Wisdom from John Newton

John Newton (1725-1807) may be best known as the author of the beloved hymn “Amazing Grace.” His life story is a vivid illustration of the power of the Christian gospel to rescue and transform  a ruined life. The hymn is his personal testimony.

I invite you to read about Newton to learn more about him. (Wikipedia has a summary of his career.) In his pre-Christian life he was a navy seaman, captain of slave ships, and investor in the slave trade.  After a spiritual struggle leading to his conversion to faith in Christ, he became a minister in the Anglican Church. He served in the country parish of Olney for sixteen years. During those years he wrote many hymns which are beloved by Christians worldwide.

As an evangelical, he was committed to the proclamation of the gospel. He wrote his own life story to magnify the gospel  and to influence others to believe. He wrote tracts and an introduction to John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Later as a pastor in London, he became an influential leader in the movement to abolish the slave trade.

His greatest contribution was his pastoral ministry in the lives of the people he served. His preaching pointed them to Jesus as savior. His personal counsel was a help to many who were troubled and tempted. It has been said that “They found in him one who had been a worse sinner than themselves and who could enter into their experiences with tenderness and sympathy.”

One of his ministries was correspondence. He wrote long replies to the many who wrote to him with questions about the Christian life and faith. He said, “It is the Lord’s will that I should do most by my letters.” His letters reveal the belief that the Christian faith is a personal experience of God through Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, not just an abstract system of doctrine.

The letters also show that the Christian life is practical, leading to a healthy spiritual condition.  He demonstrates how it is only through knowledge of and obedience to the written Word of God that we can practice Christianity as it is meant to be lived. His letters are marked by practical wisdom and sanctified common sense.

I recently read The Letters of John Newton published by Banner of Truth. I want to share with you some quotations from the letters. I am sure that his desire would be, not that we would admire his wisdom, but the truth and beauty to be found in his Savior.

The law entered that sin might abound, not to make men more wicked, but to make them sensible of their sin.

The law reveals the glory of God. We see the perfection and excellence of the law in the life of Jesus.

If opposition has hurt many, popularity has wounded more.

Truth is a sacred thing.

National concerns are no more affected by our remonstrances (arguments), than the heavenly bodies are by the disputes of astronomers.

Plead for the country in prayer

“Dipping” into scripture, ignoring the context, is an unreliable guide, contrary to the intentions of the text and contrary to common sense.

The Word of God, guided by the Holy Spirit, furnishes just principles to regulate our actions and decisions.

On frequency of prayer: Those whom we love, we love to be with.

Some temptations of Satan are permitted by the Lord to humble and test his people.

By discontinuing prayer we give the enemy the greatest encouragement possible.

There is no fool like the sinner who prefers the toys of earth to the happiness of heaven.

 Cultured men try to polish the manners without improving the heart.

I’ll pass along more of these next week.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Reckless Faith and Gospel Hope

Peter the apostle wrote to people who had experienced an inner transformation. Jesus had invaded their lives as they had heard the gospel and had believed in him. They had been given “a new birth into a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).  He went on to say that they had a secure inheritance in Christ and that their lives were now “shielded by God’s power.” These people had hope. That same hope is offered to us on the same terms: reckless faith in the promises of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

This came home to me in a conversation I had with a friend I will call Todd who had recently become a Christian. “I know Jesus is alive because of what he has done for me.” He had lost all hope of recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol. His marriage was unhappy and his performance at work was declining.

He tried to change but he was powerless to overcome his addictions. In spite of the difficulties in their marriage, his wife was patiently praying for him. His neighbor was a friend he had known for years. He seemed to understand what Todd was going through.

His friend invited him to get together so they went jogging. As they ran, his friend said, “I want to tell you what has been happening in my life.” They met every evening after work to run together, and his friend would tell him how Jesus had forgiven him of his sins and had changed his life. He explained how Todd too could have a new life through faith in Jesus Christ.

