Monday, March 27, 2023

Entering the City

This weekend begins what we call "Holy Week" in Christian tradition.  It is a week where we remember, reflect, regret and rejoice, all in a matter of a few days.  This week we "enter the city" with Jesus.

Paul Baloche writes ... "Praise is rising, hearts are turning to You ... we turn to You ... hope is stirring, hearts are yearning for You, we long for You, cause when we see You we find strength to face the day, in Your presence, all our fears are washed away ... they're washed away!"  This was the attitude of the crowd on that first Palm Sunday. As Jesus entered the city, people extended their praise and joyful expectations.  But they forgot several things.

The first thing they forgot was that their expectations were not in line with what needed to happen.  Holy Week, in modern tradition, is filled with musicals (please come Sunday for our musical at 10:30am, April 2nd) and egg hunts (please come to the egg hunt at Rane Tree at 11am Saturday, April 1st).  We love these times, and we love the thought of singing "Hosanna, You are the God who saves us!"  But salvation comes with a price ... the cost of our Lord's life, "the perfect lamb who takes away the sins of the world."  Salvation comes with sacrifice.

The second thing they forgot was that God had a plan that was to upend the plan of our enemy, Satan.  Jesus didn't ride in on a white charger, ready to battle the enemy (and the Romans).  He rode in on a donkey, ready to sacrifice Himself, and destroy the plan of the enemy that would take us (what Wesley calls Adam's helpless race) into eternal death.  Jesus' sacrifice and death (at the hands of many shouting Hosanna) destroyed Satan's plan and offered all who believe a way for God to "bring us to Himself (Exodus 19)."

The third thing forgotten, is that Jesus' triumphal entry is both an event and a precursor of how we choose to believe.  Jesus wept over the city He is about to enter, because the people missed the point ... that He brought grace, peace and goodness, all wrapped in the challenge to enter God's plan and leave our plans.  Petra, the musical group, sings a song about the Road to Zion.  In the song, that road is struggle, rugged, sometimes dark but always good.  It is the road into Jerusalem, where throngs shout their wrong-headed view of Jesus and victory.  It is the road to salvation that passes right through the darkness in my heart as Jesus shines light and life on my mustard seed of faith.  It is me, becoming willing to see struggle, toil, discomfort and even pain, as God's discipline, as I leave my plans and enter His plans.  Paul said, in 1 Corinthians 1 ... "For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God."  Hope into hopelessness ... power into our helplessness ... life out of death.  "O Praise the name of the Lord our God ... O praise His name forevermore, for all my days I will sing God's praise, O Lord, O Lord, my God (anastasis = resurrection)!"  Randy

Monday, March 20, 2023

Not Camels

Camels are ugly and cute at the same time.  They are known for being hearty, ugly dispositions, spitting and for being able to tolerate harsh travel conditions.  They can survive up to 15 days without water.  They can go for several months without food.  I guess no food or water might make me irritable and prone to spit at anyone who happens by.

We aren't like that.  We need food and water to survive.  And we need spiritual food and spiritual water if we are to thrive in the harsh spiritual climate of this world.  How do we accomplish this?

Ephesians 3:16-19 is a prayer by Paul for his sheep in Ephesus.  "I pray out of His glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.  And I pray 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, and to know that this love surpasses knowledge - that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."  While my English teacher would call Paul's prayer a "run on sentence," I think it is a beautiful expression of God's desire that His people be filled with God's good things.  How does this happen?

It happens when we don't act like camels and survive long periods without food and water.  It is amazing to me each week, how Nicey takes my meager blog (probably not much nourishment there) and somehow turns it into a meal fit for a king!  She, our music team and the people who do all the little things for worship (including getting it streamed out to the world) make our worship better!  I think all of this happens because these people are seeking nourishment (water and food) during the week, as they send their roots "way down deep into God's love" so that His love comes out when we pray, worship, hang out in Sunday School, and live life.

