Turn Some Pages

ImageThis week while working on our new old church building my new friend Roger and I had the radio tuned in to the local classic rock station. We are both old school rockers at heart and we had a great time talking about how good music was back before you had to be “pretty” to get a song on the radio.

One day while I was varnishing some trim, a chorus from one particular song caught my attention. I believe that God has endowed every person with gifts and talents and even though a person may not be serving Him, there are times when they can say or write some profound things. The line that jumped out at me was from an old REO Speedwagon song, Roll With the Changes” and the chorus says:

“So, if you’re tired of the same old story, oh, baby, turn some pages 

I will be here when you are ready to roll with the changes, baby 

Roll with the changes”

I had this song stuck in my head all week long and I instantly knew there was a sermon in the making.

As humans we do not have the ability to remember every single day of our lives. We can only recall seasons or chapters of our lives. Our lives are in a constant state of change and even if we do nothing, time itself waits for no one and some things will change whether we like it or not. But, I believe there are times when God Himself will break into our lives and call us to change, to “turn some pages.”

For true change to happen there must first be a desire and a willingness on our part to seek and allow change. We must come to a place where we are “tired of the same old story.”

Sin really is the same old story over and over…fun for a season…heartache and misery in the end. Regrettably we often allow sin to run its course in our lives before we are willing to seek change. I know this from experience. Thankfully God has promised that “He will be there when we are ready to roll with the changes” that He has planned for us. He has a plan for each of our lives and he stands waiting for us to allow him to begin to write new and better chapters in our lives. We do not have the ability to truly turn the page on our own. We need him to give us a brand new life and a brand new start. Jesus died for us so we can “turn some pages” and begin anew.

Yesterday at Souls Refuge Church several people “turned some pages.” It was the most important page they will ever turn.  They accepted Jesus as their Savior and became Christ followers. Their decision will affect every other page of their lives. Jesus was there waiting when they were ready. Now He calls to them…

Keep on rollin’ (oh, yeah) 

Keep on rollin’ 

Roll with the changes (keep on rollin’) 

Keep on rollin’ (oh, yeah) 

Keep on rollin’ 

Oh, now roll with the changes (oh, baby) 

Keep on rollin’ (oh, baby) 

Keep on rollin’

The Straw of Despair

despair.001

For the last few weeks at Souls Refuge Church where I pastor, we have been trying to learn more about the person of Jesus. In studying His personality we have talked about His playfulness, His willingness to interact with others, His gentleness and His fierce intense resolve to fulfill His purpose here on earth. We have watched Him live, laugh and love. We have watched Him face down devils, demons and scariest of all, the religious crowd. During His week of passion we see Him enduring betrayal, false accusations, intense mental and physical attacks, torture and finally crucifiction. Through it all He never wavered, never bowed, never stumbled, never failed. He silently took all the abuse that mankind and evil could dish out and He stood. Isaiah describes it like this:

Isaiah 53:7-9 (Message)He was beaten, he was tortured,
    but he didn’t say a word. Like a lamb taken to be slaughtered
    and like a sheep being sheared, he took it all in silence.

As Christians we know that Jesus endured all of this for us. His pain and His suffering was deservedly ours, and yet He bore it for us.

In Matthew 27:45 we read that Jesus finally broke his silence, and seemingly finally broke under the weight of his torment.

Matthew 27:45 At noon, darkness fell across the whole land until three o’clock. 46 At about three o’clock, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” which means “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”

After all that He had endured what was it that finally caused Him to cry out? What was that “last straw” that finally broke Him completely? I submit to you it was the same thing that often breaks us and sends us over the edge into moments of despair. Abandonment.

I have learned over the years that I can endure some pretty tough situations as long as I know I have God on my side. It is in those moments when I entertain thoughts that perhaps God has left me, perhaps I have sinned too much, perhaps he has tired of my continual shortcomings. It is when I listen to the voice of the enemy that whispers “He has left you, your one true hope is gone!” It is in these moments that despair floods my soul.

But what could ever cause Jesus to feel this kind of despair. He knew what the word of God said. He was the Word! He knew the everlasting love of the Father, he was of the very same essence. And yet, he cried out in despair. Why?

In that moment Jesus suffered the greatest punishment of all, abandonment, separation from God, separation from all hope. The truest definition of death is eternal separation from God. It is what we are all destined for but for the grace of God. At that moment the sins of the world were placed upon Him, the wages of sin which is death was meted out and for a moment God the Father turned away.

