed to our oppression by adopting unhealthy attitudes like self-preservation, apathy and acquiescence to societal virtues (vs Biblical virtues).  I think today those dry bones represent the Church, dormant and powerless.

In Ezekiel's vision the bones in the valley come alive in stages. First they are just a mass of bones lying on the ground.  Then, as he begins to speak God's word to them, they stand up.  Skin covers the bones, but they are not alive.  They appear alive.  They stand up and move.  But they do not yet have the breath (the Spirit) of God.  They are like the zombies we hear and read about.

Ezekiel continues his work and prophesies to the bones.  God's Spirit, the breath of life, enters them.  The become a massive and powerful army, ready to go out into the battle.

I hope that happens to our people and our Church of today.  I pray that we do not have the form of something living without the life-force (God's Spirit) that gives us power, purpose and prosperity.  I pray that we listen to God's word and become alive with a passion that will astonish our world and our community!  Let's come alive and become the resurrection army that fights the good fight.  Randy

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Beautiful Messes

This is a reprint of a Facebook post from earlier in the week. I hope it leads us to remember to keep the main thing the main thing in the midst of created and real distractions ...   Randy
Last weekend at the 30a Songwriter Festival I reheard a Ben Glover song called Beautiful Messes. It is a song recorded by Hillary Scott and it reminds us of who we are and that God wants us to be used by Him in spite of our brokenness and infirmities. After seeing neighbors and friends who are dealing with some pretty difficult life issues I wanted to share a few Biblical looks at how we deal with the fears, uncertainties and past mistakes we tend to hang onto. Here goes ...
1) DON'T - Hate to start with a negative but we, as a society, should remember past mistakes and not repeat them. But we should realize that people and bad choices from the past should be left there. In Jesus we have become a new creation and that old life is dead. In Luke 24 Jesus says, "why are do you seek the living among the dead?" So why do we seek life and life-answers among dead things. Remember and leave ... and don't let anyone or anything take you back there!
2) SEEK - Seek what Jesus, in His last prayer, said was an individual and corporate virtue ... unity (John 17). I am honored to live in a community where we share hurts at places like Celebrate Recovery, hear amazing prayers from leaders like Rev. Eddie Thomas at our community Christmas Tree Lighting and share the responsibility of raising up our children "In the way they should go (Proverbs 22:6)" by working with Neandra Green at the Boys and Girls Club! If we seek unity we rise above our messiness to be a better community.
3) DO - Let's all acknowledge that we, as a society, have some pretty messy things happening. So ... stop carping and do something. Be part of the solution! James 1:22 reminds us to take God's word into action by placing what God teaches into action. If you say you are a follower of Jesus, I, like James, will play the "Missouri-card" and say, OK ... show me.
4) GO - Rev. Tony Evans tells us that we are powerless over the issues that plague our communities because we go into daily life under our own powers and authority. We battle spiritual issues with non-spiritual solutions. That clearly is not working. Look back at Martin Luther King's life and ministry. See (it is clear) that Dr. King's greatness was from those times when he heard God's call, expressed God's word, applied God's solutions and followed God even to danger, pain and death. Dr. King changed our world and is still changing it.
5) THANK - Thank God for the people in this community (I have mentioned only a few of them) who work in the trenches. Our leaders who humbled themselves at Christmas to pray, read Scripture and join hands as one people. Our pastors who are living stones that commemorate that God is doing something good here. And thank our Lord that He has raised us (His beautiful messes) out of our self-imposed mirey pit of history/stubbornness/prejudice/hate and set our feet on solid ground ... steadied us as we walked ... called us to witness to all His goodness by placing a new song in our mouths. So ... sing joyfully! Ben Glover was right ... "We're all Davids, we're all Marys, we've been liars, thieves and everything between. But don't forget God used the misfits just like us to do the most amazing things. So bring your faults, your flaws, your secrets and watch Him use those broken pieces." In Christ ... Randy

Monday, January 22, 2018


I remember the scene in the movie Major Payne where Major Payne's ROTC crew reports for duty.  They drag in without urgency, without and semblance of duty and without any passion for their ROTC class.  Teachers reading this may say, AMEN!

If we are the "resurrection army" called forth by God's Spirit in Ezekiel, indwelled by the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, sent out as God's witnesses in Acts, how do we report for duty?  In Luke 9 Jesus gives us some pointers.

First and most important, they were equipped and sent by their Commander and Chief, Jesus.  He called them together (their was unity), He gave them authority (His power was their only power that could cast out demons and heal), He sent them out to 'tell everyone about the Kingdom of God.'  All of this was delegated authority from Jesus Himself.  All of this reminds us that we report ready to receive what Jesus gives us.

Second, we report ready for our orders.  We come ready to listen to our commander and follow the orders we are given.

Finally, we must be ready for the positives and the negatives of ministry.  If I were send out on a mission for our military in Iraq, I would be ready for and expect opposition.  It is interesting that the expectation and surety of opposition is part of Jesus' message to His disciples.

Too often our modern day Church fails to follow the pattern Jesus sets forth in Luke 9.  We go in our own authority, trusting our own feelings and relying on our own understanding.  We hear the orders of the one we call master and then do it our way.  We are opposed and we run away, cowering because we have found the battle hard or unpleasant.

