A Special Place for Prayer

A Special Place for Prayer

Jesus made it a regular practice to meet with his heavenly Father in prayer. He got up early to pray in the mornings. Sometimes he prayed all night, alone with God, out in the open air, away from the crowds. He craved the delicious solitude of the Galilean countryside.

At other times he joined with his neighbors in communal prayer. The gospel of Luke tells us that it was our Lord’s habit to attend services in his local synagogue (Luke 4:16). If the Son of God found it necessary to meet for  worship with ordinary folks, certainly we who claim to follow him should do the same thing every week!

Jesus also prayed with his disciples. They had chosen a place where they would go to withdraw for quiet fellowship and rest. This redoubt, or retreat, was an olive grove called Gethsemane. John 18:2 describes it as a garden where Jesus frequently went with his disciples. It was across the Kidron ravine on the side of the Mount of Olives. It was, for them, a special place.

Luke says Jesus went there on the night of his betrayal “as usual” (Luke 22:39).  I find it striking and important that as he was facing the bitterest anguish of his life, Jesus retreated with his disciples to the familiar garden where he had often met with them. There he prayed in a state of intense emotional strain.

Come to Gethsemane. Hear the Savior pray as he nears the time of his cruel death as the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Observe his sorrow. Feel his lonely desolation of soul. Learn to pray as he prayed to the Father: “May your will be done” (Matthew 26:42).

Just as our Master Jesus prayed in solitude, and in the communal fellowship of the  local assembly, so we imitate him. As Jesus had specific times and places for prayer, so should we have. As Jesus prayed for God’s will to be done as he faced torture and crucifixion, so we too learn to surrender ourselves to God, in gratitude for his sacrifice for us.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner 

Go To Dark Gethsemane

Go To Dark Gethsemane

“Go to dark Gethsemane, you who feel the tempter’s power;

Your Redeemer’s conflict see; watch with him one bitter hour;

Turn not from his griefs away; learn of Jesus Christ to pray”.

These words by 19th century hymn-writer James Montgomery are on my mind as I read in the gospels about what happened in the garden of Gethsemane. I invite you to join me in meditating on our Lord’s anguished prayer in Gethsemane during the coming weeks leading up to the remembrance of his death and resurrection. 

If we wish to offer ourselves to God during this season, it may be helpful to observe the Lord’s example as he “offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission” (Hebrews 5:7). 

He went to the familiar place where he and his disciples had often gone for a retreat. It was a grove of ancient olive trees located on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem. The name Gethsemane means “oil press” and it was probably a place for squeezing oil from the olives that were harvested there. The gospels tell us he knelt down (Luke) and then he prostrated himself with his face to the earth (Matthew) as poured out his soul in prayer.

In the preceding hours, he had been praying for his disciples (John 17). Now, in the garden, facing imminent death, Jesus prayed for himself. He knew what was coming. He had already surrendered himself to fulfill the purpose for which he came into the world. But his soul was troubled.

“Now is my soul troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” (John 12:27-28)

Here we see the human Jesus as he faced the sorrows of death. We see his agony over the terrible prospect of bearing the sin of the world. We see the exhaustion of his grief and his desperate loneliness in the crisis.

We are invited during this Lenten season to offer ourselves up to God in surrender and prayer, as Jesus did. This may be something like what Paul the apostle had in mind when he wanted to know Christ in “participation in his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10).

You may be entering your own private Gethsemane experience: a disappointing turn of events; a surprising bit of bad news; confusing circumstances. It has been said that the crisis prepares us to pray. “Turn not from his griefs away; learn of Jesus Christ to pray.”

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner 

A Mind Intent on Things Eternal

A Mind Intent on Things Eternal

One thing that sets Christian believers apart from their unbelieving neighbors is an eternal perspective. Believers often talk about about prayers they have prayed. They love to tell stories about how God has helped them in living life.

The Eternal

Right-thinking Christians try to relate everything to their relationship with, their dependency on and their accountability to God. He is real to them.