2 Corinthians 5:21(ESV) 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

The Father allowed the Son to endure what was meant for me. Jesus experienced the ultimate curse, the ultimate punishment…separation from God, abandonment, total despair so that I never will. As a Christian no matter what I ever face on this earth, the one thing that I will never experience is a moment without hope. Despair is defined as absolute hopelessness. Despair has no place in the life of a believer. We are never without hope. We have Jesus!

2 Corinthians 4:8(KJV) 8 We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair;

Ps 42:11 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Jesus lives. Despair is defeated. Hope springs eternal and life is worth living.

We’re the Autolites!

I find myself at a very strange place in life. At 48 years old I feel like I should be in the middle of an established career, beginning to see the fruits of years of hard work, enjoying the stability of middle age and building my nest egg for retirement. Instead I find myself starting all over, planting a new church from scratch, helping my wife start a new business, trying to learn new skills.

The last two years were filled with hard work that was seemingly for nought, numerous betrayals by people I had respected and a realization that everyone you love doesn’t always love you back. My soul is wounded, my mind is confused and my body is tired. I find myself questioning my past decisions and struggling with numerous “what ifs.” Self pity is never far away and bitterness could make an appearance at any moment if I were to leave the slightest crack in the door.

Having said all of that, baring my soul all, I have one more thing to say.

“I FEEL GOOD!” (sung in my best James Brown voice). I have an abiding peace in my soul and an unexplainable confidence that God has got me right where he wants me.

I have never been one to be satisfied with the ordinary and the status quo often bores me. God knows me well and has kept things pretty lively over the last 26 years of traveling with Him. As I write this a scripture comes to mind.

Jeremiah 33:3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.

Times of transition are often God’s way of revealing to us new things, leading us to new experiences, and showing us things we never dreamed of before. Life is in the living of it and not just in the attaining of stuff. Real life is in experience not just existence. I want to go toe to toe with life for the full 15 rounds and smile when the final bell sounds.

God today I call on you, I know you will answer me. Show me things I never knew before. Amen!

So to my friends who have prayed for me, my foes who have celebrated my impending demise, and the majority of the world who has not had the pleasure of meeting me yet, let me leave you with words of that great theologian, the Autolite Spark plug, “Hey, we’re the Autolites, so go pull the plug on someone else!

My Little Hannah Faye

Today is a very special day. Today my baby girl turns 18. From the moment she was born she has been a joy to my life. When she was a baby she hardly ever cried and she would awake with a smile on her beautiful little face. Eighteen years later and she is more beautiful than ever and still smiling. She simply shines where ever she goes.

She has a gentleness and grace that can’t be taught and a passion for life that is inspiring. She is tender as lace yet tough as leather. She has the beauty of her mother, the sweetness of her sister and the fire of her father. Independant, opinionated and driven. Artistic, contemplative and wise beyond her years. She is my little Hannah Faye.

It’s Only Rock & Roll But I Like It!

Well it is that time of year again. Time for our annual three-day pilgrimage to the land of the Texas Rangers, Six Flags, giant malls, too many restaurants, (So much food and so little time!) and loud Christian Rock music. We will be heading out this Friday and I don’t know who is more exited, our youth group or me!

Now I know that this is supposed to be an event for the “youth” but it is also one of my favorite COG sponsored events. There is something amazing about being in a room with a few thousand Jesus worshipping teenagers. Every one should experience it at least once in their lifetime. There is also the extra added bonus of getting to hear some great Chirstian bands.

In my younger, pre-Jesus days I spent a lot of my time attending various other “festivals” in and around the Dallas metroplex. Events like The Texas Jam, The Rock and Roll Superbowl and various other gatherings aimed at reaching that wild eyed, hormonally charged generation called teenagers. In those days I, like most other youths was searching for something to satisfy my wandering lonely soul.

I had the opportunity to see some of the biggest “Rock Gods” of my day. You might say that I worshipped at the altar of such greats as The Boss, ZZTop, AC/DC, Ozzy, Journey, Aerosmith, Rush, Foreigner, Santana…the list goes on and on. (As far as I know the COG did not sponsor any of these events.) 🙂

I even tried out some of the Country deities like Merle, Hank jr., Gary Stewart and Alabama. I am ashamed to admit that once I even stooped so low that I actually went and saw Christopher Cross live. (Yeah, I know I was one sick puppy.) 🙂

I saw some great “shows” but I never found what I was truly searching for.

For an old headbanger like me this weekend is a chance “rock on” and still retain at least a little bit of pastoral dignity. (Hey, I gotta do it for the kids.) For many teens this weekend will be a chance to find what they are looking for. Please pray for Winterfest.