Todd told me that he came home after one of these conversations, aching with guilt and tired of the struggle. He went to his bedroom, closed the door, and called out to the Lord, “God if you’re real; Jesus, if you’re really who they say you are, please save me. Take control of my life. I need you.”

“That was the best night of my life,” Todd told me. There is much more to the story, but he said, “God healed me of the desire for drink and drugs. He brought my family back together. I know Jesus is alive because of what he did for me!”

Peter’s letter is all about this kind of transformation. It was effective in Todd’s life and it is available for you, too. In the words of Warren Wiersbe, “We have a living hope because we have a living savior.” Carl F.H. Henry said that Jesus “planted the only durable rumor of hope amid the widespread despair of a hopeless world.”

Believe this. Peter, the apostle of the Lord, said that when you put your faith in Jesus, “you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:9). Receive it the way Todd did, with bold, reckless, helpless faith. The living Christ is ready to transform your life and give you eternal hope, based on his gospel.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner 


What’s in a Name?

In my Bible reading recently I noticed how Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, used different titles to designate the early Christians. Seven of these terms appear in one narrative. As I pondered the question of why Luke did this, it occurred to me that these were not merely stylistic flourishes. He was hinting at what Christians really are supposed to be.

For example, in Acts 9:2, Luke refers to Christians as those who belonged to “the Way.” Later on in Acts, Luke would use this descriptive term at least seven more times. Jesus said, “I am the Way” (John 14:6).

Christians are called “saints”  in verse 13, or in the words of the New International Version, “holy people.” This is the identity of those who are set apart for God’s purposes.

Then in the same chapter, verse 14, he refers to “all who call on your (God’s) name.” Luke is quoting Ananias, the leader whom the Lord commissioned to baptize Saul of Tarsus at his conversion. Saul (later to be called Paul) has been persecuting those who call on the name of Jesus. Now he has become one of them!

Next, Luke uses the term “disciples” to refer to Christians. Verse 19 says Saul spent time with the disciples in Damascus after his conversion. A disciple is a learner, a follower of a worthy instructor.

Luke uses the language of family love to call Christians “brothers” (sisters is implied) in Acts 9:30. (The most recent edition of the NIV uses the gender-neutral “they.”) In this narrative, Saul’s fellow-Christians were seeking to protect him from assassination by enemies of the gospel. That is what brothers and sisters do for each other.

They are called “the church” in verse 31. This is an inclusive term to designate all followers of Jesus in a large region of Israel at that time: Judea, Galilee, and Samaria.

Finally, in Acts 9:41, Christians are called “believers.” They are the ones who have faith in Jesus as savior, who trust the message of the gospel.

What’s in a name? Luke’s descriptive language in Acts 9 uses different shades of meaning to convey important truths about a Christian’s true identity.

Jesus is “the Way,” and those who believe in him are on the only way to God, and to eternal life (Acts 16:17, 18:25-26). As “saints” they are called to be “made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work” (2 Timothy 2:21).

Christians habitually “call on (God’s) name” in prayer. In all circumstances, they “pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). They are to be “disciples,” those who learn the Word of Christ and obey it. Jesus said, “Learn from me” (Matthew 11:29).

” Brothers and sisters” are members of the same family. The obvious implication is that the spiritual ties that bind Christians together are very much like (and are often deeper than) the natural bonds uniting a human family. In Luke 8:19-21, Jesus said this would be true.

The “church” is literally an assembly of believers called together to worship God in the name of Jesus his Son. Paul used exalted language to describe the majestic importance of the church (1 Timothy 3:15). Christ loves the church so much that he “gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25). True Christians are to love the church (John 13:34-15) and assemble as the living church gathered in Jesus’ name (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Acts 9 closes with a story of many people believing on the Lord Jesus through the ministry of the apostle Peter. “Believers” are people who no longer trust in themselves or their own efforts to gain eternal life. They trust only in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. This is a term Luke uses throughout the book of Acts to teach that salvation is through faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone (Acts 4:12, 15:11, 16:31).

