“Animal Adventures” by Pastor Randy

We LeBarons like our animals and we always try to interact with them whenever we get a chance. I shared yesterday about our many road trips and often times a place with animals would either be our destination (Sea World, Gator Land, African Lion Safari, etc.) or a quick detour to break up a long trip (we have stopped at a lot of Zoos over the years and always find something unique about each one).

And, when I said interact, that’s exactly what I meant because as much as we like looking at animals we also like to pet, feed, hold, ride, swim with, or drive through. For example, we have petted dolphins, beluga whales, killer whales, elephants, sharks, sting rays, and more. We have fed goats, bears, giraffes, and tigers to name a few. We have held alligators, snakes, tarantulas, and lemurs. We have ridden horses, camels, and elephants. We have swam with sharks (technically anytime you are in the ocean you are swimming with sharks, right? 😏) and dolphins (Sheryl anyway), and we have given rides to many monkeys and had other animals like lions, ostriches, and giraffes try to get in or on our car. For that matter I even wrestled a 5’ alligator once (albeit with it’s mouth taped shut and a line of elementary age kids behind me waiting for their turn). Needless to say… we love animals.

I believe that God has instilled in us a love for His creation that causes us to want to interact with all of these beautiful creatures just as described in the 1st Chapter of Genesis…

“Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.” So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that scurries and swarms in the water, and every sort of bird—each producing offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply. Let the fish fill the seas, and let the birds multiply on the earth.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the fifth day. Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind—livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.” And that is what happened. God made all sorts of wild animals, livestock, and small animals, each able to produce offspring of the same kind. And God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.” So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.” Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened. Then God looked over all he had made, and he saw that it was very good! And evening passed and morning came, marking the sixth day.” (Genesis‬ ‭1:20-31‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

How about you? Do you like interacting with animals? Has God given you a passion for some other aspect of His Creation or perhaps a desire to follow in your Heavenly Father’s footsteps by creating something yourself? Let me know some of the things that you enjoy and be sure to thank God today for all that He has made and all that He has given to us.

“Road Trip!” By Pastor Randy

Happy President’s Day! I don’t know about you but whenever we get some time off together we enjoy going on road trips. They seem to be getting fewer and far between these days, as far as all 6 of us having time off together between work, school, college, sports, etc. anyway, but for a few days this February break we have all climbed into our trusty Dodge Caravan and are headed to one of our favorite hotels in Columbus, Ohio. Not only does it feature and indoor/outdoor pool that you can swim in year round but it also has wonderful breakfast and dinner buffets included as well as all you can eat popcorn and soda throughout the day. It has become our go to destination for a retreat even if we aren’t traveling through to anywhere else. Another fun freebie that we try to take advantage of every February is visiting The Columbus Zoo on President’s Day.

Road trips have been part of our family’s routine for over two decades now but some things have surely changed. Whereas today everyone is connected to their own individual devices, back when the kids were little we didn’t even have one cell phone let alone a screen of any kind. We would amuse ourselves by playing the typical car games, locating signs that start with each letter of the alphabet until you find them all or seeing who could point out the most license plates from different states, or even before the kids were old enough to read we would pass the time by playing animal guessing games and having coloring contests. It always amazed us that no matter what age they were and no matter how often they might complain or squabble on a relatively short outing, like the 1 hr. drive to Grandpa & Grandma’s house, that when we set out on a longer trip, like our annual trek to Florida, that we rarely ever had an issue. I think that, because they knew the trip would be long, that they had mentally prepared for it ahead of time and having a fun destination to look forward to didn’t hurt either.

As I consider this I can’t help but make a correlation between my children’ s mindset on road trips and what a Christian’s mindset should be during their life here on earth. I think that when we focus only on the temporary things of this world that we can easily find ourselves complaining about this or that, arguing with others, and focusing on our own wants in the moment versus focusing on our ultimate destination. But, when we prepare ourselves for the longer journey, we become more patient with those around us, we find ways to discover joy in the moments together, and we are willing to put up with some detours and distractions because we know that once we get to where we are going that any struggle to get there will have been forgotten.

So friends, as you start off yet another new week, I would remind you that we are on this long journey called life together and that we are to encourage one another along the way—enjoying the little things rather than giving into road rage or focusing only on the potholes or flat tires. Trust me, it will be a lot more fun and fulfilling if you do.

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:16-18‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

“My Jesus” performed by Anne Wilson

Happy Friday Friends! As we close out the week I wanted to give you another song to meditate on and, knowing that there are many who feel overwhelmed with so much, I thought Anne Wilson’s song “My Jesus” would be a good choice. Watch the video, listen to the lyrics, and cry out to Jesus—the source of all hope—today.

Are you past the point of weary?
Is your burden weighin’ heavy?
Is it all too much to carry?
Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus
Do you feel that empty feeling?
‘Cause shame’s done all its stealin’
And you’re desperate for some healin’
Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus

He makes a way where there ain’t no way
Rises up from an empty grave
Ain’t no sinner that He can’t save
Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus
His love is strong and His grace is free
And the good news is I know that He
Can do for you what He’s done for me
Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus
And let my Jesus change your life

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Amen
Amen

Who can wipe away the tears
From broken dreams and wasted years
And tell the past to disappear? Oh
Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus
And all the wrong turns that you would
Go and undo if you could
Who can work it all for your good
Let me tell you about my Jesus

He makes a way where there ain’t no way
Rises up from an empty grave
Ain’t no sinner that He can’t save
Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus
His love is strong and His grace is free
And the good news is I know that He
Can do for you what He’s done for me
Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus
And let my Jesus change your life

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Amen
Amen, Amen

Who would take my cross to Calvary?
Pay the price for all my guilty?
Who would care that much about me?
Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus, ohHe makes a way where there ain’t no way
Rises up from an empty grave
Ain’t no sinner that He can’t save
Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus
His love is strong and His grace is free
And the good news is I know that He
Can do for you what He’s done for me
Let me tell you ’bout my Jesus
And let my Jesus change your life

Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah, amen
Amen
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Hallelujah
Let my Jesus change your life

“What’s in Your Closet?” by Dave Good

Good morning! Today I’d like to talk about your heart. Our hearts are the most important organ God created in us. “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23)

God commands us to above all else, guard your heart. I don’t think there is a more direct command in all of the Bible. The heart is precious and the contents of your heart display a lot about what matters most. 

When I was praying about this week’s blog God gave me the analogy that our heart is like a house with many rooms. Within that house there are rooms which we allow anyone into, kinda like the living room. This part of our heart is usually well maintained, clean and organized. We don’t mind showing off this room and often allow people to spend the most time here

The other rooms of our heart are for special guests only. I’d like to think of this room as the formal dining room. Sure we tend to invite a lot of people over and share a meal with them in the kitchen but most people only use the dining room for special accessions with their family and closest friends.  This area is a little more guarded and often protected. 

Another room we keep close to our heart is the bedroom. The bedroom is where we rest at night and should be reserved for our spouse and family only. Too often times we allow people who are not supposed to be in these rooms and those decisions can lead to serious consequences. This is the room that I really feel God wants us to guard at all costs.

When I was putting this passage together, the movie War Room popped into my mind. The last room in the house is probably the one which is most important. Let’s call it “The Secret Room”. You know, the one room of the house that is most private and considered to be yours and only yours. Most guys have a man cave or a workshop or ladies may have a sewing room or craft room. This place is the one place where you can be alone, seek God, and just get away for a bit. We all need a room like this. Our inner room can be a place of healing, relaxation, and prayer. Very few people are introduced to your inner room but the one person you must include is God. God needs to have access to all of our rooms to ensure our lives are in order.

Friends, our rooms may not always be in order, or even clean, but it’s important to make sure we are guarding our rooms above anything else. We need to make sure we are only allowing certain people in certain rooms and we must make sure that we are using our inner room to meet with God and allow Him to help us clean each room.

I hope this analogy is useful to each and everyone of you. I pray you take a few moments and, with God’s help, clean up your rooms and always guard your heart above everything else.

Have a great week and I look forward to connecting with you again next week.

“Waken in Me a Gratitude for My Life” by Ted Loder

This month for my “Refill with Randy” videos I have been reciting different prayers from one of my favorite authors, Ted Loder, in his book, “Guerrillas of Grace”. There are two more videos coming this month, including tomorrow which you will find here, but I wanted to include at least one simply so that you can read and meditate it on your own. So please spend some time reciting the following prayer to God and make it your own.

“Monday Checklist” by Pastor Randy

Happy Monday Morning!!! Sunday is over, the Super Bowl has been won, and now it’s time to start a new week. What’s on your checklist?

As much as I love my coffee the pics at the top of this blog is missing one major checkpoint. It should read…

☑️ wake up

☑️ make coffee

☑️ spend time with God

☑️ do amazing things

“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John‬ ‭14:12‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

As Christians we are called to do amazing things as the pic suggests but we cannot accomplish anything in our own effort, even when overly caffeinated, so we must spend time with God so that we know His Agenda and are empowered to do accomplish it through the power of The Holy Spirit. Jesus started his days this way so who are we to try and do it all on our own?

“Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.” (Mark‬ ‭1:35‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

So what is on your Monday Checklist? I would suggest the following…

  • praying for discernment & direction throughout the week
  • reading God’s Word for information, inspiration, & transformation
  • listing steps to live out Sunday’s sermon throughout the week
  • choosing to have an attitude of gratitude regardless of your current circumstances
  • finding at least one person to encourage & inspire
  • being Christ’s hands, feet, & voice wherever you go

“No Matter What” by Pastor Randy

Friends, this morning I am overwhelmed with the weight of what others around me are going through and so I simply want to share a few encouraging reminders for those who may be struggling today.


No matter what your current circumstances are… God loves you and He will meet you where you are at.

No matter how you feel at this moment… God loves you and His feelings toward you will not change.


No matter how dark it seems… God loves you and He Has promised that He will never leave you or forsake you!!!

No matter how scared you may be… God loves you and He promises to protect you as you travel through the Valley of the Shadow of Death.

No matter what happens… God loves you and you are not alone.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭11:28-29‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Fix Your Eyes on God” by Dave Good

Good morning and welcome back to the “Refill with Randy” blog. Once again my name is Dave Good and it is my honor to spend a few moments with you. I pray our posts are a source of encouragement and hope for you during this time of uncertainty and adversity. I pray they would bring light into your life in the midst of all the darkness that surrounds us on a daily basis.

Today I’d like to share a few thoughts that are inspired by one of my favorite songs. “Fix my eyes” by for King & Country. If you have a few minutes, I’d encourage you to give the song a listen to and see how it’s words really relate to our daily walk.

One of the hardest things to do in this world is to not get discouraged. Our circumstances, situations, and decisions can directly impact our mindset or focus. The first verse of the song talks a lot about our regrets and downfalls, I call it living in the rear view mirror. Sometimes we can get trapped by some mistakes or poor decisions we have made in the past. We have a tendency to dwell on those memories and some people never get past them whether it’s a divorce, a failed relationship, an addiction, or any other form of bondage we put ourselves in. I’m here to tell you today, “Stop looking in the rear view mirror and start focusing your eyes on the road ahead of you.” Fix your eyes on God.

The second part of the song talks about difficulties we encounter trying to navigate this world. Being a Christian in today’s world is not easy. We face challenges every day that tempt us to stray off the narrow road. Jesus warns us of the adversity in life. He reminds us that the way to heaven requires discipline and a steadfast spirit. “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.” (Matthew 7:13 NIV)

The words of Jesus himself remind us to fix our eyes on Him. Fix your eyes on the reward of spending eternity with Him. 

As I said before, this world is extremely difficult to navigate because there are problems and obstacles all around us. How we respond to our problems is often determined on whose strength and focus we use to attack them. If we keep our eyes fixed on the problems and do not seek the Lord’s help, our issues will overwhelm us quite easily.

Friends, I’m here to encourage you today. No matter what you are going through, no matter the obstacles in front of you, God has the means to overcome your situation. The key is to keep your eyes on Him. Don’t let the world distract you and steal your victory. Jesus reminds us of this fact in the following verse. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

No matter what your are going through take heart and keep your eyes fixed on Him!

“ In Jesus Name” by Katy Nichole

I came across these videos a few days ago on TikTok and YouTube and wanted to share this beautiful song (the 2nd YouTube video) along with the backstory (the 1st embedded video). Watch, listen, and let it speak to you throughout the day!

I speak the name of Jesus over you
In your hurting, in your sorrow
I will ask my God to move
I speak the name cause it’s all that I can do
In desperation, I’ll seek heaven
And pray this for you

I pray for your healing
That circumstances would change
I pray that the fear inside would flee
In Jesus name
I pray that a breakthrough would happen today
I pray miracles over your life in
Jesus name
In Jesus name

I speak the name of all authority
Declaring blessings
And every promise
He is faithful to keep
I speak the name no grave could ever hold
He is greater, He is stronger
He’s the God of possible

I pray for your healing
That circumstances would change
I pray that the fear inside would flee
In Jesus name
I pray that a breakthrough would happen today
I pray miracles over your life in
Jesus name
In Jesus name

Come believe it
Come receive it
Oh the power of His Spirit is now forever yours
Come believe it
Come receive it
In the mighty name of Jesus, all things are possible

I pray for your healing
That circumstances will change
I pray that the fear inside will flee in Jesus name
I pray that a breakthrough
Would happen today
I pray miracles over your life
In Jesus name
I pray for revival
For restoration of faith
I pray that the dead will come to life
In Jesus name
In Jesus name

“Monday Morning Motivation” by Pastor Randy

Friends it’s Monday morning and that means it’s a new week and a fresh start on a road filled with possibilities! So, as the Scripture says, “stop looking in the rear view mirror and focusing on yesterday’s failures, instead put your car in drive and hit the gas until you get to where God wants you to go.” (Pastor Randy’s Paraphrase)

Seriously though, how many times to we keep from moving forward with our life because we are still stuck in the past? Past hurts, past relationships, past sins, even past successes… if we don’t stop focusing on where we have already been then we will never get to where we are supposed to be going. We will be like the Israelites who, rather than focusing on God and the Promised Land, kept reminiscing about the good old days when they were back in Egypt (doing back breaking work as slaves).

My pastor, Andy Sass, likes to point out that there is a reason why the windshield in a car is so much bigger than the rear view mirror. We are meant to glance at the mirror from time to time but our attention should mostly be directed toward the road in front of us.

So what does that look like for you this week? What should you let go of from last week so that you can start fresh this week? Sin? Repent. Bitterness? Forgive. Failure? Compassion toward yourself.

The past is in the past but the future will be decided by what you choose to focus on and do today, so refocus on who God has called you to be and what He has called you to do and then…

Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, PRESS ON toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called (you) heavenward in Christ Jesus.

“God Is Not Mad At You” by Dave Good

God is not mad at you. 

Good morning and welcome back to the “Refill with Randy” blog. Once again, my name is Dave Good and it my pleasure to share this time with you. I hope you are having a great week and I pray the following words will be a blessing to you.

I have a real simple question for you. Have you ever done something wrong and felt bad about it? You know that feeling when you did something and it bothers you all day. It leaves that sour feeling in the pit of your stomach and never really goes away until you make it right. I can only speak for myself and answer that by saying, “Most definitely yes.” and I know that feeling all too well.

Maybe you told a lie, maybe you raised your voice at a family member, maybe you talked about a friend behind their back, maybe you watched something you shouldn’t have, or maybe you drank a little more than you should have. These are just a few examples of the situations we put ourselves in that lead to remorse, guilt, and shame. I can only list a few that I know firsthand, I’ll leave it to you to think of a few more examples.

Now that we all have relived that feeling of guilt, shame, and remorse the next question is, “Where does it come from and how do we get rid of it?”. We often feel guilty when we sin or miss the mark. We have done something wrong and we have a feeling of sorrow for it. The Word reminds us that…

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

As you can see, guilt can be a good thing. On the other hand shame can be very debilitating. One way to look at shame is as follows: Guilt is seeing you did something wrong, shame is seeing yourself as a failure. You can see how the feeling of shame can cause you to feel even worse.

I want to make one thing perfectly clear. Shame does not come from God. God does not want us to view ourselves as failures. He is not mad at you. When we do something wrong He loves us not matter what. Now, that being said, God doesn’t want you to keep on sinning but rather to repent and get back on track.

So now the question is, “How to we deal with guilt for the things we do wrong?”

1. Confess your sin to God. Ask Him for forgiveness and strength to avoid future sins.

2. Repent or turn away from the sin that so easily entangles us. In other words, stop doing the things that are causing you so much grief.

3. Ask for forgiveness and make it right with those you offended or hurt.

4. Accept God’s forgiveness. “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” (1 John 1:9)

Did you catch that? If we confess our sins, He will forgive us and cleanse us. See, God is not mad at us. God loves us more than anything, He just doesn’t want us to stray from the path He created for our lives because He knows that in doing so we will inevitably hurt ourselves and others.

Friends, I don’t know about you, but I’ve wrestled with sin for a long time and the battle isn’t over yet. I’ve spent a lot of energy fending off guilt and shame and at times I’ve run from God because I thought He was mad at me. I’m here today though to urge you not to run from God but, rather, run to Him. Allow Him to heal you and cleanse you. He’s not mad at you, He loves you more than anything and simply wants the best for you.

I hope these words are an encouragement to you. You are not alone in this battle and the battle is not over yet. Keep your head up, press on and always remember that God loves you and is not mad at you. Have a great rest of the week!

“Why God” by Austin French

Spend some time today listening to the song, and meditating on the lyrics of Austin French’s song, “Why God”. Austin also shares the meaning behind the song at the beginning of the video.

Why God
Do people have to die?
A daughter or a son
Sudden and so young
Long before their time?

