Sunday, January 26, 2020

Alpha and Omega

During funerals we usually read that "Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last."  That statement from Revelation 22 reminds us that God was there at the beginning and God will be there at the end.  It is usually a solemn message as we remember both and ending and beginning.  John Riley likes to quote Dwight Moody who said "If you read that D. L. Moody of East Northfield is dead, don't believe a word of it.  I will have just begun to live.  I like that thought, because Jesus is truly the beginning for us in that place and time.

For me, the thought of endings and beginnings is a very timely thought.  At the 30 A Songwriter's Festival, David Olney was performing onstage and said "I'm sorry" and then just died.  I am watching the news of Kobe Bryant and his 13 year-old daughter being killed this morning in a helicopter accident.  Both of these events are reminders that we don't know our beginnings and endings ... so, make it count!  Don't say "I'm sorry" ... say, "Thank you Lord for gifting, trusting, tolerating, loving and being there for a "wretch like me!"

While reflecting for the last month about God being the one God above everything and truly the one true and pure thing in life, I return to Deuteronomy 6 to reread verses 4 thru 9.  This verse brings the idea of Alpha and Omega home to the mundane, routine daily grind.  "Hear O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is one."  The passage says this truth needs a be part of who we are every day.  Place it in your heart.  Impress it on your children.  Talk about them when you are sitting down and when you walk down the road.  Reflect upon this when you get up and when you lie down.  Tie the symbols of this on your writs and write them on your door frames.  In reading this, do you think God holds this as important?

Here is some practical advice.  Maybe keeping this before my eyes and heart will keep my eyes and heart off things that distract me away from God's plan and calling.  Maybe spending time every day just dwelling on this truth will take my heart and mind away from lots of untrue stuff that seeks to divert my walk with God.  Maybe God, in this advice, gives me something that will begin, end and focus my day on good things.  Maybe if I "get caught up" in this I will realize that most of my petty thoughts are irrelevant and unworthy of the time God has given me.  Maybe ... my life would change!  Maybe, we should try!  Randy

Monday, January 20, 2020


Watch them on TV.  Observe them in the grocery store.  See them on the road.  They are distracted, disoriented, self-absorbed and confused.  THEY are us!

Paul writes a prayer for the Ephesians (4:14) and for us. "Then, we will no longer be immature like children.  We won't be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching.  We will not be influenced by people who try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth!"  Paul says that these things will happen when (4:13) we "come to such unity in the faith and knowledge of God's Son  that we will be mature in the Lord."  Unity?  Faith?  Knowledge?  That is why I believe this is a prayer by Paul seeking God's help to find these holy things!

Hebrews 6:19 says, "We have this hope as an anchor for our souls!" The writer of Hebrews is speaking of God's promises to us, fulfilled and lived-out in the person of Jesus.  How do we allow God to make this prayer a reality? For our frayed lifestyle, how do we allow God's word to lead us here?

My take is we must decide whether our lifestyle is led by Jesus or by our world/society.  I have three short thoughts here.

1. I hear many who profess to seek unity in our world.  Their unity means that we come into agreement with their world-view.  I wonder if Paul's "tossed and blown about" relates to the insanity of this ideology?  If 60 people gather to worship there are 60 world-views, 60 definitions of right and 60 plans for the day ahead.  It would be insane for us to think we could meld all of those into what Paul calls unity.  Paul says we find unity in Jesus.  In the Church that is one thing we should all hold as our point of connection.  If we defer to Jesus, we can let our mishmash of world-views go packing and can get to work on the good things!

2. Hebrews says faith is belief in the sure hope of God's unseen things.  I was conversing with a friend sometime back about the chemistry of the human body.  It seems that when you add up all of the percentages you are just short of 100%.  Maybe the soul has mass, weight, substance.  While I don't know the chemistry, I do know that combining all of those chemicals does not produce life.  There is an unseen, unmeasurable spark that Genesis calls "the breath (ruach) of God."  What if our hope of a better, God-led life is unmeasurable, unseen and very real?  What if our distraction can become focus?  What if we can catch a glimpse of the unseen plan and path of God?  What if Paul is right ... as we come to faith and knowledge of Jesus, faith moves into the realm we can call reality?

3. Paul says knowledge is important if we are to perceive God rightly and maturely.  I believe much of our willingness to follow God and walk with Jesus is our ignorance.  I said Sunday that I meet church people every day that want to tell me what God says and what Jesus is all about ... and they haven't cracked a Bible in years!  Paul understands that when we either don't know what God's word says or simply don't care enough about God's word to be in active study, we are easily victimized by "every wind of new teaching."  Thomas Odin, the great theologian, poses that there are no new doctrines ... only recycled ideas that Satan has found effective in leading people astray.  If we know God, know Jesus' teaching and know our Bible, we can stand firm when the winds of new teaching try to toss us about!  Paul is right.