As we approach Easter, I hope we all ask ourselves if we are trying to just survive in this parched world, taking a sip here and a bite there of God's word, God's teaching, God's message He sends each week and God's people through whom God will bless and grow us.  These are all parts of being rooted and founded in God's reservoir of sustaining goodness ... what Paul prays will "fill us to the measure of all the fullness of God."  Do you want that?  Do you have better plans and more fun things to do each week?  We are not camels and we can't do it without God's sustenance.  So come to the well that never runs dry!  Randy  

Monday, March 13, 2023


Over the fireplace in the parsonage are three plaques that have words on them.  They are "Church, Friends and Family."  The past few weeks have reminded me of these things.  I have encountered many of you at the church.  These encounters have been at odd times ... not at usual service times.  You have been working, preparing and serving.  I appreciate you so much!

I appreciate so much those unsung people that are willing to invest their time to make Abbeville Methodist Church better, stronger and more vital than it should be based on numbers alone.  There are CR workers that make ministry happen each Thursday night ... thank you!  There are folks who feed a hundred children each week by dropping food off at the elementary school ... thank you!  Many people planned and implemented the missions auction ... thank you!  There are the folks who worked behind the scenes so that homecoming would be awesome, fun and prayed-up ... thank you!  There are people who make sure that programs are available for our children and youth ... thank you!  There are folks who make sure we are far too well fed ... thank you!  A group meets each week to pray for needs, hopes, dreams and leaders ... thank you!  We have Sunday School teachers who prepare lessons and tell us the stories of Jesus ... thank you!  Also, people come by and clean the church, fix things that are broken and maintain the property ... thank you!  Amazing musicians meet to practice and plan music for each Sunday ... thank you!  Food is prepared and the kitchen is cleaned during and after each weekly and special event ... thank you!

I think sometimes we get caught up in the nuts and bolts of doing, and we forget we are building something greater and bigger than we could ever imagine.  Wayne Watson says it like this ... "We work the field of souls, together you and I, some fields are blooming now, and other fields are dry.  We are not the same ... but differences aside.  We will work the field of souls ... together you and I."  Important work!  Jesus said, "Wake up and look around ... the fields are already ripe for the harvest (John 4:35)."  We are a family working to bring others into God's family.  And God wants a family!  Friends ... faith ... family!  These things are important!  Randy

Monday, March 6, 2023


One of the most self-focused views of God and what God is doing happens within our expectations.  We pray for what we desire and paint a "my will" version of what God is going to do.  We seek God's will for "my" life, rather than seeking God's will that is the perfect plan for all of us.  We read Scripture and ask what it means to "me," rather than seeking God's will and allowing God to open the very storehouses of heaven!  The box of expectations confines a big God to our small plans.

A week or so back, I went to speak to a church in Enterprise.  It was a great little church with much promise and some really good and gentle people.  I loved the spirit in that church!  But I couldn't help being reminded of a trip Lee and the family made a few years ago.  We lived in Mobile, Alabama and we decided it would be fun to go and see the Boll Weevil Monument (why, I don't know).  We hopped in the car in west Mobile and made the 3 hour trip to see the monument and the splendor of Enterprise, Alabama.  You all know what we found.  Instead of the expected imposing monument that towered over everything else in Enterprise, we drove up to see the "Muggsy Bogues" of all statues, barely taller than myself!  Oh well ... it was a good day with family and Lee got to see the place where her parents were stationed when her dad was in the Army.  Great expectations ... painted pictures ... dreams and reality colliding with a whimper!