Why God
Do people fall apart?
A promise and a ring
Becomes a broken thing
A road that got too hard?

I don’t understand
But I understand

Why God, I need You
It’s, why God, I run to Your arms
Over and over again
It’s, why God, I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find, You are right by my side

Why God
Do we feel so alone?
Every single day
Fighting through the pain
Hoping there is hope?

I don’t understand
But I understand

Why God, I need You
It’s, why God, I run to Your arms
Over and over again
It’s why God, I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find, You are right by my side, ooh…

Give me a faith stronger than I have
I need to know when it hurts this bad
That You hold my heart when it breaks
And I’m not alone in this place

That’s why God, I need You
Why God, I run to Your arms
Over and over again
It’s, why God, I cling to Your love
And hold on for dear life
And I find, You are right by my side
Always right by my side
Even here in the why… God

“Good Morning!” by Pastor Randy

Good morning!!! That’s the way that most of us typically greet one another without giving it a second thought but what constitutes a “good morning”? How would you define it?

For me it would involve a cup of coffee and some quiet time before I start my day but someone else might describe a good morning as one where they can sleep in, where deadlines do not exist, or where the kids get ready for school without a fuss.

For others a good morning might simply be one where they get to see another sunrise, take another breath, and experience another day.

It obviously all depends on perspective, personal preferences, and current circumstances. So what exactly are we saying when we say “Good morning”?

All of it and then some. We are telling the other person that we hope that their day starts off in such a way that they are going to go to sleep that night counting their blessings.

Or maybe we just mean “hi” and hope to get on with our own agenda.

I would challenge you to try to make it mean the former. Even as you speak it to someone today say a simple prayer under your breath asking God to bless them and all they need to accomplish. You may say the same words but your intent will come through.

So, to all of you reading this this morning I want to wish you a very…

GOOD MORNING!!!

Now go and make someone else’s morning good as well. 😄

“Any Given Sunday” by Pastor Randy

Happy Monday!!! Even if you’re not a huge football fan you may have found yourself watching the end of some of the latest playoff games. Underdogs. Upsets. Unbelievable plays. You name it and it has happened over the past few weeks. “That’s why they play the game”, is one of the cliches that you will hear announcers say whenever a team wins that was favored to win or, when an underdogs defies the odds and wins they might remind us that anything can happen on “Any Given Sunday”.

A week ago my Buffalo Bills played their hearts out against the Kansas City Chiefs and seemingly had the game won with only 13 sec. left. Unfortunately that was just enough time for The Chiefs to go down the field and kick a game tying field goal only to then win the coin toss and win the game in over-time.

Fast forward to yesterday, those same Chiefs were walking all over the Cincinnati Bengals who had just beaten the #1 seeded Titans at home with a second year QB and a team that had only won 4 games the previous year, hadn’t won a playoff game since 1990, and had never won an away playoff game prior to their victory over the Titans.

Being up 21-3 at the end of the first half The Chiefs were probably already preparing for their Super Bowl appearance 3 peat but then, after Cincinnati scored 21 unanswered points in the 2nd half The Chiefs found themselves once again having to kick a field goal at the end of regulation to tie the game and then they once again won the coin toss in OT. The Super Bowl seemed inevitable… until it wasn’t. The QB got picked off and the Bengals drove down the field where Shooter McPherson kicked the game winning field goal.

It definitely seemed like a David vs. Goliath scenario in paper anyway but you never know what can happen on “Any Given Sunday”. And the same could be said of other unlikely situations outside of football.

Remember the man with the deformed hand that went to the temple like usual only to have Jesus show up and heal his hand? (Mark 3)

On Any Given Sunday.

Or what about the invalid that had waited by the pool of Bethesda for 38 yrs. unsuccessfully waiting someone to help him into the healing waters only to have Jesus show up on the Sabbath and tell him to pick up his mat and walk—which miraculously he did. (John 5)

On Any Given Sunday.

Ok, technically those first two examples were Saturdays but what about that Sunday after Jesus had been crucified and his disciples were doubting and distressed only to discover that the tomb was empty and that Jesus had risen from the dead just as he said he would?

On Any Given Sunday.

And the same can be true for you and whatever it is that seems insurmountable to you. Addiction? Sin? Disease? Grief? Finance problems? Whatever it is you can go to God for help and you will find freedom, forgiveness, healing, comfort, and direction. No matter what you are up against it is not impossible to overcome with God at your side so go to Him all you weary and heavy burdened, give it all to Him, and expect that the impossible is possible.

On Any Given Sunday.

“There Was Jesus” by Zach Williams & Dolly Parton

Friends, we have focused a lot on struggles and loss this week but I wanted to end it on an encouraging note by reminding you that no matter what you are going through that Jesus is with you—no matter what. watch the video and meditate on the lyrics to this beautiful song performed by Zach Williams & Dolly Parton that reminds of of just that.

Every time I tried to make it on my own
Every time I tried to stand and start to fall
And all those lonely roads that I have travelled on
There was Jesus

When the life I built came crashing to the ground
When the friends I had were nowhere to be found
I couldn’t see it then but I can see it now
There was Jesus

In the waiting, in the searching
In the healing and the hurting
Like a blessing buried in the broken pieces
Every minute, every moment
Where I’ve been and where I’m going
Even when I didn’t know it or couldn’t see it
There was Jesus

For this man who needs amazing kind of grace (Mmm)
For forgiveness at a price I couldn’t pay (Mmm)
I’m not perfect so I thank God every day
There was Jesus (There was Jesus)

In the waiting, in the searching
In the healing and the hurting
Like a blessing buried in the broken pieces
Every minute, every moment
Where I’ve been and where I’m going
Even when I didn’t know it or couldn’t see it
There was Jesus

On the mountain, in the valleys (There was Jesus)
In the shadows of the alleys (There was Jesus)
In the fire, in the flood (There was Jesus)
Always is and always was
No I never walk alone (Never walk alone)
You are always there

In the waiting, in the searching
In the healing and the hurting
Like a blessing buried in the broken pieces
Every minute (Every minute), every moment (Every moment)
Where I’ve been and where I’m going
Even when I didn’t know it or couldn’t see it
There was Jesus

There was Jesus
There was Jesus
There was Jesus

“When Life Hurts” by Dave Good

Good day everyone. Welcome back to The GSM blog. Once again my name is Dave Good and I’m honored to spend this time with you. I hope you are having a great week, full of blessings. Today I would like to discuss a topic that I think we can all relate to at one time or another—when life hurts.

I don’t know about you but, although I am greatly blessed and God has does so much for me, there are those days when life just hurts. Jesus reminds of this fact when he says…

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

Over the next couple of minutes I’d love to equip you with a few tools to combat the hurts of life.

1. Prayer – One of the easiest ways to deal with a hurt in this life is to pray about it. Prayer is like making a phone call to God. When life throws you a curve sometimes the easiest way to deal with it is to talk about it, you know get it off your chest. Prayer allows us to bear our issues before God anytime, any place. What a gift to have access to God himself when things aren’t going right.

2. Trusted Friends & Family – Another blessing God gives us are trusted family members and friends. I lost my mom almost 10 years ago and I miss have the opportunity to bounce my cares off her and ask her for advice. That being said, God does not leave us alone. God is gracious enough to also put trusted brothers, sisters, and friends on our path to assist when life just hurts. My advice is to not try and go it alone but rather reach out to your circle of trust and learn to overcome together.

3. Read The Word – God was so gracious to us to send down His Written Word. The Bible is the owners manual for navigating this world. When the hurts happen The Bible is a source for so much encouragement. The next time life knocks you down take some time to seek His Word and allow it to console you.

These are just a few ways to combat the adversity of this world. No one deals with the hurts of this life the same but I pray that some of the tactics I have found helpful will benefit you as well. However you choose to deal with the hurts of life I pray you do it in a healthy and constructive manner. Don’t allow the hurt to derail your growth or walk with the Lord

Thank you for you time. I pray my thoughts and suggestions were helpful and will ultimately allow you to navigate this world a little more efficiently. Until we meet again, may God bless you and heal all the hurts we encounter on a daily basis.

“Using Our Hurts to Help Others” by Pastor Randy

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭1:3-4‬ ‭NIV‬‬

If it’s true that “hurt people hurt people” then it can be equally true that hurt people who find healing can help other hurt people find healing.

Tomorrow (January 26th) will be the 10th Anniversary of one of the worst 24 hrs. of my life. I will share more about that on tomorrow’s Refill with Randy video but, in a nutshell, that was the day that my dad died and my mother was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. It was then a rollercoaster for the next 4 months before my mom passed.

During that time Sheryl and I struggled to care for her while also caring for our 4 young children. Between the frequent hospital visits, daily trips to radiation, more and more home care each week, and trying to do full-time ministry our energy waned and our emotions were tapped.

In spite of many rides and meals given to us from our church family we still needed more help and that is where Hospice stepped in. Between the home health aide and nurse visits, the hospital bed and other necessities, the care-givers support group, and the volunteers who offered us respite (like sitting with mom on Mother’s Day so we could be at church together), we were able to keep mom with us until the final 2 weeks. It was at that point that she moved into a Hospice Home (The Aurora House in Spencerport since Albion’s was still in the process of being built) and I met so many volunteers who had gone through something similar with their loved one and wanted to offer the same empathetic care for others. They allowed me to be a son instead of just a caregiver during those final days and I will always be grateful.

Fast forward to today and I have just begun my new position of Spiritual Care & Bereavement Coordinator for Supportive Care of Orleans (aka Hospice). Over the past decade I have been able to comfort many going through the same type of grief that I journeyed through at that time and I also experienced more along the way as I said goodbye to several church members, close friends, and all 3 of my brothers. And now I have the opportunity to continue helping others through their hurt just like others have helped me along the way.

I thank God for this new opportunity and I would ask that you please keep me in prayer, as well as those who I have the privilege of standing with during difficult times.

In what way might God use your past hurts to help people who are going through similar circumstances today?

“Heaven Help Me” by Zach Williams

If you have had a difficult week and don’t know what to pray watch the video and meditate on the lyrics to Zach Williams’ song “Heaven Help Me”.

When I can’t find the words
When I can barely breathe
I’m falling on my knees
Heaven help me, Heaven help me

When I can’t feel You near
And I can’t hear You speak
I’m falling on my knees
Heaven help me, Heaven help me

Help me, help me
‘Cause I can’t walk this road alone
And I can’t do this on my own
Tell me, tell me
I just need to hear You say
That everything will be okay

When I don’t understand
When I don’t think I can
I know You have a plan
So Heaven help me, Heaven help me

Help me, help me
‘Cause I can’t walk this road alone
And I can’t do this on my own
Tell me, tell me
‘Cause I just need to hear You say
That everything will be okay

Help me believe it
When I can’t see it
Help me to know it
When I can’t hold it
Oh, help me believe it
When I can’t see it
Help me to know it
When I can’t hold it

Help me, help me
‘Cause I can’t walk this road alone
And I can’t do this on my own
Tell me (tell me), tell me (tell me)
I just need to hear You say
That everything will be okay
Oh, I just need to hear You say
That everything will be okay

When I can’t find the words
When I can barely breathe
I’m falling on my knees
Heaven help me, Heaven help me

“Who Am I?” by Dave Good

Welcome back to another edition of the “Refill with Randy” Blog. Once again my name is Dave Good and it is my pleasure to share a few thoughts with you today.

I’ll start by posing a simple question, “Who do you say you are?” Take a minute to actually answer it. If you are like me you might respond: I’m a husband, I’m a dad, I’m a Christian, I’m a Bills fan, I’m a pharmacist, I’m a music lover… you get the picture. There are countless ways to answer that question and I’m sure we all came up with a variety of different responses.

I would say that all of the answers I gave as examples were pretty positive, because I am genuinely pretty positive, but often times others might be less positive when describing themselves. Some people may answer that question with: I’m a loser, I’m ugly, I’m cursed, I’m a horrible person, I’m fearful, etc. There are just so many ways to answer a simple question.

What if we answered that question through the eyes of others? Be careful who you ask because you might get responses like: You’re a loser, You’re an addict, You’re a cheater, You’re a liar, You’re ugly, You’re dumb, You’re worthless, and so on. Once again there are a ton of not so encouraging ways other people can define us and that can have an adverse effect on us to say the least.

Let’s also take a minute to consider how God would answer that question for us. Perhaps “You are loved” or “You are chosen.”

“We know, dear brothers and sisters, that God loves you and has chosen you to be his own people.” (1 Thessalonians 1:4)

When I first started thinking about this question I have to admit that some of my answers were good, some were bad, some matched who God says I am, and others did not. Some were positive and some were negative. There is just not one way to answer the question but ultimately we have to continue to find our true identity in Christ in order for it to match our Creator’s design for our life.

As we have discovered, there are many ways that we could answer this simple question so I really feel that it would be beneficial to take some time to consider a number of them. Maybe reflect on your first answer and then apply some of the answers God himself has given us and see if they coincide or really just don’t line up with the truth.

Folks, I guess I’m writing this entry today because I have battled my way through poor self image and insecurity in the past and perhaps you have too. I have had some really negative answers to that simple question and it wasn’t until I devoted my life to The Lord and spent a lot of time learning how He has already answered that question that I was able to see myself differently. God doesn’t make junk or mistakes. We are wonderfully and fearfully made and our answer to the question should reflect that fact.

I hope this is helpful to you. I hope it offers you encouragement and I pray that over the next few weeks you begin to change your answer to the question into a more positive and God inspired one. I look forward to spending some more time with you soon but until then God bless and have yourself a great week!

“Living By Faith” by Pastor Randy

I am currently reading through the Bible in a year, along with many others from my church, and every time I take on this challenge (around my 40th time cover to cover and my 3rd time going through w/ BFMC) I find myself looking in the mirror and finding new things to ask God to prune in me so that I can be one more like him.

In the book of Genesis there are numerous accounts of Abraham (the Father of faith) believing God’s promises but then trying to bring them about by his own means.

For example, we learn in Genesis 12:1-7 that…

“The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your native country, your relatives, and your father’s family, and go to the land that I will show you. I will make you into a great nation. I will bless you and make you famous, and you will be a blessing to others. I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.” So Abram departed as the Lord had instructed, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran. He took his wife, Sarai, his nephew Lot, and all his wealth—his livestock and all the people he had taken into his household at Haran—and headed for the land of Canaan. When they arrived in Canaan, Abram traveled through the land as far as Shechem. There he set up camp beside the oak of Moreh. At that time, the area was inhabited by Canaanites. Then the Lord appeared to Abram and said, “I will give this land to your descendants.” And Abram built an altar there and dedicated it to the Lord, who had appeared to him.” (NLT‬‬)

All seems good but then after a famine hit the land and they had to take a detour through Egypt he told his wife to tell people she was his sister so that they would not try to kill him to get to her. On the one hand he was trusting The Lord and on the other he was trying to make sure The Lord’s promise would come to fruition through deception because he obviously doubted that God would be able to protect him.

This backfired of course and not only were they found out but he put innocent people in jeopardy when Pharaoh took a liking to her and subsequently God sent plagues on Egypt.

Abraham apologized, justifying his actions because technically Sarah was his half sister, but he didn’t learn his lesson because in Genesis 20 he did the exact same thing—this time putting King Abimilech in harm’s way. and, in between these two incidents he believed The Lord that he would have a son but, rather than trust that it could be through his wife, he had a son with her servant Hagar which caused enmity between the two women he put Abraham and Hagar;s son Ishmael in danger.

I could go on but you get the picture. Abraham did indeed have faith but he also wavered in that faith and the result was placing his own limitations onto GoD and trying to take care of business on his own.

I can relate. I feel like I have definitely been on a faith journey since making the decision to follow Christ three decades ago, and even more so these past few years since starting Go Scatter Ministries, and I have absolutely taken my fair share steps of faith on the belief that God was calling me to do so but I have also found myself trying to “make sure” some of those things came to fruition by my own effort.

No, I didn’t tell people Sheryl was my sister or sleep with her servant, but there have been times along that way that I have tried to provide for myself when God had clearly said He would provide for me. I don’t mean in getting a part-time job but with a number of attempts to get “any” job focusing on pay vs purpose. Thankfully God helped me stay on the path and has blessed me because of it but only in spite of myself at times.

How about you? Do you find yourself trusting God initially but then trying to fulfill His promise to you in your own? I feel like Christians do this all the time when it comes to tithing, they believe that God can sustain them but then, rather than giving Him the first fruits of their labor, they give a little or give out of their leftovers—making sure to meet their own needs first.

The fact is that we all do this to an extent in one or more areas of our Christian walk but the key is to learn from it and then not repeat it like Abraham did. We serve a BIG GOD Who keeps His promises so let’s give Him the benefit of the doubt and live by faith.

“I Have a Dream” by Martin Luther King Jr.

Happy Monday! Since we are celebrating MLK Jr. today I thought it would be appropriate to have us start the day off by listening to his speech that is often quoted but not yet fully realized. May God give us ears to hear what is being taught, eyes to see where injustice still exists, and a heart to drive us to do whatever we can to get one step closer to experiencing equality in Christ.

“Taking Time to Rest & Reset” by Pastor Randy

Happy Friday! Today’s blog is simply an assignment for you to complete over the weekend… Rest in the Lord.

In Mark 1:35 it says that “Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray.”
‭‭

If you’re like most people you have had a busy week filled with ups and downs, quotas and deadlines, work and play, etc. and you are entering into the weekend a bit drained. That’s just how Jesus felt after ministering to people, healing them, casting our demons, and so forth and so he got up early, went to a solitary place, and spent time with His Father.

