Author Archives: Dr. Randy Johnson

Reach • Devotion #6: Snatching

For the last couple of weeks, I have started my day by reading the Book of Jude. Normally, I read through a section and move forward, but I found a freshness in Jude that caught my attention.

It is only 25 verses, but it is rich with history, prophecy, object lessons, and practicality. Several things jumped out to me.

Paul’s opening greeting of his books regularly says, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Jude also greets with “peace” but says mercy instead of grace and adds love. “Mercy, peace, and love” (verse 2) bring a new perspective. 

In verse 3, he appeals us to “contend for the faith.” I do definitely see how this relates to our reach theme this week (or even grow), but a phrase that shows up later hit me harder.

Jude bluntly says that Jesus brought the people out of Egypt (verse 5). He references “angels who did not stay within their own position of authority” (verse 6), Sodom and Gomorrah (verse 7), “the archangel Michael contending with the devil” over the body of Moses (verse 9), Cain, Balaam and Korah (verse 11).

I loved the analogies he uses in verses 12-13: “waterless clouds swept along by winds” and “fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted.” He also references “wild waves” and “wandering stars.”

He refers to Enoch as a prophet and references the Lord coming with ten thousand of His holy ones (verse 14). I imagine this is the reference for the song, “He Could Have Called Ten Thousand Angels.”

As I have had my heart jump so many times in the Book of Jude, I then was hit with verses 22-23, “And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.” The phrase “snatching them out of the fire” jumped out to me. Jude already referred to “eternal fire” (verse 7) and “utter darkness has been reserved forever” (verse 13), but the word “snatch” challenged me.

Have you ever burned yourself on the oven or stove? It is horrible. We are proactive in making sure our children do not get burned. Yet, we have loved ones headed into the fire while we sit back and watch. We need to snatch them out of the fire.

By the way, this word “snatch” is also used twice in John 10:27-29, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” As followers of Christ, we are safe, but what about those around us?

We need to fight for others. We need to snatch them out of the fire. I am challenged by the heart of Charles Spurgeon, “If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for.”

Who are you reaching out to so you may snatch them out of the fire?

Reach • Devotion #4: Gandhi’s non-Testimony

Mahatma Gandhi has been quoted as having said, “Carefully watch your thoughts, for they become your words. Manage and watch your words, for they will become your actions. Consider and judge your actions, for they have become your habits. Acknowledge and watch your habits, for they shall become your values. Understand and embrace your values, for they become your destiny.” It is great advice, but I have always wondered about Gandhi’s destiny.

Heritage Baptist Church (Waxahachie, Texas) posted an article about Gandhi’s spiritual journey. It said that missionary E. Stanley Jones once met with Gandhi. Jones asked Gandhi, “Mr. Gandhi, though you quote the words of Christ often, why is that you appear to so adamantly reject becoming His follower?”

Gandhi replied, “Oh, I don’t reject your Christ. I love your Christ. It’s just that so many of you Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

It appears that when Gandhi was practicing law in South Africa, he appreciated the teachings of Jesus and decided to attend Church. He had seriously considered becoming a Christian, but an elder of the Church refused for him to enter the building. The elder said, “There’s no room for Kaffirs [an insulting term for a black African] in this church. Get out of here, or I’ll have my assistants throw you down the steps.” Gandhi turned away, physically and spiritually. 

Gandhi, a Hindu, admired Jesus and often quoted from the Sermon on the Mount. He lived a good life and was a good example of humility. Hopefully, he was able to look past “Christians” and see Jesus for who He truly is and what He did for us.

I do not know Gandhi’s destiny, but I know no one is able to earn it. It is a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 6:23) that is not based on morality. Romans 10:9 gives us what defines a Christian, “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

We, as Christians, need to be reminded that our lives might be the only Bible some people read.

Most people know John 3:16. It is interesting to grasp 1 John 3:16, “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.”
God loves us and expects us to love Him. One way to show Him love is to love others. As Jesus said, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35).

Reach • Devotion #3: Marco Polo

I remember every summer playing a game in our swimming pool called “Marco Polo.” You probably remember the game, too. One person closes their eyes and yells, “Marco.” Everyone else has to respond, “Polo.” If they caught someone (touched them), then that person was “it.” They had to be the one searching. All I knew was that Marco Polo was a famous explorer.

It appears his father was a traveler, too. National Geographic (May 2001) reported that Marco’s dad and uncle traveled to Mongolia (part of modern-day China) in 1260 (I did not realize the game “Marco Polo” may go back that far). The men met with their emperor (Kublai Khan), who expressed an interest in Christianity. The emperor sent a letter back with them to the Pope requesting as many as 100 wise men to spread the Gospel among his subjects.

