Randy's Reflections
March 1, 2014, 2:00 PM

Pastor Randy's March Reflections


It is a great thing, this reading of the Scriptures! . . . It is a well that has no bottom.

                                                                 St. John Chrysostom

I am grateful for today’s much-needed rain. Farmers, conservationists, and even water districts are concerned about this season of drought. Just as we need rainfall to provide the earth with refreshment, restoration, and life, so do we need spiritual nourishment for souls.

As Christians, we depend on the Bible for that much-needed spiritual nourishment. Since the Bible can inform us, reform us and transform us, we need to delve into it daily. This is one reason for our reading through The Story, which covers the entire Bible in one year. It is also why we are reading through the book of Matthew, one chapter at a time, during Lent. This devotional booklet is available in the narthex, in the church office, and on our website.

The Bible not only informs us about specific Biblical characters, but also informs us about human nature, something that hasn’t changed down through the ages. Additionally, the Bible informs us about God’s character, which remains the same throughout the centuries. It is important to know God and to understand human nature so we can better understand ourselves and can catch a glimpse of the Author of Life.

Information, however, is not the only thing necessary for feeding our souls. As we ingest this information we find that we are lacking in so many ways, not only in our living, but also in our dealings with each other and in our interaction with God. The Bible informs us that God designed us to be compassionate, nurturing, and focused, but are we? God expects us to care for ourselves, others, and nature, but do we? The reality is that we are not and we do not, at least much of the time.

Because we are not motivated to change on the basis of information alone, the Bible also helps reform us. God has expectations for us to be more than we are. God’s desire is for us to be fully human, doing that which is good and beneficial for ourselves, for others, and for the world around us. In the Bible we discover guidelines, principles, and laws given by God to help us be the people he expects us to be. As we are informed by the Bible about ways in which we do not live up to God’s desire for our lives, so we are reformed by following those God-given guidelines.

It is good to recognize that we need to change. It is good to believe that we can change. It is, therefore, imperative that we know how to change. Reformation is something we strive to accomplish, yet as we seek to improve our behavior and character, we also quickly learn that reformation is neither easy nor attainable through our own strength and power.

Reformation cannot be achieved by our will alone. No matter how hard we try, the changes we need to make in our lives are beyond our ability or capacity to implement. We need the Bible to inform us about who we are and what is expected of us. We need guidelines to mark the way in which we need to go and how we should get there, reformation. But, just as importantly, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to transform those areas which are too hard for us to change on our own.

Therefore, the Bible also serves to transform us. True, there is no special incantation for transformation found in the Bible. There is no step-by-step procedure for our becoming all we were created to be within the 66 books with their hundreds of pages. There are, however, passages which speak to us about our hope that is grounded in our belief in Jesus and a yearning to love God first and others second (see Matthew 22:35-40).

We need to shake off the mold of the world’s expectations, the character which is most commonly accepted as human, and renew ourselves by believing, learning, and living like true children of God. Romans 12:2 urges us to no longer “conform to the pattern of this world, but [to] be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind[s].” How do we know, then, what we need to change? We are called to be different, to be salt and light in this world (Matthew 5:13-16). Sometimes the Bible is very clear about how we need to change, but other times demands something beyond human discernment. In John 14:26 Jesus assures us that “the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in [his] name, will teach [us] all things and will remind [us] of everything [he has] said to [us].”

The Holy Spirit will not only convict us of our wandering ways, but will also teach us how to change. One way we verify the truth of the Spirit is by making sure it coincides with the Bible. By reading the Bible we can learn the ways we need to change and, by the power of the Spirit, that change can happen.

So, let us continue to ruminate on the words of Psalm 1 that promise that we will yield our fruit in due season. We will not wither, but we will be like trees planted by streams of water that prosper in the eyes of both God and humankind. For then we will be not only informed and reformed, but will also be wondrously transformed. Then the God of hope will fill us with all joy and peace as we trust in Him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15: 13).

Being transformed with you,

Pastor Randy


February 11, 2014, 10:00 PM

Randy's Reflections "Keeping our Focus"

I love referring soccer games. It doesn’t much matter if I am in the center, where there is action almost all the time, or on the sideline, as an Assistant Referee, AR. We work as a team and we depend on each other to use six eyes, two ARs, and the Center, to make sure the players are safe, equally reprimanded, and enjoying the game.

    Last weekend I was referring a hotly contested game and both teams were doing well. One team was a little slower than the other, but they were able to keep the team from scoring a lot of points because they played the offside trap. It takes close scrutiny and some experience to be able to tell if someone is offside or not. It was one of the most important parts of the AR’s job to make sure there is not an offside infraction. It is probably the most misunderstood rule and if you want to learn how to tell if someone is offside please contact me or read the laws of the game, law eleven, very carefully.

    I try very hard to keep my mind, eyes, and ears on the game, which can be difficult not only because of the constant action, but also because of the fans trying to help you call fouls a lot of the time. Sometimes they are right and sometimes they are not, but the referee team has to make the final decision.