Now the purpose of this was two-fold: (1) to get away from the noise and constant demands so that he could recharge physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, and (2) to get still enough to be able to Hear His Father and understand what he should do next.

Friends, if it’s necessary for Jesus then you had better believe that it’s necessary for us so take some time over the weekend to go where you can be alone with The Lord for a little while and simply spend time talking, and more important listening, to Him. Allow Him to refresh you and give you direction so that you spend the next week living purposely for Him and not just spinning your wheels hoping that you are doing the right things.

Go to The Shepherd and He will give you rest.

“The Lord is my shepherd; I have all that I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name.” (Psalms‬ ‭23:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

“Trust the Process” by Dave Good

Welcome to another edition of the GSM blog. My name is Dave Good and once again it is a pleasure to share some thoughts with you. I hope my words will be an encouragement to you as we continue to walk and deepen our faith together. Today, I’d like to encourage all of you to Trust the Process. I know, most of you are probably wondering what that means?

As some of you know Pastor Randy and I are huge Buffalo Bills fan. I know you are probably thinking, “What does a football team have to do with our walk with Christ?” I’m glad you asked 😇 and if you lend me your attention for a few more minutes I will explain the correlation between the two.

The phrase Trust the Process has been a team slogan for the Bills ever since Head Coach Sean McDermott was hired. Trusting the Process means that in order to achieve your dreams and your goals you must trust a systematic and deliberate process to reach the end. The process may not always make sense, and often takes longer than we would like, but if you persevere the end result will be achieved.

Coach McDermott has taken the Bills on quite a journey as he inherited a broken- down football team but has been fine tuning them into a championship caliber squad. Practice by practice, lesson by lesson, and detail by detail, the process has slowly been changing the entire culture of the organization.

I know you are probably still sitting here wondering what this has to do with our Christian walk. Well, if you think about it, the majority of the time we begin that walk when we are just a broken-down shell of ourselves. I personally found Christ when my life seemed to be falling apart. I was flawed, personally and spiritually broken, and full of sin. I didn’t know where I was headed and I had no process to resurrect my life.

Fortunately, a man named Jesus walked into my life and The Process of restoring my life began. The truth is that the Process that Jesus used to restore my life wasn’t always fun and a lot of time it didn’t make sense to me. There were times of doubt and uncertainty, and maybe even a lack of faith on my part, but Jesus slowly started the Process of chipping away at my stony heart.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

God has started a Process in all of us. He knows every detail of our inner being and He desires for us to be the best version of ourselves for His glory.

Now, my best version doesn’t always shine forth. There are days, and even weeks, when I need God to instill some more Process in me. There are times when the Process is thriving and my words, actions, and life display God’s work in my life. I guess what that really means is that the Process for me isn’t complete and I need to keep trusting in His ways.

I could go on and on giving you details of how our lives aren’t perfect but that we still be to keep Trusting the Process of God in our life but I really just really want to give you some encouragement that none of us are finished products. We need to keep working in step with God’s plan. We need to keep striving for the best version of ourselves. We need to keep our minds and hearts sharp with the Scriptures. We need to approach God on a daily basis through prayer and devotion. We need to keep trusting God and His Process for our lives. It won’t happen over night, it takes a lifetime, but in the end God’s Process is perfect and will lead us closer to His glory.

I pray these words I’ve shared with you are a blessing. I pray they give you some hope and encouragement. Don’t give up, keep striving, and, as always, Trust the Process. In the end you will be the best version of yourself and you will bring God glory.

Until next tine, may God bless and may His Process continue to refine your life.

“Rattle” by Elevation Worship

Happy Tuesday! If you’re like me sometimes you need an extra jolt after Monday to get going and here is the song to do it!!! Take some time this morning to watch the video, meditate on the lyrics, and pray for God to move in and through you in a new way this year.

“RATTLE”

Saturday was silent
Surely it was through
But since when has impossible
Ever stopped You
Friday’s disappointment
Is Sunday’s empty tomb
Since when has impossible
Ever stopped You

This is the sound of dry bones rattling
This is the praise, make a dead man walk again
Open the grave, I’m coming out
I’m gonna live, gonna live again
This is the sound of dry bones rattling, yeah

Pentecostal fire stirring something new
You’re not gonna run out of miracles anytime soon
Yeah, resurrection power runs in my veins too and
I believe there’s another miracle here in this room

This is the sound of dry bones rattling
This is the praise, make a dead man walk again
Open the grave, I’m coming out
I’m gonna live, gonna live again
This is the sound of dry bones rattling

Yeah
Whoa
Do you hear it?
Do you hear it?
Do you hear it? Woo

My God is able to save and deliver and heal
And restore anything that He wants to
Just ask the man who was thrown
On the bones of Elisha
If there’s anything that He can’t do
Just ask the stone that was rolled
At the tomb in the garden
What happens when God says to move (you gotta move)

I feel Him moving it now
I feel Him doing it now
I feel Him doing it now
Do it now, do it now

This is the sound
This is the sound of dry bones rattling, oh
This is the praise, make a dead man walk again
Open the grave, I’m coming out
I’m gonna live, gonna live again
Open the grave, I’m coming out
I’m gonna live, gonna live again
Open the grave, I’m coming out
I’m gonna live, gonna live again
This is the sound of dry bones rattling, rattling, yeah

I hear the sound (I hear the sound)
I hear the sound (I hear the sound)
I hear the sound (I hear the sound)
I hear the sound (I hear the sound)

And the bones began to rattle
Rattle, rattle
Rattle
God said live, God said live
Hear the Word
And this is what He said

Live, live
Dry bones hear the Word of the Lord
Live (live), live (live)
Dry bones hear the Word of the Lord
Live (live), live (live)
Dry bones hear the Word of the Lord
Live (live), live (live)
Dry bones hear the Word of the Lord
Live (live), live (live)
Dry bones hear the Word of the Lord
Live (live), live (live)
Live, live, live, live, live

This is the sound of dry bones rattling, yeah
This is the praise, make a dead man walk again
(Open) open the grave, I’m coming out
I’m gonna live, gonna live again
Open the grave, I’m coming out
I’m gonna live, gonna live
Open the grave, I’m coming out
I’m gonna live, gonna live again
This is the sound of dry bones rattling
Dry bones rattle
Dry bones rattle

Rattle, rattle, rattle
Live, live, live
Live, live
Live, live

Songwriters: Steven Furtick / Chris Brown / Brandon Lake

“Everything is Meaningless… or is it?” by Pastor Randy

Happy New Year!!! After a couple weeks away I am glad to be back with you all here on the blog. I pray that your year is going well but also I want to remind you right at the start that if you ever do need prayer that you can contact me here anytime. Now onto the devo…

““Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!” What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content. History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.”
‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭1:2-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

These words written by Solomon paint a very cynical picture of this world we live in. He states plainly that…

Everything is meaningless…. No one is ever content…

Nothing ever changes…

Everything is wearisome… Nothing is ever truly new..,

No one will remember you…

It’s hard to believe that this is the same guy who wrote the mushiest songs in Scripture, right? If this were a song it would probably be about a Taylor Swift break up.

Seriously though, to really think this way would make for a depressing existence. That being said I have heard a number of people lately that, when talking about the futility of this New Year, you might mistake them for some of Solomon’s speech writers.

But I get it. I do. And I feel it too.

Everyone is exhausted from polarizing politics to this never ending pandemic. People are tired of living in fear, living with loss, and living with almost constant uncertainty.

I get it!

But, unlike Solomon and so many like him, I also believe that as much as things might seem the same that, because of Christ, all things can be made new. Look at Paul’s letter to the Ephesians. He writes…

“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds;”
‭‭Ephesians‬ ‭4:17-23‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Friends, the way we think about this world affects the way we act in this world and eventually it will effect our lasting imprint on this world. Rather than becoming cynical I would challenge you to stop conforming “to the patterns of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” (Romans 12:2a)

Look for new ways to make a difference in this world and in the lives of others.

2022 can become 2020-TOO but only if we let it.

Let us become a light in this world rather than helping to spread the darkness. Let us encourage and inspire rather than subscribing to defeatism. And let us remember that as new creations in Christ we focus not on what is seen but what is unseen since what is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal.

“For what we preach is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed… Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:5-9, 16-18‬ ‭NIV‬‬

“Merry Christmas!” by Pastor Randy

Merry Christmas everyone! I am truly thankful for each of you and the support and encouragement you have shown me this past year. I will be back with new blog posts in 2022 but in the meantime I pray that God will bless you this Christmas and in the New Year!!!

“This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.” [Matthew‬ ‭1:18-25‬ ‭NLT‬‬]

“At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child. And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” [Luke‬ ‭2:1-20‬ ‭NLT‬‬]

“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it. God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God. So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” [John‬ ‭1:1-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬]

Advent Week 4 – “Thursday” by Wende Swick

Last Sunday, my pastor gave the most beautiful definition of JOY.

He said that PEACE is “joy resting” and that JOY is “peace dancing”!  

Peace dancing – I love it!!! This definition resonates with my experience.

Joy is one of my favorite fruits of the Holy Spirit among the nine named in Scripture- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary provides these definitions for JOY:

Noun- the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires : DELIGHT; the expression or exhibition of such emotion : GAIETY; a state of happiness or felicity : BLISS; a source or cause of delight

Verb- Rejoice; Gladden; Enjoy

Did you know that JOY can be a verb? It’s true! I joy, enjoy, take joy, or rejoice, in Jesus, my Savior, and in my personal relationship with God, Maker of the universe, who knows me intimately and loves me unconditionally. I also joy in, or enjoy, many of life’s daily experiences, including special activities which are Christmastime traditions.

I have a few friends, and even my own mother, who have lost a child and find it hard to completely enjoy the Christmas season. The grief a mother experiences with such a loss is monumental. It’s understandable that during holiday seasons which are purportedly times of special joy, experiences may be tainted with sorrow and grief for many who’ve lost loved ones – not exclusively mothers and children. I understand this and my heart hurts with them, for them. 

I would like to share with you an aid I’ve incorporated in my life for many years now – one which has helped me choose joy and experience it so much that people sometimes comment on my joy, saying that it’s what they notice most about me. I love that!

At one point, while living in Hawaii if you can believe it, I went through a struggle with depression. At some point in the midst of it, I realized that I should thank God for three things before I got out of bed in the morning. I started doing that and quickly reached ten items daily. Before I knew it, I was bounding out of bed in the morning, brewing my coffee and sitting down with my prayer journal, recording things for which I was thankful. I went from ten to twenty things, and twenty is now my minimum each morning. It is amazing, actually, how MUCH we can be thankful for… how much GOOD (from God) occurs in our lives each day! 

Prayer journals are one of my favorite gifts to give others, because using one has transformed my outlook. After giving thanks, I pray for my needs, those of others, and ask questions, waiting for God to speak to me. (Prayer IS two-way communication, but I find it hard to wait long enough to hear sometimes. True confession.)

Using a journal to record my prayers and what God says to me helps me stay focused on prayer much more effectively. If you don’t already use one, I recommend you try using a prayer journal. It’s fun to go back and fill in how God has answered prayers. It also helps me remember whom to pray for, over time. 

Focusing on God (my source of JOY) and His goodness to me is a huge factor in my experiencing (most of the time), PEACE (joy resting) and JOY (peace dancing). When I’m out of peace or joy, it’s usually because my focus has been taken from Him and placed on other things.

Shalom & Simchah,

(Peace & Joy in Hebrew),

Wende

P.S. for JOY

This morning, as I visually took in the newly falling snow, my lit tree, etcetera, I was reminded of something related to JOY. Have you ever said or thought, “This is really good for my soul”?

I marvel that God, in His brilliance and great love, chose to design our eyes with rods & cones, to perceive the beauty of lines/shape/design and colors galore! He chose to place hammers, anvils and stirrups (bone set), ear drums, etc., in our ears, so we perceive beautiful music and other desirable sounds. Tastebuds… we don’t need them for survival, but who doesn’t enjoy a delicious meal or sweet treat? Aromas, perceived via our olfactory system, enhance dining and other experiences. Don’t get me started on the sense of touch! With our nervous system’s nerve endings in all the right places, those hugs, massages, or tickles we receive bring sensations of comfort, love and fun to our minds and emotions. 

I hope we each take time to savor or JOY in some of the things which bring pleasure to our souls this could-be-very-busy season.

Advent Week 4 – “Tuesday” by Dave Good

Hello friends, it’s Dave Good here again and this week we are delving into a topic we all seek and desire more of. I think we can all agree that joy is one of the most impactful emotions. The dictionary defines joy as the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation.

Who doesn’t want some great delight or happiness. I know I would love more joy in my life. Joy can be derived in so many ways.

Joy can come from a newfound relationship. Who doesn’t love the feelings associated with the prospect of a new love.

Joy can come from a new job or a promotion at work. The excitement of new career opportunities gives us such hope.

Sometimes we find our joy through the victories of our favorite sports team. Who doesn’t love the feeling of walking into work the next day after a Bills win.

Joy can come from the birth of a new child or grandchild. I don’t know about you but getting to hold my daughters for the first time was an unbelievable feeling.

How bout the purchase of a new car. Who doesn’t love the smell of a new car and the exhilaration of its acceleration.

Or how about the smell or first bite of your favorite food? The joy of tasting mom’s spaghetti or a perfectly done steak always puts a smile on my face.

These are just a few examples of what we find joy in. For the most part that list is all positive and harmless right? But what happens when our pursuit of joy causes us damage or harm? For instance, a new car is nice but can you afford that new car payment? How bout that perfectly grilled steak? Can you push away from the table when you are full or will your gluttonous side persuade you to eat the last bite? What bout that victory from you favorite team? Can you keep your celebration to a limit and not rub it in a friends face? As you can see there can be an ill effect to our pursuit of joy.

Another limitation of the pursuit of joy is that it never seems to last long enough. That new promotion is turning into a lot of work and longer hours. That new born baby brings with it sleepless nights and diaper changing. That new car turns into a repair bill after a few months. That sweet victory turns into the agony of defeat in just a week. All this pursuit of worldly joy can be draining and all in vain.

The pursuit of joy as we have seen,  can be good for us, bad for us, and often short lived here on earth. It is no wonder why people have a hard time truly finding joy. Joy can be very unstable and short lived. So what’s the solution to our pursuit of joy?  It is actually pretty simple and straightforward. The Bible tells us “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!”

Did you catch that? I bring you good news that will bring great Joy to all people. Yes the Messiah has been born.  True everlasting joy is found in Jesus Christ. Jesus was born that first Christmas morning to save us from our sins.  Jesus died on the cross and later rose again so that we may have eternal life with the Father.  Jesus was born to redeem us from the punishment we rightfully deserve. We can now live with hope and a future. I don’t know about you but the hope of eternal life is the greatest sense of joy I’ve ever experienced. The Bible takes the joy of eternal life one step further in the following verse: “and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.”

Everlasting joy will crown our head. Gladness and joy will overtake us!!! When I read encouragement like that I find it hard not to let my emotions swell. We serve a great God who loves us and wants nothing but the best for us. Just to know God and worship Him is a source of joy that this world can not duplicate. There is nothing on this earth that gives more joy than taking refuge in the Lord and soaking in His love. That is where the ultimate joy comes from.

As we enter into this final week of Advent and get closer and closer to the birth of Jesus let’s hold on to that joy. I pray that the familiar words of the song “Joy to the World” that Pastor Randy shared yesterday would resonates even louder to you this Christmas. And I pray that the Joy of knowing Christ and His love becomes the source of your happiness. I promise you if you make room for Him and adore Him this Christmas will be the most joyous ever.

Advent Week 4 – “Monday” by Pastor Randy

Good morning! This is the final week of Advent and our theme is joy.

“Let the heavens be glad, and the earth rejoice! Let the sea and everything in it shout his praise! Let the fields and their crops burst out with joy! Let the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for he is coming! He is coming to judge the earth. He will judge the world with justice, and the nations with his truth.”
‭‭[Psalms‬ ‭96:11-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬]

When I think of joy the first thing that comes to mind is Isaac Watt’s classic Christmas Hymn “Joy to the World”. Let’s start the week off my meditating on the lyrics and then listening to a remixed version from Pentatonix.

Joy to the World , the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven and nature sing,
And Heaven, and Heaven, and nature sing.

Joy to the World, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat the sounding joy,
Repeat, repeat, the sounding joy.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,
Far as the curse is found,
Far as, far as, the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders of His love,
And wonders, wonders, of His love.

Advent Week 3 – “Friday” by Pastor Randy (featuring a live performance of “Here This Christmas” by Pastor Russ Peters)

Hey friends, after receiving a number of messages in response to Wednesday’s “Refill with Randy” video regarding remembering loved ones at Christmas I wanted to share a song that my good friend Pastor Russ Peters wrote and performed live this morning at our P.A.C.T. Pastors Christmas Party.

This is especially poignant since Russ lost his grandmother just 2 days ago and will be performing this at her funeral tomorrow (Saturday). Please pray for him and his family at this time and also look for the studio release of this song. You can check out his other songs and videos on his YouTube page.

Advent Week 3 – “Thursday” by Pastor Randy

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” [John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬]

Good morning friends, as we continue to think about love in regard to Advent I wanted to focus on this very familiar passage but from a little different perspective.

Most Christians, at least from my generation, can rattle off John 3:16 on the spot because it has become the go to verse for summing up the good news of the gospel. And rightly so because it shares the action God took to save us as well as the action we must take in order to be saved. But take a minute to consider this passage in the content of Christmas.

We tend to focus on the birth of Christ and his entry into our world but in order for us to receive him his Father had to first send him.

Imagine for a minute what that had to feel like from God’s perspective. Even as the Shepherds were about to go and celebrate Jesus’ birth He was aware that He had literally just sent him to his death.

