For the Christ follower, this week leading up to Easter, is one of the most exciting times of the year. In our Bibles, we read the 1st hand accounts in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John from the apostles who walked the roads with Jesus Of Nazareth over this Holy Week. When you read their accounts, feelings of amazement and wonder drip... and ooze... from the pages. These men were experiencing something awe inspiring that would change the trajectory of their lives!

Back in 2012, I took part in a music writing collective hosted by singer / songwriter Aaron Ivey, from a church called the Austin Stone. Back then, he did something every year called the 7in7 challenge. The idea behind it, was that over a seven day period you were to challenge yourself to write seven songs. Even further, in those same seven days, you were to open yourself up and post those songs to social media platforms for all the world to hear. Now, eleven years later, one of the songs I wrote: The Mystery of Christ: A Benediction has been listened to approximately 14 times! Yes, staggering to take in, I know... 

I chose to tackle the project by writing seven songs inspired from the book of Ephesians. This was seventh song, the last one written for the challenge. Before I share it with you, I want you to look at a couple verses spoken by Paul the apostle when he prays: 

I pray that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord's holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 And to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:17-19  

What a prayer! He's saying, "I'm praying that you can comprehend something that is incomprehensible, that passes knowledge. I want you to know something that's impossible for you to know."  You can't know it unless God reveals it to you. And the only way we get that revelation is in the cross. Can you picture it?

Width and length go left and right... it's horizontal; depth and height go up and down...it's vertical. Can you see it? It's a picture of the love of God in the cross of Jesus Christ! Deeper and wider than we can ever possibly know! Yet, simple and clear enough to be accessible to every man, woman, and child! What a beautiful mystery!

This Good Friday... this Easter, I pray that you might understand; the mystery of Christ
I pray That you might find it beautiful; The mystery of Christ.  

Praise be to God for this indescribable gift!
- Pastor Milo 

I pray that as I kneel before the Father of all things;
His Spirit might resonate with you.   
I pray that he might strengthen you with power from The Lord;  
That Christ may dwell in your hearts  

That you might understand; the mystery of Christ
That you might find it beautiful; the mystery of Christ   

I pray that you'll be rooted and grounded in love; 
Show mercy to your fellow man.  
I pray that you'll have boldness and confidence in God; 
Even when you can't hear His voice.

That you might understand; the mystery of Christ
That you might find it beautiful; the mystery of Christ   

(c) Milo Wilson, 2012


I had waited too long. That was particularly and painfully clear, now that we crested the hill into an area where the sun had been shining all day. It was too late in the season, and too warm of a day for this ride to go very well. We were snow biking, a fairly new sport built around mountain bikes with incredibly oversized tires... designed to ride over the top of the snow, nicknamed: "Fat Bikes." 

My brother-in law had been inviting me to take an afternoon off all winter long and join him on the trail, and I had procrastinated right up until the very end. The snow melt was on in full force, and what was left for a base on the hard snow packed trail was quickly deteriorating. With 60 degree weather forecasted for all of the following week, this was definitely the last fat bike / snow biking day of the year. We had to ride... today.

Fat biking trails are groomed in the winter, much like cross country skiing trails. There is a machine that comes through the network of paths that tamps down the snow, and gives it a solid 4-6 inch frozen base that ranges from 24-36 inches wide. If you wait too long like I did however, the melt narrows the trail tighter and tighter, until all that is left is a 8-12 inch wide balance beam of ice... 

I recently read a chapter in David Jeremiah's "Shelter in God," about the North Yungas Road. It's a mountain highway in Bolivia that offers drivers breathtaking views of the Andes mountains as it descends 11,000 ft from the mountains into the adjoining rainforest. The North Yungas road is not famous for the scenery however. It is famous for danger. In fact, that particular stretch of highway has earned the terrifying nickname in recent years: "Death Road."

What makes it so dangerous? For one thing, the road is unpaved, which forces drivers to ascend and descend the mountain on nothing more than loose gravel. Also, the road is only 12 feet wide. The entire road. In the United States, 12 feet is the current standard for a single lane of traffic on our interstate highways. A single lane! On my fat bike ride, I was constantly falling or sliding off of the 10-12 inch wide base, and walking the bike because of the ridiculously narrow trail, often landing quite uncomfortably on the top bar of my bike frame. I had definitely waited too long. This wasn't what I signed up for. This trail wasn't fun to ride today, to be sure. In fact, it was downright painful.  