On second thought, it really is much more than Rock and Roll and I absolutely………….LOVE IT!

Crazy Talk!

 The phrase crazy talk has become part of my vocabulary in the last few years.    I caught this phrase from my daughter, Hannah. One day I said something to her (probably something really off the wall like “you need to clean your room”) and she promptly replied, “Dad, that’s just crazy talk.”

With that phrase rolling around in my head I began to ponder some of the truly outrageous claims that the Bible makes and that to many in the world it is simply classified as “crazy talk.” I also thought about what it would be like if I could travel back in time and be a fly on the wall in some of the Bibles most amazing moments. I wondered if I would be able to keep my mouth shut or would I, like Hannah and blurt out…”that is some crazy talk right there!”

(Before we begin my little trip through time I must warn you that I have a vivid imagination and a somewhat twisted sense of humor and although I never want to offend anyone, I am well aware that sometimes I do. Proceed with caution and a grain of salt.)

In my mind I took a little trip back to the very beginning. It was just me, God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We were just chillaxin’ when all of a sudden God said, “It sure is dark out there, let’s make some light.” …and He did. Once we could see what was going on the three of them proceeded to carve out a few oceans and throw out a few mountains. It looked so good they decided that someone really ought to see this so they scooped up some dirt and made a dude. After they breathed into him the dude got up and walked around and seemed genuinely glad to be there, in spite of the fact that he was buck naked. It all seemed a little crazy to me but I didn’t want to say anything and cut my trip short so I slipped out of there and moved on in time.

Next I found myself sitting with God and a man named Noah. God was not happy and he was telling Noah that all of mankind’s thoughts were continually on evil and he had decided to clean house. But, since Noah was a righteous kind of guy he was going to let Him build a boat and ride out the coming storm. Oh yeah, and God told Noah that just before it rained he would cause two of every animal to come to him and get on the boat. This all sounded pretty crazy to me since I can’t even get my dog, Boscoe, to come to me when I call his name or to go outside and go potty. So, on I went.

Next I found myself in a tent with an old woman and an old man. The man’s name was Abraham and he was singing to the old woman. He was singing, “the thrill is gone baby, the thrill is gone away.” Just before the old lady clocked him with a frying pan a big angel showed up and told them to fire up some candles and put some Barry White on the old record player cause they were going to have a baby! I got out of there fast.

After that I found myself in a beautiful palace in place called Egypt. Before me there were two men. One looked like a King and the other looked like a shepherd of some kind. The shepherd looking guy was stuttering around and trying to convince the king guy to let a few million of the shepherd’s family off of work for an extremely long vacation. When the King guy refused, the shepherd guy told him he was going to turn the water into blood, cover the land with bugs, darkness and death. Since I am not fond of bugs, the dark or death I got out of there just in case this wasn’t just a bunch of crazy talk. However they worked it out, I did see the old shepherd guy later standing out by the ocean with   a big crowd of folks. He had his hands up.

I moved quickly from scene to scene. I saw a long haired dude whipping the snot out of about a thousand guys. Later I saw the same guy carrying a huge set of city gates on his shoulders. I asked the guy what had him all upset and he said he was carrying around a real heavy secret and on top of that he was having “women” troubles.

Next I found myself on a boat deck with a rebellious little guy named Jonah and God was telling him, “now listen you got two choices, you can preach or you can go fishin’.” Later I found myself with this same little guy in a cold, dark, wet, fishy smelling place. Only this time the guys whole attitude was different and just kept saying, I’ll go Lord, I’ll go…

Before I could dry off I ran into a little red headed boy who smelled like sheep and he was talking trash to a giant of a man named Goliath. He told the big guy that he was going to cut off his head and feed it to the birds and he was going to use Goliath’s own sword to do it. That was all I needed to see. Them Old Testament folk are C-RA-ZY! The OT is “fo sho” full of some crazy talk! I decide to skip on over to the New Testament where surely cooler head would prevail. Not!

The first guy I met I the NT is a big angel and he is telling a young girl about how highly favored she is and how she is going to have a kid in spite of the fact that she had not been with a man. I am not sure if the girl thought it was crazy talk but I am pretty sure her fiance did.

I then met a man wearing a camels hair suit who was just finishing up his lunch and he had grasshopper legs in his mustache and beard. He seemed to have a very popular ministry even though he only had one sermon. REPENT! Of course we know today that that is surely crazy talk. You can’t tell people to repent especially nowadays because we all know that nothing is really a sin anymore.