Through my work with families through Care-Net I have counseled couples that are doing everything they can not to have to give their child up. Sometimes though a judge may deem it necessary to send the child to stay with someone else for a time if it means that the child will be better taken care of. What happened on Christmas was the opposite of that though! God was willing to send His only son to earth… to those who were created by him but would not recognize him… to those who would mistreat him and eventually crucify him. God sacrificed His son in order to save us.

Friends.. that is love.

“When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” ‭‭[Romans‬ ‭5:6-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬]

Advent Week 3 – “Wednesday” by Pastor Randy

Good morning friends! I apologize for the temporary hiatus but I have been without power and internet since Saturday so I am playing catch up.

Speaking of power outages… today’s post will be my special “Power Out” episode of Refill with Randy. This third week of Advent’s theme is love and in this video I talk about remembering those loved ones we have lost. Take a look…

Advent Week 2 – “Friday” by Pastor Randy

Happy Friday! Spend some time today listening to the song and meditating on the words of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” performed by Casting Crowns.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on Earth, good will to men

And the bells are ringing (peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (peace on Earth)
In my heart I hear them (peace on Earth)
Peace on Earth, good will to men

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on Earth, ” I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on Earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing (peace on Earth)
Like a choir singing (peace on Earth)
Does anybody hear them? (Peace on Earth)
Peace on Earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
(Peace on Earth)
(Peace on Earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on Earth, good will to men

Then ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on Earth, good will to men

And the bells, they’re ringing (peace on Earth)
Like a choir they’re singing (peace on Earth)
And with our hearts, we’ll hear them (peace on Earth)
Peace on Earth, good will to men

Do you hear the bells, they’re ringing? (Peace on Earth)
The light, the angels singing (peace on Earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (peace on Earth)
Peace on Earth, good will to men

Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth, good will to men

Advent Week 2 – “Thursday” by Dave Good

Welcome back to the GSM advent series. My name is Dave Good and once again I am honored to share this time with you. I pray that you find our time together is beneficial to you. Advent is one of my favorite times of the year. A time to prepare our hearts for the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. A time to just focus on the true meaning of Christmas.

As we celebrate this second week of advent, our attention turns to peace on earth. I could imagine that the night Jesus was born there was anything but peace in and around Bethlehem. The little town was turned into an overbooked, overcrowded metropolis thanks to the census decree that was called by The Roman emperor, Augustus. Every Jew was to return to their tribal hometown to be counted for taxation purposes. That fulfills a prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem.

The whole town was saturated with people. There were people in the streets trying to return to their family home. There were people stuffed into the local establishments enjoying a meal with friends and families. The inn was completely overbooked. I’m sure there were people in the markets scurrying about trying to buy goods and fresh food. The little town of Bethlehem was just buzzing with activity. The once small, quiet town was anything but peaceful at that time.

When you stop and think about it this is kind of how we spend every Christmas Eve. Most of us spend it preoccupied with stuff to do. We spend the day cooking or preparing a lovely meal for our friends and family and then we make that last minute run to the mall to ensure that we can cross every name off our Christmas gift list. After we spend the day driving home to spend quality time with loved ones. Christmas Eve usually turns into a lot of hustle and bustle most of the time. For a lot of people Christmas Eve is anything but peaceful.

Mary and Joseph were in quite the predicament that first Christmas Eve. Mary was having contractions and birthing pains and they had no place to spend the night. The inn was full, yet fortunately for them the resourceful innkeeper allows them to take refuge in the barn behind the inn. The Savior of the world was about to be born in a manger, among the animals. What should be a monumental celebration turns out to be more of an afterthought than anything else.

I think we have to be honest with ourselves. Our Christmas Eve traditions often turn the miracle of the birth of our Savior from a monumental celebration to an afterthought. We allow the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to rob us of our peace. We focus so much on the non essentials of Christmas that we lose our joy.

Mary had every right to complain about her situation and yet her circumstances did not steal her peace. She understood what was really happening at the moment her baby let out his first cry. She understood the prince of peace was here on earth. Her eyes were on the true meaning of Christmas and that will always restore the peace deep inside you.

Friends, I pray this Christmas we keep our eyes on Christ as we seek his peace as well as the joy and hope that is associated with his coming. Let’s try not to get too wrapped up in the business of the season and allow the stillness and serenity of Jesus to fill our hearts. Have a great rest of the week and may the advent season be a blessing to each and everyone of you.

Advent Week 2 – “Tuesday” by Pastor Randy

Happy Tuesday!!! For our second day of focusing on peace please take some time to listen to the song and meditate on the lyrics of Austin French’s “Peace on Earth”

Into darkness
Comes a light
Into silence
A baby’s cry
The birth of freedom
The death of fear
In a manger
Christ is here

Let there be peace on earth
Let there be peace on earth
Long awaited love
Heaven’s come for us
Let there be peace on earth

All division
May it cease
Every worry
May it flee
A weary heart finds
A thrill of hope
The world rejoices
We’re not alone

Let there be peace on earth
Let there be peace on earth
Long awaited love
Heaven’s come for us
Let there be peace on earth

Joy to the world, the Lord is come
Let earth receive her King
Let every heart prepare Him room
And heaven and nature sing

Peace on earth
Peace on earth

Let there be peace on earth
Let there be peace on earth
Long awaited love
Heaven’s come for us


Let there be peace on earth
Let there be peace on earth

Advent Week 2 – “Monday” by Pastor Randy

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
‭‭(Isaiah‬ ‭9:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬
)

On this second week of Advent our focus is on peace.

Most Saturdays I spend my morning helping out with Hands 4 Hope. As people gather to pick pick up food and clothes I have the opportunity to talk with each person and pray with them. I always ask what I can specifically pray for and, though I do get the usual requests for healing, for a job, for help with finances, etc., I have noticed one request that has become very prominent over these past two years—pray for peace.

In the midst of the pandemic, and an ever-growing political divide, peace seems more elusive than ever before. And yet we put our hope in the Prince of Peace to do what individuals and governments cannot do on their own.

Paul talks about this ministry of reconciliation in his letter to the Ephesians. He speaks specifically to healing the hostility between gentiles and Jews but we can see where it is applicable to all of the divisions that we experience today as well. Referring to Jesus in Ephesians 2:14-18 he says…

“For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.”

The only way that we will experience peace in our lifetime is by crucifying our desires, humbling ourselves, and allowing Christ to heal our hearts, heal our relationships, heal our nation, and heal our world.

Lord give us peace.

Advent Week 1 – “Friday” by Pastor Randy

From the haunting tune to the arcane language I have always loved listening to the great Advent Hymn “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”.

For me it is a symbol of the beginning of Advent as it encompasses both the longing of the Israelites waiting for their Messiah as well as the longing that we have today for that same Messiah’s return.

It also embodies the hope that we have been focusing on this week as there is an inherent sense that rejoicing will be inevitable as the redeemer will come. So take a moment to meditate on the lyrics and listen along with the video.

Advent Week 1 – “Thursday” by Pastor Randy

For today’s Advent Blog I invite you to read and listen to the lyrics of Tenth Avenue North’s song “I Have This Hope” as you consider the hope that you place in Christ this Christmas Season.

As I walk this great unknown
Questions come and questions go
Was there purpose for the pain?
Did I cry these tears in vain?

I don’t want to live in fear
I want to trust that You are near
Trust Your grace can be seen
In both triumph and tragedy

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

But sometimes my faith feels thin
Like the night will never end
Will You catch every tear
Or will You just leave me here?

But I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

Yes, I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

So, whatever happens I will not be afraid
Cause You are closer than this breath that I take
You calm the storm when I hear You call my name
I still believe that one day I’ll see Your face

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

Advent Week 1 – “Tuesday” by Dave Good

Welcome to another Advent edition of GSM’s Refill with Randy Blog. My name is Dave Good and I am honored to have the opportunity to share a few words with you today. I pray this will be of benefit to you and deliver just a ray of hope to your life.

Pastor Randy approached me and asked me to share my thoughts on the subject of Hope. At first I thought it would be great idea to bring up the areas in the world that seem so hopeless. All around us we are impacted by the long-lasting pandemic, racial tensions, vaccine mandates, political strife, rumors of wars, and what seems to be nonstop chaos around the world. People everywhere are looking for something to hold onto, something to take refuge in, something to give them a sense of hope.

When I thought about the Advent season and our search for hope I immediately recalled the journey of the Magi to see the Christ child. The Gospel of Matthew tells the story of the Magi who followed a bright star to the town of Bethlehem “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him”

No one is certain who the Magi were, how many there were, or where exactly they originated from, but we do know that they were searching for some hope. The Christmas narrative tells us that they had left their country in the east and followed a bright star through the desert for several weeks if not months. It is said that they led their caravan of camels and other animals on a journey in search of the Messiah—the long anticipated King of the Jews. They endured days of scorching desert sun and freezing cold nights. They probably encountered thieves and bandits as well as wild animals along the way. The journey was no walk in the park to say the least.

Another bit of information that the Gospel of Matthew shares with us is the valuable gifts the Magi brought with them. “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

They presented to the child gold frankincense, and myrrh, some of the most precious things in the world at the time. So to put this whole journey in perspective. The Magi leave their distant home, follow a bright star, and journey through the desert with valuable gifts, all to go see a child. To me the story seems a little absurd. What would make these men even consider this voyage? The only answer I can come up with is hope.

They were hoping the star they were following would lead them to the long awaited Savior. They were hoping to pay homage to the King of the Jews. They were hoping to worship and adore the Christ child. They were willing to risk it all just to find some hope.

Just like the Magi all of us are chasing after hope. How many times do you hear exchanges like, “I hope this happens or I hope I get this for Christmas or I hope the Bills win or I hope you feel better”? Hope is all around us and something we pursue on a daily basis. Hope often causes us to take risks or chances just like the Magi. Hope is definitely an integral part of life

My question for you is where, what, or who is your hope in? For some it’s a job. For others it’s a country. And for some it’s a loved one. We place our hope is so many things. I can’t decide for you what to place your hope in but I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you where my hope comes from. My hope comes from the Lord.

I can say that my belief in that same child the Magi visited some 2000 years ago brings so much hope to my life. I believe that the child born on Christmas Day grew up, died on a cross for my sins, and paved a path for me to have eternal life with my Heavenly Father. The name of that precious child is Jesus.

To be honest with you my hope in Jesus didn’t just come overnight. Just like the Magi I had to go on a journey to secure my hope and I misplaced my hope in many things along the way. Things like my career, my reputation, my status, my football teams, my talents and abilities, etc. And I will be honest with you, at some point or another all of these things have disappointed me. All of these things have let me down. The only thing I’ve found that I can always count on and hope in is my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. “But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you.”

There is so much hope in the Bible and with a relationship with Christ. I pray that this Advent season you find your hope in the Lord. I pray that you prepare your heart for when he will come again. And I pray that the hope of the Lord becomes more real and alive to you each and every day.

Advent Week 1 – “Monday” by Pastor Randy

Advent is a season of remembering the events of Christmas past and getting ready for the time when Christ will come again. It is a time filled with anticipation, preparation, and expectation. It is also often marked by weekly themes, celebrated with the lighting of a different candle each Sunday, and so from now until Christmas we will be highlighting those same themes here. They are: Hope, Peace, Love, and Joy. And I say “we” because there will be some other contributors, such as GSM’s own Dave Good who will be writing tomorrow’s blog.


The dictionary defines hope /hōp/ as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. In relation to Advent we are talking about both the hope that the Jews had that God would send them a Messiah and the hope that we have today that, because that same Messiah (Jesus) came to earth on that first Christmas, died for our sins on Good Friday, and rose from the dead on Easter, we can be saved and will join Christ when he comes again.

It is the kind of hope that the Israelites held onto generation after generation, even while wondering when it would happen, and it is the kind of hope that we hold onto today even though nearly 2,000 have passed since Jesus made the promise to return.

Isaiah spoke to this hope long before Christ when he shared in 9:2 that, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (9:2‬ ‭NIV)‬‬

A few verses later he would go on to paint a picture of what this hope, this light at the end of the tunnel, would look like. He says in vv. 6-7 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (NIV‬‬)

The reason why this gave them hope was not because they thought it would happen immediately but because they fully believed in The One Who said that it would indeed happen. They trusted that God would fulfill this prophesy when He deemed that the time was right.

Unfortunately I think that many times today we read about God’s promises in Scripture but we want instant gratification so when something doesn’t happen the way we want at the time we want it we tend to get cynical and our hope starts to wane.

The reality though is that if God has promised it but it has not happened, it’s not that it won’t happen but that it just hasn’t happened yet. Like our Jewish forefathers we need to have patience and perseverance trusting in The Author of our hope Who says in Isaiah 55:9, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

The fact is that Christ came at just the right time, he died at just the right time (“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans‬ ‭5:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬), and so we can trust that he will return at just the right time. Until then we walk in hope.


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“Happy Thanksgiving!!!” By Pastor Randy

Hi all and Happy Thanksgiving tomorrow!!!

I will be back with 4 straight weeks of Advent Devotions starting next Monday but in the meantime I wanted to let you know how thankful I am for each one of you and to share my latest Refill with Randy video with you (click the link below).

Also, if anyone is wanting to contribute to my ThanksGIVING Fundraiser through PayPal here is the link…

“Intentional Acts of Generosity” by Pastor Randy

“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭9:6-11‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I hope that you all are having a blessed week. More importantly, I hope all of you are being a blessing to others this week. I’m sure that you’ve all heard of doing Random Acts of Kindness but today I want to encourage you to do INTENTIONAL ACTS OF GENEROSITY!!!!

Since this is the season of giving I would challenge you to find creative ways to bless others and show them Christ’s love in a tangible way.

And whatever you do doesn’t have to be extravagant but it does have to be intentional. The main thing is to bless someone, put a smile on their face, and remind them that no matter what their current circumstances might be that there is hope in Christ and we don’t have to wait until we get to heaven to get a glimpse of what is to come.

So, as you start thinking of what you might do, let me share a few ideas as a catalyst. You could:

  • order a pizza for someone and have it delivered anonymously
  • get a roll of quarters and fill all the machines at the laundry mat
  • pay for the person behind you’s (fast food, groceries, coffee, etc.)
  • donate to a charity
  • rake up your neighbor’s leaves or shovel their driveway
  • give somebody a gas card
  • tip the wait staff or delivery person 50%
  • send someone a hand-written card
  • visit a shut-in
  • donate food for Thanksgiving or presents for Christmas

The list goes on but it doesn’t have to end there. If we are all willing to be aware, intentional, and generous (especially this time of the year) we can bless others in amazing ways and it doesn’t cost a lot because the reality is that its not a money thing–it’s a heart thing.

LET’S SHOW PEOPLE GOD’S GENEROUS HEART IN A TANGIBLE WAY!!!!

Let me know what you do. 😇


I will be taking a short break through Thanksgiving but will return the Monday after with four straight weeks of Advent Devotions. In the mean time I hope that you have a nice holiday with your family.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!

GSM “ThanksGIVING” Fund Drive

This is not my usual blog content but from 11/15-12/15 I am having a fundraiser through PayPal and the details and link are below. During this season of generosity I would ask you to consider supporting my mission for 2022.

“And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the Lord’s people. And they exceeded our expectations: They gave themselves first of all to the Lord, and then by the will of God also to us. So we urged Titus, just as he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace on your part. But since you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you—see that you also excel in this grace of giving.” ‭‭(2 Corinthians‬ ‭8:1-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

This fundraiser is to support Go Scatter Ministries and the ongoing evangelistic efforts of Rev. Randy LeBaron.

Much like a modern day missionary Pastor Randy must raise support through the generosity of other Christ-followers like you.

All funds raised will be applied toward GSM’s 2022 budget. The donations received make it possible for Pastor Randy to be an itinerant speaker and teacher (by subsidizing honorariums), to create content that encourages and disciples others online, and to come beside local churches and mission organizations to assist them on a volunteer basis.

If you would like to give a one time gift click the link below and you are interested in becoming a Monthly Ministry Partner you can find out how at GoScatterMinistries.Org

Thank you in advance for your generosity!

Pastor Randy

You can also give by check. See below…

“HAPPY MONDAY!!!” by Pastor Randy

Happy Monday!!!

I spent yesterday praising God in the morning at FreeChurch.net and then praising Him more at the P.A.C.T. Good Friday Service in the evening and I can honestly say that even if The Bills hadn’t trounced The Jets yesterday that I would have gone to bed with a smile on my face because there is just something joyful about being in the presence of God and His people.

I want to encourage you to find time each day this week to spend in worship. It may not always be possible to gather with others but it IS always possible to praise God throughout the day.

  • Turn on Your favorite Christian station or playlist while you commute to work
  • Start and end the day with prayer
  • Ask a friend to get a cup of coffee with you and enjoy the gift of fellowship
  • Intentionally look for things that you can thank God for throughout the day
  • Spend some time in The Word
  • Meet with a Small Group
  • Find a mid-week service to attend
  • Watch a service online (better yet, sing along!)
  • Find ways to acknowledge God’s generosity toward you by extending generosity to others

There are a lot more possibilities. Get creative. And I guarantee you will see a difference in your own attitude at the end of each day.

“More Love More Power” by Pastor Randy

The song, “More Love More Power”, played a significant part in my Christian journey as it played on the radio one night—prompting me to pray for Christ to be Lord of my life.

Even as I listen to it now it brings back more than just a feeling of nostalgia. It reminds me that being a Christian is not about what I’m saved from but rather what I am saved for—to live this life on purpose with a passion for God!

