Randy's Reflections
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May 5, 2014, 1:00 PM

Pastor Randy's May Update

“I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which
God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”

 Philippians 3: 14

 
 
Learning has always been a major part of my life. Last week I had the privilege of taking a week of study leave; it is a privilege I do not take lightly. My goal for the week was to continue my study of the Holy Spirit, as a follow up to my participation in the “Consultation on the Holy Spirit” in North Carolina last fall.
 
The book I found most inspirational and challenging was Jack Levison’s book, Inspired: The Holy Spirit and the Mind of Faith. Levison suggests that a life inspired by the Holy Spirit includes ecstasy, virtue, and learning. I think as Christians we certainly want to have a life inspired by the Holy Spirit, but how does this include ecstasy, virtue, and learning? Levison defines these words in the following way:
 
Ecstasy is a word which, for many Christians, causes some concern. It is something we would like to experience, but only if under our control. Some definitions of ecstasy would include being in a trance-like state or being in a dazed condition. By contrast, Levison likens it more to being highly enthusiastic, experiencing wonder and amazement, or being joyful.
 
Virtue focuses on our activities. This could include dietary simplicity, courageous honesty, avoidance of greed, “and countless other actions and attitudes that embody a holy, just, and devout life” (Page 12).
 
Learning is wide-ranging, expansive, eye-opening. It is life-changing, transformative, recreative. It is an all-absorbing process, a synergy between competence, passion, and persistence. Learning is best defined as developing a passion for knowledge and investing the time necessary to hone it.
 
It makes sense that a life inspired by the Holy Spirit would exhibit both ecstasy and virtue, but it seems less obvious to include the functioning of the mind; that seems almost antispiritual, yet Levison shares some of the notable Old Testament characters who exhibited a Holy Spirit-inspired life like Joseph and Daniel. They put into practice skills and knowledge attained through circumstances that had been governed by the Holy Spirit.
 
It was the Pharaoh in Egypt who recognized the Holy Spirit in Joseph. After the Pharaoh hears of Joseph’s plan to survive the coming famine, he says in Genesis 41:38, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the spirit of God?”
Joseph had learned from God over time how to interpret dreams. He learned how to be an effective administrator, first over his family’s livestock, then over Potiphar’s household and, finally, in prison before he became second in
command over Egypt.
 
Daniel was also noted as having the Holy Spirit. Three successive generations of oppressive emperors recognized that he had “a spirit of the holy God in him” (Daniel 4:8, 9, 18; 5:11-12; 6:3). This was not a onetime trance, but the fruit of a devout, virtuous life, that was lived out over decades.
 
So perhaps these definitions and examples can help us see how we, too, can live lives inspired by the Holy Spirit. Are we enthusiastic about life or finding ways in which we can experience wonder and amazement in this life? Are we seeking ways to live in simplicity, honesty, and generosity? Do we still strive to learn something new every day? Doing all these things does not guarantee that we are living a Holy Spirit-inspired life, but when we couple these with our devotion to God, it at least gets us on the right track.
 
Why not try to answer these questions above in the positive for the next month and see what a difference it makes in your life? I know that God wants the best for us for “we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8: 28).
 
Seeking an inspired Holy Spirit life with you,
Pastor Randy



April 17, 2014, 1:00 PM

Randy's Reflections "The Found"


It was a great day! I was getting lots of things done. I had finished all the errands on my list and I was just leaving Costco at 8:10 pm, about twenty minutes before closing. As I pushed my cart up to door of my truck I reached in my pocket for the keys, but I only found a few coins of change.

    No! I didn’t lock my keys in the truck again, did I? Well I did have a AAA account and they have opened up the truck door more than once when I had left the keys in the ignition, but before I would call them I better check if the keys are in there. I went around to the other side of the truck and looked through the passenger window, there were no keys dangling from the ignition.

    Okay, so I lost them somewhere inside the store. How would I ever find them in there? Maybe someone had found them and had taken them to Customer Service Desk. As I started to walk back to the store I remembered I had had a wrapper from a Trail Mix bar in my pocket, which I had thrown away in the trash just before entering Costco. Those keys may not even be in the store. They may be in the trash can outside of the store.

    How was I going to be able to dig through that trash to find my keys, if they were even there? I noticed they were starting to clean up outside since the store was closing shortly. If they had already changed out that trash bag how was I going to find the bag which had been at that particular site.

    As I approached the trash can I noticed there wasn’t much trash in it, not a good sign. They may have already changed the trash bag, but I looked down in the almost empty trash can and I saw a glimmer of metal. I reached down into that can and found my keys. Yep, I had accidentally thrown them in the can with that Trail Mix bar wrapper.

    My first reaction was, “Yes!” I had been dreading how I would ever find those keys and yet as soon as I retraced by steps and plunged my hand into that trash bag, there they were. I was so elated.

    Sometimes when we have a difficult task we will worry about how it will ever get done. We think of all kinds of obstacles which we will have to hurdle, yet if we just take one step at a time the task or the solution to the problem may be so much easier than we thought. Sometimes it is that one step that is the hardest.

