Thursday, August 29, 2013


Last week was sad for the Greene family.  One of our little cats, Velcro, left this world.  We had owned her for 15 years and she had been a part of the family as we lived in the Montgomery area and in the Florida panhandle.  When I laid her to rest I told God "She was a good cat ... I know you will take care of her better than we did ... thanks for letting us share life with her."

You might ask, "How did she get her name?"  It was pretty simple.  When she was a baby she was clingy and when you tried to put her down her little claws would grab your shirt like Velcro.  Either my daughter or my son (can't remember which) said, she is Velcro.  The name (and the cat) stuck. She was named for what she did.

Thinking about this got me kind of edgy.  We named Velcro for how she did life.  If God gave me a name, what would it be?  I shudder to think about all the negative possibilities.  But there is (as usual) a good story to understand that God sees us not as we are but as He can transform us.  In Judges 6:12 we find Gideon hunkering down in a wine press.  He is threshing wheat to keep it from the Midianites.  God sees him hiding, operating in secret, scurrying through the shadows and keeping a low profile.  How does God address him?  "The Lord is with you mighty warrior!"  He is not doing warrior things and raising his sword against the enemy ... he is in hiding.  Yet God sees something in him that calls him to 1) view himself differently, 2) see a vision for his people and 3) leave the threshing floor and go into battle to defeat the enemy.

I like this story!  I am glad God sees what I can be and leads me to what the song calls "Higher Ground."  I know Velcro has reached that higher ground (whatever heaven holds for a little cat).  And I am glad God doesn't label me for what I am but for what He can make me.  Pastor Randy

Monday, August 19, 2013

Why We Should Listen

I am sometimes amazed at how most of us feel we, in our freedom to do anything we want, feel that our freedom allows us to deal with God flippantly.  Paul knew this when he said that everything was permissible but not everything is profitable (1 Cor. 6:12).

Some of you are wondering where I am going with this.  I was talking with a member of our congregation and we were both thinking about how people in other cultures and other countries pursue their faith in God passionately and with a hunger for God's Word.  Statistically the Church is growing rapidly in many cultures around the planet and that is wonderful.  But it begs the question, "Why is the Church contracting in the nation with the most freedom, the greatest blessings, the best opportunities and the most talented/trained pastors?"  This is a good question that should cause all of us to listen to God's Word.  Sunday I will be teaching from Revelation 3, the Letter to the Church in Laodicea.  This church, and all of the churches in the Revelation, would be in modern day Turkey.  Want to know how many of the churches from Revelation are still in existence?  Zero!  None!  They have all disappeared.  Why?

I think the answer is both complex and simple.  The complex part is the inner-workings of history, people's choices, politics and time.  But I think the truth and the message here might be starkly simple.  All of the letters to the churches end in these words ... "He who has ears, let him hear."  Maybe the demise of the churches has something to do with people (and a culture) being unwilling to listen to God and His warnings, His encouragement, His wisdom and His messengers.  One cannot heed the Word of God if one is not present to hear the word of God.  One cannot heed God's Word if one is not engaged in a Lord/Servant relationship with God (He is Lord, we are the servants).

Most churches have large rolls of people that dwarf their usual Sunday attendance.  Most churches have 80% of the work of the church done by 20% of the people.  Many people in our country have decided that church is not that much of a priority.  Yet we wonder why so many faith-related parts of our nation are not where they should be.  I have a suggestion ... the problem is that if good, Christian people fail to make God a priority, there is no one with authority to carry the flame of the Gospel into our world (or our country).

Here is my challenge.  Will YOU make God a priority in Abbeville by being present to hear God's Word?  Will you do this with persistence and passion and a faithfulness expressed by Luke when he described Jesus as being in the synagogue 'like he always was (and remember Jesus was not comfortable, welcome or encouraged in the synagogue).'  When the "roll is called up yonder," where will you be?  "Those who have ears let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches" ... not my words but the very words from the mouth of Jesus.  Do you think for one minute what happened to the Asian Churches in Revelation cannot happen to the church here?  "Faith comes by hearing" (Romans 10:17).  Pastor Randy

Monday, August 12, 2013


Our week is getting ready to be crazy.  We are (and have been) moving lots of stuff from Freeport to Abbeville and from Freeport to Lee's apartment.  It is hard work, confusing, daunting and sometimes overwhelming.  But, in the end, it must be done.  Change is always hard.