Listen to the song, meditate on the lyrics, and ask The Lord to refuel your passion for Him today.

More love, more power
More of You in my life
More love, more power
More of You in my life

And I will worship You, with all of my heart
I will worship You, with all of my mind
I will worship You, with all of my strength
For You are my Lord

More love, more power
More of You in my life
More love, more power
More of You in my life

And I will worship You, with all of my heart
I will worship You, with all of my mind
I will worship You, with all of my strength
For You are my Lord

More loveMore love, more power
More of You in my life
More love, more power
More of You in my life

More love, more power
More of You in my life
More love, more power
More of You in my life

performed by Michael W. Smith

“Judas’ Kiss” by Pastor Randy

Happy Thursday! Continuing on with this week’s song lyric theme I wanted to share a older song by the classic Christian rock band Petra.

This song helps us understand how our sinful choices affect God. It gives us a different perspective which will hopefully cause us to think twice before doing something that will hurt Christ to the extent that Judas’ betrayal did.

I invite you to listen to the song and meditate on the lyrics.

“Judas’ Kiss”

[Based on Luke 22:47, 48]

I wonder how it makes you feel when the prodigal won’t come home

I wonder how it makes you feel when he’d rather be on his own

I wonder what it’s like for you when a lamb has gone astray

I wonder what it’s like for you when your children disobey

It must be like another thorn struck in your brow

It must be like another close friend’s broken vow

It must be like another nail right through your wrist

It must be just like

Just like Judas’ kiss

I wonder how it makes you feel when no one seeks your face

I wonder how it makes you feel when they give up in the race

I wonder what it’s like for you when they willingly disobey

I wonder what it’s like for you when they willingly walk away

What is your favorite classic Christian group/song?

“Come Alive (Dry Bones)” by Pastor Randy

Much like yesterday’s post I wanted to share a song with you in which the lyrics have resonated with, and impacted, me. I have always been drawn to the account of the dry bones from Ezekiel 37 and Lauren Daigle gives it new life with her hauntingly soulful voice.

So spend some time today meditating on the words, listening to the song, and being reminded of what a great and powerful God we serve.

Through the eyes of men, it seems there’s so much we have lost
As we look down the road where all the prodigals have walked
One by one, the enemy has whispered lies
And led them off as slaves

But we know that You are God, Yours is the victory
We know there is more to come
That we may not yet see
So with the faith You’ve given us
We’ll step into the valley unafraid, yeah

As we call out to dry bones, come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts, come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes, let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones, come alive

God of endless mercy, god of unrelenting love
Rescue every daughter, bring us back the wayward son
And by Your spirit, breathe upon them, show the world that You alone can save You alone can save

As we call out to dry bones, come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts, come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes, let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones, come alive

So breathe, oh, breath of God
Now breathe, oh, breath of God
Breathe, oh, breath of God, now breathe

Breathe, oh, breath of God
Now breathe, oh, breath of God
Breathe, oh, breath of God, now breathe

As we call out to dry bones, come alive, come alive
We call out to dead hearts, come alive, come alive
Up out of the ashes, let us see an army rise
We call out to dry bones, come alive

We call out to dry bones, come alive
Oh, come alive

Lauren Daigle

“I Have This Hope” by Pastor Randy

One of my favorite bands is Tenth Avenue North. Their sound, their lyrics, and even their lead singers testimony resonates with me. And so, on this Tuesday, I simply want to encourage to meditate on the words of one of their popular songs. Enjoy!

As I walk this great unknown

Questions come and questions go

Was there purpose for the pain?

Did I cry these tears in vain?

I don’t want to live in fear

I want to trust that You are near

Trust Your grace can be seen

In both triumph and tragedy

I have this hope

In the depth of my soul

In the flood or the fire

You’re with me and You won’t let go

But sometimes my faith feels thin

Like the night will never end

Will You catch every tear

Or will You just leave me here?

But I have this hope

In the depth of my soul

In the flood or the fire

You’re with me and You won’t let go

Yes, I have this hope

In the depth of my soul

In the flood or the fire

You’re with me and You won’t let go

So, whatever happens I will not be afraid

Cause You are closer than this breath that I take

You calm the storm when I hear You call my name

I still believe that one day I’ll see Your face

I have this hope

In the depth of my soul

In the flood or the fire

You’re with me

I have this hope

In the depth of my soul

In the flood or the fire

You’re with me and You won’t let go

In the flood or the fire

You’re with me and You won’t let go

In the flood or the fire

You’re with me and You won’t let go

performed by Tenth Avenue north

“Living Sunday’s Sermon on Monday” by Pastor Randy

Good morning! It’s Monday which means it’s time for you to start living the sermon you heard on Sunday.

When I would preach regularly at the church I pastored at I would often stand in the back to greet people as they left and inevitably I would hear things like, “Nice message” or “Good sermon Pastor”. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to hear feedback like that but it’s better to hear about how someone applied the sermon to their life.

In fact, after a while I started to respond to those who complimented me with, “Thank you! I would love to hear how you put some feet on it this week.” And you know what, after a while some started doing just that.

I would getting mid-week texts or e-mails telling me about their actions in response to the message and sometimes I would walk into church the next Sunday only to have someone run up to me excited to share a testimony. To me this was the most encouraging feedback that I could receive because it meant that the words that God was giving me actually impacted lives and the lives of others around them.

So… how will you start living yesterday’s sermon today?

How will you take a Scripture, a point, or a challenge that your pastor shared and put some feet on it?

How will you go from passively hearing God’s Word to actively living it today?

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.” (James‬ ‭1:22-25‬)

I would love to hear some ways that you are doing this and I’m sure that your pastor would love to hear it too!

“Compline: Night Prayer” by Pastor Randy

[This week I am sharing about the different hours of The Divine Office. If you are new here I would suggest going back and reading Monday’s (10/25) post to get a better understanding of what this is and why I am sharing about it.]

Compline comes from the Latin which means to complete. It is the final prayer before going to bed. It marks the completion of our day and is considered to be a daily exercise in the act of dying.

Luke 2:29-32 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” (NLT)

Psalm 121:1-8 “I look up to the mountains— does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps. The Lord himself watches over you! The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade. The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon at night. The Lord keeps you from all harm and watches over your life. The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go, both now and forever.” (NLT‬‬)

Be our light in the darkness, O Lord, and in your great mercy defend us from all perils and dangers of this night; for the love of your only Son, our Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Be present, O merciful God, and protect us through the hoursof this night, so that we who are wearied by the changes andchances of this life may rest in your eternal changelessness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Look down, O Lord, from your heavenly throne, andillumine this night with your celestial brightness; that bynight as by day your people may glorify your holy Name;through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.


Visit this place, O Lord, and drive far from it all snares of the enemy; let your holy angels dwell with us to preserve us inpeace; and let your blessing be upon us always; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

————————————————-

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, orweep this night, and give your angels charge over those whosleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

————————————————-
O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we livein and the life we live: Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may neverforget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
————————————————-
Guide us waking, O Lord, and guard us sleeping; that awakewe may watch with Christ, and asleep we may rest in peace.

————————————————-

The Lord Almighty grant us a peaceful night and a perfect end. Amen.

excerpts from The Book of Common Prayer

“Vespers: Evening Prayer” by Pastor Randy

[This week I am sharing about the different hours of The Divine Office. If you are new here I would suggest going back and reading Monday’s (10/25) post to get a better understanding of what this is and why I am sharing about it.]

Vespers, celebrated at dusk, takes on the character of evening when day is almost over and our work has come to an end. This hour is marked with rest and contemplation of the day’s successes and failures. It is often marked by thanksgiving for the day just past and a sacrifice of praise for the night yet to come.

Psalms‬ ‭141:1-2‬ “O Lord, I am calling to you. Please hurry! Listen when I cry to you for help! Accept my prayer as incense offered to you, and my upraised hands as an evening offering.” ‭‭(‭NLT‬)

Psalms‬ ‭119:55‬ ‭“I reflect at night on who you are, O Lord; therefore, I obey your instructions.” ‭‭(NLT‬‬)

Praise From All Creatures


Praise be to you, O Lord
Who spins shining stars across the wondrous heavens
And stretches out the seas,
Who lifts the dawn into place And sets boundaries for night,
Who awes the earth with storms And gentles it with green,
Who gives everything a season
And breathes life and love into the dust of us.
Praise be to You.


Praise in all things, For all things,
The soft slant of sunlight, The sweat of battle,
a song in the wilderness, the evening breeze,
the deep breath,
the tended wound,
mercy, quietness, a friend; for the miracles of the daily,
the mysteries of the eternal.
Praise be to You.


Praise from all creatures, Laughers and list-makers,
Wonders and worriers,
Poets and plodders and prophets,
The wrinkled, the newborn, The whale, and the worm,
From all, and from me. Praise, praise be to You
For amazing grace.

by Ted Loder

“None – The Ninth Hour” by Pastor Randy

[This week I am sharing about the different hours of The Divine Office. If you are new here I would suggest going back and reading Monday’s (10/25) post to get a better understanding of what this is and why I am sharing about it.]

None, refers to the ninth hour, roughly mid-afternoon. Much like with Prime, it is a time to pray for perseverance and for the strength to continue bearing fruit. It is a time when one becomes aware of the sun’s eventual setting and the strength one needs to cope with the demands and responsibilities of life.

Philippians‬ ‭3:7-21‬ ‭“But whatever were gains to me I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. All of us, then, who are mature should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained. Join together in following my example, brothers and sisters, and just as you have us as a model, keep your eyes on those who live as we do. For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” (‭‭NIV‬‬)

STAY STEADFAST MY SOUL


Stay steadfast my soul
when the waves seem too high
When my confidence wanes
and my well has run dry


Stay steadfast my soul
when the hurts of ministry cut deep
When I am sad
when I am tired
without tears
without sleep


Stay steadfast my soul
when from depression I can no longer hide
It is always hungry
all consuming
yet never seems satisfied


Stay steadfast my soul
when other’s voices drown out my own
When their troubles and their vices
on my weary shoulders find a home


Stay steadfast my soul
for it will all come to an end
When my Savior and Lord
comes back again


Stay steadfast my soul
continue to be fervent
And on that day He will say
Well done faithful servant

Randy LeBaron

“Sext – The Noonday Devil” by Pastor Randy

[This week I am sharing about the different hours of The Divine Office. If you are new here I would suggest going back and reading Monday’s (10/25) post to get a better understanding of what this is and why I am sharing about it.]

Sext is Latin for the sixth hour. It takes place at midday when the sun is overhead and one has become tired and lost their motivation. It is a time for earnest prayer to resist temptation, to keep from being overcome by the demands and pressures of life. We are reminded of Christ being crucified at the sixth hour and we unite ourselves with Him. One is aware of one’s failures and mistakes and prays for true conversion even to the point of sacrifice.

I don’t know about you but this describes me after lunch when it’s hard to concentrate, easy to fall into a FB scroll spiral, and the only thing I am motivated to do is take a nap. It’s this time of day that I need be that much more intentional about how I spend my time. When I was pastoring I would often plan visitation at this time because then I was alone so I wouldn’t be tempted to go into a social media spiral and it was much easier to pay attention to another person than whatever project I was currently working on.

Psalm 55:16-23 “As for me, I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. He rescues me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me. God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change— he will hear them and humble them, because they have no fear of God. My companion attacks his friends; he violates his covenant. His talk is smooth as butter, yet war is in his heart; his words are more soothing than oil, yet they are drawn swords. Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. But you, God, will bring down the wicked into the pit of decay; the bloodthirsty and deceitful will not live out half their days. But as for me, I trust in you.”‬ ‭(NIV‬‬)

In the strong name of Jesus Christ I stand against the world, the flesh, and the devil.

I resist every force that would seek to distract me from my center in God.

I reject the distorted concepts and ideas that make sin plausible and desirable.

I oppose every attempt to keep me from knowing full fellowship with God.

By the power of the Holy Spirit I speak directly to the thoughts, emotions, and desires of my heart and command you to find your satisfaction in the infinite variety of God’s love rather than the bland diet of sin.

I call upon the good, the true, and the beautiful to rise up within me and the evil to subside.

I ask for an increase of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.

By the authority of almighty God I tear down Satan’s strongholds in my life, in the lives of those I love, and in the society in which I live.

I take into myself the weapons of truth, righteousness, peace, salvation, the word of God, and prayer.

I command every evil influence to leave; you have no right here and I allow you no point of entry.

I ask for an increase of faith, hope, and love so that, by the power of God, I can be a light set on a hill, causing truth and justice to flourish.

These things I pray for the sake of him who loved me and gave himself for me.

Amen.

Richard Foster

“Terce – The Third Hour”

[This week and next I am sharing about the different hours of The Divine Office. If you are new here I would suggest going back and reading Monday’s (10/25) post to get a better understanding of what this is and why I am sharing about it.]

Terce simply means “third hour” in Latin is prayed mid-morning around 9am. Traditionally it is dedicated to the coming of the Holy Spirit which took place at mid-morning as stated in the account of Pentecost in Acts 2. It is time to ask for a fresh refilling of The Spirit and for strength for the day.

‭‭Acts‬ ‭1:8‬ “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (‭NIV‬)

Psalm 51:10-12 “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” (NIV‬‬)

“Holy Spirit”

There’s nothing worth more

That will ever come close

Nothing can compare

You’re our living Hope

Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen

Of the sweetest of love

When my heart becomes free

And my shame is undone

Your presence, Lord

Holy Spirit You are welcome here

Come flood this place

And fill the atmosphere

Your glory God

Is what our hearts long for

To be overcome

By Your presence, Lord

There’s nothing worth more

That will ever come close

Nothing can compare

You’re our living Hope

Your presence, Lord

I’ve tasted and seen

Of the sweetest of love

When my heart becomes free

And my shame is undone

Your presence, Lord

Oh, Holy Spirit You are welcome here

Come flood this place

And fill the atmosphere

Your glory God

Is what our hearts long for

To be overcome

By Your presence, Lord

Oh, Holy Spirit You are welcome here

Come flood this place

And fill the atmosphere

Your glory God

Is what our hearts long for

To be overcome

By Your presence, Lord

Overwhelm us with Your presence God

Overwhelm us now

Oh, beautiful name

Let us become more aware

Of Your presence

Let us experience the glory

Of Your goodness

Let us become more aware

Of Your presence

Let us experience the glory

Of Your goodness

Let us become more aware

Of Your presence

Let us experience the glory

Of Your goodness

Oh Lord!

Holy Spirit You are welcome here

Come flood this place

And fill the atmosphere

Your glory God

Is what our hearts long for

To be overcome

By Your presence, Lord

“Holy Spirit” by Jesus Culture

“Prime – The First Hour”

[This week and next I am sharing about the different hours of The Divine Office. If you are new here I would suggest going back and reading Monday’s (10/25) post to get a better understanding of what this is and why I am sharing about it.]

Prime, which is celebrated during the first hour of daylight, is a minor hour which many stopped observing around 1970. I include it however because it began in the 4th Century for a reason I find a bit humorous and one that I that I thought some on here might relate to.

Typically the monks would get up and begin their day with Lauds at Daybreak but some of the “lazy” ones would sleep in and not start their day until Terce. As a way of compromising with these monks who needed more sleep, but who they didn’t want to start their day without prayer and devotion, the practice of Prime began by offering a chance o pray and read Scripture together as the monks met to start their tasks for the day and it took place in between Lauds and Terce.

So for you non-morning people out there, who need more than just a cup of coffee to start your workday, this hour was created for you. 😇

Psalms‬ ‭5:3‬ “In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” ‭(NIV‬‬)

Colossians‬ ‭3:23-24‬ ‭“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” (NIV‬‬)

Jesus, I desire to start this day with you.
And yet, my mind keeps flitting to so many things:
the projects I want to accomplish,
the people I want to talk to,
the people I wish I didn’t have to talk to.
I wonder. Are these things distractions to spiritual concentration
or invitation to see God in the ordinary? I’m not sure.
Jesus, I know that you are that Center who knows no distraction.
So I offer up my mental fragmentation to you, O Lord my God.
May my scatteredness become your gatheredness.
As I am contemplating a thousand things,
Jesus, may I somehow be contemplating you.
Amen.

~Richard J. Foster; Prayers From the Heart

“Lauds – Prayer at Dawn”

[This week and next I am sharing about the different hours of The Divine Office. If you are new here I would suggest going back and reading Monday’s (10/25) post to get a better understanding of what this is and why I am sharing about it.]

Lauds is celebrated at sunrise when the night is dispelled and the new day is born. The Church has always considered the sun to be a symbol of Christ rising from the dead. We thank God for the first light at the beginning of creation and for the second light that came into the world—Christ. This hour is filled with joyful prayers and songs.

Genesis‬ ‭1:3-5‬ “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.” ‭(NIV‬‬)

John 1:1-9 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.” ‭(NIV‬‬)

John 8:12 “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”” (NIV‬‬)

“Light of the World” by Lauren Daigle

The world waits for a miracle
The heart longs for a little bit of hope
Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel
A child prays for peace on Earth
And she’s calling out from a sea of hurt
Oh come, oh come, Emmanuel

And can you hear the angels singing
Glory to the light of the world
Glory the light of the world is here

The drought breaks with the tears of a mother
A baby’s cry is the sound of love
Come down, come down, Emmanuel

Oh, He is the song for the suffering
He is Messiah, the Prince of Peace has come
He has come, Emmanuel

Glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world

For all who wait
For all who hunger
For all who’ve prayed
For all who wonder
Behold your King
Behold Messiah
Emmanuel, Emmanuel

Glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world
Glory to the light of the world

Behold your King
Behold Messiah
Emmanuel, Emmanuel
The world waits for the miracle
The heart longs for a little bit of hope
Oh come, oh come Emmanuel

Shed your clear light on our hearts, Lord, so that walking continually in the way of your commandments we may never be deceived or misled. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, (one) God, for ever and ever. Amen.