    Anyway, in that game I was watching very closely for a possible offside infraction, but as I was running down the line with my attention on the game a parent behind me yelled, “He is offside!!” I responded, “No, he was not involved in the play.” This is one of the rules for an offside infraction, you have to not only be in the position of offside, but you have to be involved in the play.

    I usually don’t engage those behind me, but I had numerous times ignored other comments and I couldn’t help myself so I inadvertently responded. I left it at that and did not speak to the parent any further. This is something I have learned over the years you can’t argue with a parent and keep your attention on the game at the same time. The problem was that I did turn to the parent when I responded and then missed the next play which was someone kicking the ball out of bounds.

    I was DISTRACTED! First of all I should not have responded to the parent, but secondly I let him distract me from my job of paying close attention to the game. I did not provide the Center referee with the necessary information so he could tell the players who would get to kick the ball into play. The referee made the best decision he could at the time, but I was not able to help in that decision.

    Once you make a mistake like this during the game it is very hard not to chide yourself for losing your concentration or focus. Sometimes if the game is not a very competitive match you can get away with not paying close attention to play. But if you fail to see the play when it is in your area your whole team, the referee team, suffers.

    I think this is true of our Christian walk as well. There are times when we get lazy or we get distracted and we forget that we are to be bearers of Good News to everyone we meet. We get caught up in the moment and we react to something that perturbs us and respond poorly. This is part of being human, but it is also important for us to recognize when we do get distracted and then return back to our focus of being Good News bearers.

    Sometimes we may have had a particularly hard day. We have had people complaining to us or about us or about something we have done till we feel we just want to lash back at them. We all do this at some point, but when we realize what we have done we need to regroup or reconnect with that person. We need to admit that we messed up and we failed to maintain our focus. Then we need to refocus.

    On the field, or the pitch as the call it in soccer speak, I usually end up talking to myself and remind myself I can’t do that again. It is not fair to the game, the players, the referee team, or myself. So I start over again. I refocus on my job and try to start again watching the action more closely.

    So if you ever find yourself distracted, don’t take it out on someone else, don’t beat yourself up about it, just tell yourself you need to refocus and try again. God will forgive you for losing your focus, but God wants you to start over again.

    So stay focused and continue to be the bearer of Good News you were meant to be.

    Peace and trying to stay focused with you,

    Pastor Randy

January 30, 2014, 4:00 PM

Pastor Randy's February Update

To pray is to sit open-handed before God.
~ Georges Bernanos

To pray is nothing more than to lie in the sunshine of his grace.
~ O. Hallesby

Do you have your valentines ready yet? February is a great month to celebrate love, one of those things that make the world go around. In fact, I would say it is the thing that made the world, sustains the world, and is the hope for the world. Perfect love has one source, God. It is God who made the world, who keeps it turning, and who gives us hope for the future.

Love is not something I understand very well. I experience it, but I have a hard time articulating what it actually is. The Greeks had at least three words for love: Eros, the erotic love; Phileo, the love for family, like brotherly love; and Agape, which we know as unconditional love. They did not rely on one word to fit all situations.

One characteristic common to all three forms of love is that it requires another person. It is true we can love ourselves; in fact, to follow the second commandment, “To love your neighbor as yourself,” you must love yourself, or care for yourself in a healthy way. Yet, to perform any act of love requires some kind of relationship with another person.

John, the gospel writer, believes agape love to be the highest form of love. He uses it in the most famous verse about the way God loves the world, John 3:16. He uses it again at the end of the gospel when Jesus questions Peter about his love for Jesus.

Agape love is something that does not come easily. It is grounded in a relationship with another person. For this reason, it must be cultivated, and such cultivation takes time. Not only time in the sense of years, but also making time for the person with whom you have a relationship.

Our relationship with the author of love, God, also needs to develop over time. We need to spend time talking and listening to God. This is the reason for prayer and the reason why we consider prayer to be an essential Spiritual Practice.

Last month we held a class on Spiritual Practices, which included reading the Bible, Praying, Sharing your Faith Story, and Stewardship. Of these Spiritual Practices, I would say that Prayer is probably the foremost essential practice. It is the one practice which can be entered into at any time of day, be it dark or light. It does not require you to choose your words wisely or clearly, for “we do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” (Romans 8:26b). Prayer is not a practice that requires a change in your spending habits or assessing your gifts, which you can share with the community of faith; it may, however, require a change in your schedule, because it does take time.

In our Spiritual Practices class, we discussed some guidelines for prayer that are gleaned from the Sermon on the Mount: 1) Prayer is not for show, 2) Prayer is not a formulaic path to get what we want, and 3) Prayer is a personal conversation between you and the God of the universe.

So let’s practice this special gift we have been given. God has invited us into conversation. Let God love you as he listens and as he speaks to you. Let God share his riches of grace, mercy, and peace with you. Speak, listen, and receive and you will be involved in the greatest love relationship for all eternity. God will meet you in the future. God is with you in the present moment. God’s spirit can dwell within you. I Thessalonians 5:17 says,  “Pray all the time.”

Praying with you, Pastor Randy