Randy's Reflections
June 3, 2014, 8:00 AM

Randy's Reflections "Church Matters"

“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” 1 Corinthians 12:27 
 I am currently in Orange, California, waiting to celebrate the graduation of our youngest 
daughter from Chapman University. It is hard to believe that 24 hours from now all our children will 
have completed their college studies – at least their undergraduate degrees (some are considering 
pursuing graduate studies down the road; maybe they will eventually come to their senses, although I 
probably shouldn’t be talking). 

Education has always been important to our immediate and extended family. We have college 
professors; elementary and middle school administrators; elementary, middle and high school 
teachers in just two generations of Joan’s and my family. In the last couple of years the next 
generation has also taken up the teacher banner. 

Church has also been an important component of our family life. Our grandparents, parents, 
and children have made and are making church an essential part of their lives. More and more people 
in America, however, do not consider church to be an important part of their lives. It is ironic that at a 
time when interest in spiritual things has been on the rise in America, church attendance and 
participation is waning. 

This contradiction was brought home to me recently when I attended a soccer presentation 
featuring an official who was a referee at the latest World Cup. It was very interesting, and those 
attending were an elite group of referees (barring myself). During a break, I shared with a fellow 
referee my disappointment at being unable to stay for the whole event; he replied that the same 
program was happening the next morning, so I could catch it then. I told him I wasn’t able to attend, 
because I had church the next day. His response was, “This is my church.” He then gave a little 
chuckle. As I looked around, I observed that during the break very few people were talking with each 
other. A lot of the guys were standing alone drinking their Gatorade and eating their cookies. In fact, 
when I started to leave for my next obligation, the referee with whom I’d been talking invited me to go 
back into the auditorium with him. He had no one else to talk with. This may have been his church, but 
he was the only member as far as I could tell.  This encounter caused me to ponder a question that has been
at the forefront of my thoughts lately.

Why is church important? At a recent retreat that Joan attended, one of the speakers made the 
comment that most of us, when asked to describe ourselves in one word, choose a relational noun 
such as wife, mother, teacher, friend. We are created for connection. Church is, therefore, not only a 
place where you can grow in your faith with God, but also a place where you make connections with 
other people. It is a place where we can give and receive unconditional acceptance (at least we are 
trying to do that). Church is a place where we can share our joys and our concerns, find support, and 
be challenged. We can be challenged to grow in our relationship with others as well as in our faith in God.

This challenge includes learning how to focus on others, not just on ourselves. When we come 
together as a church we learn to love not just the people we know, but also the people God gives us 
to love. We are challenged to honor God in all things and to serve and love others, even when it is the 
hard thing to do. 

What is church to you? Is it important to you? Why or why not? Starting on June 15 we will begin a “Discovery Class” that will meet for three consecutive Sundays. This is the class that people attend who want to consider joining John Knox Presbyterian Church. It is an organized class where we can get to know a small group of people better as well as explore what it means to be a Christian. 

Attending this class does not obligate you to join this church, but will help you to explore your faith and 
let you know what we at John Knox think are the important elements of faith.  Maybe you feel your faith has stalled for the moment. Maybe you wonder if now is the time to make a public commitment to this church, a group of people seeking to grow in their relationship with God and each other. Maybe you just want to learn more about faith in general. If so, I urge you to sign up for this class. We will include exploring the importance of the Bible, what prayer is all about, and how we can love as God loves us. Child care will be available for those who need it.

Pastor Randy

May 13, 2014, 7:00 PM

Randy's Reflections "Time Will Tell"

“I thank my God every time I remember you.”

Philippians 1: 3


     Today is a very hot day. The plants I watered just last night are wilting this afternoon. I did notice that a couple of the new plants I recently planted already have some additional leaves. Once those plants are firmly established I have no fear whether they will flourish not. They are already on their way.


     One of my recent plant purchases, that's right I said purchased for I have called a hiatus on the dumpster diving for awhile, is doing wonderfully. Although I paid for this plant I did buy it on the discount rack. In fact it was a dollar. That is right, I paid a dollar for an amazingly beautiful shamrock plant. When I bought it it had quite a few leaves, but it was parched. I am not sure when they last watered it, but I thought it looked very healthy for the discount rack. Sometimes you can tell if a plant just needs some loving care and sometimes you can’t see all that is wrong with it. You know, there may be some hidden bugs in the dirt or on the leaves. It may have some kind of disease. You just never know.


     This is kind of like us. On the outside most of us look pretty healthy, but it is not till we get underneath the layers that we find out if we are truly healthy or not. Though I must say actually all of us have some unhealthy parts in our lives. The wonderful thing for me is that I know God can change those unhealthy parts within me. Sure it doesn’t happen over night. But I know I can’t just do it by myself. God does and will use other people to help me become more healthy and God’s Spirit helps me to regroup and grow.


     The truth be told we all are on or have been on the discount rack at one time or another. And we probably will be on it again, sooner or later. But the wonderful thing is that God doesn’t leave us there. God has paid and enormous price for us and God desires to see us get as healthy as we can.


     So often Paul’s letters begin with a thank you for the faith of those Paul knew at Philippi, or Thessalonica or Corinth. So I think God is thankful to us for being willing to admit that we need his care. God will bring people to our side to help us and God will inspire us through his Spirit to become more like the healthy person he wants us to be. We just need to put our trust in him and seek to grow in him every day.


     Have you felt pretty dry recently? Have you noticed that your leaves aren’t as green as they used to be? Perhaps your vigor has waned a bit. Well know this, God has great plans for you. God wants you to become the flourishing plant he has created you to be. Just allow God to direct your life, give you some water, maybe a little fertilizer, and next thing you know you will be blooming your socks off.


     I am thankful that I have friends who won’t let me stay dry. I have friends who will encourage me to drink from the living well and to soak up the Son, so I can become the person who God wants me to be. Let me encourage you. God will give you nourishment and help you grow into the plant he has created you to be. So ask God and expect to receive his grace.


     By the way that shamrock is blooming up a storm, in fact I put it’s picture next to this piece. And to think I didn’t have to pay nearly the price God paid for me and for it to keep blooming I just need to give it a little water now and then.


     Seeking refreshment and health with you,


     Pastor Randy

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