In his descriptive language, Luke is showing us different aspects of what it means to be a Christian and to live as a Christian. Does he describe you?

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner





No Explanation is Adequate

No Explanation is Adequate

Our local newspaper was full of sympathetic coverage of the death of a sixteen-year-old football player. Peter Webb died after sustaining head trauma during a game with his Christian school team on September 13. At his funeral, he was eulogized as enthusiastic, confident, athletic, and devoted to Jesus Christ.

His father, Jim, and his four brothers showed uncommon courage as they each rose to speak in Peter’s honor before over two thousand guests in attendance.  Several high school football teams came and they heard Peter’s dad speak of the intense pain the family felt because of the loss of their son and brother.

No doubt the young men on those teams and Peter’s fellow students have been struggling with the same questions most people ask in similar situations. Couldn’t God have prevented Peter from dying? if so why didn’t he? If God is good, why does he allow evil to exist? If he is all-powerful, why doesn’t he bring an end to human suffering?

These profound questions cannot be answered with glib cliches. The emotional suffering of the Webb family cannot be healed by philosophical band-aids or sentimental pieties. As a sorrowing C.S. Lewis put it in A Grief Observed, “Talk to me about the truth of religion and I’ll listen gladly. Talk to me about the duty of religion and I’ll listen submissively. But don’t come talking to me about the consolations of religion or I shall suspect that you don’t understand.”

Where is God?

“Where was your God when my son was killed?” a grieving father asked John Claypool. “He was where he was when his own boy was being killed,” came the answer. What the wise pastor was saying is that God entered, and enters, human suffering in the incarnation of Christ and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Consolation in such a time is not to be found in platitudes, but in presence, the presence of a compassionate God who said he would be “near” (Philippians 4:5) and in the supportive presence of friends who quietly care and serve in his name.

But this does not answer the question “why?” Rational explanations are cold comfort to those in sorrow. But for those who are attempting to understand the mysterious ways of God it may be useful to recall that God is good and evil did not originate with him. He made the world good and part of that good was to allow for the possibility of human choices.

All choices involve risks and consequences, including the risk of brain trauma from a football injury. Was Peter Webb’s death untimely? terrible? tragic? Certainly. All sports, including American football, pale in comparison to the value of such a precious human life.  Yet young men are drawn to challenge, risk and conquest. “The glory of young men is their strength” (Proverbs 20:29).

A good purpose

Was his death purposeful? The Christian answer is an unequivocal “yes!” God was not defeated when that beautiful young man died. Somehow in the sovereign wisdom of the Creator, a good purpose is being fulfilled. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Romans 8:28).

Examples are found throughout scripture to illustrate how God uses human suffering to accomplish his purposes. The story of Joseph’s sufferings is such a lesson. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good,” he told his brothers in Genesis 50:20.  The sufferings of Joseph were purposeful. The Babylonian captivity of the Jews was purposeful (Jeremiah 20-29). The death of Jesus Christ on the cross was purposeful (Acts 2:23). Nothing is outside of God’s purpose.

Likewise, the New Testament teaches us that God sometimes uses human suffering to humble his people (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Sometimes it is to correct and purify his people (Hebrews 12:6, 11). Sometimes no explanation is given. Sometimes our only response is to lament, as Jeremiah does, as Job does, as Habakkuk does, as Asaph does in Psalm 73.

These facts alone do not lift the emotional burden of overwhelming pain and loss borne by a grieving family. The fact is, we are not always given emotionally satisfying answers to why there is undeserved suffering in this world.