This way of thinking assumes that God is a loving Father who is interested in our political opinions, our family lives, our use of money, our daily work, our service to others in this world, and a host of other concerns. Proverbs 3:6 says, “in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.”

A prayer I found in The Valley of Vision expressed this well. “Teach me the art of attending to things temporal with a mind intent on things eternal.”

 The Earthly

Colossians chapter 3 illustrates this. Paul’s teaching there encompasses such themes as marriage and child-rearing, corporate worship. social justice, ethics and morality, and daily work. Practical realities of life on earth. The Christian attitude toward all these earthly priorities is to infuse them with an eternal perspective.

Thus, the discussion about life on earth begins with this preamble: “Set your hearts on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

The earthly and the eternal. How well we integrate them may determine how real God is to us as we live our every day lives.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner

Cruise Control Christians

Cruise Control Christians

I knew a man who built and raced sports cars as a hobby. I asked him one day if he’d let me drive one of his custom-built cars. “Is your insurance paid up?” he asked in reply. He told me about his fondness for racing. It is exhilarating. The adrenaline rush, the excitement of pushing a machine to its limits of speed and control and the ultimate thrill of victory kept him coming back for more. Success required practice. Practice produced skill and peak awareness, he told me.

The New Testament compares the Christian life to a race. “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize” (1 Corinthians 9:24). The apostle Paul is telling us that following Jesus requires intensity and focus, just like entering and running a race.

Unfortunately, some people seem to be on cruise control in their spiritual lives. Cruise control is convenient. It enables a driver to match the flow of traffic with less personal effort and concentration. I have found there is less fatigue on a long road trip.

Cruise Control Christians

Cruise control Christians are content to match their level of spiritual commitment to the standards of those around them. In his book The Disciplines of Grace, Jerry Bridges pointed out that these are the folks who are content to go with the flow. They try not to lag too far behind, but neither do they try to forge ahead for the Lord. They are mired in the heavy traffic of spiritual mediocrity.

God is calling them to a higher standard of spiritual living.

I don’t want to be a cruise control Christian. I want to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18). To do that I will need to keep my foot on the accelerator and my eye on the track. My goal should be victory. This is possible if I am intentional about growing spiritually.

I have certain spiritual practices (otherwise called “disciplines”) that are a necessary part of my life as a Christian. They are essential for my growth and victory in the Christian life. These spiritual priorities are good habits that have been built into my daily and weekly routine. I pursue them not because I am a pastor, but because they are necessary for my growth as a Christian man and as a disciple of Jesus.

If you have discovered some helpful practices that keep you on the right track spiritually, I invite you to share them with me by using the contact form below. Perhaps your ideas and example can influence other readers to stay in the race and keep moving forward for Jesus Christ.

Maybe I will get to drive a sports car in a road rally someday. But more than that I want to approach the Christian life the way my friend approached winning a race, putting everything into the effort, not on cruise control.

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner


Black History – Still Learning

Black History – Still Learning

Black History Month was created for people like me who need to be educated about the cultural experience of my fellow citizens who are black. I understand February was chosen because it is the birth month of the great emancipator Abraham Lincoln, and the famous abolitionist Fredrick Douglass.

It should be obvious that learning about black history is useful. It introduces young people to the persons of influence who led in the struggle for civil rights for African Americans. It reminds the nation of events in our history we never want to see repeated. It helps folks who were born to white privilege to understand the points of view of those who have not been so privileged.

Benjamin Watson wrote, “The solution to the problem of race in America will be found only by ordinary people… looking inside themselves, being honest about the assumptions and biases that have formed, and beginning to change what’s in their hearts.” In that spirit, I want my life and ministry to contribute to racial understanding and reconciliation.

