Monday, March 30, 2020


When you read this word you think of the military.  I have friends, family and loved ones who are or have been deployed.  They have left their safety net and have entered the fray of life in unfamiliar territory.  One of my members sent a graphic that said ... "The Church is not empty ... the Church is deployed!"  I love that!

On that 1st Palm Sunday Jesus had left the relative safety of traveling in rural Israel, away from Jewish leadership and Roman governance.  He had entered the place where a major battle ... the battle for our very souls, would take place.  He and 12 disciples were deployed, and they began to get an idea of what the real Church is like.  It is the Church that stood outside the very gates of hell, ready to claim Jesus' promise that it would somehow not be overcome.  None of the 12 really understood.

In one of my favorite movies, The Return of the King (J. R. R. Tolkien), Aragorn talks to his troops who are about to battle the enemy forces at the Black Gate.  He tells them about the fear he is feeling and his total faith that they will not faint or fail in the face of that fear.  They have been deployed for this purpose and this is their time to shine.

Over the next few weeks we will all have a chance to shine in this battle that is more spiritual than you think.  Maybe the battle is seeing past the enemy to blessings that are happening ... victories we don't even see.  One friend said, "I hope we never forget this time where cell phones and computers became tools for ministry ... where we recaptured the beauty and blessing of the outdoors ... where homes became places where we prayed daily ... where our children became real people to us again ... where a phone call wasn't an annoyance but was a meaningful connection ... where checking on a friend became urgent and appreciated ... where Scripture became real to us ... where we remembered the sacrifice of our Savior ... where every moment of life became precious."  Add to this list what you will!  But remember ... we are deployed into the territory of the enemy.  We have been given many tools to overcome, taught to us by our Master.  Jesus is teaching us to 1) get past our fears ... 2) embrace those Jesus has given us to love ... 3) rely on Jesus' example of sacrificial love ... 4) use this time to grow ... 5) allow Jesus to teach us the lessons of life, love and grace ... 6) remember that we are deployed to do Jesus' work ... 7) never forget that the very gates of Hell will not overcome us if we trust and follow Jesus!

Monday, March 23, 2020


The word "sacrifice" is an oft-used and little-understood word in our culture. We use it in that flippant way we also use the word love, as if nothing is really holy anymore.  In the Cambridge Dictionary it says sacrifice is "the act of giving up something that is valuable to you in order to help someone else."  In the biblical sense the idea is that true sacrifice is an act that transforms what is offered into something that is "holy" or "sacred."

So ... how do we redeem this time when we are prone to watch too much TV, worry too much or just melt into little heaps of tearful flesh?  We consider and apply sacrifice.  Here are a few points:

1. None of what is happening is about us.  It will affect us.  It could even be devastating to some of us.  It will certainly impact our world.  In my lifetime I have never seen anything change life in such a short period of time. We must realize that this is a time and place in history when our individual actions impact people beyond ourselves.  It is not about us ... but our sacrifice can help others.  Our behavior can, in how we love others more that our "wants", become our sacrifice to do our part to help.

2. A question.  When, in life, do we as God's people have more of a chance to change the world and make it better than when we have the chance to "make sacred" something that (if left alone) spreads evil throughout our world?  This is in our wheelhouse as Christians!  This is what we are all about ... doing stuff that helps people beyond ourselves and telling people (through our actions) that we care about them!

3. We are in the season of Lent, the 40 days before Holy Week.  It is likely that our Easter will be impacted by what is happening around us.  But isn't Easter and every Sunday morning all about a God that loved us so much that He gave His life as a sacrifice for us?  The holiest being in the universe acts in a way that makes possible a heavenly destination for all of us who live, struggle, work and strive in this place we call the world.  As sacred as His life was (and is) Jesus makes it even more sacred by giving up Himself for the forgiveness of sins.  "For God so loved the world [this means all folks] that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him would not perish, but have everlasting life."  Because our leader was a person of sacrifice, so must we be!