God will win

The Christian message promises God’s ultimate victory over evil. In the meantime, we live in a world where danger, evil and suffering remain for the present. But this imperfect world is preparing us for the next. I paraphrase Winfried Corduan who reminds us that God is able to use evil to facilitate the coming of that better world. He writes, there can be no pity without suffering. There can be no redemption without sin. There can be no courage without danger. There can be no resurrection without death.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring



Reject Paul and You Reject Jesus

My friend the Rev. Michael Philliber recently stated that to be dismissive of an apostle of Jesus is to be dismissive of Jesus himself. That’s a bold assertion. He based it on the words of Jesus in John 13:20, “Very truly I tell you, whoever accepts anyone I send, accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

In this text, Jesus was preparing his disciples for their ministry after his departure. He was connecting their mission to his. His mission would become their mission. They would carry it forward. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (John 20:21).

This means that Jesus imparted to these disciples a special authority to speak and write in his name and to be His ambassadors. They would become “apostles,” those sent out with Christ’s message, the Word of God. That is why the New Testament refers to Paul’s writings as “scriptures,” equal in authority to the Old Testament scriptures (2 Peter 3:15-16).

Paul repeatedly said that he was an apostle “by the will of God.” He began most of his letters with some form of this claim because he knew there were those who denied his authority as an apostle of Jesus and as a spokesman for God. There are those who deny it today.

The call of Jesus

Is my friend Mike correct? is it true that to be dismissive of Paul is the same as being dismissive of Jesus himself? Let’s look at the evidence. The early church leaders in Jerusalem could not deny that a powerful intervention had changed Paul from a violent persecutor of Christians to a preacher of the gospel of Christ. That intervention was an appearance to Paul of the resurrected Jesus himself (1 Corinthians 15:8-9). Many times he spoke of his Damascus road conversion and the personal call of Jesus (Acts 22:1-21; 26: 9-23). The change in his character was undeniable.

Signs and wonders

Another set of facts, witnessed by many, were the miracles he did in the name and by the power of Jesus. “I ought to have been commended by you,” he wrote to some who doubted his authority, “for I am not in the least inferior to the ‘super-apostles,’ even though I am nothing. I persevered in demonstrating among you the marks of a true apostle, including signs, wonders, and miracles” (2 Corinthians 12:11-12).

The reports of Paul’s ministry in the Book of the Acts indicate these were the same kinds of miracles performed by Jesus himself. These miracles validated his claim to be an apostle of the Lord. “I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done — by the power of signs and wonders through the power of the Spirit of God” (Romans 15:18-19).

Changed lives

Perhaps the most convincing evidence for Paul’s apostleship is found in his ministry in the lives of people. He claimed to speak with the authority of Christ. “With the help of God, we dared to tell you this gospel. … We speak as those approved by God. … When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:2,4, 13).

His close relationship with the believers in Thessalonica testifies to the transformation of life they experienced when they believed Paul’s gospel proclamation. “You became imitators of us and of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 1:6). 

He was satisfied that his ministry among them “was not without results.” (1 Thessalonians 2:1). The changed lives of these people proved the validity of his apostleship: “You turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). 

Is it reasonable to say, then, that to be dismissive of Paul, is to be dismissive of Jesus? Paul would say so. “Anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit” (1 Thessalonians 4:8). 

The man who received his apostleship from Jesus, worked miracles in the name of Jesus and preached the gospel so that others could know Jesus, actually spoke and wrote with the authority of Jesus. We would do well to believe and obey what he says. He speaks for Jesus.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring


Think Again About Paul

Think Again About Paul

I have met folks who gave the impression that Paul the apostle made them uncomfortable. They disagreed with some or all of his writings. They felt free to reject them as anachronistic and irrelevant to modern (or postmodern) values. Opinions ranged from mildly critical to openly hostile.

Critics of Paul have referred to his unwillingness to oppose slavery, his teachings on the role of women, his teachings on sexual ethics, and what some observers consider to be an abrasive tone and authoritarian style. Some have even accused Paul, the Jewish rabbi, of being anti-Semitic.

No doubt he was controversial. He incurred opposition, sometimes violent opposition, everywhere he went. The apostle Peter wrote what many have thought: some of Paul’s writings are “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16). If he is out of step with our culture, we must recognize that he was also out of step with his own culture. Paul was always, and he remains, counter-cultural.