Zephaniah prophesied in the period just before Jerusalem is sacked and the Jewish leadership is taken off to Babylon.  Arrogance, greed, false religious leaders and false prophecies of prosperity flourished.  What the people were telling themselves didn't match the warnings given by Zephaniah.  What the people wanted and the inevitable consequences of their behavior did not match.  They all want to live their lives in independence and freedom, but they are submitting to the patterns that bring slavery and, ultimately, exile.  So most of Zephaniah foretells the destruction of the people ... the result of false dreams and expectations.  But then God paints a picture of what life in God's kingdom will be like.  In Zephaniah 3:9-12 God tells them the true dream ... 1) that God will bring His people to a place of unity, 2) that God's people will worship and bring offerings acceptable to God, 3) that God will forgive and not shame the people, though they deserve it, 4) that God will not tolerate the haughty, 5) that the remnant of Israel will have a spirit of meekness and humility, 6) that the people of God who remain (after self-imposed destruction) will trust God.

So ... some questions.  How do your expectations match with the description of what the remnant of God's people will be like?  How do you feel about our worthiness of God's forgiveness?  Are we tolerant of arrogant and haughty leaders?  Do you think humility and meekness are strengths or weaknesses?  Do you trust God's plan?

In the song, I Will Listen, Twlia Paris writes ... "Could it be that He is only waiting there to see, if I will learn to love the dreams, that He has dreamed for me?"  What are you expecting from God?  Are you following your dreams and passions, or are you submitting to God's plans, doing what God dreams in Zephaniah 3:10, "my worshippers ... my scattered people, will bring Me offerings?"   

Monday, February 27, 2023

Homecoming Story

One of my favorite secular singers is Gordon Lightfoot.  He writes a song about longing for home called "Did She Remember My Name."  A line of the song says, "Is the home team still on fire, do they still win all the games, and by the way ... did she mention my name."  It resonates with the serendipity of remembering the fond things about days gone by.

Some of us are thinking about our homecoming this week (10am in the Sanctuary), and we are remembering the stories about what has happened at Abbeville Methodist.  I am sure there are many stories I haven't heard, and a few I have heard.  Jimmy Rane shared with me one day how he came to this church the 1st time.  A few of you have told me you have been here since birth.  Those are fun and fond memories.  But I think God's plan about this congregation has a connection to the past, an assurance in the present and new hope for the future.  And maybe we need to focus on something written in God's word.

1 Peter 2:5 says this: "You are living stones, being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ."  Living stones are living monuments to what God has done, is doing and will do because He is consistent and constant in His love for us.  A spiritual house means we are all about focusing on God's view of the world ... not the world's view of God.  A holy priesthood means we are dedicated and devoted to worship and God's plan for our congregation.  Spiritual sacrifice is a reminder that our worship, our work and our applied-faith is sacrificial and beyond what is convenient and easy.  Acceptable reminds us that what we do needs to have value in God's eyes ... not necessarily the eyes of people.  And all of this is to further the Kingdom of God that has been brought to earth from our savior, Jesus Christ.

Sunday morning we will share a testimony about what God has done here ... we will be living markers of God's blessing and goodness.  We will praise a good and sufficient god because He has been "our help in ages past, our hope for years to come, a shelter from the stormy blast, and our eternal home."  Come ... for God's table has been made ready!  Randy

Sunday, February 19, 2023


I wonder if the young people who are involved in the Asbury awakening(s) are seeing and experiencing something that we talk about, pray about, but have trouble believing.  Here is a testimony from a young lady from the Santa Rosa Beach area (Facebook post).  I won't use her name, but do you think she is experiencing this event in a different kingdom than we think is the "real" world?  What if she is seeing past the facade and into the very presence of God?  Paul said it like this ... "For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (! Corinthians 13:12)."  And earlier in that chapter ... "when the perfect comes, then the partial will pass away (! Corinthians 13:10)."