When thinking about Church, I believe this applies too.  Change is hard for lots of people.  But for Christians and people of God we should be in a constant state of change.  God is never content to leave us where we are.  Paul, and John Wesley, exhorted us to go on toward perfection.  We have a direction and we have (as we learned this Sunday) a divinely appointed destination.  But getting there means an attitude of willingness to change and let God do what the song says ... use us and mold us.

Over the years I have had a sense that God is leading the Church (and the individual places I have served) to some drastic changes.  You might ask why we should change something that has been in place in its current form for a long time?  Glad you asked.

Did you know the in the age of mega-churches and large congregations all over the country the % of people who say they are Christians has steadily declined?  Did you know that mainline denominations have lost millions in membership and attendance?  Did you know that the overall attitude toward church is not positive but negative?  And here is the point I want each of you to get ... if we (the church in America) keep doing things the way we are doing them and have done them for the last 50 years what do you think will happen?  You guessed it ... we will keep getting the same results and those negatives will just keep going downhill.  So ... what do we do?

In our current sermon series, Crazy Love (being madly in love with a great God), we will learn that there are several things we can do.  We can stop doing church and start being the Church.  We can passionately communicate Jesus to the world in a language the world can hear.  We can go around the church building and look critically at everything asking the question, "What do I see that could be a barrier to someone who wants to learn the Good News of Jesus Christ?"  We can ask good questions ... like 1) for each person entering our doors, "What do you want us to remember about you?" ... 2) "What is the most profound God-related thing that ever happened to you?  Tell us that story!" ... 3) "If money were no object, what would you like to see happen in this congregation?" ... 4) "What do you think God is doing here at Abbevile United Methodist?" ... 5) "What do you think God would like to do with your life?"  Michael Card wrote in a song "could it be that questions tell us more than answers ever do?"  I wonder ... Do we, as the Church, try to feed people cliche' answers rather than teaching them how to think, live, love, grow, struggle, strive and follow?  Now that is a question I am asking each of you!  Pastor Randy

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

10,000 Miles

I will admit to having fun preparing our message for Sunday.  I have been looking at Acts 4 where Peter and John are making trouble for the church of their time.  These two "wild and crazy" guys are particularly bewildering for the leadership because they seem to get their marching orders from a higher authority than the hierarchy of Jewish leadership.  Good for them!

In my work for Sunday I ran across an old song, 10,000 Miles,  that was redone by Mary Chapin Carpenter for the movie "Fly Away Home."  The song and video are beautiful expressions of how God sends us messages through lyrics and images and stories (I guess that is why Jesus used so many of them).  The song is from the 1700's and was a dialogue between two lovers that are parting for a journey.  It expresses the longing for reunion and the inevitable of being back together in verses like "the rocks may melt and the seas may burn if I should not return."

As I reflected on this promise of return, I was taken by how God has promised a return in what may be the greatest promise ever ... that Christ will return for His people, the Church.  I also asked myself, in what state will He find us?  He has given us instructions about what we need to do and how He expects us to reflect (imitate) Him.  Will we be reflecting Him or will we reflect the image of this world?  When He comes back will we be leading the world to Him or will we be cowering in our places of refuge?  On His promised return, "when rocks melt and seas burn," what will the Church be doing?

Francis Chan (in his book Crazy Love [I highly recommend it]) tells the story of Brooke, a teen who has chosen to live a life of meaning that will lead others to God.  Brook gave Bibles to those who did not have them using money she earned from babysitting.  She wrote poems and love letters to the God who gave each day power, purpose and meaning.  In one of her letters she professed to make a difference in the world at an early age.  She was killed in a car accident at 14 and at her memorial service (preached by Chan) over 200 people, after hearing her story, her poems and her expressions of love for God, came to faith in Jesus.  They all got Bibles donated in her memory.

I think she achieved her life's goal.  I think Brooke made a difference.  I believe Jesus introduced her to the Father saying, "This one is mine!"  I think Brooke was doing the dangerous, sometimes unpopular, wild-hearted, wonderful, beautiful and meaningful work of God ... her short life truly made a difference.  When Jesus returns and rocks melt and seas burn ... where will the Church be?  Where will you be?  Randy