Yet the church for almost two thousand years has recognized Paul’s authority as an apostle of (one sent by) Jesus Christ. He took Jesus seriously. His message was always Christ-centered. His writings exalted Jesus as “equal with God” (Philippians 2:6) and the very “fullness of deity in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).

He took the gospel seriously, the message of Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). He said that those who believe this gospel are “saved” (1 Corinthians 15:2). They are “rescued from the dominion of darkness” and transferred into the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:12-14).

He took his mission seriously. Paul said that his apostleship was “by the will of God” (Colossians 1:1). He had no hesitation in making this claim because  Jesus himself had appeared to him and instructed him as to his calling. He affirmed that his message was not something he learned from other people, but was revealed to him directly by Jesus (Galatians 1:11-12).

He wrote thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. This shows that the early believers accepted his writings as “scripture” (2 Peter 3:15-16). Many of these first-generation Christians had known Paul and had been close enough to him to have observed his life and character (1 Thessalonians 1:5, 2:5-8). They could see for themselves whether or not Christ was speaking through him (2 Corinthians 13:3).

Those who have qualms about accepting the teachings of Paul should think again. Jesus said that his apostles would speak for him and that any who received their message, received him (John 13:20; Matthew 10:40). It is a serious matter to reject the official representative of Jesus!

If Paul spoke and wrote with the authority of Jesus, it would be wise to (1) understand what he meant; (2) believe the good news of redemption that he preached; (3) put into practice his ethical and moral teachings; and (4) follow where he leads, into a new life “in Christ” (Ephesians 2:4-10).

There are indeed hard questions about Paul that deserve careful exploration. I plan to devote the next few entries on this site to an examination of some of the issues I raised in the opening paragraphs above. I appreciate your engagement with this discussion. If these writings are helpful, I invite you to forward them to others and to communicate with me.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring



Enjoying God

Enjoying God

“Man’s chief end (purpose) is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.” That is the famous answer to the question posed by the catechism, “What is the chief end of man?” Here’s a question for you today: what does it mean to “enjoy” God?

“Delight yourself in the Lord,” is the way King David put it in Psalm 37:4. It means to be delighted in God. That requires a re-thinking of our relationship to him. David is telling us that praise flows out of a sense of pleasure in who God is and pleasure in knowing him.

C.S. Lewis illustrated this in Reflections on the Psalms. “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling each other how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete until it is expressed. It is frustrating to discover a new author and not be able to tell anybody how good he is; to come suddenly to a turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and there have to keep silent because the people with you care no more for it than for a tin can in a ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with.”

He points out that people praise spontaneously what they value, and urge other people to join them in praising it. “The worthier the object, the more intense the delight would be.”

Both the psalmist and the professor are pointing us to an underlying truth, that to enjoy God, and thus to praise him, we must know him. The better we know him as he really is, the more our pleasure in him will grow.

Our delight in God can grow as we learn to enjoy his gifts as coming from him: a good meal, a golden sunrise, the pleasure of physical exercise, marital love, meaningful work, the laughter of friends, joining God in acts of creation through the arts, and of course the communion of prayer and worship.

Our delight in God grows as we appreciate more and more the riches of his grace in Jesus Christ.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring



Musings on the Moon Landing — July 20,1969

Musings on the Moon Landing -- July 20,1969

In July of 1969 Americans everywhere had the sense that what was happening Musings on the Moon Landing -- July 20,1969was of historic importance. Our astronauts had landed their spacecraft on the moon! Connie and I, in our first year of marriage,  were working that summer in upstate New York. I purchased a copy of the New York Times to commemorate the event. I have kept that newspaper all these years. (I have learned that millions of other collectors saved that issue of the Times as well.)

This week, remembering that historic event has the nation pondering the space program and what it represents. We have been admiring the fortitude of those first brave men who risked their lives in the great pioneering experiment of space exploration. They relied on their equipment, their training, their preparation, and raw courage.

