Lessons Learned Discarding Stuff

Picture me sitting on a stool in front of three file cabinets in my garage. I am sorting through files representing almost fifty years of pastoral ministry. The files contain schedules of events, mementoes, photos, and letters from church members and friends. I know I must discard all of it. I cannot take it with me when I leave Oklahoma. There simply will not be room in the apartment where Connie and I will be living, beginning next week.

Picture me with tears running down my face as I read notes of appreciation from people who say they have been helped in some way by my ministry. I can’t help the tears and I am not ashamed to admit that reading these letters again is an emotional experience.

Picture me sifting and sorting though files of Bible study materials, notes of countless sermons, and the fruits of years of exegetical study. Much of it has to go. I must reduce everything to only one file cabinet to take with me. In this one cabinet will be the Bible study resources I hope to use in the future if the Lord allows me to continue to teach or preach.

The files and notebooks I discard end up filling two curbside trash bins. I have to let go of all of it, letters, photos, journals, and memories, memories, memories. Moving soon to a retirement community in another state has proven to be the intervention that I thought would come much later. I had thought (foolishly I realize now) that there would be time in retirement to savor these memories in a more leisurely fashion. It is not to be.

I have learned a few things from this experience.

Lesson one: Keep the memories in your heart. My sensible wife said, “If you haven’t looked at it in 25 years it’s not important.” She is right, of course. When I ask her how she can find the courage to throw away our wedding pictures and family photo albums, she points to her heart and says, “I have them all in here!” I happen to know she has them in her phone too.

Lesson two: God encourages us through people. Some of the letters I found in my files were from people who have been dead for years. I remember them with fondness. They took the time to write to their pastor to let him know what his preaching, his visits, his counsel, or his prayers meant to them. I was blessed to have many friends who were nicer to me than I deserved.

Reading those notes and letters was, for me, a little taste of what I think heaven may be like when the Lord pulls back the curtain and shows us more of the impact we have had in the lives of his people. It was really thoughtful of those friends to write to me. There were times when an encouraging note provided just the lift I needed to keep going in the ministry.

Lesson three: Travel light. This lesson, a reminder from my experience in backpacking, applies as well to life’s pilgrimage. We don’t need all the stuff that fills our attics, closets, garages, and storage units. The Bible tells us what is going to happen to it anyway. It’s all going away. It is people, not things, who have an eternal destiny and infinite worth in the sight of the Creator.

The attic up above is empty. The garage is cleaner than it has been in 22 years. Bookshelves are vacant. The furniture has been transported to our new home, or distributed to the homes of our children. I will now admit, that it is something of a relief not to be carrying the emotional weight of all that stuff.

The patriarch Job put it well: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised” (Job 1:21).

Pastor Randy Faulkner


Come to Jesus

Occasionally you may hear someone flippantly say, “We had a come to Jesus meeting at work today!” What is implied is a confrontation in which a supervisor admonished a subordinate to correct a problem, or change a behavior. The phrase has become a secular cliche, borrowed from the church.

Behind the expression is the ritual of the altar call. It comes out of the revivalist tradition in America, in which preachers would issue fervent invitations to their listeners to come forward at the end of the sermon and make a public commitment to believe in Jesus as savior. Hence, the expression, “Come to Jesus.”

That’s not a bad idea. In fact, that is exactly what Jesus himself invites us all to do, whether we are in a church service or not. His words in Matthew 11:28 are called the “comfortable words” in that they offer comfort and rest for the soul. They are often read in liturgical worship services after the confession of sin. These words convey the timeless promise of forgiveness and acceptance.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” 

The Scope of the Invitation

The Lord’s invitation is for all kinds of people to come to him. The scope of the invitation is immeasurable. His words imply that Jesus welcomes all those who are burdened with the weight of guilt, with the shame of sin. That is all of us. Sin is the reason life is frustrating and unsatisfying. Sin is the reason we lack peace of heart. So Jesus is speaking to all of us sinners who know we have fallen short. All have sinned. All are invited to come.

The Promise in the Invitation

Here is a magnificent promise for those who are weary in their minds and hearts. It is the promise of rest. I had the joy of praying with an inmate in the Oklahoma County Detention Center not long ago. He asked God to forgive him for his sins and in simple faith he opened his heart to Jesus. After we prayed together he smiled and said, “I feel like a ten thousand pound weight has been lifted from my shoulders.”

That kind of spiritual rest of mind and conscience is for those who come to Jesus. If you are weighed down by regret, shame, grief, guilt, you may be released from the burden of a guilty conscience if you come to Jesus. You cannot change the past, but Jesus can forgive you and restore your soul if you come to him. “The blood of Jesus, his Son purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

The One who Offers the Invitation

“Come to me,” Jesus said. We are not invited to come to a preacher, or to a therapist, or to a philosopher, or to a church, or to the waters of baptism, or to the bread and wine of communion. These all have their place, but they all agree that first we must come, in faith, to Jesus, and only to Jesus. He alone is the Savior, the Son of God, the Mediator, the Redeemer, the coming King. He is “the way, and the truth and the life” (John 14:6).