“Vigils – The Night Watch”

Some of you may be familiar with a candlelight prayer vigil, where you gather together and stay up late praying for.a specific purpose, and that practice comes from the same concept of what is practiced here in The Daily Office.

Vigils are prayers offered up in the middle of the night when one would normally be sleeping but instead is up waiting and watching in prayer. It is a time of learning to trust the darkness as one is immersed into the mystery of the night. It has also been referred to as “purposeful sleeplessness” with the focus on staying awake to watch for The Bridegroom.

When I started staying at The Abbey of the Genesee this was the first office and it was celebrated right after the Monks woke up at 2am. Since then it has changed and now Vigils are being celebrated at 3:30am. Here are some Scriptures and a prayer to meditate on…

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:145-148‬ ‭‬ “I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord, and I will obey your decrees. I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word. My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.” (‭NIV‬‬)

Luke 12:35-40 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or toward daybreak. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” (NIV‬‬)

“Night Time”

(a prayer poem)


As the darkness draws in,
you are the light in my heart
As the air turns colder,
you are the warmth in my soul
As the stars are revealed,
you renew my spirit
As the moon shines,
I know I am held safe in your arms.

“The Divine Office” by Pastor Randy

Happy Monday! I’m praying that your week is already off to a great start and just keeps getting better. 😇

Both this week and next I want to draw your attention to a different hour of The Divine Office, also referred to as The Daily Office, each day. If you are unfamiliar with this terminology, or the practice of pausing to pray and read Scripture at set times throughout the day, then you are not alone. Many Protestants, like myself, have never even heard of this practice let alone observed it. In fact, it wasn’t until over a decade ago while doing my doctoral work at Northeastern Seminary that I first learned about it. I then stayed at The Abbey of the Genesee in 2012 for my initial experience of practicing it. And though I don’t even attempt to observe them all on a consist basis, outside of when actually staying at The Abbey, even observing one in the Morning and one in the Evening helps me draw closer to The Lord by facilitating a rhythm of contemplation throughout each day. It is for that reason that I would like to share a bit here because I have found it to be a a very beneficIal part of my personal devotional life and you may find the same to be true for you.

There are what are determined to be Major Hours and minor hours and, depending on your tradition, some may observe all or only a few. The hours I will be sharing about are as follows:

  • Vigils (during the night, at about 2 a.m.)
  • Lauds (at dawn, at about 5 a.m.)
  • Prime (early morning, at about 6 a.m.)
  • Terce (mid-morning, at about 9 a.m.)
  • Sext (midday, at about 12 p.m.)
  • None (mid-afternoon, at about 3 p.m.)
  • Vespers (evening, at about 6 p.m.)
  • Compline (before bed, at about 7 p.m.)

Every morning I will share about the purpose of one of the hours and will provide a hymn, chorus, Psalm, or prayer that you can use as part of your own personal praxis. Unlike the more traditional observation of the hours I will sometimes add contemporary prayers and songs into the mix. For example, let’s start the week off by praying together the…

“PRAYER FOR THE WORKPLACE” by Anonymous

Dear Heavenly Father,

As I enter my workplace today, I invite you to join me so that everyone here will sense your presence. I give you this day and ask you to work through me by the power of the Holy Spirit.

May I convey your peace, just as I am aware of your comforting proximity at all times. Fill me with Your grace, mercy, and power to serve you and others in this place.

Lord Jesus, I want you to be glorified in my life and in this place of business. I pray you will be Lord over everything that is said and done here.

God, I thank you for the numerous blessings and
gifts you have given me. May I bring honor to your name and spread joy to others.

Holy Spirit, help me to depend on you wholly today. Renew my strength. Fill me with physical and spiritual energy so that I will be the best employee I can be. Give me eyes of faith to see from a heavenly perspective as I do my job.

Lord, guide me with your wisdom. Help me to work through every challenge and conflict. Let me be a beacon for you and a blessing to my coworkers.

My prayer is to be a living witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

In the name of Jesus,

Amen.

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people.“

“Father Forgive Us” by Pastor Randy

Happy Friday! We are going to close the week with a prayer of confession accompanied by the promise of forgiveness.

Father forgive our eyes
when we linger too long where we should not have been looking

Father forgive our ears
when we entertain gossip and listen to godless chatter

Father forgive our mouths
when we speak careless words to or about others

Father forgive our hands
when we raise them to root for our team but refuse to lift them in praise

Father forgive our feet
when we run races but will not walk out of our way for another

Father forgive our hearts
when we compartmentalize our love for You and for others

Father forgive our minds
when we conform to the patterns of this world
instead of being transformed by Your Word

Father forgive our souls
when we seek to be forgiven even as we sin by not forgiving

Father forgive our pride
when we only use our gifts to work for personal gain

Father forgive us

Amen

“An Alert Mind and a Thankful Heart” by Pastor Randy

Colossians‬ ‭4:2‬ “Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.” ‭‭‭(NLT‬‬)

I love how Paul places the emphasis here on having an alert mind and a thankful heart when we pray.

How many times have you rattled off a recited prayer before a meal or during a church service without a thought about what you’re saying?

Or how many times have you neglected to thank God for an answer to prayer or taken for granted some of the blessings in your life that others would be more than grateful for if they were in your shoes?

We’ve all done it, right? Not intentionally but it’s easy to get busy, to get distracted, or to get caught up just going through the motions. That’s why Paul reminds us to go to God intentionally, considering what is coming out of our mouths as well as what The Spirit is speaking to our hearts, and to learning to be grateful to God for all that He has done.

I encourage you to take even ten minutes today to do just that. Pray on purpose with the expectancy that you will encounter the Creator of the Universe and praise Him for all that He is and all that He has done.

“Fall Fund Drive”

Hey friends, would you consider giving toward my evangelism efforts and the mission of GSM throughout 2022? Much like a modern missionary, I am self-funded and seeking Monthly Ministry Partners (there are 5 levels w/ benefits shown in the pic) as well as one-time givers. And, for the remainder of October, any gifts given (and 2022 Monthly Ministry Partners willing to start this month) will be matched up to $2,500. This also included any current Monthly Ministry Partners who renew their commitment through the end of 2022. For more info. on how to sign-up and send your gift please read below. You can also find out more at GoScatterMinistries.org
——————————————————————————————————
After two and half decades in full-time pastoral ministry Rev. Randy LeBaron took a step of faith and followed God’s call to step out of his role as a Lead Pastor in order to share God’s Word and Christ’s love outside the walls of the church and alongside other organizations that also serve the underprivileged and the overlooked. On July 1, 2019 he was commissioned and appointed as an Evangelist in the Genesis Conference of the FMCUSA and simultaneously founded Go Scatter Ministries—a non-denominational, non-profit, ministry with a mission to“Engage in, and Equip Every Christian for, Everyday Evangelism”.

This is being accomplished by offering a variety of services both on site and online. Pastor Randy has had the opportunity to share Christ in multiple coffee shops, churches, denominations, and countries, spanning four continents. He has served as a Lead Pastor, Camp Evangelist, Retreat Facilitator, Mission’s Team Leader, Guest Speaker for Men’s & Mission Events, Volunteer Sheriff’s Chaplain, Care-Net Peer Counselor, Hands 4 Hope Team Member, Community Kitchen Volunteer, Co-Founder of P.A.C.T. (Pastors Aligned for Community Transformation), and as an officiant for weddings, funerals, and other ministry related services. He is also the host of the FB Page & YouTube Channel “Refill with Randy” (recently highlighted on the Family Life Radio Network) and the creator and co-contributor of the various blogs offered via GoScatterMinistries.org and GoScatter.blog

In addition to honorariums received for speaking engagements Pastor Randy relies on the generous support of individual donors and churches. As both the Conference Evangelist and the sole employee of GSM he has established different methods of fundraising much like a modern day missionary. To that end, and in an effort to create a consistent and sustainable support structure moving forward, we have launched the Monthly Ministry Partner Program.This is a great new way to invest, and take more of a vested interest, in furthering the gospel message through the ongoing mission and ministries of Pastor Randy and GSM. There are five different commitment levels to choose from for individuals and churches and each comes with benefits and services as a way of saying “Thank You” as well as keeping you up to date and engaged with the life of the ministry.

PLEASE E-MAIL ME at randylebaron@gmail.com with: (1) The giving method you will be using (see below), (2) The monthly amount you are committing to over the next year, (3) The day of the month it will be sent on, (4) Your contact info. (Full name, Phone, e-mail, address, etc.)

TO GIVE BY CHECK AND RECEIVE A YEAR-END TAX RECEIPT
Make your check out to: Genesis Conference FMC and write: Evangelist Fund in the memo line.
Mail to: Genesis Conference 2260 Westside Drive
P.O. Box 206
N. Chili, NY 14514

*For monthly giving I would suggest setting up automated e-checks from your bank.

TO GIVE ONLINE AND NOT RECEIVE A YEAR END TAX RECEIPT
You can either give directly through PayPal using randylebaron@gmail.com
or go to GoScatterMinistries.org and click the DONATE button at the bottom of the page.

——————————————————————————————————

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS…

Q. WHY DO YOU RECEIVE HONORARIUMS FOR SERVICES?
As much as I would love to be able to offer all services for free the reality is that until I am fully funded by donors like you this is the primary way for me to provide for my family.

Q. HOW ARE THE DONATIONS USED?
Currently, as a self-funding evangelist and the sole employee of Go Scatter Ministries Inc., the primary purpose is to provide me with a salary and cover the costs of insurance, pension, and Soc.Sec. I remit funds to The Genesis Conference of the FMCUSA and they issue me a paycheck out of it on a monthly basis. Beyond that donations are also used for: audio/video equipment, website fees, promotional material, and funding community mission projects.

Q. WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF APPROACHING MINISTRY THIS WAY?
In a word… FLEXIBILITY. By not being attached to only one church or congregation I am free to share the messages God has put on my heart with many more people, churches, and denominations. Also, by not having to be bi-vocational in a traditional 9-5 sense, I am freed up to use my time to assist other churches and organization at no cost to them. Currently I volunteer with: Hands 4 Hope, Care-Net, P.A.C.T., as a volunteer Sheriff’s Chaplain. I also serve as a Chapel Speaker for Christian Schools and Colleges and assist with community mission events and am available for counseling, pastoral care, coffee ministry, and all the time it takes to create, edit, and share online resources and videos.

Q. WILL I RECEIVE A TAX RECEIPT FOR MY DONATIONS?
If you send your donation by check to Genesis Conference with Evangelist Fund in the memo line then YES. If you choose to send your monthly gift electronically via PayPal or any other method then NO.With the current standardized deduction being so high most people no longer itemize and therefore do not need a tax receipt.

Q. WHEN WILL I START RECEIVING THE BENEFITS OFFERED?
You will receive your partnership certificate and welcome e-mail within the first month and other ongoing benefits, such as the newsletter, quarterly update videos, and ZOOM sessions with Pastor Randy, will start whenever the next one is scheduled after you sign up. Mugs will be sent after the second donation is received and other things like pulpit supply, the sermon series, ministry assessments, and the bi-monthly spiritual guidance sessions will be at a mutually agreed upon day and time. When possible, these should be scheduled 1-2 months in advance.

Q. WHAT IF MY CHURCH IS OUT OF THE AREA?
Practically speaking, if your church is more than 100 miles from Albion I would still be glad to have you partner with me but we may need to meet over ZOOM and extra $ for travel & accommodations might be necessary.

Q. WHAT IF I CANNOT COMMIT ON A MONTHLY BASIS BUT STILL WANT TO GIVE SOMETHING?
I understand that there are those receiving this who may want to support me and my ministry but cannot on a continual basis. Your one-time gifts are always welcomed with gratitude!

Q. WHAT IF I WANTED TO PLEDGE A DIFFERENT MONTHLY AMOUNT?
You can pledge any amount that you like but you will be included in whichever partner level you are closest to without going over (i.e. $175/ mo. would be a Gardener/Supporting Church).

Q. CAN I CHOOSE A PARTNERSHIP LEVEL BUT GIVE ONE TIME OR ON A QUARTERLY BASIS?
Of course! For each partnership level the donations and benefits are structured on a 1 yr. basis so if you wanted to become a Scatterer ($50/mo.) you could send a one-time gift of $600 or quarterly gifts of $150 and still receive all of the benefits and services offered throughout the year.

“Anam Cara… Soul Friend” by Pastor Randy

So, what is a Soul Friend? Someone who willingly joins you on, and helps shape, your Christian journey. A person who intentionally enters into a long obedience in the same direction alongside you, not as an advisor so much as a traveling companion, and who offers spiritual direction during times of crisis or confusion. A brother or sister that shares in and helps you create a sacred space for such things as common prayer and contemplative practices.

The concept comes from the Celtic monastic tradition where an Anam Cara (literally translated Soul Friend) is considered an essential companion on the spiritual path–someone to share your struggles, as well as shape your life, with. In doing so they can become an anchor during a storm as they sit silently with you weathering the waves of grief and confusion all the while refraining from trying to simply fix your situation. What they provide is not answers per se but the ability to help you ask the right questions.

This is what we all need and what we all need to be…

“Thin Places” by Pastor Randy

Happy Tuesday! Today I want to talk about thin places. Thin places are considered to be those geographical locations where the distance between heaven and earth collapses and the divine is more readily felt.

In the Celtic tradition it is thought that they can relax us and transform us — or, more accurately, unmask us. For some it is a place in their home, for others the altar, and for some a special place on spiritual significance. For me it is The Abbey of the Genesee.

I have already mentioned The Abbey in previous posts, including yesterday’s, but for those who are unfamiliar with it it is a small Benedictine Monastery in Piffard, NY just outside of Geneseo. It is a place where Silence, Solitude, and Hospitality are held in high regard and where I go to connect with God outside of the chaos of this noisy, busy world that we live in. And yes, it’s where they make Monk’s Bread!

I first encountered The Abbey during my time of Sabbatical almost a decade ago after the death of my parents. Having been drained after a difficult period of caregiving followed by deep depression it provided me with a place to rest, reflect, and to have my call to ministry reaffirmed. Much like with Elijah it was my broom tree and mountain cave all rolled into one. And, whenever I go back to stay or visit (which has been long overdue due to the pandemic) I feel a closeness with the Lord simply because of the healing that I received while I was there.

So what is your thin place? Where do you go where you sense God speaking louder and clearer than other places? Can you take some time to go there even for a day or an hour to bathe yourself in His presence? If so, I encourage you to do so.

Mark 1:35 “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”

Matthew 17:1-9 “Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus. As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.” (NLT‬)

“Abbey Road” by Pastor Randy

At one of my stays at The Abbey of the Genesee I took note of how fast people drove down the road next to the walking path from the Retreat Center to The Abbey because it seemed liked such a juxtaposition and, as a result, I wrote the following poem. As you read it think about your week ahead and make a conscious decision to enter it hurried and overwhelmed or at a slower pace, spending time in prayer and pause.

As the cars and trucks speed by
filled with people with hurried schedules
and urgent appointments
inside there are others
moving slower
focused and steady
but slower

They too have full days
work to be accomplished
a schedule to follow
commitments to keep
Their urgency though is in their being
not their doing

There are prayers to be said and psalms to be read
psalters to create and bread to bake
but the most important moments of the day are filled with
silence
solitude
spirit speaking to Spirit

“Oh, How He Loves Us” by Pastor Randy

For this Friday’s post I have chosen to simply share the lyrics to the song “How He Loves” written by John Mark McMillan and (in the embedded video below) performed by Kim Walker Smith.

This is a beautiful song that is a simple reminder of how much God really does loves us, whether we feel like we deserve it or not. So please meditate on the lyrics, listen to the song, and allow God’s love to flow over you and fill you up.

… He is jealous for me
Love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy


When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me…

And oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us all…

And He is jealous for me
Love’s like a hurricane, I am a tree
Bending beneath the weight of his wind and mercy

When all of a sudden
I am unaware of these afflictions eclipsed by glory
And I realize just how beautiful You are
And how great Your affections are for me…

And, oh, how He loves us, oh
Oh, how He loves us
How He loves us all…

Yeah, He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves…

And we are His portion and He is our prize
Drawn to redemption by the grace in His eyes
If His grace is an ocean, we’re all sinking


And heaven meets earth like an unforeseen kiss
And my heart turns violently inside of my chest
I don’t have time to maintain these regrets
When I think about, the way……

That He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves…

Yeah, He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves…

Yeah, He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves us
Oh, how He loves

“Five Ways FB Can Positively Impact Your Prayer Life” by Pastor Randy

Let’s face it, it’s pretty easy to pick on FB these days between the whistleblowing, the unending political posts, the cries of censorship, and the general time suck that can result from any social media. But, being the glass half full kind of guy that I am, I want to share…

5 Ways Can Positively Impact Your Prayer Life

(1) Scroll Down Your Newsfeed and Pick People to Pray for

I don’t know about you but there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to pray for everyone that I might want to but scrolling through FB gives me a chance to see who is specifically asking for prayer as well reminding me of others who I may not have been in contact for a while but God has put on my heart.

(2) Put a Post on Your Wall Offering to Pray for Others

I have some pastor friends who consistently do this on the same day and time every week, which makes it helpful for others to know that the opportunity will be there, but whether you do it weekly or once in a while I think it conveys to others that you are willing and wanting to pray for others so they will message you whenever something arises.

