Thursday, January 20, 2011


“Go ye therefore…” (Matthew 28:19a)

God blessed me by calling me to an awesome church in July of 2010. If you know me, you know I love to preach. I love to preach in church, but I love to preach inside our local detention center as well. I had prayed that when God called me to a church he would call me to one that would support my work in jail ministry. My church supported me from the beginning by giving up one night each month for me to preach in jail. Our schedule for January (no evening services) has offered me even more opportunity. I truly believe it is our call and duty not just as pastors and preachers but as any born-again follower of Christ to frequently share the Gospel. It may be one-on-one; it may be in some type of group setting. I do not believe God intended anybody to be bench-warmers on his team.

One of my brothers in jail ministry is a guy named Mark. Mark’s primary role is what we call “bean-hole” ministry. Our detention center has 8 cell blocks: 6 for men and 2 for women. Each cell block has a day room then individual cells. Each cell has a small flap for putting food trays through, as does the main door from the day room into the halls of the facility. This little flap about waist height is the “bean-hole” in jail vernacular.

Each week Mark makes his rounds to the bean-holes of the male cellblocks. He hands out Bibles, Christian literature, listens to inmate concerns and prays with inmates. Most importantly, through that small flap in a large metal door, he shares the Gospel. Mark feels a real call on his life to witness for Jesus in that way. He’s a humble guy, and he never brags on himself, but he is an inspiration to me. He is a fired up soul-winning witness for the Lord Jesus Christ. He trained me on bean-hole procedure and from time to time I get to fill in for him or work side by side with him. He is one of God’s tools in Garland County Jail Ministry.

Just this past Wednesday, Mark and I started co-teaching a 4 week study on witnessing at my church. Mark designed the curriculum which he calls S.O.W. (Society of Witnesses) for Jesus. We are both praying he will have the opportunity to present it to several other churches and ministries. One of the most important words Mark spoke about in the first session was, “Go.” It’s the first word in the Great Commission and something Jesus calls all of his disciples to go.

Now I’m not telling you that you have to go around the world to some third-world country where there is not air-conditioning, indoor plumbing or sophisticated technology. I’m not even saying you have to go to jail or prison. I am saying that if you are a true follower of Jesus then he has a mission for you to GO somewhere. Maybe it’s just to someone in your family, or your workplace, or that guy in front of you at Wal-Mart. Maybe it is to somewhere in Northern Africa where your life will be in danger for merely uttering the name, “Jesus.” I can’t tell you where to go, that’s between you and Jesus. I can tell you this: you need to go wherever he leads.

I had the privilege to go into one of the two large felony cellblocks of our local detention center just last Sunday. All 32 men in it opted to go to church, and they were allowed out of lockdown into the dayroom to worship the Lord Jesus Christ. As the deputies made their rounds unlocking cells and letting inmates out one of the deputies pulled me aside (a great young man I know personally) and said, “Randy, there are going to be a lot of guys out in here with you. Are you okay with that?” I just smiled and said, “Sure.”

It’s a cellblock where they have had problems before. I was not okay because I had a shank tucked away in my sock and was ready to take on the biggest, baddest dude in the block. No, I was okay because I had the Holy Spirit on my side, and he has never allowed one of our volunteers to be injured.

We started as usual with a series of songs, and the men’s voices echoed strangely in the large cavern of concrete. It was stripped down, heartfelt and real. I preached from Colossians chapter 3 on putting off the old and putting on the new. The men listened, some even asked questions, or offered some positive comments. At the end, when I gave an invitation, the Holy Spirit led two men to come before Jesus and surrender their lives to him – not because I am a good preacher…not because I know the Bible well…not because of pretty music.

It was because Jesus had chosen these two men, and he had chosen me and told me to, “Go.” One word. One powerful command. Powerful and eternal results. Will you go to?

Randy Alan

Politically Incorrect: LIFE

I started a new sermon series this past week called "Politically Incorrect." I will be addressing several topics that are clearly addressed in God's word but that have become taboo in many churches because they are not politically correct. This past Sunday was Sanctity of Life Sunday so I began with the top of life and how the Bible addresses life in both areas where it is under attack: at conception (through abortion) and in it's latter days (through euthanasia."

Politically Incorrect: LIFE


Monday, January 10, 2011

Where Do We Go From Here?