There have always been those who questioned the value of sending men and women to outer space. They have said that the billions of dollars spent on space exploration could have been put to better use combating social ills like poverty, hunger, war, and racism.

Advocates of space research respond by pointing to beneficial results to society. The space program has increased the sum of human scientific knowledge. This has pushed the boundaries of understanding of our planet, our solar system, and the universe.

They speak of technological advancements such as the rapid development of computer technology, miniaturization, satellite communication, robotics, materials science, weather science, and countless industrial innovations and consumer products. Every scientific advance multiplied applications in many directions.

At the time of the moon landing, our nation was engaged in a “space race” with the Soviet Union. This was intense competition for the hearts and minds of the peoples of the world. Which system of government was superior? Totalitarian communism or a free and open society based on democratic values? The moon landing enhanced America’s prestige and international standing.

It is also important to remember the national security implications. The space program spurred the rapid development of advanced missile technology, delivery systems for nuclear warheads, tactical and strategic. Many believe that winning the race to the moon contributed to America’s winning the Cold War.

There is a wonder and an intense curiosity about outer space. The impulse to explore ever deeper into the universe can lead one to admire the majesty and wisdom of the Creator. It is a way of looking at his creation from a different perspective than that of earth. Contemplation of the heavens inspires worship.

Perhaps that is why the astronauts who first flew around the moon on the Apollo 8 mission, on Christmas Eve, 1968, read from the Bible, Genesis chapter one: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” They said later that they were aware as they did that, they were speaking to more people all over the world at one time, than ever before in history. And they read the Bible.

Some complained that this was an unwarranted intrusion of religion into a government enterprise. Others said that this was not a religious expression at all, but merely an attempt to find words of poetic grandeur to match the occasion.

Astronaut Frank Borman, commander of the mission, when asked about it, said, “I had an enormous feeling that there had to be a power greater than any of us — that there was a God, that there was indeed a beginning.”

John Glenn, the first American to circumnavigate the globe in outer space, later said, “To look out at this kind of creation and not believe in God is to me, impossible.” James Irwin, who walked on the moon in 1971, often described the lunar mission as a revelation. “I felt the power of God as I’d never felt it before. I heard astronaut Charles Duke say something similar in a speech he gave here in Oklahoma City a few years ago.

The late Charles Colson wrote that the exploration of space sparks an innate religious sense. He quoted philosopher Immanuel Kant who famously said there are two things that “fill the mind with ever new and increasing admiration and awe: the starry heavens above me and the moral law within me.”

Colson commented: “Reflections about these things…lead our minds to contemplate God himself — the moral law, revealing his goodness, the heavens revealing his power.”

As we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing, let’s agree that “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Psalm 19:1).

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner Randy 2019-spring


Reading the Book of Nature

Reading the Book of Nature

Imagine a person who grows up without access to the Bible. He has never heard of Jesus. He knows nothing about the church. What does he know?

He knows he exists. He can look into a mirror and say, “I exist, and I did not bring myself into existence.”

If he thinks deeply he will realize that he lives in a world uniquely suited to sustain life. Is it a coincidence that our earth, our solar system, our galaxy, our universe are put together with ingenious purpose? That purpose appears to be the sustenance of human life with the biodiversity to support it.

The Bible agrees and says these facts are pointers to the existence of a Creator. “What may be known about God is plain. … God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20).

Whether or not he has read the Bible, the thinking person knows that right and wrong exist as immutable moral laws. These moral standards are universal and are found in all philosophies and religious systems. This awareness of good and evil is written on every human heart (Romans 2:14-15). Natural law is God-given and is the foundation for justice.

Furthermore, the person who has not yet received formal teaching about God may still contemplate with awe the beauty of creation, and he may create beautiful things himself. His appreciation of a glorious sunset, the majesty of the heavens at night, a beautiful garden, the birth of a child, may provoke a worshipful response. Who is he to worship? Aesthetics is not the product of blind chaos. Beauty itself is a pointer to the beauty of God.

