Sunday, February 21, 2021


I was trying to describe the meaning of Biblical love to a child once.  The child immediately gave me their 'love proverb' saying, "Love everybody you like."  She didn't know how close she came to what Jesus was criticizing in the parable of the Good Samaritan!

Over the rest of 2021 we will be doing something challenging, at least to me.  Our children are following a specific and structured process to learn and apply Scripture.  The process is a three-year plan that uses stories, principles and applications to build a bridge between God's living word and the lives of God's people.  I will use the same passages as I preach to our adults, and I hope for some family discussions over meals, car rides and other times these discussions are appropriate.

Back to our parable.  Jesus uses a story to illustrate God's wise and perfect view of people ... a view we seem to miss more than we grasp.  Jesus spends some time defining exactly what a neighbor is.  The Jews viewed neighbor as part of the Hebrew national clan.  It was the little girl's "love everybody you like," or maybe "love everybody like you."  Jesus seems to define neighbor differently, and He starts with a person clearly different than his audience.  Jesus' example of a neighbor is a hated Samaritan.  An injured man is neglected by the people who call themselves his neighbors.  They have their reasons for the neglect.  But in the end, even the audience of Jews must admit that the Samaritan is the one who is neighborly to the injured man.  Jesus ends the story with one of His annoyingly-perfect statements ... "Go thou and do likewise."  What does He mean by that?

Does he mean for us to act like the Samaritan?  Definitely!  But ... does He also call us to view the Samaritan (and those we place in the "they" category) as our neighbor?  That would mean "they" have value!  It would mean "they" are more like us than we would like to think.  It would mean we should love "them" rather than just loving everybody "like me."

These lessons that we and Jesus are teaching our children are just plain difficult.  Personally, I think Jesus is meddling!  What do you think?  Randy

Monday, February 15, 2021

The Extra Mile

Going beyond.  It really is what the entire Sermon on the Mount is all about.  Jesus repeatedly uses this phrase "The law says ___ but I say ___ ."  What do you think this means?  I meet people every day that say things like "I'm an Old Testament Christian!"  It is difficult to even find a jumping off point to appeal to theological logic when I hear this!  Jesus came to fulfill and complete the law (also from the Sermon on the Mount).  But I will just leave my argument on this point here ... do you think that if you want to know the true application of the law, you might ask the Son of God who was present when the law was handed down and present with the crowd gathered to hear his preaching.  Are WE gathered to hear and follow His preaching?  I hope so!

That brings us to a simple passage.  Matthew 5:41, "If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles!"  Counter intuitive, isn't it?  Contra to our human reaction, isn't it?  Different than what you want to do, isn't it?

Here are some truths from this troubling passage:

1.  Make good out of bad -  God has been doing this for a long time.  God took the persecution and hurtfulness of Joseph's brothers, and made it into a great good!  Joseph saved his people, his brothers included.  Joseph forgave.  Joseph saw past his oppression and allowed God to do something great!

2.  Submit to authority - We really hate this phrase right now.  Jeremiah told his people to fight, complain and draw swords if they wanted to ... but they would not have any success opposing what God was allowing to take place.  The soldier's demand was unfair and unreasonable.  We (and I am sure the people of Jesus' time) hate to be told what to do.  We hate to lose our right to choose.  We get bent out of shape when we are told anything!  But ... here is that passage, clear as a bell!  Paul said, in Romans 12:21 "Don't be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  Maybe overcoming evil with good entails putting our pride and our self-righteousness on the shelf and doing something good, in spite of whether it is appreciated or not.  I have had to learn this as I have helped (personally and through the church) people who discard the church with a wave of their hand, even when that help was both significant and life-changing.  But, we help anyway because it is who we are and who God is.

3.  Jesus' way is right, even if it rubs us the wrong way - I have had many friends complain that our society is all caught up in conditional truth, situational ethics and a non-Biblical worldview.  The same people argue over this passage and other non-reactionary things said by Jesus (especially in the Sermon on the Mount).  But I am sticking with my point above ... Jesus is right and we (me included) are wrong.  If we followed my "Old Testament Christians" who say "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" we would (as Gandhi said) all be one-eyed and toothless.  So I will try to grit my teeth and carry those bags that extra mile.