My sermon from Sunday, Jan 9th concerning the direction of the church:

Where Do We Go From Here?

Review: The Almighty Bible - Exodus

A few weeks back I got into a somewhat heated discussion with the folks over at Crosstalk Blog concerning a new, illustrated edition of the Bible known as “The Almighty Bible.” The publishers of this work are printing it in books, and currently have Genesis and Exodus available. The warden of Crosstalk, Ingrid Schlueter, whom I greatly respect for her discernment ministry, made a unilateral condemnation of The Almighty Bible because it is an “edited” text and features colorful illustrations to appeal to a tween-teen demographic. After exploring the publication’s website, I found nothing objectionable and after posting as much on Crosstalk found myself under friendly fire from some of my fellow discerners.

Shortly after the exchange I received a personal note on my facebook page from The Almighty Bible’s PR man Dan Cordie:

Hello Randy,

I would like to thank you for taking supportive approach towards The Almighty Bible's goal of connecting with a new generation of Bible readers on the CrossTalk Blog.

Exodus just arrived in our office this past Tuesday. If you will send me your address I would love to send out a copy to you.

Thanks again ,

I promplty replied that I’d love a copy and a few days later I receved a fresh new copy of Exodus in the mail. I set out to closely examine the book and also to see how Hannah, my 5 year old, reacted to it. She is well under the targeted age, but she is a sharp girl and I thought she would be a good judge of how appealing it was.

First let me confess this. As I sit here on my couch typing this, enjoying a day off because of 5 ½ inches of snow we received over the last day, my daughter is perusing Exodus. When I pulled it out to get ready to write this review she said, “Oh wow Dad, Exodus! Can I look at it? I loved that book.” After flipping through it, she returned it to me and asked, “When are we going to order Genesis?” I had told her we would get it when we finished Exodus. She loved it.

Of course Hannah is not capable of discerning the Biblical accuracy of the book. I just wanted to share her kid level gut response. We read it at bedtime over a couple of weeks and she looked forwared to it each day.

My purpose in exploring the book was to determine if it was a watering down of God’s word and a heretical insult to the Holy Scriptures. In brief, I found it to be nothing of the sort. I give it my highest recommendation for the reasons I’ll detail below.

First, The Almighty Bible is based on the WEB (World English Bible) translation. This is a non-copyrighted modern translation of the Scriptures that sticks to a literal interpretation. One of its distinguishing characteristics is that it renders the tetragrammatron (YHWH) as Yahweh rather than the all caps LORD found in most Bible translations. The official website ( ) is a wonderful Bible study resource. I’m assuming the publishers chose this particular translation for two reasons: (1) as previously stated it is not copyrighted so no royalties would have to be paid keeping production costs lower, and (2) it is a reliable and accurate modern English translation.

Each page offers colorful illustrations that are good quality (as good if not a little better than that in a typical graphic novel) with a condensed text at the bottom of each page. The condensed text accurately portrays the material that is summarized. The actual scripture reference is listed in case you want to explore further details on that particular section.

One of my favorite things is that at the end of the book detailed illustrations are included of the route of the Exodus, of the Tabernacle and all the items contained inside the Tabernacle. These are great tools not just for young people, but for the more mature as well.

Reading through a particular section was especially suited to Hannah’s attention span, and the illustrations held her attention while I read the text. We were even able to work on her “sight words” from school in several areas as she helped me read (she is a kindergartener). Another particular highlight was the section on the Ten Commandments and how they were simply explained.

Hannah learned a great deal, with key points being the title of the book and it’s meaning, who Moses was, who Pharaoh was, God’s name Yahweh, the Ten Commandments and about other things such as manna. Again I offer it my highest recommendation, adding only that I feel it has broader appeal beyond the particular demographic that the publishers shot for. I believe it generates interest in the Bible, builds a great foundation of Biblical teaching and is a strong visual tool for communicating the power of God’s Word.

Does it denigrate or dishonor the Holy Scriptures in any way? Absolutely not! After thoroughly studying the book I find it constructed with a high regard for the authority, infallibility, inspiration and love of God’s word. It clocks in at 150 pages, is divided into eleven chapters, each averaging about 20 pages. Each page features several colorful illustrations and the condensed text in a large font at the bottom averaging about 25 words per page. Hannah and I read one section per night which took around 5 minutes but could be more depending on how much discussion ensued.