Jesus is clear here.  We are called, we are equipped, we are given instruction and we WILL be opposed.  It is what we should expect as we fight in the greatest and most relevant battle ever ... the battle for the hearts and souls of people.  I think this is why Jesus says, in John 15:4, "abide in Me ... and I will remain in you.  For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine."  Nuff said!  Randy

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Problem

I remember watching the Little Rascals as a child.  While these short shows would not be politically correct these days, they had their moments.  In one episode Buckwheat was sitting on the front steps of a haunted house.  He was supposed to whistle to signal the other kids if he saw or heard something scary.  As the other kids bravely explored the old house, Buckwheat was eating saltine crackers while wind was blowing through the trees.  You might be getting the picture now.  There are movements and sounds that are very scary and Buckwheat is, with a very dry mouth, trying to whistle.  The saltine crumbs are blowing out of his mouth, but no whistling sound happens.  It was hilarious!  Buckwheat was hearing sounds and there were movements but he couldn't really see the scary things that he imagined.

Our problem is, we aren't very tuned in to the things that should scare us.  The Bible, in Ephesians 6:12 reminds us ... "For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places."  Our battle is spiritual but we fail to even perceive the evil that blows in the winds of this world.

Paul goes on to remind us that sometimes we must "stand our ground" and use the protections and weapons God provides.  We, too often, fight our spiritual battles with tools that are nothing to our enemy.  We use our strength, our cliches, our "pop" theology, our "gods," our feelings (and we say they are the leading of God) and our wits to fight and we wonder why the enemy seems so persistent and strong?  Maybe we forget that these powers are truly dark and powerful and they will not leave us alone when we underestimate them.  Last weekend we saw a team (the Jacksonville Jaguars) win against what most believed to be a superior team, partially because the Pittsburgh Steelers were looking past them to the next game.  They, and we, underestimate the ability, the guile, the tenacity and the strength of our enemy.  In Natalie Grant's song, "Your Great Name" she reminds us that our enemy is repelled when we hand the battle and our enemies over to a God that is strong in the spiritual realm.  Maybe our battles are lost because we forget God's plan and God's strength is all we really have to fight against the unseen spiritual powers that are more real than the things we think we see.  Randy

Monday, January 8, 2018

Worth the Fight

I was given some good professional advice early in my secular career.  I was railing over the bad decisions of my boss, the inequity of the workplace, the unethical practices of those who would step on the heads of others to get ahead and other things I just didn't like about how people conducted their work.  The advice I was given went like this ...

1) Wherever you work, people who are mean, self-focused, unethical and "social climbers" will exist.
2) Wherever you work there will be inequities.
3) Wherever you work the grass will always look greener somewhere else ... till you go to that other place and find out that problems exist there too.

With these truths established, one must decide which of the inequities, which of these problems are worth the effort it will take to correct them.  If the injustice is so heinous it must be confronted, weigh the effort it will take to take on that battle.  The advice I was give said, "Be careful which hill you choose to die on."

In Hebrews 12 we get a taste of this when we read "Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people ... then you won't become weary and give up.  After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin."  Jesus endured sinful people and He was careful to make sure His death was worth the fight.  Jesus chose well the hill upon which He gave His life!  We were/are worth the fight, the sacrifice and the battles He endured.

All of this might seem surreal in a world where we are not pressed to sacrifice or even invest in the battle.  I wonder if the writer of this passage from Hebrews isn't making a comment about the cultural lack of personal investment in God's battle in the 60's AD.  The focus on urgency, discipline and Christian immaturity of the Jews seems to fit with the writer's frustration about the army needed to fight the battles that were upon them.  Less than 5 years after the writing of Hebrews the Jews had a great shock that took their battle to another level.  The temple in Jerusalem was sacked.  Temple sacrifice could no longer be made.  Worship and the way of life they took for granted ceased almost overnight.

Remember ... some battles are worth fighting.  Some hills are worth our sacrifice.  Some work is worth our blood, sweat and tears.  Sometimes we must fight for what is good, right and worthwhile before it is destroyed by the enemy.  Be careful which hill you chose to die on ... but know there are hills, virtues and things worth dying for!  Randy

Tuesday, January 2, 2018


In John 20 Mary encounters a man she thinks is the gardener.  Here is how it happens ...  

"Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? whom seekest thou? She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away. Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, RABBONI!" (John 20:15-16).

In this conversation Mary realizes that the man is Jesus and she uses a term we might also use, Rabboni, which means "master" or "teacher."  I like this term but I sometimes forget that it is not a passive term ... it is supposed to be active.

I call Jesus "teacher" but forget that teaching is only true teaching when it changes my behavior.  The reference here is the crucial difference between how we, in the west, view learning.  In our society learning is a head-centered activity.  We know something in our head and think we have it all figured out.  But do we really "know" it?  What happens when that bit of knowledge needs to be applied?

We say that we know things must be given up to God and we know we can trust God with our hurts, our grief and our pain.  But does this knowing make it to application?  I meet people every day that are living in past pain, past grief and past failures.  They say they know that God has all these things under control but they can't make it to the application of this knowledge.  So pain, grief and failure are the things that guide and lead their daily behavior.  Do they know the Jesus they say they trust?

We say we know the teachings of Jesus about humility, gentleness and treatment of others.  But when we come to the time of application we throw it all out the window.  We place the haughty, proud and ego-driven leaders on a pedestal and usher them into political office.  We hold to personal doctrines that say, "to thine own self be true."  We walk on the other side of the street when we encounter the poor wayfaring stranger.

The "we" above strikes very close to home for me.  Because I am that "we."  I have a good amount of knowledge about the teachings of Jesus.  I have placed it in my head so I can spout it out in religious cliches.  But Mary calls me out when she uses the term Rabboni because if Jesus is my teacher I must be close enough to taste the dust off his sandals as He walks.  I must go where He goes.  I must do what He does.  I must let my actions follow what I say I believe.  If Jesus is my teacher, then He (not grief, pain, failure, politics, personal doctrine, pride, control, etc.) must become the thing that changes and leads my behavior.  "Help me Lord to be taught and led by you!"  Randy