Some time ago Connie and I attended a seminar at the Oklahoma History Center near the State Capitol. It featured the stories of Oklahoma’s historically black towns founded by and for the “freedmen,” ex-slaves of the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole tribes. We heard about the racial tensions that accompanied the allotment of land to these ex-slaves after the civil war, tensions that carried over into the twentieth century and Oklahoma statehood.

In fact, according to an article in the current (Jan./Feb.) issue of Oklahoma Today, published by the Historical Society, the very first piece of legislation passed by the newly-formed Oklahoma Senate was a law requiring the racial segregation of public transportation and schools. The legislature also passed, in 1916, a clause denying black people the right to vote.

The article describes the “legalized discrimination in housing, employment, transportation, education, and voting restrictions” endured by Americans of African descent in Oklahoma. It briefly tells about the massacre of black citizens when angry white mobs set fire to the Greenwood District of Tulsa in 1921. Over three hundred black people were killed and 10,000 were made homeless.

Can we who are white understand and appreciate the deep spiritual and psychic scars inflicted on subsequent generations by mob violence, systemic racism, and abuse of police power? I, for one, have a lot to learn.

The article tells how Oklahoma teacher and civil rights activist Clara Luper organized students to peacefully protest racial segregation in Oklahoma City in the 1950s. this was before the national civil rights movement of the 60s. She was a pioneer of the movement.

It relates the story of Ida Lois Sipuel Fisher, the first black female graduate, in 1952, of the Oklahoma University College of Law. This was even before the famous Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Supreme Court case that led to the end of racial segregation of schools in 1954. Ida Lois Sipuel Fisher is remembered proudly for her determined opposition to racial bigotry and exclusion in higher education.

As a white boy growing up in the segregated South, I knew about white supremacy and racial prejudice from the other side. In my youth I did not have the wisdom, the courage or the vocabulary to challenge the systemic racism that was our southern way of life in the 1950s. I am grateful that God has forgiven me for the stupid and sinful attitudes of my boyhood. I am grateful for the grace that has been extended to me by African American brothers in Christ. As I grow older, I want to continue to learn about their cultural history and their determination to overcome injustice.

Clara Luper is reported to have said, “My biggest job now is making white people understand that black history is white history. We cannot separate the two.” This agrees with the apostle Paul who preached that God created all races of people and “he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth” (Acts 17:26).

     –  Pastor Randy Faulkner


How to Know and Show Your Love for God

I remember how my grade school teachers reminded me to ask my mother to purchase Valentine cards to give to everyone in the classroom. I dutifully signed my name to all the cards the night before the school Valentine’s Day party. Sometimes there was one particular card for one particular person to which I added a particularly personal greeting.

No one was excluded. Were our teachers trying to teach us to be friends? Was this an experiment in unselfishness? By exchanging greeting cards were we being encouraged to love one another? As I think about it now there is something tender in that memory, however awkward it felt then to send a Valentine to the playground bully or to the pretty girl across the room I was too shy to talk to.

I confess I feel awkward sometimes when I remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:37, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment.”

My hesitation is rooted in uncertainty, or rather, the certainty that I have fallen short and I have not kept this greatest commandment. I must repeat the church’s confession and make it my own: “We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We are truly sorry and we humbly repent. For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us…”

I do want to love the Lord. I really do, in ways that are meaningful to him. Is there help for my awkward faith and inconsistent love? I believe there is. Scripture suggests the following ways for me to know and to show that I am actively loving God.

  1. Love others.

Jesus in Matthew 22:39 connects loving our neighbors with loving God. Elsewhere the New Testament explicitly teaches us to love our spouses, our fellow-believers, strangers, and even our enemies. This is a way for me to show my love for God; this is the starting point. “Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 5:11-12 NIV).

  1. Obey Jesus.

This is discipleship: learning, following and obeying the clear teaching of the Lord Jesus. He tells his followers, “If you love me, keep my commands… whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me.” Then he adds an astounding truth, “The one who loves me will be loved by my Father” (John 14:15, 21 NIV). If I want to live in the love of God, I must obey the commands of my Master Jesus. That is how I show my love for him.