This book is a gateway into the truths and wonder of the greatest book ever written. I commend the publishers for their work. Please check out their website at . I think you will be impressed as well.

Randy Alan

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Off With The Old, On With The New

First sermon for 2011 - have you thought about your goals for the New Year? Have you written down some resolutions? Have you asked God what he would have you do in the year ahead? Check out my sermon for the New Year:

"Off With The Old, On With The New"

Down by the River

The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there he placed the man whom He had formed. Out of the ground the LORD God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers. (Genesis 2:8-10 NASB)

Then he brought me back to the door of the house; and behold, water was flowing from under the threshold of the house toward the east; for the house faced east. And the water was flowing down from under, from the right side of the house, from south of the altar…Now when I had returned, behold, on the bank of the river there were many trees on the one side and on the other…By the river on its bank, on one side and on the other, will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither and their fruit will not fail. They will bear every month because their water flows from the sanctuary, and their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing. (Ezekiel 47:1; 7; 12 NASB)

Then he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. On either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. (Revelation 22:1-2 NASB)

As I study God’s word, one of the things that impress me most is the consistency and unity it possesses. No doubt, only the inspiration of God himself could have created the most marvelous book ever written. If you have never read the entirety of God’s word then you are missing some true revelations from the Creator of all things. I call them “Aha!” moments.

Honestly in my Bible reading this morning I was struggling through the final chapters of Ezekiel. In the conclusion of that book you will find a seemingly endless series of measurements concerning the temple and God’s city. I became lost in the sequence of cubit after cubit after cubit. The temptation is to glance through such readings and move onto what would appear to be more exciting stuff. However, in the midst of that I fell into Ezekiel 47 and the image of the river.

I will confess I have a fear of water. I’m not sure how this happened since my dad was a Navy man for 20 years and has sailed to 64 different countries. I can only conclude it is not genetic. I remember my first big water experience a few years back as I floated the Caddo River with my church youth group. My canoe partner was my wife and although she does not possess the same fear of water, neither of us had ever been in a canoe before. I felt blessed to survive with my life and my marriage in tact and vowed to never do it again.

However, I find peace in the imagery of the river in God’s word. This river mentioned in Genesis itself has no name, although as it splits into four branches we find those names. Ezekiel does not give us a name, but only an origin for it. Only in Revelation do we receive a hint of what it might be called. Perhaps we can best label it the River of God or the River of Life. Its waters are so powerful that the trees that stand beside it never whither but bear fruit year round. Indeed, one must assume that the very Tree of Life is nourished from the waters of this River of Life.

In reflecting on the River of Life in Genesis, Ezekiel and Revelation, I find the perfection of God’s plan for His creation. He formed paradise in the Garden of Eden, and a beautiful river flowed through it. During the Babylonian captivity, God revealed a vision to the prophet Ezekiel that showed a restoration of His people, and in the midst of the city, coming from the temple was that beautiful river again. Finally, in the visions God gave to the Apostle John in Revelation, he showed him the restored river and trees – trees that bear fruit for healing.

God’s book is an epic of paradise created, paradise lost, paradise promised and paradise restored. The sin of man wrecked paradise. God promises us a return to paradise and one day that paradise will exist again when God renews His creation.

I believe we can all often relate to the words of the Psalmist from Psalm 137 –

By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down and wept,
When we remembered Zion,
Upon the willows in the midst of it
We hung our harps.
(Psalm 137:1-2 NASB)

Surely the exiled Psalmist focused on the rivers of his homeland, perhaps the Jordan itself. As he set by the river as a captive, the last thing he felt like doing was singing a song of praise and exultation. Indeed, he hung up his harp and wept. The same sentiments fill us at times as we long for the deliverance of God from the iniquities of the world in which we live. But there, by the river, even the river of captivity, we must sing praises to God. I am reminded of how Ezekiel’s call and commission came as he sat by that very river of captivity one day:

Now it came about in the thirtieth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God. (Ezekiel 1:1 NASB)

We may be stuck by the figurative “River of Chebar” right now, but one day we will stand on the shores of the River of Life. Until then, we should take our harps down, tune them and play songs of rejoicing for the promise God has given us of that great day. Will you meet me down by the river?

Randy Alan