(3) Pray for People You Disagree with VS Debating with Them

If someone posts something that you disagree with you don’t have to get angry and get into an argument, instead you can practice self-control and simply pause, pray for them (not just for them to start thinking like you), and scroll down.

(4) Choose a Few Friends Everyday Who You Will Take the Time to Read Their Wall, Pray for Them, and then Reach Out via Messenger

Simply put, you can’t keep up with everyone all the time, nor should you), but you can take the time to show care for a few, or even one, each day.

(5) Pick Out at Least One Person Each Day to Publicly Praise

After choosing someone you should spend time: praying for them, praising God for them, and then posting an encouraging message on their wall to publicly affirm them.

Try any or all of these out for at least a week and then let me know if it has not only helped your prayer life but also your overall attitude when online. Happy scrolling!!!

“Practice the Pause” by Pastor Randy

Happy Wednesday!

As you pause to read this in the middle of your week I want to talk to you about Practicing the Pause.

In my post last Friday I shared about spending time in Silence & Solitude, learning to listen to God, but the reality is that as Christians we are to become people who pray perpetually.

Now that doesn’t mean that we should all just hide away in our prayer closet all day, every day rather that we you become the type of person to whom prayer becomes a second language that you use throughout the day to talk with your Father.

When Paul exhorts us to “pray continually” in 1 Thessalonians 5:17 I don’t think that he is asking us to become “so heavenly minded that we are no earthly good” as the saying goes but, rather, to learn to be in constant communication with the Father—through the Son—as directed by The Holy Spirit.

And I believe the key to praying continually is to practice a holy PAUSE

Before you get out of bed in the morning PAUSE and ask God to make His Agenda your agenda.

Before you eat PAUSE and thank God for all that He has provided for you.

Before you make a big decision PAUSE and ask God to give you wisdom and discernment.

Before you speak to, or about, someone PAUSE and ask God if it is beneficial for building them or others up.

Before you leave your house each day PAUSE and ask God to give you an attitude worth catching.

Before you go to bed at night PAUSE and thank God for all of the blessings of the day.

I could list more but you get the picture. I encourage you to try it and let me know how it goes.

“My Praise Drawer” by Pastor Randy

Good morning!

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that I had kept cards and other notes of appreciation from over the years so I thought that today I would talk a little about where I keep them—my praise drawer.

This is simply a drawer that I use to keep any cards, letters, pictures, drawings, ect. that have been given to me with the primary purpose of: acknowledging something I did that they appreciated, affirming my call, letting me know that they are praying for me, or just generally something that brings a smile to my face and boosts my spirit. I use to have a criticism drawer too but decided a while back that it wasn’t very good for my mental health, especially when I realized that both drawers were filled with things from the same people. 😏 

Seriously though, I have been collecting these items for more almost three decades and every now and again when I am going through a difficult time, when I am questioning my call, or when I am hurting from something someone has said to me, I will open this drawer and read a few of the notes in an effort to counteract the criticism. I’m not saying this always works (it’s true that we tend to remember the negative more so than the positive) but it does help give perspective and is a good reminder that just because someone might act unlovingly toward me that it doesn’t mean that I am unloved.

So, to that end, I would encourage you to do two things today… (1) create your own praise drawer to put meaningful messages away for a rainy day and (2) do your best to help fill other people’s praise drawers. We live in such a negative, critical culture that a hand written note of affirmation or thanks can mean the world to someone so why not buy a card, pick up a pen, and make someone’s day. It won’t cost you much but it might mean the world to that person who is believing the lies of the enemy and needs to experience God’s love through your encouraging words.

“So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing.”
‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Pastor Appreciation Month” by Pastor Randy

“Dear brothers and sisters, honor those who are your leaders in the Lord’s work. They work hard among you and give you spiritual guidance. Show them great respect and wholehearted love because of their work. And live peacefully with each other.”
‭‭1 Thessalonians‬ ‭5:12-13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

October is PASTOR APPRECIATION MONTH and I would like to encourage you to be intentional when it comes to showing love and support for the spiritual leaders in your life. Also, as someone who has served in this role previously for more than two decades, allow me to share some insight with you into why and how you should participate.

As rewarding as ministry might be it can also be stressful, isolating, and even hurtful at times (Sheep bite!) Imagine being in a position where there is an unspoken expectation to be all things to all people (leader, counselor, life coach, biblical expert, visionary, manager, preacher, teacher, evangelist, missionary, friend, encourager, disciplinarian, boss, employee, etc.) all the while being on call 24/7, never feeling like you are “done” for the day, trying to balance church & family, and making appropriate time to care for necessary physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. And did I mention coming up with a fresh message every week! Considering the fact that The Fear of Public Speaking ranks ahead of the Fear of Death that is no small fete. 🤔 😇

WHY?

Obviously no two clergy or congregations are alike but in a culture that constantly asks, “What have you done for me lately?”, why not make sure that those who care for you know that you care about them.

HOW?

I would suggest that you attempt to make it…

MEANINGFUL – Knowing that my top love languages are Words of Affirmation & Gifts and that I like watching football and collecting Batman memorabilia I have been blessed to receive many thoughtful cards and letters of appreciation over the years and have been surprised with Buffalo Bills’ tickets for me and my boy as well as everything Batman from lunch boxes to clothing & books.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR PASTOR’S PERSONAL INTERESTS AND HOBBIES? WHAT COULD YOU GET, OR DO, FOR THEM TO SHOW THAT YOU SEE THEM AS A PERSON AND NOT JUST A PASTOR?

PRACTICAL – This isn’t maybe as necessary as making it meaningful but it is always great to get something meaningful that is also useful. For example, I have received numerous gift cards over the years as well as new tires, a years worth of oil changes, free babysitting, meals, etc.

WHAT IS SOMETHING THAT WOULD BE USEFUL TO YOUR SPIRITUAL LEADER?

MEMORABLE – For my very first Pastor Appreciation Month back when I was a bachelor serving as an Assistant Pastor I received a gigantic card filled with coupons for free weekly meals and desserts, oil changes, movie nights, and other fun stuff good for a full year! My second year at that same church I was thrown a surprise party in my own apartment that took me forever to realize what was going on. Lol I was taken to Universal Studios once while already in Orlando for a Church Conference and I once I even came home from church to find a goat tied to a pole in my yard with a card letting me know it was my new lawnmower (named Billy). 😂

WHAT IS REALLY REMARKABLE THAT WOULD MAKE YOUR PASTOR’S DAY?

The reality is that it doesn’t have to be something big or expensive but it should be intentional and convey what you feel about him or her.

Here are some suggestions…

  • Take them out for a meal to show your appreciation and to share with them what they mean to you.
  • Send a handwritten card (not just hallmark with a signature) to encourage them (I have kept everyone of these over the past two decades of ministry and they still bring me joy when rereading).
  • As mentioned above, it is always a welcomed idea to give cash or gift cards that could be used for days off, date nights, and family outings. BONUS… offer free childcare too!
  • Commit to praying for your pastor on a certain day or time period and then let them know in case they ever want to share something specific. Better yet, recruit others to each take a day of the month so that they will be covered daily throughout the entire year.
  • Go the extra mile! One time the Jr. Teen Sunday School Class literally covered my minivan with post-it-notes sharing thank yous, encouragements, funny stories, etc. IT! WAS!! AWESOME!!!

Whatever you can do will be great as long as you do something! I would love to know what types of things you choose to do so please message me what your plan is. 😇

“Feeding Ourselves Spiritual Food – Part 4” by Pastor Randy

“How are you feeding yourself spiritually these days?”  So far we have talked about different methods for digging into God’s Word and about the benefits of creating sacred space in our calendars for silence and solitude. Yesterday I shared some of the ways I have done this on a daily basis and today I’ll write about creating space in our calendars for longer times of this on a  monthly and quarterly basis. And just in case you are wondering why I am not including a weekly basis here as well it is because I will be sharing about that in a different post focusing on all of the aspects of Sabbath keeping, So for now let’s start with monthly.

Once a month I like to get away to a specific place, anywhere from a few hours to a good portion of the day, for a mini-spiritual retreat. It could be somewhere close by or a couple hours drive but the main thing is that I go somewhere that I can be alone, for the most part, and spend a significant amount of time away from my devices and other distractions.

In the past I have…

  • hung out at a friend’s place while they were at work
  • hijacked a room at a church or some other organization
  • sequestered myself in the Conference Room of a local Bed & Breakfast
  • walked around Holley Falls
  • Sat under a tree at a park
  • spent time at a campground
  • gone to a Christian retreat center

There are more that I could list but that gives you a sense of some of the places that I have chosen to go to. As you can see, there are some similarities and the first and foremost one is that they are all FREE!!! Taking money out of the equation also helps take away the excuses we make about getting away.

And while I am spending time at these places I typically bring a few things…

  • my phone (on airplane mode) so that I have access to my camera as I love to take pictures while I am out on a prayer walk – especially at a place like Holley Falls.
  • My Bible and a Retreat Book that gives me a devotion to read and then asks questions or offers prayer suggestions to help guide my time
  • A notebook and pen for the dual purpose of writing down anything The Lord is saying to me as well as jotting down the multitude of things that I need to do and that always come to my mind during these times.  The main reason I do this is because if I can write them down then I don’t need to keep trying to remember them throughout.

That’s it. Pretty simple. Basically I spend time in listening prayer mode but also have on hand tools to help me stay focused when other voices, including my own, start to get too loud to hear The Voice of The One Who I truly want and need to hear from. So that is what I do for my monthly retreats and my quarterly ones are similar though longer and with a few more elements.

I have done these 3-5 day retreats in different places but by far the one that I go to the most and and have gotten the most from over the past decade is The Abby of the Genesee. This is a small Trappist Monastery in Western New York where I truly experienced Silence & Solitude for an extended period of time and it remains a sacred place that I hold dear to my heart. And it’s also here they literally make Monk’s Bread!!!

Beyond the fact that I bring a few more books into the mix, my focus is pretty much the same as my monthly retreats except that: (1) there is a minimal fee for room & lodging and (2) since the majority of the time there is spent in silence I do participate also in some of the speaking events hen they are offered which include: observation of The Daily Office (corporate worship at different times through the day and night which including chanting,singing, and sometimes a short homily), seminars which are given twice a week for roughly an hour on a certain topic or segment of Scripture, and one on one Spiritual Direction with a monk. For me this is most beneficial because it helps me to process out loud with someone what God has been speaking to me in my silence up to that point.

So there you have it. If anyone wants more details about specific books I might recommend, places to go, or other things that I use to aid my effort to sustain the practice of silence and solitude, in spite of my ADHD and extrovert tendencies, I would be happy help. Also, I only mentioned a few practices and methods to that I feed myself spiritually in these posts but would love to hear what other things you are doing as well.

“Feeding Ourselves Spiritual Food – Part 3” by Pastor Randy

The question this week is, “How are you feeding yourself spiritually?”  So far I have shared different methods  for getting into The Word but today I want to shift the discussion to prayer. And, since we are focusing on finding nourishment for our souls, I want to look at the more passive aspect of prayer—listening.

Most of the time when someone says they are going to pray they mean that they are going to petition God for something, for themselves or someone else, but the reality is that for us to experience prayer as it was meant it needs to be a two-way conversation.

I must confess that for me listening doesn’t come easy. I write and speak words for a living and am used to shaping a conversation but when it is time for me to open my ears and close my mouth it feels like foreign territory. That is why I have to be very intentional when it comes to setting aside time on a regular basis for silence and solitude.

The reality is that we live in a very noisy, fast-paced world where there is little margin for quiet time with God if we do not purposefully build it into our schedule. For me, I try to find some sense of this on a daily, monthly, and quarterly basis. I’ll start with daily here and then share more about monthly and quarterly in tomorrow’s post.

As a father of four it can be difficult finding sacred space to do this. Sometimes I feel like Jesus who was overwhelmed by all the people constantly crowding around him and so he had to sneak off by himself early in the morning to the solitary places.

For me this often means either getting up earlier or staying up later than everyone else. I have also found being on the lawnmower with my noise-canceling headphones on helpful. When I was at the church I would regularly hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on my office door so that I could spend uninterrupted time listening to The Lord.

Even if it’s for just 10 min. a day in order to hear and learn to recognize The Shepherd’s voice more clearly on a more consistent basis above all the other voices in this world, including your own, it is worth it. And once you start really hearing Him, and wanting to hear Him louder and clearer, you will want to find longer stretches of time to spend with Him. I will share more about that tomorrow.

“Feeding Yourself Spiritual Food – Part 2” by Pastor Randy

Yesterday I posed the question, “How are you feeding yourself spiritually these days?” focusing on the fact that we aren’t supposed to starve ourselves, spiritually speaking, six days a week and then try to gorge ourselves on Sunday morning with the fruit of someone else’s study. Well, I said it more clearly yest- – – you know what, go back and read it. I’ll wait…

Ok, all caught up now? Good. I started to share about methods that can assist us in intentionally spending time with God and the first one I shared was “Listening to the Bible”. Now, I don’t need to to recap because you just read it, right? 😉And so right along with that I would say that the second method I have found invaluable when it comes to consistently spending time with God and finding nourishment in His Word is doing online devotions with other people. In particular, using the same YouVersion Bible App that I recommended yesterday (If you didn’t download it yesterday go back and do it. No… not now. I already had to wait for you while you got caught up. Do it afterward. 😇)

Just like the App (which I promise I do not have an endorsement offer with—though I am open to it. Call me!), has thousands of Bible translations to assist in your personal study they have tons of Bible Study Plans and Devotional Topics as well.

And, as much as I like doing personal devotions, one of the biggest benefits of using the App is that you can also do them with friends. For me this adds accountability, encouragement, and fellowship to the mix, which definitely helps me stay more consistent. And, since it is online, each person can do it when they want and geography does not play a part in who can join in.

Currently I am doing a devotional by Jordan Raynor with a couple guys of which one lives a few houses down from me and the other about 70 miles away. Even cooler is that they have never met but we can all connect by studying God’s Word together and applying it to our lives.

So what about you? What helps you stay consistent and accountable in your daily walk?


Do you have others that you are growing together with?


Let me know and come back tomorrow for Part 3!!!

“Feeding Yourself Spiritual Food – Part 1” – by Pastor Randy

“You have been believers so long now that you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things about God’s word. You are like babies who need milk and cannot eat solid food. For someone who lives on milk is still an infant and doesn’t know how to do what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who through training have the skill to recognize the difference between right and wrong.” (Hebrews‬ ‭5:12-14‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

How are you feeding yourself spiritually these days? I’m not talking about going to church one hour, one day a week, and expecting to be fed steak (the reality is that you wouldn’t be able to digest it if all you lived on the rest of the week was milk) but rather what are you doing to help yourself grow in the Lord by eating right (Bible Study) and exercising (prayer, worship, and service). Too often we leave food prep to the professionals on Sunday but the fact is that we need to learn to fend for ourselves as well so that we don’t starve the rest of the week.

What are some of the methods that you use to intentionally spend time with God and nourish your soul?

For me personally the struggle is not getting into The Word or spending time in prayer as much as my motivation for doing so. As someone who is constantly studying Scripture for sermon prep and praying for others as part of my role as a pastor/evangelist it is easy for me to spend all of my time fixing meals for others while forgetting to feed myself. This is where the intentionality comes in and here are a few things I do to help stay on track.

Listening to The Bible – I’m not talking about “hearing the word” so much as literally listening to someone read it out loud. I only started doing this at the beginning of last year as it was promoted by the leader of BFMC’s Men’s Group as we started a year long journey of reading through the Bible together. I find that I not only hear things that may have not stood out in previous readings of the same passage but I also listen while I am driving, walking, even showering, and so even if the urge to write an outline for a future was there the opportunity is not and so I listen for me—I approach it as drinking living water vs using it as a tool to quench someone else’s thirst. This may sound a bit selfish but it is very necessary because you can’t feed others what you yourself are not eating and you cannot lead others toward someone that you yourself are not following.

I am finishing up my second year of going through the Bible in this manner and would offer a few tips if you want to try this yourself.

  • Use a Variety of Reading Plans – last year we simply read straight through the Scriptures  from Genesis to Revelation but this year we are using a Chronological Reading Plan which organizes passages according to actual event timelines.
  • Try a variety of Translations/ Versions –  sometimes listening to a different version than you typically use can help you see things from a different point of view. Also, some versions like The Message are easier to listen to as they use contemporary language and are written in a more casual, conversational matter.
  • Choose a Narrator that you actually like listening to – for me this is very important because years of listening to books on Audible has taught me that it doesn’t matter how good the subject manner is if it is read in a way that is more distracting than pleasing. Now personal preference certainly plays a lot in this but I can tell you that, for me, I often study using the NIV but when it comes to personal listening I much prefer the NLT because the narrator has a much smoother, and less monotone, voice adding just the right inflections. Additionally, other voices have been added in recently to create a more dramatic overall effect.

You can find many audio version online, on Audible, or even going old school with a DVD set but my suggestion would be to try the YouVersion Bible App. It has a permanent spot on my home screen so it is convenient, It has thousands of different versions and translations to choose from, and best if all it’s FREE!!!

It is also very helpful with another method I use to feed myself spiritually which I will write about in tomorrow’s blog. Until then… Be Blessed and Be a Blessing!

“An Ode to Autumn” by Pastor Randy

Good morning! I hope that you are ready for the start of a great week. As you begin your day I have a confession to make—Fall is my favorite time of the year (and not just because I love to watch football).

When the leaves start changing and the temperatures start dropping I just feel more alive. I tend to sleep better, I spend more time outside, I take more walks, and I don’t even mind having to mow more often because it feels like less of a chore and more of a chance to connect with my Creator in His Creation. I will often even take whatever project I’m working on to a nearby waterfall and allow the sights and sounds to inspire me as I write.