He says “I will give you rest.” He always keeps his promises, He promised to die for sinners and he did. He promised to rise from the grave and he did. His promise is a promise of free grace. “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

He does not say, “do,” or “join,” or “pay,” or “work,” to save yourself. Instead, he says simply, “Come to me.” Only God’s Son could make a promise like that and have the power to fulfill it. He promises the gift of eternal life. He died on the cross of Calvary to purchase this life for those who come to him. His gift is undeserved and freely offered.

What Will You Do?

I invite you to come to him now. Do not wait until Sunday. Come now. The spiritual rest he offers is for you today, not only after you die. Come to him. Pray to him. Confess to him, Lean on him. Trust in him. His yoke, he says, is easy. That means you can let him do the heavy lifting. He is ready and willing to receive you. He is not too busy, preoccupied, or distracted to listen to your prayer.

If you come to him in life, he will be with you in death. What will you do? To refuse his gracious offer is to reject him and devalue his word. To neglect his promise is to rebel against his invitation. The consequences of rebellion against God are dreadful and eternal. Surely you do not want to do that. So please come to Jesus and enter into his rest.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


The Arrogance of Jesus

Who does he think he is? He calls himself the Son of God. Really? Who talks like that? He says God gave him all authority in heaven and on earth, to raise the dead, to judge the world, to rule as King, to give eternal life to those who believe in him.

Readers of the four gospels in the New Testament are forced to come to the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth made himself the center of his teaching. He brazenly claimed to be the only way for human beings to reach God.

Who does that? What kind of person would say as Jesus did, “No one can come to the Father except through me?” Religious propagandists and cultists maybe. Mentally unstable people with delusions of grandeur perhaps. But such egomaniacs are worthy only of our contempt, or pity.

Surely Jesus’ statements about himself seem to be supremely arrogant!

That is, unless they are true.

If Jesus’ statements about himself are true, that means he is more than a human teacher. If he is right, he is contradicting the idea that all faiths are valid pathways to God. If he is speaking truth, then he is not a dangerous religious shyster, or a pathetic, unbalanced narcissist.

If he is right, then the apostle Peter was correct when he preached, “There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them’ (Acts 4:12 NLT).  If he is right, then he really is the Son of God who gave his life on the cross to save us from our sins.

The renowned Christian intellectual C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity, “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. he would either be a lunatic — on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell.

“You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

Read the New Testament and come to your own conclusion. Did Jesus speak with arrogance, or with divine authority?

Pastor Randy Faulkner


I Believe in Jesus

The Apostles’ Creed says “I believe in God the Father Almighty, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, our Lord.” The creed is an ancient, concise statement of basic Christian belief. To sincerely recite the creed is to testify to one’s faith.

When I affirm my faith in Jesus, I am saying that I accept the authority of his word. I trust the testimonies of those who were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life, his teachings, his death on the cross, and his resurrection. I can see the effects of his influence in the world.

Let me tell you why I believe in Jesus. The apostles of Jesus recorded his acts and teachings. Their testimony is reliable. They describe him as speaking with divine authority and wisdom. He forgave people’s sins. He claimed to have been sent by God. He said God had entrusted to him the power to raise the dead in the last day. Then he actually did it. He raised people from the dead in the presence of eyewitnesses.

His moral life was impeccable. No one could prove him guilty of sin. He referred to himself as “the Son of Man” a title used of Messiah. He called himself “Lord” and “I Am,” names reserved for God. On more than one occasion, he accepted worship from people. He told people that to believe in him as savior would be to receive eternal life. He claimed to be the only way to God. He made himself the focal point of scripture, saying that the scriptures testified about him.

His many miracles were signs of his deity, and were intended to stimulate our faith in him. The apostle John wrote, “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:30-31).

The gospel of Mark describes the authority of Jesus: his authority as the Son of God (1:11); his authority over demons (1 :26-27); his authority over disease (1:32-34); his authority to forgive sin (2:7); his authority to supersede the traditions of the Sabbath (2:28-3:6); his power over the forces of nature (4:35-41); his power to raise the dead (5:40-43).

In Mark’s gospel Jesus repeatedly and accurately prophesied the manner of his death and resurrection (8:31, 9:9-12, 10:32-34). In answer to his accusers at his trial, he replied that “I am” the Son of the Blessed One and “you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One” (14:62).

The apostle Paul wrote a magnificent statement of faith in his letter to the Colossians. There he said that Jesus is the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15). All things were created by him and for him (1:16). God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Jesus (1:19). In Christ are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (2:3). In Christ the fullness of deity lives in bodily form (2:9). Christ is the head over every power and authority (2:10). Christ is now seated at the right hand of God (3:1).

The apostle also magnified Jesus in Ephesians 1:20-23. Jesus is raised from the dead. He is seated at God’s right hand. He is above all rulers and authorities, powers and dominions. He is above every title that can be given in present and  future ages. He is the head of the church which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything.

When I recite the Apostles’ Creed I am stating my belief that all these things are true. I am affirming my belief that “Christ died for (my) sins according to the scriptures, that he was buried and that he rose from the dead on the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).

The creed begins with the words “I believe.” This is the way to receive eternal salvation. “It is by grace you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). Because of this gift of grace, “In him (Jesus) and through faith in him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 2:13).

This is why I believe in Jesus.

Pastor Randy Faulkner