Our thinking person is reading the book of nature and it tells him that God exists. But nature by itself cannot lead him to know the Creator in a personal way.

The Creator is also a communicator. He has chosen to reveal himself through the written words of the holy scriptures. The Bible tells how God has revealed himself in his son Jesus Christ. It is through faith in Jesus that our thinking friend may be brought into a personal relationship with God. “Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

This is the essence of the church’s concern for people who do not yet know God. This is the reason missionaries cross cultural and geographic boundaries to go to those who have never heard the message of Jesus. When they go, they often discover that there are people whose hearts the Lord has opened as they have thought about the purpose for existence, the quest for justice, and the gift of beauty.

These are reasons to worship God and to give careful attention to the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are reasons to seek him.

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake their ways and the unrighteous their thoughts. Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (Isaiah 55:6-7).

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner




Give Your Life Away

Give Your Life Away

In his new book, The Second Mountainpolitical columnist David Brooks tells about finding personal fulfillment in his involvement with people who are turning around communities through volunteer service. His Aspen Institute program, Weave: The Social Fabric Project, connects him with folks around the country who are “restoring social capital and healing lives.”

He writes: “They don’t have to ask themselves if they are doing anything valuable with their lives. They know.” These are people whose commitments to others give them identity and purpose. “They find joy in the light they bring  others, and they know why they have been put on this earth.”

He tells stories about people he has met all over America (“we are a nation of healers”) who are literally giving their lives away for others. These people have a light in their eyes when they talk about what they are doing. They have renewed enthusiasm for living, a reason to get up in the morning.

This aligns with the teaching of Jesus who said, “Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10:39). This saying of Jesus is so important it is repeated in all four of the gospels. The Lord is telling us that we find life, real life when we give our lives away. It eludes us when we selfishly hoard the life God has entrusted to us.

Last May, the administrators of Whiz Kids, a local non-profit, honored volunteers, and my friend Laura Love and I were recognized for having completed twenty years’ service. This faith-based ministry is more than a “program.” It is built on relationships, connecting tutors from all over the city with children in inner-city schools for help in reading.

Sure I was busy. As a pastor of a large church, I had plenty to do. But I kept at this because the Lord has been good to me in life and I want to give back to a boy who needs help. I love to read and I want to help him discover the pleasures of reading. This may seem old fashioned in an age of digital short cuts and addictive technologies. But I really believe this is important and I am willing to give a chunk of my life for it.

I want my Whiz Kid to learn to read well so he can improve in his other academic subjects. I want him to read well so he can learn how to be a life-long learner. I want him to learn to read well so he can focus and maintain the concentration necessary to do good work. I want him to learn to read well so he can read the Bible for himself and discover God’s love in Jesus Christ.

David Brooks is right when he says, “Our commitments give us a sense of purpose.” He tells the following story.

In 2007, the Gallup organization asked people around the world whether they felt they were leading meaningful lives. It turns out that Liberia was the country where most people felt a sense of meaning and purpose, while the Netherlands was the place where the lowest percentage of the people did. This is not because life was necessarily sweeter in Liberia. On the contrary. But Liberians possessed what Paul Froese calls “existential urgency.” In the turmoil of their lives, they were compelled to make fierce commitments to one another merely to survive. And these fierce commitments gave their lives a sense of meaning.

I don’t know if it is “existential urgency” that motivates me to be a Whiz Kids tutor. And my life is not in turmoil. But I do believe in making “fierce commitments” to doing what Jesus wants me to do. I guess I am addicted to the joy that follows. I invite you to make this same discovery. Give your life away.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner



In case you’re interested in Whiz Kids 2019-20

  • July 28 — Sign up at Metropolitan Baptist Church
  • August 27 — Tutor training
  • Call for information: Karen Mickle (405-818-1361); Laura Love (405-740-4694)