I’m not a big fan of pumpkin spice but pumpkin pie is high on my list. I love apple picking, apple cider, apple pie (with Muenster Cheese on top), and Pennsylvania Dutch Style Apple Dumplings. I look forward to being able to “fall back” an hour for Daylight Saving Time, even though I really don’t like having to “spring ahead” the following year, and I especially enjoy wearing comfy clothes and bundling up on those cooler nights.

I also have to admit that I look forward to a certain holiday that falls on October 31st and am already grieving the fact that all of my kids are grown and too old to take trick or treating. I like the colors, the costumes, carving Jack-o-lanterns, and collecting candy (from my kids’ stash 😉). I like movies set in Haddonfield and tv specials Linus’ search for The Great Pumpkin.

I. Like. Fall. 🍁🎃🍎

How about you? Do you enjoy this time of year or is another season your favorite? Why?

“I’m Fine” by Pastor Randy

“I’m fine.”

We’ve all given this pat answer when asked how we are doing, right? It’s the easy answer, the simple answer, even the expected answer, but it’s not always the real answer.

Now you aren’t expected to bare your soul with every person who offers you a polite, “How are you doing?”, as they pass you by at the grocery store but there does need to be certain people and certain places where you can let your guard down, show some vulnerability, and share what is really on your heart and mind.

Whether it’s your spouse, best friend, pastor, therapist, coworker, or member of your small group at church I would encourage you to figure out who the person(s) is and make it a point to be real with them at least once a week. And, if they are wanting and willing, allow them to do the same.

As we navigate this world filled with pseudo friendships founded through social media we need to make sure that we are intentionally making some real connections with real people who really care about how we are doing physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.

John Wesley used to start his Class Meetings by asking the question, “How is it with your soul today?” Imagine if even one person asked you that one question even once a week and you answered honestly, knowing that you would be heard with intent to pray for you and not simply fix you or your situation?

My hope is that each of you would seek out and find such a person and, in the meantime, let me ask you sincerely…

HOW ARE YOU TODAY?

“Feeling Happy VS Finding Hope” by Pastor Randy

I know that this is a bit of an over generalization but, often times, it seems that people walk into church on any given Sunday wanting to hear a message that makes them happy about their current spiritual situation when what they need to hear is a message offering them hope for something better. It is then the preacher’s job not to give the congregation what they want but, rather, what they need. Not pointing fingers but painting a picture of what our potential in Christ could be.

Jesus was fantastic at this! When the Samaritan woman from John 4 simply wanted well water (and to avoid being talked about because of her poor relationship choices) Jesus gave her living water instead. He did this only after exposing her failed efforts at happiness in the past and offering her hope for the future.

People would rather have their actions / lifestyles / sins condoned rather than sit through a message where they might feel convicted. This is where it’s the pastor’s job to share what could be, and should be according to God’s Word, and to then assure them that no matter how far from that picture they feel at that moment that there is hope of redemption through a relationship with Christ.

And as Christian’s we are all called to paint this picture for others by offering ourselves as a canvas whereby God can exhibit the proof of a changed life—not perfect, but being perfected in Christ.

“Be Still” by Pastor Randy

Today’s post is meant to facilitate a short pause in your day/week in order to fix your eyes back on God. In the midst of your busyness, your circumstances, your deadlines, your chaos, it’s an invite to pause… to be still… and to be reminded that HE is God.

Simply read through each line of Psalm 46:10a meditating on the meaning of the words left in each phrase. If you would like I have also embedded my episode of “Refill with Randy” that came out today and adds some audio/visual elements to this practice.

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD

BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM

BE STILL AND KNOW

BE STILL

BE

“The Sin of Recreating VS Being Recreated” by Pastor Randy

Something I have observed both in the Scriptures with the Israelites and in today’s times with the Christian Church is that too often we as human beings spend our time and energy trying to recreate the atmosphere we were in, the emotions we felt, and the endorphins we had on the day God began a good work in us rather than allowing God to recreate “us” and renew us on a daily basis.

Too often we would rather “feel” Christian than “be” Christian which can lead to idolatry and idolatry–whether it means putting way to much focus on an inanimate thing, on a certain style of worship, on a certain place of worship, or on reproducing a particular ritual–is a sin.

It’s a sin that I feel comfortable pointing out because it’s a sin that at one time I felt comfortable participating in and perpetuating in my own life. When the “new” feeling of my Christian walk starting wearing off I started to try and reproduce it by going back to the altar I had originally laid down my life on (nostalgia), praying the prayers I once prayed out of conviction though now prayed as if wanting a prescription filled (ritual), and when neither of those worked I tried being around other Christians more, hoping that somehow their “holiness” would somehow rub off on me (proximity vs. praxis), rather than spending the time and effort to develop my own relationship with Christ through fresh prayers and spending time in His Living Word.

Rather than expending all of our effort trying to recreate a temporary feeling and worshipping God falsely (i.e. focusing on The Golden Calf rather than God on the Mountain, The Bronze Snake rather than the God that Saves, and the Gifts of the Spirit rather than the Giver–The Holy Spirit Himself) we need to take down anything in our lives, no matter how good or instrumental they once were in our walk, so that what was once part of our salvation story doesn’t become the stumbling block that keeps us from experiencing further sanctification.

Recreating takes a lot of time and effort but is ultimately fruitless because we are attempting to control God and turn our Christian walk into a life of comfort.

Being Recreated also takes time and effort but the focus is not on trying to control God or how we feel on any given day but, rather, on giving up control and allowing God to lead us into deeper and often more dangerous waters. It doesn’t feel as safe but stepping out of the boat in order to follow Jesus never does. And it never should.

Rather than going back to a well that once brought us Living Water, but has now dried up because the water itself has moved on to where we need to go, let us like the Samaritan Woman in John 4 leave behind our water pitchers behind and look to The One who knows everything about us and can fulfill our every need. Anything less is a sin and will not lead us back toward but, rather, away from the saved and sanctified life that we so desire.

“I have decided to follow Jesus. The world behind me the cross before me. No turning back. No turning back.”

Hospitality (The Ministry of Presence)


Happy Monday! Let’s start this week off by talking about hospitality. The featured picture is one that I took of my typical snack when staying at The Abbey of the Genesee where the monks consider hospitality to be one of their greatest gifts to others. I have been on the receiving end of this hospitality for more than a decade now and one of the significant ways came through Spiritual Direction with Father Jerome.

I think that the ministry of hospitality is too often misunderstood, underused, and overlooked. It is the act of allowing someone the gift of sacred space and quality time but people often equate it with a clean house and a lot of cooking. The fact is that it is easy to equate hospitality to Martha the busybody from Luke 10 but Jesus pointed out that it was Mary sitting at his feet listening intently to his every word who actually demonstrated it better.

Hospitality is…
– offering someone the gift of quality time
– making someone feel comfortable/valuable even in their own home
– offering someone a cup of coffee and good conversation to go with it
– a listening ear and a closed mouth
– caring for others’ needs before they have to ask for it
– more about “being” with someone than “doing” something for them

I know many people who have ministered through the typical definition of hospitality, an open home and an open heart, but there have also been those times when others have gone above and beyond and the overall effect cannot be diminished.

Some example are…

  • putting an old orange recliner in the sanctuary to make it possible for a woman with cancer to worship with her church family
  • sitting with someone on their deathbed so her son could get some rest before the inevitable, emotionally draining outcome
  • showing up at someone’s house with groceries or a cup of coffee
  • sitting next to a newcomer at church rather than in the comfort of your close circle of friends
  • asking someone how they are doing and then taking the time to listen for the real answer
  • Offering hug or flashing a maskless smile
  • praying with someone rather than simply for them
  • being willing to do extra cleaning after the fact to allow guests the option of keeping their shoes on vs requiring them to remove them
  • thinking more of the comfort of others than self
  • child proofing (at least to a degree) even if you don’t have kids
  • sitting in silence even when it’s awkward as long as it is valuable to another
  • learning to communicate with someone from another generation, culture, etc. rather than waiting for them to learn your ways and your customs in order to try to fit in
  • attending to someone’s physical and emotional needs before worrying about the state of their spirituality or citizenship

These are just some of the acts of hospitality that I am personally aware of (and more often than not on the receiving end) and I’m sure there are many more to be discovered and tried so, rather than holding onto a narrow definition, let’s expand it together and be Jesus to everyone we come in contact with.

What is one way that you have shown or received hospitality recently?

“A Simple Prayer “by Pastor Randy

Father,

Allow me always to act
with Your Purposes in mind;
Never simply to react.

Help me always to make decisions 
     based on faith in The Known;
          Never on fear of the unknown.

Guide me in paths of righteousness
     in order to serve You well;
          Never compromising in order to please others.

Give me the courage to pursue my Call
     out of a sense of humble obedience;
          Never out of a sense of self-worth.

Mold me into the man You created me to be
     when you knitted me together in my mother’s womb;
          Never letting me forget that I was forged in Your Image.
          
Sanctify every aspect of my life
     that I might become more like You;
          Never withholding Your Refiner’s Fire.

Forgive my sins against You
     even as I forgive those who sin against me;
          Never allowing me to believe that I am deserving and they are not.

Hear my prayer
     and receive my praise;
          Never ceasing world without end.

Amen.

“Love” by Pastor Randy

Yesterday’s post was long so today’s will be much shorter—though not always simple. Yesterday I shared the effects of feeling unloved so today I want to encourage you to LOVE extravagantly and make a difference in the lives of others! I challenge you to intentionally…

LOVE those closest to you in the way that they will recognize and receive it best.

LOVE those who have offended you without waiting for them to make the first move.

LOVE your friends and family unconditionally based on who they are instead of what they do.

LOVE your enemies and treat them kindly as you would want them to treat you.

LOVE people–not things.

LOVE good–not evil

LOVE.

“The Unseen Scars of Being Bullied” by Pastor Randy

Today’s post is a little longer and deals with a difficult subject for many but my hope is that if you have dealt with abuse, bullying, or poor self-image, that you will take comfort in the fact that (1) You are not alone and (2) Even old wounds can heal with the help of Christ.

Hi. My name is Randy. I am 47 yrs. old and I have the receding hairline and protruding waistline to prove it. I have been happily married for 22 yrs. and am a proud father of four. I have spent early 3 decades ministering to others in churches, in community, online, and around the world, I have several degrees and have accomplished many things which you might think would help one’s self-esteem and yet, on a fairly regular basis, I find myself feeling inadequate and more often than not unable to see myself through any other eyes than those who bullied and abused me as a child. I find myself wanting to walk by faith and yet I feel more like a failure and a fraud in spite of the apparent fruit of my actions.

I mention Gideon briefly in a post last week and want to highlight him again here. He was a man who succeeded in spite of his somewhat lackluster faith, as seen by his testing of the fleece, and one of the things that often sticks out to me is how God addresses him during their first encounter when he appeared and said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” (Judges 6:12b) The reason why I find this so interesting is because how God views Gideon seems the polar opposite of how Gideon sees himself. Later, when God wants him to step up and He tells him to go up against the Midianites and save Israel Gideon’s reply is, “How can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judges 6:15b)

Isn’t it amazing how differently we can see ourselves compared to what God sees? We often focus on our past failures while God focuses on our future potential. We need to start seeing ourselves through His eyes.

Easier said than done though. I mean, I get why Gideon had a hard time seeing what God saw in him. Just as God called him a Mighty Warrior long before he lived up to that title others had probably called him other things that had already shaped his own identity and caused him to focus on what he couldn’t do and would never become. I get it.

As I stated earlier I am nearing 50 and have received and acted upon God’s call on my life for almost three decades now but, no matter how many times God addresses me as Pastor, or Leader, or Evangelist, I immediately find myself feeling like I’m back in the body of my 8 year old self; listening to my father explain why he never wanted me and that being a dad again was not worth it, or when I was 10 just waiting to get off the bus so that I could burst into tears over the hurtful words heaped onto me without further humiliation, or beginning middle school and realizing that even though it was supposed to be a fresh start that I was still the odd man out (no thanks to my speech problems or alternative sense of style), or trying to find any excuse to avoid the rest room (or school all together) because of the constant array of verbal, emotional, and physical attacks that I had to endure on a daily basis.

I get why, when God called Gideon “Mighty Warrior” that, he countered with the excuse that he was “the weakest man from the weakest clan”. I get why when God called Moses (a murderer who had gone AWOL) to set the slaves free his initial response was, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11b). I get why when God called Jeremiah saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” (Jeremiah 1:5) his initial response was, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” (Jeremiah 1:6)

The emotional scars that are carried from a tormented childhood may not be visible in the same sense as other physical wounds that have since healed yet they are often the hardest to overcome because the wound has not healed; it has cut too deep; down to the core of a person’s very identity.

People often wonder about my fascination with Batman but why wouldn’t I relate to a boy who had his childhood torn away from him because of the ruthless actions of others and, rather than dwelling in that feeling of helplessness, took control of the situation and chose to become a symbol and to stand up for those who couldn’t stand up for themselves. The irony is that even in becoming “The Batman” Bruce Wayne was still just a scared little boy trying to overcome his fears by becoming fear itself to those who would prey on the weak. I get it.

I AM a pastor. I AM a leader. I AM a husband. I AM a father. But I am also that wounded young boy that longs to be accepted, affirmed, acknowledged, and appreciated—not because of what I have done but simply because of who I am, who I was created to be, and who I am still called to be.

The scars are still there but the healing has definitely begun. Thanks to The Lord names like “Mighty Warrior” and “Pastor” seem more suitable than weakest or worthless. The struggle is still there and I pray to The Lord constantly to erase my old identity from my heart and mind but, like Paul and his thorn, I have come to the place where I hear God saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9b,10)

And if you are reading this today and can relate I just want you to know that, no matter what anyone else says…

YOU ARE LOVED.

YOU ARE VALUABLE to God and others.

YOU ARE FORGIVEN if you confess you sins to Gods and no longer need to feel guilt or shame.

YOU ARE SAVED if you confess Jesus Christ as Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead.

YOU ARE REDEEMED! A CHILD OF GOD!! AN EQUAL HEIR TO THE THRONE!!!

“Lord of All Pots & Pans and Things” by Pastor Randy

Lord of all pots and pans and things,
since I've no time to be a great saint
by doing lovely things,
or watching late with Thee,
or dreaming in the dawnlight,
or storming heaven's gates,
make me a saint by getting meals,
and washing up the plates.
Warm all the kitchen with Thy Love,
and light it with Thy peace;
forgive me all my worrying,
and make my grumbling cease.
Thou who didst love to give men food,
in room, or by the sea,
accept the service that I do,
I do it unto Thee.
Amen

This is the prayer of Brother Lawrence, a monk who worked in the kitchen, who sought to speak to and honor God in all that he did. Now you may not think that praying while brushing your teeth or taking a shower is “holy” but in the day and age that we live in as ideal as it would be to always get away to our prayer closet it’s not often practical. Besides, we are to “pray continuously” in all circumstances so why not practice at the start of each day so that you will continue communing with God throughout the day.

“Spur One Another On!” by Pastor Randy

Happy Monday!

In Hebrews 10:24 the author writes, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”

Growing up in Gerry, NY (That’s Rodeo City USA to you non-natives) when I think of the term “spur” I think about the many times that I have watched cowboys and cowgirls kick their heel against the side of a horse or bull to get it moving.

Now that may not seem to fit within the context of motivating someone to love and good deeds but I believe the author realized that sometimes (often times) we tend to lean toward complacency and need to be reminded in a loving yet firm way to “never tire in doing good”. That’s probably why the author follows up with a challenge in the the next verse…

Hebrews 10:25  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another– and all the more as you see the Day approaching. 

So today I want to encourage you. I want to encourage you that following Christ is not foolish even when you can’t immediately see the fruit. I want to encourage you that God has begun a good work in you and will be faithful to complete it. And I want to encourage you to continue getting together with other Christians often and spurring them on with love and encouragement.

Remember, we’re all in this together. 

YEEHAW!!!

T.G.I.F.

T.G.I.F. stands for “Thank God It’s Friday”. And, though it is often times used by those who are excited about the end of another work week or who are preparing to party over the weekend, I would like to adopt a more straight forward definition here. Let’s take time to. literally thank God today—not just because it’s Friday but because He Is Worthy!

As your week comes to a close what are some of the things that you are most thankful for?

Where have you seen God working in your life or in the lives of those around you?

Who has come beside you this week to help with a need? To show you Christ’s love in a tangible way? To be a listening ear? To offer a word of encouragement?

Take some time this morning to thank God for all that comes to mind and then go into the day expecting more things to be added to your list!

“I will exalt you, my God and King, and praise your name forever and ever. I will praise you every day; yes, I will praise you forever. Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise! No one can measure his greatness. Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power. I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor and your wonderful miracles. Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue; I will proclaim your greatness. Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness; they will sing with joy about your righteousness. The Lord is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. The Lord is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation. All of your works will thank you, Lord, and your faithful followers will praise you. They will speak of the glory of your kingdom; they will give examples of your power. They will tell about your mighty deeds and about the majesty and glory of your reign. For your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom. You rule throughout all generations. The Lord always keeps his promises; he is gracious in all he does. The Lord helps the fallen and lifts those bent beneath their loads. The eyes of all look to you in hope; you give them their food as they need it. When you open your hand, you satisfy the hunger and thirst of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in everything he does; he is filled with kindness. The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth. He grants the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cries for help and rescues them. The Lord protects all those who love him, but he destroys the wicked. I will praise the Lord, and may everyone on earth bless his holy name forever and ever.” (‭‭Psalms‬ ‭145:1-21‬ ‭NLT‬‬)