  1. Pray.

Regular communication is a sign of love. Love grows cold if creeping separation creates emotional distance. God gives his Holy Spirit to help us communicate love for him in prayer. “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (Romans 5:5 NIV). “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father“(Galatians 4:6 NIV).

  1. Be grateful.

The act of thanking God is an expression of love. This is illustrated in the beautiful story of the sinful woman who in gratitude anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume and washed them with her tears. Our Lord said of her, “Her many sins have been forgiven — as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47 NIV). How can we not love God for all that he has done for us in Jesus Christ? “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:15 NIV)

How may I be sure of my love for God? By my active and purposeful response to his love.  If I choose to love God by loving others, by obeying his Son’s commands, by prayer and by thanksgiving, my tentative emotional response can be transformed into certainty. “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19 NIV).

Happy Valentines Day!

    –  Pastor Randy Faulkner

His Will is What I Want

Paul the apostle was certain of his purpose in life. If we read his letter to the Colossians, we discover that he identified himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ “by the will of God”. As he carried out his mission, he prayed for these people he had never met personally.

Paul prayed that they too “might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding”. They were tradesmen, artisans, merchants, scholars, government workers, wives, husbands, children, servants; all kinds of folks. Paul’s prayer was that these ordinary people might know their God-given purpose in life, as he did.

That is what I desire for myself and for readers of this blog. Welcome.

I want to provide Bible-based encouragement, that we might discover God’s will. This involves knowing what the Lord wants us to believe and how he wants us to live. This is the architecture of most of Paul’s letters, including the one to the Colossians.

God’s will is what I want for my life. I hope you want this too. This is how we can be sure of our purpose and mission in life.

On this site, I intend to write expositions of scripture, musings on theology, or responses to God in worship. Once in a while there might be a reflection on our common life as citizens and as fellow believers in Jesus.

If something interests you, pass it along, think about it, or  write a response.

We continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way”. (Colossians 1:9-10 NIV)

— Pastor Randy Faulkner


Retirement is a Change of Venue

I am now in retirement after twenty-eight years of ministry in Metropolitan Baptist Church of Oklahoma City. The people of the church made those years very satisfying and happy ones. it has been an honor to serve among them.

During recent months my wife Connie and I have been traveling, visiting our children and grandchildren, and enjoying some special adventures with friends. This has been restorative.

Folks have asked what I want to do in retirement. For one thing, it’s nice to be able to read the newspaper all the way through in the morning, and take a nap in the afternoon. Prerogatives of advanced age!

I have a few hobbies and I want to develop some new interests too. Life at this stage is good. Connie and I are happy together. We recently celebrated our fiftieth wedding anniversary in Florida with our five adult children and their spouses.

Recently I have been reading and re-reading Paul’s letter to the Colossians, recording impressions in a journal. I noticed something that Paul wrote near the end of his letter. In his personal words to his friends at Colosse, he admonished Archippus, “See to it that you complete the work you have received in the Lord” (Colossians 4:17).

“That’s a word for me”, I said to myself. “Retirement doesn’t mean my work for the Lord is finished. There is more that I can do for Jesus. I need to pay attention to how he may be leading me.”

I read how Paul asked the people to pray for him. He said, “Pray that God may open a door for (his) message, so that (I) may proclaim the mystery of Christ… Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should”.  (Colossians 4:2-4).

Without for a moment comparing myself to Paul, I have been adopting his prayer as my own. I want the Lord to continue to use me as his witness, to go through the doors of service he opens for me.

Connie and I are joyfully serving as volunteer chaplains with the Oklahoma Jail and Prison Ministry. I’m a Whiz Kids tutor every Tuesday evening as I have been for almost twenty years. There have been opportunities to preach the Word and I look forward to doing that more. I just want to “see to it that (I) complete the work (I) have received in the Lord”.

Retirement is not the end of my ministry. It is merely a change of venue.

— Pastor Randy Faulkner