"I left Santa Rosa Beach yesterday at 4:30 am .. drove 10 hours .. stood in a line for 3 hours in 23 degree snowy weather and then went into Hughes Chapel and worshipped for 4 hours.  There are NO words to describe this experience.  I hate to drive and was unsure if I was capable of a solo 10 hour drive ... but it flew by, like a 3-4 hour trip ... Holy Spirit.  I would have thought after a 10 hour drive I would be spent, but instead I happiny got in line.  3 hours flew by and I met some of the most amazing "line buddies."  The Salvation Army was giving out free pizza, water, snacks and hot chocolate.  There were large space heaters every 10-20 feet along the line.  Surprisingly I was not miserably cold ... Holy Spirit.  When I made it to Hughes Chapel - this is where I am at a total loss for words - but I will try - it felt like a warm blanket wrapped around me while I remained covered in chill bumps most of the time.  The Holy Spirit was palpable in that space ... like NOTHING I HAVE EVER EXPERIENCED!  I kept moving my pick up time because I didn't want to leave ... I can't believe 4 hours passed!  The question that kept coming to mind was ... is this what heaven is like?   The answer ( I think) is heaven will probably be a million times better and that I truly can't imagine.  I didn't meet one local person ... the people were coming there from all over the world!  I would do this every day if possible ... it was such a privilege to experience!"

The mirror and the dim view was pulled back for a moment.  Through prayer, confession, repentance she was both known and knowing.  The unseen became seen and reality was changed forever.  On earth, as it is in heaven!  Lord ... make it so!  Randy

Saturday, February 11, 2023

We Want That!

Sunday I talked about the amazing things happening at Asbury College, also spilling over to the Seminary.  I am always reluctant to call things like this a Revival.  This is because Revival is something routine, normal and event-related in our Southern vernacular.  WE plan and hold a Revival.  What is happening at Asbury College and Seminary is more like a sleeping giant awakening from slumber, ready to take Jesus into this fallen world.

When we read this story, I think we all say "We want that here!"  I do too!  I want God's Spirit to enter every heart, every home, every life and every community.  I want all of us to get out of God's way, and get into what God is doing.  I want us to stop listening to the nonsense of "Find your/my purpose" and start being open to "Following God's purpose."  All of these things ... good things for sure ... require something I speak about when I go out to our local congregations and talk about what is happening in God's Church.  It is getting to the point, I am talking less about the Global Methodist Church and more preaching that we must be ready to give the church back to the Jesus that gives it power, presence, purpose and persistence!  How do we give the Church back to Jesus?

In Seminary this subject is called Ecclesiology.  It is the doctrine of the Church, the Ecclesia ... those who are called-out.  The church, without Jesus is powerless, presenceless, purposeless and temporary ... "Upon this rock (the confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God) I will build my Church (Matthew 16:18)!"  The simple truth built into this short statement is ... we must believe what Jesus said about Himself!  Not our reconstruction of Jesus from whatever perspective we like or have chosen for ourselves.  Tha ad campaign says, "He gets us!"  I applaud the desire to tell people from all walks of life that they can trust and have a relationship with Jesus.  But I hope we are not domesticating Jesus into our pal who is here to be all about us.  Jesus expressed love to all he met ... but sometimes that love was pretty tough!  He called the church leadership of His time vipers and whitewashed tombs.  He called a woman who was guilty of adultery to "Go and sin no more."  He told us that if we called Him our Lord and savior we would be persecuted, possibly homeless, at odds with our families, challenged by the authorities, and (John the Baptist as an example) even killed.  He said we must give up our life to save it and if we try to save our life we will lose it.  So ... I ask you ... do you still want that?

I do ... and I hope I am willing to offer up to God what will make this happen.  So I leave us today with a prayer ... "Lord ... I am no longer my own but yours.  Put me to what you will.  Place me with whom you will. Put me to doing.  Put me to suffering.  Let me be put to work for you, or set aside for you ... praised for you or criticized for you.  Let me be full. Let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing.  I freely and full sacrifice all things to your glory and service.  And now, O Wonderful and Holy God, Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer.  You are mine and I am yours ... so be it! And the covenant I have made on earth, let it also be made in heaven.  Amen."  All of my Wesleyan's should know this Covenant Prayer of John Wesley.  Let it be ours, for all of us "who want that!"