And on the North Yungas Road, while the entire road is only 10-12 feet wide, it negotiates around hairpin turns and dangerously steep grades with what is truly the most terrifying factor of all: the lack of guardrails. There are no barriers, fences, or barricades to keep drives from plunging up to 15,000 ft to the valley below. In contrast to my silly bike adventure, the North Yungas road is not just uncomfortable, or painful. It's tragic. Up to 300 people will lose their lives this year alone, on Death Road.

In many ways, our lives can be a lot like this road. There are days the road isn't any fun to travel. We can experience breathtaking views and peaks of joy, but we can also experience terrifying days through dangerous descents. On top of that for many, this pandemic, this Covid-19 crisis was a removing of the guardrails from the sides of the road. And yet, the road of life continues on.... 

What lies ahead will rise to many more peaks, and navigate through many more valleys. Fellow passengers will offer deep friendships, and companionship for the journey. For those engaged in biblical community, we will laugh together and we will weep together; but we will seek solace and refuge in Christ... the author and finisher of our faith. 

All in all, my bike ride was a success. After the sun went down, and the temperature dropped, we were able to find a frozen loop of trail to ride by the light of our headlamps, with glint of moonlight coming through the tree branches high above. The day's events In total are a peaceful memory for me now. A moment of stillness and beauty in the midst of greater chaos and concern. I was reminded Jesus is always my refuge and strength! He is the place of stillness and peace I can go to, when the road of life is difficult to navigate.

Perhaps the words of Pastor David Jeremiah summarizing The words of King David in Psalm 30 could encourage you today like they did me? Here's how he put it: 

"Lord, I've been taken by surprise. Life has thrown me a curve, and its a hard thing for me to cope with. Even so, I praise Your blessed name. Whatever comes my way, in sickness and in health, in joy or in sorrow, I will stubbornly and confidently praise your name! You are my refuge."

May you find rest in the Lord today. If you need encouragement for the journey, if you need a companion for the trail. Please let us know. I'd love to help. 

Pastor Milo

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Hello, My name is Aaron Richbart, and I am one of the Elders here at Randall Church... although I'll admit you probably haven't seen me in a while. I suppose you could say I've been placed on "special assignment." About a year ago, I became part of the team tasked by Pastor Milo and the Elder Board at Randall to pursue a church re-plant effort in Clarence Hollow, just a few miles down the road from where Rebecca and I live. 
 
This coming Sunday, if you are at Randall, you will have the privilege to hear again from Jonathan Boudmer, the Planting Pastor of what has become "Fieldstone Church." You will hear how things are beginning to pick up speed for us in Clarence Hollow, and how God has continued to open doors for us here, with one answered prayer after another, after another, after another!

I now spend many of my "special assignment" hours side by side with Pastor Jonathan on an on-going basis. As I interact, I am very encouraged by the ways I have already seen he and his wife, Laura pour themselves into this community. They purchased their first home this fall, and moved their kids into a different elementary school in order to be closer to the target location. They go fishing with friends at the town park, and build relationships at the farmers market. 

I encourage you to listen intently to Pastor Jonathan, particularly if you live in the Clarence zip code, or if you the type of person who is willing to be spiritually challenged in new ways. Listen close, because we still need some of you to take the leap of faith and come on "special assignment" with us... even if its for a short while. I say this with the full endorsement of Pastor Milo and the Randall elders, because we believe that God called our church to facilitate something new in Clarence. Now we get to see it all come together!

Come and join us. Fieldstone Church wants to help the people of Clarence navigate life with God. We have preview services coming up in the Brickhall. It's a perfect opportunity to check things out. Look for me. I'll be the really excited guy that wants to greet you when you come in!

Aaron Richbart 
"Special Assignment Elder"
Randall Church 
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Who is the church for? 
Have you ever asked yourself this question?

When people find out that I am a Pastor, they always ask where the church is located, and comment on the facility if they have been by the place. The second question that almost always follows is something like: Who comes to your church? Or, more specifically: "Are there any people at your church that look like me?" And finally: "Is your church a place where I would be accepted?"