I am working on plans to remember Jesus' sacrifice in a very special way.  Those plans are moving forward with the help of many wonderful workers.  While our nation, our state and our community asks for us to make some hard sacrifices, maybe we should view this as a chance for God's people to shine, be a solution and be light in our current dark circumstances.  This is what we were made for! It is our destiny!  Randy

Monday, March 16, 2020

A God Like That

The old song says “People Need The Lord” and, at times like these, that is an understatement.  We need Jesus every day, but I believe the number of people looking up at Him at this time in history is vastly multiplied.  On Sunday I said, “What a week!”  I think every week for a while we may be saying those words.  We are in the midst of a storm.  The storm is medical.  The storm in financial.  The storm is emotional.  The storm is filled with scary things.  And no matter how you try, the storm seems to thunder with a new twist multiple times every day.

I want you to, as we share the stories of Jesus, remember some things Jesus said and did regarding storms.  The first thing is pretty simple.  In Matthew 8:23-27 there is a trip planned.  The disciples get into the boat and Jesus gets into the boat with them.  Lesson 1 is, Jesus is in the boat with us.  His Spirit is living in us.  His presence is with us.  There is nothing about the experience of the storm that Jesus doesn’t see, feel and encounter.  He knows what is going on!

The second thing about the storm is that Jesus is calm.  He tells His disciples, “why are you so afraid?”  I love the way Matthew states this.  He doesn’t say “why are you afraid?”  Storms do scare people.  Storms are loud, unpredictable and dangerous.  There are reasons for at least some level of fear.  But don’t be so afraid that you lose faith in the God that created the heavens and the earth.  We are all concerned … but we don’t have to be irrational.  I am in conversation with several of our church leaders who are helping me plan for the days ahead.  Some have ministry ideas.  Some have creative ideas on how our services will continue.  Some want to make sure people are aware of their responsibility to give.  Some are asking, how can we take a missional view of the storm?  We have many good and faithful people, and I am thankful for them.  I would like to say I could sleep through the storm like Jesus did, but I will be able to sleep tonight because Jesus is right here in the boat with me.

Finally, I take heart in the knowledge of the ending of the story.  Jesus calmed the storm.  He has calmed storms for centuries, including storms far worse than the one we face today.  The disciples said, “What kind of man is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey Him?”  In the song, So Will I the writer says …
if the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar Your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift You high so will I
If the wind goes where You send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
We worship a God who commands the wind and the waves.  We can trust Him.  We will weather the storm and maybe, just maybe, we will be able, as Jesus’ warriors, to stare the evil forces at work in all of this and say … “We are the storm!”  Randy

Monday, March 9, 2020

Do Likewise

These seem like benign words.  Jesus uses this phrase to end the parable of the good Samaritan.  But they are only slightly less difficult than when Jesus said … “But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect! (Matthew 5:28)” But Jesus says clearly, as instruction to followers and those who believe they perfectly understand God’s laws … “Go and do likewise! (Luke 10:37)”  What could He possibly mean?

When I was a layperson in the church we attended in Ooltewah, Tennessee, I was using Warren Wiersbe’s “BE” series commentaries.  They were wonderful little thoughts about the Gospels and gave a clear and active perspective of how to take God’s Word and apply it.  So, I am going to channel pastor Wiersbe for a bit and give you a few “BE” ideas about the parable of the Good Samaritan.

1.      Be observant – Every day I find myself in a very bad place of focusing on my stuff and ignoring the needs of others.  The Good Samaritan saw.  He saw a person … not a hated Samaritan.  He saw a need … not something that ruined his plans for the day.  He saw hurt … not a violation of the law.  Be observant!

2.      Be compassionate – It is hard, in this busy world, to be compassionate.  We are tempted to rationalize that the needy person is needy because of their flawed lifestyle.  We are tempted to see the ethnicity of the person and walk on the other side of the road.  We might even be looked down by others because we have helped another person that didn’t meet our community standards.  Still, there is that command … “Go thou and do likewise!”  Be compassionate.
3.      Be helpful - The movement from compassionate to helpful is the move from passive to active.  It is moving from our ability to see and transcend ourselves to our ability to act on that transcendence and do some good for another person.  Be helpful.

