Randy's Reflections
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January 6, 2015, 2:00 PM

Randy's Reflection January 2015


"There is one body and one Spirit ­ just as you were called to one hope when you were called ­ one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”Ephesians 4:4­-5.

Change is not easy. Over the years we learn to deal with change, because it is a natural phenomenon in our lives. Moving to the East Bay six years ago was a big change for us. Our youngest daughter, Alyssa, came with us because she still had two years of high school to finish. Our son, Ian, was married and living in Spokane, Washington, and daughter, Emily, was also in Spokane with two more years of college to finish at Whitworth University.

It was nice that the two kids who were away from home were in the same location, but that for only another two years. While Ian stayed in Spokane, Emily accepted a job in Houston, Texas, and Alyssa decided Orange, California, had the perfect weather and location for her to begin college at Chapman University. That is close to where the kids are now, except Emily has moved to Austin with her husband, and Alyssa is working near LA while living in Culver City. Ian is still in Spokane, but he is learning what it means to be not just a husband, but also a father.

So having our children scattered across the country is not easy. Yet when we lived together for eight years in Iowa, before Ian left for college, we explored the headwaters of the Mississippi together at Lake Itasca. We visited the Olympic Village in Calgary on a trip across Canada. We also lived in the same house for those eight years, and another six after Ian left. That was the longest time I have lived in any one place. So we have a lot of history that we shared that has helped us build a family connection.

This last Thanksgiving we all met in Austin, or actually Buda, Texas. It was great to have everyone under the same roof; my mom, who lives in San Ramon, was also there. We found that even with our different lives in four different places there are some things that never change. We not only love each other, but, for the most part, we get along with each other. We all have the same central belief about God and though the churches we attend may differ in some of their theology, we still pray at meals, read the same Bible, and even ask each other to pray for our concerns and to offer prayers of thanksgiving for blessings we have received.

This makes me think of our church family. Even though, since I arrived six and half years ago, we have added over seventy new members, we also have shared some special events that bond us together. We celebrated our fiftieth anniversary as a church about 18 months ago. We have shared a couple of Seder Meals which we made kid­friendly and even had some folks from our congregation chant the prayers in Hebrew. We have also changed our Children’s Christmas Pageant to take place during a Sunday morning service during Advent. These are things that we share and that have brought us closer together. I think this year the people in our church have come to realize that we don’t all believe exactly the same way. We still pray together, we still read the same Bible, and we worship the same God -- we just emphasize different parts of the Bible and we may interpret some of the passages a bit differently.

This year we are recognizing that we can still be a church family even though there may be some differences in opinion. That is a hard thing to learn in our own biological family as well as in a church family. So this New Year I want to remind us of those non­negotiables of our faith – those beliefs that unite us. I will be preaching a series on the three different persons in the Trinity. I will begin with God, the Creator and Father of us all. Next, I will preach on Jesus as our Lord and Savior. Finally, I will look at the Holy Spirit as the one who dwells in us and transforms us.

We all believe that Jesus is the one who God sent to provide us with salvation. We all believe that the Bible is our primary resource for our faith. We all believe that it is by grace we are saved, not by our works. So, come with me and let us enter this New Year full of expectation of what we can learn about ourselves, each other, and most importantly about God. Let us be willing to embrace the change that God will bring us, a change that will make us even better than we are now and we will give God the Glory for it all.

Embracing change with you, Pastor Randy

P.S. This sign in on the way to Emily and Zach's house in Texas.

 




December 12, 2014, 6:00 PM

Randy's Reflections "Purpose Full"


“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Ephesians 2: 8-9

 

    I was reading the daily devotional that Joan and I gave to the congregation for the Advent season. It is written by Eugene Peterson, who translated the Bible into a readable manuscript. In the beginning he uses only scripture to tell the story of the birth of Jesus. In the later part of the pamphlet he talks about “The Gifts of Christmas” given to us by God. Those gifts include love, joy, and peace. I found it interesting that in his list he also includes "purpose."

    Decades ago purpose was not so important when discussing or thinking about one’s faith. Religion was part of the fabric of life in the United States of America. It was an acceptable and even essential part of much of American life. Yet over the last half century it has begun to recede into the background of the lives of Americans. In fact more people leave churches than join them today.