Andy Stanley, author of "Deep and Wide" and founding Pastor of Northpoint Church in Atlanta Georgia declares that he unashamedly wanted to create a church where unchurched people love to attend. His goal is to aim in worship to get as many people through the doors of the church as possible so that they may hear what it means to have a relationship with Jesus. 

Stanley leads a church that is without question "attractional" in its approach to drawing people to their church every weekend, and can appear on the surface to become Biblically shallow in doing so.  "Deep and Wide" however, is a good read that talks about some of the ways his church is being very intentional about creating environments where true life change occurs, and deep rooted Biblical discipleship happens. Pretty exciting stuff. Pretty specific stuff however, for the mega-churches of America. Pretty different from our context here in Buffalo, NY.

So, to ask the question again, with our local church context in mind... Who is the church for? Who are we trying to reach? Who are we pinpointing to help you "find your place?"

Where we differ from Stanley, who has a primary focus on the unbeliever, is that we believe the exclusive purpose of the church Is to glorify God, and make disciples. We must, above all else, be certain to  make everything we do about Him! Who is the church for? Why, its for Jesus Christ!

We don't believe it's purpose is to make the spiritual seeker feel comfortable, and unchallenged in their current state. Jesus warns his followers, that the Gospel will cause division. The Message of Christ will require a choice: to follow or to turn away. You cannot be neutral about Jesus. You're either for Him or against Him. You either follow Him or you oppose Him. He will not allow you to be indecisive.

That said, I believe churches should be both theologically sound, and culturally relevant. We must not be a stumbling block to those who would hear and respond to God's greatest gift. Hardly a month goes by without another article being written analyzing who is leaving the faith and why. While there is no one-size-all answer for why people reject Jesus, a recent article by Doug Ponder at Christianity.com listed Religious Hypocrisy (when Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle) and Gospel Inoculation (when a person thinks they’ve heard the gospel and rejected it, when in reality what they rejected was not the gospel but a dead, false, form of the real thing) as the primary barriers for those far from Christ.

Let us be a people who keep the main thing, the main thing. We will always preach Christ, crucified. We will however, also be intentional about rejecting religious hypocrisy and calling out a counterfeit Gospel... just like Christ did. This will always be a bit of a balancing act, but may we never become the barrier, for those seeking Christ. May all who would come to Him, be motivated to do so! May we not be a hindered effort to that calling. That, is really who the church is for! 

Just as I am, though tossed about 
With many a conflict, many a doubt 
Fighting and fears within without 
O Lamb of God, I come, I come 

Just as I am, and waiting not 
To rid my soul of one dark blot 
To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot 
O Lamb of God, I come, I come

- Pastor Milo
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We are not alone. But we are lonely. As this pandemic has gone on, I have found myself making many more phone calls, and scheduling many more zoom meetings with other Pastors than I would typically have had in a month's time. It's been a lonely season if I'm being honest. And it's been really good to be able to talk it out with other vocational ministers. The encouragement shared mutually, has been a lifeline in stormy seas.  

Pastors have been pulled in every direction it feels like. We've had to make tough decisions; knowing that we have far too little information to make them with. We've been doing our best to care for our people well, knowing that we have had far too little contact with them to do it with. No matter what, it feels like we will come up short. 

Pray for your Pastor(s) would you? If you are part of our congregation here at Randall Church... please pray for us. Pray for our leadership team and our elder board that we would be illuminated by daily time in God's Word to step bravely forward with a Scriptural lamp for our feet and a light for our path. If you are a part of another worship expression of the body of Christ; pray for your Pastor too!

We are lonely. But we are not alone. Pray that there will be a growing number of Pastors and Christian organizational leaders that find ways to unite and support one another. I do believe, just like many first responders in a crisis will experience a crushing wave of fatigue after running on adrenaline for an extended time; that Pastors and Chaplains should expect the same wave to crash into us as well.

Pray for your Pastor(s) would you? This role in ministry is given to those who have been called to shepherd the flock. Pray that today, this feeble shepherd would be cared for by the Great Shepherd; Jesus Christ. Surely I'm with you always. Even to the very end of the age.

We are lonely. But we are not alone.
May we finish strong!

- Pastor Milo

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