    What is the difficult task you are facing? Have you thought of all the problems and obstacles that could thwart you accomplishing that task? Well maybe it is time just to take that one step to solving that issue or completing that task.

    I know now to make sure to glance one more time at the things I throw away. I need to make sure what is going in the trash needs to be in the trash. I also know I need just to start with that first step.

 

    Taking one step at a time with you,

 

    Pastor Randy

 



March 28, 2014, 7:00 PM

Pastor Randy's April Reflections

“And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit . . .
And (they) exclaimed, ‘Surely he was the Son of God!’”                                      Matthew 27:50-54

 

I have a shamrock plant in my office which I have had for over twenty years. It is not flourishing with leaves and flowers, but it does currently have five clovers and three flowers on it. I can’t remember when I actually got it, but it took up residence in my office in Iowa when I realized its lack of blooms was due to our cat’s eating the leaves when we weren’t looking. Since then it was transported to California and ensconced in my office at the church.

I don’t understand why it doesn’t have more leaves and I don’t understand why it blooms when it does. I water it about every third day and every so often it will shoot up a stem which turns into a set of three flowers. Is there some spiritual significance here? Three days, unexpected appearance of flowers, and three blossoms (three days later he was risen from the dead and perhaps a trinity image)? My point is, that this plant has persevered through all kinds of changes, cold weather and humidity, nibbling from our cat, traveling from Iowa to California, and it continues to blossom at unexpected intervals. Joy punches out of the dry ground to blossom for no reason that I can tell.

Coach Mike Allen had only been at Gunderson High School in San Jose for one full season when he decided the basketball culture was detrimental to the kids on the team as well as to the school itself. Seven games into his second season he had seen enough. After the next Saturday practice he told the five starters they were suspended from the team due to their lack of respect. The only way they could return to the team was to bring a parent to meet with him.

The next Monday the entire team was waiting at the door to begin their 6 a.m. practice. Coach Allen told the starters, “You’re wasting your time; you can’t be here today. You need to leave.” After he unlocked the gym doors for the twelve boys who weren’t starters only four boys remained. Besides the five starters, eight other players walked away from practice that day and for the rest of the season. Allen was left with four players, two freshmen and two sophomores. He brought up two players from his JV team and now he had six boys for Gunderson’s Varsity Basketball team. They lost all the other games that season, 21 of them.

Only one of the suspended players, Ryan Tran, asked to be back on the team the following season. Even though this one starter came back, the streak of losses continued, reaching 24 straight losses. On December 12th, Gunderson won its first game in two seasons. One win turned to two, then four, then eight. That season the team made it all the way to the quarterfinals of the section playoffs. The Gunderson players swept Blossom Valley division awards for senior of the year, junior of the year, and sophomore of the year.

Did Allen do the right thing? He hopes so. Allen still feels the pain of not really knowing if he made a positive impact in the lives of the kids who left, but he persevered in what he thought was the right thing to do. The basketball culture has changed at Gunderson and there is evidence that those who followed his plan are having success not only on the court, but off the court as well.

Jesus talked and walked with a band of disciples for three years. He shared his life and his hopes with them. He was their mentor and he broke bread with them. Before he was taken into custody that Maundy Thursday he prayed in earnest for God to allow his journey to be different, but in the end he said, “Your will be done,” not mine. He persevered.

When he was nailed to the cross that Good Friday Jesus prayed to God, our Father, to forgive them, “for they know not what they do.” While on that cross he found a home for his mother, saying to John, “Behold your mother!” On the cross he was mocked, but still responded with compassion to the thief by his side who asked to be remembered. “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Jesus suffered feelings of abandonment on that cross. He spoke the words from Psalm 22, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Yet he persevered.

As he breathed his last, he commended his spirit to God; he proclaimed, “It is finished.” He wasn’t finished, but his purpose for being on earth was complete. He had come to give us new life and that meant he had to carry the weight of all the sins of the world on his shoulders. He completed the task, he finished the race, he persevered.

Thankfully, we are not required to sacrifice in the same way. Instead, we have  been given the opportunity to receive redemption through the sacrifice of Jesus. We don’t always know when, nor do we always know why, but there are days when the blooms of joy break through our despair and blossom, even in the driest of times, but we need to persevere.

Easter is a time when we can celebrate not only what happened to Jesus, his resurrection, but what was given to us, an opportunity to receive the grace and mercy of God. Sometimes the road takes unexplained turns and sometimes we are faced with harsh events in life, but as we lean on Jesus we can persevere. We can also have faith that even in those difficult moments we may experience moments of wonder and joy, just like the flowers of my shamrock.

As long as I water my shamrock and put it in the sun, I will have those unexpected amazing moments when a three-fold blossom will appear. When I continue to cultivate my relationship with God, I will also have those unexplained moments of joy and wonder, as long as I persevere.

Celebrating those moments of joy and wonder with you,

Pastor Randy

 

 


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