Hillsong writes, from the song Anchor (and Hebrews 6:19) "we have this hope, as an anchor for my soul, through every storm, I will hold to you."  I love this thought, because I have a tendency to become frayed, distracted, disoriented and disconnected from what is most important.  Randy

Sunday, January 12, 2020

That's The Truth!

One way God expresses His "oneness" is in the authorship of a concept that is foreign to the world in which we live.  That concept is ... truth.

Dr. Riley Short ends his sermons with the phrase "and that's the truth!"  He is not saying he is owner or author of this truth.  He is challenging himself and holding himself accountable to preach God's truth ... not Riley's opinion.  Other than amazing sermons, this statement is just one of the things I love about Dr. Short.  In the Old Testament this statement was a bit different but I believe it means the same thing.  The prophets would say ... "This is what the Lord says!"  This is true.  This is what you can count on.  This is not a whimsical thought that changes over time.  This is not prophetic opinion.  This is what God is saying through me.

I wonder if we believe that?  When our preacher or teacher is faithfully following God and brings a message, do we think it has, at least, some power of God's word?  Or are we more concerned with the eloquence of the speaker ... the manner of presentation ... whether we like the speaker ... whether we think the speaker likes us ... how the speaker is dressed?  We filter our hearing in ways we knowingly perceive and in ways to which we are oblivious.  But ... my desire is to be able to say what Dr. Short says after every sermon ... "and that's the truth!"

Jesus, on the other hand, has what Scripture says is ... "all authority on heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18)."  So we had better listen if we value truth.  In fact, Jesus said ... "I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6)."  God is all about truth ... and God expresses this truth through Jesus.

How does this relate to the "oneness of God?"  In Deuteronomy 6 the Scripture says that the "Lord your God is one."  We are told that this is a foundational truth to think about in the morning, reflect upon when we go to bed and discuss with our children as we walk down the road.  Moses is telling the people ... "this is truth for everyday life."  And it still is!  For God's truth will give us clarity, freedom and a solid foundation to do life ... and that's the truth!  Randy

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Waves and Castles

I was down at the beach with my granddaughter.  She did what many kids do.  She built a little sand structure, dug out what might be called a moat and played like her "castle" would stand forever.  Of course, she learned it didn't last.  The tide came in, the water seeped under her sandcastle, and it slowly settled into the beach.

I have built castles too.  Places where I have staked my claim.  I have exerted my control and my dominance.  It felt good too!  But, over time, I found that my castles didn't last.  No matter how well I built them they all seemed to fail.  But the tide changed, the waves came in and my perfect little plan settled into oblivion.

Last Sunday we talked about how God wants us to become totally open to Him.  How our little compartments become walls that we set up to keep God out.  I was thinking about this and how I have built life in my little protected and controlled setting.  What if I told you that we can do this all we want, but we cannot keep God out.  God is like the wave on the beach ... the changing tide.  Stevie Nicks writes, in The Edge of Seventeen, about the relentless sea ... "the sea changes colors, but the sea does not change."  God isn't altered by our structures or our plans.  God does not change when I build my castles.  God is even more relentless than the sea, and God's waves (and those that happen because of a turbulent world) crash in.  And the water rushes into our castles and we must either run or stand in God's power and allow our castles, our compartments and our small plans to be changed by the only one who can make something useful out of them.

Thursday we will have an birthday party.  It will be attended by all who have started to see that the wave of Jesus has crashed in on our castles.  I hope none of us will see this as invasion or destruction ... I pray we will see this as needed change.  God will crash my castles one by one, and, if I let Him, He will fill my life with things, people, pastimes, challenges, that will be good for me.  I may not see the immediate positives, but if I get out of God's way, I will see His new and good things in what many may view as calamity.  For seven years our Celebrate Recovery team has listened to those who have experienced waves that destroyed their castles.  We have consoled, comforted and told our new friends "this is happening for a purpose ... let God show you what He can and will do."  If you come Thursday you will hear testimony about a God who makes all things new, sometimes with waves that knock us off our feet.  Come, listen, cry, laugh and hear about the God of the ocean who is strong enough to overcome death and gentle enough to carry, in His arms, a woman who thinks all is lost.  Come ... and let God's waves tear down castles and give you a new and better place to live, in His house!  Randy