4.      Be invested – Helping is sometimes costly.  It takes time, effort, money and a little bite out of our life.  That is annoying unless you realize where that “life” came from.  Your life is, if you are called Christian, given to another.  It is the person who said … “Go thou and do likewise.”  Be invested.

5.      Be complete - I have a tendency to only help people a little … only as much as it makes me feel good or justified.  Remember that the person asking Jesus the question here (the expert in the law) asked the question to justify himself.  The Good Samaritan went the full mile in helping the man attacked by robbers.  He picked him up, nursed his wounds, gave him what he needed to heal, put him up in a hotel, paid for his room and board, and made sure that the help carried on till it was complete.  This man was NOT a quitter.  He was truly the GOOD Samaritan.  Be complete!

Be observant, be compassionate, be helpful, be invested and be complete.  Then you can say “I did it!” to Jesus who said, “Go thou and do likewise!”  Randy

Monday, March 2, 2020

Pardoned While Powerless

I have often marveled that Jesus comes to me at those times when my options have run out.  This may be because I tend to look for Him when I have no other options ... my bad!  It also might be because I am too often self sufficient (a lie I tell myself) and too seldom not God-sufficient.  In either case, I am resolving that this year's Lent will be a time when I rely on God and seek him, even when I feel particularly powerless.

Fact is, I am often quite powerless over the things going on.  I can wash my hands, refrain from touching my face, and take hygiene-related precautions, but I can do little else about the coronavirus.  I can turn off the TV when political ads invade my privacy, but I can't stop the candidates from using disgusting tactics in their campaigns.  In all of these things I feel powerless.  But there is a person in Scripture who was so much more powerless!

In Luke 23:43, Jesus hangs on a cross between two criminals.  One of them (verse 39) insulted Jesus and shouted "save yourself and us."  The other said, (verse 42) "remember me when you come into your kingdom."  Both were powerless, far beyond my lack of power and influence.  They were about to die, and were in the process of dying a horrible death.  They had lost all rights, all dignity and almost all hope.  They were powerless.  What can we learn from them?

First, we can realize that we are powerless just like them.  We can make good choices.  We can take every precaution.  We can go to church, read our Bible and say all the cliches.'  But we cannot save ourselves.  Only one has the power (Matthew 10:28) to cast eternal souls into hell.  And only one has the power to save!  The second criminal understood his hopelessness.

Second, we can reach out to one who has power.  When death is at the door, our options are played-out.  We can't write a check or throw a hail-Mary.  We can only pray, seek and trust.  Last week we prayed for a little baby named Lydia.  She had bacterial meningitis, and the lab tests said the infection had entered her blood stream.  All of us were powerless, but we prayerfully reached out to the one who could do something.  None of us know why, but her results, her health and her life changed in a positive direction.  The second criminal did something that was redemptive ... he sought Jesus in his time of powerlessness.  "Remember me when you come into Your kingdom!"  He sought the only one who could save him!

Finally, we can rest in Jesus to take us the rest of the way, whatever that is.  Jesus responds to the criminal, "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise (Luke 23:43)."  That is really all any of us ever need for living life ... Jesus.  My eyes fix on two parts of this verse that give me great comfort.  The first is "truth."  At death (and really anytime) truth is a great thing.  John 8:32 says ... "the truth will set you free."  In a life of bondage to many things, this criminal is set free because of God's truth.  He is free from his sins, free from his earthly shell, free from his past and free from all of his struggles.  He is "resting" in God's truth.  And he is "with Jesus."  That is truly enough.  I can get caught up in so many things.  In this election year we will be told all manners of junk.  National and international crises will threaten our sanity and our security.  But we don't need to be blown about by every wind of fate ... though we are powerless over most of it.  We can rest in Jesus and live with Jesus.  And even if our very lives hangs in the balance, that is enough.  And that's the truth!  Randy