    So often there is little concern or desire for growing or even having a faith in one’s life. We have so many possessions or distractions that we fail to see the importance or the need for a faith community in our lives. Most of us aren’t concerned about where our next meal will come from. We aren’t worried that our children will have less than we will. We also don’t concern ourselves about having a roof over our heads.

    In the midst of this plenty we have come to realize that we want to have some kind of goal for ourselves. We long to accomplish something. We desire to leave legacy that is unique or profound. There has been a strong movement in our society to become fulfilled. We may not seek the necessities in life, or at least we don’t spend the bulk of our time trying to eek out dollars for shelter, or clothing, or food, yet we desire to “do” something important. We desire to fulfill a purpose in life.

    Purpose has become an important part of our existence. We want our life to mean something. We aren’t just content to live, but we want to thrive. We want to be known as someone unique, someone who has something to say, or someone who is sought out because of our expertise, or someone who is making a mark in the world.

    Yet Paul reminds us in Ephesians that what ever we have done to further the work of God, the master of the universe, it is not because of who we are, but because of whose we are. There is a purpose for our life, but that purpose is found in God. The importance of our life is not found in what we do or don’t do, it is found in following God. God is the one who orchestrates our world and it is God who needs our attention.

    So during this advent time we shouldn’t be concerned about making a name for yourself or fulfilling a purpose that only we can fill, but we need to be concerned about being attentive to God. If we are, then God will direct us and guide us in all that we do and say. This is what will bring us all those other gifts of Christmas, which are love, joy, peace, hope, forgiveness, and of course purpose.

 

    Blessings to all and to all a good night,

 

    Pastor Randy




December 1, 2014, 11:00 PM

Pastor Randy's December Reflection


We have just finished reading, discussing and preaching our way through The Story.
It took us eleven months to complete its 31 chapters. Some of us got bogged down in the history section;
some of us became confused with the law section. It is interesting that three quarters of the Bible is
comprised of the Old Testament, yet many of us prefer reading the New Testament - possibly because it is much easier to relate to and to understand.

Nonetheless, this year we at John Knox Presbyterian Church walked through the entire Bible.
This is an amazing accomplishment. If you didn’t finish it, at least you started it and gave it your best shot.
Yet, we Christians aren’t supposed to simply read the Bible. We are also supposed to live the Bible.
We are challenged to incorporate the message of the Bible into our daily lives, for we may be the only
Bible some people read. That may seem like an ominous task. How can we ever hope to adequately convey the
message of love and sacrifice found in the Bible? How can we ever hope to be the people God
has called us to be in the midst of all our responsibilities, concerns, and struggles? There are
times when we feel like we have succeeded in being patient, kind, and loving to those who don’t
deserve it. There are times when we have really been generous with our time, talent and treasure,
even when it means giving up something we so desperately long for. There are times when
we have truly walked the walk, and not just talked the talk. But then, someone comes to us and
tells us we just aren’t good enough. In times like that, we feel utterly alone. We feel we have
failed our faith. We may even feel that we have been more a detriment to the Christian message
than an asset to God. Yet we also have Jesus’ promise: “And surely I am with you always, to
the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b). God is with us. We ARE NOT ALONE.

No matter who you are, no matter what you have done, no matter whose expectations you don’t
live up to, Jesus is there for you. Jesus can right any wrong, Jesus can heal any hurt. Jesus can
and does walk with you through any valley that is lined with your enemies. This one of the reasons
we celebrate Christmas. We need to know that God sent his Son not only to guide us, but
also to love us as we are. People may not understand you. People may pick at you. People may
be disappointed in you. But Jesus is not only our Lord, our guide in following the right path; Jesus
is also our Savior. He picks us up when we fall, dusts us off when we are falsely accused,
embraces us when we feel alone. This Advent season I hope you will know and believe that God
is for you, even if others speak against you. God offers his unconditional love, even when others
say you are not worthy. Each of us is made worthy by His love. Take heart from knowing that He
died for you so that you may have new life, and life abundant, forever. This is the True Story.
Blessings to you this Christmas. And may you never turn from the warmth of God’s embrace, for
you are not alone.

 

Peace to you, Pastor Randy


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