Next I am in a garden with a man named Peter and he is threatening to cut some guys hear off. Thankfully before he could start slicing I find myself on a street, with this same guy, and he is telling a crippled beggar that although he himself doesn’t have any money either, if the beggar will just take his hand he can rise and walk! If that wasn’t enough for me to call “crazy talk” I then overhear this guy Peter warning a guy named Annanias to be real careful when he answered the next question or those two guys over by the door would be carrying him out the door on a stretcher. Ok, I’m out of here.

My time spent with the Apostle Paul proved to be just as wild. Only Paul would be the be the guest of honor at his own stoning then dust himself off and go back to preaching. Only Paul would tell a boat load of hopeless starving sailors who had been battling storms for weeks to “Don’t worry, be happy because GOD told me everything is gonna be all right!

At this point I am almost ready to conclude along with the world that this book is full of crazy talk. But, I feel like I must go see the most important man of all in the Bible, Jesus. Surely Jesus will help me make sense of all of this crazy talk. But lo and behold if Jesus ain’t saying the craziest things of all.

I stand in shock as I hear Him tell a heartbroken Dad that his daughter is not really dead she is only sleeping.

He then tells the distraught sister of his good friend who had just died a few days earlier to stop fretting because “Resurrection” has just showed up in the flesh and his name is Jesus!

When a crowd of 5000 is starving out on a hillside what does Jesus say? “Hey little boy can I borrow your sack lunch?”

When people threatened His life Jesus would just tell them, “If you kill me, in three days…I’ll be baaaack.”

When one of the most powerful government officials in the land warns Jesus that he has the power to give him the death penalty how does Jesus respond? He tells him, “You can’t kill me, don’t you that I could call down a couple of thousand angels right now to take care of you.”

Add to that fishing for money, putting mud in peoples eyes, walking on water, bossing around storms and telling people he can forgive their sins and you have a great case for some good old fashioned crazy talk.

On top of all of that He keeps telling everybody he is God!

Friends, if you are still reading this I think you get my point. The Bible seems to be full of outrageous claims, crazy talk. But you know what? it ain’t crazy if you can back it up!

You see it all sounded crazy until God said Let there be light and it got real bright outside.The angels words seemed far fetched to old Abe until they heard the baby crying. Pharaoh didn’t take ole stuttering Moses serious until the bugs started invading and it got real dark. The giant laughed at the little shepherd boy until his head started hurting and he hit the ground.Peter words weren’t so strange when the crippled man got up and walked home.

The sailors had a different opinion of Paul once they found themselves sitting around a campfire drying off. And one day when Jesus comes back just like he said he would the world will see that the Bible was not a bunch of “crazy talk.” It is all true.

John 17:17  ….thy word is truth. (KJV)

John 14:6 New Living Translation (NLT)

6 Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.

Now that ain’t no “crazy talk.”

The Grateful Glutton

glutton• a person who is excessively fond of or always eager for something :a glutton for adventure.

Very often when we go to church we hear sermons that encourage us to reign in our passions and resist our urges. We hear calls to moderation and restraint. I have preached many of these sermons myself. Yesterday I stood before my congregation and told them to “go for it!” I encouraged them to throw caution to the wind, indulge yourselves! Right about now some who are reading this are probably thinking the old “RevRan” has finally lost it, while others are thinking,“hallelujah! I think I just found the church I have been looking for!” Now before anyone writes me off as a heretic or rushes to join my church please allow me to explain.

I am afraid that at times Satan has taken our sincere zeal to live a life of commitment, discipline and purity and he has used it to zap the zest out of our lives.  He has tried to make us feel guilty for simply enjoying the great life that our great God has provided us. In our quest for holiness we have forgotten how to let our hair down and just revel in the goodness of God. You know, live, laugh and love as the saying goes. I am in no way advocating selfishness or greed or that we partake in things that God has said are sin. I am simply saying we should gleefully and gratefully enjoy the blessings God has provided. Blessings like our salvation through Jesus, our families, our health, a hearty laugh, good food and good friends. This Thanksgiving week let me encourage you to drink deeply from the cup of the Lord, revel in His mercy and His grace toward you, savor every morsel of good food He has provided, take a moment to admire beauty of nature that He has surrounded us with, generously show and share His love with those you love, and truly feast on all the good things He has provided. Now I hope you don’t bust the button off of your britches this week but I do hope you can become a grateful glutton for Jesus.

Ps 7:17 Oh, how grateful and thankful I am to the Lord because he is so good…. (TLB)

Ps 34:8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;… (NIV)