It took the brothers three years to get back home. Two years later, they set out to return to Mongolia. They did not have 100 missionaries with them. The “Church” felt it could only spare two men, and even those two turned back shortly into their journey.

I wonder what would have happened to China if “we,” as the Church, would have gone to Mongolia in the 1200s?

What opportunities are we missing or even ignoring today?

Jesus is speaking in Matthew 9:37-38 where we read, “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”

All of us are “called” and challenged to share the Gospel. It may be overseas, at a large church event, or in the prisons, but it is also in our daily walk with whomever Jesus places around us.

Lesson Nineteen • Devotion #2: Rejoice

Paul has just written his letter about the comfort of God, proclaiming Christ alone, the judgment seat of Christ, being a new creation, being a cheerful giver, and dealing with a thorn in the flesh. As he closes the letter out, he has an important reminder. In 2 Corinthians 13:11, he says, “Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.” It is so quick, many miss it. He says, “Finally, brothers, rejoice.”It is a complete sentence. He has dealt with a variety of topics but comes back to rejoicing. 

Author J. I. Packer has written, “Even when we cannot see the why and wherefore of God’s dealings, we know that there is love in and behind them, and so we can rejoice always.” We who know and trust God have every reason to rejoice. 

In his two letters to the Corinthians, Paul uses the word “rejoice” eleven times. It is an important attribute and concept to him and for believers. We need more of it. He also uses the word “rejoice” some eighteen times in his other letters. The man suffered often, yet focused on rejoicing.

“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.” Philippians 3:1

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Philippians 4:4

“Rejoice always.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16

“But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.” 1 Peter 4:13

I am not sure if you have heard of John Calvin from the 1500s. He was a theologian who wrote a classic entitled “Institutes” and is attributed to the doctrine known as Calvinism. He was very intelligent and analytical; therefore, perceived as dry, emotionless, impersonal, and cold. No matter how he may have appeared outwardly, I thoroughly appreciate his statement, “There is not one blade of grass, there is no color in this world that is not intended to make us rejoice.”

Pause and smell the roses. Look at the details of nature. See how intricate a blade of grass stands (Yes, watch grass grow). Notice the leaves with their different shapes, sizes, designs, and colors. I love the vibrant colors of flowers as some need full sun while others handle the shade. All of nature speaks of God’s “eternal power and divine nature” (Romans 1:20). The beauty of nature causes many responses and one of them is to rejoice!

Lesson Eighteen • Devotion #4: Outcome

Everyone goes through struggles. Covid-19 brought about a new kind of trial or challenge with the restrictions and confinement that came along with it. This pandemic brought physical, financial, emotional, and spiritual turmoil to the forefront of our lives.

In 2 Corinthians 12:7, Paul is not facing a pandemic but he has a very real challenge, “So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.” Paul had a thorn in the flesh. It brought physical, emotional, and spiritual turmoil. Paul became a better man of God because of it.

I heard someone joke that the “lock-down” of Covid-19 will make us “a chunk, a hunk, a drunk, or a monk.” I found it humorous, but there is a deeper aspect involved. When struggles come, how do we handle them?

Some people drown their sorrows in “comfort food.” They binge-watch a TV series while emptying the cabinets. Being locked down during the COVID did not help their waistline. Philippians 3:18-20 warns, “For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.” The phrase “their god is their belly” is very strong and can be very unsettling. It challenges me.

Some have taken advantage of the “downtime” by exercising. Instead of putting on the pounds, they have focused on getting healthier. This is good, but 1 Timothy 4:8 reminds us, “For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” Being healthy is important, but our identity and satisfaction in life should not come from the mirror.

It is sad to realize that this pandemic has become an excuse for people to escape their problems with some “controlling” substances. The Bible has a lot to say about the abuse of alcohol, but there are other drugs that often take one down the wrong path. Ephesians 5:18 commands, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit.” Proverbs 20:1 adds, “Wine is a mocker, strong drink a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise.” Chose the Spirit over the spirits.

Finally, during a quarantine, there is the choice of turning to Jesus. James 1:2-4 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” It seems odd to rejoice over difficult times, but they help us become stronger. Trials can deepen our faith. They can be used to give hope to others who have not turned to the Lord.

I am not asking you to become a monk, but a daily focus and commitment on the Lord is the answer to a full life of meaning, value, and purpose.

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