Monday, March 26, 2018

No Longer Slaves

Many of you have sung the Bethel Worship song, "No Longer Slaves."  It is a song that reminds us of a very "Easter" subject.  When I hear this song I remember the Old Testament story from Joshua 5:9 where God says, "Today I have rolled away the shame of your slavery in Egypt."  And I remember that Easter morning discovery of a stone being rolled away from a tomb, rolling away sin, death, fear and slavery.  I remember Jesus' words and the angels words that remind us we should no longer fear and we should stop looking for living things among dead things.  And I remember that if I am to appropriate the fullness of what Jesus did on the cross, in the tomb and in the world, I must leave Egypt, leave the wilderness and leave the tomb.

I have learned there are at least two kinds of slaves. In the affluent areas of Florida there are landlords that rent housing (sometimes substandard) to people from other countries (Jamaica, Mexico, Russia, Romania, etc.) at exorbitant rental rates and fees.  The landlords allow a very high occupancy so they can make huge profits from a small space.  They threaten the renters with lots of made-up stories of governmental agencies coming in and deporting them (even though most of these people are here legally).  They provide transportation to work for the renters, again at a very high cost.  In a sense these people are slaves.  In many cases they know no better or are afraid to 'rock the boat.'  So they live in bondage to the fear that leaving the bondage may be worse than their slavery.

But there are other slaves.  The Bible says the borrower is a slave to the lender.  We submit to the adverse effects of drugs and alcohol, becoming slaves to the addictions and effects.  I could add sex, prejudice, depression, greed and fear to the list.  The questions for all of us are ... when will we be intellectually honest and admit we are in bondage? ... when will we honestly seek God's leadership in leaving our bondage? ... when will we do what Hebrews 12 tells us, 'throw off the chains and sins that bind us so we might run the race God has planned, unfettered by slavery?'  This slavery is broken by following God to break the power of our lifestyles and choices.

One thousand, four hundred and fifty (or so) years after the crossing of the Jordan, Jesus didn't forget He was in the business of keeping that promise God made to Israel ... "I have promised to rescue you from your oppression in Egypt. I will lead you to a land flowing with milk and honey--the land where the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites now live [Exdus 3:17]."  That promise wasn't stopped by time, people, opposition or even the death of God's Son.  Jesus didn't stop at the tomb ... and He is calling us out of Egypt, the wilderness and even our old life so that we can become children of God.  "We are no longer slaves!" 
What would happen if we did what John, Peter, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Jesus did?  What if we bought into this message of Jesus that we are children of God, never to be bound by Egypt, the wilderness or even the tomb?  Why do we choose to remain slaves to fears, prejudices, other gods and things that will not stand the test of time?  We are no longer slaves ... we are children of God ... let's leave the tomb!  As the angel said to the women, "Why are you looking for the living among the dead?"  Great question!  Randy

Monday, March 19, 2018


What is important to you?  What is really so vital that you have to keep it with you, hang on to it tenaciously and carry it on your journey through life?

Every time I move I seem to carry boxes and items that I only see when I am in the moving process.  They are part of my history, part of my journey ... but are they really important?  I must confess the answer is no!  I need to ask a question ... "Randy ... will you use that where you are going?"

More than any story I can think of (up to this point in Jesus' life) the triumphal entry is a lesson in seeing the real and important.  Nicey told a story Sunday about a little girl asking if her eyelashes were real.  No matter what Nicey said,  the little girl would not believe the lashes were real.  No matter what Jesus said, each person and each group wanted to "see" what He represented from their own perspective.  They kept asking ... "are the you the one we are expecting?" ... "are you the one who will deliver us?" ... "are you going to overthrow the Romans?" ... "are you going to take care of what I want?"  They, like us, saw what they wanted to see.

I hope you will re-read this story from the perspective of "What is important here?"  What is vital to hang onto?  Is is the representation of peace as Jesus rides in on a donkey?  Is it the words from the crowd that shout "Hosanna?"  Is it the palm branches that were placed in the street?  Or is it the reality that the people, the disciples, the Pharisees, the Romans all failed to really see what was real ... the fulfilled prophecy ... the fulfilled law ... the tears for peace ... the beauty of a life lived perfectly ... the internal strife over what lay ahead ... the savior of the world!

As you enter Holy Week, look for what is real in the stories,songs and services.  Keep the true and vital things.  Let the untrue, unimportant and unnecessary go.  See the savior who lived, died and was resurrected for you.  Take Him with you for He will give you everything you really need!  Randy

Monday, March 12, 2018


How do you see the world?  I must admit I have become a bit jaded in my worldview.  It is hard to trust.  It is hard to invest in other people.  It is hard to put aside my pre-conceived view of people I have pigeon-holed into mental compartments that I have carelessly created.  It is hard to see past all the filters I have placed over my eyes.  It is hard to see the world like Jesus did.