In the end (and God is totally in control of that end), God is right.  Jesus is the way, the truth and the way to life.  If you believe that I have some advice ... listen to Him.  Nuff said!  Randy

Sunday, February 7, 2021


 I love the story of Ruth and Boaz.  It is a beautiful love story, appropriate for today (Valentine's Day), but as I read the story I thought of another word ... the word pursuit.

I hear people talk about God.  They say things like "be all in!" ... "love God with all your heart!" These are both really good things.  But when we say those things we are often singing Sunday songs but forgetting the words during the week.  I am so guilty of this!  Maybe you are too?  It is easy to say the cliché' and sing the words, but it is much harder to really follow God.

In the story of Ruth, Boaz teaches us some useful things about how to pursue something you really want.  It is clear that Boaz is quickly smitten with Ruth.  But his actions go far beyond mere infatuation.  Boaz realizes that if you desire a relationship with someone it involves intentionality, especially in knocking down walls.  In Ruth's case, there were many walls.  She was a foreigner.  She was poor and needy.  She was a widow.  She wasn't a youngster, having been married to one of Naomi's sons for 10 years.  And there were cultural barriers regarding a possible relationship with Boaz, including age and family obligations.  Boaz had obstacles too.  He was an older man.  He was a leader to his clan.  There was another with the right to claim Ruth.  But Boaz knew something about pursuit.

Boaz, after seeing Ruth and realizing her beauty and the quality of her character, started tearing down walls.  1) Boaz saw Ruth for the amazing person she was and he found out everything about her, 2) He helped her but allowed her the dignity of working for the help, 3)  He protected her from other workers in the field, 4)  He made sure she was successful in her work.  In short, Boaz' pursuit of Ruth built her up, gave her dignity and offered her the hope of a better life.

When I think of Boaz, I realize something about my pursuit of God.  1) I want to know all I can about God and see God as worthy of love and worship, 2) I want to help in God's work in the world, even if I realize my work is meager and flawed, 3) I realize that any good thing I do is really God working through me, and 4) I want to do what I can to help God's plan happen in this world.  For if I love God, I pursue him by my actions.  I allow the walls between me and God to be torn down.

   And in the Bible, we see what God can do with pursuit and love.  From the Gospel of Matthew 1:5-6, we find these words ... "Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab. Boaz the father of Obed whose mother was Ruth.  Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse, the father of King David."   This amazing family tree (just one family in Hebrew history) shows how God can do a lot with love, obedience and pursuit!  Randy

Monday, February 1, 2021

Getting Dressed

There's something we do every day.  Most of us, even if we are staying at home, get up and put on some semblance of clothing.  Some of us take longer than others.  Some of us are more picky about what we wear.  But we get dressed.

Paul talked a lot about getting dressed.  In Ephesians 6:10-18 Paul says to put on the full armor of God.  In Galatians 3:27 Paul says, "Put on Christ."  But my favorite passage is this one (Colossians 3:12-15) ... "So chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline.  Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you.  And regardless of what else you put on, wear love.  It is your basic, all purpose garment.  Never be without it!"  I read this passage at weddings.  I read this passage when I am about to say something I shouldn't.  I think about this passage often, because it reminds me that if I wear love (and God is love) I am allowing myself to represent the image of God in a world that doesn't seem to know much about love.

This passage is the memory passage for our children this February.  The concept for the children is  ... "Be kind to others because God has been kind to you."  I guess that part of love is simple, like everything else Christian ... follow Jesus and you will end up in the right place!  But all of you know love is fleeting, complex, puzzling and lot's of other descriptive words.  There's an old Conway Twitty song that is about a conversation with the Man In The Moon.  The moon says, "I can move oceans when I get the notion, or make mountains tremble and rivers run dry, but in all matters human, remember there's someone, in charge of those things way above you and I."  Wise words I think!

So Colossians 3 gives us some wisdom about love.  1) We are chosen to love ... chosen by God "for this new life of love."  2) Our wardrobe (what we wear) has been laid out for us by God, 3) The wardrobe has some difficult things to wear ... kindness, compassion, quiet-strength, humility, discipline, 4) The wardrobe always includes forgiveness (the kind that mirrors Jesus), 5) The wardrobe should always be worn, 6) The wardrobe works for everything.  Now me ... I don't know much about love ... but God knows everything there is to know!  And if Jesus is your Master (the word is right there in the passage) and (in the song) is in charge of those things "way above you and I", then maybe we should appropriate God's wisdom here.

Put on love ... it is your all purpose garment ... NEVER be without it!  Randy