Hillsong does a song called "Wonder."  I love the song because it pushes me to see the world differently.  The words go, "I see the world in wonder, I see the world in life, bursting in living color, I see the world Your way ... And I’m walking in the light."  The song reminds me to see the world like Jesus.  When Jesus encountered the woman at the well (John 4) He bucked the popular world view of His time.  The world saw a Samaritan woman, someone that society had dehumanized and placed into the category of human trash.  Even the woman knew this as she told Jesus ... "Why would you ask me for a drink of water?  Jews have nothing to do with Samaritans!"

Here are some things Jesus did to re-humanize the Samaritan woman.

  1. He engaged her in conversation.  Our hearts can be stone when it comes to interacting with those people we have placed below our lofty perch.  We walk on the other side of the road.  We avoid neighborhoods.  We relegate other people to a category of "them."  Jesus reminds us that "they" have value in God's eyes.

  2. He engaged her in normal human activity.  Jesus asked for a drink of water.  He brought her into a common and shared human experience.

  3. He expressed care and concern for her relationships, even though those relationships were not the norm accepted by that society.  He didn't condone ... just acknowledged that those relationships didn't make her less human and less of value to Jesus.

  4. He talked with her about God-things.  He spoke of common ancestry (Jacob).  He spoke about a common longing for the Messiah.  He spoke about a time of common worship when we would all worship in Spirit and truth.

  5. He invited her into ministry.  When she ran to tell the town who she had met, Jesus didn't say "Wait ... you need Seminary training for that!  You need to be certified to be an evangelist!"  Jesus invited her into the work, life and light of being part of a group of people called believers.

I love the words of the song!  "I see the world in grace, I see the world in gospel
I see the world Your way, and I’m walking in the light, I’m walking in the wonder, You’re the wonder in the wild, turning wilderness to wonder."  May Jesus turn the wilderness of our prejudice to the wonder of His light!  Randy

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Facing the Demons

Most of the people I encounter would love for this blog to wander off into the occult since the word "demon" is in the title of this post.  We love the flashy, uncommon, mythical, sci-fi, fantasy and fantastic.  I admit to being an X-files watcher and know all about the escapades of agents Mulder and Scully.  But what about real life?

First, let me say I am a firm believer that Scripture doesn't mention demons lightly.  They were (and I believe are) real and dangerous.  In Matthew 8 Jesus encounters demons that have violently manifested themselves in two men.  The demon-possessed men were so violent that people could not travel near the tombs in which the men lived.  For these two men it must have been terrible.  For Jesus, it was another day at the office.  Jesus knew there were powers, demons and forces of evil that existed beyond sight.  Jesus knows they still exist, whether we acknowledge them or not.  And these demons are not the fictional creations of a TV series or a movie.

Jesus' actions in Matthew 8 tell us some things about facing the demons of today.  The first thing He does is meet them (He encounters them directly).  I wonder if this little part of the story means Jesus saw them for what they were ... looked beyond the facade of possessed flesh and bone ... looked into the hearts behind the violence of the two men?  I believe so, and I wonder if we should look to the heart of our demons?  When I encounter a person in the throes of evil, should I try to see what Jesus saw?  Maybe that is part of the love of Celebrate Recovery as we try to be agents of Jesus, 'recovering' the lost humanity in a world filled with some pretty evil stuff, including demons!  Maybe much of our ministry is just that ... being Jesus' hands and feet, seeing past demons, infirmity and evil and seeing into the hearts of God's created people.

The second thing Jesus does is to see that life for these two men cannot go on like this.  I see so many people who repeat the patterns of hurt, pain and even evil because they have become too familiar with their demons.  Drugs are destroying them ... but that demon has become familiar.  Greed is obsessing them ... but that demon is insatiable.  Narcissism is controlling them ... but self is a demon on steroids!  Fear controls their every move ... but that demon thrives on attention.  And hate ... that demon justifies itself so that we see it as protection, righteousness and justification.  We either ignore the existence of these demons or we give up and say "that's just how I am" or "I just can't do life any differently."  Do we believe our feelings, our infirmities, or do we believe Jesus who tells us He has overcome the world?  I hope that answer is overt and evident!

The final thing Jesus does is send the demons out.  In the story the demons are sent into a herd of pigs (I have always felt sorry for those pigs).  But this blog is about your story and my story.  Do we allow Jesus to send out our demons, or do we give them an inviting home right in the living room in our heart?  It's time!  Time to allow Jesus to do in us what He did in this story.  Cast out those demons.  See them for what they are.  Recover our true self and our real identity.  Give us life and give it to us abundantly!  Randy